Thursday, November 15, 2007

Agricultural Adaptation in the Central Valley

California's semi-arid Central Valley is one of the great garden regions of the world, but its fertility depends almost entirely on water transported over distance to irrigate its fields, vinyards and orchards. In recent decades, many farmers have converted acreage from annually-planted field crops to permanent crops such as nuts and grapes. But as this L.A. Times story describes, the current drought and changes in state water allocations is forcing many farmers to consider reversing the process. The impact will first hit the farmers themselves, forcing them to adapt their businesses to a more uncertain future water supply. But in the short run, it doesn't seem that consumers will need to adjust to shortages or higher prices. There are still fruits and vegetables being produced in Central and South America.

"My water manager calls it an impending Armageddon, and I would probably agree with that," said Bob Polito, who grows avocados in Valley Center in San Diego County.

California farmers probably will take 82,000 acres out of cultivation next year if the state gets an average amount of rain and snow this winter, according to a study commissioned by Western Growers, which represents the California and Arizona produce industries.

The economic loss would reach at least $69 million in farm production, according to the study.

Prices for consumers probably wouldn't change because cuts in supply could be replaced by imports. But the state's overall agricultural output would be affected, said Chris Scheuring, a lawyer with the California Farm Bureau Federation's natural resources and environmental division.

1 comment:

Max Kaehn said...

Last time I checked (some years ago), water was so heavily subsidized for farmers in California that it wasn't economically viable for them to switch to drip irrigation. I wonder if this will prompt such a shift?