California Drought Leaves Over 531,000 Acres Barren, Experts Issue Warning About Key Crops

by Sean Griffin

California’s mega-drought has lasted years, and new reports indicate it’s left more than 531,000 acres of the state’s farmland unplanted. US Department of Agriculture and other agriculture experts warn that supplies of key crops could become scarce during next year’s harvest.

Some of the indispensable crops include wheat, cotton, rice, and alfalfa. Officials state the shortage would be caused by dwindling water levels due to the drought. The drought has raged on for three years.

The amount of unplanted land in the state increased 36%, a stark reminder of the drought’s growing power.

The roughly 70,000 farmers in the state keep getting set back by inflation, drought, and supply-chain issues in recent years. They just can’t catch a break.

The new estimates on the lack of acres farmed from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlight how these farmers struggle to maintain proper irrigation systems during the drought.

Meanwhile, the state’s two largest reservoirs currently sit at historically low levels. This indicates that California and much of the American West is in for a brutal end to a long, dry summer.

“It’s true that things are not great now,” Aaron Smith, professor of agricultural economics at UC Davis, told The San Francisco Chronicle Monday.

He added that crops most likely to be affected by the prevailing water shortages are water-intensive field crops. Therefore, crops like rice and cotton will be most affected, as they have in the past few years.

The Daily Mail provides photos of record-low water levels at Lake Mead and other shocking pics.

Unprecedented California Drought Taking Toll on Farmers

State and federal efforts to supply the farmers with water haven’t worked so far. Federal officials need massive amounts of water to put out the raging forest fires in the state.

The USDA’s analysis of the current, sad state of California’s farmland depicts three different categories of unplanted land. First, fallow land encompasses cropland in dry regions left unplanted to rehabilitate the soil. Prevented land encompasses land left unplanted because of natural disasters and recorded for crop insurance purposes. Idle land encompasses all other unplanted land. However, prevented land now makes up the vast majority of unplanted acres in California.

Many of this land has been ravaged by drought and wildfire over the last decade.

However, the number of prevented acres in the state more than doubled from 2021 to 2022, from 188,800 to a whopping 384,200.

Those estimates are based on reports provided to the federal government by farmers. Experts believe these results likely undersell the real depth and scale of the issue.

“When we look at the drought’s impact on agriculture, it’s not only the producers, the farmers that are impacted,” Navdeep Dhillon, farm program chief for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s California office, told the Chronicle.

By producers, Dhillon refers to the thousands of processing and distribution centers, harvesters, drivers, and other workers who participate in the cycle of getting the food to your table.

However, hopefully the situation improves for California farmers and the people of the state.