General Manager Dan Vink of the Lower Tule River Irrigation District in Tulare County was elected president of the California Farm Water Coalition during the group's April board meeting. Vink has served on the Coalition's board of directors since 2005. He replaces farmer Peter Nelson of Thermal.

Liz Hudson of Del Rey and Bryce Lundberg of Richvale were elected vice president and secretary-treasurer, respectively. Both are involved with other family members in their farming operations.

"The Coalition plays a role unlike any of the other advocacy groups in California water," Vink said following his election. "The organization has been very successful in staking out a reputation as a balanced and impeccably reliable source of information on irrigated agriculture.

Consensus Building

"What makes the Coalition unique is how it brings together the different geographic areas of the state that are oftentimes at odds over significant issues," Vink added of the group's membership. "Through the Coalition the differing viewpoints are recognized and eventually a commonality and strength in purpose is found. In short, the Coalition's role in California's farm water industry is to be the gold standard for information and consensus building."

Farmers and water district representatives founded the Coalition in 1989 during a six-year drought to counter false information directed at the farm water industry. The organization has grown to include water districts, farmers, businesses and others from El Centro to Redding. Its membership represents 5.5 million irrigated acres, making it the largest organization in California to focus solely on farm water.

"The general public likes farmers but generally does not understand or look favorably on farming as an industry," added Vink. "The Coalition bridges this gap and helps the general public realize the value of irrigated agriculture and how that translates into the food in their grocery carts and on their dinner tables."

Food Grows Where Water Flows

One popular effort undertaken by the Coalition to educate the public are signs along the state's highways that proclaim "Food Grows Where Water Flows," explained Mike Wade, Coalition executive director.

"The highway sign program began in 1996 in Kern County," Wade said. "More than 150 million individuals have passed by these signs during the program's history."

"That message is the hallmark of the Coalition and the banner by which it is identified," echoed Vink. "It is unique in its effective simplicity and has been so successful because it is true."

The Coalition recently expanded its public outreach program by establishing a presence on Face Book and Twitter. The social media outreach efforts by the Coalition began two years ago and already has more than 5,600 followers.

While the Coalition is not registered as a lobbying organization, Wade commented that information requested by individual legislators and legislative committees is frequently provided.

"We've also conducted tours of farms and water facilities for small groups of legislators," Wade said. "It is important that the message of a safe and reliable water supply for everyone, both ag and urban, is delivered to the decision-makers of California."

Vink agreed with the importance of keeping that message in front of the public.

"Without a reliable water supply we have a Third World food supply and a country that will rely on food supplies from other developed nations," Vink said. "That would lead to financial and political instability, plus a dramatic change in living standards for all Californians and all Americans in general. It's really that simple and that dramatic."

Further information regarding the California Farm Water Coalition and its efforts is available at www.farmwater.org.