California Water Cutbacks Could Take Large Area Of Farmland Out Of Production
Dec 26, 2019 at 4:20pm
California is increasing regulations on groundwater. For many farmers in the state, it is a step too far. The law's critics say it could lead to a loss of half a million acres of farmland in California's Central Valley.
As Kerry Klein of member station KVPR in Fresno reports, some farmers are so worried, they're quitting.
KERRY KLEIN, BYLINE: Third-generation farmer Doug Martin starts up his big, green, 40-year-old tractor. Here in the San Joaquin Valley, farmers like him produce dairy, livestock and around 250 fruits and vegetables. Martin doesn't mince words about the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA.
DOUG MARTIN: It would mean total annihilation of the agriculture in this state. It will destroy it.
KLEIN: That includes, he says, the ranch in the city of Hanford that's been in his family since the 1930s. They've raised cattle, grown row crops.
MARTIN: Corn, cotton, wheat, broccoli, sweet corn, garlic. Let's put it this way. I've tried just about everything.
KLEIN: But with SGMA looming, he sees the end of a livelihood that sustained him, his parents and their parents. So he's decided to sell this land with such deep roots. It's been on the market since 2018.
MARTIN: Don't think I'm going to stay here and take a beating. I - there is a point where you've got to fold them and run.
KLEIN: For decades, Californians have been sucking far more out of underground aquifers than rain, snow, rivers or canals could put back in. Almost anyone with a well and almost any good reason could draw as much water as they wanted.
Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a small farms adviser with the University of California, says that is unsustainable.
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