Dan Walters

Dan Walters
Observations on California and its politics
04/07/2015 – 7:37 AM

It was somewhat incongruous to watch Gov. Jerry Brown defend California’s farmers and their water use on national television Sunday.

In imposing mandatory cutbacks on water use last week, the governor had exempted farmers, generating sharp criticism, especially from Brown’s usual allies in the environmental movement.

Under pointed questioning by ABC’s Martha Raddatz, Brown said farmers had already seen sharp cutbacks in federal water due to the drought and “fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land.”

“They’re pulling up vines and trees,” he continued. “Farmworkers at the very low end of the economic scale here are out of work.”

Pressed by Raddatz about farmers’ 80 percent share of California’s human water use, while generating only about 2 percent of the state’s economic output, Brown replied: “Yeah, you bet it’s true. But by the way, they’re not watering their lawn or taking longer showers. They’re providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America.”

What made Brown’s stout defense of California farmers a little odd is that, as the old saying goes, they have history – mostly of conflict.

During his first stint as governor that began four decades ago, Brown repeatedly clashed with the nation’s biggest agricultural industry, first over farm labor policies and later over his initial refusal to use pesticides against an invasion of Mediterranean fruit flies and his plan to transport water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta via a canal.

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