California farm drought crisis deepensBy Andria Cheng, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- In a move that will likely signal higher food prices nationally, a federal agency says
California's drought-stricken Central Valley -- hundreds of thousands of acres of the most productive farmland in the
U.S. -- won't get any irrigation water this summer.
Friday's announcement by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation follows an earlier warning of no irrigation deliveries from
the California State Water Project and leaves Central Valley farms and cities with only wells and stored water to get
through the worst drought since the state began keeping records in the 1800s.
Statewide, some 8 million acres of farmland rely on federal or state irrigation water.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency following reports that the water content of snow in
Northern California'sSierra Nevada, whose spring runoff is stored in reservoirs and moved by canals to other areas of
the state, stands at 29% of normal.
"This low allocation is yet another indicator of the impacts the severe drought is having on California communities,
agriculture, businesses, power, and the environment," said Michael Connor, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation. "We will monitor the hydrology as the water year progresses and continue to look for opportunities to
exercise operational flexibility in future allocations."
The announcement is significant because California is the largest U.S. agriculture producer. According to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's most recent California Agricultural Statistics for the 2012 crop year, the state remains the
leading state in cash farm receipts, with more than 350 commodities representing $44.7 billion, or 11% of the U.S.
total, in 2012. Over a third of the U.S.'s vegetables and almost two-thirds of its fruits and nuts were produced in
California, the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service said in a report.
Milk, grapes, almonds, strawberries, lettuce and tomatoes are among the state's top-10 valued commodities,
California'sDepartment of Food & Agriculture said.
The Central Valley represents about a third of the state's agricultural land. The agency's announcement follows a 2013
growing season where the farmers there received only 20% of their normal allocations.
The federal agency's announcement will particularly affect San Joaquin Valley farmers who are last in line to receive
federal water, San Jose Mercury News reported, adding that many farmers will have to pump already overtaxed wells or
leave fields fallow this year. Farmers will leave 500,000 acres of fallow this year, the paper quoted Mike Wade,
executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, as saying.
Bloomberg News reported the state has identified 10 rural towns with fewer than 100 days of water supply remaining.
Retail prices for tomatoes rose 10% in the 12 months through Jan. 31, and U.S. retail prices for beef, bacon, lettuce
and broccoli have also risen at least 10% last year, even as total food inflation inched up just 1.4%, Bloomberg
reported, citing government data.
-Andria Cheng; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
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