Oct. 21, 2013
FARM WATER AND THE BUSINESS CRISIS
Businesses and cities lose money when neighboring farmers do not receive water to grow their crops. That is the message of “Farm Water and the Business Crisis,” a video that portrays the reliance that communities have on a healthy farm economy that is now available at www.farmwater.org.
The short video includes business owners and community leaders from Firebaugh in western Fresno County explaining what happens when farmers are forced to cut back on their planted acreage when water deliveries are reduced.
“When there is water flow, business is great,” says LaVonne Allen, owner of The Farmer’s Daughter restaurant. “The last year I’m probably down 25-30 percent on my business because a lot of people are unemployed. When water and agriculture hurts out here, it hurts everybody.”
“There’s not the tax revenue for the city. It isn’t getting roads repaired or keeping up with some of the general maintenance that they need to do in the town. The tax revenue has dropped a huge amount,” adds Jim Britton of Britton Ag Consulting.
More than 160 business owners, community leaders and farmers gathered in an alfalfa field near Firebaugh earlier this month with more than 90 pieces of equipment to portray the importance of a reliable water supply.
“The reason for gathering all of this farm equipment in the alfalfa field we chose for this event was to create a visual for people who don’t understand the ag economy we have here in central California with the help of water,” says Steve Malanca of Thomason Tractor Co. in Firebaugh. Malanca originated the idea of bringing together the business community leaders and farmers.
“Four years ago in 2009, federal water contractors along the San Joaquin Valley Westside were told to expect zero deliveries from the federal Central Valley Project. That estimate was eventually raised to 10 percent, which still left hundreds of thousands of acres unplanted and thousands of farm workers out of work. Local businesses felt the effect as sales declined,” according to Executive Director Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition.
With indications of a record low water allocation looming in 2014, Central California farmers are bracing for another difficult year.
“It isn’t just farmers who are bracing for a rocky year,” says Wade. “It is the local tractor dealer, irrigation pipe supplier, auto dealer, financial institution and other businesses who are fearful of the economic consequences thrust upon their businesses from a suffering ag economy.”
“The ag industry for the city of Firebaugh is the main provider of jobs, revenue sources and, really, the whole existence for the city,” adds Ken McDonald, Firebaugh City Manager. “If we didn’t have agriculture, there probably wouldn’t be a need for the city to exist.”