California Forum

Another View: Farmers serve the public good

California farmers help provide Americans with the most reasonably priced food of anywhere in the world.
California farmers help provide Americans with the most reasonably priced food of anywhere in the world. TNS

I read with interest Gerald Haslam’s May 17 article in Forum (“Losing the commonweal”) and his misrepresentation of a comment I had made in reference to the United States being a free country where people, including farmers, can make decisions to be as successful as they can possibly be.

If I understand Haslam’s premise, he seems to assert that trampling on the rights of farmers is fine, as long as they are “big or corporate” farmers. As a third-generation farmer who has two sons working on our 450-acre, “corporate” farm, I take exception to his view that my rights or anyone’s rights should be trampled because he views our way of life as expendable.

I can’t speak about the benefits of what Haslam does for a living, but I know the crops my family grows feed people, which is a critical need for the “commonweal” that he wrote about. California farmers help provide Americans with the safest, most reasonably priced food of anywhere in the world. Americans can then utilize their financial resources on other things, such as buying homes, starting businesses, putting the kids through school and the like.

This fourth year of drought has caused a lot of discouraging and unproductive finger-pointing. Haslam said Gov. Jerry Brown should expect everyone to cut water consumption. On our farm, we’ve been cut 60 percent, and many farms have been cut 100 percent, of the water that our farms have paid for. No one is expecting urban water users who have been asked to reduce their usage by 25 percent to still pay for 100 percent of the water they would have otherwise used.

On average, California is blessed with 200 million acre-feet of water from rain, snow or inflow each year. We have the ability to capture about 75 million acre-feet of that, and 40 percent of it is used by farmers to grow food. Crop production per acre-foot of water has risen 43 percent in California in the last 50 years, showing farmers’ continued care for the resources we share.

I would disagree that Americans have lost their sense of commonweal. We have, however, lost our sense of responsibility for providing for future generations who will inhabit this Earth. I’m proud that the occupation I have chosen for my life’s endeavors is that of farming, which focuses on growing food for people, rather than spreading contemptible propaganda that serves only to be divisive and counterproductive.

Paul Wenger grows almonds and walnuts near Modesto and is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.