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Ag Perspectives Panel Illustrates Different Views

For three years, Family Water Alliance has hosted speakers from differing backgrounds to discuss issues impacting the future of farming in California. While it may not come as a surprise that water and environmental regulation topped the list, this year’s panelists came from very different backgrounds.

Jason Peltier, chief deputy general manager of Westland Water District, explained how the western San Joaquin Valley is dealing with water shortages. He explained how water managers now have to manage water scarcity and gave details about the real life impacts to farmers in the Central Valley. “We can’t live with uncertainty. We need to find a path that works,” said Peltier.

One potential path is the newly appointed Delta Stewardship Council. Randy Fiorini, a farmer from Turlock, has been appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to this important post. He discussed how the Council has been charged with managing the co-equal goals of water supply reliability and a healthy Delta ecosystem. Fiorini went on to explain how the public could be involved in drafting the new Delta Plan and the timeline for the draft plan releases.

The third panelist at the Ag Perspectives Forum was Richard
Fields, from the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a non-profit law firm whose mission is to support free enterprise, limited government and private property rights.

Fields highlighted some of the cases PLF has been working on from the delta smelt lawsuit, to the Endangered Species Act delisting of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, against the federal government.

“We have given them 60-days to remove the beetle from the list,” Fields said. “Once removed, people who have elderberry on their property can have a much easier life. We will sue to make that happen.”

Ric Reinhardt, a principal with MBK engineers, spoke to the audience about the decertification of the federal levees in the north state. He gave an overview of the challenges facing small communities when it comes to defining adequate flood protection for rural areas.

“The costs of meeting the requirements will likely be cost prohibitive for many farmers,” said Reinhardt.

The concluding speaker of the forum was third-term Assemblywomen Fiona Ma, who represents the San Francisco area. While it may come as a surprise to many, Ma, who sits on the Food and Agricultural Committee in the Assembly, has been a champion for agriculture over the past few years. This was not her first visit to the north state. She attended a tour of the proposed Sites Reservoir a few years ago, hosted by Family Water Alliance and the Glenn County Rangeland Association.

Assemblywomen Ma feels that as an urban legislator it is important to learn more about what it takes to produce our food. Ma has sided with agriculture and fought to protect the Williamson Act subvention payments and the federal estate tax legislation.

Her comments resonated with the audience when she explained her understanding that farmers and ranchers care about the environment, water quality and endangered species.

This year’s forum was held during the Colusa Farm Show. Family Water Alliance looks forward to hosting the event again in 2012. ■

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