By Kevin Swartzendruber 

Farm Bureau representatives in the Central Valley joined several members the San Joaquin Farm Bureau at Roberts-Union Farm Center to showcase water issues during the Amgen Tour of California event on May 14.

Since the Amgen Tour road cycling event has an international audience and was routed right past Roberts-Union, Farm Bureau saw the opportunity to welcome the riders, but also showcase the issues facing Central Valley farmers on an international stage

“We figured any publicity and any exposure we can get would be great, and if there’s a potential for an international stage to see some of the things and issues we’re dealing with here at the local level, all the better,” said SJFB First Vice President David Strecker.

“This event was to publicize that water is a crucial issue to us and what the state has proposed is going to severely curtail our use of water,” said SJFB President Jim Ferrari.

California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson also attended the event to support the effort in getting the word out.

“The Amgen Tour Bike race is a big race; there’s a lot of International presence here. The highlight of those races, especially for the TV viewers and where they pick their locations, is the scenery and beauty, and they’re going to spend a lot of time on farmland,” he said. There will be a lot of people around the world who will see pictures and say ‘Wow, it’s beautiful in California.’ What a perfect opportunity for the San Joaquin Farm Bureau to stand up and say, ‘This is why,’ and stand up and take care of it.”

Elected officials

Ferrari said one problem is that we have many elected officials that are focused on the urban issues and they have no realization that their food comes from the water.

“They have no concept that water equals food, and when they take the water from us, they’ll have the realization of what they did, but then it will be too late,” he said.

Johansson said the state needs to properly manage our water and we need to call them out when they are not managing it right.

“It’s important to remind people that landscape doesn’t just happen, it’s managed. It has to be managed properly and it’s best managed by farmers here in California, particularly in the Delta.”

Storage needed

Farm Bureau has long advocated for more water storage to help manage our water issues. The voters agreed, passaging of Proposition 1, Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. It authorized $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds to fund ecosystems and watershed protection and restoration, water supply infrastructure projects, including surface and groundwater storage, and drinking water protection.

However, no new water storage projects are underway. There are projects planned, but we’ll have to wait and see if the state comes through on those plans.

Johansson said that while Proposition 1 was encouraging, but “it’s going to be up to California Farm Bureau and our rural communities to hold the state accountable for what they (the voters) really wanted, and that’s more storage.”

Ferrari said it seems like we have more of a chance for storage to get through the federal side of the coin than the state. “The state does a lot of talking but no action. It seems the federal government might help.”

Strecker said there are many projects that can be done throughout the state that can be done at the local level that would be good for water, such as the proposed Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat dam project. Local projects would create jobs and put local control into their own outcomes for water, Strecker said.

Spreading the word

“It’s going to take looking at everything from Northern to Southern California in how water is recycled, how water is used and what the environmental scenario is going to be on that,” Johansson said, “We have to keep the pressure on Sacramento and work on the people on the federal side and maybe something can happen.”

“We must talk at the local level, the state level and at the federal level that there are other options out there,” Strecker said.

Johannson added, “We have to continue to exercise our voice and continue to demonstrate what the need is for California farmers.”