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ESA shows dysfunction of Congress

Several years ago a columnist who knows politics inside and out took California’s congressional delegation to task for being dysfunctional. The column pointed out that California is the largest congressional delegation, yet it lagged behind other state delegations that do a much better job of serving their constituents. The column came to mind recently as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water deliveries continued to make the news.

Despite a series of storms and above average snowpack, regulatory agencies did whatever they could to put a lid on water deliveries. Then, on Feb. 11, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced that she planned to attach a water-delivery amendment onto a Senate jobs bill.

Based on the details that were made public, Feinstein appeared to be taking the exact same approach Congressman Devin Nunes offered up last year after the Delta smelt was listed on the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The congressman, whose family farms in Tulare County, called for Congress to suspend the ESA listing while a long-term solution for the Delta was hammered out.

He cited a precedent in 2003 when Congress voted to give New Mexico much needed relief from an ESA listing in order to supply water to the city of Albuquerque. Nunes’ plan was a logical solution to a complex problem and CAFA wrote a letter of support to the congressman last year. Not surprisingly, however, key members of the California delegation, including Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer, quashed Nunes’ effort to restore water deliveries.

Given what happened last year it was surprising that Feinstein would offer a plan similar to the one Nunes had offered. But a week later, she began to back off after 12 members of Congress, including six legislators from California, signed a letter of protest.

According to a Fresno Bee article, George Miller (D-Martinez) called Feinstein’s plan “destructive, both environmentally and politically.” On the other hand, the Bee reported that Jim Costa, who represents the Fresno area, called his Democratic colleagues “entirely insensitive and crass” in their attitude toward the San Joaquin Valley. Is it any wonder that the California delegation has been labeled as being dysfunctional?

• Clueless in Marin County

Just when we thought we had heard all the reasons why alfalfa doesn’t belong in California, something new popped up. In a column in the Marin Independent Journal, titled “Farmers, fishers at odds,” the columnist slammed alfalfa for “massive” water use and its sole contribution … the “production of meat.” The columnist must not be a milk drinker. In its letter to the Independent Journal, CAFA pointed out that milk cows consume 75 percent of alfalfa grown in California. The other 25 percent is fed to horses, beef cows and other livestock.

Unfortunately, most people who are critical of alfalfa look only at water consumption and are clueless when it comes to other benefits. CAFA’s letter pointed out that regardless of how much water alfalfa uses there are many benefits. Alfalfa is highly desired for sustainable agriculture, it sequesters carbon and it’s a wildlife habitat that draws 182 animal and bird species. A vigorous canopy prevents soil erosion and plays a key filtering role in keeping waterways clear of sediments.

The article went on to note that most end users of water that is applied to alfalfa are children and adults who consume milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

TAGS: Legislative
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