Several weeks after getting the news that much of California agriculture would receive no surface water from state and federal sources, growers, ag processors, community members, farmworkers and even some high school students gathered in Firebaugh, Calif., to make their voices heard in a protest that was carried a number of media outlets.
Firebaugh and nearby Mendota are essentially "ground zero" in California's water battle as the area continues to suffer the consequences of bureaucratic decisions to allocate limited water resourcesfor fish and wildlife. The tiny farming communities are heavily populated by farmworker families, who will remain unemployed as growers fallow nearly one million acres of Central California farmland because of a lack of water.
Just days ahead of the protest, news that the gathering would take place reached the Governor's office. Protestors applauded when it was hinted that the State of California and federal government could release some water to south-of-the-Delta farms in the coming days. No formal announcement has been made by officials, but protest organizers appeared optimistic that the decision could come soon. While too late for some growers, the news could bode well for some growers and the communities in the area that rely on Ag jobs in the region.
A dry irrigation ditch near Mendota, Calif., filled with tumbleweeds and assorted trash symbolizes the plight of Central California growers whose forefathers paid for and built the water conveyance systems that once moved irrigation water to some of the richest farmland in the world. Those ditches are now dry and much of that land fallowed because of government decisions that rank fish and wildlife as more important than humans when it comes to water.