During his visit Friday to the Central Valley, President Obama discussed the drought with community leaders in Firebaugh. FM 89’s Rebecca Plevin asked residents there what they would tell the President about the region, if they had the opportunity.
If President Obama had time to stop by the Farmer’s Daughter restaurant in Firebaugh today, he would hear a strong message from owner LaVonne Allen.
“We need more water storage, there’s no ands, ifs, or buts about it,” she says.
Western Fresno County grower Bill Diedrich ate lunch at Allen’s restaurant, which is a hub for area growers.
He agrees that in th e long-term, California needs more water storage. In the short-term, he says, water needs to be pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, when it’s available.
“I’m not so much wanting to get federal financial aid, but what we need is water,” he says. “This is a cry to the state and federal government.”
Diedrich began farming in the area in 1990 and now has about 1,500 acres of pomegranates, almonds, processing tomatoes, cotton and wheat. He says this is the worst water year he’s experienced.
“You can plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he says. “This year, we planned for the worst, and worse than the worst happened. It’s just incredibly dry.”
Benjamin Gallegos bought a burrito at the meat market next door to the Farmer’s Daughter restaurant. He says he would tell Obama that in Firebaugh – where 35 percent of about 8,000 residents live below the poverty level – water means work and prosperity.
“This community doesn’t really need handouts, people want to work,” Gallegos says. “To have the community water, to become a better community, what we need is more water.”
He says that without water, these communities, and the farms that support them, will dry up.