07/13/2021 | News release | Archived content
Last winter's La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific left California with less rainfall and moisture than normal or needed.
Many farmers saw the impending water shortage and drought conditions as good reason to opt out of planting for the this season.
The current drought is on pace to be one of the worst ever on record. California, home to about 70,000farms and ranches, with a combined AGproduction of about $50billion a year, is suffering severe consequences.
The dairy industry accounts for the largest chunk of the state's agricultural revenue, followed by almonds and then grapes.
The State Department of Water Resources and the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, declared that 'the Water Year 2021is currently the driest on record since 1977'.
Drought conditions intensify long-standing water allocation conflicts among farmers, municipalities and environmental advocates. Even in years when the state has had good rainfall and snowpack levels, California has never had enough water to satisfy all demands.
Climate change has shifted rain patterns and increased temperatures across the planet. Record-setting temperatures in June were an early start to a very long, hot summer.
A limited growing season and low crop yields are just the beginning. Low crop yields can result in rising food costs, and food shortages.
The severe conditions encourage insect infestation and crop disease.
Currently, American farmers are facing a large-scale grasshopper population. They are attacking crops and eating their way through profits. Drought years provide ideal conditions for grasshopper eggs to hatch and survive into adulthood.
The USDAis engaged in a massive spraying program to eradicate the grasshoppers. Meanwhile, organic farmers in the same regions are fighting to protect their OGcertification due to the spraying program.
Drought also affects the health of livestock raised for food. Dairy cows are reluctant to produce milk during extreme temperatures and heat waves.
Wildfires rage through the landscapes out west. Due to weather-related incidents or manmade management, the fire season is nearly year-round, instead of just a few months.
The crippling heat is a long-term climate issue, one that requires serious long-range goals. Likely, legislation is required to double down on conservation efforts, more Farm Bill funding and research to navigate the tough decisions ahead.
Future generations depend on a robust and resilient food supply and local farms.