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May 12, 2015 
Allen Lund Company Newsletter
Written by your perishable experts 

In This Issue
The Exaggerated Reports of Agriculture's Water Use
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We are pleased to present to our readers, this week's article penned by the Western Growers Association.  WGA are readers of Keeping It Fresh and reached out to us, as members of their association, and as a follow up to our issue on the drought, released April 28th. 


The Exaggerated Reports of Agriculture's Water Use 


Too often we see the media -- and just about everyone else writing on California's drought -- using an inaccurate statistic that indicates agriculture consumes 80 percent of the available water used in California. Governor Jerry Brown himself has, on numerous occasions, publicly acknowledged that statistic is erroneous.


Based on the state's official water plan (Bulletin 160-13) by the California Department of Water Resources, agriculture uses about 41 percent of the state's developed water supply while approximately 49 percent is used for environmental purposes and 10 percent is reserved for urban areas. In actuality, since 2004, water usage by farms dropped from just over 43 percent to its current level while environmental usage rose from 46.5 percent to about 50 percent. But for some reason, farmers have become an easy target in this drought. The use of inaccurate statistics makes them an even bigger target.  



Governor Jerry Brown's April 1st announcement placed historic water restrictions on just about everyone in the state, but focused mostly on urban water consumers. Why? Because farmers have taken the biggest hits so far in this drought, with state water allocations cut down to 20 percent and federal water allocations set at ZERO for the second year in a row - something that has never occurred before. Prior to the governor's announcement, non -agricultural water users were not subject to having water supply actually cut off. So you have to ask yourself, how can people who are receiving no water be cut any more?

Here are some other startling figures from the California Farm Water Coalition:

  • Over 41 percent of California's irrigated farmland will lose 80 percent or more of its normal surface water allocation this year

  • On average, from Redding to Bakersfield, surface water supplies have been cut by 70 percent this year

  • Over 2.8 million acres, or 31 percent of California's irrigated farmland will receive zero surface supply this year

  • Over half (52.8 percent) of California's irrigated farmland is receiving 20 percent or less than its normal surface water supply this year.

Because they are good stewards of the land and resourceful business people, farmers have made major improvement in how they manage water, moving to more modern, efficient irrigation techniques like drip irrigation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture's 2012 Ag Census, over 2.7 million acres of farmland was drip, trickle, or low-flow micro sprinklers.


Farmers, however, will need more than modern irrigation techniques to survive. To get water to farms, the state will have to take steps to create more water storage areas and to replace an aged, inadequate water infrastructure delivery system -- a system that has not had a meaningful update since the 1950's when Jerry Brown's father was governor and the population of California was less than half of what it is today.    


The agriculture industry and all that support it must do a better job pushing back on the use of inaccurate statistics and getting the real numbers out to the public. To a great extent, we have turned the corner on correcting that issue, but the real facts are worth repeating. We must also help people see the reality that farmers aren't the end users of the water they use to grow their crops. The real users of all that water are the millions of people who eat the food we grow here in California.



Matt McInerney
Executive Vice President, Western Growers
Matt McInerney is Executive Vice President of Western Growers, an Irvine, California-based agriculture association representing specialty crop growers in California, Arizona and Colorado.
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