Correcting the Record

LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik recently published a column that contained an outrageous statement related to California’s water supply that is completely out-of-touch with the reality that California farmers live every day.

He stated, “Central Valley growers often talk as though only their water needs should count in California. . .” He’s either been living in a cave or is so wrapped up in his own bias he’s not able to factor in the truth.

California farmers have been leading the charge on water conservation as well as connecting updated science to water policy and protection of the environment.

As noted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) agricultural water use in California is down 15 percent since 1980 while production is up more than 60%. That’s an incredibly efficient water use by any measure. And, as Californian’s concern for safe, locally grown food increases during the pandemic, it’s also of critical importance.

In addition, California farmers have contributed to more than $800 million on studies over the last decade, working to identify science-based water policy that works for farms, people and the environment.

These studies build on investments in science-based projects that are helping heal the California environment. The Butte Creek Salmon Recovery Project turned a population of about 100 Chinook salmon returning each year to Butte Creek into 10,000 over the course of about 20 years. And the science at the heart of this project continues to be used today to implement additional projects in various parts of the state.

Other projects are in place to restore floodplains which not only provide critical water storage, they benefit struggling fish populations as well. The largest public-private floodplain restoration project in the state is at Dos Rios Ranch in Stanislaus County. River Partners, a non-profit that manages the project says, “Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots and climate-protection powerhouses.”

California farmers have always taken care of their neighbors – and that includes the wildlife with which we share the land. Much of California’s most important wildlife areas exist alongside some of the state’s most productive farmland and farmers are a key part preserving this valuable habitat.

Mr. Hiltzik likely celebrates Earth Day every April and probably misses the fact that on the farm, every day is Earth Day.

CFWC Statement on Voluntary Agreements Presented to the State Water Board on its Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan

CFWC Statement on Voluntary Agreements Presented to the State Water Board on its Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan

“Water users and the State of California have brought to the table almost 1 million acre-feet of water and almost $2 billion in funding to implement an unprecedented set of ecosystem restoration goals. It is a comprehensive, system-wide plan that will start showing progress in 2019 with restored habitat, functional water flows, improved temperature for fish, and floodplain improvements that are proven to grow stronger, healthier salmon on their journey to the ocean. We hope the Water Board will choose this more collaborative approach to its water quality control plan rather than a set of forced rules that will harm communities and the economy and that haven’t worked in similar efforts to help fish populations in the past.”

Learn more about the proposed voluntary agreements at:

6 Things You Should Know About the Recent Presidential Order Streamlining Water Delivery

6 Things You Should Know About the Recent Presidential Order Streamlining Water Delivery

On Friday, October 19, President Trump signed an order streamlining the federal process that governs much of California’s water-delivery system.

While this is definitely great news for California farmers, it’s also good news for all California water users. Let’s look at a few of the things Californians should know about this order.

  1. Breaking the bureaucratic logjam governing water policy is good for California folks, farms and fish.

For decades, multiple federal agencies have exercised control over California water policy leading to conflicting regulations and uncoordinated regulatory actions which all lead to delay and increased costs. During his tenure, President Obama pointed out the obvious problems with one federal agency having control over salmon in fresh water and another when the fish is in salt water.

The President’s order directs the agencies involved to streamline the process and remove unnecessary burdens. Ending this bureaucratic chokehold will make water delivery more reliable for all Californians.

Read more.

  1. Mandating that policy decisions be based on current science is just common sense

Science helps us understand how our ecosystems function and how to best balance the needs of all. It’s just common sense to make decisions impacting all California water users on the best, most current, science. In 2010 a federal judge noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was using “sloppy science and unidirectional prescriptions that ignore California’s water needs.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals largely concurred.

Las week’s presidential order mandates that the agencies involved base decisions on the most current science, again benefiting all water users.

Read more.

  1. Reaffirming our commitment to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and providing more water to wildlife provides important environmental benefits.

Many people are not aware that California’s San Joaquin Valley is rich with birds, plants, animals, fish and insects. Its rivers, streams and wildlife sanctuaries host millions of waterfowl, Tule elk, turtles, cranes, deer and many other species that call the San Joaquin Valley home. Much of California’s richest farmland also hosts important wildlife refuges.

The president’s order specifically reaffirms the importance of the ESA in developing policy and sets timelines for environmental reviews. In addition, by freeing up water for the Central Valley it will bring water to wildlife refuges that are a critical component of the Pacific Flyway and have had insufficient water to meet the needs of millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, songbirds and endangered animals.

Read more.

  1. Removing barriers to building new storage projects helps all Californians.

No large State or federal water storage projects have been built in California since 1979. Having more ways to store water in wet years for use in the dry ones, just makes sense for all of us.

This order will speed the review process for storage and other important water infrastructure projects, greatly contributing to a secure water future for California.

  1. Preserving California’s ability to grow healthy food benefits us all.

California farmers do a lot with the water they have. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, agricultural water use in the Golden State is down 15 percent since 1980 but production is up more than 60 percent. If we curtail their ability to grow safe, healthy food we’ll have to import more from other places. That’s both a national security issue and a food safety issue. It’s also bad for the environment to outsource our food production – Importing food to replace what we don’t grow at home means more ships, moretrucks, and more pollution.

  1. This order is not about fish vs farms – it’s about making a reliable water supply more accessible to all Californians.

As the California Farm Water Coalition pointed out in its press release, “It’s not about farms vs fish. It’s about making smart decisions, using modern science so we can accommodate all California water uses.”

Watch the video 



UC Berkeley study: Enough water for 10 million people lost every year

UC Berkeley Study Confirms: Enough water for 10 million people lost every year

A new study by Dr. David L. Sunding of U.C. Berkeley confirms the devastation done to all Californians by a broken water-management system ruled by more than 15 federal, state and local agencies.

1.3 million acre-feet lost every year

For more than 20 years of this regulatory quagmire the state has lost an average of 1.3 million acre feet of water per year by flushing it out to the ocean, enough annual supply to sustain more than 10 million Californians or grow over 21 billion salads.

Fewer California food choices, consumers expected to pay more

With 55,000 acres of farmland being fallowed each year since 2000, our ability to provide California with food that is healthy, affordable, and available is also shrinking. The new study predicts that without changes to the system, will see an additional 195,000 acres of land fallowed each year over the next 30 years, which will hit consumers squarely in the pocketbook. In addition, we may have to import more food which not only costs more, it does not carry the same safety standards as food grown here and hurts the environment.

And the negative statewide impacts don’t stop there.

Job losses mount

Job losses will continue to mount and could cost the state more than 21,000 jobs every year over the next 30 years. And while 11,000 of those jobs would be farmworkers the others include food processing jobs, truck drivers, warehouse workers and more.

The broken system has already cost urban communities more than $5 billion. If we continue down this same path, water districts are poised to spend an additional $10.1 billion over the next 30 years just to make up for water cutbacks.

We’re all grateful for this year’s wet winter, but it does not solve our long-term management problems. To do that, we must all work together using sound science and common sense to make smart choices about allocation that benefit all, including farmers, urban consumers and the environment.

Read the study HERE.

Congressional Members Demand Water Supply Answers from Obama Officials

A bipartisan group of 15 Congressional Members sent a letter on June 9 to Obama Administration officials demanding answers to proposed changes in Central Valley Project water operations this year. The proposed changes, supposedly aimed at helping salmon and Delta smelt, contradict one another, put water supplies at risk for farmers who have already planted crops and are an overreach of existing law, according to the letter.

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L.A. Times Letter: George Skelton uses half-truths and shaky logic to demonize farms

George Skelton uses half-truths and shaky logic to demonize farms

The Coalition’s Executive Director, Mike Wade, recently responded to persistent inaccuracies by the L.A. Times columnist George Skelton in his recent article: “So the drought has you watering less? It won’t matter much” in a Letter to the Editor.   The text of the letter is below.

George Skelton L.A. Times Staff
George Skelton, L.A. Times Staff

“George Skelton uses half-truths and shaky logic to demonize farms already under the gun.

Despite claims that “it’s basically hands off agriculture,” large portions of California agriculture this year are suffering through a 95% cut in surface water allocation. That’s not a cut to sneeze at.

Skelton would do well to abandon the language of “slurping” and “devouring” when describing water used by farmers. Taking into account all water used in the state, the Department of Water Resources has identified that just 40% — not 80%, as Skelton is so fond of saying — goes to agriculture.”

Vice News: Telling Half Farming’s Story is Easier than Getting it Right.

Lack of balance

In a twelve-minute video about farming, VICE News devoted just one minute to talking to a farmer. ViceNRDChostYesterday’s VICE News “Race to the Bottom” video aims to be an in-depth piece about agricultural water use during the drought, but instead spends eleven of its twelve minutes providing misinformation about how California farmers actually grow our food.



VICE opens its video in a rice field, discussing flood irrigation with a lawyer from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Both VICE and the NRDC would have you believe that all farmers flood their fields for every crop—that’s just not true. Some farmers do use what’s more accurately called gravity irrigation…for certain crops, at certain times. Gravity irrigation has been on the decline for years, being replaced with pressure-based systems, such as drip lines and micro-sprinklers, Add that to the fact that California’s farmers have invested more than $3 billion in drip irrigation systems in the past dozen years and you begin to realize that VICE either didn’t do its homework or chose to ignore the facts.


