The past year has been challenging, Wenger said, as lingering drought and water shortages placed additional focus on agricultural water use even as many farmers and ranchers—himself included—lost crops due to lack of available water.
Having recently returned from a trip to Australia, which reconfigured its water rights system as the result of a 13-year drought, he said farmers there found that once their water rights were separated from their land, “they had lost one of the greatest assets they had had.” As a result, a significant amount of Australian farmland will be permanently fallowed.
“It didn’t need to be,” Wenger said, “and it certainly doesn’t need to be here in California.”
Wenger said the formation of local groundwater sustainability agencies in California will require farmers and ranchers to work together to ensure groundwater is managed appropriately.
“Put the pressure on the folks in your area to come together … to make sure they can control their groundwater effectively, locally,” Wenger said.
With an election year coming that he said would be “hugely important,” Wenger urged farmers and ranchers to make political action a part of their “everyday budget.”
“If we will continue to work together, we will not just endure, but we will thrive,” Wenger said.
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 53,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.