Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Modesto Bee Heavily Biased in Water Discussion Says Vance Kennedy

By Vance Kennedy

The Chamber of Commerce and developers want to make the San Joaquin Valley another Santa Clara Valley.  It will be

California's San Joaquin Valley and Central Va...

California’s San Joaquin Valley and Central Valley. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

a food disaster for the nation.

MID Talk – The Modesto Bee is heavily biased in discussing the so-called subsidy of farmers by electric rate payers.  There has been extensive coverage of the subject.  There has been essentially no effort made to ask how the farmers are subsidizing the rate payers in return.  I have already mentioned the groundwater recharge that flood irrigating farmers do for the city’s benefit.  That has been largely ignored.  There are many other benefits that need to be emphasized, but have not been.  These include the cleansing of dust particles from the air by vegetation, which is known to occur, but has not been extensively studied in the community.  Another is the fact that agriculture is the main source of outside money for our economy.  The Bee would do well to look for the many pluses that farmers and the irrigation system bring to the Valley and give them equal coverage.

Subsidizing is not necessarily a dirty word.  The federal and state governments do it all the time, when they feel that it is best for the overall community.  The Modesto Bee is apparently pushing to greatly increase farmer’s water rates.  What will that do to the overall community?  I’m told that the dairy farmers are struggling to survive and that many of them across the state are going into bankruptcy.  In Stanislaus County, in the last two years, 61 dairies have gone bankrupt.  In 2 months, 10 dairies,  3 more now ready to go bankrupt.  20 more expected this year.  207 dairies have now gone bankrupt in Stanislaus County.

Water in large quantities is absolutely required to operate a dairy.  Has the Been inquired about the economic impact on the county of water rates were tripled, for example?  Could the job losses far exceed the subsidy that the Bee is so fond of emphasizing?  If it were a responsible organization, it would look into the effect of what they are pushing so hard.

Now, I don’t question that there is a real need to issue more long-term MID bonds while bond interest rates are at an all time low.  When the government prints lots of money, inflation is a usual result, delayed for a varying length of time.  With inflation, prices go up along with interest rates.  Such bonds have a guaranteed source of payoff and that means additional income will be needed.  City residents should realize that only a very small fraction of their water charges is due to the wholesale price of water that the city and the farmers pay.  By far, most of the water charge to city residents is due to treatment and distribution charges.  Even so, I think that the cost to city residents is on the order of 2/10ths of a penny per gallon.  That is guaranteed pure and available in large quantities at the touch of a faucet.  What a deal!  Half of that water is there now because farmers pushed for the Don Pedro dam many years ago.  It raises a familiar old question – “What have you done for me lately?”

Before we price many farmers out of business with water charges, lets have an independent group look at all of the factors that contribute to the community’s welfare.  Some farmers can easily pay considerably more for water.  Others will be wiped out.  What does the community want and what is reasonable for the long-term good of the city residents and businesses, who constitute the over-whelming users of electricity?  It is a very complicated question which must not be ignored.

In Stanislaus County in the last two years 61 dairies have gone bankrupt.     In the last two months 10 dairies went bankrupt, 3  more are on the brink, 20 more are expected this year.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We have only 207 dairies left in the county.

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