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An interview with...

Bill Pauli
President, California Farm Bureau

What do you think the footprint for agriculture is going to look like in the year 2040?

You look at it from a number of perspectives -- and certainly the numbers make one a little apprehensive about what the future really holds for ag. But if you look back at the history of what occurred in the L.A basin...what's occurred along the coast in Santa Barbara and Ventura to some extent...what's occurring now in Orange County and the displacement of agriculture there. Certainly there is a reason for some pessimism about whether or not we can maintain a long-term viable agriculture in the Valley and in the communities of the Valley. So from a historical perspective certainly, there is reason for a lot of concern and that's where we get to the emphasis on planning for what our future will really be. And how will the Valley really look -- and how do we want the Valley to look - five, ten, and twenty-five years from now?

How do you maintain a sensible growth for farmers?

I think you have to take a look at two different segments there. One, as agriculture, can we remain viable with the pressures that we currently have? Assuming there's not a lot more growth, just for purposes of discussion, and we assume that things are going to remain more constant than what they have, can we maintain a viable agriculture with the restraints on water and species and air, and the regulations and impact of urbanization as it currently exists? Can we be viable and maintain an agriculture that is productive? And that in itself is going to be a big challenge and then when you complicate that with the ever-increasing need for houses and the components that go with that, it's going to be a very difficult challenge. Because, one, we have to remain viable in agriculture to continue and then, two, with the urbanization pressure that we all face -- for housing and schools and the service industry, transportation, all of the things that are part of that -- can we maintain? It's going to be a challenge.

How has irrigation technology changed over the last twenty years?

If you take a look at a lot of what has occurred, it has been really driven by the advances in technology on one side -- the availability of improved technology -- but also by the desire on the part of the agriculture producers to improve their production technique and to effectively reduce cost or reduce input. While water in many of our communities in the Valley is relatively inexpensive for agriculture by a lot of standards, it's still a cost and so any method that we can find to reduce that cost, be more efficient, we are challenged to do. And so technology has helped us do that, but it's driven by both the availability of new technology and improved growing techniques and by the desire to reduce the costs of those inputs.

Could you give us an example of the kind of technology you have now that wasn't available twenty years ago.

Well, some of the simple basic ones in terms of irrigation from furrow and flooding irrigation -- from which there's still some strong advantages on some types of ground on some type of crop. But clearly the ability to ply the water more evenly, whether it's simply through better leveling so that the water distributes more evenly -- which on one hand seems like a fairly simply thing but I can remember back in my younger years when we used to put up some fairly severe berming or diking or checking because the ground was so unleveled and we used to just have to use tremendous amounts of water, because the ground was so unleveled, to cover all the areas. Well, now with the ability and the equipment to do the laser leveling we have whether its a field crop or an orchard crop, the efficiency is so much greater to ply a lot less water and get equal distribution throughout. And that's really driven not only by better equipment but by the technology to do the kind of laser leveling that we do before we plant some of those permanent crops. And so it really wasn't driven by the cost of water as it was to be more efficient with the use of that water. And of course many of our sprinkler methods today, in terms of the type of sprinkler heads, the ability to put on a better distribution of water, not just in terms of an even pattern but in the ability to not compact the ground. You know, we sort of forget about some of those simple things. Remember we used to have these big, big weather heads or rain birds that just worked like a firehouse -- but a lot of compaction occurred with that, and not good penetration. Where now we have you know, sprinklers that put out a much finer mist, a much more even pattern, get a much better penetration. The plant is able to take the water up and really utilize the water because it penetrates. So they're simple things and yet they've made a major difference in our ability to better use the resources and to make us more productive. A whole lot of things, but a whole lot of simple things have really led not only to a decrease of volume of water used but a much more efficient use of the water, and also a much higher production level.

What are the effects of air quality on crops?

You know, if we take a look at where we were years ago, in terms of trying to measure comparatively what we were able to produce before we had many of the air quality issues -- in a really clean air kind of environment -- and clearly we received higher production levels without the interference of particles in air. How do you measure that today in terms of where we are? We are where we are, and yet we all realize there is an impact. How to really measure the impact? Sure, there are a lot of studies been done and it's substantial. Now whether it s 20% or 15%, I don't think we can really quantify that very effectively other than to make a fairly specific statement -- even though it's general -- that there is substantial impact to many of our crops because we know that air quality is continually a problem in terms of shading and reducing the amount of sunlight we get. And yet there's nothing that we can really…certainly we individually can't do any thing about it. Hopefully as air quality generally improves up and down the valley it will also enhance our ability to produce more competitively, with higher yields.

