Wet weather wins: Central Valley farmers grow hopeful

Thursday, December 29, 2022
Wet weather wins: Central Valley farmers grow hopeful
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A steady succession of storms through the Central Valley looks to be great news for one of the area's biggest industries, agriculture.

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A steady succession of storms through the Central Valley looks to be great news for one of the area's biggest industries, agriculture.

Years of drought led to very low water allocations, but farmers are hopeful they're about to see better days.

The first of three wet weather systems left puddles and mud on the ground on a lot of Central Valley agricultural land and lifted the spirits of farmers who desperately need it.

"So excited by what we've seen and what we have coming," said Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen. "I mean, what's been really nice with these storms is that it's been really gradual."

Jacobsen watched with glee as more than half an inch of rain fell on his Easton almond orchard. His clay loam soaked up almost all of it quickly.

He says some farms on the east side of the county are experiencing minor flooding and the citrus harvest might be slightly delayed by this late December rain.

The storms are also warmer than ideal, only leaving snow above 7000 feet, so they're not as big a boost to the Sierra snowpack.

But the soaking is mostly very good news.

After three of the driest years on record, farmers have a lot of catching up to do.

"We find ourselves in a big deficit that it's going to take a lot more than just average to get us out of, and so while these storms are good it's going to take a lot more to get what I would consider to be a decent year," Jacobsen said.

He's glad to know reservoirs are filling up and groundwater getting replenished.

But rainy season lasts about four months in the Central Valley, so while this is a great start, there's still a long way to go.

And last year, a similar optimism didn't last the season.

"We had some of the wettest times on record in late December and then it went through the driest period of northern California for records of no precipitation," Jacobsen said. "So we're hoping that doesn't happen but again, cautiously optimistic that we're headed for better times."

A lot of local farmers are still preparing as if they'll only get the 5% initial allocation announced by the State Water Project earlier this month.

But that number could improve with every wet storm.