Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Food Production and the California Drought

The California drought has been all over the news the past few years and more recently many think it to be over because of the massive amount of rain to fall over the state. This, however is not thought to be the case and the hardships that the drought has caused Californian’s—and people all over the world—is not over yet.
The San Diego Tribunes and L.A. Times are both reporting historic rain fall with up to 2 inches of rain in San Diego. Both newspapers, however, emphasis that without many more years of continued rainfall, the dangers of drought are not over and most reservoirs in the state are not back to half of what they usually hold (L.A. Times). In addition to decreased water usage for the residents of California and surrounding states, there are many greater issues related to multi-year drought. It was reported “at one point, more than 1 million trees in the Sierra Nevada died” (San DiegoTribune). Wildlife populations including geese, ducks, and Joshua trees are being damaged due to the loss of water. (ProPublica). One of the largest problems is that of agriculture and the concern of feeding a high population area when you cannot water crops.
ProPublica: a drying up canal between farms
Like the reduced water usage for residents, farmers have also been told to use less water but many of them refuse (ProPublica). ProPublic also reports that many are protected by “arcane laws” allowing them to take more water than they need. Many have turned to switching crops from things like cotton and grain—which require a lot of water to grow—to high value crops like almonds. These crops bring in more money compared to the amount of water used (Bloomburg). This is an issue to many Californians because these crops are often exported; using California’s water but not feeding Californians.
Many crops in California are exported, for example the almonds and other luxury food many farmers have started growing are popular in Asian countries and are making farmers money. They also, however are leading to a much bigger problem; global food shortages are becoming a danger. BusinessInsider reported that by 2040 food prices would be quadruple what they were in 2000 and that they are already half way there. They report climate change and specifically the drought in California to be one of the main causes for the rising prices, citing specifically a USDA report stating prices of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and eggs could rise further. This problem would seem to compound if farmers continue to switch over to high price, high water crops.

The drought in California is affecting people worldwide through crop export but these countries are facing droughts themselves. The NIDIS, also reports droughts in Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America as recent as September 2016, and in many cases, they affect agriculture. The corn-yield forecast in Europe has been lowered and in Africa, hippo and buffalo herds have been culled due to poor vegetation. I believe these examples are just a look into how climate change and it severe weather patterns will change how people live in the future. 

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