Megadrought is affecting farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley. It is home to 250 varieties of crops and 17% of the nation’s agricultural land.
“It’s severe in the San Joaquin Valley,” stated Professor Daniel Sumner, an agricultural economist from UC Davis.
California regulators have reduced the water allotments of farmers by a quarter due to low reservoir levels.
“Our water supply is becoming more scarce.” It has become less reliable, and less predictable,” Joe Del Bosque (owner of Del Bosque Farms) said.
Del Bosque is the owner and operator of a farm covering 2,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. He grows almonds and melons as well as asparagus. Del Bosque was raised in the area and worked on farms with his parents.
He has had to adapt his farming methods and grow more vegetables because of the drought.
“We have known for a long time that water shortages can cause serious problems on our farm. But to get to the point where it completely stops the farm — we never thought that would happen,” said Del Bosque.
California’s water distribution system has two pillars. It ranks water rights seniority according to public importance. The large canals that run along the Valley’s farms transport water from the north to the south. Water is already allotted and only a small amount is available for farms.
The region is home to most of the fruits, vegetables and herbs that Americans eat. The almonds were produced by the farms in 80% of the world’s almonds. Farmers say that the water cuts have had an impact on the production of the farms, which will reflect in the grocery stores.
Del Bosque stated that as our food supply shrinks, food prices will rise.
Del Bosque abandoned his asparagus fields. He transferred the water from his less profitable field crops to his more lucrative melon fields. He had to plant melons on 500 acres of land, even though he made that change. He was forced to reduce irrigation by one-third, and his almond grove is in serious drought.
“The size of the almond is crucial. Most people don’t know this, but a larger almond fetches more money than a smaller almond,” said Del Bosque.
California almonds are big business. The San Joaquin Valley covers 500 miles of the world’s almond production. It is home to four of every five almonds. This year’s production has been cut by 10% due to drought. However, the surplus from last year keeps supply levels steady.
Richard Waycott, President of the California Almond Board, stated that “it’s a great concern for all of us as an industrial and individual farmer.”
California Almond Board has spent decades studying water efficiency in order to reduce its members’ irrigation requirements by 33%. However, almond farmers continue to reduce their groves despite all this knowledge.
“The most profitable crops that have global demand are likely to be the ones that will win,” Waycott stated. Waycott stated that California’s future agriculture will likely be smaller than it is today.
Sumner, an agricultural economist, predicts that farmers may sacrifice their field crops such as hay to protect their crop crops like almonds or grapes. Sumner claims that farmers are being hurt by price increases, even though they haven’t yet reached the grocery stores.
Sumner said, “Even if you don’t see them at the supermarket it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t really serious for the farmer.”
The long-term forecast for next year predicts average precipitation with possible additional drought.
This story was first reported by Scott Withers, Newsy.