Food security concerns do not justify irrigating 9M acres of CA farmland.

Terra Nova Ranch

Cameron is a first-generation grower with roots in Redding, Calif. who fished as a kid in the Sacramento River. Today, he manages about 25 crops grown across 7,000 acres of farmland in western Fresno County. …

For Cameron, the necessity of preserving aquifers should be considered in concert with the state’s abilities to produce food and fiber. For instance, he once looked at food produced on his farm and discovered that it could sustain the caloric needs of 200,000 people.

200,000peoplefed/7,000acres = 39,000,000hungryCalifornians/x acres

California needs 1.365M acres of farmland to meet its own caloric needs, by whatever means Mr. Cameron used to make his calculation.  I don’t know whether that includes meat and dairy.  Right now, we have 9M irrigated acres.  Of those, about 1.5M are in tree nuts.  Nearly 1M are in grapes for wine and the table.  Almost 1M are in alfalfa for animal feed.

California can make whatever decisions it does about converting our rivers into additional money for billionaires, or into towns along Highway 99.  But none of those decisions are based on food security for Californians.  Every time CA ag makes the argument that it uses water to grow food, it is completely valid to point out that it uses Californian rivers to grow 6.5 times more food than Californians need, a third of it completely fucking frivolous.

When you hear that SGMA may cause farmers to idle 30% of their land, dropping irrigated acreage to 6M acres, you may rest easy.  They will then be growing 4.5 times more food than Californians need.

“Food security” arguments are arguments against using as much water as we do to grow as much food as we do.  A reasonable food security argument would designate 2M acres of land with good water reliability, designate the food it grows for Californians, and create supports and protections for that agricultural sector.  Two to three million acres should be retired to restore groundwater balances. The agricultural State Water Project lands should be retired, so a small tunnel solution to the Delta is workable.  And the remaining couple million acres should be farmed in normal to wet years.




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29 responses to “Food security concerns do not justify irrigating 9M acres of CA farmland.

  1. Noel Park

    Amen Sister, preach on.

  2. Chris Gilbert

    Western Farm Press has an eye-opening article on the Saudi’s purchasing land here to grow alfalfa because of their own water shortcomings.

    So, the mission statement will change from ‘we feed the world’ to ‘the world feeds itself’ with our land and water.

  3. Chris Gilbert

    “small tunnel solution”? What the hell is that? Forget the tunnels.

  4. WW

    The State Water Project covers under one million acres of irrigated agriculture. It is basic water knowledge to know that and you are wrong. Beside your complete disregard for private property rights, your knowledge of the distribution of California grown products is also elementary. The simplicity of your anti-nut discussion is a disservice to your readers as this rhetoric is no different than mainstream media, including major newspapers in California. It is indeed a fact that California grown products are shipped throughout the world so to think we should only grow for California puts you in the same class as people backing CalExit.

    • onthepublicrecord

      I do, in fact, back Californian secession. My identity is much more Californian than American.

    • Chris Gilbert

      the issue of how much agriculture should be in California would be nicely settled if water prices matched what us city slickers pay. Agriculture is supported by massive water subsidies which distort the market. Let’s stop subsidizing agriculture, at least beyond what we need here.

      Private property rights ideologues are fine until they have to give up the subsidies. Then they cry foul.

    • Saul Travers

      Hey, thanks for building all those strawmen and knocking them down. One might think that polemic was written at the Westlands Propaganda Office.

  5. Jim Verboon

    California does in fact have plenty of water in most years, we just need more storage to stop squandering the wet years.

    • Chris Gilbert

      It would be cheaper to cut back on water use, and recycle the water we use, than to pay for new dams, esp. given the number that will need repairing over the next several decades, including Oroville now.

      The State Water Board, using numerous studies, says that there is not enough water flowing into the Delta and to SF Bay, and hasn’t been for years, so I’m not sure you can say that there has been “plenty of water in most years”. The Delta has been collapsing physically and environmentally for decades which impacts the health of SF Bay as well. Land in the Valley has been sinking for 100 years; you now need to drill wells 1,600 ft or more. Would more dams have prevented this, esp. when groundwater has been free, and piped in water isn’t? There hasn’t been enough water to recharge the aquifers as fast as they’ve been depleted.

    • Jack Jones

      Hmmm, the delta has been collapsing for decades and we’ve been sending more and more water through the delta for decades. Pay attention here folks. The big lie is that fish need bigger/ more water flows. This is a scam and proving to be one of the most massive failures of environmentalism in this state. How much water and money have we wasted on these eviromental lies?

    • Chris Gilbert

      It’s not only more water flows but colder water. You need a good deal of water to keep it cold; less water tends to get warm encouraging bass but killing off salmon. Talk with the commercial and recreational fishing groups; they’ll tell you. We all know who the big scammers are nowadays. Didn’t Rush just say that Irma was a scam (before hurriedly abandoning his Florida digs.)

