Jerry Brown, the Farmers’ Friend

Jerry Brown 1.0 stood up to farmers 40 years ago while Jerry Brown 2.0 is standing up for farmers during the current drought crisis. In 1975, to the consternation of many framers, Brown signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act allowing collective bargaining by farm workers. In 2015, Brown’s mandated 25 percent cutback on water usage for most Californians that largely left the farmers alone.

On ABC’s Sunday Show, This Week, Brown responded to host Martha Raddatz’s challenge that farmers use 80 percent of the state’s water but do not have to cut back like other users.

“The farmers have fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land. They’re pulling up vines and trees. Farm workers who are very low end of the economic scale here are out of work. There are people in agriculture areas that are really suffering,” Brown said.

The state’s agriculture business is certainly hurting. Just last year California agriculture lost $2.2 billion from drought conditions. With the drought conditions continuing agricultural losses are expected at least the same this year.

State and federal water allocations have been cut to zero.

Brown took a broad view of California’s drought reminding Raddatz that the drought’s affect on farmers do not only touch people in the Golden State. “They’re not watering their lawn or taking longer showers. They’re providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America,” he said.

Farmers have been using water more efficiently over the last couple of decades. According to UC Davis professor Samuel Sandoval, “In the last 20 years, they’ve been increasing their efficiency between 10 and 12 percent.”

However, Brown made it clear that if the drought conditions worsen, even the farm country will be examined for ways to save water. For now the cutbacks will be aimed at coastal California and some of the state’s richer areas.

One side note that could be taken from all this, Brown clearly has a focus on the Central Valley. Whether you like it or not (and I don’t) his pet project bullet train was started in the Central Valley. And the Valley farmers will escape the initial water mandates.

Joel Fox is editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily