The Herald Bulletin

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February 14, 2014

Farmers: Obama's drought relief efforts lacking

FRESNO, Calif. — Farmers in California's drought-stricken Central Valley said the financial assistance President Barack Obama delivered on his visit Friday does not get to the heart of California's long-term water problems.

Amid one of the driest years in the state's recorded history, Obama came to the Fresno area to announce $100 million in livestock-disaster aid, $60 million to support food banks and another $13 million toward things such as conservation and helping rural communities that could soon run out of drinking water.

Obama told reporters in the rural town of Firebaugh, where he met with community leaders, that he wasn't about to wade into California water politics. Yet the president gently warned California's leaders to find common ground rather than thinking of water as a "zero-sum game."

"We're going to have to figure out how to play a different game," Obama said. "If the politics are structured in such a way where everybody is fighting each other and trying to get as much as they can, my suspicion is that we're not going to make much progress."

In his three-hour visit to the Central Valley, Obama also toured a farm in Los Banos to see the drought's impact firsthand.

Another farmer, Sarah Woolf, a partner with Clark Brothers Farming, said anything will help, but the federal government needs to better manage the state's water supplies so farmers have enough during future droughts like the current one.

"Throwing money at it is not going to solve the problem long-term," she said.

The Central Valley produces nearly one-third of the nation's fruits and vegetables, and Fresno County leads the nation in agriculture. Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, estimated that 25 percent of the county's irrigated land will go unplanted this year.

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