Agriculture advocacy group worries about future 

The Family Water Alliance seminar at the Colusa Farm Show didn’t pack a lot of people in, which Fair officials said was unfortunate because the information shared was important to everyone.

With California’s snow pack below average this year, and environmental groups working against the Sites Reservoir project, drought, water storage delays, new groundwater regulations, power line intrusion, and other 21st century obstacles could spell disaster for the future of agriculture in California, FWA Executive Director Nadine Bailey said. “Twenty years ago when Family Water Alliance started doing the Fish Screen Program, we got a categorical exclusion for those screens. The paperwork (for a project) was minimal. Because we were doing something that was beneficial for the Endangered Species Act (the State) felt like we should just build it, even if a few fish were lost, because we were ultimately doing something that saved a lot of fish,” Bailey said. “Now fast forward: Last year we spent $60,000 on an environmental document for an almost identical project as one we did 20 years ago.”

Bailey used FWA fish screen program as an analogy to show what farmers face every year with California’s excessive environmental regulations, despite them being good stewards of the land and environment.

“What 90 percent of the state doesn’t grasp is that we are providing them with food,” she said. “That concerns me.”

Bailey said the Sites Reservoir Project, which FWA advocates for, is facing opposition from groups not only against the project, but from those who want to see all dams removed.

“I don’t think the bulk of Californians, no matter how liberal they are, want to see every dam in California removed,” Bailey said. “Not only would that impact agriculture, but there are also several million people who would not have enough water to drink.”

Bailey said one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is educating people on where their water and food comes from.

“That, and the aging population of farmers, is probably the biggest threat we face,” she said. “We have to get busy and become more proactive.”

Bailey said she had hoped to have at least 50 people at her seminar that could have left with enough knowledge to share orally or on social media that California must build water storage, as well as what farmers do to protect fish and provide habitat for migrating waterfowl.

“I think most people take that for granted,” said Bailey, whose office in Maxwell is currently surrounded by fields full of white geese. “How lucky are we that the farmers in this valley have chosen to provide that habitat for them. Yes, they get benefit from that, but we are lucky to have that resource, and get the benefit of living in this amazing area with that waterfowl. But that is because we have amazing farmers who continue to provide that habitat.”

Bailey said Family Water Alliance’s goal is to continue educating the public on matters that affect rural people and their environment, and build coalitions of people whose expertise could help solve the problems facing the farming community.

Bailey said despite the low attendance at the seminar, she would be back next year with more information on issues that affect the community.

“I bet I could get them in if I raffled off a truck,” she joked.

For more information on Family Water Alliance, visit familywateralliance.com or on Facebook.■