If you look at a topographical map of California, you’ll see a shining green jewel that rests between the prongs of the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east and the coastal ranges on the west. This is the fertile central valley of California, formed by the adjoining valleys of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.
The San Joaquin Valley has been called “the food basket of the world,” due in large part to Fresno County, which is the largest agricultural producing county in the nation. Phil Larson, a member of the Fresno Board of Supervisors says his county produces about 300 different crops and “100 percent of all the raisin grapes in the United States.”
Joe Del Bosque, Jr., whose farm is located on the west side of the valley, says, “We have a Mediterranean climate and we have soils that allow us to grow a great diversity of crops that include fruits and vegetables and nuts, and, of course, we are the number one dairy state in the nation now.”
But this agricultural abundance is being threatened by state and federal government regulations of water used for irrigation in the region.
Since the San Joaquin River drains north into the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, farmers in the southern half of the valley are dependent on irrigation water that is pumped in from the delta.
“The delta is an estuary in the central part of the state where water crosses from north to south,” explains Joe Del Bosque. “We have a lot of water in the north but we don’t have enough water in the south. So it has to cross the delta to get from north to south and the south, of course, is where we grow a lot of the crops.”
One of the unique residents of these delta waters is the delta smelt, a three-inch minnow type fish. “It fits in the palm of your hand and it’s found only in California,” explains Brandon Middleton, an attorney with the Pacific Justice Foundation. “A couple of years ago environmental groups came in and they argued, with success, that the government agencies were not doing an adequate job in terms of considering the effects that the pumping operations had on these species. And so the result of that initial success from environmental groups was a severe set of restrictions that really cut off a lot of water supply for the farmers.”
“As result of those lawsuits,” says Joe Del Bosque, “our water was choked off and in 2009 we only received 10 percent of our normal water deliveries. ... I left idle over 900 acres that would have been cantaloupes, tomatoes, wheat and so forth, and so it was a very devastating year for us.”
The impact of these government regulations on Fresno County farmers has been dramatic. Phil Larson says: “Right now the unemployment on the west side [of the county] is running 35.6. It was 41.8 two years ago, so it really hasn’t changed a whole lot. The unemployment in the city of Fresno right now is 15.8 percent.”
Jim Franklin, pastor of Fresno’s Cornerstone Church, says that even though the valley is known as “the bread basket for the United States” and produces food for the entire country, “right in the middle of that people are going hungry and the reason is government regulation.”
The problem says Pastor Franklin, is that “we are dependent upon the irrigation system which is controlled then by the government. If they don’t let the water flow, crops don't grow and people don’t work.” Franklin says the government officials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. who are responsible “are looking at a small fish that they’re trying to save. In reality that fish is blocking the livelihood of literally hundreds of thousands of people here in this valley … stopping them from working.”
In early March, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA21) proposed a bill — the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Relief Act (H.R. 1837) — to address the arbitrary government decisions that deny water to the farmers of the Central Valley. The bill easily passed in the House, but California’s senators are not getting behind it. Sen. Dianne Feinstein calls Nunes’ bill “a recipe for disaster,” and Sen. Barbara Boxer is equally opposed.
Although Sen. Boxer supported the “Healthy Food in Schools Act,” which requires schools to feed students more fresh produce, she’s not supporting a bill that would bring down the cost of vegetables. Due to the drop in production by San Joaquin farmers, more vegetables are now imported. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “2011 imports of vegetables into the U.S. soared 13% to $7.8 billion. ... Imports rose the most in precisely the crops the [California] Central Valley excels at — tomatoes (up 19 percent), avocados (up 59 percent), carrots (up 55 percent) lettuce (up 25%), cauliflower/broccoli (up 34 percent),” reported Investors.com.
Giving the farmers of the San Joaquin Valley more water to grow their vegetables certainly makes a lot of sense from a number of standpoints. But, as Pastor Franklin observes, “Elijah prayed to God for rain. Well, God hears our prayers; unfortunately Sacramento doesn’t.”
The question to ask is, “What god are these politicians serving?” Is it the god of the environmentalists, who would rather save a three-inch minnow than provide jobs and a livelihood for thousands of farm workers?
As Dr. D. James Kennedy noted in his sermon, “If the Lord Be God, Follow Him,” Elijah’s prayers for rain were preceded by a challenge to the people of Israel. “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him” (I Kings 18:21). “There are many like that today — halting between two opinions. They don’t worship some pagan God outwardly, but they have one foot in the church and another foot in the world,” said Dr. Kennedy.
But it doesn’t work that way. Today, just as in the time of Elijah, a decision has to be made. The Israelites “had to repent of their unfaithfulness and their ungodliness and cast themselves upon Jehovah before the rain could come.” Today, before our nation can return to economic health and wholeness, repentance must sweep across our land. “Would you know the blessings of God?” asked Dr. Kennedy. “First there must be repentance. There must be determination to live for Him, to reform our lives and to live according to His commandments.”
In 1948, Life magazine ran an editorial you’d have to look hard to find today. But its truth is perhaps even more applicable today than it was 64 years ago when it was written:
The lackadaisical days when it really didn’t matter much whether you were a Christian or not may be numbered. If the recession grows strong, you may have to declare yourself more definitely than you ever thought necessary as to whether you are for the work of Christ or not. This choice, if it is really forced upon the Christian world, may be the choice which finally will lead at long last to that anticipated religious revival which begins in the hearts of our citizens in our times, who, when they are forced to choose will find no truth, no comfort, and no inspiration elsewhere.
The editor concluded with Elijah’s challenge to Israel, with a slight modification:
America needs a prophet — a prophet who has the ear of America and will say to her now, “How long will ye halt and stand between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him, but if Baal be god, then follow him,” and go to hell.
Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Truth in Action Ministries, author of The War on Children, and co-author of Ten Truths About Socialism. As a career educator, Dr. Gushta has taught from kindergarten to graduate teacher education in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Masters degrees in Elementary Education and Christianity and Culture.
Publication date: April 5, 2012