Cotton Links


Only in Calee-fornia

By Earl Williams
Fresno, Calif.

Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would see the day when a small minnow-like fish could take precedence over our state’s proud ag industry.

The arguments and constant barrage of legal actions and decisions based on less-than-real facts and sound science have brought the most productive agricultural region in the country and the world to its knees because pumps transferring water from the water-rich north to the arid areas in the south were shut down be-cause the pumps harm these minnow-like fish known as the delta smelt. They aren’t native to this region, but still are listed as endangered species.

So, instead of water flowing to the south to continue support of one of the state’s most important economic engines, precious water, and I’m talking thousands, hundreds of thousands of acre-feet is being released into the Pacific Ocean. You hear about California’s drought, and it’s true that we’ve had less snowpack and rainfall for the last three years, but with proper management and without unwarranted environmental restrictions, there would not be the extreme drought conditions you hear about in California today. This is a man-made or court-made drought.

California has an annual water supply, all sources considered, of about 85 million acre-feet. According to the last numbers I saw, we were using less than 50 percent for all uses, meaning that more than 50 percent is flowing unused into the Pacific Ocean!

That might have made sense 50 to 100 years ago, but not today. We have a water use and delivery system that was efficiently designed to serve 18 million people in California. Today, we have 38 million, and the lack of foresight or sense by the legislators or administration to take action over environmental objections to build new dams, expand existing reservoirs or improve new conveyance systems has brought us to this critical juncture.

The voters are in the cities and until they turn their faucets on and no water comes out, water is not their highest priority, and water for agriculture is low on their priority list, for sure!

Couple all this with the fact that we are bankrupt as a state and have been for several years. Actually, we’re just “acting” like we’re not. We currently have no state budget at the time of this writing, so this once great state is paying its bills today with IOUs. Anybody looking for an actor playing a governor and a cast of 120 folks portraying legislators? We’ve got a deal for you!

I’ve often said with all of these trees taking up valuable cotton ground, what we really need is a dryland cotton variety that will grow in the shade!

So, all in all, considering everything we are dealing with in “Calee-fornia,” we remain optimistic that we will see a turnaround, and cotton will maintain a place here. The big question is when and how long can we keep the infrastructure in place to support a viable industry when it does turn around?

I’m guessing about 300,000 acres of cotton will be the foundation for California’s cotton industry future. I’m also guessing that the split between upland and Pima will probably be in the area of 60 percent Pima, 40 percent upland with a high percentage of the upland being roller ginned.

We have found our place in the past, and we will find our place in the future – albeit smaller, highly specialized and focused on the markets we identify and serve.

I’m proud of our industry for knowing the meaning of “Cotton-Up” because doing business in “Calee-fornia” today and hanging on in the cotton business you’ve got to “Cotton-Up.”

We’ll be back!

– Earl Williams, Fresno, Calif.

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