‘It’s a disaster.’ Drought dramatically shrinking California farmland, costing $1.7 billion a year.
In the last 18 months, two major U.S. agricultural regions, California and Texas, have lost a combined 24 million acres of farmland to drought and desertification. That represents a 75 percent decline in the state’s available arable land in just two years.
The California Department of Water Resources, which reported the results of its latest aerial survey, expects the number of water-stressed farms to increase nearly threefold to approximately 13,000 by September. That figure is only an estimate. The report notes that even a conservative estimate of 6,000 farms in the area could still be impacted, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.
“This is devastating,” said Tom Bocock, California director of the United States Drought Monitor. “We’re talking about 25 million acres in California alone, which is much larger than the continental United States, and that’s just the irrigated acres in California.”
By November, it appeared that all but the most resilient farms were heading for disaster.
State officials said irrigated land is worth about $10 billion a year, and that the losses will translate into a loss of over $900 million in economic output in just the first three months of this year. The losses could be substantially more, according to a new analysis from the state Department of Water Resources, or DWR, which expects a loss of more than $1 billion in economic output over the first quarter.
By some estimates, the costs of the drought so far already exceed the $60 billion that it is projected to cost overall agriculture to meet the most severe drought projections of the federal government, as part of the nation’s efforts to combat climate change.
Drought is happening in other parts of the country as well. In June, an emergency proclamation declared a drought in portions of the South that has affected over 2.5 million acres of the Southeast’s corn, soy, and cotton production.
In a drought-parched field on