Grape yields in California may be lower this year due in part to the four-year drought and the state’s incompetent handling of water issues. However, the vineyard business isn’t the only industry suffering in the Golden State. The once vibrant farming industry is steadily being shrunk at ever alarming rates, bringing to question: Is California still America’s breadbasket?
Before those in the Great Plains start having a conniption fit over the term ‘breadbasket’, for a century or more, California has always had the title of the ‘world’s breadbasket’, probably due to the fact so many foods, grown year-round are produced in the nearly 165,000 square miles of its borders. According to California Department of Food and Agriculture, while the state only has 1/20th of the farmland in the United States, it supplies the most products, including dairy, nuts and of course grapes.
Fish = Fallow land
Yet, this great state’s accomplished farm production is waning as huge lots of land acreage go fallow. Although there are many factors involved in how this agricultural powerhouse lost its way, when a bait fish can stop a farmer dead-in-his-tracks, you know there’s something not right.
In the past decade, the delta smelt, used primarily by local fishermen in the San Joaquin Delta for bait to catch other fish, made it’s way into the canals that supply the thousands of farms in the central part of the state where so many crops are grown. The delta smelt and also the Chinook Salmon weren’t comfortable, so to make life better for the fish, life became much worse for the people of the state. You can go here, for more of the insanity regarding the delta smelt. Let’s just say the crazy ways of Sacramento have been very detrimental to human life in the Golden State.
Delta canals distributing water to farms.
The farms of the San Joaquin Valley relied on the water from mountain streams that led into reservoirs and finally the canals. However, with drought, the state felt compelled to stop sending water to the farms, so farmers in-turned, drilled for water. But, they went to the well too often and many of those water wells have dried up. And with it, farmlands have dried up too, looking more like arid deserts, than a vigorous and unique land of plenty.
Lost lands and livelihood
It’s estimated that 5% of California’s farmlands have gone unplanted. Hundreds of millions of dollars – and maybe billions – have been lost due to the financial strain caused by shrinking farm production. A cross section of crops such as orange orchards and rice fields have gone fallow at alarming rates. Lost businesses and jobs are the norm. Drive through the center of the state, and you will see fallow lands everywhere. It’s not pretty.
Climate change folks might bark that this is a direct result of ‘global warming’, but even alarmist experts have backed off any correlation between the weather in California and so-called man-made climate change (source: NBC).
California farmland going fallow quickly.
The southern part of the San Joaquin Valley is being hit the worse. Counties such as Kern, King and Tulare are running out of ground water, some of which was sold to other regions before they new there would be a severe drought. And there lies another problem.
Big city water
The big cities of the state including Los Angeles, have tied up and purchased vast amounts of water from around the state. The Metropolitan Water District in Southern California has control of vast amounts of water. For instance, they purchased large farmlands next to the Colorado River, to ensure water for the millions of people living in the Greater L. A. Area (source: Desert Sun).
The state has ripped the water rights away from farmers all over California. Crops like grapes haven’t been affected too badly yet, but it will be only a matter of time before vineyards start being left abandoned with no irrigation to keep them going.
UC Davis reported in June that the agricultural industry in the state will have an estimated $2.7 billion in losses and about 18,600 job cuts as a result of the drought. Over half-a-million acres have gone fallow in the Golden State, which has left fields looking gold and not green.
Is California Still The World’s Breadbasket? The answer may not be long in coming.
Daryle W. Hier
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