VISALIA, Calif. — Robin Rivett, president of the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, warned grower-shippers and other citrus industry representatives that natural disasters should not be the industry’s primary concern.

“Today the most dangerous threats to agriculture are man made,” he said. “Federal, state and local governmental abuse and activists are changing the public landscape by air, by land and by water.”

Rivett was the keynote speaker Nov. 5 at the 32nd annual meeting of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.
The delta smelt is a case in point, Rivett said.

“The fish has no commercial value and is an intrastate species,” he said. “Accordingly the federal government has no authority to enforce the federal Environmental Species Act in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta.”

As a result of the Act, court-ordered reductions of water transfers from Northern California to central and southern regions of the state and biological opinions issued by federal agencies sent 630,000 acre feet of water through the Delta and out to the Pacific in 2008, Rivett said. The figure will increase to more than 1 million acre feet of water in 2010, he said.

Pacific Legal Foundation has gone to court in an attempt to challenge the delta smelt regulations.

The foundation is the nation’s oldest public interest legal organization dedicated to limited government, property rights and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, Rivett said. Of the six cases it has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, the foundation prevailed in five of them, he said. It is currently involved in numerous lawsuits nationwide aimed at protecting property rights.

Among them, Rivett said, is the case of a Northern California couple who wanted to build a home on their 143 acres of coastal land. After two years of haggling, the California Coastal Commission agreed to grant a building permit but only if the couple would agree to put the remaining 142 acres in agricultural land in perpetuity, he said.

“The problem is this coastal land has never before been ag land,” Rivett said.

Endangered species must be protected in a balanced and reasonable manner while also recognizing the rights of human begins, he said.

Among the foundation’s goals is to educate the public about the inequities on the Endangered Species Act. 

“Only when the public pressures lawmakers will Congress revise the law,” Rivett said.

California citrus group hears about threats to agriculture

Don Shrack

Robin Rivett, president of the Pacific Legal Foundation, Sacramento,Calif., speaks during the 32nd annual California Citrus Mutual meeting Nov. 5. Rivett said unnecessary federal, state and local government regulations sometimes stand in the way of agriculture.