Western Drought and the Food Supply • Paso Robles Press
How does this affect the farmers and how will it affect the nation
CALIFORNIA – If you’ve been through California Valley, you’ve probably seen a sign that says “No Water = No Food”.
These signs are remnants of the state’s previous droughts and were never removed due to the likelihood that another year without water would be.
And here we are. California still faces another Drought.
Go through this together, Paso Robles
According to the California Farm Water Coalition (CFWC), 2021 is set to be extremely dry, like the state’s last drought, which lasted around 2014-2016.
Worst of all, as of June 2, more than 2 million acres – more than a quarter of California’s irrigated farmland – were receiving 5% or less of their water supply.
More than half of this amount receives no water allocation.
In other parts of California, water supplies to farms have reportedly been cut by 25% or more, and 60,000 acres in northern California will receive no water this year.
Founded in 1989, CFWC is a non-profit educational organization that provides the public with factual information on agricultural water issues.
“Our goal is to help people understand the connection between farm water and their food supply,” said Mike Wade, executive director of CFWC.
Due to the lack of water, farmers across the state had to face the crucial decision to reduce their planted areas.
And some farmers had no choice but to plow under their crop, as the California Water Board (CWB) cut their water supply by suspending farmers’ water rights.
Farmers in the Russian River and the Sacramento-San Juaquin watershed have already had their junior water rights suspended by the CWB.
“We have seen dozens of crops with reduced plantings this year. Farmers fallow fields of annual crops, ”said Wade.
He continued, “What it does is that it doesn’t just affect the farmer, as important as that may be. It affects communities. It affects the people who depend on these farms for their work. This affects related businesses, particularly transportation and processing all the way up the food chain to the grocery store where we are seeing reduced supply and higher prices for consumers. “
California’s last driest year was in 2015. According to dry.gov, “Drought impacts on California’s agriculture sector resulted in direct costs of $ 1.84 billion, loss of 10,100 jobs. seasonal and surface water shortages of 8.7 million acre-feet.
California Governor Gavin Newsom was on the Central Coast on July 8, where he signed an executive order for Californians, including agriculture, commerce and residential, to reduce water use by 15%.
As of July 13, 50 California counties have declared a drought emergency, including San Luis Obispo County, affecting 42% of California’s population.
While the California drought is proving damaging enough, it’s not the only state to experience a drought this year.
According to the United States Drought Watch Map, published by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 11 states are experiencing extreme drought conditions:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
In addition, parts of Idaho and South Dakota also suffer from extreme drought.
Wheat is the fourth best-selling commodity in the United States, with an average annual income of $ 5.13 billion.
Four of the states listed above are among the top 10 wheat producers in the country.
In a Spokesman Review article, a Washington state wheat farmer said, “This will probably be the worst crop we’ve had in the 35 years we’ve been doing this.
Climates that usually don’t exceed 90 degrees get temperatures above 100 degrees. High temperatures and lack of water mean lower quality wheat kernels and possibly higher protein content, all contributing to lower tonnage for farmers and buyers who want a lower price for wheat.
California produces more than 400 different products, including two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts, one-third of its vegetables, and one in five liters of milk.
According to the CFWC, the following products have already been affected by the water shortage in California:
- Pima cotton
- Sweet corn
Basically, the effects of higher temperatures and drought are already affecting farmers, and we’ll see it in the food supply soon.
Western states are undoubtedly experiencing the onset of a potentially horrific drought.
But in California, other factors are taking water from farmers.
“It is the result of changing policies that have shifted the water available to farms, homes and businesses to serve more environmental purposes. And when we come to a drought year like the one we are experiencing now, there is no more flexibility in the system, and we end up with a few million acres of farmland with no water supply, ”Wade explained. .
On April 15, 2015, Channel 3 News in Sacramento interviewed former California Governor Jerry Brown. At the time, California was in the worst year of the 2014-16 drought, and California Valley farmers saw their water rights suspended.
During the interview with Channel 3, Brown said, “Fifty percent of the water in California is used to protect the environment. Forty percent goes to agriculture and about 10 percent goes to urban and commercial uses.
Brown’s statement is supported by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
“Statewide, the average water use is around 50% environmental, 40% agricultural and 10% urban, although the percentage of water use by sector varies considerably. ‘region to region and between wet and dry years.
As for the environmental use of water, the PPIC says:
“The environmental use of water falls into four categories: water in rivers protected as ‘wild and scenic’ under federal and state laws, water needed to maintain habitat in streams. , the water that supports wetlands in wildlife reserves and the water needed to maintain water quality for agriculture and urban use.
Another California policy threatening agricultural water is the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
The SGMA was enacted to stop overdrafts and bring groundwater basins to balanced pumping and recharge levels. SGMA also requires local agencies to adopt sustainability plans for high and medium priority groundwater basins.
According to the Blueprint Economic Impact Analysis: Phase One Results by David Sunding and David Roland-Holst of UC Berkeley:
“Based on an analysis of the SGMA and other anticipated water supply restrictions, we conclude that up to one million acres could be fallow in the San Joaquin Valley over a period of 2 to 3 decades due to the reduced availability of ground and surface water. This amount of fallow represents about one-fifth of all the acres currently cultivated in the valley. The loss of farm income associated with this fallow is $ 7.2 billion per year.
The report also states: “Counting the indirect and induced job losses with the direct losses, SGMA and future surface water restrictions will result in up to 85,000 jobs lost and $ 2.1 billion in compensation. of employees lost each year. ”
Wade explains, “It’s going to be difficult to continue farming on the scale we are currently experiencing in much of Central Valley California due to the change in accessibility to groundwater. withdrawn from production.
On July 23, the CWB announced an “emergency restriction” order. The order would inevitably cut thousands of farmers off the rivers and streams in the watersheds of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.
The ordinance would include pre-1914 appropriation claimants and some riparian water rights claimants.
On August 3, the CWB passed the emergency reduction order with a 5-0 vote.
State regulators have said farmers should stop diverting water from the waters and streams leading to the Sacramento and San Juaquin Delta, the two largest river systems in the state, as drought is rapidly depleting them. Californian reservoirs and kills endangered fish species.
The reduction order will only take effect in two weeks and exclude certain uses, including drinking water, cooking, cleaning, sanitation and power generation, etc.
Together, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems drain 40 percent of California’s land and make up at least part of the water supply for two-thirds of the state’s nearly 40 million people.
“The fact remains that the water supply is extremely limited statewide and we are running out of options,” said Ernest Conant, regional director of the US Bureau of Reclamation, which supports the new rule.
The state also hired 15 people to help enforce the emergency order, according to Erik Ekdahl, deputy director of the water rights division. The rule gives state regulators the power to enforce it, including fines for non-compliance.
Chris Scheuring, Senior Counsel for the California Farm Bureau, said, “Farmers generally understand drought and they understand years of scant rain. This is the case we are in, ”he said. “But they don’t understand the declining water reliability that we’re facing in California, sort of on a systemic level.”
A story about the new reduction ordinance, its effects on farmers and the general public to follow.
United States drought map
California Agricultural Water Coalition
Wheat production in Washington 2021
Water use in California
Economic impact analysis of the master plan: results of the first phase by David Sunding and David Roland-Holst at UC Berkeley
Emergency restriction order