California Drought - Crops vs. Livestock Prodcution
60 minutes ran a piece on California's water crisis. Living in the Central Valley, this topic is not just near and dear to my heart, it is essential to the wellbeing of my city. The usual debate of smelt and farmer's water rights was rehashed. The need for efficeincy in cities' was also briefly discussed, though urban areas use less than 5% of the water supply. (Agriculture consumes roughly 80% of our water supply.) Agricultural efficiency or a change in types of agricultrual products were not even noted in the program. (It really ended up being a vehicle for Swartzenegger's politcal career and an attack on state environmental legislation and environmentalists.)
To me, this seems like a important point in the water debate. The meat, poultry and dairy production are much larger consumers of water than produce and other crops. They are also a much smaller part of our agricultural revenue. According to the State's website, 73% of our ag revenue comes from crops and 27% is from livestock. We are known for out produce and specialty crops. Almonds for example can only be grown a few places in the world. Stanislaus and Merced counties have a 75% share in the global almond market. On the other hand, our dairy industry has been struggling for years - supply greatly outpaces demand - and is propped up by subsidies. Crop production and processing also employs more people.
The question is should we prop up our dying dairy and beef industries at risk of specilty crops, like almonds, that are the 'bread and butter' of our ag industry? I do understand that people depend on these industries for their livelihoods. However, it is time that our state made priorities that benefit the majority of it's residents. Perhaps, we need to start converting our dairies, poultry houses and feedlots into more sustainable food production.
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