What concerns do you have about future water supplies in the face of continuing growth?

When we think about water supply I tend to think of it both for agriculture and for urban growth, and urban development. And one of the challenges we have is that, while we continue to be more effective and efficient with the amount of water we use, we continue to use a lot of water in agriculture in order to maintain the production levels we have, and intensify that production level. Because remember we are doing more and more on that same acre of land or that same track of land than what we used to: multi-cropping, higher yields, longer periods of irrigation to increase efficiency. And yet we have to maintain that certain block of water for agriculture, and yet we are going to have to find ways to provide water for a growing population. And certainly we will continue to improve on the conservation side of the issue and efficiency issues in agriculture, but there will be a limit in terms of how low we can go in terms of the amount of water that is really needed to maintain a stable base. By the same token we have to identify additional water for urbanization and for growth. Just because you take agriculture production away you're still replacing it with something. Whether that's habitat or ecosystem restoration, or whether its urbanization, you still need that water. And as the population grows, our desire to continue to improve and protect species we really need the availably of more water, and I think as we're seeing with some of the other crisis we have -- whether it's in transportation, housing, or electricity -- we have to plan for what our future needs are, and we can't just continue to divide the limited resource we have in water right now and ultimately think we can meet our needs. And the good news is we have a lot of additional water available that can be stored at peak flow periods during the winter -- other than this winter -- to meet those needs of the future.

Do farmers and conservationists have any common ground in terms of the trying to solve some of the problems that we're facing?

You know, I think one the misconceptions over the years has been: are farmers really environmentalists and conservationists? And I think you've probably had an opportunity to meet and talk with a lot of farmers. And I think for many of our friends and colleagues if they actually stop and think about the farmers and the agriculturalists they know, they'll quickly recall and understand how committed these people are as conservationists, as environmentalists. Because fundamentally, without high quality land and high quality water, we simply can't be effective and efficient. So this notion that's sometimes portrayed that agriculture isn't concerned about the environment, isn't concerned about habitat, isn't concerned about protecting species, I think is a misnomer and that some people have used that to try to divide and conquer. Because if you take a look at the habitat we provide, if you take a look at what we've done to try and to protect and improve species -- a tremendous desire to do that. That doesn't mean that we aren't going to do more, it doesn't mean that we haven't done some things that we perhaps shouldn't have done in the past, that we haven't continued to change and grow -- we've all done that. It doesn't matter what field or work you're in, we've all had to change and we've had to adapt and we've learned better ways to do things but fundamentally people that live and work the land are truly conservationists, and want to find ways to continue to protect the habitat and species. I think you can talk about a lot of examples.

Are there any areas of natural resources that we have overlooked in agriculture?

I think there's a lot of areas where one could say we have. I mean, if you want to start with air we could talk briefly about air. I mean, certainly over the years we have contributed to the air quality problems -- whether its dust, whether it's chemicals and pesticides, whether it's contamination from our motors. But there again, if you take a look at the transitions that we made from programs that we've gotten ourselves in along with others, we didn't realize some of the consequences. You know, one motor is not too bad a problem but ten, and then a hundred, and then ten thousand is a lot. So a lot of this is driven just by the fact that there's so many more of all of us today. But certainly air quality, we've made substantial improvements there and we'll continue to make improvements there. There is no reason not to find better and more efficient motors; air quality is fundamentally really important. I think we've made substantial progress in terms of trying to deal with water quality issues -- whether that's on the livestock and animal feeding operations. You know, I mean twenty and fifty and hundred years ago when you had a twenty cow or thirty cow dairy, it really wasn't an issue that we really worried about in terms of where the manure went, where the run off went. But there were so few people, so many competing industries in terms of their contribution to the water quality, it really wasn't a problem. But as everything has become more concentrated, because there are so many more of us in all segments of everyday life -- yes, we have to find a way to improve our water quality and we're doing that. A lot of good programs occurring in the dairy industry right now in terms of water quality assurance programs so that we can maintain the effluent on our operations and not create problems for water quality. I think we've seen that in terms of runoff from our fields and part of that comes from the efficiency in the water we ply, that we don't have it all running off the other end. A lot of areas there in terms of water quality that we've done. Soil erosion; you know, we forget about that because soil erosion is no longer really a problem. You go back fifty years and well, who worried about soil erosion? It wasn't something you worried about. So we've made substantial progress in terms of our ability to deal with air, water and land. And we'll continue to find better ways to do that.

Who are you working with in terms of finding solutions to these issues?

Everybody and anybody. You know, that's the amazing thing is that whoever is going to come up with the solution, you never know who they might be or from what walk of live. Certainly the University [of California at Davis] over the long haul has made a very major and substantial contribution in air, water, and land improvement. There are no two ways about that. The university through their basic and applied research has been fundamentally very important for all of us, and I don't think it matters which industry you've been in. The university system has made a contribution. But we also have a lot of private money in terms of people look for opportunities to improve the pesticides, find softer pesticides. Obviously they've looking for an economic opportunity, but private research has played an important role. And then just the ingenuity of individuals who've come up with ideas, and there is no one simple easy solution anywhere -- as it is in any other type of business or entity. And so it's across the board, university as well as private; some of it on-shore and some of it offshore. I mean, you take a look at some of the ideas from Israel or from Asia or some of the other countries. I mean, they've come up with some creative ideas to help solve these problems too, and of course of our technology has been exported to many of them. Across the board, it comes from anywhere and everywhere and you never know where the silver bullet's going to come from.

What do you think the impending growth is going to do to the agricultural economy, in terms of its contribution to the national economy?

You know, one of the things I think we need to focus on briefly is the gross value of agriculture and maybe that's a good measurement and maybe it's not. But as a measurement, generally it's continued to trend upward in growth. And there's obviously a number of reasons for that, so if you take a look just in terms of dollar value, just in agriculture, I honestly believe it will continue to grow. It's changing, though, in terms of the make up to a much more intensified type of agriculture versus what was a more diversified agriculture, a more general kind of agriculture. A very specialized agriculture now is developing. And so in terms of dollars it's going to continue to grow; in terms of real technology it's going to continue to grow. A lot of the biotechnology issues that are coming to the forefront -- where we are able to produce much more on a much smaller acreage in much more highly intensive way is going to continue. A lot of the genetic engineering is going to allow us to produce more on less ground, and so we may see fewer acres or less acres in some cases. But we're going to see a very intense agriculture which is going to produce more, is going to continue to demand a lot of processing to a finished good. And so we're going to continue to see a lot of people still employed in agriculture related processing and production and so we may not see the shrinkage there and yet we may see a shrinkage in the total number of acres, the total number of farmers, and the historical sort of image that we've had of agriculture. I mean, we're changing and so it's going to be a very different agriculture. You take a look today at a lot of the greenhouse operations. I mean, they fit into a very urban-suburban setting relatively well, make a very major contribution to the tax base and to the employment numbers in the community, and yet we don't really see them as the old style production ag. We don't think of them in those terms, and yet they're clearly ag -- a very intense ag, a very important part of ag. So well see a different ag but it'll continue to be strong numbers in terms of employment and strong numbers in terms of the amount of contributions it makes to the economy.

It sounds like you don't see any shrinkage at all in any of the satellite industries that feed ag now.

We have to talk about that in two ways, I think. If we take a look at some of the processing side of what has been some of the traditional crops. And certainly in the Valley if we look at peaches in particular, yes, we may see some shrinkage in those kinds of industries, which are sort of the older traditional types of commodities. I mean, I have a real concern about where the canning industry as an industry goes. I think we've seen some real shrinkage in the processing side. We're going to continue to see some real strong competition from abroad and ultimately that's going to cause addition shrinkage, I believe -- both in term of acres and in terms of the processing side of that. But we're also going to make that up with specialty crops and specialty processing which may not have the same numbers in terms of peak periods of processing. You know, we think about the canning facilities both the tomatoes and peaches -- big number of people employed for a relatively short period of time; four to six months in the summer months. Where now we're going to see industries that tend to spread that peak employment out for a much longer period and so the total hours worked may be the same but it may be by fewer people -- but really be the same or higher payrolls, and certainly higher wages, but man hours wise it's certainly going to be the same or more. Because we're going towards industries that allow us the efficiency to spread out over the year versus… You know, some of the tomato problems are just monumental in terms of the processing side. So we're going to see shrinkage there. And the canned fruit business -- and I've been on that side for along time -- really concerned me, that our future's not all that we'd like it to be. But that doesn't mean we're not going to have other segments come into agriculture to replace that old traditional style of agriculture that we sort of love and hate to see go.

Do you think there's hope that people who are displaced by that shrinkage will be able to be retrained and find new positions in a new economy?

We have to look at a couple of things there. Number one: many of the people who are going to be going out of agriculture are already people who have been in agriculture fifty, sixty, seventy years; it's been their life. And those kinds of people are basically going to retire and go away to the hills, and won't be retrained. They're going to sell out, move on, do what retired people do. Our younger people already aren't coming back to the farm, to farm in what has been the traditional way of the farmer. They're going toward high-tech jobs -- in agriculture. It doesn't mean they're not still in ag, but they aren't the same farmer that we've always thought about in terms of living on the ranch, parking the pickup on the ranch, going to the shop in the morning, working on the ranch all day, and not really leaving home. Our young people today are going to continue to move into other opportunities in the ag-related area, and so that transition is already going on and you see that in shrinkage of the total numbers of farmers and yet total employment in ag isn't going down.

What approach are you taking with urban developers who are wrestling with the issues of whether to build with more density or build out into open space? How do you develop a working relationship with them as they spread into what is now viable agriculture land? What kinds of compromise can you reach there?

It has to be reached in the area of the mandates placed on the building industry, in terms of cost associated with permitting. One of the real problems we have -- and here the conservationists and the environmentalists and myself agree: to continue to spread out over the ground, tying up these resources, makes absolutely no sense. We have to move in the direction of higher densities, multiple story units, units that don't all reside on a quarter or half acre or two-thirds of an acre or "ranchettes" -- because that's just destroying the ability to have that land, and destroys the landscape in terms of the open space that we all cherish and want so much, the vision that we have for our valley. So we have to find a way to increase density. But the struggle here is for county government: how do they fund the infrastructure that they need in terms of schools, in terms of hospitals, in terms of transportation, in terms of water, in terms of sewer? How do they finance that? Their incentive is really permits that tend to spread things out tends to help them raise funding. And so we have a real conflict there in terms of, what's the most efficient and effective way to provide housing and the infrastructure that we all need, that might be a little ore expensive there initially but will have longer term benefits versus having destroyed the landscape? And so I think county government is going to play a big role in terms of where we go and how do we meet their long-term financial needs to provide the infrastructure that they need versus tagging it all on to the price of each individual home, which means we need to go out on cheap ground and inexpensive ground -- which turns out to be the ag ground -- in order to get the costs of the home low enough that the individual can afford to buy it. Where when you tend to go to some of the higher densities, yes it tends to pushes the initial cost up, but the long-term benefits are certainly going to be much better for everyone. And I think there's a real conflict there between just spreading it out and covering it over and what the long-term quality of life issues are versus trying to create some higher densities, which may initially be a little more expensive and not quite as desirable for county government in terms of funding. But which will ultimately be better for everyone involved, because we'll have a better overall quality of life and the long-term costs will be less. But there's a real conflict there. The developer with the fees that they have to pay right now -- and I don't know; the number we tend to look at $72,000 to $74,000 dollars per home for the related permitting cost. I mean, you've got to have some pretty cheap land to start out with or else the price of the home is going to be horrendously expensive. So what do they tend to do? They tend to go out on agriculture land where they can get it for $3,000 to $5,000 an acre or some number in that magnitude versus the infill land which may be twenty-five…or thirty…or fifty…or a hundred thousand dollars an acre. So clearly the environmental community --the conservation community, protection of open space people -- and I absolutely agree we've got to find away to try initially to have much more infill. Not just this distribution of densities across the landscape.

Are you meeting with any sort of agreement on this issue of density and development?

We agree in terms of recognizing that we need to go to those higher densities, and we agree on generally what the issues are. The problem is: how do we penetrate county government? How do we deal with the real financial issues? How do we deal with the developers? And by the same token, how do we deal with the fact that so many of our younger people and middle age people today can't find a home? One, they're priced out of the market in many cases, but two, the competition for homes -- I mean, basically they're sold as they get built! There's such a demand, and I think, you know, that creates a real problem because there's such an opportunity for the builder to build homes: "Yes, okay I know that's a social issue that we need to deal with and a quality of life issue that longer term, we need to deal with. But that's not my problem right now. I build homes; my carpenters who work for me put up boards and drive nails, and I've got people in line who want to buy my home. You guys figure out what you want to do and we're for it." And so you know, we kind of continue to run along spraying out across the landscape with more and more homes and houses without the type of density that ultimately we're going to have to face up to, to protect some of this open space.

Where are we going to get the resources to feed all these new homes that are coming in -- water, for instance?

Well, you know that's something that we've worked on through legislation and with county government and local planning agencies: where is this water going to come from? And then equally important, how are you going to get it where you need it, and how are you going to have the quality of water that you need to have for domestic consumption? And it's a real challenge for us, because like with other components -- electricity, transportation -- we simply don't have the availability. We have the resource available in other parts of the state, but we do not have the availably here where we're building the homes. And our concern is, okay, in the short term, sure, you keep taking it from ag. But in the longer term you're going to have to identify a source of water that is available, and should you be sort of a no-growther here, until you have identified your water source and can guarantee that supply, you shouldn't build these homes. Well, as we have talked about, that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to stop building homes because there is a tremendous demand both on the part of the builder to have his opportunity, and on the part of the consumer to have a home. And so while that's somebody else's problem to deal with the homes continue to be built. But the fact remains do they a viable supply of water three, and five, and ten years from now? What happens when we get into the next drought -- which might be sooner than we'd all like to think? Is there going to be water available and are we going to run into some of the same supply problems that we have on electricity? I mean, you think about the Colorado river, where our supply is going to continue to be reduced in the future. And it's not too dissimilar from some of the energy situations, in terms of others have been loaning us their supply but as they need their supply back they may not be in a position to help us. What are we going to do to help ourselves in terms of supply? And it's going to be a challenge, I think, to not run out of water in the relatively near future, and have it available where and when we need it

Could you outline the most recent legislation on the subject?

This was Costa legislation 1630, that was actually ground water legislation. There was other specific legislation that related to...before you were able to get your county approval, as part of that, you had to have an identifiable source of water from a water district or supplier stating that the water would be available. And one of the challenges to that has been, they would get a letter from the district saying, "Yes, we will provide you water." That was the extent of it. Now we have tightened the legislation up; it has to be a real guarantee that we can supply water. But we all thought we had a guaranteed supply for electricity. I mean, you know, basically when these permits are issued that for electricity we all sort of assume that means we all really going to get electricity, the same that we believe and assume that we are going to get water. And the legislature has continued to wrestle with this and of course the development community, building community, fought that legislation pretty vehemently, because they said, "You really can't guarantee a source of water." Well, that's the fundamental issue here: no, nobody can in all circumstance, but we sure had better plan for what we believe the real needs are going to be. And the conflict there again was, "Well, if we conserve and if we have good conservation there'll be enough," versus what we know: we're not real good at conserving, and conservation within limits. I mean, we like to let the water run for at least a few seconds when we brush our teeth; not even fewer and fewer seconds. But that's the real challenge, how do you effectively create legislation that will effectively guarantee us a supply of water for the individual homeowner and businesses? And there is no real effective way to do that, but it's certainly something that we and the legislature have worked on -- but there is no answer

How do you feel about a regional approach to solving these issues?

