New satellite imagery shows a large swath of California’s rice fields has been left barren without harvest as fears of a ‘mini dust bowl’ emerge due to diminishing water supplies.
Kurt Richter, a third-generation rice farmer in Colusa, the rice capital of California, told San Francisco Chronicle that fields upon fields of the grain have already transformed into a “wasteland.”
A report via the US Department of Agriculture shows about 300,000 out of the 550,000 acres committed to rice growing in California will go without harvest. This could potentially drive up sushi prices nationwide because most of the rice produced in the state is for just that.
UC Davis agricultural economist Aaron Smith warned the collapse in rice production in the state will translate to an estimated $500 million loss for farmers, about 40% of which will be covered by federal crop insurance.
Satellite imagery service Sentinel Hub shows a satellite view of the farmland in the rice capital this month compared with the same time last year — only to reveal many fields appear fallow.
Richter said rice fields are “abandoned,” and a mini dust bowl could emerge west of the Sacramento River in Colusa County. He said this summer’s scorching heat and lack of moisture are some of the significant contributors to the area’s water shortage.
Not all is lost in the rice capital. In Butte County, green fields can be seen via satellite imagery. San Francisco Chronicle noted, “Butte County farmers planted slightly more acres of rice than last year.”
Luis Espino, a farm advisor at UC ANR’s cooperative extension in Butte, said water sourcing is critical and is why some rice farms can source more water than others.
Eastside farmers depend on Lake Oroville, which was able to capture more water than Shasta Lake, where the current storage is less than half of the average storage for this time of year.
The farmers in the Sacramento River watershed who rely on water from Shasta, including Richter’s family farm operation, are receiving somewhere between 0 and 18% of their water deliveries this year from government-run water projects. Farmers in Butte and Yuba counties received far more — about 75%. — San Francisco Chronicle
Across the rice capital of six top-producing counties, only two will be unharmed by the mega drought.
Ahead of this year’s growing season, we pointed out California To Cut Water To Cities And Farmland Amid Persisting Drought. By summer, we noted California’s Farmland Rapidly Turns To Dust Amid Water Crisis.
As a reminder, the state is responsible for a tremendous amount of US food production — cutting off water to farmers, leaving tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of acres unworkable, will only exacerbate the food crisis.