A recent San Jose Mercury editorial on Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 313 is an over-the-top attack on farms that grow a sizeable portion of the nation’s food. The bill, which has passed both the California Assembly and Senate, allows for an administrative law judge to review water rights decisions by the State Water Resources Control Board if the affected party appeals the Board’s decision. AB 313 is awaiting Governor Brown’s signature.

The Mercury’s editorial claims that AB 313 would hand more power over to “Big Ag.” Few things in California water get trotted out as frequently as the bogeyman of “Big Ag”. After all, who would want to support policies that will benefit some deplorable, like “Big Ag?” It’s a loaded term meant to conjure images of monolithic, faceless industry.

The trouble is- California’s not a “Big Ag” state.

  • Our farms are almost all family-run. (More than 99% are family run in California.)
  • Our farms’ are small.  In fact, much smaller than the national average (26% smaller.)
  • Our farms are diverse; we produce more than 400 different commodities across the State.
  • Our farmers are not only passionate about producing safe, affordable farm products, they’re also careful stewards of the land, water and air. They’ve invested more than $3 billion in recent years just to enhance irrigation efficiency, and will continue to invest in technology and improvements that make farms even more efficient.
  • While total agricultural water use in California has remained about the same over the last 50 years, the amount of food farmers produce with that water has actually increased over 43 percent. No matter how you measure it, that’s a pretty efficient use of resources.

No story is complete without a villain, and the menacing threat of “Big Ag” has long been a popular one, even if it’s nothing but smoke and mirrors.

California’s water will always be a contentious issue. Ensuring that conflicts are resolved fairly and impartially is a worthy goal of any government.

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