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Sunday, February 23, 2014 ISSUE #791

Conflict in Ukraine and California
    The people of Ukraine rose up and disposed of a Communist-leaning president. Several dozen have been killed and the battle is not over yet.

    I heard a news commentator speculate that Ukraine might split in half, with the eastern part joining with Russia. Not a chance. That will never happen. Ukrainians remember what it’s like to be under the thumb of Russia. Millions were starved to death in 1932-33 when Stalin stole their crops and livestock.

    Last June I spent a week in eastern Ukraine, at a big farm operation called Agro-Soyuz near the city of Dnepropetrovsk. Ukraine is blessed, especially the eastern part, with rich soil. If you consider only the absolute best farmland in the world, like what we have in Iowa and Illinois, Ukraine has almost 20% of it. We have a little over 20%, and Russia has 20%. The rest is scattered around the world.

    Here’s the real reason Putin wants to get his hands on Ukraine: farm land. Old folks will remember learning in school that “The Ukraine is the Breadbasket of the USSR.” Now it’s the “Breadbasket of Europe” and Europe wants to keep it that way.

    Can you imagine Putin with 40% of the world’s best farmland? He already provides Europe most of their natural gas, which he could cut off on a whim. By controlling a vast amount of food production, he could blackmail Europe by threatening to starve million of ‘em like Stalin.

    In eastern Ukraine they only get about 20 inches of rain but they have learned how to grow good crops with limited water.

    California will have to learn how to farm with less water. The state is drought-stricken. President Obama was in Fresno two weeks ago looking over the dry farmland. He promised to send some money, but did not promise any rain. (After the President left Fresno’s parched farmland he went golfing. The greens on that golf course are still green. Check back in August to see if any California golf courses have dried up like the tomato fields.)

    Yesterday a federal agency announced it is backing the President’s promise: farmers will get no water from federal dams. Zero. Farmers that depend on the San Joaquin watershed for irrigation will have to scrounge water from wherever they can find it. And pray for rain.

    People who live in the cities will have to get by on half as much water as usual. They may shower and flush less often, but that hardly compares to having no crop at all.
    You may say, “this is California’s problem, not ours.”  Yes, except for one small detail: almost one-third of all our fruits and vegetables are grown in California.

    Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

    “They have been hunting water in the West much longer than they have gold and buffalos. If a wonderful spring come out of a mountain side, men left gold, silver and copper mines to come and grab that spring. Water ain't gold in the West, water is diamonds and platinum.”  WA #562, Oct. 1, 1933

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