Monday, February 10, 2014

Drought May Bankrupt California Farmers

Washington Post:
Without help from the heavens, Joe Del Bosque figures that 2014 will be the last year before many family farmers in California’s vast San Joaquin Valley begin to go bankrupt.
And 2014 is going to be bad. Really bad. Del Bosque has 2,000 acres scattered across several farms west of Fresno, near Firebaugh. He will leave 500 to 700 acres unplanted because there is no water for his crops.
That’s about 650,000 boxes of cantaloupe, regular and organic, he won’t be harvesting come July — about $3 million worth of produce, he estimated. It’s a few hundred workers, most of them migrants, he won’t be hiring. It’s money that won’t be spent in grocery and hardware stores in small towns across the region that produces half of the country’s homegrown fruits and vegetables. It’s a lot of schools with empty seats as farm workers looking for jobs move on with their families.
“Everybody will be hurt,” Del Bosque said. “When farmers idle land, the people who have small businesses in small communities . . . they’ll all suffer. It’s a huge ripple effect through the whole valley.”
California is entering its third year of drought, a recurring nightmare for those old enough to remember the prolonged dry period of 1987 to 1991 and the disaster of 1976 and 1977, the previous record-setting drought.
Now, 2013 is the driest year on record in California.
I really can't fathom a drought like that.  Then again, I can't imagine farming in a freaking desert, either.  One notable item is that the previous worst drought, in 1977, was also one of the coldest winters here in Ohio prior to this one.  It is interesting to me how continental weather patterns cause the same effects in the same places each occurrence, like this polar vortex we are getting causes the high pressure systems to be trapped out on the coast, preventing rain and snow there.  But I still can't imagine how dry it is out there.

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