FRESNO, Calif. — The latest chapter of California’s ongoing water drama unfolded in a rally July 1 at Fresno City Hall.
The rally, headlined by actor-comedian Paul Rodriguez, who has some fruit acreage and is president of the Latino Water Coalition, attracted a crowd estimated at 2,000. It included farm workers, growers and government officials.
“We in this valley grow great produce,” Rodriguez said, “and we grow brave men and women who will fight for what is rightly theirs.”
The rally was the agricultural industry’s latest attempt to encourage the Obama administration to overturn opinions that have reduced to 10% allocations of irrigation water to the valley and to Southern California.
“The federal government’s refusal to provide sufficient irrigation water to this valley has transformed us from the Garden of Eden to Death Valley,” Rodriguez told the crowd.
Among others who addressed the rally were members of Congress, California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen and Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League.
The water dilemma has united Central California residents as never before, Rodriquez said.
“I am not a Republican; I am not a Democrat,” he said. “I belong to the Water Party.”
Reductions in water deliveries coupled with a third straight year of drought have idled about 500,000 acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland and forced the layoffs of thousands of farmworkers.
Rodriguez urged the crowd to continue its efforts to force a governmental resolution to California’s water problems.
“Your efforts will be a testament to your children so that they may feed their children,” he said.