Fresno In The News – The Mendota March For Water.

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mendota march

I know the Tea Parties made the news cycle this week, but there was another protest that, in my eyes, was much more important, because unlike the Tea Parties, this one may have an effect and change policy concerning the ultimate goal of the march; to get more water to the Central and West San Joaquin Valley..

As covered in the New York Times, protesters trekked from Mendota to the San Luis Dam, a three day hike, in order to bring attention to the severe water shortage in the San Joaquin Valley. Many west valley farmers cannot plant this year Though there is a drought, that is not the principle cause of the shortage. This water shortage is the result of both overzealous environmental rules, pumps in the Sacramento delta that bring water to the valley have been shut down due to concerns over the endangered delta smelt fish, and also due to the lack of investment in California’s water storage capacity for the last forty years. I ranted on this topic earlier this year. The San Joaquin Valley, due to an inept state government, is in very real danger of becoming the new “dust bowl’ of the twenty first century.

A couple of things to note. You would think the Union that caters to the needs of the farm worker, the United Farm Workers of America, would be sympathetic to the cause. Not so. From the article:

…some labor organizers and advocates for rural areas contend that the marchers’ goals reflect only the desires of agribusiness and not the real needs of farm workers.

Many of the protesters were paid by their employers to march in lieu of harvesting crops.

“In reality, this is not a farm worker march,” said Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, the 27,000-member union founded by César Chávez, which did not participate in the march. “This is a farmer march orchestrated and financed by growers.”

OK, maybe the farmers did pay for them to march. Maybe not. There is no confirmation of this. Regardless, Mendota has an unemployment rate of 41% at the moment., and that will only go higher. There are many small towns on the west side, such as Firebaugh (mentioned in my previous post) that share the same fate. Here is something, apparently, the UFWA hasn’t considered. If the farms go dry and go out of business because they can’t grow stuff due to lack of water, the farm worker loses his or her job. How can the UFWA be against the acquisition of more water for farms? Google UFWA and Sierra Club, and you’ll get an idea of the influence the environmental group, which sued successfully to shut down the pumps, has on the farm workers union.

Still, some labor organizers and advocates for rural areas contend that the marchers’ goals reflect only the desires of agribusiness and not the real needs of farm workers.

Governor Schwartzanegger was at the event. He scolded the feds for not turning on the tap. There is a lot of chatter going around that the governor has the power to declare an emergency exemption and have the pumps turned on for 90 days. I have found no confirmation of this anywhere, so I won’t support it by echoing the outrage over this. Still, it hasn’t stopped Valley Rep. Devin Nunes from calling on Arnold to resign over his reluctance to do so.

PS. The picture on the top was taken by a long time friend. Congrats Mark for getting your work featured in the New York Times.

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