Monday, March 07, 2011

I'd Recommend A Fish Fry

At the end of Mass yesterday, our priest informed us that our parish target for the annual Catholic Appeals fund drive was about 35% higher than normal. The money collected is used for a variety of charities, building maintenance and support for Catholic schools. The increased request was due to the tremendous poverty in the California's Central Valley where unemployment is over 25%. The nature of the poverty has been well-described by Victor Davis Hanson.
On the western side of the Central Valley, the effects of arbitrary cutoffs in federal irrigation water have idled tens of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land, leaving thousands unemployed. Manufacturing plants in the towns in these areas — which used to make harvesters, hydraulic lifts, trailers, food-processing equipment — have largely shut down; their production has been shipped off overseas or south of the border. Agriculture itself — from almonds to raisins — has increasingly become corporatized and mechanized, cutting by half the number of farm workers needed. So unemployment runs somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no different from what I have seen in the Third World. There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards.
There was an arbitrary cutoff of water? Why was that?

A Delta Smelt. Photo by Peter Johnsen who runs The Great Salmon Tour project.

ttoes, blogging at Responsibility - Freedom Demands It, points out the mechanics of the situation.
The Delta-Mendota canal and others were built to move water from the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers south to cities and farms in Central and Southern California. The huge water projects in the Central Valley were paid for over many years by State and Federal tax dollars, many, if not most of which, were produced by the richness of the California Agriculture. As a result of the water projects, in particular the Delta-Mendota and Friant-Kern Canals (both completed as part of the Central Valley Project in 1951), farmers had the water they needed to produce much of the bounty of California’s huge agricultural output. Today the canals are administered by the Federal Government (Bureau of Reclaimation).
The Federal Government, under pressure from environmentalists, cut off the irrigation water promised to the Central Valley farmers in order to save the Delta Smelt. The end result: massive poverty and unemployment. So, in order to save tiny fish, social services are being cut and Catholic parishoners are asked to donate more because jobs have been lost and tax revenues are much lower.

There's a solution to all of this, of course, one that lives in your cupboards. It's called a Saturday Night Fish Fry.


Kelly the little black dog said...

Just as your Tuesday post points out, articles like this are to promote a political agenda. Blame the environmentalists.

Nothing he describes here is new. The central valley was in a decline long before the fish became protected. The reality is much simpler.

1. Since we were kids, more and more Central Valley water has been diverted to urban areas due to California's explosive population growth. This is the key reason there is a fight over water. In the 70's over 95% of the water when to agriculture. Last time I checked it was down in the low 80's.
2. The real estate boom in California the last couple of decades has transfered huge amounts of agriculture land into tract homes at an accelerating pace.
3. The usefulness of ground water has diminished due to salt intrusion and pesticide contamination.
4. Farm work is very hard and Central valley farmers complain regularly about not being able to get the workers they need.

The fish makes a great scapegoat, but its pretty far down the list.

tim eisele said...

A few years ago, I read an article saying that the rest of us should be grateful to California for their marvelously productive irrigated agriculture (that basically put the small farmers in the Midwest out of business, but he didn't mention that).

And I thought, "He who lives by the government water project will die by the government water project."

And it comes to pass even as I foretold.

Tom Vail said...

To Kelly the little black dog:
Either I poorly stated my point or your read into it what you wanted. The post, Something Fishy Here, was written to expose the vote buying going on to pass the Health care legislation. As a side point, I wanted to show the error in the farmer's ways trusting the Federal Government to do what they promised regarding the California Water Project. Probably last on the list of points I wanted to make was that the Environmental Protection Act is a tool used by politicians often for all the wrong reasons. Your point is well taken that water has been diverted to the L.A. Basin that was planned for Central Valley Agriculture.
It seems you went into the issue with a goal and found something that helped you achieve it. You completely missed the point of the post.