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Western Growers urges Central Valley counties, governor to declare emergency due to water supply

Western Growers is calling upon counties in the Central Valley and Gov. Schwarzenegger to immediately declare a state of emergency due to water supply conditions. The San Joaquin Valley is experiencing the driest spring in 88 years. The federal court decision to reduce the amount of water pumped from the Delta has already caused farmers to fallow 200,000 acres in response. The Bureau of Reclamation just announced additional reductions in water deliveries. It is anticipated that another 10,000 acres or more will be removed from production if action is not taken quickly.

“This is a water emergency and a catastrophe for farmers as well as all Californians.” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. “It is a disaster for farmers, for people. Jobs have and will be lost. Thousands of acres of lettuce, onions, melons, tomatoes and other produce will not be grown. Consumers will be paying more at the grocery stores, and the reduced quantities of produce available will come from areas well beyond California adding additional economic and environmental costs to this unprecedented situation.”

Fresno County Board of Supervisors proclaimed a state of emergency at their June 6 meeting. The Kings County Board of Supervisors renewed their declaration of emergency at their June 3 meeting this year. Western Growers is urging other counties to do the same.

“Farmers are making the tough calls today about what crops to forgo and plow under because there is just not enough water,” says Nassif.

Based on demand projections by Central Valley Project (CVP) contract recipients, the CVP does not have sufficient water supply to meet this irrigation season’s crop demands absent some sort of additional water export pumping, source shifting or demand rationing. Farmers in the Central Valley are currently estimating damages and potential crop loss which they will report to their county agricultural commissions and to the state.

While Western Growers continues to strongly support long-term solutions like increasing water storage and conveyance, an emergency declaration is one way to assist immediate mitigation strategies. A formal declaration of emergency by the governor will help move water more quickly to the crops that need it and also free up additional funding to assist the workers who have been displaced and the losses to local businesses.

Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose members from Arizona and California grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in California and 75 percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation’s fresh produce.

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