State officials had to make grueling, but necessary, decisions about water use, he said. “They didn’t have the options. We know this is going to hurt. We’re always optimistic in farming, but we have a lot of things going against us right now, and without water, we can’t farm.”
Bryce Lundberg, who represents the agriculture business on the State Board of Food and Agriculture, said that while Governor Newsom had to prioritize the pandemic response, progress has still been made on water issues.
Mr. Lundberg, an owner of Lundberg Family Farms, which grows rice, said Mr. Newsom has prioritized plans for an environmentally friendly off-river reservoir in the Sacramento Valley called the Sites Reservoir. The reservoir would capture excess water from major storms and save it for drier periods.
“There are a lot of farmers under severe stress, and a lot of farmers who are going under business this year because they don’t have any water,” said Mr. Lundberg, who backs Mr. Newsom in the election. “It’s human nature to look for faults, but they’re not looking in the right place if they want to blame it on Governor Newsom.”
Some minority farmers are feeling particularly disappointed in the state, saying that their small acreage denies them the influence of larger farms that may lobby the state to make decisions, said Chanowk Yisrael, an owner of the Yisrael Urban Family Farm in Sacramento. Many farmers of color also rent their farmland from other farmers who may reduce the renters’ water supply rather than limit their own.
Mr. Yisrael said he hasn’t decided how he’ll vote, but he understands that Mr. Newsom is grappling with a welter of complex problems: climate change, raging wildfires and the challenges of the pandemic. Still, he added, “many of the things that should be talked about are kind of getting swept under the rug.”
For Lorna Roush, who manages Schultz Ranch in Fresno County with her father, brothers and children, the worry that water will be scarce when she eventually takes over the farm has added to her concerns about Mr. Newsom. Her family has tried to make plans for a potentially sharp reduction in water supply; they already minimize their usage, she said, and have made adjustments to their farming practices.