Letter Exposing the Myth of “Feeding the Nation” Ag Article

Thanks to whoever sent out the article on the myth being created by agribusiness, media, and politicians to the effect that supplying water to Westlands Water District is important for feeding the nation.  (Was it Brock?)
Sen. Feinstein needs to receive a lot of letters protesting her position on Westlands, and western water subsidies in general.
Letter emailed to Sen. Dianne Feinstein Jan. 9, 2010
Dear Senator Feinstein,
US Department of Agriculture statistics demonstrate that agricultural production from the Westlands Water District is far from significant, and may actually be negative when the level of taxpayer subsidies to those farmers is added in (that is, subtracted from their net profits). Based on USDA statistics, Westlands’ contribution in gross income to the nation’s food supply (and exports) is about a quarter of a percent. The true net value may be only $30 million to $40 million, once government subsides are considered.
I therefore challenge you to stop supporting the false claim that west side San Joaquin Valley agribusiness “feed the nation,” and that cuts to their water supplies prevent those growers from “feeding the nation.”
We, the U.S. taxpayers, paid for the projects that supply Westlands farmers with water, and for the drains that made it possible for them to continue farming in an area that traps irrigation water in the soils. Those drains created the poisonous slough of Kesterson Reservoir, and taxpayers eventually had to pay to fill in Kesterson’s collection ponds to stop the deformed bird chicks and outright kills of wildlife from the concentration of selenium in the drain water.
Recent tests of alternative drainwater disposal projects have shown that all have the same potential to poison and kill wildlife as did Kesterson. Thus, there should NEVER be a time when Westlands drain waters reach the San Joaquin River!!
It’s time to get real about the level of taxpayer subsidies that allow Westlands agribusiness to survive, when they also create environmental havoc that taxpayers then have to pay to remediate. Why should taxpayers continue supporting agriculture that has to be bailed out of its self-made problems? It’s time to wean Westlands farmers off the public purse, and make them prove that they can prosper in a free market.
More realistically, Westlands demands for taxpayer support — and the environmental destruction — both come from irrigating the land. It’s time to cut out the irrigation. Take Westlands Water District lands out of production!
Jane E. Nielson jenielson@comcast.net
Jane E. Nielson, Ph.D. Geologist