Barbarians at the Irrigate
Big Ag wins, fish and wildlife lose in California’s water wars
Thanks in part to a recent public-relations blitz and some crucial assistance from the Bush administration, Big Agriculture seems to have won California’s decades-long water wars. Irrigation districts in California’s Central Valley are signing federal contracts that ensure taxpayer-funded water supply for the next 25 to 50 years. Meanwhile, multi-millionaire “family farmers” — many of whom live in mansions miles from their mega-farms — continue to receive millions in agriculture subsidies. Thus, taxpayer-subsidized water is pumped uphill with taxpayer-subsidized electricity to nourish taxpayer-subsidized crops. Not a bad deal for what state Rep. George Miller (D) calls “the most politically powerful welfare recipients in the world.” Meanwhile, rivers and estuaries in northern California — which received more water after conservationist campaigns in the 1990s — are once again getting shorted and seeing their fisheries decline precipitously. Perhaps it’s time for eco-groups to make an ad that shows a fish in overalls, crumbling a clump of dirt, squinting into the distance. Save the Family Fish!