Over spring break I found myself driving up and down the San Joaquin Valley on the I-5 and U.S. Highway 99 a fair amount. After a while, I started to notice a trend east of Paso Robles.
As rolling hills turned into flat valley and small farms of cattle turned into large orchards, a number of signs along the freeway caught my attention. They read, “Stop the Congress Created Dust Bowl.”
I grew up in Southern California and cannot remember a time when water supply in this state was not a problem. I was always taught to conserve water and told that it was simply a drought due to a lack of rain.
I figured these signs, which were posted approximately every mile along the freeway, were worth looking into. After talking to friends and farmers from the valley, I found Congress was indeed causing a great deal of trouble for California farmers and for hungry people all over the world.
The valley’s main source of water comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California, but after legislation from Congress passed, farmers are having trouble keeping their crops wet. So what could be so important that California’s most important industry can be put in jeopardy and thousands of people be put out of work?
Congress’ answer: a fish. That’s right, due to a reduction in the number of smelt fish, a fish measuring two inches in length, in 2007 Congress deemed it necessary to shut down a great deal of the pumps that send water to the Central Valley.
This legislation also made it impossible for the state to build new dams on the delta and anywhere else in California. So, although California has seen an increase in rainfall in the last two years, millions of gallons of precious water that could be used on farms are being dumped right back into the ocean.
I know, I sound so unethical and insensitive because I do not care about one of Mother Nature’s species. The truth is that in an effort to save the smelt fish, Congress is effectively causing hardship and starvation for a great deal of people. As the farmers put it, Congress is valuing fish over families.
California has long been called the “breadbasket” of the United States, but according to Representative Devin Nunes, California cannot even feed its own people at this point due to the lack of water.
And what about all the food that California sends to other states and even other countries? As a result of water shortages, there is economic trouble for an already struggling state economy, the loss of a significant amount of farms in the valley, hungry people in California, the United States and other countries and tens of thousands of people losing their jobs.
Here are some numbers from Time Magazine and the Poverty and Hunger Organization to put the situation into perspective. Cities like Mendota, Calif. are experiencing an unemployment rate exceeding 40 percent and most cities in the valley are around 20 percent, which is twice the national unemployment rate. Economists predict this means at least 40,000 lost jobs.
Farmers are now only receiving one-sixth of the amount of water they need to sustain their crops during crucial summer months, which has caused agricultural production to drop 20 to 30 percent.
It is difficult for this Californian to understand why Congress cannot offer any sort of relief to the struggling farmers of California. I am no conspiracist, but the actions of Congress make me highly suspicious that an agenda is being worked.
I would hope they are sincerely concerned about a two-inch long fish, and they just don’t realize the obvious effect it is having. It may be my own distrust, but the fact that Senators Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer have their hand in this causes me great worry.