Air Force One lifted off Friday evening from Fresno Yosemite International Airport, bringing a close to President Barack Obama's whirlwind tour of the drought-damaged central San Joaquin Valley.
The president toured a field on Fresno County's west side that farmer Joe Del Bosque of Empresas Del Bosque, Inc. plans to leave fallow because he lacks enough water to plant a crop.
The president also held a closed-door roundtable with a variety of farmers, water officials, politicians and others to talk about the drought and what the federal government is doing to try to help.
Taking a seat at a horseshoe table inside a cavernous metal San Luis Water District maintenance building on Fresno County's west side, Obama tried to assure roundtable participants that California's importance as a farm producer makes the state's water problems a national concern.
"I wanted to come here to listen," the president said during brief opening remarks before the roundtable was closed to reporters. "This is going to be a very challenging situation for some time to come."
The president said he's been well-warned of the history of water politics in California: "I'm not going to wade into this because I want to get out alive on Valentine's day."
Turning serious, the president added that long-term solutions to water would be required.
"Water has been seen as a zero sum game: agriculture against urban, north against south," Obama said. "We're going to have to figure out how to play a different game. We can't afford years of litigation and no real action."
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