LOS ANGELES, February 14, 2014 — President Obama swooped into Fresno, California on Air Force One this afternoon, to shine a light on the three-year drought that has devastated California’s Central Valley. The White House is announcing the availability of more than $200 million in aid to those affected by these severely arid conditions. The relief package includes up to $150 million for state livestock producers, $60 million for food banks, and $5 million for water conservation projects.
The President is using his first-ever visit to the region to tout his climate change agenda. The San Francisco Gate participated in a conference call on Thursday with Dr. John P. Holdren, the assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Dr. Holdren declared, “You can certainly expect that the President will talk about the connection between the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and climate change.”
We have moved from the Obamacare debacle, to the supposed pivot back to jobs, and on to climate change. If this administration were given a medical diagnosis, it would be schizophrenia.
All of the measures proposed by Obama are equivalent to putting a band-aid over a broken bone. The money gives temporary relief, yes; but as is typical of this president, the focus is on the appearance of doing something rather than actually constructing long-term solutions. Bringing climate change into the mix only shows the mendacity and lack of seriousness of this administration for what is a true national crisis.
The Central Valley has been called “America’s breadbasket”; it produces 50 per cent of the fruit and vegetables in the United States. The President makes regular trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco to campaign, shill for money, and appear on late-night talk shows. But after six years in office, he is only now bothering to address a critical issue whose resolution is essential to the nation’s food supply.
Even more glaringly political is who Obama chose to be by his side. Along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the President was joined by Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, and Democratic representative Jim Costa. However, Republican Representatives Devin Nunes and David Valadao — whose constituents have been severely affected by the drought — were not extended invitations. The Fresno Bee reports that Valadao requested face time with the President, but as of the time of that report, he had not received a response.
Mother Nature aside, the severity of this crisis is of the government’s making. The environmental lobby used the Endangered Species Act to supposedly protect the delta smelt, a 3-inch fish whose habitat is within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Pumps that used to divert water to the Central Valley were cut off in 2007 to protect this species, and the 1.6 million acre-feet of water — enough to supply the needs of 3.2 million families for a year — now goes back into the Pacific Ocean.
This is water that could have been stored to mitigate the current drought. Instead, the state is once again scrambling, imposing water restrictions, and spending money on PSAs to instruct Californians on things they already know. This same state continues to bleed businesses — or in the case of the Central Valley farmers, kill them off — by means of draconian taxes and policies imposed in Sacramento and D.C.
The AP interviewed Mark Borba, of Borba Farms, who was unimpressed by the President’s visit. Borba’s farm typically grows 11,000 acres of almonds, tomatoes, garlic, lettuce, onions and much more, but because of the drought, one-third of Borba’s crops won’t be planted.
Borba said he was not invited to meet the President and share his story. Rather than bringing money, Borba said the President could ease this year’s drought hardship on farmers by relaxing federal environmental regulations within the boundaries of the law intended to protect endangered fish. “We don’t want money,” Borba said. “We don’t want a handout.” However, the legacy of this presidency appears to be giving handouts rather than relaxing policies that would allow Americans to get a hand up and help themselves.
As the skies remain locked up, and the lawsuits over the smelt and the pumps continue, the Central Valley is staggering under the weight of 17 percent unemployment, poverty, and the high crime that often results from these circumstances. Whether the rest of American knows it or not, it is feeling the weight of California’s drought through higher food prices and the lack of some food items that used to be in plentiful supply. So everybody suffers because of political maneuverings and short-sightedness.
California Governor Jerry Brown is attempting to force through construction of the already troubled bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco by further taxing businesses to fund this losing enterprise. Yet California has not built a new dam since the completion of the three dams of the Diamond Valley Reservoir project in 1999. You would think improving water supplies to the state would take precedence over a vanity project. A dam project would bring in just as many jobs — if not more — as a high speed rail boondoggle. But political agendas, not common sense, are the order of the day, and are costing American businesses, the food supply, and people’s life and livelihoods.