A new study by the University of California Davis Center for Watershed Sciences finds that the worst drought in state history could cost the agricultural industry $1.7 billion this year and eliminate 14,500 jobs in the farming sector of the economy. The California Department of Food and Agriculture requested the preliminary study, which used computer models, water delivery figures and groundwater pumping capacities to show that farmers in the Central Valley would get one-third less irrigated water this year.
“We wanted to provide a foundation for state agricultural and water policymakers to understand the impacts of the drought on farmers and farm communities,” said lead author Richard Howitt, a UC Davis professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics.
The Central Valley is known as “America’s food basket” and is the richest food-producing region in the world. The seven million acres of irrigated farmland grows much of the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts. Due to the drought, 410,00 acres, or six percent of irrigated cropland, will lie fallow and groundwater pumping will cost $450 million.
With recent wildfires raging across the state and no end in sight for California’s driest period in more than 400 years, Governor Jerry Brown has joined President Barack Obama in pointing the finger squarely at man-made global warming as the cause of the drought that has caused a water crisis and turned the state into a tinderbox.
“We have to adapt because the climate is changing,” Brown said in a speech to the scientific community in Sacramento. “Now there’s no doubt that the evidence has been strong for quite a while, and it is getting even stronger.”
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