Another dangerous heat wave impacts drought-stricken farmers

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – The agricultural community prepares for another heatwave in what has already been a difficult year of drought. 

The heatwave this week coupled with drought could disrupt production, according to one farmworker advocate. Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno, says farmers typically change workplace practices to brave the heat. Cunha has been working on farm workers’ and immigrants’ rights for decades.

“You coordinate with another worker so you have a buddy system in various places,” Cunha said. “You shorten the day; you start at 6:00 a.m., you get off at 1:00. 

Cunha grew up on a dairy farm and used to own citrus orchards. He says crops can also be ruined when picked in extreme heat due to excessive temperatures generated inside the fruit when inside bins. 

Cunha says he is also concerned about the lack of new above-ground water storage facilities in California such as dams. He says California’s population far outweighs the water the current dams provide. 

“We were at 18 million [people] for the dams we have,” Cunha said. “Today, we have 40 million [people] and no new structures.”

On Thursday Gov. Gavin Newsom visited San Luis Obispo county to add more counties to the state’s drought emergency. He also highlighted his $5 billion proposal to address drought and water issues. 

“We have put out a suite of strategies,” Newsom said at a news conference. “It relates to issues of conveyance, it relates to canals, it relates to storage above and below ground storage, conjunctive use, water recycling, and groundwater replenishment.”

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