Friday, August 28, 2009

But what about the farmers?

Following Saturday's column, I expect to get some flak for neglecting the fate of farmers and siding with environmental whackos — that I'd rather defend an endangered fish than defend the livelihood of farmers.

Not so.

However, I would rather defend a region that is home to 4 million people, fertile soil, a dynamite agricultural industry, diverse wildlife, a rich fishery (when it's healthy) and a supply of water for millions and millions of Californians than defend the continued growing of crops on marginal soils with heavily subsidized water.

Some of it's nativism, since I've lived in San Joaquin County my whole life and I have a personal attachment to the Delta. But some of it is also common sense. Much of the land that is going fallow, drying and dying was never really prime ag land to begin with and would be downright unfarmable (as we can well now see) without that irrigation.

This is not to say that irrigation is itself evil. Only a fool who ignores the blessing of a cheap, abundant food supply would contend such a thing.

This is also not to diminish the plight of the farmers and workers whose livelihoods are at stake because their farms and fields are now without water. Their suffering is real, and not to be minimized or made light of. Many could lose a life's worth of work and investment in the current aqua-logical climate.

However, when we talk about the Delta and what to do with its limited supply of water, we're talking about priorities — how can we most wisely use this precious resource? And that means undoing the poor decisions of the past and making some very painful choices for the future.

Maybe this is too easy for me to say, since my livelihood isn't endangered and my supply of water is not at risk. But it still strikes me that ignoring the difficult decisions ahead is like living in a fantasy world.

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