Drought is latest hurdle for growers in south Tulare County

In the South Valley, the lack of water from the current drought is forcing some growers to abandon their citrus trees.
April 11, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the South Valley, the lack of water from the current drought is forcing some growers to abandon their citrus trees.

Farmers in Terra Bella have been dealt a 1-2-3 punch. Right now, they're really seeing the effects from the freeze all while dealing with zero water allocation.

Young citrus trees that sit on the foothills of Terra Bella have shriveled up and turned brown. They're a sad sight for growers there. The trees were hit hard during this past winter's freeze and now it's clear there's nothing left to salvage.

"They're very vulnerable, and I've heard from several growers that said that they're going to have to replant," said Tulare County Ag Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita.

The trees could have been saved if they had water. A lack of rain and now zero water allocation for farmers has parched the land.

Terra Bella citrus grower Steve Scarbrough will see a hefty fine if he dares to try and irrigate. Some growers' water pumps even have a lock or seal placed on them by the Terra Bella Irrigation District.

No water is really the last straw for growers there.

"With this year's water allocation of zero, we don't have a reliable source of water anymore, so I don't know what this is going to do," said Scarbrough.

Scarbrough will be able to salvage the oranges on the trees now. They're about ready to be picked. Tiny green bulbs on the bottom are future oranges. If the tree doesn't get water soon, next year's citrus crop will die by summer time.

"In the next 2-3 months without water those small oranges will drop off these trees," said Scarbrough.

The drought is just the latest and probably the hardest hurdle for farmers in Terra Bella. First there was the threat of a potential deadly citrus bug, then below-freezing temperatures wiped out crops, now no water.

"You may see some growers are pushing out trees that they can't water," said Kinoshita.

"You ask any farmer here in Terra Bella and all he wants is water; doesn't want any money, just wants water," said Scarbrough.

Growers are hoping that April really will bring showers to help them make the most of what they have right now.


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