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Calif. farm workers rally for water bond

July 23, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of laid-off farm workers rallied at the State Capitol on Wednesday over California's water crisis. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, (R) California, joined them in calling for a new water bond.The $10 billion water plan is the work of Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein. The plan is to shore up the state's water supplies with new dams and canals.

The current drought and court-ordered cutbacks on pumping water from the Sacramento River Delta have forced many farmers to abandon their fields.

"No water. No jobs. No food. No future for all of our families," said farm worker Juan Gomez.

Crop loss in California is approaching a quarter-billion dollars for this year alone. Cotton losses total 62 million acres; vegetables like lettuce, broccoli and onions are out 61 million acres; tomatoes for processing are losing 10 million acres; and melons, 7 million.

"You are all doing your job. You're going to work. You're raising your family. And you are feeding the world, but our water system is not anymore working for you," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

State Democratic leaders have been lukewarm to the idea of another bond. They say there is still $800 million left over from the last water bond and more debt seems unaffordable.

"A $10 billion bond adds a sizeable amount of interest payment to the state's budget. If we're in trouble now, there's no reason to compound it," said California State Senate President Don Perata, (D) Oakland.

Some fear it may come to a point when fewer crops mean the price of California produce will rise.

"I would not want to pay more. No. I don't know anybody who'd want to pay more," said Vicki Chastaine, a farmers market customer.

The Governor has been trying to broker a deal on a water plan for two years. Meanwhile, more and more counties are rationing water, reservoirs are drying up and the state could be facing year three of a drought.

 

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