Recording artist Moby has a lot to say in Rolling Stone about the way California farmers grow food. We’re using this post to address six of his most egregious errors.
1. Moby says “very few of the things we do as humans actually create benefit for anyone.”
Farmers use the water they have to do something amazing: They grow food. Of all the things we do as humans, producing food that sustains life seems pretty important. Water that grows farm products doesn’t stay on the farm. It becomes the food we buy at the grocery store.
2. Moby thinks if we stopped eating beef, dairy, and almonds, we’d be just fine.
That’s just not a practical solution to the drought. Farmers have chosen their crops based on what grows most efficiently and sells best. Even if a farmer chose a less controversial crop, there would need to be a market and price that would support the investment needed to switch.
3. Well, let’s just grow “thirsty” crops somewhere else.
Okay, where? California has the only Mediterranean climate in the country, making it the only efficient place to grow almonds in the US. Dairy can be imported from other states but dairy products like milk and cheese can spoil quickly. Transporting them long distances also raises the cost. Milk has a short shelf life. Do you want its life spent in a truck on the road or on the shelf in your fridge?
4. Uh, but Moby says farms use eighty percent of our water…
No, not really. The California Department of Water Resources has determined that agricultural water use is only 40 percent of California’s water use. Half of California’s water is used to protect the environment—meaning it’s designated for things like managed wetlands, wild and scenic rivers and stored water used to push salt water back to the San Francisco Bay.
5. But farming is such a small part of the economy!
Some say it’s as small as two percent but two percent of the world’s eighth-largest economy is still pretty big. And that two percent is just the value of the raw farm products, not the jobs and products they create in transportation, processing, packaging, wholesale, retail, port jobs, etc. Every on-farm job supports an off-farm job in a related industry. All told, farms contribute over $112 billion to California’s economy.
6. Moby also says we give farmers subsidies to send our water out of state via exported foods.
He says Californians are sending their money and water to China in the form of alfalfa. The fact is that we live in a global economy. Moby’s smart phone likely came from China along with its associated water footprint. In fact, California imports twice as much water in the products coming here than it does in the ones we export.
Want more in-depth water talk? Check out more at farmwater.org.
Photo of Moby by UncensoredInterviews.com, used by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en). Neither the photographer nor Moby endorses this use. Photo cropped from original.