No farmers want to see their crops wither and die. Yet, that is what is happening in many areas of California as a severe drought puts the agriculture community in survival mode once again. The lack of rainfall this winter/spring comes just a few short years after the last drought in California, which began in December of 2011 and ended in March 2019. For many parts of the state, it was considered to be the worst drought in 450 years – though some researchers believe that it never really ended.
Here we are again, facing severe water shortages across much of a largely agricultural state. Many California farmers are letting fields go fallow as water allocations are minimal, and in some cases, zero this year. Without the water, it is impossible to grow crops in many areas. Without the ability to farm the land, owners are seeking other means of generating income from their property. However, with no water and no farming, there is also no work for many US farm workers.
How Severe is the Drought?
Researcher and weather forecasters are arguing about the severity of the drought throughout the state. Some are saying that 85% of California is in severe drought. Others are saying that 26% of the state is in exceptional drought conditions. However, you choose to describe it, the mountain snowpack is all but gone, two months earlier than normal, and reservoirs are drying up or completely parched. Governor Newsom has expanded his drought emergency to include 41 of the 58 counties in California.
For farmers who do have a meager allocation of water, they are trying to figure out the best way to generate sufficient income from the few acres they can farm. Mandatory water usage restrictions are in place and expanding throughout the state, both for farmers and for residents.
Fire Season Already?
Every year the latter half of the summer and early fall is wildfire season for Californians. The rain typically slows down in May, June dries everything to a crispy kindling, and July, August, and September are fire season. This year, fire danger is already a concern, as most of the southwest had soil moisture values in the lowest 1 percent (a record for this time of year).
Drought disaster is hard on everyone…from farmers and farm workers to residents and even the fish whose homes are drying up and disappearing. As irrigation water is shut off, two vital wildlife refuges (Lower Klamath and Tule Lake) could dry up completely this summer, depriving millions of migratory birds and wildlife of their wetland habitat.
While we know that the agricultural concerns for the farming industry in California are most pressing for our clients, the drought disaster for families and wildlife are also alarming. We hope that federal and state aid can ward off the catastrophes of the previous drought and help farmers to find the water they need to continue to provide us with healthy sun grown produce.
Interra International is your partner in the food industry. If you need any help or advise on food products, food services, innovation, or supply, please contact us.