Not enough water and too much money in circulation. Sky-high prices for just about everything—except the price paid to the farmers for their crops.
All of these and more have created an existential crisis in California farm country, according to California Farm Bureau Administrator Jim Houston, reports agalert.com.
Houston was part of a panel testifying before the Assembly Select Committee on Food Systems on May 18 at the Capitol in Sacramento. The committee chairman is Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae.
Houston spoke of a Farm Bureau board meeting the day before his testimony, noting that about half of the directors—all of whom are farmers—were in Washington, D.C., at the time.
"They are facing the ruin of their farms—the end of hundreds of years of family farming," Houston testified. "They are worried about their communities and their employees because they're our neighbors. They're our family. They're our friends." Along with everyone else, they're all facing significantly higher food prices, he added.
Top of mind for Houston was the ongoing drought and its ripple effects on California's farm economy and, ultimately, the nation's food supply.
"We have not had any serious water investments in this state for over 30 years, despite funds to make it happen and voter willingness," he said. "We can't even repair the infrastructure we have."
One state senator—Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger—has sponsored the legislation, Senate Bill 559, that seeks funding for repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal and other water infrastructure.
"She still can't get the desired funds, which is a mere 1% of the discretionary surplus that the state has available to it," Houston said. "But it was not in the May (budget) Revise. Keep in mind that farmers and communities still pay full freight for their water, whether they get it or not."
This comes on top of soaring prices for fertilizer ingredients such as ammonia and potash; sulfur for fungicide; diesel fuel; and labor, Houston noted.
"To make it all worse, markets are evaporating as the global supply chains become increasingly unavailable," Houston said. Almonds set to be harvested later this year will join the 100 million pounds of nuts still awaiting shipment to their buyers, he said. Processing tomatoes—used in soup, salsa, ketchup, and tomato paste, among other products—face the opposite problem.
"They are hoping that they can get enough fruit off the vine to fill store shelves come June and July," Houston said.
"We are 99% of the world's almond supply," Houston said. "We are 90% of the United States supply of processing tomatoes and 60% of the world's supply. This is a global problem."