Kashkari said he has consistently opposed Gov. Brown’s high-speed rail project in favor of notable priorities, including creating jobs and educational opportunities.
Although most farmers’ recent priorities are far from the high-speed tracks, Westley native and Young Farmers and Ranchers representative Daniel Bays allowed Kashkari to visit their family ranch in order to discuss an urgency within California’s Central Valley—water.
The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies water to a third of the irrigated farmland in California through a 500-mile network of canals and tunnel, said it won’t be able to deliver any of the water sought by farmers this year.
The drought, combined with continued protections for endangered species, has forced farmers to find alternative means of managing their income. Most farmers have already switched to drip irrigation or micro sprinklers to manage their crops. But it still may not be enough, as farmers are now choosing which crops to water - and which to let wither.
“You need to update and take care of what you have before you go onto something new,” said Bays, regarding the need to abandon the high-speed rail project. “And a train, it’s just—you’re going back in time. Why not put money into something you need right now? You need some accountability before you can try something else.”
Also in attendance was Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini, who represents the entire cities of Newman and Patterson as well as most of Ceres.
DeMartini, a farmer for the last 34 years in the West Side, advocated the need for water in the Central Valley, stating that agriculture was the number one industry, raking in $3.5 billion a year.
“We are in a unique area,” said DeMartini. “We are the breadbasket of the world. In this county, agriculture is our No. 1 industry. Without water, this all goes away,” said DeMartini, motioning towards the field of unplanted tomatoes.
According to a poll by the Los Angeles Times, 59 percent of voters in the Central Valley want to call off the need to build a high-speed rail in favor of growing concerns—including the need for more water.
“It’s time to scrap the idea,” said DeMartini. “It’s not like California has money to burn.”
Although a non-native to the West Side, Kashkari’s eyes have been opened regarding the current water regulations.
“I think it’s critical we give a voice for all of California,” said Kashkari. “What I heard loud and clear is that water is critical to all farmers. Our priorities are jobs and education. Water is a critical input to creating jobs. We should’ve been building more (water) storage for years. We need to get going.”
Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.