Saturday, July 11, 2009

Two Fresno Bee Commentaries on Water

The Fresno Bee published two different takes on the water issue from local water users today. The column from a long-time Fresno area farmer, Walter Shubin, was most interesting. Many of his comments are similar to what I have written on this blog.

While national agriculture policy continues to destroy the family farm, the biggest problem in the San Joaquin Valley -- world capital of farming -- is not water, as many believe, but continuing low prices due to surpluses.
Does anyone seriously believe another 100,000 acres of almonds or another 50 mega-dairies are going to help almond farmers or dairymen?

The other long-term problem affecting the health of our Valley's family farms is the influx of non-farming people -- doctors, lawyers, business investors -- who hire "custom farming" companies to operate their ranchlands, often as tax shelters.

Shubin makes it clear that not these water protests don't speak for all farmers, and that many will actually benefit from the land fallowing.

He also makes some interesting points about the growth in outside investors buying valley farmland. This is important to the Valley's economic development strategy as it means an increasing share of farm income is leaving the region. As this trend develops, the incomes of farm workers becomes relatively more important than the income of farm owners from a regional economic development perspective.

The second piece, by David Hopelain, was a retread of the economic apocalypse message of which I have been so critical. I suppose what is unique about this piece is how much he rails about "welfare." He says we wouldn't need welfare if he had water. He fails to mention that the Valley has by far the state's highest welfare rates when water is flowing.
If water were maintained for the Central Valley's $25 billion economy, that promise (welfare) would not be necessary.

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