The High Costs of a Lingering Drought
By Jean-Paul McDonald, Farms.com
California’s agriculture sector continues to suffer from a severe drought that has plagued the state for nearly four years in a row. While the occasional rain does fall, it hasn’t been enough to help alleviate the devastating effects of the drought. A preliminary study released this week by University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences, highlights the ripple effects the drought is having on the state’s workforce and economy. A full report will be released later this summer.
Commissioned by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the study exposes the consequences the prolonged drought has created for both the economy and agricultural workers in the nation’s largest fruit, vegetable and nut producing state. The study estimates that job losses in the agriculture sector will reach 14,500 this year, and the state’s economy will take a $1.7 billion hit. The estimates were calculated using computer models and recent water delivery figures.
The study also estimates that six percent of Central Valley farmland will lay fallow this year due to cuts in water deliveries, which amounts to around 410,000 acres of land. Central Valley farmers can expect about 1/3 less irrigation water this year than usual. With depleted rivers unable to sustainably support crop irrigation, farmers will need to pump more ground water, which is estimated to cost around $450 million.
Agriculture makes up less than three percent of California’s $1.9 trillion gross domestic product, but produces an important supply of health foods for the state and country.