AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT

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According to a May 2014 report, the US Bureau of Reclamation released its first outlook of the year and finds insufficient stock is available in California to release irrigation water for farmers. This is the first time in the 54 year history of the State Water Project. “If it’s not there, it’s just not there,” notes a Water Authority director adding that it’s going to be tough to find enough water, but farmers are hit hardest as “they’re all on pins and needles trying to figure out how they’re going to get through this.” Fields will go unplanted (supply lower mean food prices higher), or farmers will pay top dollar for water that’s on the market (and those costs can only be passed on via higher food prices).

Looking at California's water problem regarding agriculture from the most positive perspective,our agriculture is the most diversified in the world with over 400 different commercial crops. Two elements however intrinsically tie just about every segment of the state’s No. 1 industry together. The obvious is water. The other is not so apparent — the dairy industry.

Dairymen use a wide array of California commodities to feed and care for their animals. Dairy cows are fed everything from alfalfa to almond hulls, to rice hulls, cottonseed, byproducts from ethanol production, silages of all sorts, cull vegetables and the list goes on. They use grain straw for bedding and have even been known to use harvested cotton stalks for the same thing.

During the increasing 18 year California drought, the deficient availability and high cost of water to irrigate crops and the economic health of the dairy industry have had direct impacts across most of California agriculture. Currently, the outlooks for both water and dairy are not very bright.

Promised deliveries from state and federal water projects range from 35 percent to 50 percent of contracted water, and reflect the fact that only a few years ago California produced a whopping 85 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables, and now that number has fallen to about 50 percent.   

The plight of the state’s water supply is not only impacted by the lack of storage and rain/snow, but by environmental lawsuits, like the one which forced the San Joaquin River restoration settlement. Friant water users gave up 200,000 acre feet for river restoration as part of an environmental lawsuit settlement.

Part of that settlement is an agreement to re-circulate river restoration water back to Friant water users. However, Sawyers says so far that has not happened. Recirculated water gets as far as San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, Calif., where it is sold to other valley water contractors nearer to the reservoir.

The river restoration has become expensive with the bill expected to be now “well north of $1 billion.” However, there was no money allocated to implement the settlement agreement, and Congress has not provided funds.

Congress must encourage independent, effective oversight to protect America’s water supplies.  

The function of protecting America’s supply was given governmental authority in the early 20th Century, to The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1930.  Most of us have grown up believing the FDA to be a watchdog on the look-out for threats to our health and well-being.

But in fact, the deregulatory trend that began in the 1980s as a financial boon to corporations has resulted in what is now a drastically underfunded and under-resourced FDA.  More significantly, it has been turned into a toothless tiger with greatly diminished authority to actually stop the kinds of abuses we have every right to feel our government is protecting us from.

Congress must properly fund, strengthen and monitor the FDA.

No "revolving door" jobs or appointments between corporations and government within 4 years of working for either. 

An incestuous relationship between the US government and its corporate benefactors has become the order of the day. In what is commonly called a “revolving door” practice, former corporate leaders now routinely move into positions of governmental authority. For example, Michael Taylor, now Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the FDA, was formerly Vice President for Public Policy at the Monsanto Company.

Sources of corruption in our food include the following:

•        pesticides/herbicides/fertilizers

•        genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

•        air and water pollution

•        crowding of animals – chickens, cows, pigs – and feeding them antibiotics and growth hormones

•        food processing

Many of our health problems, including obesity, can be traced to the corruption of our food supply. We experience lack of vitality in our food and our bodies, from processed foods with calories but not nutrients, and residue of poisons from chemical farming.

While its manufacturers claim that GMOs increase yield and thus help feed the starving of the world, scientists question whether that assertion is true. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists report Failure to Yield, a definitive study to date on GMO crops and yield, “GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all.

In fact, they contaminate our gene pool, can be poisonous to birds and other living things and have led to the production of increasingly dangerous herbicides such as Roundup.

Roundup is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects and cancer.  It has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruption, and organ damage in animals even in very low doses.

Due to these and other concerns, over 60 countries have banned the production of genetically modified foods.  Yet the United States has over 165 million acres of GM crops under cultivation.  More than 40% of all U.S. cropland is already planted with GMO crops, and nearly 80% of processed foods sold in the US now contain GMOs.

The labeling of foods made from GMOs must be required by California law. 

The Big 6 pesticide makers – particularly Monsanto and Dupont – spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat GMO labeling propositions in both California and Washington State.

I support the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act.  I promise to work toward labeling all GMOs, and to strengthen consumer protection by the FDA and USDA.

Until we have limited the influence of moneyed interests on the functioning of our government, we will always be fighting for the interests of the American people against encroachment by huge multinational corporate interests such as Big Ag and Chemical companies.  And as long as their money gets to talk more than we do, there can be no democracy.

 

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