Farming continues to be a vital part of South County’s economy and quality of life. Our northern neighbors have lost essentially all of their agriculture and are focused on other industries and needs. Even so, even those who live and work on former agricultural land to our north still enjoy and appreciate the remaining portions of this Valley of the Heart’s Delight, which are primarily in the Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy areas.
It is not, however, a given that the beautiful and productive farmland in our area will continue in production going forward. There are many economic factors which make that ever more difficult for our remaining farmers.
For hundreds of years the legal principal was any water a farmer could pump from under their land was theirs. In more modern times, however, our combined water usage requires extensive ground water recharge using water imported to our region by Valley Water. That effort is costly. To pay those costs, anyone who accesses underground water has to pay usage fees to ensure there is water to pump. Given the criticality of water to farming and the desirability of preserving viable agriculture, the rates charged per unit of water to farmers have been set significantly lower than those charged for the same amount of water to non-farming users. From time to time those non-farm users object to the reduced rates paid by farmers.
The Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce believes a local economy rich in, and supportive of, agriculture is critical to South Santa Clara County’s overall economic success.
Many South County farmers currently face significant financial challenges and uncertainty in their business. These challenges are particularly acute for our tenant farmers, which represent a significant percentage of our overall farming population. In the past, Valley Water has extended a special temporary pricing program for the South County agriculture community which partially reflected the costs they incurred by operating their own wells.
With farmers experiencing an already very-low profit margin, the eradication of the current pricing program would lead to rates almost tripling during the next seven years, thus resulting in what we fear will be the demise of the area’s farmland.
That being said, the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce on behalf of South County farmers encourages the continuation of the special temporary pricing program and also urges an investigation into the possibility of making this a more permanent program.
Our agriculture community needs all of our support to maintain this area as the “Valley of Heart’s Delight!”
John Horner is the president and CEO of the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce.