Why the world needs California’s farm exports

Peter Van Warmerdam walks through a barn at his family’s Galt dairy farm in 2016.
Peter Van Warmerdam walks through a barn at his family’s Galt dairy farm in 2016. Sacramento Bee file

I applaud Peter Drekmeier’s courage to speak out about the complex topic of food exports, but the provincial former mayor of Palo Alto seems to know very little (“Exports help state agriculture, but at what cost,” Viewpoints, Oct. 6).


In California – and everywhere else in the world – it takes water to grow food. And agricultural exports – all exports – are good for our nation’s economy.

Growing food, fiber and fuel with California’s high safety, efficiency, nutrition and affordability standards combats poverty and hunger in the developing world. With Drekmeier’s international experience, one might suppose that preventing mass starvation in the developing world while facilitating a global economy and maintaining California’s dominance would give him pause, if not pride.

He confidently assumes others would fill the gap left by California. No one can replace Apple, Amazon, Google – or California’s farms.

Imagine that the tables were reversed and our trade partners adopted Drekmeier’s naive perspective and countries we depend on for commodities, services or products stopped shipping to us.

Drekmeier’s argument is shallow at best. The California Department of Water Resources states that farmers use 40 percent of the state’s water supply. Of that water, 74 percent is transformed into food, fiber and fuel, while the rest is recycled for productive use by other water users or the environment. About 26 percent of the agricultural products produced, as Drekmeier states, are exported, often for things Californians want and need. It’s a civil, mutually beneficial exchange. California is a good steward in a very needy world.

California is also big – big enough for farmers and former Silicon Valley mayors to coexist. Our state is a cornucopia of vegetables, fruit, nuts, fibers, cheese and milk, wine and beer. It is unmatched by any other region of the world in its ability to grow in every season. California agriculture is irreplaceable.

Anja Raudabaugh is CEO of Western United Dairymen the largest dairy trade association in California. She can be contacted at