Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Drought news dominates the headlines

Production rates for thirsty crops like alfalfa and cotton have already diminished significantly in the last few years. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The historical California drought of 2013-14 continues to dominate the news, and reporters are turning to the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources sources for analysis and commentary.

NBC News spoke to Doug Parker, director of the California Institute of Water Resources, about drought implications already being felt in the California agricultural sector.

He said an estimated 500,000 acres of farmland sits unplanted due to water shortages, a number that could nearly double if the drought extends into 2015.

"In the long term, it could change some of the cropping patterns in California, especially for the animal industry," Parker told NBC, explaining that the economics of raising and tending livestock hinges on locally grown feed. "Without water to grow it, you really end up just having to sell off animals." Much of the state's beef cattle, for example, roam unirrigated rangelands that are parched.

Parker was also quoted in a drought story by Aljazeera America, which focused on Gov. Brown's $687 million emergency drought plan.

“I think it's a good first start,” Parker said. “But I don't think this will be the end of it.”

Gov. Brown's proposal doesn't provide funding for long-term solutions to California's water problems, but it could provide much-needed immediate assistance to many of the driest communities. 

Capital Press spoke to Alan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Tehama, Colusa, Glen and Shasta counties, about the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's dire 2014 surface water allocation plan. He said most farmers will rely on groundwater to get through the season.

"The main thing that will happen is just improving their wells and making sure they're operable,” Fulton said. “They're trying to manage through the drought with hopes of a wet year next year.”

Mother Jones featured a drought story rich with infographics outlining the surprising amount of water required to grow common food crops and the amount of water used per person per day in California communities. The article includes commentary from Jay Lund, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis, about the future of agriculture in the Golden State.

Lund said the state's current water problems mean agriculture may soon play a less important role in California's economy, as the business of growing food moves to the South and the Midwest, where water is less expensive. Production rates for thirsty crops like alfalfa and cotton have already diminished significantly in the last few years, Lund said. Between 2006 and 2010 alone, the amount of land irrigated for cotton fell by 46 percent.

Posted on Monday, February 24, 2014 at 10:10 AM

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