By Milagros Aredo, ALC San Francisco
Seasonal droughts in California have become more frequent and severe in recent years. However, what California is experiencing right now has everyone who is involved in agriculture concerned. California is the largest grower of US fresh produce.
There are over 69,000 California farms and ranches that are being affected that supply over a third of U.S. vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits. To keep up with demand, these farmers rely heavily on their regional water availability which is a huge challenge today. In the farming valleys of California, an ongoing drought is impacting both the production and price of the crops. With scarce water, farmers are being forced to rip out their trees and produce early because of drylands and high temperatures. This is a tough business decision for them because it affects their seasonal production and becomes more costly to replant and regrow.
For example, California almonds harvesting accounts for about 80% of global production. Almonds require more water to thrive on and if they lack moisture a 25-year investment can be ripped from the ground. To keep their farms from ruins, growers are searching more for underground water resources.
They are drilling depths of 1000 feet for water to sustain thirsty citrus, fruits, and pistachios which adds costs and takes away farmland from production. They’re also exploring other possibilities such as dry-farming techniques that rely less on water. Farmers are stuck between scaling back and prioritizing growing low value vs high-value crops and how much of them should be planted.
To produce as much as possible, farmers are planting crops closer together in an attempt to make the root structure denser and keep moisture in the soil. They also focus on crops that require less water. Tree crops like avocados that are highly water-intensive have gone up by 10% in retail price from last year. The water crisis is causing a short food supply in retail.
Certain commodities at grocery stores are lightly stocked to empty and shoppers are seeing inflation on prices because of this. Vendors are shifting where they grow and sell things to help increase production to keep the commodities affordable and readily available. Having no control over the weather, growers will need to continue to find more ways to adapt and find supplemental water in order to supply 400 key commodities to millions of Americans.
Milagros Aredo is a senior transportation broker with ALC San Francisco, CA. Milagros has six years of experience in logistics and graduated with a double major in International Business and Marketing from USF.