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The Madera Tribune

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Letter: Retired farmer takes issue with Doud column

August 7, 2019

Several years before our 2017 retirement from production agriculture, I sadly had to abandon T&D Willey Farm signature crops, green beans and peas. The cost and scarcity of harvest labor contributed to the decision, but the clincher was a changing, less dependable climate that made growing these favorite soil-builders and customer-pleasers too risky. 

 

Four decades ago when we started our farm business, one could reasonably expect a short window of time each spring and fall during which temperature-finicky peas and beans would thrive and produce bounteous harvests of good quality. As years rolled by, those bean and pea good-weather windows narrowed and became less predictable. Finally, with profit potential nil, our farm’s number-cruncher, Denesse, convinced me we had to pull the plug on my favorite crops.

 

However, the more consistently warm fall weather Madera now experiences increased our opportunity for growing and harvesting good winter potato crops, an enterprise we had long pursued with marginal success. But warmer autumn climate also created opportunity for the dreaded Irish potato famine disease, late blight, a phenomenon we’d never before experienced. Win some, lose some, I guess. 

 

Warmer fogless winters have local growers biting nails over adequate orchard chilling hours and wary of spraying dormant oils on trees whose bark may scald in bright January sun.

 

The Madera Tribune’s editor pays his community no service in trivializing (A ‘heated’ subject for discussion 7-31-2019) the very real climate concerns impacting our valley’s economy and well-being. 

 

A near-unanimous consensus of scientists warn of the San Joaquin Valley’s widening extremes in naturally variable precipitation, longer periods of drought interspersed with atmospheric river-induced deluges, less snow at moderate mountain elevations that will run off and overwhelm reservoirs before crops require irrigation. 

 

Our groundwater recharge infrastructure, particularly in Madera County, is inadequate to the urgent task of storing stream flow water underground for thirsty crops and communities’ use over dry seasons experiencing warmer temperatures.

 

Dozens of meetings take place all over Madera County, struggling with the implementation of 2014’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which will drastically curtail pumping from our depleted aquifer. The outcome of these historic, impassioned negotiations will determine the future of an agricultural economy that for better or worse remains the economic engine of this region. 

 

To my knowledge as a subscriber and reader, Mr. Doud’s Madera Tribune has never reported on this process, which will have a profound effect on the lives of all citizens over the next two decades and far beyond.

 

Recent research has shown that an increasing proportion of Americans prioritize human-induced climate change as an issue important to themselves, their children and their children’s children. Presidential candidate Gov. Jay Inslee, whom our editor belittles, performs a valuable public service by insisting climate be a central topic of discussion in the 2020 campaign. As Mr. Doud points out, we are comfortable talking with our neighbors about the weather but not the climate, which has deliberately been made into such a politically charged subject that we fear upsetting each other by its mention. 

 

I am mentioning it. It is fact, and we will all soon enough reconcile with it one way or another. 

Mr. Doud is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Can we see more facts reported in The Tribune about how Madera is grappling with the climate issue, please?

 

— Tom Willey,

 

T&D Willey Farms, 

 

Retired

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