2015 California Drought

California’s on-going battle with water usage during this time of extreme drought is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  There will be a major impact to all agriculture sectors including fruit, vegetables, tree nuts and dairy.  The price for these products will not only see an increase this year but also for many years beyond 2015.

More than 4,000 people, businesses, & governments hold pre-1914 water rights.  This protects rights holders from having to follow water diversion orders until it is deemed absolutely necessary.  Junior rights holders received notices on May 1st ordering them to discontinue diverting water from rivers.  Senior holders, mostly agriculture districts, are expected to have their rights revoked within weeks.  This would be the first time these holders have had their rights withdrawn since 1970.  The timing of this retraction will depend on minute-to-minute supply and demand of water.  One bright spot for farmers is that this only affects surface water.  Unfortunately, within the next few years, a new groundwater regulation law will curtail farmer’s ability to pump without limits.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency has many assistance programs currently in place for farmers and ranchers in California including: Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), Livestock Forage Program (LFP), Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, & Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP), Emergency Farm Loans, Disaster Set-Aside Program, Emergency Haying and Grazing of Conservation Reserve Program Acreage (CRP).

Regrettably, farmers statewide are still expected to fallow several hundred thousand acres of land in 2015.  This will be comparable to the 420,000 acres or 5% of total acres that were idled in 2014.  One irrigation district, Glenn-Colusa, expects to take ½ of their total acres, 33,000, out of production this year.

This map of the United States shows how hard the west is being hit with drought conditions.

All above information was found on the USDA Drought and Disaster website.