Farm workers rally Sacramento for water

July 23, 2008 7:08:33 PM PDT
Out of work farm workers rallied in Sacramento Wednesday to draw attention to the state's water problems. The governor wants to borrow billions to help shore up California's water supply, but critics say that state cannot afford another expensive bond measure.

Hundreds of laid-off farm workers and their families put the pressure on Sacramento to adopt Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein's $10 billion water plan to shore up the state's water supplies with new dams and canals.

The current drought and court-ordered cutbacks on water pumps from the Sacramento River Delta have forced many farmers to abandon their fields.

"No water. No jobs. No food. No future," said Juan Gomez, a farm worker.

Already, crop loss in California is approaching $250 billion dollars for this year. Cotton losses total 62 million acres. Vegetables like lettuce, broccoli and onions are out 61 million acres. Tomatoes for processing lost 10 million, and melons out 7 million acres.

"You're feeding the world and you're working hard, but our water system is not anymore working for you," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) of California.

Still, state Democratic leaders have been lukewarm to idea of another bond. They say there's still $800 million leftover from the last water bond and more debt seems unaffordable, given the state's financial crunch.

"A $10 billion bond adds a sizeable amount of interest payment to the state's budget. If we're in trouble now, there's no reason to compound it," said State Senator President Don Perata (D) of Oakland.

The state's agricultural products are coveted worldwide. It may come to a point when fewer crops mean the price of California produce will go up.

"I would not want to pay more. No. I don't know anybody who'd want to pay more," said Vicki Chastaine, a farmer's market customer.

The Governor has been trying to broker a deal on a water plan for two years. Meanwhile, more and more counties are rationing water, reservoirs are drying up and the state could be facing year three of a drought.


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