Dec 5, 2014

Why the California Water Bill Matters for the Nation

CADROUGHTCOLLAGE

California has often been called the salad bowl of the world, but as big as that name is, it doesn’t do justice to the Golden State’s agricultural might.

California is the nation’s leading producer of fruits, vegetables, and nuts and has been America’s top agricultural state for over half a century. In fact, California supplies more than 99 percent of the nation’s almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, raisins, kiwis, olives, pistachios, died plums, pomegranates, and walnuts and is a leader in dairy and meat production.

That means when California agriculture is down, prices go up. But wages across the country are stagnant, so when food prices go up that puts even more strain on the millions of Americans that are just trying to get ahead. Individuals and families are then forced to spend more and more of their limited income just on basic necessities.

But the crisis in California is only getting worse.

The drought in the West has many farms in California exhausted. Land is uncultivated, dry, and cracked. Wells are being completely tapped out. A report in the journal of American Geophysical Union said that California is experiencing the worst drought in at least 1,200 years.

While there’s nothing we can do to end the drought, government policies have made it worse than it needs to be, contributing to rising food prices.  Ill-conceived policies have continued to prioritize the well-being of fish above people, meaning precious water is released into the ocean rather than directed to our local communities in need. And a deficiency in water infrastructure means that we aren’t capitalizing on rain when it comes.

Next week, the House will vote on the California Emergency Drought Relief Act, a bill that is not only important for California, but also for the nation. After the House and Senate passed separate California water bills this year, months were spent working on a bipartisan compromise for a long-term solution. Unfortunately, the Senate was pressured to quit negotiations at the last minute.

But as the rainy season in California just begins, we don’t have time to wait to start fixing water policy. Every day wasted adds another burden on California farmers and another cost on American consumers.