Farmers: Efficiency is one answer, not the answer
September 8, 2008
Emphasizing the need for a balanced, comprehensive solution to California water problems, the leader of the state's largest agricultural organization said farmers and ranchers have a "long and strong history of efficient water use."
While outlining farmers' work to grow more food with less water, California Farm Bureau Federation President Doug Mosebar disputed an academic report released today that claims on-farm efficiency can replace the need for new water development.
"Improved efficiency of water use will certainly be a key in meeting California water needs. We favor continued efficiency improvements on farms and ranches, in homes and businesses, and in the use of water to meet environmental goals," Mosebar said.
But he said "a whole variety of strategies" will be needed to meet California water demands, including efficiency, water recycling and new water storage, adding, "by itself, improved efficiency just won't do enough to meet the water needs of California's growing population."
He noted that the amount of water used on California farms is almost the same as 40 years ago, yet tonnage of crops produced has increased 89 percent in that same time. Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley alone have invested more than $500 million in improved irrigation equipment just since 2004, according to the Agricultural Water Management Council.
"We can't ignore the significant improvements that farmers and ranchers have already made," Mosebar said. "Farm Bureau has been surveying its members about the effects of water supply cutbacks. Many report they're already operating at peak efficiency, but water supplies are stretched too thin and farmers have had to reduce production or abandon crops."
The think-tank report says farmers should change crops based on their water use. Mosebar said farmers must remain free to choose crops based on consumer demand and on appropriate climate and soil conditions.
"Any water policies that California adopts must recognize the importance of growing food to sustain our increasing population," he said. "Californians want more locally grown food and our state has unique combinations of soil, climate and expertise that allow us to produce large amounts of top-quality food and farm products. That's an environmental resource, an economic resource and a national-security resource."
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of 92,000 members statewide.
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