Californian Drought: What does it mean for farmers and for you?

Kit Gambill, Campus Garden Coordinator

Image For the past three years, California has been suffering from a serious drought. In January, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the state, also laying the blame for the drought in part to climate change. The drought hasn’t only affected unessential sectors such as recreation, but has severely affected the drinking water of communities as well the access to vital irrigation sources for farmers.

According to the USDA, California ranks number one in the country for total agricultural production. California also produces half of all fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the US. However, many fields currently lay fallow and unproductive due to the present water crisis. According to the Reuters news agency, this could result in the loss of the jobs of nearly 14,500 full-time and seasonal farmworkers. Farmers themselves are suffering due to the loss of production as well as resorting to more expensive methods of irrigation.

Thus far the drought has yet to affect food prices in a drastic way. This is because farmers have been relying on backup water supplies from water aquifers, but these supplies are running low and will not last forever. Additionally, the drought has not affected all of the state in uniform severity. Farmers have still been able to produce enough to export to the rest of the US in a way that has kept prices stable. Despite this, consumers should expect food prices to rise as the drought continues and farmers’ groundwater supplies dwindle.


2 thoughts on “Californian Drought: What does it mean for farmers and for you?

  1. Great topic to cover, Kit! As the link between climate change and our cost of living becomes more clear, I think THAT’S when skeptics will really start listening. I wonder, though, how imported produce from conversely affected regions will counterbalance the price effect. There will be regions that get more precipitation in coming years and can start producing the food items we demand, right? Hopefully California workers and land won’t just get left behind…have you found news of any promising adaptation strategies? Very interesting stuff…

  2. Although climate change is causing fluctuation and decreased precipitation, especially in the American Southwest, I believe the main catalyst to this issue was caused when we started altering natural groundwater flow to irrigate fields and support large populations. Not saying this is the only reason that CA is experiencing water shortages, but it doesn’t make the situation any more manageable. When looking at the economics of drought take this example.

    Just this March, three water agencies in the Santa Barbara area joined forces to place a bid on “surplus” State Water from purveyors in central Cali. The teamed agency put a bid in at $1600 an acre-foot. This is a lot of money to put towards water supplies, but was not even considered a competitive bid, as the winning amount was $2,200 per acre-food. As this drought trend is expected to continue, it will be interesting to see if agencies continue to outbid each other to secure water for districts, or if manager will be more proactive and looking at water management from a holistic, inter-regional view.

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