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Central Coast farmworkers share concerns about drought

SALINAS, Calif. (KION) In April, Governor Gavin Newsom expanded his Drought Emergency Proclamation to certain counties around California.

According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, San Benito County falls into the extreme drought category. Factors such as the upcoming fire season, inadequate water for agriculture, and low reservoirs are the reason why.

"We need good water, and we need plenty of water," said Richard Bianchi. 

San Benito County has two sources of water, groundwater and surface water imported from the Central Valley Project of the United States Bureau of Reclamation.

According to San Benito County Water District Manager Jeff Cattaneo, the county needs 20,000 acres of surface water to keep the county's basin balanced. However, he was informed that this year not a drop of water will be received from that source, he said. 

“Instead of having a full groundwater basin like we do now, because we've been working really hard to keep it balanced and keep it full,” said Cattaneo. “It would start to get depleted and we would get to a point where we would have to have pumping restrictions on the amount of water that the growers, the farmers could pump. So it would be exacerbated even more."

Richard Bianchi is the farm manager in one of the Sabor Farm ranches in Hollister. There is a maximum amount of groundwater that could be used and the quality of groundwater in certain areas is not optimal for vegetables because of minerals or salts, he said. 

"Then you're gonna have to look to other areas, you're gonna have to change what you're growing, you're maybe not going to be able to grow a lettuce or something that cannot handle a certain type of water, you're gonna have to pivot,” said Bianchi. “Or depending on the situation and time of year, you may just not farm it because you just do not have the water."

Manuel Santillán, the Supervisor of the Hollister Ranch said this will not only impact farmworkers but also consumers. Santillan is concerned that he may be affected as both a worker and consumer, he said. He fears that the drought could cause a decrease in his salary, which will affect his family even more if food prices rise.

“And if we don't produce anything, the product won't be available, or prices will rise due to the shortage,” said Santillan. “There is a shortage because we can’t produce here. There will be limited work here and we will see limited products. The country will suffer."

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Taryn Mitchell

Taryn Mitchell is a weekend anchor and multimedia journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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Jonathan Sarabia

Jonathan is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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