NASA Study: California Drought Doubles Idle Farmland Acres

Oct 29, 2015

Farmers in California's Central Valley have left more than one million acres of agricultural land idle all year long. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, that’s more than double the amount before the drought.

Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Fresno Tuesday singing the praises of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership and its potential positive impact on farms in the valley. 

Secretary Vilsack visit was to highlight the potential benefits of opening foreign markets to local agricultural products.

Vilsack says the TPP not only opens up the market for valley farmers by lowering foreign trade restrictions, build access to millions of new consumers, and level the playing field to make US produce more competitive.

Westlands Water District website

The Westlands Water District has reached an agreement with the federal government in a decades-long dispute over who is responsible for water runoff from westside growers’ fields. In the deal, Westlands will assume responsibility for managing the wastewater, which is often laced with toxic chemicals like selenium from the soil. Westlands will also agree to retire at least 100,000 acres of farmland. The water district estimates that a federally-run cleanup plan would have cost the government around $3.5 billion. It’s unclear how much the district will spend on the drainage solution.  

California Drought: NASA Says Land Sinking Faster In San Joaquin Valley

Aug 19, 2015

A new report from NASA shows the San Joaquin Valley is sinking much faster than ever before. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

With reduced surface water available because of the drought, more groundwater is pumped.

As the underground aquifers are tapped, land surfaces sink. 

While subsidence in California isn't new, the report from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the rate has accelerated.

Drought Causing $2.7 Billion Economic Hit To California

Aug 18, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A new UC Davis study projects the fourth year of drought in California will cost the overall economy two-point-seven billion dollars. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the study’s authors say agriculture remains remarkably resilient despite the drought.

The report finds the agricultural sector will be hit hardest by the drought, losing nearly two billion dollars and more than 10,000 jobs. Farmers will also take 500,000 acres out of production this year. But the report finds agriculture is still fairly robust. 

Funding Targets Farmworkers Hurt By The Drought

Jul 27, 2015
CA Dept of Water Resources

New state and federal funding will provide relief for farmworkers hurt by California's drought. The US Department of Labor is providing 18 million dollars, and the state is providing 7.5 million dollars. Lesley McClurg in Sacramento has more.

An estimated 18,000 people have lost their jobs because of the drought -- most of them in the Central Valley.

Marco Lizarrga: "What we call the ground zero of the drought. Mendotta and Firebaugh and those little farm towns that are the sources of the cantaloupes and the sources of other products have been heavily impacted."

Office of Rep. David Valadao

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Western Water and American Food Security Act, which promises to bring more water to valley farmers. Written by Hanford Republican David Valadao, and co-sponsored by Fresno Democratic Rep. Jim Costa, the bill would change the way the government manages water in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and threatened species. It would also make major changes to the plan to restore the San Joaquin River. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A bill that aims to deliver more water to San Joaquin Valley farms has passed the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

The Western Water and American Food Security Act would change the way the government manages both water in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and threatened species. Supporters say it would allow more water to be captured from early season storms, while still protecting the environment.

Valley Republican David Valadao authored the bill. He says existing regulations not only hurt farmers, they also aren't helping fish.

Apps Help Farmers With Efficiency During The Drought

Jul 16, 2015

More and more California growers are using smartphone apps to streamline their farming operations. Capital Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg has more.  

Anne Burkholder is a soil scientist. She's standing in an alfalfa field in Davis that has an unusual large dead patch in the middle of it.

Burkholder: “Basically the alfalfa is maybe five inches tall, and it's really yellow right here where we’re walking, it’s crunchy and yellow, you can kind of even hear it.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

With immigration reform efforts seemingly stalled in Washington D.C., the California legislature is taking its own steps to address the undocumented immigrants who call the state home. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports on one new bill that would give state work permits to agricultural workers.

The bill introduced by assembly member Luis Alejo hopes to give undocumented workers the chance to work legally in California’s agricultural industry. According to Alejo, as much as 75 percent of the industry’s workforce is undocumented.