Rep. Jim Costa of the San Joaquin Valley heard from several farm groups last week on ideas for climate-smart policies to frame up potential legislation in Congress.

Top of mind was funding water infrastructure, particularly conveyance in the valley. This would alleviate future drought strains and supplement plans under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“SGMA is going to cause an economic hardship for many farmers with the banks,” said Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League. He explained that banks would not fund a farmer for the full land if only half of it is in production, since some farmers have no way to recharge the groundwater, leaving them with less to pump later.

Drought will lead to losses as well. Costa pointed to the 45% unemployment the valley experienced during the last drought, which was “devastating” to schools and businesses.

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“Once we lose farmers, we lose rural communities,” said Cunha. “We don't lose San Diego, Los Angeles. But we lose Mendota, we lose Avenal. These workers will leave because there's no jobs.”

Costa hopes to assemble by the end of June a legislative proposal aimed at climate policy for specialty crops.

In the California Legislature, the Senate on Friday passed SB 559 on funding conveyance repairs, sending it to the Assembly for debate. The bill requires a federal match of $800 million for the projects.