A proposal to split California into three states offers much to think about. A state of 40 million people that’s deeply in debt, short on leadership and whose politics are skewed toward cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco needs all the help it can get. Whether slicing it into thirds makes sense, we deeply doubt.
But the discussion of the plan is worth considering, even if the plan isn’t.
That’s because California’s political leaders have consistently let down its citizens. For years, they have papered over systemic problems — including massive overspending for government. They have run up a tab of $425 billion just to keep the lights in the state government. A state with the sixth-largest economy in the world should be in its halcyon days, yet California is barely functional.
Water is an example of something every Californian needs, yet the state government comes up short time and again. During the five-year drought that recently receded, Californians passed a $7.5 billion bond to build more dams to store water to get through dry spells. Any guesses on how many dams have been built since the proposition passed four years ago? Any guesses on how many will be built?
We asked California farmers and ranchers their opinion of Cal 3, the initiative that would split the state. Their answers pretty well summarize the state’s problems.
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Then we’d have three screwed-up states,” said Dave Doonan, 54, a Bishop, Calif., hay and cattle rancher.
“We would end up with three states voting like California. It’s better to have one evil stepchild than adding two more,” said Jeff Fowle, 48, a fourth-generation cattle, horse and hay rancher near Etna.
“Farmers are such a small percentage of the population that we have zero say,” said Daniel Jackson, 39, co-owner of Family Tree Farms in Reedley, southeast of Fresno.
“But it’s not Republican versus Democrat as much as urban versus rural, and it’s a complete disconnect between the people who consume the food and those who produce it,” said Geri Byrne, 61, a cattle and sheep rancher near Alturas and a Modoc County supervisor.
“It’s fair to say the state has become more difficult to farm by the year. It’s a continuous move into ignorance as to what agriculture contributes economically and food-wise,” Ryan Jacobsen, 38, president of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.
We should say that we didn’t seek out opponents of Cal 3; we just couldn’t find anyone involved in agriculture who favored it.
Proposals come and go to realign states. One that we found particularly interesting was the plan to join eastern Oregon and Washington to Idaho, whose legislature is knowledgeable about agriculture. Rural Oregonians and Washingtonians often say they feel they are ignored by politicians in Salem and Olympia and their masters in Portland and Seattle. In Boise they would find leaders who are pro-agriculture.
One of the more interesting interviews our reporter, Dan Wheat, had was with Jackson, the farmer based in Reedley. He and his family are also farming in Mexico and South America. “More and more growers are doing this because they know California has a systemic political problem that’s killing agriculture,” he said. “The world needs to know California is choosing to import its food instead of grow its own.”
That’s something Cal 3 wouldn’t fix.