California’s farm industry kept growing in 2015 despite a fourth year of drought, adding 30,000 jobs even as farmers idled huge swaths of land because of water shortages.
A California lawmaker has proposed a new label for food irrigated with what he calls “fracking water.”
Because of California’s historic drought, the state’s rice crop will be 30 percent below normal –- at 375,000 acres. Experts say the smaller planting will hurt the economy and wildlife that depend on shallow flooded fields.
The losses will be uneven, said Richard Howitt, an agricultural economist at UC Davis and a co-author of the report. Regions with a reliable supply of groundwater will do best. He cited Tulare, Kings and Kern counties as areas with poor groundwater supplies that could struggle this year.
Even as many farmers cut back their planting, California’s farm economy overall has been surprisingly resilient. Farm employment increased by more than 1 percent last year. Gross farm revenue from crop production actually increased by two-tenths of 1 percent last year, to $33.09 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The revenue figures don’t take into account animal agriculture, such as beef and dairy production.
““We’re on the cusp of evolutionary change related to pensions. What we’re seeing is a clear indicator that courts are willing to treat pension beneficiaries as ahead of creditors,” says Thomas McLoughlin, head of municipal fixed income at UBS Wealth Management Americas. High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9f5e7590-fec6-11e4-94c8-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz3b5ipxnKs ”That will transform the risk parameters for municipal finance. For years muni analysts looked at idiosyncratic credit risk, but now we are looking at a systemic risk related to pensions. It’s a really important trend we have to incorporate into our analysis. We have to focus far more on this in the future.””
Despite the drought, the number of workers employed in California’s agricultural industry rose to its highest level in at least 24 years, as many farmers shifted toward labor-intensive, permanent crops, according to the latest state and federal statistics.
State Water Resources Control Board officials said Monday that they expect to issue “curtailment orders” soon to the state’s most senior water rights holders, effectively shutting off the flow of river water to some of the major agricultural districts in California.
“Between 1993 and 2006—normal years for precipitation—Central Valley Project allocations averaged 75% for farmers and 94% for urban users south of the Delta. (Those in the north get more in part because they aren’t affected by pumping restrictions.) During the subsequent three-year drought, agriculture was cut to 33% and cities 70% on average. Since 2012 agriculture has averaged 15% and cities 55%. Supplies for wildlife refuges were only recently curbed to 75% this year. Farmers are getting zip. . . . Farmers have adapted to this undeclared water rationing in part by fallowing land. Between 1992 and 2012, about 900,000 acres of land was removed from production, according to the USDA. More than 500,000 acres have since been fallowed. One result is double-digit unemployment across the Central Valley—11.8% in Tulare, 13.1% in Fresno, 13.2% in Merced and 14.4% in Porterville.”
“We’re in a world of hurt,” said Daniel Sumner, an agricultural economist, forecasting a fallowing of up to 1 million acres of irrigated farmland this year, twice as much as last year.
The announcement came from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates a system of reservoirs and canals that make up the Central Valley Project. It mirrors a similar announcement last year that led to hundreds of thousands of farm acres being fallowed.
You can debate what’s causing gridlock at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach; The dockworkers’ union blames the shipping companies, and the shippers blame the dockworkers. But this much is for sure: increasing delays in moving cargo are getting costly for California exporters, especially for growers, which are experiencing the worst delays they have seen in 13 years.
California is one of just a handful of states currently not included in the FMMO. In recent years, dairy farmers in Idaho also have been lobbying to be included under the federal marketing order. But dairymen in that state have yet to petition the USDA.
The state is arguing it has the right to impose a contract on a group of Fresno-area farm workers — but the workers have no right to even attend the hearings in which that contract is hammered out. This is one “Alice in Wonderland” scenario in a slow moving and bureaucratic labor battle that pits workers against a union.
The majority of hired farmworkers in the U.S., estimated at around 1 million, are Mexican, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In California, Mexican migrants account for 90% of hired workers, according to independent estimates. But the pool of Mexican agricultural workers is steadily declining, with no indication that it will be reversed, according to J. Edward Taylor, professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis.