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Obama to Valley agriculture: Dry up

Apr. 16, 2009 Fresno Bee Editorial,

The Obama administration dispatched Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to California Wednesday to announce $260 million in economic stimulus funding for water projects. The most obvious question was how much would go to drought relief in the San Joaquin Valley, especially since Salazar was in California at the same time as the March for Water was being conducted on the Valley’s west side.

The answer was a simple one from Salazar — the vast majority of this money won't be seen in the farmworker-dominated communities that are experiencing 40% unemployment because of drought conditions. But there was plenty of money for projects in Northern California for environmental uses.

No wonder so many San Joaquin Valley farmers, farmworkers and others in agriculture-related businesses are so angry with the federal government on the water issue. Officials in the Obama administration, including Salazar, don’t understand San Joaquin Valley agriculture and don’t seem to want to learn.

The four-day water march from Mendota to the San Luis Dam would have been the perfect opportunity for Obama officials to throw a little money the Valley’s way to let residents know that the pain being felt in communities such as Mendota is acknowledged in Washington, D.C. The symbolism would have been significant.

Instead, Salazar stiffed the Valley’s west side. This is one more indication of the region’s lack of political clout. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said the federal stimulus money going to other water projects was “very disappointing.” He should have said he was outraged, and the Obama administration had abandoned some of California’s poorest communities by ignoring the west side in this round of stimulus payouts.

“There is absolutely nothing in there that would benefit us,” said Sarah Woolf, a spokeswoman for Westlands Water District. Valley farm-water agencies wanted funding for fish screens in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that would allow for more water to be pumped southward. They also wanted money for a pipeline to move water between Valley districts.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein says there will be some money for the region in the $40 million drought-relief portion of the package for Western states. She contends that most of that money will go to California and some is intended for the Valley. We appreciate Feinstein's efforts seeking drought relief, but we question the sincerity of the White House in dealing with agricultural issues in the Valley.

Many farmers get water from the estuary, but declining fish populations have led to pumping restrictions. The curtailments, combined with the three-year drought, have left growers with little water to grow crops, and that has resulted in massive joblessness in west-side communities.

Salazar went on a helicopter tour of the Delta Wednesday with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who praised the funding announcement. But the governor also said these funds will not immediately help Valley farmers, and the communities that rely on agriculture, and they need help now.

Schwarzenegger is correct, and it was good that he let Salazar know his water announcement didn't go far enough. We'd also like to see more passion out of the governor on the plight of the Valley communities during this drought.

Schwarzenegger is scheduled to meet the marchers at San Luis Reservoir Friday morning, and speak at a rally. It wouldn’t be wise for the governor to praise Salazar’s action when he speaks to the farmers and farmworkers who just completed the 50-mile march for water.

There’s a lot of anger in the Valley right now, and there's good reason for it.


  • ToughHombre needs to start developing a taste for those trees he loves to hug IDIOT!!!!!!!
    dcelizscott wrote on April 17, 5:44 PM:

    Hasn't this been going on for years and years now? Wow I guess they are just going to wait until there is nothing to put on their dinner tables being that we provide more than just ourselves with our bounties. The ignorance is just too much to comprehend. Well look on the bright side,at least we will have tree leaves to the north to feed off of when the food runs out.

    ToughHombre wrote on April 17, 3:57 PM:

    The farmers in this valley have been massively wasting water for decades! I know, I grew up here and have been around farming most of my life. You are master complainers! Where were your complaints when the chemical companies poisoned the water? where were your complaints against government spending when GWBush spent well over a TRILLION dollars in the sands of Iraq with NOTHING to show for it! Except thousands of dead soldiers and tens of thousands of our brave men and women disfigured and crippled! where was your outrage at the wasted lives and dollars??? I would rather see trees planted than all of the houses! Where is your outrage at all the acreage ripped out to plant something that grows nothing you can eat!

    rgenini wrote on April 17, 12:41 PM:

    So, President Obummer tells the Valley to get screwed. What did people expect? Since I suspect many of the farmers voted for the other worthless candidate - albeit without enthusiasm - he feels no need to respond to their needs. So what if the workers are starving? He probably sees that as collateral damage in the war that the extreme environmentalists are waging to protect an insignificant fish.

    johnharris wrote on April 16, 9:21 PM:

    Good editorial. Farm workers have been leading the charge the last 3 days winding up on Friday at San Luis Reservoir. They can see for themselves and sadly feel the devastation caused by the drastic water cuts from not being able to pump water South. Jobs lost, a whole region crippled, a potential dust bowl. Also we must also realize that water flowing South from the Delta goes to much more than just local farms. 25 million people and millions of acres of good farm land depend on Delta water. It is truly an insult to all Californians that Secretary Salazar was so callous to the great harm occurring and unwilling to intervene. That posture is not what we thought President Obama was bringing when he talked about change.

    Joe_Smith_60 wrote on April 16, 2:25 PM:

    Sounds like - Obama to US taxpayers: Pay up

    mborba wrote on April 16, 1:59 PM:

    Just more evidence of the lack of empathy/concern with the Valley's economy and the havoc it reaps on its population. Start with the unforgivable remarks from Lloyd Carter. Follow with the failure of the State of Federal legislators to declare emergency relief for literally 1,000's of families unemployed due to a 0% water allocation on the Westside. And, culminated in the Obama administration's inaction, and in fact jab in the eyes of all Valley residents. Will the Governor fare any better with any pronouuncements on Friday? Doubtful...since Sacramento is likewise dominated by the unenformed elites who value a 2" Smelt over the livelihoods of 40,000 to 80,000 unemployed that will ultimately be the reward for their failed leadership. Sickening...and worse!


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