Capitol Corridor
Capitol Corridor
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University of California
Capitol Corridor

Lack of water is killing Kern County ag

The Bakersfield Californian reported that it isn't just the listless economy ravaging Kern County agriculture. The industry's woes are pinned on water.

Reporter Courtenay Edelhart spoke to the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, Dan Sumner, about the national economic downturn's impact on ag. With the exception of the dairy industry, Sumner said, agriculture prices haven't been that bad over the past year.

The state of California has, however, suffered three years of drought - with implications that even last month's series of storms cannot reverse. The Bakersfield area had 5.10 inches of rain between July 2008 and June 2009, and only 2.38 inches during the same period a year earlier, the article said.

But even more significantly, recent court and government actions regarding water allocations are not satisfying southern San Joaquin Valley agriculture's thirst.

  • In 2008, a federal judge restricted pumping into agricultural canals from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect Delta smelt
  • The California Department of Water Resources said it will only be able to deliver 5 percent of requested State Water Project water this year to the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Southern California, although that figure may be updated next month
  • The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation allowed only a 10 percent allocation for agriculture south of the delta.

The result: 40,000 acres of Kern County farmland aren't being farmed and, in December 2009, Kern County had 1,400 fewer farm jobs compared with December 2008.

Irrigating young cotton.
Irrigating young cotton.

Posted on Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 9:42 AM
Tags: Dan Sumner (33), economy (21), irrigation (23), Kern County (2), water (84)

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