Daley on the drought

Jan 24, 2014

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent declaration of a drought emergency in the Golden State underscores the gravity of what the extreme water shortage portends for the state’s massive agriculture industry, in addition to virtually all sectors of society, a California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) officer warns.

“It is as dramatic and scary and depressing as I’ve ever seen. This is a challenging time,” says Dave Daley, a CCA second Vice President and an instructor at the University of California, Chico. “It’s a little frightening.”

Describing himself as a middle-aged rancher, Daley says California’s worst drought on record has meant an extremely dry winter, which is typically wet, meaning surface water will not be available this year, deep wells may go dry and reservoirs are dangerously low. Also, as a result, hay prices are “astronomical,” he laments, saying this drought may eclipse the terrible one of the 1970s.

California ranchers will be forced to resort to “heavy culling; in some cases, liquidation,” Daley expects.

Mountain snowpack is almost nonexistent.

California’s $45 billion agriculture industry easily leads the nation, with Texas and Iowa a distant second and third. More than 400 crops are grown in California, but irrigation districts are warning of severe water cutbacks by as much as 50 percent or 95 percent, he says.

California produces 99 percent of the nation’s artichokes; 44 percent of its asparagus; 20 percent of its cabbage; two-thirds of its carrots; half of its bell peppers; 89 percent of its cauliflower; 94 percent of its broccoli; 95 percent of its celery; 90 percent of its leaf lettuce; 83 percent of its Romaine lettuce; 83 percent of its fresh spinach; a third of its total fresh tomatoes; 86 percent of its lemons, 25 percent of its oranges; 90 percent of its avocados; 84 percent of its peaches; 88 percent of its fresh strawberries; and 97 percent of its fresh plums. — Mark Mendiola, WLJ correspondent