California Drought Withers Global Food Supply

    31 March, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

    A period of severe dry weather called a drought is damaging crops in the U.S. State of California. This could cause a rise in food prices for Americans and people around the world.

    In the Central Valley of California, farmers are reducing crop size because they do not have enough water. Last year, California had the least amount of rain since officials began keeping records. And it may be just as bad this year.

    Reservoirs are areas where water is stored. In California, some reservoirs are empty. The amount of snow in the Sierra mountain is 75% below normal. This mountain snow melts in the spring and fills rivers.

    California Drought Withers Global Food Supply
    California Drought Will Lead to Higher Food Prices

    The water is used by farmers. But now, farmers are warning of the possibility of another "Dust Bowl" like the one of the 1930s - severe droughts and dust storms covered American farmlands and few crops grew.

    Farmers in California produce almost half of US fruits and vegetables, much of it comes from the Central Valley.

    Dan Errotabere is a third generation California farmer. He grows tomatoes, walnuts, garlic and other crops in Fresno County. He says the federal agency that controls the amount of water released from dams and rivers has stopped giving him water. He and other farmers say, officials are not correctly administering the water system.

    "The last couple of years, dry years, coupled with severe environmental restrictions, has now presented us with a zero allocation year," said Errotabere.

    Farmers may not be able to plant crops on more than 200,000 hectares of farmland in the Central Valley this spring. Mr Errotabere will plant crops on just 80 percent of his farmland, he has enough work for only 15 of his 25 workers.

    "Right now, we're completely depending on wells to finish these crops off, but I'm going to be fallowing 1,200 acres of our operation. There won't be anything growing on there," he said.

    Federal and state officials sometimes reduce the amount of water to farmers even in years with normal rainfall levels. The officials must supply water to the Sacramento River Delta, which is home to several endangered species.

    Long-term solutions include conservation, recycling waste water and building desalination centers. The centers remove salt from seawater, so it can be used on farms. Farmers say better administration of the state's water system could also help solve the crisis.

    And that's the VOA Learning English Agriculture Report. You can read stories about agriculture at our website I'm Caty Weaver.