A New Era Calls for New Partnerships

We love to see as many people as possible working together on drought issue solutions in California. In a new article by The Sentinel “Drought Pushing Ag to The Tipping Point” we learned of a new partnership solution.

New Partnership in CA Drought

Carole Goldsmith, president of West Hills College Coalinga, and former Kings County supervisor Tony Oliveira, right, use a clicker to identify trend outcomes from a panel discussion at West Hills Community College District’s Essential Elements agriculture conference held Thursday at Harris Ranch Conference Center. (Apolinar Fonseca/The Sentinel)

The Sentinel writes:

San Joaquin Valley agriculture needs to link up with Silicon Valley — and will do so as the food-production industry accelerates into a higher-tech era to deal with water shortages, an environmentally-friendly regulatory environment and groundwater pumping issues.

Welcome to the new normal.

That was the underlying message of a West Hills Community College District forum Thursday at Harris Ranch that brought together growers, government officials, businesses, educators and analysts to envision what 21st-century agriculture is going to look like in California.

The title of the first panel discussion, “To The Last Drop,” was not a typo. Dorene D’Adamo, a board member of the State Water Resources Control Board, set the tone as she described the regulatory environment San Joaquin Valley farmers face.

What Was Discussed in the Panel?

Growers talked about the need to have better options for recharging groundwater with clean surface water that tamps down plant-killing salts and offsets the untenable groundwater overdraft in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

Everybody talked about the need for Valley agriculture to embrace a higher-tech future and work toward a higher-skill, higher-pay, higher-quality workforce.

“We’re starting to see a marriage of Silicon Valley and agriculture,” said Sarge Green, a consultant at Fresno State. He spoke of remote soil sensors, Web-based water management, better communication between irrigation districts and growers and more funding for pump and irrigation system efficiency audits.

 How Are Farmers Being More Efficient

We know that between 2003 and 2013 California Farmers have spent $3 Billion upgrading irrigation systems on 2.4 Million Acres of land.

The article goes on to state:

Many large farms — if they haven’t already done so — are likely to hone their own irrigation efficiency down to increasingly precise margins. Irrigation and conservation districts will have to build new water-banking projects as part of a renewed effort to capture Kings River floodwater in wet years in order to recharge groundwater basins, according to Dave Orth, Kings River Conservation District general manager.

 In Regards to Jobs?

We’ve already lost 20,000 jobs and experience $7.48 billion of lost economic activity.

The articles states:

As technology advances, it’s unclear what will happen to Kings County’s jobs picture. Can the county develop a new higher-tech, farm-based work force? What will happen to all the low-wage farmworkers that make up a significant chunk of the population? Such questions were on the tip of many tongues.

“If we don’t get better in doing what we’re doing, we’re going to lose those jobs and a lot of other jobs,” said Ron Hoggard, former Corcoran city manager and a local economic development consultant. “We’re all invested in this.”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. The Valley still has some of the world’s best climate and soil conditions. Officials spoke of major new opportunities to inject more Wall Street capital, attract biomass-based manufacturing facilities and bring other tech jobs to the area.

“[Silicon Valley] investors have figured out that this is the next wave of investment,” said Corny Gallagher, a senior vice president at Bank of America.

Others spoke of the need to alter agricultural training programs at local community colleges to reflect a higher-tech future.

“We need the smart kids,” said Erik Balling, president of California Water Services. “We need the smart people to stay in agriculture.”

“Will it result in more total net jobs? I don’t know,” said John Lehn, Kings County Economic Development Corp. CEO. “I think the jobs that remain … will be more substantial.”

To read this article in full please visit The Sentinel’s original article “Drought Pushing Ag to The Tipping Point” 

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