Tons of Rain Needed



Fresno County Tomato Grower
Plans on Crop


By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Bill Diedrich a Firebaugh-based famer with farming operations in Firebaugh, Madera, and the I-5 Corridor west of Firebaugh, is planning for next year on some of his land.

Prime Westside farm land left fallow due to lack of  water.
“Right now all my almonds are in, and if you have any water, you may be putting on a post harvest irrigation. We are getting fields ready for the dormant period and hopefully tons and tons of rain,” Diedrich said.

He also farms tomatoes, pomegranates, prunes, wine grapes, cotton, walnuts and alfalfa.

Diedrich is among the few growers who will plant tomatoes next season. His tomatoes are grown in Firebaugh, in the Firebaugh Canal District with Exchange Contractor water, “so we are in good shape,” Diedrich said.

“For growers who farm tomatoes in Westlands, Panoche or San Luis Federal Water Districts, they are all in jeopardy because who will use water on tomatoes when their almonds are drying up?” he asked. “There will be very few tomatoes planted on land served by Federal Water, except in areas where growers may have decent ground water; but that’s even in jeopardy because the ground water is being so over-pumped, because of surface water cut backs due to environmental restrictions.”

“The real ecological disaster that is taking place is the one no one sees. It’s the underground aquifer that is being drained because of severe reductions in surface water. And what is really sad is that this is a true ecological disaster, instead of an invented one, regarding the smelt in the Delta. Once you lose that source base down below, which happens due to settling, it doesn’t come back."

A large part of Dietrich’s investment is on the I-5 corridor with 600 acres of almonds, and that is all in jeopardy. “We have been lucky in securing enough surface water and have not had to use well water. If well water is used, there is definitely a salt problem.

Diedrich noted that there are some growers on the Westside who are only on Federal Water deliveries and have no wells. “These guys will be catastrophically affected if we do not get enough water delivered next season,” he said. “And it’s all so unjustified,” Diedrich noted. “Exporting the water is not the problem. It’s the predator fish and the pollution coming down the river from Sacramento.”

Diedrich is active with water management as he serves on the Board of the San Luis Water District and has served two two-year terms on the State’s Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA). Diedrich noted that he would soon step down from the ACWA Board to take a break and focus more on his business. He noted that the ACWA has a few farmers on the board, but it could certainly use more grower representation.

He noted that his 35 acres of pomegranates are just starting to be harvested. He said, while the juice market is not good, he has a deal with a packer for arils and the fresh market. “The quality is just super this year so we expect a good fresh pack out. We are not altogether sure of how much money we will make with the pomegranates; we’re just hoping that we lose less than we lost last year. So many people have taken their pomegranates out because it was definitely over done.”

“We are going to sit with them a year or two and see how this year’s pack out goes,” Diedrich said. 


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