If Bill Jennings is going to attack portions of California’s agriculture industry for using water to grow crops (cited in “Water war begs for compromise,” Jon Mendelson’s Second Thoughts, July 12), he needs to take a realistic look at what crops are grown and why.
While Jennings criticizes the production of so-called “nonfood” crops, such as alfalfa, he ignores the fact that alfalfa is the main source of protein for California’s dairy and beef industries. Alfalfa provides enormous amounts of habitat for wildlife, from insects to raptors, and it produces its own nitrogen, reducing the chemical fertilizers needed for production.
Jennings goes on by slamming cotton as a “nonfood” crop, but most people, and I bet Jennings is one of them, wear cotton products every day. Cotton is a renewable resource and, despite biased beliefs, is an efficient user of water. As far as production goes, California cotton plantings are down 80 percent from their high in the 1980s, because farmers have shifted to growing other crops demanded by the public.
Folks like Jennings, with their tired old arguments and divisive tactics, are going to get left behind as California seeks a balanced solution to its water crisis that includes all water users.
— Mike Wade, executive director, California Farm Water Coalition