    • Saul Travers

      “Hmmm, the delta has been collapsing for decades and we’ve been sending more and more water through the delta for decades.”

      The Alternate Facts crowd seems to have escaped from Breitbart.

    • Jon Hoge

      @SaulTravers Delta pumping has been generally below the 1994-2013 average since 2007 according to the LAO report ( Figure 4), so maybe the “s” was a typo and Jack Jones meant sending more water for a decade not decades :). BTW Fish numbers have not improved in that time as we all know :( I wonder if it has something also to do with this little nugget I found on page 10 of that same report. “In addition, it is estimated that over 95 percent of the habitat that historically supported native species of fish and wildlife in the Delta has been eliminated.” I wonder if people who live in Discovery Bay will move their houses for a floodplain restoration?

  6. Jack Jones

    We have been listening to you idiots for far too long. First we had to control when the pumps, because the fish were near the pumps. The fish were worse off after. Now, all the bs about water flows fish, flow this and flow that, fish are worse off still. Now it’s temperature management. One failure after another. Massive wastes of water. Hey here is an idea, maybe we should control non native species that eat the endangered fish. Maybe we should stop the flow of semi treated sewage waste water. But no, saving the fish is not the goal. It does not take a genius to see the goal. Control the water, control the food, control the nation. Using environmental causes to get the job done. If the fish ever recovered, it would be over for the environmental bs artists like yourself.

  7. Thomas Busse

    We are an exporter of food, and the CVP is paid for by the out-of-state taxpayer beneficiaries of those exports. The idea that each state’s caloric intake is somehow supposed to be related to its agriproduct is a human constructed fiction and has nothing to do with the natural environment and arbitrary values. Moreover, the few billionaires you pillory are propping up the state’s budget: 100 returns account for 50% of the state’s personal income tax revenue. Many of these individuals are mobile, but agribusiness entrepreneurs are tied to the land.

    By the same logic, Californian’s demand for rare earth metals exceeds its production, so we must put more land into service for mineral extraction

    • Chris Gilbert

      There’s the idea of “critical infrastructure” that includes agriculture and food. Foreign entities have a higher bar when taking control of this infrastructure. I’m just saying that they shouldn’t have a blank check when it comes to natural resources that are stressed, such as water. We are dependent on what water we have; if it is exported in excess (through production of exported crops) we are being irresponsible to our populations (of people and flora and fauna.)

    • Jack Jones

      Leftist posing as environmentalists are the ones being irresponsible to our populations by exporting excessive amounts of fresh clean water to the ocean. Environmental causes gets the job done. Lie after lie. The pumps are killing the fish, the fish need more water, even more water, even more water, temperature management, etc…..
      The enviro-leftist does not want the fish to recover because then they lose the major control over the populations that they desperately desire.

  8. Jon Hoge

    I don’t really understand how you could maintain this position given what is currently known about how the “export” of water is measured for California. The most comprehensive study I have seen ( about water export and import maintains that California is a net IMPORTER of water through food, fiber, lumber and other goods purchased and consumed by Californians (Jay Lund also confirms this in his blog). As the Pacific Institute says in their post it’s actually not even close. “All the water required to make the food, clothing, electronics, and other products we import amounts to more than 44 million acre feet. That’s more water than would flow unimpaired down all the state’s major rivers in a year, more water than would fill all the state’s reservoirs.” So basically according to this report, California cannot produce all of what it consumes with the water it has, and if we tried to, it would take all of the water our rivers can produce in a normal year to do it. I would be shocked if you hadn’t already seen these reports, so I’m wondering what sort of mental gymnastics you have already undertaken to disregard this and validate your preconceived opinion.

    In terms of your “Californian” identity you mentioned in the comment section, I think many of us in the Central Valley and mountain areas would welcome your secession idea so we would then be free to secede from your wonderful new rich urban country. (I wonder who will protect your new nation given the extremely low military participation rate of most blue states). Being subject to the current California government we already receive some of the worst government services in the nation, despite paying some of the highest tax rates. At least if we’re going to have Mississippi like services, we should pay Mississippi like taxes. (No offence Mississippi)

    • Fig

      Except OtPR is not talking about growing all of CA’s electronics, clothes, and knick knacks. She’s talking about agriculture specifically, so at least be honest in your criticism.

      As for water we import via all the things, how exactly does that help our watersheds? Both upper and lower? What is being talked about here is the water that comes directly out of our watersheds and our aquifers that is used to grow more food than Californians can eat. THAT water is the water that our crashing ecosystems need in order to be able to continue to exist as systems that can be drawn from in order to grow food and sustain life HERE, in CA.

