California's Water Crisis Hot Topic at UFW Convention in Fresno


By Norma Yuriar

California's water crisis is weighing heavily on the minds of farm workers who say water for the valley translates to work in the fields.

Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers union shook hands with field workers Friday.

He said those were the hands that are working hard to feed the state and the country.

But, Rodriguez fears many could be left without work if the valley's fields are left dry, "can't do without it, you need water to be able to sustain the crops as well as sustain our communities," said Rodriguez.

The UFW president is in Fresno for the 18th Annual UFW convention happening in downtown Fresno this weekend.

His visit comes as democrats unveil a water bond proposal, just hours before deadline. The California Secretary of State set August 22 as the last day to add items on the November 4 ballot.

"We are very excited about that because we want to see a viable agricultural industry throughout the state of California, we want to see farm workers employed," said Rodriguez.

Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman of San Rafael said the $9.8 billion dollar proposal is similar to the one the governor and U.S Senator Dianne Feinstein released last month, but with additional money for immediate relief in drought stricken communities.

"This would be the largest public investment in water storage in our state's history and it specifically includes eligibility for surface storage projects," said Huffman.

When asked about the severity of the water shortage Democratic Assemblywoman Anna Caballero of Salinas said, "farmers are losing their crop, they are losing money and farm workers are out of work."

Farm workers already laid-off because of the state's water crisis said their future now lies in the hands of lawmakers.{} "We want to see the growers and the employers also be successful, so we support any effort to make that happen," said Rodriguez.

Hearings on the water bond proposal will begin on Monday in Sacramento.

The UFW Convention continues this weekend in downtown Fresno.{} It's happening at the Convention Center and it's free to the public.

Robert Kennedy Jr. is scheduled to speak on Saturday and Senator Hillary Clinton will be the guest speaker on Sunday.

They are both expected to address issues plaguing farm workers in the field.