Many Ventura County growers also rely on groundwater and so far haven’t experienced mandatory restrictions, said Peter Oill, sales and marketing director for the B Organic brand of Oxnard, Calif.-based Boskovich Farms Inc.
“Ag takes precedent,” he said. “In Ventura, ag probably employs 70% of the people, so it’s an ag area, and vegetablewise, we haven’t had many problems yet. But it’s been tough — people now can’t water their lawns.”
Todd Hirasuna, general manager of Selma, Calif.-based Sunnyside Packing Co., said his water situation is “temporarily OK.”
“But if something doesn’t happen soon, we’ll all be in the same boat,” he said.
Growers on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, where he is, pump from the same aquifer as those on the drought-stricken west side, and the underground reservoir is already overdrafted and levels are dropping.
“We’re better off than the guys on the west side but not where anybody’s comfortable,” Hirasuna said. “If the trend continues for the next two to three years, I think the number of reported dry wells will start to climb.”
He said he’s already starting to hear of vegetable ground in California’s Stockton and Manteca areas being converted over to permanent crops, such as walnuts and almonds.
With greater potential returns and less labor requirements, nut crops are more economically attractive than vegetables, he said.
“In the short run, the overall mixed vegetable deal in the valley will continue to shrink,” Hirasuna said, adding he had heard of as many as 600 acres of hard-shell squash going out of production in the northern San Joaquin Valley this season.