Emergency drought legislation introduced at the state Capitol today underscores the ongoing crisis facing California’s rural communities, according to the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. CFBF President Paul Wenger thanked Gov. Brown and legislative leaders for their attention to the crisis and urged the state to move quickly to provide aid to rural residents whose livelihoods have been harmed by water shortages. Wenger also encouraged the state to move as quickly as possible to approve and build new water storage.

“Many California farmers face water cutbacks of 80 to 100 percent, and water shortages will force hundreds of thousands of acres of productive farmland to be idled,” Wenger said. “Tens of thousands of jobs will be lost on farms and in packinghouses and other rural businesses. People who work in those jobs form the backbone of our state’s rural economies, and we appreciate the state’s efforts to help them through this difficult time.”

While tackling the short-term crisis, Wenger said, the state should also improve management of existing water infrastructure and adapt it to meet future needs.

“Many people who study the climate say we may have more years such as this, with California receiving a few heavy rainstorms and not much snow,” he said. “We need to have the reservoirs in place to capture more of those heavy rain flows, especially if we can’t count on the Sierra snowpack. This winter, millions of acre-feet of water flowed to the ocean that might have been captured for later use.”

Wenger noted that California voters made it clear they want the state to build new surface storage, through their passage of the Proposition 1 water bond last year.

“That bond money needs to be put to work as quickly as possible,” he said. “Several projects have been identified that would allow California to capture runoff from strong storms like those we’ve had this winter, which would make future droughts less punishing. It’s time to stop studying and start building.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 57,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.