Wisdom expands with age, according to most sources.

California regulations still confuse

Don Schrack
Staff Writer

It’s no secret to readers of The Packer that I’m the only staff writer who’s older than dirt, which should signal a sizeable accumulation of smarts. Not when it comes to figuring out my home state of California, I fear.

Let me share a couple of my conundrums.

Gov. Jerry Brown, once known as Gov. Moonbeam, has declared an end to the state’s multi-year drought. While it’s true that rainfall to date in many of California’s fresh produce growing regions totals about 150% of normal, water issues remain.

On the good news side, the California Water Project has upped its allocation for irrigation water south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Growers, especially those on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley, may now count on 75% of what they were promised when the deal was put together a couple decades ago.

All those West Side row crops — melons, onions, garlic, perhaps some fall vegetables — and orchards should be fine this year.

Now for the bad news: The California Farm Bureau Federation says something in the neighborhood of 300,000 acre-feet of water — enough to serve the domestic needs of nearly 2 million Californians — is being flushed under the Golden Gate Bridge every day.

The problem, you see, is that California has not built a storage facility of any size for about 40 years. And it’s costing farmers and consumers. A case in point is Kern County grower Don Davis, who during dry years must fire up the pumps on his wells.

“It (the cost of pumping) doubles my water cost,” he said.

That pumping translates to an expense of about $50,000 a year, Davis said of his 500 acres of almonds.

Yes, two new dams were part of the water bond measure drafted a couple of years ago. But the bond measure has been put on Sacramento’s back burner.

Meanwhile, the California Legislature has killed a bill that would have limited state debt funding for the fast becoming infamous high-speed rail project. I’d like to have a chance to ride on that rig, but not, I think, when the state is more than $20 billion in the red.

Tree fruit board

I’m also less than thrilled about the pending demise of the California Tree Fruit Agreement. Based in Reedley, CTFA has represented peach, plum and nectarine — and for a while pear — grower-shippers since 1933.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently terminated the peach and nectarine orders in the wake of two grower referenda. The results were not unexpected. Many stone fruit growers have been battling to keep their financial heads above water for several years.

It is not just the growers, however, who will suffer from CTFA’s departure. No longer will retailers receive the benefit of the organization’s research and category analysis. No longer will up-to-date packout data be available at the click of a mouse. No longer will there be volume estimates.

California peaches, plums and nectarines will continue to be available to retailers and foodservice.

I understand the industry is ever changing, and those changes often result in collateral damage.

Worst of all, though, not much longer will there be a CTFA staff, a group of folks who were not only thoroughly professional representatives of the fresh fruit industry, but also very, very nice people.

E-mail dschrack@thepacker.com

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