Dry Spell: California’s Agricultural Crisis

Many Californians have heard of and been affected by recent water shortages. Due to the abnormally dry season we have been having, California’s water supply has slowly dwindled, and the state has declared a formal drought. Although for many, the problems are limited to not being able to use as much water during showers or cooking, the farming and agricultural industry in California, one of the most diverse and influential sectors of the Golden State’s economy, has been hardest hit by the recent dry spell. Contrary to popular belief, almost 75% of the state water supply is used for agriculture, an industry that relies heavily on water for its backbone. Without water, farmers in California will not be able to produce the food that so many people rely on to feed their families. The recent water crisis in California has rendered some of the best farmland in the United States unusable and unable to yield crops, and this mass destruction of arable ground has left thousands of California farmers facing financial collapse.

This California riverbed dried significantly after a drought in 2009.

Farms in California are centered mainly around the Central Valley, an area rich in irrigation, and the coastal regions of Monterey and Watsonville, home to world famous produce. During the summer months, these regions rely on state and federal water stored in repositories and reservoirs filled up during winter snowstorms. However, there have not been any major blizzards this year, and the meager amounts of snow that have entered the reservoirs have been barely enough to keep the farmers going through the winter. What’s worse, the federal government and California State Water Project announced that they would be giving no irrigation water to farmers struck by the drought, leaving them to rely on scarce well water and stored reserves that can only provide for 20% of the farmers’ normal water needs. This major blow to the agricultural sector will likely trigger higher food prices across the world, mainly for the commodities of milk, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. The price of tomatoes, one of California’s main crops, rose 10% in 2013, and will continue to rise at an even more phenomenal rate if the drought persists.

The economic impacts of this crisis do not end with California. The California Department of Food and Agriculture states that California’s crop yield accounts for a staggering 15% of the entire $300 billion U.S. agricultural economy. In addition, according to a USDA report, over a third of U.S. vegetable exports and two-thirds of fruit exports come from California. The Golden State has constantly emerged as the biggest agricultural producer in the U.S., so recent water shortages curbing agricultural production in California will take a drastic toll on America’s economy and agricultural trade. We must take action by properly allocating the water we have right now and ensuring that farmers who desperately need water to grow their crops receive at least some amount of Calfiornia’s reserves. If we don’t, the problems California might face due to this drought will only compound in severity and prove even harder to solve.




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