Sep 8, 2021California fresh produce industry decries assembly action on SB 559
In response to California State Sen. Melissa Hurtado being forced to pull SB 559 after the California State Assembly Appropriations Committee removed all funding provisions, a coalition of leading California fresh produce organizations issued the following statement:
“With nearly 90% of the state in extreme or exceptional drought, including virtually all the 3.25 million acres of farmland dependent on irrigation from the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, the move to strip SB 559 of its funding demonstrates the clear intent of the Assembly to drive food production out of California,” said California Fresh Fruit Association President Ian LeMay. “In light of the staggering state budget surplus, the decision to defund the repair of our critical conveyance systems is not financial, but ideological, and will harm thousands of multi-generational family farms and countless disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley.”
“Water supply reliability is central to the production of food in California, and vital to the rural communities and statewide economy that is supported by the agriculture industry,” said California Citrus Mutual President and CEO Casey Creamer. “SB 559 would have funded long overdue repairs to canals and other conveyance infrastructure that have been damaged by subsidence. California cannot afford to waste even a single drop of its limited water resources in the face of changing hydrological conditions and recurring drought. In addition to the need to build more above and below ground storage, our state must also invest in fixing our broken water delivery systems.”
“Farms that cannot irrigate crops to grow food will inevitably reduce operations or cease farming altogether. When enough of them do, farmworkers lose the most,” said Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia. “In once again eviscerating Senator Hurtado’s legislation to repair critical water infrastructure, the Assembly’s leaders leave no uncertainty as to the future they want for the farms, farmers, farmworkers and communities of the San Joaquin Valley. They will do whatever it takes to keep taxpayer money flowing to a high-speed rail project we can do without and do whatever it takes to deny funds to help repair water infrastructure we cannot do without. We are enormously grateful to Senator Hurtado for her tenacity and to those who stood with her even as their leaders gave them, and all of us, the middle finger.”
The California Fresh Fruit Association is a voluntary public policy organization that works on behalf of our members – growers, shippers, marketers and associates – on issues that specifically affect member commodities: fresh grapes, kiwis, pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, peaches, pears, apricots, nectarines, interspecific varieties, plums, apples and persimmons. It is the Association’s responsibility to serve as a liaison between regulatory and legislative authorities by acting as the unified voice of our members.
State legislation, Senate Bill 559, as originally proposed, would have paid for more than $300 million in repairs on the critical Friant-Kern Canal, California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal in the San Joaquin Valley.
The projects are included in water system upgrades being proposed after two consecutive years of severe drought – with a third dry year likely.
With surface water reservoirs depleted and groundwater aquifers drained, the State Water Resources Control Board recently adopted emergency curtailment orders for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Russian River and Klamath River watersheds.
The severe water cuts are inspiring urgent calls for investments in water infrastructure improvements.