      What is it about that that people cannot understand? I will never understand this poo-pooing of the environment and taking care of it in order to make sure that we have a place in which is not only habitable but also pleasant and capable of sustaining life. Do the lot of you have some other planet you are all heading to once we have completely wrecked and sucked up all the resources on this one?

      How have (some) growers become so recklessly irresponsible that it is OK in their minds to deplete aquifers, salt the soil to the point of uselessness, and degrade the quality of life in neighboring rural communities?

      Nah. How we grow food, where we grow food, how much food we grow, and how much water we use NEEDS TO CHANGE. Period. And it’s going to change, whether folks like you are on board or not.

      I will leave you with two quotes by my favorite farmer and poet, Wendell Berry:

      “Today, local economies are being destroyed by the “pluralistic,” displaced, global economy, which has no respect for what works in a locality. The global economy is built on the principle that one place can be exploited, even destroyed, for the sake of another place.”

      “Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”

    • Fig

      My reply to you was also a reply to several folks above you. I read all the comments and just replied to all under yours.

  9. Jon Hoge

    @Fig Thats a nice deflection but according to the report it appears that California is a net water importer in agricultural products as well.

    • Chris Gilbert

      Oh, that must be all that Fiji bottled water shipped over from the South Pacific. Now if we could just dump it all into the San Joaquin River we may get to net zero. Or we could just pee into it after drinking it. It all makes sense now.

    • Fig

      Hey, I’m ALL FOR people learning to live within their means. Maybe if American’s had culture beyond consumption we’d be a better country in better shape and not leading the way in exploitation, corruption, and destruction.

  10. One of the problems I read here is the all-or-nothing argument often employed by those who consider their way of life besieged by the latte-sipping. In the end, this has little to do with the Delta, as it has limited water in it anyway, and certainly not enough to quench the thirst of the kind of rapaciousness that California, its rural and urban areas both, was built on.

    OtPR, who is just trying to be sensible, and has decidedly a non-radical environmental position, makes it very clear that Central Valley ag can and should continue, not be eradicated, but suggests that it not be able to do so however it pleases, at the expense of others’ needs. Not to speak for our host, but my guess is that first on the OtPR chopping block would be the recent, upland almond global trade territories or taxpayer-subsidized toxic soil regions like Westlands.

    And talk about subsidizing: the argument above about the state being a net water importer ironically uses urban CA’s productivity to make up for its own profligacy! Typical of most American myth about the to and from of public monies.

    OtPR asks, what constraints should there be on water for almonds (almond here means recent, not historical, bottom-of-the-valley, almonds = a place to park lots and lots of money in relatively low-risk investment) that is sucked out of deep irreplaceable aquifers (and from neighbor’s shallower aquifers)? Is it okay to direct that water toward global investors? “This is an assault on private property,” one imagines being thought by those who claim that their rights to their land are absolute, and that is one way to look at it, but another way has a lot to do with asking everyone to answering the question “when is enough enough?”

  11. In her anonymous blog, the author of On The Public Record states that California produces far more food than its 39 million residents consume and calls for an end of State Water Project deliveries to agriculture. She states: “Every time CA ag makes the argument that it uses water to grow food, it is completely valid to point out that it uses Californian rivers to grow 6.5 times more food than Californians need, a third of it completely f…ing frivolous.”

    Studies have found that California consumes more food than is domestically produced. Reviewing food/water footprint information from the United Nations and state water data from the California Department of Water Resources, the California Farm Water Coalition determined that with the water currently used for farming in California we could not grow enough food for the 39 million people who live here. The Pacific Institute also reported that California imports more water in the form of food than is used to produce food within the state.

    To suggest that California can retire the vast majority of its farmland and meet state demand simply is not true.

    Link to California Farm Water Coalition Fact Sheet

    Link to Pacific Institute study

    Click to access ca_ftprint_full_report3.pdf

    • Chris Gilbert

      This conversation is still going on; we are persistent.

      It really doesn’t matter if Calif grows more than it consumes or less than it consumes. What matters is how much food a semi-arid environment which gets all its rain in the winter and virtually none in the summer when plants require it. (Just returned from North Carolina where it rained almost every day in Sept. and which has extensive lawns, none irrigated. It gets rain year round which makes growing things much easier.)

      California does many things well, and many are exported — tech, entertainment, aerospace, to name a few. Trying to continue with the level of agriculture of the last hundred years is a losing proposition. (Look at the declining polluted soils in the Westlands Water District. Look at the declining Delta from the over-drafting of water. Look at the collapse of the salmon fisheries — wild salmon is becoming too expensive to buy.) Let’s do what we do well, and make a lot of money at, and cut back on that which is becoming increasingly difficult, and contributes relatively little to the state’s economy (2% of GDP and 2% of jobs.) Let’s do what the economists suggest and concentrate on our comparative advantages.

    • onthepublicrecord

      It took nine years, but I finally got a comment from Mike Wade!