California farms given good news as reservoirs fill and snowpack builds – SFGate

(© Flickr Creative Commons U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Federal officials announced Tuesday that the 20 reservoirs that make up the Central Valley Project are so swollen with winter runoff that many growers will get all the water they requested this year — a remarkable change from the past few years when countless orchards and fields received no federal water at all. The projected bump, which comes alongside similar increases expected at state-run reservoirs, is certain to benefit California’s $47 billion agricultural sector, a normally booming breadbasket that has seen land dry up and crop yields slip as water turned scarce. “After the historic five-year drought, the snowpack and rain are a tremendous blessing to an agricultural industry hammered by the critical water shortage,” said Ryan Jacobsen, chief executive of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. While the news was generally good, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation — which runs what is considered the nation’s largest network of dams, lakes and canals — did not extend the full water allocation to all of its customers. Many of those left in the dark, which include the sprawling farms in the western San Joaquin Valley as well as two urban water agencies in the Bay Area, were disappointed that the generous water commitments did not come their way. “We’re just furious,” said Jason Peltier, executive director for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which receives federal supplies to deliver to growers along Interstate 5 near Los Banos (Merced County). Like many California households and businesses, the farms that supply a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its nuts and fruits were forced to make big changes during the drought. Between the 2014 and 2015 crop years, the most intense period of the drought, California agricultural revenue dropped 17 percent, according to state figures. With water prices surging, farmers turned to high-value goods like pistachios and almonds, which were often shipped overseas to fetch greater profits. Lower-value crops, like rice, alfalfa and tomatoes used for canned goods, became less popular. While taking a cautious approach, federal officials said conditions look good for those who haven’t been notified of their water allowance. State officials are scheduled to take their monthly manual snow measurements in the Sierra on Wednesday, a largely symbolic exercise that is expected to document near-record snow.

Source: California farms given good news as reservoirs fill and snowpack builds – SFGate

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