U.S.: citrus groves dry up under California drought
Although Governor Jerry Brown announced expedited water transfers for areas in need Friday, the California Citrus Mutual (CCM) said growers in the Friant service area have been left without water and without security on future supplies.
"There have been many opportunities for the state water agencies to communicate with stakeholders the amount of water that will be delivered, yet they consistently fail to provide numbers," CCM said yesterday.
President Joel Nelsen called the lack of communication with fruit and vegetable growers "unacceptable." The mutual attributed much of the problem to unwillingness by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to cooperate with lawmakers.
"NMFS fails to realize the disastrous impacts of their unwillingness to reevaluate the actual needs of the fish and reach a balanced solution for all stakeholders," Nelsen said.
"Growers are now being forced to make difficult decisions as the bureaucrats at NMFS fail to reach a decision of their own."
Most citrus production in central California occurs in the Friant service area. The central valley is home to 50,000 acres of citrus, which CCM said is now at risk of being forced out of production.
"Acres upon acres of valuable citrus trees have already been pushed out of production. But, it is not just trees that will be pushed if Friant does not receive water - jobs will be pushed, people will be pushed, and the economy will surely suffer," the mutual said.
If the valley's 50,000 acres of citrus were lost, CCM estimated it would deal a US$3 billion blow to California's economy.
"Unless our growers receive their fair share of water from the Friant Canal our communities will suffer without the economic driver of a vibrant citrus industry in the Central Valley," Nelsen said.
"I ask, is it worth sending excess amounts of water down the river at the expense of an entire industry and the 20,000 jobs it creates?"