If this is true — and it probably is — it’s a scandal. California’s economy lost $9.6 billion in revenue last year, and neither the governor nor the Legislature cared.
That’s the contention of Aubrey J.D. Bettencourt, executive director of the California Water Alliance, based in Hanford.
Bettencourt quotes the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which announced in October: “In 2015 California’s farms and ranches received approximately $47 billion for their output. This represents a decrease of nearly 17 percent compared to 2014.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said prior-year comparable receipts were $56.6 billion. That’s a revenue loss of $9.6 billion in a single year.
That loss, says Bettencourt, is equivalent to erasing the total sales of eBay ($9.4 billion) or eliminating MasterCard ($9.7 billion) both among California’s most productive corporations.
Bettencourt goes on, writing in the political journal Fox & Hounds:
“Governor Jerry Brown and Sacramento legislators ignored policy experts and family farmers and ranchers, signing bill after bill for years on end. The past sessions saw legislation that added sharp increases to labor costs, restricted use of the state’s water, curtailed property rights dating to our state’s founding, limited farmers’ uses of nutrient fertilizers and crop safety products, forced more costly production methods and expanded their compliance and bookkeeping costs.”
Well, few of us in the San Joaquin Valley would take issue with that assertion.
“It’s estimated that the average California farmer now is required to pay and be compliant with nearly 80 local, state, and federal regulatory agencies in order to grow food, fiber, and fuel for our nation’s citizens and the world.
“After three years of Gov. Brown’s emergency orders, his appointed state regulators and their federal counterparts’ edicts killed thousands of family farms and small businesses and eradicated thousands of entry-level and middle-class jobs. These destructive bills were rubber stamped by the state legislature, and the outcome’s statistics speak for themselves.
Here’s some more passed-along information by Bettencourt:
CDFA reported that California lost 5,300 family farms and ranches between 2010 and 2014. The 2014 Crop Report stated that California had fewer operations in 2014 than at any time since 2007.
Cultivated and grazed agricultural acreage dropped 700,000 acres since 2007.
U.C. Davis estimates that 78,800 acres were idled in 2016 due to the California drought.
A UC Davis’ study author, Daniel A. Sumner, confirms an additional 461,000 acres were left unplanted due to federal and state regulatory diversions of water from farms or for other man made reasons unrelated to low natural precipitation or short water supplies.
“The rest really are due to long-term regulations (or other factors in some cases),” said Sumner.
And the governor, legislature and regulators are coming back for more ...
And, of course, we know that most of the legislators voting to make it harder for San Joaquin Valley farmers to farm are urban Democrats who have been educated in many false assumptions about modern agriculture, and hardly anybody on the Democrat side of the political aisle is trying to put them right.
That isn’t to say that the farmers are perfect, either. Farmers can be their own worst enemies in explaining the realities of modern agriculture to town folks. That is something they have to get better at doing.