November 25, 2012: California Rice Growing; 1988: Britain Selling Waterworks

1125 Flooded Rice FieldsNovember 25, 2012: The Desert Sun headline—Calif. Commercial Rice Growing Hits 100 Years. “California is celebrating 100 years of commercial rice production this year, marking the anniversary of a commodity that has evolved to become one of the state’s largest agricultural exports.

Farmers began experimenting with growing rice during the Gold Rush more than 160 years ago, according to the California Rice Commission. It had long been grown in the southeastern U.S., but was introduced in California by Chinese gold miners, who later built the state’s railroads and river levees.

It wasn’t until 1912 that the first commercial production started in Butte County, in the Sacramento Valley about 70 miles north of the state capital.

Since then, California has become the nation’s largest producer of short- and medium-grain sticky rice, with much of the high-quality product shipped to Japan and other Asian countries through the Port of West Sacramento. Most sushi in the U.S. is made with California rice.

All told, California annually ships nearly 5 billion pounds of rice as far away as Europe and the Middle East.

Most is grown within 100 miles of Sacramento, predominantly in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties. Rice commission spokesman Jim Morris said the climate, soil and water are ideal for the crop.

Commentary: No mention is made in this piece how much water is required to grow rice in an area that has allocated water for too many uses. Growing rice in the Sacramento River Valley made sense 100 years ago. It even made sense 50 years ago. It makes no sense today. I don’t care how much sushi is sold in LA or Tokyo.

1125 Margaret ThatcherNovember 25, 1988: New York Times headline—Britain Planning to Sell Its Waterworks. “The British Government today began the latest and most contentious step in its sweeping privatization program by presenting its plans for selling off the nation’s state-owned water industry.

‘We shall be freeing into private hands yet another important industrial sector,’ the Environment Secretary, Nicholas Ridley, said in setting out the Government’s proposals to sell Britain’s 10 public water authorities.

He predicted that the water privatization bill, which was included in the Government’s legislative agenda announced in Queen Elizabeth II’s address to the new session of Parliament on Tuesday, would result in more efficient management of water resources and tighter environmental safeguards.

But many economists, politicians and union officials are skeptical about the presumed benefits of selling the water industry.

The British public seems to agree. A survey in June by Market and Opinion Research International, a London-based company that is one of Britain’s leading polling organizations, found that 66 percent of the population opposed selling the water authorities to private shareholders, compared with 25 percent who supported it and 9 percent who were undecided.

Alex Thomson, the national officer of the largest trade union in the water industry, the National and Local Government Officers Association, today echoed the doubts of many when he said, ‘Privatizing water makes about as much sense as privatizing the air we breathe.’…Making more British citizens shareholders was an important element of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s drive to ‘roll back the frontiers of the state.’”

Question:  Was the privatization of the UK water systems successful or not?

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