Regional government, as a concept of course, is sort of like...well, you might just get your six shooter out and shoot yourself because there's not a lot of enthusiasm from many corners, including the agricultural community for regional government for a lot of good reasons. And yet unfortunately today, on many of the issues, you're going to have to have a broader view because...just because that county road is the county line, the issues cross many counties lines. And so historically those of us in ag and in our rural communities have been absolutely firm that regional government was not the answer. And I'm not sure that regional government is the answer today, but there are clearly regional issues on air, water, land, transportation, and sewer that have to be addressed. And we have -- and I don't want to criticize any of my good friends at the county government -- but a fairly antiquated system of county government that doesn't effectively deal with the regional issues. Now LAFCOs have certainly tried to deal more effectively with regional issues, but we've been lousy at it. You know, you take a look at some of the transportation issues -- whether it's busses or roads. It's a disaster. I mean, it effectively hasn't worked very well and yet none of us, I think, have quite gotten to the point where we're willing to say, "We're really going to have to address this issue of county government and it's lack of effectiveness." You have the same issues with cities and county government; I mean, it's not just unique to state versus county. County versus city: think of the problems we have there where you've got a county with a general plan to preserve and protect various areas of the county from whatever it is they want to protect them for, whether it's agriculture or habitat. What happens? The city is the one who's bulging, looking for addition tax revenue, looking for initial opportunity, and they want to expand right out. You've got this immediate conflict then that LAFCO tries to deal with whose going to get which end of the stick in terms of industry, service industry, schools, sewer plants, county transportation. How do you deal with that? So we've got the same problems in term of municipalities versus county government. I think, if you simply stood back, you'd catch a lot of grief from a lot of corners, if you said, "We ought to have one form of government in each county, not multiple governments." But immediately the outcry would be beyond anything any one of us would want hear in terms of the pitch, and that we're not going to give up control of our city, county, or control of our municipal court. Politically it's not acceptable, and yet as the population grows ultimately you're going to have to deal with the issue of a more regionalized kind of government and simply the old county boundaries are not necessarily the scenario -- particularly when they cross ecosystem restoration projects, or they cross a river, and habitat issues where they cross open fields in agriculture. I mean, what do with transmission lines? What do you do with pipelines? What do you do with natural gas lines? I mean that's some of the gridlock that we face now and how do you clear through some of that? Take the judicial side; we forget about the judicial side unless you've got the handcuffs on. Municipal government and local sheriffs have a very difficult time talking to one another because they have different systems -- whether it's radio or whether it's the way they book people. And then you get in to juvenile court problems and it's different again. You get into the superior court versus county court versus state court versus the highway patrol... You know, many of us are in our regional or local volunteer fire departments; it's a nightmare trying to talk from one agency to the next. We can't even do it with the fire protection. How are we going to do it in city government or county government or regional government? But that is a real problem as we try to address transportation, sewer, air quality and not have all this overlap, which again costs us so much money both in terms of trying to run those programs and administer those programs, but for the individual -- whether it's a homeowner, whether it's a school district, whether it's a farmer or plumber. It doesn't matter. Who do you have to go to today to get a permit? Well, you've got to go to the city and to the county and to the region, to the regional water quality board and then to the state. I mean, it just goes on and on and in many cases even federal permits. I mean, if you really wanted to make some progress, which you could never do, you'd take look at how you could really streamline the whole process between local, county, state, and federal government -- and I guess ultimately we're going to have international government. I mean, we seem to be getting there on many of our trade and air quality issues. But I mean, how many levels are you going to have to go to?

What's going to happen to some of the farm laborers who are lower rung on the economic ladder? If you streamline the farms a lot of these people will be out of work; what will happen to these people?

You know, when you think about that question for a minute, what frequently do you hear from the agriculture community? We have a shortage of the agriculture workers, basically from the $12 an hour job and under. And not just at the $6.50 or $7 range, but under $12; there's a labor shortage -- continual shortage -- and that's why we have to continually mechanize. Where have those people gone? And I think this then leads to the answer to your question. Many of those people are bright people, maybe in their fifties. They didn't necessarily come here with an education, but it wasn't that they couldn't learn; it wasn't that they couldn't change; it wasn't that they weren't prepared to improve themselves. And so many of the people who were in agriculture have left agriculture because they've improved themselves. They've moved to better paying jobs to other types of jobs, to jobs where they could have a job year-round. It's I think more important than the seasonality. I mean, many of those people may still be making $10 or $12 an hour, but they're working 48-50 weeks a year, which is much better than the two to four months that they were working before. I think a lot of those people -- and we're seeing it now; they're moving away from agriculture, because there are other opportunities in the food service industry in the landscaping industry, in county government, in municipal government. There is a tremendous demand for people with the low employment numbers and so they're going to continue to move away from agriculture. And as agriculture shrinks and intensifies, mechanizes, those people are going to have opportunities to move into other segments of our economy and other industries. And so I don't think, with some exceptions -- and this is the case, it doesn't matter what field it is. I mean, you stop and think about some of the county employees that used to fill potholes with a shovel. That job has been eliminated. Well, they've managed to move up or move over. I mean, some of them, yes, it's been difficult to change, but those people who are displaced because an agriculture operation has ceased to exist are going to transition into other jobs. And they're capable, quality people, you know. In 99% of the cases, they'll find another job. They'll transition probably better than some of us who are set in our ways.

Is the Central Valley the last refuge for agricultural development? Is there anywhere else in the state that agriculture can retreat to, to develop?

