Wednesday, September 14, 2016

West Coast Observer: Heads in the sand

Without water

By William Silveira

Trump blew into the City of Tulare on August 30 for a luncheon fund raiser at the home of Tulare Union High School classmate, Corky Anderson. Anderson owns and operates a wholesale pistachio nursery as well as owning his own pistachio groves. In attendance at the event were members of some of the Central Valley’s large agricultural enterprises, including Annette and Bob Smitcamp of Fresno and the owners of Harris Ranch. Also in attendance was our congressman, Devin Nunes, whom Trump invited along for the jet ride from San Francisco to Fresno. Trump purportedly picked up 1.3 million dollars from the event – not a bad haul for a 1.5 hour visit. The event was closed to the public – except for those who wanted to pay $25,000 for a private talk with Trump or $2,700 for lunch with about 250 other people.
    Of course, Trump didn’t need to spend much time with his true believers. He had already said on more than one occasion that we don’t have a drought in California – that we just waste our water by allowing some of it to flow out the Sacramento River to the San Francisco Bay. The truth is that if we didn’t send one drop of water out to the San Francisco Bay, there would still be cries from this crowd that we don’t have enough water for farmers. (Indeed, although farmers have done a marvelous job of bringing lands that weren’t previously tilled into production with water from the 1970’s California Water Project, farmers still have large, dry acreages that can’t be tilled for lack of water.)
    The sad reality is that there will never be enough water for big ag in California. Every time a new water project has been completed, more land has been brought under cultivation. Never mind that the reason given for the water projects was to save farm land already under cultivation. Now the problem is further aggravated by the extensive planting of permanent nut crops, including the pistachio. (According to a recent article in The Sacramento Bee, a pistachio tree takes one and a half times the water that a fig tree does, and needs 55 gallons of water per day in the month of August. Furthermore, permanent plantings require a great deal more water than seasonal crops.)
    Of course there is big money in growing nut crops inasmuch as there is strong export demand to China and other places in the far east. I wonder what will happen to this market if Trump is elected and makes good on his assertion that he will stop the job-killing imports from China. If Americans can’t buy all manner of Chinese consumer goods at Walmart, the Chinese might not buy our pistachios. Trump only needed an hour and a half to make this crowd feel good about themselves. Allowing them to deny the obvious (that we are in a severe drought) allows them to ignore the need to finally accept some control over their madcap pumping of groundwater. Of course, when they get handsome depreciation allowances on trees, pumps, and irrigation systems, and they can mine the water, why should they stop? As they said when they were blasting away hills with water cannons in the 1850’s (and silting up the rivers and streams), “thar’s gold in them thar hills!”
    Well, those are my observations for this month – submitted later than I had hoped. The only excuse I have for the tardiness was the need to screw up my ambition to take on the local ostrich crowd.

Copyright © 2016 by William Silveira


  1. The high school classmate into whose home Trump blew in August for a luncheon fund raiser was my high school classmate too. We were on the same baseball team.

  2. thanks, William...crazy, uncomfortable times all around...i hope we reach what I think is saner ground...but then i have even begun to doubt what bedrock i think i everyone and no one, paint and floss daily...

  3. Well said, William. I know you didn't intend the metaphor, but in the end it's really about the nuts.