California has been the nation’s leading agricultural and dairy state for the past 50 years. The state’s 80,500 farms and ranches produce more than 400 different agricultural products. These products generated a record $44.7 billion in sales value in 2012, accounting for 11.3 percent of the US total.
Breaking down the state’s agricultural role in the country, California produces 21 percent of the nation’s milk supply, 23 percent of its cheese and 92 percent of all grapes. The state also produces half of all domestically-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables, including some products, such as almonds, walnuts, artichokes, persimmons and pomegranates, of which 99 percent are grown in California.
Overall, about 3 percent of employment in the state is directly or indirectly related to agriculture.
State water regulators are proposing to dismiss a record $1.5-million fine they intended to levy against a Northern California irrigation district accused of ignoring drought-related cuts in water diversions.
Water regulators Thursday recommend dismissing a historic $1.4 million fine issued at the height of California’s drought last summer against a group of Central Valley farmers accused of taking river water that didn’t belong to them.
The natural landscape of the American West is gradually disappearing under a relentless march of new subdivisions, roads, oil and gas production, agricultural operations and other human development, according to a detailed mapping study released Tuesday.
California’s tireless water warriors have something fresh to fight over, with the introduction of a bill to resolve an irrigation drainage dispute that affects three modest-sized San Joaquin Valley water districts, as well as the much bigger Westlands Water District.
A judge declined Wednesday to halt the Oakdale Irrigation District’s evolving plan to idle some farmland and sell water not needed for that land. The district has not revealed – to the public or its own board of directors – how its fallowing program has changed, other than to say that previous prospective buyers no longer are involved.
Despite California’s drought, almond growers expanded their orchards by an estimated 60,000 acres in 2015, marking the 12th consecutive year of growth for the crop, which now covers more than 1.1 million acres, or more than any other fruit, nut or vegetable crop in the state.
Wildlife advocates scored a major victory Tuesday when Mendocino County agreed to terminate its contract with the federal agency that helps ranchers kill predators such as mountain lions and coyotes that feast on livestock.
Surface water supplies have returned to normal for most rice growers in the Sacramento Valley. … However, now that farmers are ready to fire up their tractors to plant rice, commodity prices have taken a nose-dive.
The truck company appeared legitimate, though the paperwork was a bit sloppy. But after a few calls, the broker told Horizon Nut Co. to load 45,000 pounds of shelled pistachios and send it to the East Coast.
But attorneys for Delta farmers may be gearing up to challenge certain aspects of the sale, which would, for the first time, make Metropolitan a major landowner within the heart of California’s water distribution system.
Don Cameron expects farmers will see some of the biggest effects as the climate changes, and he says growers need to take proactive steps to prepare. … He is one of several featured speakers at the upcoming One Nation: Climate Change forum at the Sunnylands Center and Gardens in Rancho Mirage.
The rains this winter were more or less than expected, depending on where you live and what you expected. … The unequal distribution of water continues as state and federal water leaders allocate surface water supply.
The Oakdale Irrigation District expects to reap $13.75 million selling Stanislaus River water to buyers from the Fresno area and on the Valley’s drought-scarred West Side, according to a sales agreement unanimously approved Tuesday by the OID board.
The 2016 irrigation season is rolling out on these warm April days with close-to-normal supplies in parts of the Northern San Joaquin Valley. In other parts, the drought of the past few years has not eased much, and farmers face another year of scraping by.
Farm water managers said new rules for managing underground supplies are confusing and potentially expensive. … The regulations are slated to go into effect June 1; the state Department of Water Resources is taking public comment about them until April 1.
Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company will soon be unable to farm alfalfa in its own parched country to feed its 170,000 cows. So it’s turning to an unlikely place to grow the water-chugging crop – the drought-stricken American Southwest.
As lingering El Niño rains swell the state’s rivers, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined California House Republicans on Thursday to demand that President Obama order more water to be pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farms in the San Joaquin Valley.
A larger than expected almond crop and soft global demand have sent the California nut industry into a tailspin, with prices falling by more than half and unsold nuts mounting in processors’ warehouses.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants President Obama to order an increase in water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to farms and cities to the south. … A dozen Republican members of California’s House delegation sent a separate letter calling on Obama to act.
