‘It’s a disaster.’ Drought dramatically shrinking California farmland, costing $1.7 billion in lost crop revenue.
On the day California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that over 100,000 acres of farmland would be lost to drought across the state, the United States Department of Agriculture confirmed the drought had officially become the longest in California’s recorded history. By the end of the week, 60,000 acres of farmland on average would have to be permanently lost due to the drought.
The new drought is costing the state an estimated $1.7 billion in lost crop revenue, and if left unaddressed, it could cost between $10 billion and $12 billion a year in lost farm income, according to a study by the Center for Watershed Studies at California Polytechnic State University. This is the worst drought California has seen since the 1930s, and is the most expensive drought on record.
As the drought intensified, the farmers of San Joaquin Valley, the heart of the agricultural sector in California, were forced to abandon their fields. Farmers in the Central Valley, home to the nation’s largest concentration of farms, have lost more than 10,000 acres of crops, and are forced to give up more than $200 million in annual production.
In the Sacramento area, the cost of the losses has been estimated at $40 million, which is equal to the annual budget of the Sacramento City Unified School District. In California, the Central Valley is home to around 60,000 farms. It is a major destination for dairy and wine production, as well as a major source of fresh fruits and vegetables.
In late June, the state Department of Water Resources started the Drought Task Force to develop and implement a plan of action to alleviate the damage to the state’s agricultural industry.
In the Sacramento region, which is the state’s largest agricultural producer, many farms have lost 40 to 50 percent of their production due to the drought and a lack of water and power supplies. However, in the Central Valley, farmers are dealing with water shortages that could last six to nine months.