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A Boom With No Echo

Posted by cbergson on August 6, 2016 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

By Chuck Bergson Spanish/English Committee of Williams    Colusa Sun Herald   April 5, 2016

When a boom goes off, one can hear an echo bouncing back. We are living amidst an agricultural bomb, we are still waiting for the echo.

Though not receiving much recent news attention, agriculture in the state and locally has been booming. Even among one of the worst drought in California history, the state revenue in agriculture grew to over $33 billion in 2014, the second highest ever, and the industry employed its largest workforce on record. (Time Magazine, Aug 2015) In the decade covering 2002-11, the San Joaquin Valley agricultural production grew at an average annual rate of over 6 percent and the Sacramento Valley production grew at an average annual rate of 7.6 percent.

And locally, agriculture in Colusa County over the same time period has seen a growth rate of a yet even higher 9.3 percent per year, with revenue more than doubling from $290 to $647 million annually.

Contrast this with our public services and facilities. They are not booming; they're falling apart and disappearing. This past week, the Colusa Regional Medical Center announced its closing at the end of the month, this after have announced in January that they were ceasing childbirth services. Not only there will be no more native-born Colusans from this year going forward, there will be no more medical care in Colusa County after over 100 years of service.

On top of the loss of this crucial service comes the even more "silence" — schools graduation rates are low and teacher salaries lag; there is not enough housing for our population; water systems are leaking; and roads are failing right before our eyes.

We are living amongst an historic booming industry, yet our world is falling apart ... and now, no hospitals.

How did we arrive at this boom with no echo?

A common rule of thumb people say is to "follow the money," and that rule applies here also.

This is not to say our businesses are prospering at public expense - to the contrary, our agriculture businesses bear the brunt of every new labor law, minimum wage laws, safety practices and regulations, environmental rules, and they pay a myriad of fees, taxes and tariffs. Our local businesses pay millions …. where these millions end up and get stuck is the apparent problem. Simply put, these millions end up and get stuck with the federal and state governments in Washington and Sacramento.

Support of public infrastructure around our state's main industries is the norm — Silicon Valley with its high tech, Long Beach with its ports, Los Angeles with its entertainment, San Francisco with its finance centers — all are benefactors of public funds support. Those cherished industries get great schools, housing, roads, medicine, parks, and associated support. Agriculture is a no less cherished industry.

Our elected officials on the local, state and national level need to be made aware of this disconnect, this "Boom with no echo," and take action to bring these funds back to where they originate to Colusa County. They need to bring the funds back to keep open our hospitals, to improve our schools, to build housing, and to fix our roads and pipelines.

Colusa County is booming ... where is the echo?