High Country News, always wonderful, reports on southern San Joaquin Valley farmers’ fears of going out of business from a dry future. The tagline to the article asks: Something’s got to give in Central Valley farming. The only question is what. Dude. We know “what”. California will lose 1-3 million acres of irrigated land. The interesting question is how.
Mr. Fitchette writes a post urging agriculture to speak with a united voice. This paragraph caught my eye:
As I understand it, the roots of California’s water woes tap into the federal Endangered Species Act and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which set in motion later court challenges and decisions from the bench that did not support production agriculture.
As I understand it, the roots of California’s water woes come from historic assumptions that the supply of water for human use could be expanded infinitely, our realization that the total quantity is fixed, and that further withdrawals will cause environmental damage that we don’t like.
Mr. Cannella’s confusion about the way state regulators operate would go away if he understood that state regulators do not hold the amount of irrigated lands constant.
— Faith Kearns (@frkearns) February 22, 2016
During the last drought, I attended workshops in which one of the State’s water use efficiency experts told water districts to rank their water users from lowest to highest, privately contact the top ten water users and work directly with them to lower their water use. (Then do that a few more times until the chunk of disproportionate water users at the top is gone.) My recollection is that water districts said they didn’t have the data, didn’t care to mine it like that, and weren’t in the business of approaching their customers that way. But yes, collecting and using their data and directly contacting big water users could have saved quite a bit of water and bad publicity.
I diverge from the UC Davis group’s drought analysis here:
Global food markets have fundamentally changed the nature of drought for humans. Throughout history, disruptions of regional food production due to drought would lead to famine and pestilence. This is no longer the case for California and other globally-connected economies, where food is readily available at more stable global prices. California continued to export high-valued fruits and nuts, even as corn and wheat production decreased, with almost no effects on local or global prices. Food insecurity due to drought is largely eliminated in globalized economies (poverty is another matter). Subsistence agriculture remains more vulnerable from drought.
I do not trust global food markets. We may have the wealth to participate in them as winners (which hurts the global poor). But I would rather use that wealth to support a healthy farming community in our own state as insurance against unpredicted extreme climate change effects.
None of what I just commented on was nearly as interesting as this look at a macadamia farm in Hawaii. Trees planted straight into the rock!