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California Farm Water Coalition

 A University of California, Davis economic study that estimates a $1.67 billion loss to agriculture and ag-related industries in the Central Valley will result in a $3.4 billion hit to the state’s economy, based on widely used economic models. The negative effects of the ongoing drought on our farms will create a ripple effect throughout all segments of California.

Researchers are estimating that 400,000 acres will remain unplanted but added that the numbers will be revised in an updated report expected next month. Earlier surveys conducted by the Coalition doubled that amount of unplanted acreage but recent increases in water deliveries by State and federal projects, along with an increase in pumping from aquifers, have resulted in the lower number.

This is good news for some farmers as well as consumers that the increased water supply since earlier this year will result in more acres being planted than originally estimated. It still means that almost 15,000 workers will lose their jobs, a unavoidable impact from the drought.

Consumers can expect food price increases within the expected range normally seen from year-to-year, according to the report. Over 75 percent of the surface water lost due to the drought has been replaced by groundwater pumping, a practice that cannot continue indefinitely. Unless a long-term solution to California’s water supply is developed, including new surface storage, the flexibility brought about by groundwater pumping will be lost, increasing the likelihood that consumer price protections won’t exist in the future.

An increasing concern is the number of citrus trees that are now being removed from the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. Talks by the Coalition with individual water districts indicate that 4,000 acres of mature citrus trees are being removed and that number could go up. Current deliveries from Friant Dam to farmers in a 130-mile swath from Chowchilla to Bakersfield remain at zero.

Farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are also at zero percent for their Central Valley Project deliveries. The result has forced water districts to seek transfers of water that come with a price tag that is as high as 10 times the normal cost farmers pay for their water.

Mayor Sylvia Chavez of the Westside community of Huron expects only 1,500 workers will be employed by surrounding farms, which normally hire as many as 6,000 seasonal workers. Chavez predicts that people will lose their homes and move away, which will further affect Huron’s business community that has already declined by 10-20 percent.

The drop in water deliveries to farmers in the Sacramento Valley in Northern California is expected to result in one in five acres planted to rice last year will be out of production. This loss of 112,000 acres means ag-related industries such as Button Transportation in Dixon won’t have positions for more than two dozen drivers to haul fertilizer to rice fields. That means less in the way of diesel fuel and oil purchases, fewer parts purchased from the local automotive parts dealer, fewer tires, etc.

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