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Farm Bureau assesses impact of governor’s drought actions

Issue Date: May 12, 2021

Actions in a widened drought emergency order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom will provide some short-term benefit through voluntary water transfers and exchanges in parts of drought-stricken California, the California Farm Bureau said, while the organization expressed concern about emergency powers granted to the state water board and re-emphasized the need for significant, long-term investments to secure future food production in the state.

Newsom placed an additional 39 counties under drought emergency Monday; the governor also proposed a four-year, $5.1 billion series of investments intended to address drought infrastructure, preparedness and response.

California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said the organization appreciates "any effort the state can make to provide more water in the short term to farmers who need it." At the same time, he said, "we must not lose sight of existing water-rights priorities and the need to balance supplies for food production, fisheries and cities."

By widening the drought emergency, Johansson said, "the governor has recognized the reality facing much of rural California: Our future is not guaranteed. By proposing to invest in canal repairs and other projects, he has shown a willingness to address part of that longer-term problem."

But, he said, "where are the projects the voters invested in when they approved a water bond seven years ago?" Johansson urged the state to realize "that building, not just planning" will be needed to preserve Californians' quality of life.

In addition to longer-term infrastructure needs, he added, "we also need to ensure family farms—and the people, communities and businesses that rely on them—are able to survive this year. We urge the governor to engage with family farmers, at the local level, to understand how best to ensure that our farms and the food they produce will be available to Californians for years to come.

"Water to farms means food for families, jobs for farm employees and much-needed help for rural economies," he said. "With predictions that climate change will lead to even less certainty about precipitation and water supplies, California must commit to a full-scale program to increase storage, enhance efficiency and create new supplies through water recycling and desalination."

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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