California fresh produce industry berates defunding decision of Senate bill
In response to the defunding of Senate Bill 559, The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) has slammed the action saying it "demonstrates the clear intent of the Assembly to drive food production out of California".
State Senator Melissa Hurtado has been forced to pull SB 559 after the California State Assembly Appropriations Committee's decision.
SB 559 would've provided funds for repairs to canals and other conveyance infrastructure that have been damaged by subsidence.
“In light of the staggering state budget surplus, the decision to defund the repair of our critical conveyance systems is not financial, but ideological, and will harm thousands of multi-generational family farms and countless disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley," CFFA President Ian LeMay said.
Currently, there is nearly 90 percent of the state in extreme or exceptional drought, including virtually all the 3.25 million acres of farmland dependent on irrigation from the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, he said.
“Water supply reliability is central to the production of food in California, and vital to the rural communities and statewide economy that is supported by the agriculture industry,” California Citrus Mutual President and CEO Casey Creamer said.
"California cannot afford to waste even a single drop of its limited water resources in the face of changing hydrological conditions and recurring drought. In addition to the need to build more above and below ground storage, our state must also invest in fixing our broken water delivery systems.”
A grant to repair the Friant-Kern Canal, which has lost 60 percent of its carrying capacity, would have been included in the bill.
Jason Phillips, CEO of Friant Water Authority, said the canal provides irrigation for more than 18,000 individual family farms - almost a quarter of the Valley’s agricultural land and 22 percent of all farms in California.
“Farms that cannot irrigate crops to grow food will inevitably reduce operations or cease farming altogether. When enough of them do, farmworkers lose the most,” said Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia.
“In once again eviscerating Senator Hurtado’s legislation to repair critical water infrastructure, the Assembly’s leaders leave no uncertainty as to the future they want for the farms, farmers, farmworkers and communities of the San Joaquin Valley."
"They will do whatever it takes to keep taxpayer money flowing to a high-speed rail project we can do without and do whatever it takes to deny funds to help repair water infrastructure we cannot do without. We are enormously grateful to Senator Hurtado for her tenacity and to those who stood with her even as their leaders gave them, and all of us, the middle finger.”