Adding to the debate over Northern California’s winter stormwater, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and congressional Republicans asked President Obama on Thursday to increase the volume of water pumped through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley.
Climate change could upset the complex interplay of rain, snow and temperature in the West, hurting food production, the environment and electrical generation at dams, the federal government warned Tuesday.
A potentially major new fight has erupted over Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two huge tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and this time the protests are coming from a group of farmers that wants the tunnels built.
Late last spring, amid the depths of California’s punishing drought, state officials made a historic determination that rivers and creeks were too low for many farms and cities to draw from. Not everyone agreed, however.
Conaway Ranch, a 17,000-acre farm in which the Tsakopoulos family acquired controlling interest in 2010, said Monday it will work with water-use experts from Israel to experiment with drip irrigation on a small portion of its rice fields.
In the darkest days of the drought last summer, when farmers up and down the Central Valley feared the state would cut off their water supply, a strange thing happened in the Delta. Hundreds of growers agreed to voluntarily give up a share of their extraordinarily reliable water supply, in exchange for protection from the possibility of deeper, mandatory cuts.
Chris Rufer, 66, never has been keen on big government and always liked an underdog fight. … That perseverance has Rufer entangled in a $1.5-million battle with water regulators over waste and odors from his tomato processing plant in the Sacramento Valley town of Williams, the largest facility of its kind in the country.
Saying too much water is flowing out to sea, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday called on operators of the federal and state water projects to pump more water south through the Delta to drought-stricken farms and cities in Central and Southern California.
Hence Assembly Bill 2496, which would end the [daylight saving time] practice in California, undoing a law that voters approved back in 1949 via Proposition 12. At the time, a ballot statement in favor argued altered summertime hours would bolster “public health and industrial efficiency” by improving worker safety, limiting juvenile delinquency, saving water, preventing car crashes and aiding farmers.
On a hot summer afternoon, California farmer Chris Hurd barrels down a country road through the Central Valley city of Firebaugh, his dog Frank riding in the truck bed. … Agricultural land stretches out in every direction.
Humboldt County accounted for the majority of 51 medical marijuana growers who have chosen to enroll in the North Coast’s mandatory water quality protection program that hopes to serve as a model for California.
A new state report shows California farmers reaping record sales despite the epic drought, thriving even as city-dwellers have been forced to conserve water, household wells have run dry and fish have died.
Drought followed by the rains of El Niño, and heat followed by cold snaps created a cauliflower price boom that now has turned to a bust, and a celery inflation that lingered just long enough, growers and industry experts say.
Only one farmer showed up Tuesday to share thoughts on the irrigation district’s controversial habit of selling river water to outside buyers, although benefits from doing so became the focus of a subsequent budget discussion.
The decline also could influence whether farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will agree to help pay for Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnels, the $15.5 billion plan to re-engineer the fragile estuary with the goal of improving reliability of water deliveries to Southern California cities and farms.
He’s [Nick Blom] a volunteer in an experiment run by UC Davis that could offer a partial solution to California’s perennial water shortages, and in the process, challenge some long-standing tenets of flood control and farming in the Central Valley.
In an effort to restore California’s desperately depleted ancient aquifers, scientists are testing an approach that seizes surplus winter rain and delivers it to where it’s most useful: idle farms and fields.
Even as California has marched out unprecedented water restrictions during the drought, the spigots at thousands of farms and ranches have gone largely unmonitored — a vestige of the state’s Gold Rush-era water policy.
Farmers in California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley are bracing to receive no irrigation water from a federal system of reservoirs and canals for a third consecutive year and looking to El Niño to produce the very wet winter they need.
More farmers in drought-stricken California are using oilfield wastewater to irrigate, and a new panel on Tuesday began taking one of the state’s deepest looks yet at the safety of using the chemical-laced water on food crops.
The standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge is the latest, edgiest skirmish in a decades-old conflict over federal control of Western lands. It’s been a war, not always bloodless, that’s been fought in courts, on Capitol Hill and far out on the range.
The message that Maria L. Gutierrez gave legislators on Capitol Hill was anguished and blunt: California’s historic drought had not merely left farmland idle. It had destroyed Latino farm workers’ jobs, shuttered Latino businesses and thrown Latino families on the street. Yet Congress had turned a deaf ear to their pleas for more water to revive farming and farm labor.
His [Martín Hernandez Mena] was one of dozens of shanties that grew where little else does after four years of California’s crippling drought. … Mena’s is a story about what water gives and takes away — how California’s farmworkers are an ecological crisis away from losing their jobs and their homes, with no safety net.
A federal judge in Nevada refused Tuesday to temporarily block new U.S. rules intended to protect the greater sage grouse, leaving the land use planning amendments intact at least until a trial expected to begin early next year.
Some of California’s Christmas trees are looking a bit more like a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree this year. After four years of drought have stressed and stunted trees on area farms, growers are feeling the pinch.
Farmers are no strangers to struggle or drought. But this four-year drought is different than others, they say. It’s more widespread, touching nearly everyone who turns on the tap or starts an irrigation pump.
Largely lost in the statewide discussion about fallowed crops, depleted reservoirs and brown lawns, is the impact of California’s drought on hunting. The succession of four dry years has dried up many of the natural marshes and rice fields used by the estimated 55,000 people who hunt waterfowl in California.
California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, set to take effect in 2020, will limit how much groundwater can be extracted over the long haul. While details of what constitutes “sustainable” pumping are still being fleshed out, water policy experts say many farmers will gradually have their water supplies curtailed – and the nation’s leading agricultural state will farm fewer acres.
As many as 27 percent of Californians say they will not buy a live Christmas tree this year because of the ongoing drought. That’s according to a new survey by the American Christmas Tree Association. … In Oregon, which produces more Christmas trees than any other state, the market is holding up just fine, even though that state is experiencing a milder drought of its own.
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the nation’s largest drinking water distributor, bought nearly 13,000 acres of remote farms in July for $256 million, rattling farmers but giving it prized rights to the Colorado River.
The nation’s largest distributor of treated drinking water became the largest landowner in a remote California farming region for good reason: The alfalfa-growing area is first in line to get Colorado River water.
Now, growers will need to obtain cultivation permits and abide by rules for water and pesticide use, with state agencies policing their environmental impact and vetting labs that will test for pesticides and other contaminants.
The holiday season perennially generates stories about some items being in short supply or dramatically pricier, but markets have a way of balancing themselves out, particularly around this meal. … While the California drought has pushed vegetable and fruit prices higher, the picture at the supermarket is mixed.
Escalating the fight over California’s diminished water supply, a coalition of environmental groups sued Central Valley farmers and the federal government over the possible extinction facing an endangered run of salmon.
When the California Water Commission this year surveyed water agencies about storage proposals that might qualify for funding under Proposition 1, the 2014 water bond approved by state voters, half the responses involved groundwater projects, including one from [Gary] Serrato’s [Fresno Irrigation] district.
As California enters the fifth consecutive year of unprecedented drought, Congress is debating two competing bills designed to provide federal drought relief to California agriculture. The proposals reveal stark differences in proposed federal water and environmental policy.
The issue of the governor’s request came to light as part of a lawsuit against the state by farmers who accuse the state of doing an inadequate job of preventing water pollution from oil and gas drilling.
Imperial Valley farmers know their water is precious and understand that to preserve a way of life that runs back a century they have to grapple with the needs of a drought-stricken state. … In 2003, the Imperial Irrigation District, under pressure from Senator Dianne Feinstein and other federal and state officials, controversially agreed to sell as much as 280,000 acre-feet a year to San Diego.
Right now, migrating waterfowl are looking for wet places to land and feed. … This week, several Sacramento River farm water districts finalized a deal with the federal Bureau of Reclamation to use water later in the year, to provide water for birds in November.
With little mountain runoff due to a historic drought, water managers made the unprecedented decision to try to meet legal obligations to keep the Owens River flowing, control dust from a dry lake bed and irrigate pastures where cattle graze instead of sending water to the city.
Irrigation leaders illegally agreed to sell Stanislaus River water to outsiders, an Oakdale Irrigation District customer alleges in a formal complaint. … The district has explained the deal in meetings, a news release and an Oct. 18 advertisement in The Modesto Bee.
Before the founders of the Family Water Alliance began installing metal screens at the end of the big pipes that draw water from the Sacramento River to irrigate Colusa County’s rice and vegetable fields, seasonal salmon runs often included sizable helpings of fresh fish flopping in the brown dirt of farm furrows. The pumps that transported water were powerful enough to suck migrating fish into the pipes and toss them out the other end, typically startled and very much alive.
