Water shortage has Tulare Co farmers worried about land values


Farmers in the driest areas of the county are now worried. With no certainty of water coming in, will their precious farmland be worth less than what they paid for it?

For the last few months citrus growers in Terra Bella have seen their share of hurdles. First, a potentially deadly citrus bug was found in the area, then orange groves here were wiped out from the December freeze, and now, no water.

Many groves here rely on water from the Friant Dam. This year's drought also came with it news that the area would get zero water allocation from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. "They're going thru a 1-2-3 punch. Hopefully, you know, we'll receive some good rainwater and the reservoirs will be able to deliver some water to them but they're going to have to be creative in order to stay in business," said Rick Schuil, agriculture realtor.

Schuil said even though the price for farmland is at an all-time high, some farmers worrying about the drought are also left wondering if their property has retained it's value. The drought could have long-term effects on what could grow on the land. Growers with just one source of water are at a disadvantage.

"You know it used to be 'is the property going to get a loan on it, will it appraise, we'll take it.' now, part of the factor is going to be the quality of the water and the quantity of the water," said Schuil.

A farm that relies solely on the Friant-Kern Canal might see a decline in value on future appraisals, versus a property that has a well and relies on surface water.

"The drought's effect will have a definite impact on the quality of farms being sold. Buyers as well as lenders are taking a much harder look at land as they analyze it," said Schuil.

The drought is expected to have an effect on agriculture appraisals. The Tulare County Assessor's Office has also spoken publicly about this concern.

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