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The Fate of Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley March 9, 2020

By Dr. Edward T. Henry, DVM (retired)

To me retiring/fallowing one million acres of irrigated farmland in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) [as predicted by Dr. David Sunding] has the equivalency of a “natural disaster” such as a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the Bay Area or Southern California, or another massive California wildfire, or flooding, or a tsunami, etc. Certainly there won’t be the property damage, personal injuries and deaths like any of those natural disasters, but the long-term collateral damage from SGMA and the potential failure of the new Biological Opinions (BiOps) will be a “socio-economic disaster” in the making with the resultant trickle-down through the SJV’s economy (and eventually the state, and possibly the nation) affecting towns, disadvantaged communities (DACs), schools, property taxes, sales taxes, etc.—and then what about the significant “out migration” of the unemployed?

The one luxury (perhaps a poor description) we have, beginning right now with essentially front row seats given Dr. Sunding’s prediction, is that we will be able to watch this disaster start to unfold in “slow motion” (unlike an earthquake which is immediate) over the next 10-15 years. I fully expect to start seeing some early effects within the next 2-4 years with some significant ag land retirement particularly if we get back into drought conditions which it’s looking like right now. Supposedly the Water Blueprint for the SJV (Blueprint) will mitigate some of that land fallowing but the new BiOps are the lynchpin to successful implementation of that Blueprint—if they’re remanded, then the Blueprint is probably doomed and the full weight of Dr. Sunding’s projections will come to bear. 

A major question I have is, “Will both the state and federal governments treat this with all the seriousness of a natural disaster?” Are there any preparations and planning being addressed now by OES/FEMA?  Or is this an “event” that we’ll try to adapt to as needed as we get deeper and deeper into that “disaster”? Just some food for thought on this topic, and my apologizes but right now I see the glass 3/4 empty rather than 1/2 full.

Pray for rain and snow—it’s not too late!

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