Each issue of the Butte County Farm Bureau Newsletter includes an editorial from Executive Director Colleen Cecil. The following was printed in the September/October 2018 Issue of the Butte County Farm News which is mailed to current members of the Butte County Farm Bureau.
I can now add protester to my resume. So can the approximately 80 others from Butte, Glenn, Tehama, Colusa, Yuba and Sutter County Farm Bureaus who jumped on our two chartered busses and headed for Sacramento on Monday, August 20th for the well-publicized Water Grab Rally that took place on the North steps of the Capitol.
It was a day with mixed emotion for me. I was excited to be participating and as I do when I am excited, I smiled. To add to the energy of the day, I saw many in our industry that I consider friends. People who I had not seen in years; people who I have grown up with and worked alongside. We were all there for the same reason and I was generally happy. But I was reminded by someone taking my picture that I probably shouldn’t look so happy. After all, the reason we were there was not a reason to celebrate. I was and still am down right infuriated over the State Water Boards plan for unimpaired flows on the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers.
There is a more factual and detailed article about the Bay Delta Plan Amendment in this newspaper that I encourage you to read to begin to understand the complicated events that have been and will continue to unfold. I however wanted to reflect on the day itself.
More than 1500 people gathered that day. The rally was organized by Assemblyman Adam Gray from the Merced area. The event was important enough that four Congressmen and almost a dozen California Assemblymembers and Senators all addressed those who gathered. Also providing remarks were Central Valley County Supervisors and City Council members. Each detailing how the unimpaired flows would devastate their already struggling communities.
Assemblymember Gray was the event organizer but it was County Farm Bureau’s that rallied the masses. My colleagues from Merced, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and the North State County Farm Bureaus listed above, spent about five weeks planning our participation with a weekly conference call hosted by California Farm Bureau.
We worked with CFBF’s legal team to see that fact sheets were developed and made public so we could more easily educate on the complicated topic. We ordered charter busses and identified pick up stops in major points in our community. We blasted social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – with notification of the rally and encouragement to participate. I even remember the Facebook post that joked about needing a band at the event. The joke was on them as the Merced Unified High School District made it possible for the Atwater High Marching Band to be in attendance at the rally and keep the energy high.
As much as I wish we didn’t have to participate in this rally, I can now look back and say we needed it. We needed to see farmers from the North and the South join voices for the same issue – water. We chanted, we held our handmade and printed signs, we stood with lifelong farmers and the future of our industry as many blue jackets of the FFA participated too. We showed Sacramento’s appointed regulators they can’t divide us and we are not going to just “adjust” to this new regulation like we have for so many others.
We didn’t win but we were heard. The State Water Board has now pushed their decision on the Phase One till November 7, that day after the November election. Negotiations will continue.
I picked up my boys from school late that Monday afternoon and my six year old, who knew I was going to the Capitol in Sacramento for the Water Rally, asked me, “Mom did they take the farmers water today?” I smiled and told him not today, buddy. Not today.