According to farmer Joe Del Bosque, Canadians can expect to pay more for food in the near future due to a terrible drought in California. Del Bosque has had to leave nearly a third of his 2,000-acre farm in Firebaugh, Calif., unseeded this year due to a water deficit in the state — and he’s not alone.
California is experiencing one of the worst droughts it has seen in decades. Farmers across the state expect minimal water from the state and federal agencies in charge of California’s reservoirs and canals, prompting many to abandon their farms. The ramifications might be enormous. California is a major exporter of fruits, vegetables, berries, and nuts to the United States and the rest of the world.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state produces more than one-third of all vegetables and two-thirds of all fruits and nuts in the United States. It’s also where most of Canada’s imported fruits and vegetables come from. According to the federal government, Canada imported $4.3 billion worth of nuts, fruit, and vegetables from California in 2019. Water is allocated to farmers in California depending on seniority and necessity. Farmers, on the other hand, claim that city water demands, combined with environmental constraints, are limiting agricultural access.
Farmers are already being forced to make difficult decisions. Stuart Woolf, the owner of the farm, told Reuters that he may leave 30% of his property unseeded. He owns and operates 30,000 acres of farmland, the majority of which is located in Western Fresno County. Del Bosque, who farms melons, asparagus, sweet corn, almonds, and cherries, estimates that his business will lose more than half a million dollars.
He’s already decided not to harvest his asparagus in order to save enough water for his melons. With fewer crops to harvest, Del Bosque’s 700 employees, many of whom work just during the busiest season and return year after year, will have less work.”There is no labor if there is no water. And how are we farm laborers going to support our families?” Pablo Barrera, 57, who was growing watermelons for Del Bosque, agreed.
Del Bosque’s family is sprung from Mexican migrant farmworkers, so it’s a very personal issue for him. Del Bosque and other farmers claim that California’s lack of investment in water storage facilities over the last 40 years has aggravated the drought.
Increasing the number of dams is also not the solution. New dam projects face environmental restrictions meant to protect endangered fish and other wildlife, according to 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, and won’t solve near-term water needs.