Drought Brings Economic and Job Loss in California’s Agricultural Industry

Researchers at the University of California at Davis were commissioned by the state Department of Food and Agriculture to prepare estimates of the economic impacts of the current drought to enable targeting of drought relief efforts. Their preliminary report concludes that losses will reach $1.7 billion and 14,500 full-time and seasonal jobs in the intensively-farmed Central Valley. “…the smaller than expected reduction of water availability, crop acres and employment comes at the expense of the exhaustion of reserve groundwater storage and a substantial increase in groundwater overdraft. There will be substantial long term costs of groundwater overdraft that are not reflected in this study. Furthermore, if another critically dry year occurs in 2015 the socioeconomic impacts will likely be much more severe.” Although the drought will cause hardship for farmers and communities, agriculture accounts for less than 3 percent of the state’s $1.9 trillion a year gross domestic product. Other economic concerns are for forest fires, the fisheries industry, and consumer prices for fruit and vegetables. California has been under a state of emergency since January 2014; its normal dry season begins around May.


Preliminary 2014 Drought Economic Impact Estimates in Central Valley Agriculture is at: https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/Preliminary_2014_drought_economic_impacts-05192014.pdf, with a press release summary at: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10933.

To keep abreast of the hardships and actions relating to California’s drought, go to the government website at: ca.gov/drought.

Job Losses and Bankruptcies Result from California’s Drought

The worst drought in recorded California history will take a severe toll on the regional and American economy, particularly in the agricultural, fishing, tourism, and even energy industries. The drought, which President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have linked to climate change, may result in an $11 billion loss in annual state revenue from agriculture according to the California Farm Water Coalition. Farmers may be forced to fallow up to 500,000 acres of land during this year’s planting season, threatening some with bankruptcy and endangering the livelihoods of the 117,000 Californians who work in farm production, processing and transportaFARMS-1-master675-v3tion. While the wine industry and its associated tourism is suffering, livestock farmers may be taking the hardest hit as parched pasture is replaced with expensive imported feed. In the highly fertile Central Valley jobs directly related to agriculture comprise nearly 40% of employment. Previous droughts have seen unemployment in some towns skyrocket as high as 45%, while the 2011 to 2012 drought took an estimated $50 billion toll on the American economy as a whole.

The availability of hydroelectric power, the state’s cleanest and cheapest energy supply, has also been adversely affected. The state’s salmon population could be severely affected, particularly if legislation from four California and Oregon senators is passed that would allow more water to be diverted to farms. The bill would contradict EPA regulations that protect fish stocks in the Bay-delta estuary. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the regulations themselves sustain thousands of jobs associated with the fishing industry and preserve water quality for regional farmers.

California Governor Jerry Brown has announced $687.4 million in drought relief funding drawn partly from voter-approved bonds and the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Money will go to local governments and agencies for water conservation and efficiency projects, food assistance, and emergency drinking water initiatives for communities facing severe water shortages. President Obama’s response to the drought includes $100 million in federal aid to livestock ranchers, as well as $15 million for areas hit hardest by the drought, and $60 million for California food banks.


California Seeing Brown where Green Used to be” in the New York Times is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/us/california-seeing-brown-where-green-used-to-be.html?_r=0

“Punishing Drought has California Fearing the Worst” article from the Globe and Mail is available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/punishing-drought-has-california-fearing-the-worst/article16650342/

“Drought Forces California Farmers To Idle Cropland” article from Reuters available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/06/usa-drought-california-idUSL2N0LB00U20140206

“California, Orgeon Senators Introduce Drought Relief Legislation” from Senator Feinstein available at: http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=e7668832-d0be-4329-a30f-d1e5e47863aa

“California Drought: Gov. Jerry Brown proposes $687 million Aid Plan” from the San Jose Mercury News is available at: http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_25181590/california-drought-aid-plan-set-687-million-plan

Extreme Climate Events Threaten Australian Agriculture, Cities

A report by Australia’s Climate Commission, released in March 2013, states that “There is little doubt that over the next few decades changes in extreme events will increase the risks of adverse consequences to human health, agriculture, infrastructure and the environment”, with key food-growing regions across the southeast and the southwest, and cities in the southeast especially at risk. The report calls for deep, immediate cuts to carbon emissions as the only way to reverse the trend.   The Climate Commission is an independent advisory group established by the Australian government in 2011 to provide Australians with an independent and reliable source of information about climate change. Read The Critical Decade: Extreme Weather Report at: http://climatecommission.gov.au/report/extreme-weather/.