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California Drought

Much-needed rain was recently received in several California growing regions over the weekend of March 29. While creating short-term quality, shelf-life, and harvesting challenges, the rain did little to aid in the broad picture of the California Drought. The overall lack of rain will create some long-term changes regarding how crops are grown in the state.

2013/14 Rain Season Totals (October-March)

• Statewide precipitation totals, measured by Water Year, are currently 43% of the historical average

• April 1 represents a significant date for snowpack totals; peak levels from the Sierra and Nevada Mountains (that feed the California basins and valleys) have typically been reached by this time for the recorded water year

• The California Department of Water Resources has reported that as of April 10, the 2014 water year represents only 22% of snowpack in the northern Sierra and Nevada Mountains and 30% of normal in the Southern Sierra Nevada

• Current reservoir levels are significantly lower than historical averages for this time in the season

• The percentage varies by region

• Statewide total reservoir storage levels are currently at 65% of average (lowest to date since 1977)

Crop Implications

• Surface water allocation (irrigation water delivered via canals from the California reservoir system) in some of the key San Joaquin Valley growing areas such as Fresno, Bakersfield, Mendota, and Huron will be zero for the 2014 summer and fall seasons

• Crops most visibly affected for the summer of 2014 and beyond include

Melons:

• Westside San Joaquin Valley cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon production will decline in average by as much as 10-15% (depending on grower)

• This change will be seen once harvesting begins in mid-summer

Bell Peppers:
• The biggest change Markon will experience is a shift in growing regions

• California’s overall acreage is not down for the 2014 summer season, but growers will shift acreage from the Huron and Mendota growing regions to other areas with better access to water such as Fresno and Oxnard

• This shift in growing regions will increase the cost of accessing water

• Growers will rely on the more expensive options of drilling and deepening into existing wells because surface allocations will not be available

Citrus and Grapes:
• Planted acreage is comparable to last year, however many growers on the eastern side of the San Joaquin Valley will turn off water to groves

• Growers believe groves will survive

• Yields, if any, will be low; trees will shift from fruit and bloom production to maintaining foliage and growth

• Prices will remain elevated through summer and into the fall of 2014

Below is a map of California illustrating the San Joaquin Valley growing region (shaded in green) that will be intensely affected by water shortages this summer:

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