And talking about drought gripping breadbasket regions, don't forget northern California which "produces 50 percent of the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables, and a majority of [U.S.] salad, strawberries and premium wine grapes." Its agriculturally vital Central Valley, in particular, is in the third year of an already monumental drought in which the state has been forced to cut water deliveries to farms by up to 85%.
Observers are predicting that it may prove to be the worst drought in the history of a region "already reeling from housing foreclosures, the credit crisis, and a plunge in construction and manufacturing jobs." January, normally California's wettest month, has been wretchedly dry and the snowpack in the northern Sierra Mountains, crucial to the state's water supplies and its agricultural health, is at less than half normal levels.
It has rained a lot this week, and it looks to continue to rain later this week and the weekend, but seasonally, we're down about half of our normal precipitation, following two years of similar conditions.
The quotation above misstates, or, better, hyperbolizes, regarding the reduction in water deliveries. The state has taken some fairly draconian measures - like 85% cuts in deliveries - but most ag areas get most of their water from local irrigation districts. Mass-scale fallowing of land is restricted to only a few areas, mainly in the Southern Central Valley, particularly in the Western portion of Kern County. From what I understand, that's not terribly good or vital ag land anyway. Up here is where we should be concerned, especially those of us who like almonds, peaches, apricots, grapes and grape products (if ya know what I mean). Water deliveries by irrigiation districts have been cut here too, but not nearly as much.
There's another side of this, too. When you wander around the San Joaquin Valley in the morning, between, say, April and October, you see field after field and orchard after orchard covered in several inches of water. Because, you see, they still use flood irrigation here. I don't know what it would mean here, but a study comparing drip irrigation to furrow irrigation in Uzbek cotton fields concluded the increased water use efficiency of drip irrigation was (depending on local conditions) between 34 and 104%.
Maybe we'd consider doing something like that in the most important agricultural region in the nation, and perhaps the world? You know, to avoid turning it into a dust bowl? Anyway, it's a refreshing change of pace from the usual news of fiscal disaster and political obstructionism.
Meanwhile, California agribusiness thanks you for your patronage. Please enjoy our nuts.