Dry Weather Forecast Calls for Higher Food Prices and Billions in Farm Losses

Third-generation San Joaquin Valley farmer Gary Beene will plant only half his 1,200 acres this year. He doesn’t have enough water for the other half.

“We’re working on survival more than anything else and getting through this year,” said Beene, who farms tomato, almond, cotton and garlic with his sons and grandson on the land his grandfather settled in California in the 1930s after sharecropping in Oklahoma. “It’s pretty discouraging. I’m hoping to steer my grandchildren away from agriculture. It’s sad.”

California Agriculture Takes $1.2-Billion Hit During Drought, Losing 8,700 Farm Jobs, Researchers Find

Severe drought last year caused the California agriculture industry to shrink by an estimated 8,745 jobs and shoulder $1.2 billion in direct costs as water cutbacks forced growers to fallow farmland and pump more groundwater from wells, according to new research.

In a report prepared for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, researchers calculated that reduced water deliveries resulted in 395,000 acres of cropland left dry and unplanted — an area larger than Los Angeles. In estimating the costs, they factored in losses in crop revenue and higher costs for pumping more groundwater.