FNC: Drought-Stricken Farmers Lose Fight for Water to Endangered Fish

On Friday’s Hannity show on FNC, correspondent Ainsley Earhardt filed an in depth report on the plight of farmers in California who are starving for water, exacerbated by a federal court which ordered that one of their sources of water be shut down due to fears that irrigation would harm an endangered species of fish, the delta smelt. Earhardt began: "California's Central Valley is considered by many to be the richest and most productive farmland in the nation. But this land is being threatened by the small, harmless-looking minnow called the delta smelt. Recently, it has landed on the endangered species list, causing a federal court to shut down vital pumps to farmers to help preserve it."

A shot was soon shown of Earhardt walking on dry ground that used to be a canal full of water until environmentalists convinced a federal court to shut off the water supply: "This was a canal full of gushing water irrigating the farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley. But as you can see, it is all dried up. The pumps were turned off after environmentalists won a federal court case."

The FNC correspondent soon relayed Republican Congressman Devin Nunes’ complaint that thousands of jobs have been threatened by the ruling: "Representative Nunes estimates that 37,000 jobs have been lost due to the smelt issue, and that number is rising higher by the day. And in one town in California, unemployment is up to an astonishing 40 percent."

After the report concluded with Earhardt visiting unemployed farmers at a food bank, the FNC correspondent appeared live in studio with Hannity as the two summed up the situation:

AINSLEY EARHARDT: They're all losing their jobs. We're talking about, Representative Nunes says up to 80,000 jobs could be lost. So we're talking about lots of jobs. We went to the food bank. The line was wrapped around the block because people don't have food.

SEAN HANNITY: And all they've got to do is turn the water back on.

EARHARDT: Right. That's all they have to do.

HANNITY: That’s crazy.

On the March 28, World News Saturday, ABC correspondent Lisa Fletcher had also given attention to the controversy: "And for the first time ever, farmers may be completely cut off from one of their sources of water. Farmers don't have access to this water that runs right through the center of their farmland. It is being allocated to the delta smelt, a little fish protected by the Endangered Species Act. Conservationists say the smelt are dying in the irrigation pumps, so a judge ruled they must be shut off for much of the growing season."

Below is a complete transcript of Ainsley Earhardt’s story from the Friday, May 8, Hannity on FNC:

SEAN HANNITY: Farmers in California, they're losing their land, their crops, and their livelihood, all because of a two-inch fish. Ainsley Earhardt brings us this special investigation.

AINSLEY EARHARDT: California's Central Valley is considered by many to be the richest and most productive farmland in the nation. But this land is being threatened by the small, harmless-looking minnow called the delta smelt. Recently, it has landed on the endangered species list, causing a federal court to shut down vital pumps to farmers to help preserve it.

SARAH WOOLF, WESTLANDS WATER DISTRICT: So this is the pumping station, and it’s pumped out of the delta here and brought into this canal system that makes its way, and there's actually two that go along together.

EARHARDT: Sarah Woolf is a spokesperson for the Westlands Water District, a company that oversees the manmade, complicated water delivery system in the Central Valley. How many years has this been the process?

SARAH WOOLF, WESTLANDS WATER DISTRICT: It was completed in 1968.

EARHARDT: Okay, so it’s now decades.

WOOLF: Yes.

EARHARDT: All of the farmers along all of this land, two-thirds of the state of California, have depended on water to grow their crops. But the water is turned off here. So none of these farmers can expect to get any water.

WOOLF: That’s correct.

EARHARDT, WALKING ON DRY LAND: Two years ago, I wouldn't have been able to do this. This was a canal full of gushing water irrigating the farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley. But as you can see, it is all dried up. The pumps were turned off after environmentalists won a federal court case. But at least one lawmaker in Washington is fighting back.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), SPEAKING ON THE HOUSE FLOOR: You're spending $1 trillion, and you won’t put in one provision that would create, save 60,000 jobs! This is an insult to my constituency.

NUNES: What we have today is a manmade drought brought on by laws passed by Congress, to where we're taking the breadbasket of the world and starving it of water to save little fish, which is outrageous.

EARHARDT: Green groups claim the smelt are critical to the delta's ecosystem, and if the delta's fragile ecosystem were to fail, so would the state's main water source.

NOAH GARRISON, NRDC: If we allow the delta to become polluted or to lose the, or for the health of that ecosystem to collapse, we lose the supply of water for 23 million people.

EARHARDT: But this argument offers little solace to farmers who have watched their land go from this to this.

KOLE UPTON, FARM REPORTER: This is our lifeline, and, you know, it was a promise by the government. We’ve kept our word. A lot of us feel that this Congress has reneged on their agreements and on their promises.

EARHARDT: Kole Upton is a third-generation almond farmer here, and he argues that the American consumer should get ready for produce prices to soar and food scares to become a common occurrence.

UPTON: Very simply, I would say, do you want to depend for your food supply on a foreign country? If you think you have problems now with salmonella and trying to find out what part of the United States it came from, think of the problem if you have a food scare and your food is being imported from South America or China or somewhere.

EARHARDT: Representative Nunes estimates that 37,000 jobs have been lost due to the smelt issue, and that number is rising higher by the day. And in one town in California, unemployment is up to an astonishing 40 percent. You said – I can see the tears in your eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’ll cry. This doesn’t make me happy.

EARHARDT: What’s going through your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED MAL: Nobody wants this. I want a job. We don't have water, we don't have jobs.

EARHARDT: Stressful?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, it hurts. Nobody likes a handout.

HANNITY: Joining us now is our own Ainsley Earhardt. All right, I can't believe this. Because of this little fish, as many as 80,000 people are going to lose jobs. They’re shutting off water for farms that have been there for, what, generations?

EARHARDT: Generations. Third-generation farmers, Sean. Their grandfathers were out there, blood, sweat and tears, making sure those crops were going to grow so that you and I would have fruits and vegetables. And they’re shutting it down because they think that the minnow could get caught or does get caught in the pumps. So now they're pumping the water out into the Pacific Ocean instead of streaming it down to the farmers who live in the valley.

HANNITY: And they're all losing their jobs and livelihood.

EARHARDT: They’re all losing their jobs. We’re talking about, Representative Nunes says up to 80,000 jobs could be lost. So we're talking about lots of jobs. We went to the food bank. The line was wrapped around the block because people don't have food.

HANNITY: And all they've got to do is turn the water back on.

EARHARDT: Right. That’s all they have to do.

HANNITY: That’s crazy.

EARHARDT: And you know what? Now we're going to have to get our fruits and vegetables from other countries, from Mexico and from elsewhere.

HANNITY: Oh, might as well. We get our oil and everything else. I'll tell you, this is madness. This is madness. Great report.

EARHARDT: It’s fish versus families.

HANNITY: It really is.

EARHARDT: And they’re choosing the fish.

HANNITY: They're choosing the fish.

EARNHARDT: Yeah.

HANNITY: Two-inch fish.

EARHARDT: Two-inch minnow. Didn't you used to fish with minnows? It was bait fish.

HANNITY: Exactly.