It has been several months since I published my blog post “The year the rain stopped” describing the effect of the most recent California drought. It only rains in California during the winter months, typically from November through May. Since January, when I penned that blog, we have received a series of modest storms bringing much needed precipitation to the parched fields and rolling hills of my fair state. But it isn’t enough; the humble rainfall we have received is less than half of our average year to date, and the prognosis doesn’t look very moist for the balance of the season.
You can view a map of the (“U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook”) from the Climate Prediction Center (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), indicating that drought is expected to persist in the western and southwestern U.S. through the summer. California is smack dab in the middle of the drought, and the dry conditions are forecast to intensify and persist! The effect on fruit and vegetable supplies will be significant. The human ramifications for farmers and farm workers will be even more profound!
Recently state and federal water agencies announced a drought management plan for California, but maintained zero water allocations for agriculture in state and central valley water projects. In an effort to ensure adequate drinking water, sanitation and firefighting for the states 38,000,000 residents, farmers will not get their share of the water. Without water during the summer months, the state reverts back to its desert-like conditions.
Without life giving water, farmers are making the tough decision not to grow crops, such as watermelons and onions. Producers are pulling out thirsty trees, such as peach and almond producing varieties. Some producers won’t plant a seed this year because of the dire situation. Organic dairy producers don’t have the green grass to graze and sustain their girls. A recent New York Times Article, California’s Thirsting Farmland highlights the plight of one farming family. It goes on to say that “as much as 800,000 acres or about 7 percent of the state’s cropland could be left fallow.”
California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) along with Farm Aid and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) have assembled a special hardship fund for certified organic producers who are having a difficulty making ends meet this spring due to damage caused by drought. These funds are available to organic and sustainable growers. CCOF will offer drought disaster grants to certified organic farmers while CAFF will offer the grants to family farmers who use sustainable agricultural practices. The funds are available to any certified organic producer, not only those certified by CCOF.
Each eligible producer may apply for a $500 grant to offset drought impacts on their families. The organic requirements for eligibility include:
Organic certified operation currently in good standing
Located in a county designated a drought disaster area by USDA (not limited to California)
Experiencing severe financial hardship resulting from the drought
Have not received federal assistance for the same loss
The situation in rural California is indeed grim. Never before has the snowpack been this low and the reservoirs this depleted. If you know of a producer affected by drought please pass this information along and urge them to apply now. The deadline is April 30th and the organic application is here.
For more information on this program, contact CCOF Policy and Outreach Specialist Jane Sooby at (831) 423-2263 ext. 49 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Non-organic producers, contact CAFF Water Program Coordinator Kendall Lambert (510) 832-4625 ext. 13 or at email email@example.com. – See more HERE
The USDA has a series of web pages dedicated to the Farm and Food impacts of the California drought. You can read more here.
Every small act of support reaps big benefits when it comes to our farming community. As climate change continues to show its many sides, we must be prepared for change in agriculture. It’s not business as usual anymore.