11/24/2014

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Drought worries take center stage at World Ag Expo

Drought worries take center stage at World Ag Expo
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Worried farmers and community leaders lined up with hard questions about getting help to deal with this year's devastating drought. They kicked off a special forum at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, and hoped for answers.

The session lasted several hours on Thursday.

"We're in crisis management mode," Tulare area grower Mark Watte told Eyewitness News. He worries about getting enough water this year, and about ground-water levels dropping. "If we continue maintaining our water resources here in California the way we are today, it's not sustainable," he said.

He wants politicians to address the environmentalists' concerns, and "push back" enough to get water from northern California to parched areas of southern California.

Los Banos grower Joe Del Bosque was also on the morning panel. With not enough water from their suppliers, the picture is very grim.

"What's happening, it's kind of a 'Sophie's choice.' Which crops do we not grow?" He said with limited supplies, growers have to put any water they get on permanent crops. And that has serious ripple effects.

"When you cut out some of the crops like tomatoes and melons, and they're not harvested, you eliminate many, many farm worker jobs," Del Bosque says. "And lots of income that would go back to the farming community."

The second forum session included a panel of water district managers, a member of the California Water Resources Control Board, and a director with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Mark Watte hoped the forum would be "another step." and keep people talking, and looking for answers.

"There is enough (water)," Watte said. "But we need to come together in a meaningful way and really look for solutions."
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