Californians should cherish farms, not go to war against them

A sign calling attention to the loss of jobs blamed on the lack of water is displayed near Lemoore.
A sign calling attention to the loss of jobs blamed on the lack of water is displayed near Lemoore. AP

You wouldn’t think I’d need to say this in a state that has proudly led the nation in agricultural production for 70-plus years, but I guess I need to: California agriculture represents a crucial asset to this state, economically and environmentally.

And yet in recent weeks, The Sacramento Bee has run an editorial suggesting farmers in the western San Joaquin Valley abandon their livelihoods as an alternative to reforming endangered-species laws (“Farmers rejected the Delta tunnels, but the battle ain’t over. Here’s what Brown should do next,” Editorials Sept. 20); an op-ed urging that Sacramento give up its agricultural past, (“Lose ‘Farm-to-Fork’, Sacramento, or you’ll only get farm-to-forklift jobs,” Viewpoints” Sept. 22) ; and an op-ed complaining it’s “not fair” for farmers to use water to grow food that might be eaten outside of California, “California farm exports help agriculture, but at what cost?” Viewpoints, Oct. 5).

Farming is not the “old economy.” It’s the “always economy.” People need to eat. California can provide farm products of higher quality in greater volumes with less environmental impact than can farms anywhere in the world. That ability is something that should be cherished and protected. Why do people want to destroy it?

Usually, anti-agriculture advocates say land and water could be put to some higher use. What could be a higher use than growing food? Without affordable food, Americans couldn’t afford smartphones, electric cars, vacations or the other products of the wider economy.

People worldwide want to buy our high quality farm products. We should celebrate that. But now comes a harebrained idea of taxing water used to produce food sold for export. Under that logic, we should also tax the silicon chips used for electronics sold outside the state – a similarly ridiculous idea.

Californians should recognize the contributions agriculture makes to the state, the nation and world, and value those contributions, not denigrate them.

Paul Wenger is California Farm Bureau Federation president, and grows almonds and walnuts in Modesto,