Introducing the Top 1% Water Takers: Starrh & Starrh Cotton Growers Behind the Tears

Water subsidies, cotton subsidies, and the corporate agribusiness elite 1%

Starrh & Starrh Cotton Growers:
$10 million in Taxpayer Subsidies Behind the Tears
We all pay for cotton and almonds planted in the desert,
Legal water purchases and crop subsidies form a broken system

Corporate agribusiness tycoons take taxpayer-subsidized water exported from the Delta and receive taxpayer subsidies for cotton and other crops. Is the cost, plus the harm to the Delta, worth the benefit? Exported water supports a business model that is bad for taxpayers, and antithetical to the hope of a sustainable economy and environment for the Delta and California.

On March 19, 2014, Larry Starrh, co-owner of Starrh Ranch in Shafter, gave tearful testimony regarding his need for farm water at the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Field Hearing in Fresno. While giving his testimony, Mr. Starrh talked about his third-generation farm, and how they had to remove 1000 acres of almonds from their 9000 acres of almonds this year due to reduced water deliveries during the drought.

What Larry Starrh did not explain is that Starrh businesses took over $10 million in subsidies for growing thirsty cotton in Kern County from 1995-2012. West Side San Joaquin Valley growers help secure their water through political contributions. Starrh family members made over $50,000 in political contributions (2012 – 2014), including to many of the Central Valley Congressmen who heard Larry Starrh’s testimony on how the Starrhs need “their water.”

The Starrhs chose to plant 9000 acres of almonds with exported water on arid, poorly draining land in a state that experiences drought 40% of the time. Fred Starrh complains that they have paid money for water, and the fish paid nothing, forgetting how many millions of Chinook salmon, Sturgeon, Threadfin Shad, and Delta Smelt have been killed by excessive water exports from the Delta. The Starrhs had enough money to make significant political contributions over the last three years partly because they pay for project water that does not cover the cost of the destroyed fisheries.

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