Silva compares the situation to Hurricane Katrina. "This is man-made, and you've got a third-year drought," he says. "Just because there are no buildings knocked down, that doesn't mean you don't have the same situation as Katrina: food lines, hunger lines, people unable to pay their bills, people unable to pay their mortgages, people out of jobs. That's how we see it. The State of California has declared this a disaster area, but we've heard nothing from the federal government."
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the federal government was excoriated by members of the minority community for its sluggish rescue and rebuilding efforts, I remind Silva. Mendota is 94.7 percent Hispanic or Latino. Fresno County as a whole is 47.6 percent Hispanic or Latino. Could race be a factor here, too?
"It could be," Silva says. "I can't prove that, but it seems to me that if this happened in New Hampshire or New York City, the relief would be there automatically. As for us, we have to beg agencies. We have to beg them to put food on the table for these people. And they still won't open the spigots."
This doesn't just affect the people in Fresno County. Professor Richard Howitt of the University of California at Davis says that 45 percent of the Fresno County acreage could be out of commission. The prices of staple foods will rise all over the country as farmers plow the sun-scorched crops into the ground.
But most of all, it's the farmers in the Central Valley who will suffer. Apparently, President Obama's stimulus is available for labor union payoffs and big government boondoggles. Hispanic farmers are another story.