Food Grows Where Water Flows

Internal fighting over water in California is hurting agriculture.

Fight for water is fracturing agricultural alliances

Sometimes my role as an Ag journalist affords me an out-of-body viewpoint of agriculture.

Because I did not grow up in the industry but transitioned into it as a journalist years into my career I’ve never really viewed myself as an insider. Still, I have had almost unfettered access to some industry insiders, some of whom have taken me under a wing and helped me understand the things I write about.

One thing I’ve observed over the years as farmers, ranchers and industry officials discuss issues of common interest is how quickly the agriculture industry can turn on itself.

This is happening right now in California’s fractured water wars and it needs to stop.

Now!

If you hold to the idea that about 1 percent of the American population farms commercially, then back out all those who do so without a keen interest in irrigation water, the ratio between those who control the water and those who directly use it is staggering.

It’s not just the water issues that can pit farmers against each other, but it’s as good an example as any right now given current circumstances.

I’ve spoken with farm leaders about this and of those I’ve talked to, they’ll all agree that agriculture needs to come together on everything that affects the industry. Then when the rumors are leaked from private discussions and lobbying efforts over a cornucopia of issues it becomes apparent that sometimes what they preach they do not practice.

It’s certainly not my aim to “out” those leaders, but you’d know them if I shared their names.

One of them went so far as to personally invite me to chat with him over this very issue. When I left his office I felt good that I’m not the only one with these thoughts and that well-placed Ag leaders share these ideas.

Yet too many times over issues related to water, land use and other big-picture ideas those involved in these groups start to nit-pick. At least that’s what I’m told as I’m never part of those discussions.

The accusations all seem quite plausible as at the coffee shop and elsewhere you’ll hear one story about one group that is “out to lunch” on an issue, then when you sit with those from the “out-to-lunch” crowd, it’s the other side that has it wrong.

Sadly what I’ve said before bears repeating: agriculture can ill-afford to be as fractured as it is. To be specific, our more immediate and long term water needs will require us to check our egos at the door. Generally speaking, we need all the allies we can get.

Fortunately, we have the ability and the technology to overcome these challenges. We simply need to prioritize our political and financial capital to get it done.

How much better off would California be if we moved with the same determination and speed on water storage that is currently being used to build an unnecessary bullet train?

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