Not in the same way that we've known agriculture. Because for many of those crops they simply can't go onto ranged land, or into north eastern California, or along what little remaining land there is along the coast -- which is quickly being gobbled up with urbanizations as well. So when we take a look at many of the fruit crops, some of them vine crops, many of the vegetable crops -- particularly the tomatoes, cotton - no, there isn't somewhere else where they're going to be able to go. And yet we're still farming seven million plus acres in the state. Even when a big part of the central part of the Valley is gone, we're still going to be farming some fairly significant areas on both ends of the Valley for quite a few years. You're still going to be doing quite a bit of farming in the Imperial Valley: six or seven hundred thousand acres. If they've got enough water, they might be able to push it to eight hundred thousand. Some years maybe it shrinks to 450,000-500,000 at the very low end. I don't see a lot of people moving to the Imperial Valley very quickly. I mean, ultimately maybe they're going to have to move there was well. So we're still going to have agriculture, whether we lose a big chunk of the Valley or not. Livestock will probably still continue in much of northern and northeastern California. Certainly the timber industry is an important part of agriculture, and presuming that they're allowed to cut trees their land is not going to be lost in the short term. Maybe a hundred years from now something's different but for the next twenty-five, fifty, seventy-five years most of that timberland is still going to be timberland that's not going to change. But I think in terms of the big valley -- the central part of the Central Valley -- we're going to see a real displacement of agriculture and we're going to lose peaches and nectarines and some of those kinds of crops that we'd like to see grown. And we're going to lose some of the row crops that we've historically grown and maybe a few of the specialty crops. There will always be some specialty crops in little isolated areas of the state. I always think about apricots because I love apricots. You know the best apricots always came out of the Bay Area, Alameda County, and down Long Beach. It's hard to get good apricots anymore. We've developed new varieties that provide apricots, but they certainly aren't the wonderful quality that we used to have. And yet we have some pretty good varieties but not like we used to -- it's history. I mean, if you've got an apricot in your back yard over in Orinda or Moraga or Lafia, you've got absolutely wonderful apricots. So you lose some of those things. You know, maybe we'll loose asparagus; some of the good ground that it grows on here. But that's all right, I guess. We'll still have asparagus from Mexico or somewhere else. But there are some things that we'll loose that we can't grow elsewhere.

Are you optimistic at all about growth in the Valley, and how it's going to affect your industry?

I guess I'm optimistic if you want to use the term meaning that we're going to see a lot of it paved over. But in terms of, from purely a farming standpoint as a farmer, no, I'm not really optimistic. I don't think we can find an effective way to maintain or control growth. You know, as much effort as we've made in trying to prevent leapfrog development, it's pretty hard to do that. There's two parts to that. There's such tremendous demand for growth that being forced from other areas. I mean, where else is this growth going to go? So you've got this tremendous competition for all segments of our economy to have a place to locate. You've got relatively inexpensive land in comparison to other areas, and then you have this problem in agriculture. But I think it's bigger problem that people really want to talk about, and that's the farm crisis. You know, things are difficult in agriculture and it's across the board. And so if you take a look at what it takes to have a viable agriculture, if we're not making a relatively good rate of return on our investment we're not going to stay in production. And if we're not there fighting for the preservation and protection of that primary production land, and you only have the conservationists promoting the protection of land, I think you're going to quickly run out of land. Because the developers are going to find a way to deal with the demand. Remember developers aren't building houses for themselves; they're building them for the demand of people who need a home. And as long as people continue to needs homes, and jobs, and businesses, and university campuses, you're going to have growth. And until we find away to stabilize that growth we're going to have a tremendous demand. And I don't know that that's good or bad in terms of the overall California economy, and the overall quality of life in California as the great state that we are. But with the impact on ag, I think it's going to be much more dramatic than what people think because of the liability on one side, the demand on the other side, and the impact of imports and competition from around the world. We're seeing tremendous impact as many of the other countries -- the lesser-developed countries, the third world countries, the south American countries, the central American countries. As their economies develop and they compete with us, it's going to be hard for us to compete with the demands that are placed upon us here in our valley. And so I'm not optimistic that we're going to continue to see the kind of agriculture we've had. It doesn't mean that the gross value of agriculture isn't going to continue to grow. It doesn't mean that we're not going to be an important part of the overall economy with the intensity that we're going to have in ag. But it's going to be very different from the acres and acres of almonds and walnuts and peaches and apples and grapes that we all cherish and love so much now.

 

 


TRANSCRIPT:

The complete text of New Valley Episode 101 -- Preserving the Dream...

 


Presentation also made possible by a grant from
the Great Valley Center

 

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