The Dust Bowl Congress created

posted at 1:36 pm on April 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

For decades, the California’s Central Valley provided food to the nation and the world, and made California an agricultural powerhouse through wise water management.  In weeks, the federal government brought it to an end after determining that the Delta smelt was more important than the thousands of people employed by Central Valley agriculture or the millions of people fed by it.  Monica Showalter takes Investors Business Daily readers on a travelogue of the Dust Bowl Congress and the federal bureaucracy created:

On a springtime drive through the Central Valley, it’s hard not to notice how federal and state governments are hell-bent on destroying the state’s top export — almonds — and everything else in the nation’s most productive farmland.

Instead of pink blossoms and green shoots along Highway 5 in April, vast spans from Bakersfield to Fresno sit bone-dry. Brown grass, dead orchards and lifeless grapevine skeletons stretch for miles for lack of water. For every fallow field, there’s a sign that farmers have placed alongside the highway: “No Water = No Food,” “No Water = No Jobs,” “Congress Created Dust Bowl.”

Locals say it’s been like this for two years now, as Congress and bureaucrats cite “drought,” “global warming” and “endangered species” to deny water to this $37 billion breadbasket through arbitrary “environmental” quotas.

It started with a 2008 federal court order that stopped water flowing from northern tributaries on a supposed need to protect a small fish — the delta smelt — that was getting ground up in the turbines of pump stations that divert the water south. The court knew it was bad law, but Congress refused to exempt the fish from the Endangered Species Act and the diversion didn’t help the fish.

After that, the water cutoff was blamed on “drought,” though northern reservoirs are currently full. Now the cry is “save the salmon,” a reference to water needs of the state’s northern fisheries.

Whatever the excuse, 75% of the fresh water that has historically irrigated California is now being washed to the open sea. For farmers in the southwest part of the valley, last year’s cutoff amounted to 90%.

There wouldn’t be any good time to deliberately destroy California’s agricultural economy, but 2009-10 is a particularly bad time.  Unemployment has hit 45% in some of the towns in the region, and mortgage defaults have predictably risen as well.  Instead of feeding itself, California now has to import more food from abroad, with Mexico getting most of the benefit and California consumers paying the price.

It has, however, provided Democrats with a way of extorting votes from California’s Congressional delegation, as Showalter explains in the article.  Two of the Congressional districts in the area got immediate increases in water allotments after their Democratic Representatives committed to vote for ObamaCare in March.  The one district represented by a Republican mysteriously had its request for more water ignored.

Read the entire report.  It’s a shameful indictment of government intervention, which has caused the destruction of an entire industry and the impoverishment of thousands of Americans, all for the sake of an inedible fish.

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