Courtesy California Citrus MutualBulldozed citrus trees near Orosi, Calif., signal that citrus growers have hastened orchard removal programs in response to inadequate or uncertain water supply.California Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered anti-drought measures that include faster approval of voluntary water transfers. But it remains unclear whether citrus growers along the Friant-Kern Canal will have enough water for their next crop.
State water agencies cancelled an April 25 conference call with stakeholders including agriculture, Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, said in a news release. It has not been rescheduled.
Brown signed the executive order the same day. Among other provisions, it waives compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and the state water code for various actions, including transfers.
“The lack of communication by federal and state administrations to producers of fresh fruits and vegetables regarding future deliveries is unacceptable,” Nelsen said.
California Citrus Mutual has been lobbying to get 300,000 of the 2 million acre feet added to reservoirs from February and March storms released. San Joaquin Valley citrus growers have been concerned that senior water rights holders — exchange contractors — will otherwise draw on Millerton Lake water that feeds the canal. The aim is to preserve 200,000, current inventory for the Friant.
About 50,000 acres of citrus representing $3 billion in economic activity are vulnerable to inadequate water supply, according to the trade group.