Writing 10- Section 14
28 April 2014
Drought Hits Merced: Farmers And Citizens Affected Tremendously
During this past year in the county of Merced, a lack of water has not only affected almond farmers of Merced, but also the agricultural workers economically. Farmers are declining in production of almonds and crops because they are not able to receive irrigation of water to grow their crops. As stated by Javier Guzman, a retired farm worker from Fresno, “You have farmworkers right now, who feed the nation and world, and they’re in bread lines out in Mendota” (Holland 17-19). In this report, Guzman makes a claim about the increase of unemployment rates that are currently occurring in California, Mendota which has a similar population as Merced. He relates the scenario to the California Drought by claiming that many farmers could lose their jobs because of lack of irrigation which leads to the decline of almonds. Farmers, as well as other citizens who are employed, need to support themselves as well as families. Almonds farmers have been hit hard by the California Drought as they are not receiving a sufficient amount of water to grow their trees. As a result, many farmers have to remove some of their trees because there is not enough water to irrigate them. According to Barry Baker, a farmer in Baker’s Farming Company, “There's simply not enough water to satisfy all 5,000 acres of almonds, he said. Hopefully, I don't have to pull out another 20 percent" (Yahoo News 4). Barry argues that the lack of water has forced almond farmers to cut down their trees. He states that if this continues, more trees will be cut down. In addition, almond Farming is the number one import in America. Without almond farming, thousands of grocery stores and small markets will lose income. Because the drought has taken its toll in Merced, economic consequences such as loss of trees, unemployment rates and income loss has a devastating effect on farmers and agricultural workers.
The lack of water supply has made farmers life more difficult because farmers are already forced to cut down many of their produced products and search for alternative ways to plant their crops. According to Shawn Coburn, a farmer who is experiencing first hand at the effects of the drought “I need every drop of water to keep the trees and vines alive. I can’t conserve anymore” (Coburn 15). Coburn states that farmers can no longer conserve water as their trees are dying and they need to keep them alive in order to avoid a decline in food production. In addition, profits that are earned by citizens goes towards planting these almonds and allowing them to grow, the drought has produced a significant loss for farmers because they are being forced to eliminate trees and orchards that are already grown, resulting in lack of food production in markets. In order to keep some of the other orchards alive, farmers and agricultural workers are cutting down a portion of their acres. As stated by farmer Barry Baker, “ I have decided to sacrifice 1,000 acres of his Fresno County almond orchard so that I can keep the remaining 4,000 acres alive”(Baker 7). Baker exclaims that the drought has forced him and other farmers to eliminate many of their planted items to allow for the others to grow. Although, the drought has caused many farmers to remove their planted trees, possible solutions can be taken to prevent farmers from having to take these measures, one example is small scale irrigation strategies, by saving a decent amount of water aside, farmers can prevent themselves from taking drastic measures to cut down more almond trees.
The California drought has also put many farmers and agricultural workers on the verge of unemployment. Lines for food banks have also gotten bigger as many US citizens are desperately searching for food. As stated by Pedro Vargas, head of the Employment Development Department, "Our outreach workers are out there in the field talking to farm workers and also talking to employers, and they have indicated that some of them will not be coming back to work next month simply because the growers are not going to plant as other years before” ( ABC News 16-20). Vargas is voicing his concern over the Drought that is affecting many farmers and agricultural workers as they rely on the profit made from their planted items for salary. Without rainfall, their planted crops are unable to develop, leading them to decline in food production and profits. Eventually, this will cause many farm workers to be unemployed.
The California drought has also brought agricultural difficulties to the local farmers and ranch owners in the city of Merced. In addition to the decline of food production in markets and other retail stores around Merced, many farmers are on the verge of unemployment. According to State Senator Anthony Cannella who has witnessed the effects the drought had on farmers and other retail workers, states “The state’s assumption that the exchange contractors can rely upon groundwater is faulty and will deprive many users of their only source of water. 80% of the growers in the region do not have their own wells. Even district owned wells can only deliver up to half an acre-foot per acre in some areas” (Canella 20-25). In this statement, Canella is explaining that the city’s water supply system is not suffice to provide water supply to agricultural workers and other farmers to irrigate their land. The water that is provided to farm workers is only enough to cover a portion of their acres. Therefore, it is extremely crucial that a proposed solution for water conservation to be developed in order to benefit not only the city, but also the farm workers as well.
In addition, the California drought has resulted in a significant economic loss as farmers are losing revenues from the trees that have been cut down. As stated by Berry Baker, a farmer in Mendota "That's probably ten million dollars in revenue I lost right there, but with the price of water today, up to twenty five hundred dollars per acre-foot, there is no way I could have found the water this year. A lot of guys are going to have to make that decision in the next couple of weeks." (Baker 5). Baker is stating that because the drought is arising, he has lost half of the profits that he has made the previous years. Additionally, Baker argues that he is one of the lucky farmers who still have enough water to provide for his trees as some farmers have already begun to scrap their land. As explained in the article, “He has enough well water on his property to keep his remaining trees alive without having to break the bank buying overpriced water from irrigation districts. A great many farmers south of the delta don't have that luxury” (Baker 4). The article makes a claim that Baker is one of the fewest farmers who has sufficient water to irrigate their crops while many others are on the verge of being unemployed. Although Baker was able to find efficient strategies to irrigate his planted trees, the massive income loss is still existent as conservation strategies do not provide enough for all of his trees to develop. However, possible irrigation strategies can be developed to help reduce the number of trees being cut down.
The drought in California has not only affected farm workers, but agricultural pickers as well. The lack of water has caused unemployment rates to increase, but also forces farmers to eliminate their planted trees in order to have enough space to grow their remaining almonds. Many Farmers have already begun cutting down their trees due to limited space and budgeting to keep them alive. In addition, almond farmers are also facing unemployment as a result of almond trees being cut down as they are unable to produce almonds to grocery stores to sell to consumers, resulting in the lack of production. Lastly, elimination of trees have led to massive economic losses as many almond farmers in the county of Merced, have lost revenues for cutting down their already planted trees. For example, Berry Baker, a farmer in Mendota, has fallen to that option, having lost over ten million dollars in revenues for eliminating trees that have already been planted. State governments in the county of Merced have been desperately searching for a possibility to provide more water to farmers. One strategy that has been proposed is different irrigation strategies to help conserve water for almond trees to grow.