The 20 people who work full-time for Fresno County farmer Joe Del Bosque are on winter break now. But he is not sure they will have a job to come back to, let alone the 300 temporary workers he usually hires to harvest melons.
“I’m worried about my workers,” said Del Bosque, who farms 2,000 acres in a region known as the nation’s food basket for producing almost half of the fruits, vegetables and nuts on America’s tables.
“Right now we’re not sure if we’re going to bring them back or how many … Crops are all in jeopardy right now,'' he said, adding "This is the driest year in 100 years.”
California is now entering the third year of a drought and Gov. Jerry Brown is under pressure to declare a drought emergency that could ease pumping restrictions. It is a huge problem for the state’s vital agriculture sector and one that farmers are starting to protest about. On Thursday, Del Bosque will lead hundreds of farmers to the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento to demand solutions – from relaxing water restrictions imposed by environmental laws to facilitating water transfers from districts that have it to those who don’t.
“We’ve got to go up there and rattle their chains,” Del Bosque said. “We’re actively looking for water from other sources … Because of supply and demand, we could end up paying four or five times more – exorbitant.”