Around California, drought has taken a toll on small “agritourism” farms that once thrived on the Halloween season crowd. Some have shut down, while others have stopped growing their own pumpkins or trimmed acres from their corn mazes and canceled activities that require water.
Wildlife managers are worried again this year: Will there be enough wet habitat for millions of birds in the Sacramento Valley? Before the drought, 250,000-300,000 acres of California rice lands was flooded each winter.
Irrigation agencies in Oakdale and Manteca will reap $11.5 million selling Stanislaus River water to outsiders in coming weeks. Sensitive to pressure from local farmers, government officials and media, the Oakdale Irrigation District kept the deal under wraps until Tuesday’s announcement.
Rules governing pesticides and water discharge will apply to cannabis, newly classified as an agricultural product. [Gov. Jerry] Brown directly addressed pot’s ecological implications in a signing message, saying he would direct the state Natural Resources Agency to “identify projects to begin the restoration of our most impacted areas in the state.”
More than 300 farmers, workers and elected officials from throughout the Valley gathered Friday at Rojas Pierce Park in Mendota to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to call a special legislative session to deal with California’s water crisis.
The grape vines that grower Frank Leeds tends in Napa Valley stand among the unheralded heroes of California’s drought, producing decade after decade of respected Cabernets and other wines without a drop of added water.
Whether an act of goodwill or a desperate move under duress, an agreement by Delta farmers to voluntarily reduce their water use last spring likely spared them from deeper cuts in the middle of the summer growing season, a state official said this week.
Saltwater intrusion challenges nearly every town and farm district in California that borders the Pacific. Many have been fighting back the ocean for generations. Bulletin 52, the first state report to document the salt problem in the Salinas Valley, a farming center just south of Watsonville, was published in 1946.
The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that the greater sage grouse, a flamboyant bird that roams across 11 Western states, does not warrant a listing as an endangered species, an action that could have damaged oil and natural gas interests and the economies of many local communities.
Federal wildlife officials on Thursday, Sept. 17, announced they have rejected a petition from the Riverside County Farm Bureau that demanded the Stephens’ kangaroo rat no longer be listed as an endangered species.
A Congress that has stumbled over a California water bill amid record drought now faces a challenging new fight over irrigation drainage. … In a federal court filing Wednesday, the Justice Department provided both details and a roadmap for the irrigation drainage settlement formally agreed to by federal and Westlands officials the day before.
Strong market prices and increased production helped push Madera County’s 2014 crop values to a record-high $2.2 billion. … Hardest hit by the drought were field crops, including cotton, corn, oat hay and wheat.
A top Interior Department official next Tuesday will sign a San Joaquin Valley irrigation settlement with the Westlands Water District, signaling the end of a long-running legal battle, but marking the start of a hot new political fight.
California growers took in more revenue in 2014 compared to the year before, although their profits declined by about 10 percent, according to new figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and the Pacific Institute, a water policy think-tank. … Farm advocates say the numbers for 2015, which won’t be calculated until next year, will show a more pronounced impact.
It might seem easy, summarizing the conflict over the Trinity River in Northern California. But amid record drought, this long-running and singular battle has become a case study about the difficulties in balancing Western water use.
A recent study by Pew Charitable Trusts found that greater sage grouse numbers decreased by 56 percent from 2007 to 2013. Because of that decline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been tasked with determining whether the greater sage grouse needs protections under the Endangered Species Act by the end of the month, a deadline that’s led to hand-wringing across the West.
The state’s historic drought has hit the San Joaquin Valley hard, with farm losses in the billions, an increase in health issues and a decline in income, according to a Fresno State study released Thursday.
Agricultural employment soared to a record 417,000 jobs, largely because gains in the Central Coast, deserts and Sacramento River Valley overcame losses in the San Joaquin Valley, according to a report by the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Oakland.
Fresno County agriculture set a record in 2014, with crop values reaching $7 billion for the first time. … The county’s total value was just the third best in the state – behind Tulare and Kern counties – as the drought continued to drag down Fresno’s overall crop production.
