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VISALIA, CA -- In a year when California Citrus Mutual, along with many other farm groups in California, has been fighting drastic reductions in state and federal agricultural water allotments as well as a host of other burdensome regulatory issues that make it increasingly difficult for many farming operations to survive, the Exeter, CA-based organization selected Robin Rivett, president of the Pacific Legal Foundation, as the keynote speaker for its 32nd annual meeting, which was held here Nov. 5.

CCM is an industry-advocacy organization representing more than 1,400 citrus growers in California.

In introducing the speaker, CCM President Joel Nelsen noted that Mr. Rivett's entire career as an attorney "has focused on public litigation and protecting private-property rights for individuals & and curbing abuses of environmental regulation." Pacific Legal Foundation "has been in headlines recently for joining our cause relative to the regulated drought and all of the nasty activities that have taken place to reduce your supply of water," Mr. Nelsen told the growers present at the meeting.

Addressing the audience, Mr. Rivett said that in 2008, those water cuts deprived farmers of 680,000 acre-feet of water. This year, an additional 440,000 acre-feet of water are now "flowing out to the ocean and [are] no longer coming down south for farmers." Next year, "there will be another 500,000 acre-feet of water which will no longer be able to be delivered ... to the San Joaquin Valley" and points south.

Pacific Legal Foundation "has been an ardent defender of property rights since its inception in 1973" and "has enjoyed the strong support of many in the agricultural community," Mr. Rivett said. The organization seeks to establish legal precedents "to protect property rights and to reduce the ever- expanding power of government."

Government power, combined with pressure from adversarial groups, is "transforming our nation's landscape, & diminishing the ability of our nation to provide food, forest products, energy and other essential products and services for the American people," Mr. Rivett said. "The symptoms of this assault on our liberty are seen in cutting off water to family farms," in the listing of species such as the finger-sized Delta Smelt for protection under the Endangered Species Act "without using the best available science," in a refusal "to remove species from protection when their numbers are plentiful and they no longer need protection," and in "a bureaucracy that creates an endless number of regulatory hoops that property owners must jump through to own, enjoy or just simply use their property."

Government has become "a drag" on small business, and "as regulations rise, business activities and opportunities decline," Mr. Rivett said. "A recent study by California State University in Sacramento illustrates the tremendous drag that regulations have on economic output in this state. The study found that the total cost of regulations" to businesses in California "is more than $492 billion," and the study found that it has resulted in the loss of 3.8 million jobs, he said.

Moreover, the regulatory environment in California "is due to get far worse if big-government advocates get their way," he added. "Environmental advocates have promised a whole new wave of petitions to list species under the Endangered Species Act, many of them "using global warming threats as justification. Environmental regulations are draining the valley of agricultural water." Additionally, "regional and local agencies are imposing draconian conditions on simple land-use activities."

California agriculture has "endured natural disasters of all types" from freezes and natural droughts to pest infestations, Mr. Rivett said. "But the man-made disasters are most damaging."