As the California Farm Drought Crisis Deepens, a federal agency rules agricultural heartland won’t get any federal irrigation water this summer.
In a move that will likely signal higher food prices nationally, a federal agency says California’s drought-stricken Central Valley — hundreds of thousands of acres of the most productive farmland in the U.S. — won’t get any irrigation water this summer.
Friday’s announcement by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation follows an earlier warning of no irrigation deliveries from the California State Water Project and leaves Central Valley farms and cities with only wells and stored water to get through the worst drought since the state began keeping records in the 1800s.
Statewide, some 8 million acres of farmland rely on federal or state irrigation water.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency following reports that the water content of snow in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada, whose spring runoff is stored in reservoirs and moved by canals to other areas of the state, stands at 29% of normal.
The announcement is significant because California is the largest U.S. agriculture producer. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent California Agricultural Statistics for the 2012 crop year, the state remains the leading state in cash farm receipts, with more than 350 commodities representing $44.7 billion, or 11% of the U.S. total, in 2012. Over a third of the U.S.’s vegetables and almost two-thirds of its fruits and nuts were produced in California, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said in a report. The federal agency’s announcement will particularly affect San Joaquin Valley farmers who are last in line to receive federal water, San Jose Mercury News reported, adding that many farmers will have to pump already overtaxed wells or leave fields fallow this year. Farmers will leave 500,000 acres of fallow this year, the paper quoted Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, as saying.
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