The month of April has passed and we are rapidly approaching the end of the spring rain season. It looks to be a dry season. In relative terms, there have been a couple of good wet years and most farmers know that a dry season was probably in the making. The southern San Joaquin Valley climate for eons has been punctuated by wet and dry periods. If one just looks at the design of the Central Valley Project in the 1930s, our ancestors knew of the wet and dry years and built a system to withstand 5 dry years. However, the population of California was about 6 million in 1930, today we are dealing with 40 million. Nothing major has been updated or added since at least the 1970s. Since this time agriculture has suffered the major cuts in water supply from legislation such as Central Valley Improvement Act (CVPIA) and San Joaquin River Restoration Act (SJRRA). Those losses can really be felt on a dry year like that we are experiencing. Additionally, with SGMA implementation beginning, fallowing of land in this valley is slowly taking hold. There comes a point when the cost of water is more expensive than the crops that are grown and the viability of agriculture comes into question.
How important is food security for a country? In the last 50 years, food has been readily available at a relatively reasonable cost. We have become accustomed to easily accessible, fresh, and quality food. There are many in the population that have no idea of the source of their food. Many people believe that if the food wasn’t grown in California, it would just come from some other place. As evidenced by the recent covid pandemic, it only takes one part of the supply chain to cause major disruptions. Geopolitics would add another source of uncertainty to the availability of food. It seems that food production is not seen as an asset but rather a liability. California grows a major portion of our nation’s fruits and vegetables on a relatively small amount of land. This is accomplished because of the great climate, extremely productive soils, ingenuity of the farmers and access to water. Most crops that we grow cannot be grown anywhere else in the US.
In most metropolitan areas of California the majority of the population doesn’t view water availability as a major issue. If the water flows from the tap there is not a problem. Additionally, there is not the slightest notion of how much water is required to grow food. Until the population becomes more informed on the necessity of water for food production, conditions are unlikely to improve to any great extent. Therefore, an important task for Madera Farm Bureau is trying to inform the public of the importance of water in food production. Not the easiest thing to do but well worth the effort.