According to a study prepared for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, severe droughts in California, America’s major agricultural state, have led to farm income losses of at least $3 billion over the past two years.
The research found that surface water deliveries in the Central Valley as a whole were reduced by up to 43% in 2021 and 2022, forcing California farmers to leave more than 1.3 million acres unplanted, the most unused area in recent memory.
The Central Valley, home to nearly a quarter of all planted food in the United States, including 40% of fruits and nuts, would have borne the brunt of it so far, with vines and vegetables being the main source of loss of income.
“Short-term strategic land idling was the most common crop decision adaptation in this drought,” read the report. “Some crops such as rice and other field and cereal crops showed significant idling,” while the production of beef and milk was “lower than they would have been.”
According to the report, some 70% of irrigated land in the Colorado River Basin is used to grow livestock feed, and drought inevitably drives up the prices of these crops.
The situation could get even worse, as agricultural areas in the south of the state that rely on water from a declining Colorado River are expected to see more fallows in 2023, according to University professor Josue Medellin-Azuara. of California at Merced who led the analysis cited by Bloomberg. .
A study published earlier this year by the journal National Climate Change found that the southwestern United States suffered its driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years. Lake Mead is fed by the Colorado River, and its supplies are strained by overexploitation, even under normal weather conditions.
Last year, the US federal government declared an unprecedented water shortage in Lake Mead and the lower Colorado River basin, warning of supply cuts. A Colorado River Pact signed in 1922 governs water management affecting seven states – California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
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