Land in Central California’s agricultural region is sinking so quickly because of the state’s historic drought that it is forcing farmers to spend millions of dollars upgrading irrigation canals and putting roads, bridges and other infrastructure at risk.
The drought is expected to cost the state $2.7 billion in agriculture losses this year, but farmers in eastern Riverside County are faring well because of steady supplies from the Colorado River, according to the authors of a new economic forecast.
The Glenn County Board of Supervisors Tuesday passed a ban on new well permits, which will slow but not halt the number of new wells drilled in the primarily agricultural county. … One project that will be put on hold, at least for the next six months, is the five new wells planned by the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, the largest supplier of ag water in the area.
The drought this year will cost California’s economy more than $2.7 billion and could result in nearly 21,000 job losses, according to a UC Davis study. … Direct agricultural costs of the drought will be about $1.8 billion and result in 10,100 seasonal job losses.
The drought is costing California about $2.7 billion this year, according to a new UC Davis study, although the statistics suggest the state’s overall economy can withstand the impact. … At the same time, the study said farmers are holding up reasonably well in spite of significant water shortages and the fallowing of 542,000 acres of land.
In the desert of California, where the Colorado River for decades has turned barren ground into an agricultural bounty, farmers are being paid not to grow crops on a portion of their land so that water can be shipped to thirsty cities on the coast.
More than six decades after their deaths, the San Joaquin River and chinook salmon slowly are coming back to life in an unprecedented, hard-fought revival. … The trick in restoring this dried river is making water turn around and run uphill to be used on farms.
Thirteen states led by North Dakota asked a federal judge on Monday to delay a new rule that gives federal authorities jurisdiction over some state waters. … The rule is a response to calls from the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress for the EPA to clarify which smaller waterways are protected.
The gutted cinder-block homes slated for demolition in the western Fresno County town of Five Points are a haunting symbol of [Diana's] Toscano’s struggle during one of the worst droughts in California’s history: finding enough children to keep the local Migrant Head Start Center from shutting its doors.
Unlike the large industrial farms that give California its reputation as the salad bowl of the nation, urban farmers don’t have to let fields sit fallow to reduce water use. The small-scale operations leave room for more creative approaches to drought-friendly growing practices.
Despite the drought, local farmers this year will get 44 inches of water per parcel instead of 40, Oakdale irrigation leaders decided Tuesday, because customers so far have used much less than expected.
Almond farmers who planned a mid-summer getaway may need to put those plans on hold. Already the nuts are at the phase of hull split, which comes just before its time to shake the trees. Butte County Agricultural Commissioner Richard Price said all crops are early this year.
State drought regulators went on the offensive against another agricultural irrigation district Monday, proposing a $1.55 million fine against a Delta-area agency accused of diverting water illegally over a two-week period.
With California’s historic drought evaporating the livelihood of thousands of Mexican migrants, Mexico will start offering them emergency rent assistance, clothing, food and even a plane ticket back home, said the region’s new consul general in her first major media interview.
As California’s blue-green reservoirs are drained brown during this historic drought, [Dennis] Gardemeyer and other Delta property owners essentially are being accused of stealing. … At the heart of the dispute is California’s complex system of water conveyance.
While harvesting 350 acres of wheat, farmer Deke Dormer collected 819 eggs in his field. The eggs were then placed in egg cartons, taken to incubators for hatching, and will be returned to wetlands when the ducklings are old enough to survive on their own.
Some of those concerned with the groundwater debate maintain that flood irrigation of crops can be an effective way of refilling aquifers. The University of California Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County is working on a pilot project to test the theory.
Results of the most recent testing of recycled oil field wastewater that Chevron sells to Kern County farmers for irrigation showed no traces of methylene chloride, an industrial solvent that had appeared in previous testing conducted by a clean water advocacy group.
Madera County farmer Tom Rogers thought he knew a lot about how to irrigate his family’s 175-acre almond ranch. But several droughts, including the current four-year dry spell, made him reconsider his approach on how to get the most out of his ever-shrinking water supply.
Farmers, government regulators and elected officials gathered at Star Route Farms outside Bolinas Tuesday to commemorate the auspicious development. Star Route Farms, Paradise Valley Farms and Martinelli Family Ranch have all given up their “riparian” rights to use the creek for irrigation in the dry season from July 1 to December 15.
Longtime farmers hoping to block state-imposed cuts suffered a defeat Tuesday after a San Joaquin County Superior Court judge said the case must be heard in another county, potentially leaving those farmers without a legal water supply. But in a new twist, attorneys for the farmers now are questioning whether the cuts actually are required in the first place.
Significant figures by Peter Gleick —In a climate where rainfall is so variable from one year to the next, it makes little sense to talk about what is “normal” but California farmers know to expect that some years will very dry and that sometimes there will be a string of dry years back-to-back.
The Supreme Court has pruned a long-running federal raisin supply management program and called its future into question, with a ruling that the government must pay for raisins kept out of the marketplace.
Some California farmers say they face financial ruin under orders to stop pumping river water to irrigate their crops this summer amid the state’s relentless drought, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
State and federal fish and water managers are trying to find a way to avoid a massive die-off of young fish in the Sacramento River. … The changes in river flow might further impact the amount of water that Sacramento River Settlement Contractors are able to draw from the river for farms.
Dave Shields started the engine of his tractor on a recent weekday and began toppling the hundreds of drought-stricken cherry trees he and his wife planted 15 years ago in this north Los Angeles County foothills community.
Only once before in the state’s history have the most senior water rights been curtailed. But now, with the drought persisting into a fourth year, state officials say that more reductions for so-called senior water rights holders are nearly certain, and the need for additional cuts will be evaluated weekly.
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Organized by the Water Education Foundation and the UC Davis Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair, Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture: 2nd International Conference Linking Science and Policy will provide scientists, policymakers, agricultural and environmental stakeholders, government officials and consultants with the latest scientific, management, legal and policy advances for sustaining our groundwater resources in agricultural regions around the world.
Groundwater is the lifeline for many rural and agricultural regions and their associated cultures and populations around the globe and a cornerstone of global food production. Groundwater constitutes nearly half the world’s drinking water and much of the world’s irrigation water supply.
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The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is poised to adopt a program that would require all marijuana cultivators to register, pay a fee, follow strict environmental guidelines and seek appropriate permits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Yet even as California farmers eye what could be a lucrative expansion into the world’s most discriminating rice market in Japan, their ambitions have been complicated by the state’s severe drought and the surge in the dollar.
The Stockton East Water District might send more water to farmers than originally expected next month, despite the fact that the reservoir on which the district relies has dwindled to 18 percent of capacity.
Most of the Delta’s small, family farms trace back to the Gold Rush, when the wetlands were dammed and levies were built to grow food to feed the miners. It was only later that the federal government began pumping water from here, through canals, to farms in more arid areas hundreds of miles to the south.
Farmers are being widely criticized during the California drought because agriculture uses the majority of the state’s water. But some farmers are cutting back by employing new techniques. A recent study used half as much water to yield twice as much fruit.
State water officials say they will use satellite surveillance from high above farms in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta as one way of confirming that fields have been left fallow under voluntary conservation agreements with farmers.
The drought is expected to be worse for California’s agricultural economy this year because of reduced water availability, according to our preliminary estimates released today. The study, summarized below, estimates farmers will have 2.7 million acre-feet less surface water than they would in a normal water year — about a 33 percent loss of water supply, on average.
The drought is expected to cost California’s agricultural economy $1.8 billion this year, about four percent of California’s $45 billion agricultural economy, according to a new economic analysis by researchers at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.
A groundwater deficit is growing in key agricultural areas of California. The double-whammy of the extended drought and longer-term reductions in surface water deliveries for environmental needs has pushed many farmers into using ever-more groundwater, at rates that can’t be sustained.
In a potentially significant setback for a system already stressed by epic drought, California regulators have ordered a temporary curb in the flows being released from Lake Shasta in order to protect an endangered species of salmon.
Moving to meet voluntary water conservation targets, dozens of farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have submitted plans to the state saying they intend to plant less thirsty crops and leave some fields unplanted amid the relentless California drought, officials said.
California farmers who hold some of the state’s strongest water rights avoided the threat of deep mandatory cuts when the state accepted their proposal to voluntarily reduce consumption by 25 percent amid one of the worst droughts on record.
With California farmers not planting as much rice due to water restrictions, Southern rice-growing states are jumping in to fill the gap by expanding their production and taking some of the Golden State’s markets in the process.