Drought threatens Calif. agriculture business

April 2, 2009 6:48:02 PM PDT
Three years of drought are also threatening to destroy California farmers, and the state's multi-billion dollar agriculture industry.

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The news of the smaller snowpack doesn't improve the dry situation in the usually fertile Central Valley. That means farmers can't expect to see more water for their crops.

Making the problem worse is a still in-tact court order to reduce pumping in the delta to save endangered fish.

"On the high side, they're getting a 20 percent delivery. Only 20 percent of the water they would normally count on is going to be delivered. And they can't make a crop with that amount of water," said Timothy Quinn from the Association of California Water Agencies.

It's heartbreaking to see the area that supplies 40% of the nation's food supply vanishing, with farmers refusing to plant or just ripping up their crops.

"You know, nothings behind me. We have no water," said farmer Jeff Yribarren

Some water is starting to be sent to a small number of farms, but the supply has to stretch throughout summer.

Without more water, California's $37 billion dollar agricultural industry on the line.

"We're the number one agricultural state in the nation and we are the fifth agricultural economy in the world. And it lowers California's status," said California Food and AG Board President Al Motna

Farmers say lifting the environmental restrictions would help. But not so fast, says the Sierra Club, because of the long term consequences.

"It represents the fact that we are sucking water out of the system. It's not being replaced and pretty soon, we soon might not have enough water for all people and users in California," said Jim Metropulos from the Sierra Club.

Empty fields have cost thousand of jobs, with the unemployed pressuring Sacramento to solve the problem.Consumers will feel it next.

"It's going to dramatically impact the supply of food, the cost of food and the availability of food," said Motna.

Considering we are in the third year of a drought, the Department of Water Resources says the snow pack needed to be holding 120 percent of its usual water content.

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