Storm clouds over Tulare wheat field

Is a 'perfect storm' brewing over American agriculture?

Will drought, ports issue create 'Perfect Storm' for Ag?

Could a “perfect storm” be brewing and what will our reaction to it be?

At a recent workshop hosted by the California Farm Water Coalition and Oakdale Irrigation District the example of what Australia did to address the challenges it faced during a decade-long drought were not just apparent, but served as a motivator for irrigation districts to become more efficient in conveying water to their agrarian and urban customers.

It’s not “Star Wars” technology, but simply methods of automation, coupled with solar power capabilities, that makes surface water deliveries in Australia timely and consistent in a land that knows drought.

Instead of the old system where the irrigation district tells the farmer when he’s going to get his water and he better take it, or lose it, farmers now get to choose when to take only the water their crops need.

For Australian farmers it’s helped boost yields and made water more available.

There’s nothing like the crisis of a drought to force an issue.

When will California rise to the challenge of crisis and not let it go to waste?

Remember that “perfect storm” I said may be brewing?

For several months now ports up and down the West Coast have effectively been shut down as dock workers essentially went on strike.

This is causing agricultural products up and down the Left Coast to sit in containers from Long Beach to Tacoma instead of steaming their way to overseas markets in Asia and elsewhere.

Crops in Oregon and Washington are rotting because they cannot get to their overseas markets in a timely manner.

Whether its California almonds and walnuts or fresh fruit from the Pacific Northwest the ports have effectively made the drought situation worse by denying growers the ability to market what goods they could produce in a water-short year.

How long can this continue before those customers go elsewhere for their food and how reluctant will they be to buy American commodities when those shipping ports reopen?

Let’s not forget: ports work both ways – what can’t go out also doesn’t come in.

Add to this the pressing need for major changes in California and U.S. water policy that favors humans and agricultural production and its clear: If ever there were a challenge looking for leadership it is now.

Climate change and the growing needs of an increasing population are not going to wait for California and U.S. agriculture policy to find solutions to very real issues related to water and commerce. This is not the time for round-table discussions and hand-wringing.

California is uniquely positioned to efficiently grow and ship food the world needs. Our climate and soil types generally afford us that opportunity. We must quickly address the urgent challenges that our climate presents, which we know includes periods of drought.

We can overcome these challenges if we become focused and determined that promoting the general welfare of humans through efficient food production is most important.

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