Lack of rainfall is hurting Valley growers

March 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The showers expected at the end of the week is welcome news for Valley farmers.

Land like this left unfarmed is causing concern to Paul Betancourt and other growers on the west side.

Betancourt explained, "There is no work for the local workers and no benefit for the whole economy and there are way too many fields like that."

Betancourt who grows almonds, cotton and wheat near Tranquility says farmers can't plant on all their land because of a dry season and federally mandated water cutbacks.

Growers say they're hurting because the Westlands Water District recently reduced water allocations from 25% to 20%. That reduction, hit right in the middle of planting season.

"The problem for growers who have to cut back acreage is they have fixed costs," said Betancourt. "They still have a mortgage to pay, they still have bills to pay and now they have less opportunity to make money."

The water district spans more than 600 thousand acres of farmland in western Fresno and Kings Counties, and pumps it's water from Northern California through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the San Luis Reservoir.

About 700 farmers rely on that supply. Spokesperson Gayle Holeman says the district isn't pumping out as much because of the skimpy snowfall. But the Valley has also received less water because of the delta smelt.

Holeman said, "There is water up in northern California, it does exist in Lake Shasta but that water isn't able to move through because it is restricted for the protection of the fish species."

For now local growers say they're turning to wells and private water suppliers. But they're shelling out a lot more cash for their crops.


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