A coalition of San Joaquin Valley leaders, legislators and farmers came together Friday to declare a regional drought emergency for Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties. They spoke at Harlan Ranch in Clovis. Behind the speakers, fallowed trees were heaped in piles of dried wood.
Sen. Andreas Borgeas led the coalition in urging the governor to take immediate action.
“There is no question, California is in a drought. Even the U.S. Ag Secretary has declared 50 California counties to be natural disaster zones because of drought,” he said.
A statewide drought declaration is a legal designation that allows the governor to ease restrictions on water transfers. It relaxes regulatory, administrative and environmental restraints that ease water releases directly to farmers.
“California farmers need to make decisions now on whether to pull, to plant or fallow, and for some it is already too late,” Borgeas added.
Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said the timing is crucial.
“We need these water transfers in June and July. If we don’t get that streamlined process, it could be August, September, October, too late for a lot of our farmers in this county,” he said.
Lawmakers said less water means less work and loss of farm jobs. Sen. Melissa Hurtado worried the water shortage could also lead to a food crisis.
“The Central Valley feeds the world. This isn’t just about the Central Valley, this is about mankind and surviving. And not taking action on this drought will lead to potentially deadly consequences,” she said.
So far, the Governor has declared a drought emergency for only two counties: Mendocino and Sonoma.