California: Growers hit by drought are changing planting plans

Farmers across California say they expect to receive little water from state and federal agencies that regulate the state's reservoirs and canals, leading many to leave fields barren, plant more drought-tolerant crops or seek new income sources all-together.

Of course, agriculture is an important part of California's economy and the state is a top producer of vegetables, berries and nuts. The last major drought from 2012 to 2017 reduced irrigation supplies to farmers, forced strict household conservation measures and stoked deadly wildfires. California farmers are allocated water from the state based on seniority and need, but farmers say water needs of cities and environmental restrictions reduce agricultural access.

Nearly 40% of California's 24.6 million acres of farmland are irrigated, with crops like almonds and grapes in some regions needing more water to thrive.

"I'm going to be reducing some of our almond acreage. I may be increasing some of our row crops, like tomatoes," Stuart Woolf, who operates 30,000 acres, most of it in Western Fresno County, told reuters.com. He may fallow 30% of his land.

New dams face environmental restrictions meant to protect endangered fish and other wildlife, and don't solve near-term water needs, said Ernest Conant, regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation, California-Great Basin region, the federal agency that oversees dams, canals and water allocations in the Western United States.

"We simply don't have enough water to supply our agricultural users," said Conant. "We're hopeful some water can be moved sooner than October, but there's no guarantees."


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