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By Staff | Mar 28, 2014

California farmers who depend on federal water from all sources for irrigation have been told they will be completely shut off this year.

At least that doesn’t leave them wondering. This will be the first time that agriculture in California will be completely shut off in 54 years of water management.

Some farms hold historic water rights, but these are just a piece of paper if there is no water.

The snow pack in California was 29 percent of normal and it will need a lot of rain to correct.

ISU Climatologist Dr. Elwynn Taylor said that the drought pattern has moved east to west across the U.S. He does not hold out hope for any end this year to the California drought.

It will touch every sector of agriculture there from almonds to vegetables to dairy to hay, impacting many crops that are the U.S. prime source of production.

Hay prices are going up in California, topping last year’s prices as ranchers try to sustain herds.

Hay and Forage Grower said plans to expand alfalfa seeding in California this year have been nixed by the drought. Established alfalfa will produce something, but without rain it will be a significantly reduced amount.

California produces 90 percent of U.S. production of many kinds of fruits, nuts, and vegetables, including artichokes, broccoli, celery, dried plums, garlic, grapes, lemons, nectarines, olives, pistachios, processing tomatoes, shelled almonds, strawberries and walnuts.

A few, artichokes and garlic, I could live without, but we may have to start growing more strawberries in Iowa if California’s dry up.

It is not any surprise that people come in first in the pecking order for who gets water, but the worst drought in anyone’s lifetime in California will leave them short, too.

“Most of the future growth in water demand is likely to come from cities,” according to the March Economist Magazine. “Some therefore, argue that urbanites should bear the burden of reducing demand.

“This is too kind to farmers, who waste far more. Crops that cannot be grown without subsidies should not be grown. It should not take a drought to make people stop building paddy fields in the sand.”

Doesn’t it just frost you? Have you noticed anyone being too kind to farmers recently? I think that farmers are about as underappreciated as they could be for keeping everyone’s mouth full of cheap food in this country.

What subsidies are they talking about? Didn’t they note the latest farm bill? What crops do they grow in California that are produced because of subsidies?

Marijuana? Does the state subsidize marijuana growers? Do they irrigate it? Granted if they are building rice paddies in California they should buy rice from Louisiana, but farm subsidies are not behind the California drought.

California agriculture will do its part toward contributing to water conservation recognizing that doing so is inherent to their survival.

The problem with too little water in the Southwest U.S. is that too many people want to live in the desert.

Eventually water supply and water usage were going to blow up into a crisis.

I believe that agriculture has been managing its water supply well, with a much deeper appreciation for where water comes from than urbanites that think you get it by turning on a tap and their groceries are generated at Whole Foods Stores.

There is such a thing as property rights. Agriculture has a right to the water. The depletion of the Ogallala reservoir in the Central Plains and now the historic drought in California do highlight the need of greater conservation of water resources.

But there must be better management of population centers so they are not built in deserts and then take water from the farms and ranches feeding them.

There are many who are thrilled we could import tar sands oil from Canada to help solve our energy dependence on importing oil from overseas, but how about our need for water?

Frankly, that need may be greater than oil. Canada has enormous fresh water supplies. The pipelines they build from Canada should be water lines to California and Texas.

They want to build a pipeline bringing their dirty oil to Texas? They need a sister line down the same route several times bigger and far more safe full of clean running water.

I think that would melt the opposition to Big Oil’s pipeline.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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