California agriculture is diverse

The pattern continues at the Oakland Institute with Anuradha Mittal, who trots out the oft-repeated half-truth that “[California] is predominantly a desert.” Some of California is a desert, but the 800-plus miles of California from north to south include a variety of climates, including North America’s only Mediterranean climate, which is ideal for growing food like almonds and other stone fruit. In fact, this diversity of climate allows California to grow over 400 crops in all, with 14 being grown exclusively in California. Once again, VICE doesn’t question the assertion. It simply accepts what it has been told for what appears to be the predetermined narrative for its story.ViceNewsJimmyGardiner

Throughout the video, VICE News attempts to convey the message that farmers are corporate fat cats hell-bent on flouting environmental measures for personal gain, but it’s simply not true. The demonized rice fields that opened the story are in fact some of the most important feeding and resting grounds that exist for millions of migratory waterfowl traveling the Pacific Flyway. Many farms do their part to manage water to avoid waste. It is often recycled through fields as many as seven times, producing the food, fiber and nursery products that are important to consumers around the corner and around the world.


Responsible journalism should be objective

Having heroes and villains makes for a nice story, but a documentary (what VICE News purports to be) should assure that its content is objective. “Race to the Bottom” casts California farmers as villains without questioning the motivations of the “heroes” they have cast themselves.

State Water Resources Control Board could cost California’s agricultural economy $4.5 billion

Farmers throughout the Central Valley have been working hard and assuming huge personal risks in support of the Sacramento River Temperature Management Plan to protect salmon and still provide water to their farms.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of water is being loaned to the United States Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service, water districts, communities and individual farmers to stretch every drop available to protect California’s protected salmon and valued agriculture,” said Executive Director Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition.

“Water was purchased or conserved by farmers in prior years and currently resides as an emergency supply in San Luis Reservoir,” he explained. “It is this water targeted for the ‘loan’ program and any decision by the State Water Resources Control Board that would interfere with the complex set of agreements struck since mid-May could cost the agricultural industry as much as $4.5 billion and bankrupt thousands of farmers.”

In a show of cooperation among a diverse set of irrigation and water districts, the water would be “loaned” to the Bureau of Reclamation to meet senior water supply demands in the San Joaquin Valley. In exchange, Reclamation would commit to pay back that water out of supplies stored in Lake Shasta as soon as temperature goals for winter run Chinook salmon are met.

The water is being “loaned” to fulfill multiple water supply and environmental objectives, which include the provision of a small amount of summer water supply for agriculture south of the Delta, refuge management for numerous listed terrestrial species like the Giant Garter Snake, and temperature management goals by Reclamation and the State Water Resources Control Board.

Farmers involved in the “loan” program own land on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley rice farmers who fallowed land this year to make supplies available for transfers and Friant-area farmers seeking to augment a zero supply for the second year in a row.

“The State Water Resources Control Board should facilitate this complex and unprecedented collaboration and allow Reclamation to release water as soon as possible to pay back what has been borrowed to protect salmon,” Wade added.

Water agencies in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys provided estimates to Reclamation indicating the total cost of lost water and farm production if the water board does not approve the payback provision would be in the range of $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion and an additional 485,000 acres of farmland fallowing.

California groundwater pumping impacts preventable

CBS News recently focused on the impacts of groundwater pumping in California, but the causes were avoidable. Improving the reliability of surface water to avoid extracting groundwater from aquifers was a primary goal of California’s water projects. The reality is, California groundwater overdraft impacts were preventable.

We applaud 60 Minutes for discussing the important issue of groundwater depletion. However, the report missed a very important factor relative to California – the amount of water taken from food production to prop up failing environmental policies. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act over a million acre-feet of water per year that was once used to grow food now flows to the Pacific Ocean with no measurable environmental benefit. For some it has been a 20-year drought brought on by misguided environmental regulations. Failed government policies are having the effect of making farmers MORE dependent on groundwater rather than less. It’s not surprising that they’re pumping groundwater to stay in business. The same thing happened a century ago and it was the federal and State water projects that put a halt to groundwater overdraft by providing plentiful surface water supplies. Many farmers today no longer have the reliable water supplies that were once delivered by these projects. That will ultimately affect consumers with fewer choices and higher prices at the grocery store.

There might be a tradeoff if vulnerable fish species were recovering but they’re not. That’s because the real causes of fish death aren’t being addressed, such as overfishing, invasive species and undertreated wastewater discharges into California’s largest estuary, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Instead federal environmental water managers are treating the problem by dumping more and more water into a system that isn’t responding because it’s the wrong solution. Agricultural and urban water suppliers are required to complete efficient water management plans to assure that water is being used as efficiently as possible. It’s time that environmental water managers do the same.