Obama’s visit spotlights California’s drought - The Packer

Obama’s visit spotlights California’s drought

02/15/2014 11:18:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

President Obama and legislators survey drought damage in CaliforniaCourtesy White HousePresident Obama (from left), with Calif. Rep. Jim Costa and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer surveys drought damage in California's Central Valley from a helicopter en route to Firebaugh, Calif., on Feb. 14.FRESNO, Calif. – President Barack Obama visited California’s Central Valley Feb. 14 and toured a drought-stricken region west of the city as part of announcing a multi-million-dollar drought-relief package.

Although some within agriculture called it a Band-aid approach, they also said it cast national, if not international, attention on the state’s plight.

“I think this is the first step,” said Paul Wenger, an almond and walnut producer west of Modesto and president of the Sacramento-based California Farm Bureau. “I think it’s got people’s attention, and I think we need to make sure we continue to have their attention.”

The relief package includes $100 million in livestock producer assistance, $60 million for food banks, $5 million in additional funding for agricultural conservation measures and $3 million for rural municipalities with water quality or quantity problems. It also establishes 600 summer meal sites in drought areas.

Wenger, who was one of about 18 non-government participants in a closed-door roundtable with Obama, said the state needs to better manage existing reservoirs as well as build additional storage.

George Soares (left), a managing partner of the legal firm Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP, talks to American Pistachio Growers chairman Jim Zion before a meeting on the drought and pistachio marketing.Vicky BoydGeorge Soares (left), a managing partner of the legal firm Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP, talks to American Pistachio Growers chairman Jim Zion before a meeting on the drought and pistachio marketing Feb. 14 in Fresno, Calif.During the last big rainstorm, for example, he said more than 250,000 acre-feet of runoff could not be pumped into reservoirs. Instead, it ran into the Pacific Ocean because of mandatory water flows to protect endangered fish the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Wenger said both political parties need to put their differences aside to address problems sooner.

“This is an unprecedented drought,” he said. “It’s going to have a huge economic and social impact to our state, and it’s going to affect a lot of people and the environment.

“The problem is the environment has dealt with drought before and survived,” Wenger said. “But will our social system and economic system that are dependent on a reliable supply of clean water survive? We don’t know.”

Earlier in the day, several American Pistachio Growers board members who attended a meeting on the drought and marketing said Obama’s relief package didn’t address the drought’s root cause.

Vicky Boyd“It’s just providing short-term money for something’s that is a long-term issue,” said Gary Smith, of Eriksson LLC, Visalia. “We have to start with a long-term focus. Short-term money doesn’t solve it.”

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N California  |  February, 17, 2014 at 09:18 AM

We often hear that farmers use 80% of the water in California. Yes, farmers may use 75-80% of the water that is CAPTURED. But 70-80% of the water/snow that falls in California flows out to the pacific ocean. So one could just as easily say farmers only use 10-15% of the water. And 70-80% of the water is earmarked for the environment. I'm not suggesting that no water should flow to the pacific ocean, but when slicing this pie let's start with an honest pie.

N California  |  February, 17, 2014 at 09:26 AM

Clarification..."And 70-80% of the water is earmarked for the environment" Should read "And the 70-80% of this water that flows through to the pacific ocean should be included as water for environmental purposes"

MN  |  February, 20, 2014 at 04:34 PM

THE MESSIAH knows about as much about a drought as he knows what OBAMA CARE covers! He doesn't have a clue, but can declare an EXCUTIVE ORDER to stop the drought just like his declaration for foreign countries to stop killing! He never thinks about cutting the BILLIONS of dollars of foreign aid or FOOD STAMPS, because they are his voters!

san pablo,ca  |  February, 21, 2014 at 11:48 AM

TRS..."millions of $ for foreign aid ....because they are his voters";Really?, I wasnt aware people in "foreign " countries could vote in USA elections. FYI Mr. Poster Boy For Ignorant Republicans; Food Stamps are not a product of Executive Orders, They are passed into law, ALONG with all those "SOCIALIST HANDOUTS" known as price supports to farmers. The largest beneficuary were the largest Corporate Farming entities, not the little guy. The Affordable Care Act, also, was not an Executive Order, but a Bipartisan Law. This president has more "clues" about every issue pertinant to everyone in the US & Worldwide & is willing to put a good size band aid(Emergency Funding) on to stop the bleeding to buy time for a more long term fix. Sac. & Central Valley Farmers & residents have Pumped the underground Aquifers nearly DRY & have wasted Cheap water with flood irrigation & careless water management using old methods. Now its time to get our act together & manage water with Brains not bigger open Canals. Tomato corn & rice growers, in Cal fields I've seen, still overtill the ground every year, never cover crop, thereby losing any winter water to evaporation & miss out on capturing nitrogen (fixed by legume c c). So, Mr Blowhard, go ahead & blame Pres. Obama for your mistakes & ignorance, dont change you "buggy whip" mindset or farming methods & pretty soon you'll be bankrupt. Then, when you apply for Food Stamps & Unemploymentbenefits & try to get Health Coverage supplimented by the Affordable Care Act please keep in mind your Republican Heros that are hard at work in your TEA Party side of Congress trying to cut your $250/month of Food Stamps. Then, who will you blame?

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