California: Ag Council aims to set record straight on water use -

California: Ag Council aims to set record straight on water use

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California: Ag Council aims to set record straight on water use

The Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) is stepping up its efforts to educate the public about water use in farming, in response to questions and inaccuracies in discussions about drought measures.

"It shouldn’t be green lawns versus green vegetables," said Ag Council president Emily Rooney, in response to growing concern and confusion about the shrinking water supply as California prepares for its fourth consecutive summer of severe drought.

"We are all in this together, and we want Californians to understand how the drought is affecting small family farms and the food supply by providing reliable, consistent information."



The council pointed out more than 41% of the state's irrigated farmlands had already received deep cuts, and the situation for food producers could get even worse with lawmakers debating the curtailment of groundwater rights, some established as far back as 1914.

With 600,000 acres of farmland expected to be fallowed this year, a 30% increase over 2014, the existing water restrictions could result in over 23,000 farm-related jobs lost and a potential US$5.7 billion economic hit in 2015. The group highlighted water restrictions cost more than 17,000 farm-related jobs last year and cost the California economy US$2.2 billion.

Rooney said farmers continued to do their part by increasing efficiency, with most farms incorporating water-saving drip irrigation and planting crops that generated more value with less water.

"Conservation is nothing new to agriculture," she said.

"Farmers have been using technology to increase efficiency of water use for nearly 30 years."

The council said that even though recent media focus had concentrated on water use in almond production, growers using advanced production practices had helped improve water efficiency by 33%.

"And almond growers aren't alone. The water-footprint of a glass of milk is 65 percent smaller today than in 1944, and similar improvements may be seen in all sectors of California agriculture," the council said.

"California farmers are extraordinarily efficient with water, as crop production has risen 43 percent between 1967 and 2010 per acre foot. Today, one farmer can feed 155 people every day for a year as a result of new technologies and more efficient farming practices, compared to 19 people in 1940."

On average, the water supply for California farmers from Redding to Bakersfield has been cut by 70%, and 44% of the state's farmland will receive no surface water allocations at all in 2015.

"Quite simply, farmers are already facing devastating cuts in the ongoing drought," Rooney said.

California Department of Water Resources statistics show agriculture accounts for 40.9% of the state's water source annually, and not the previously reported 80% cited by some media outlets which excluded water use preserved for environmental purposes.

"We know California residents understand the difference between taking shorter showers and risking our state legacy of fresh fruits and vegetables," Rooney said.

"We just want to make sure they have the facts. On behalf of all the small family farmers and large growers alike, we’re here to set the record straight. Misinformation doesn’t grow anything but frustration and hype."

Agricultural Council of California water education poster




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