Posts Tagged: Jay Lund
If a drought in California stretched on for 72 years, it wouldn't be a complete disaster, reported Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times. According to computer modeling research by a group of UC and CSU scientists, the California economy would not collapse and agriculture would shrink, but not disappear.
"The results were surprising," said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. "California has a remarkable ability to weather extreme and prolonged droughts from an economic perspective."
Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, said the state's 8 million acres of irrigated cropland could be cut in half. Farmers would grow less "low-value crops" like cotton and alfalfa and use reduced water supplies for growing fruits, nuts and vegetables.
Land that had been farmed would revert to scrub or be dry-farmed with wheat or other crops that were common before the federal government built a system to channel water to the valley.
"In a sense, we move back to the future," Sumner said.
Some farm communities would turn into ghost towns, the article said. "For a while, poor people would get a lot poorer throughout the Central Valley," Sumner said. "Then they'd move."
Los Angeles Times. Total statewide economic cost of the drought was calculated to be $2.2 billion.
The story was based on a report released Tuesday by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. The 2014 drought, the report says, is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture - about one third less than normal.
A key concern is the loss of agricultural jobs, said lead author Richard Howitt at a press conference about the report. "What really hurts is you are also losing 17,000 jobs," Howitt said. "(These jobs) are from a sector that has the least ability to roll with the punches."
Consumer food prices will be largely unaffected. Higher prices at the grocery store of high-value California crops like nuts, wine grapes and dairy foods are driven more by market demand than by the drought.
The report calls the groundwater situation in California "a slow-moving train wreck."
“California's agricultural economy overall is doing remarkably well, thanks mostly to groundwater reserves,” said Jay Lund, a co-author of the study and director of the Center for Watershed Sciences. “But we expect substantial local and regional economic and employment impacts. We need to treat that groundwater well so it will be there for future droughts.”
California is currently the only Western state without a framework for groundwater management.
The UC Davis news team has provided these resources about the new drought report:
- Read the full report.
- Watch the recorded webcast of report press briefing.
- Download photos
- Download audio sound bites from lead author.
The report says the Central Valley is hardest hit, particularly the Tulare Basin, with projected losses of $810 million, or 2.3 percent, in crop revenue; $203 million in dairy and livestock value; and $453 million in additional well-pumping costs.
Drought impacts being felt
The ongoing drought has contributed to declines in Fresno County crop values, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee. Fresno County's overall gross value fell 2.2 percent to $6.4 billion in 2013, and with the reduction lost its bragging rights as the No. 1 ag county in California. Tulare County took the No. 1 spot with a record $7.8 billion in ag value, riding on robust dairy prices.
Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner Les Wright said the drought -- one of the worst in state history -- has pinched the production of several west side field crops including cotton, corn silage and barley. The field crop category fell by 42 percent.
Reporters sought UC Cooperative Extension expertise for recent articles about unusual farming efforts in two parts of California.
Fresno Bee reporter Robert Rodriguez covered the story of sisters in their early 20s who have settled on their dad's Laton alfalfa farm after he suffered complications from a black widow bite. The young women purchased chickens on a whim and began producing specialty eggs under the brand name "Just Got Laid."
Rodriguez spoke to Shermain Hardesty, UCCE specialist in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Davis, about trends in cottage farming.
"The timing is right for operators who can make a connection with consumers," Hardesty said. "People will support that."
Sacramento Bee reporter Edward Ortiz wrote about a return to dry-land farming in the Central Valley, with examples of farmers opting out of irrigation in producing particularly tasty apricots, wine grapes and tomatoes.
UC experts, however, commented on the difficulties associated with dry-land production in the valley.
"Dry farming would be a hard life because you're at the whim of the rains," said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. "It would have to be a fairly small-scale farm, and in some cases, it would be a good road to poverty."
Duncan said wine grape growers might withhold irrigation early in the growing season to control leaf growth and improve fruit quality, but water is still needed later on. He noted that the valley in the 19th century was widely planted with wheat that relied on rainfall. The boom ended when irrigation allowed diverse fruits, vegetables and other crops to be grown.