Ag Today Thursday, April 9, 2015

California warns of deep water rights curtailments amid drought [Sacramento Bee]

In the week after issuing an unprecedented statewide water use reduction order, Gov. Jerry Brown labored to defend the measure’s focus on urban water use instead of agriculture, which consumes far more water than cities and towns….But while Brown defends agriculture’s heavy use of water, he is also considering water rights curtailments that could dramatically affect the industry….But Chris Scheuring, a lawyer for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said it remains a challenge for some farmers to produce proof of decades-old rights established under a procedure that was once “as simple as posting a notice on a tree by the river.” Scheuring said, “If the state board takes an action to curtail a very senior and very large water right, I think that some party is going to be willing to litigate for the principle that the state board is not the appropriate enforcement venue.”
Carly Fiorina right about environmentalists and California drought woes, farm groups say [Bloomberg News]
The water wars have begun. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is blaming “overzealous liberal environmentalists” for the water shortages caused by California’s ongoing drought….Yet many California farm groups agree with Fiorina, tracing their woes to 1992 federal legislation meant to protect endangered species and landscapes that permanently reduced their water allocation. Since then, lawsuits have further eroded farmer water rights, they say, slowly turning off the tap in the name of environmental goals that may or may not be met. “That’s why this is worse than the droughts of the 1970s and early 1990s,” said Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau….Activists intentionally distort agriculture’s use of water to further anti-farming arguments, said Joel Nelsen, chief executive officer of California Citrus Mutual, which represents growers of oranges, lemons, grapefruit and other fruit.
Valley leaders urge Brown to release more Delta water for local livelihoods [Fresno Bee]
In another of an ongoing series of pleas by elected leaders in the Valley, representatives of farming communities in Fresno and Tulare counties gathered Thursday in Selma and challenged Gov. Jerry Brown to do more to relieve the effects of drought on farms and families in the region. Their top demand is for the state to allow more Northern California water to be pumped through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and into San Joaquin Valley canal systems. Some fear that the need for more water transfers may not be understood in metropolitan regions of the state until the pinch in agricultural production makes some commodities scarce or more expensive for urban consumers….Leaders said they’re grateful for a $1 billion drought relief package that Brown signed into law last week. It included money for emergency food and water for stricken Valley towns where a lack of water has idled farmland — and farmworkers. “The funding for food and drinking water relief is appreciated,” Selma Mayor Scott Robertson said. But, he and others added, it’s not enough. “Today our families and neighbors need water,” Robertson said.
Editorial: Down on the farm, plenty of sacrifice already [U-T San Diego]
As Californians struggle – and so far largely fail – to meet strict water conservation goals, Gov. Jerry Brown has taken a fair amount of criticism for not directly including agriculture in his unprecedented executive order for mandatory cutbacks in urban water use. After all, critics say, agriculture accounts for 80 percent of water use in the state. We rise in defense of the governor and of agriculture, at least for now. Farmers had already been hit hard well before the governor issued his directive last week for a 25 percent cut in urban water use as California suffers through a fourth year of severe drought….It is also important to note, as the Public Policy Institute of California did in a briefing paper released this week, that growers in the state have steadily improved productivity while using no more water than years ago and that many farmers have switched from flood irrigation to water-saving drip and sprinkler systems.
Opinion: California should stretch urban supplies before cutting water for farms [Sacramento Bee]
…Some question why the mandated water reductions did not extend to agriculture, which uses a larger share of the state’s developed water supply than homes and businesses….Agriculture is the economic engine of rural California, and the entire state enjoys the variety of safe, nutritious food that California farmers produce. There are many gallons of water, applied by a farmer, behind each of our meals….It is not the proper role of the state to tell farmers what to grow. Those who plant almonds, pistachios and other permanent crops take the risk that they can keep orchards and vineyards irrigated year after year. Some of those bets may not pay off.
Editorial: Irrigation districts left with no choice but to block federal water releases for fish [Fresno Bee]
It was an extreme action, but officials of Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts were left with no other choice. At 1 a.m. Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began releasing thousands of gallons of water from New Melones Dam in a pulse flow designed to help steelhead trout migrate down the Stanislaus River, through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and to the Pacific Ocean. With them would go all that water. The general managers of the irrigation districts feared it was the same water that farmers in Manteca, Ripon, Escalon and Oakdale are counting on to grow their crops….But it is also a serious matter for the federal government to use water being stored for farmers for other purposes — such as helping a very small number of steelhead trout reach the ocean. We believe this entire episode was unnecessary.
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