What is in this article?:
- Over-regulation amazes south Plains farmers.
- Taxes and regulatory compliance cost California citrus growers $300 an acre more than it costs to produce a similar crop in Texas.
- About 85 million acre feet of water is available in California.
TEXAS COTTON growers Austin Harwell, left and Wade Klepac stand amazed at the quality of irrigated cotton grown by Terranova Ranch general manager Don Cameron, right. Across the road from the cotton stand is lettuce Terranova Ranch grows for seed production.
One of the stops along the P.I.E. tour included Terranova Ranch in Helm, Calif., a community in western Fresno County. It’s this region where much of California’s water woes exist. While cotton is a significant part of the ranch’s 7,000 acre operation, Terranova also grows carrots, tomatoes, corn, onions, popcorn, and lettuce, among other crops.
Some of that production is dedicated to organic methods, which in the case of processing tomatoes brings in a significantly larger amount of money than conventionally-grown processing tomatoes, according to Don Cameron, general manager for Terranova Ranch.
“We also grow some cotton out here that has an even higher value than Pima,” Cameron said.
That cotton goes into highly-specialized overseas export markets.
In an effort to address the serious water availability situation in the region, Cameron said the ranch is working to obtain a $5 million grant to recapture Kings River water during flood years in an effort to recharge a diminishing underground aquifer.
“Our water keeps getting deeper,” said Cameron. “That’s why we want to do this groundwater recharge project.”
For Matador, Texas, grower Bill Luckett, the sheer amount of acreage and the vast number of commodities produced in Central California “is very impressive.”
Other visiting growers were equally impressed with the amount of crops produced along the tour route.
Even with the poor water availability, a lengthy drought that continues to plague California, and the heavy burden of regulator restrictions placed on California farmers, Cameron and a other California growers leading the tour said California farmers have done fairly well over the last two years as commodity prices have remained profitable, particularly in grapes, almonds and pistachios, which continue to be popular permanent crops for many California farmers, not just those in Fresno County.
With a combined farm gate value of more than $2.25 billion, the total value of grapes, almonds and pistachios made up more than 34 percent of Fresno County’s total gross farm receipts of over $6.58 billion in 2012, according to the Fresno County Department of Agriculture.