UPDATED: California crop losses could surpass $800 million - The Packer

UPDATED: California crop losses could surpass $800 million

07/16/2014 11:57:00 AM
Tom Karst

“Congress has an opportunity to change the way the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta is being managed so there is better balance to flows that are required for environmental purposes on one hand and on the other hand those who rely on water exported from the Delta, farmers in the San Joaquin Valley especially and cities in the south,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water are lost every year that could have been stored for times of crisis , he said. Puglia said Congress is considering a measure that has the potential to restore balance in the way the Delta is managed and offer growers a more reliable water supply.

Besides crop revenue losses of $810 million, other costs include additional water pumping expenses of $454 million and $203 million in livestock and dairy revenue loss. That totals $1.5 billion in direct costs, according to the report.

About 70% of California’s crop revenue losses and most of the dairy losses are expected to occur in the San Joaquin Valley, most linked to lower-value irrigated pasture and annual crops such as corn and dry beans. Coastal regions and Southern California are less affected by the 2014 drought, with the 19,000 acres expected to be fallowed and a projection of $10.1 million in lost revenue.

The report said 2015 is likely to be another dry year in California, even if the El Nino weather pattern returns.

“Additional dry years in 2015 and 2016 would cost Central Valley crop farming an estimated total of $1 billion per year,” report authors Richard Howitt, Josue Medellin-Azuara, Duncan MacEwan, Jay Lund and Daniel Sumner said in the paper.

With groundwater pumped from wells expected to increase from a 31% share of agricultural water supplies last year to 53% this year, the report said failure to replenish groundwater in wet years will reduce the groundwater needed to sustain profitable permanent crops like grapes, tree fruit and nuts during California’s future droughts.

Better understating of groundwater management and water markets are needed to more efficiently cope with drought conditions, according to the report.

Les Wright, Fresno County Agriculture Commissioner, said there has been a huge influx of well permits.

“What I’m hearing from industry is that the well-drillers are about eight to 10 months behind, “ he said. “Even if you run out of water today, it is going to be a while before you get a well driller out there.” Declining water tables are a concern. “The main concern right now is that one grower has water and he is at 100 feet but his neighbor drops his down to 300 feet; how long is his going to last?”

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Alfred Nunez    
July, 22, 2014 at 10:33 AM

The state should promote better water management methods. It should restrict growers to drip irrigation when at all possible. It may be more expensive for the individual grower, but having water for future crops sure beats not having any.

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