What is in this article?:
- High unemployment and food prices predicted in the wake of California drought
- Predictions of at least a million acres of farmland to be fallowed this year
Competing bills in Congress have lawmakers "throwing bombs" at each other
World Ag Expo Water Summit participants include, from left, panel discussion moderator Mario Santoyo, executive Director of the California Latino Water Coalition; and Joe Del Bosque, Central Valley farmer and member of the California Water Commission. Del Bosque hosted President Barack Obama the following day at his Los Banos farm during the president's tour of drought-stricken California.
Two pieces of legislation currently in the Senate seek to address California’s water problems.
One of those bills is Feinstein’s California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014. Unlike a House bill authored by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford that is awaiting Senate action, the Feinstein bill does not waive any federal or state laws. Instead, the Feinstein bill includes a range of provisions that require federal agencies use existing powers to maximize water supplies, reduce project review times and ensure water is directed to users whose need is greatest.
The Feinstein bill also provides $300 million in emergency funds to be used on a range of projects to maximize water supplies for farmers, consumers and municipalities and provide economic assistance.
Valadao’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act quickly passed the House in early February mostly on party lines and awaits action in the Senate. Some say the bill is dead on arrival there and likely will not be debated.
Valadao’s bill seeks to change or repeal the most egregious sections of current law which stands in the way of moving water around California. Gov. Brown called Valadao’s bill “divisive” and “dangerous” during a brief visit to the World Ag Expo in Tulare.
Wenger seemed to agree with that language, saying the House bill “throws bombs” and does not have the widespread support to begin the momentum needed to carry the bill.
“You’ve got to get people on board supporting it first,” Wenger said.
As for the money Obama brought with him to help growers ravaged by the drought, Wenger is appreciative, but says the long-term approach still needs to be significant water storage. That sentiment was echoed during the Water Summit in Tulare.
“In the long term we need to increase our water storage and adapt it to the likelihood that we will see less snow pack and more rainfall in the future,” said Wenger.