Good news from the state Department of Water Resources: the two major California snowpacks are standing well above-average. Measurements taken this week show levels in the Sierra Nevada to be at 144 percent of the April 1 season average, while the Colorado River Basin remains 149 percent of the average. The latter provides Southern California with much of its drinking and agricultural water. The high amount of precipitation the state has received throughout the winter will guarantee that no new restrictions are placed on water supplies to farmers this summer.
In related news, a farmland report from the state Department of Conservation says the idling of more than 200,000 acres of farmland in California between 2006-2008 was due to water shortages. The report notes that even with the economic downturn slowing urban growth and water demand, almost 100,000 acres of prime farmland (land with premium quality soil) were unable to be irrigated during those years. Most of this involuntary fallowing occurred in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
Warming temperatures the past couple of weeks have helped cotton farmers. Cotton fields throughout the state will be seeded by the end of the week. Growers have been forced to plant their cotton later than normal because of a cool, wet spring says Calcot – the cotton growers cooperative. They expect the plants to “catch up” from the late planting as the weather continues to warm in the Central Valley.
Beautiful weather has also benefited rice farmers by accelerating field work. Rice growers anticipate high returns on their crops because strong demand has kept sales trends positive in spite of soaring grain prices. The federal government predicts California farmers will plant 575,000 acres of rice this year, an 8 percent increase from last.