Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The troubles of our proud and angry dust....

The value of California’s 2007 agricultural exports achieved an all time high of $10.9 billion, an 11 percent increase from the 2006 total. - from a U.C. Davis Agricultural Issues Brief

California farmers constitute an essential part of the state economy. ...farm production is closely linked to many other industries: the production of farm inputs, the processing of food and beverages, the textile industry, transportation and financial services. Including multiplier effects, California farm and closely related processing industries employ 7.3 percent of the state’s private sector labor force and account for 5.6 percent of the state labor income. Every dollar of value added—labor and property income and indirect business taxes—in farming and agricultural related industries generates an additional $1.27 in the state economy. For every 100 jobs in agriculture, including the food industry, there are 94 additional jobs created throughout the state. California agriculture is also large on a global scale. Depending on the method applied to measure the value of agriculture here and elsewhere, California ranks between 5th and 9th in the world, ahead of such countries as Canada, Mexico, Germany and Spain. - from the U.C. Davis publication The Measure of California Agriculture

The facts presented above place in context the reality that much like in The Great Depression where the nation saw a drought (the Dust Bowl) impact its economy, California's agriculture economy is struggling with a drought, a struggle which is likely to continue for several years. From the AP via San Francisco Chronicle:

California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are joining Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in calling on the Obama administration to issue a federal disaster declaration for Fresno County.

In a letter to the president Monday, the senators said the county has been hit hard by water shortages from a lack of rainfall and the need to protect endangered species. A disaster declaration would help the region obtain emergency unemployment and other benefits.

In another story, the endangered species issue is put in perspective:

The Director of the State Department of Water Resources, Lester Snow, accompanied the Governor. He says fish are not the primary reason water supplies to growers in Western Fresno County have been reduced.

"About 25 per cent of that difference is related to the fish protection standards and about 75 per cent of that difference is related to the drought." Snow said.

From a Fresno Bee story, we have this:

Los Banos is one of many pockets of the San Joaquin Valley hit by foreclosures and reduced water deliveries, which has led to thousands of acres of fallowed farm fields. The jobless rate throughout much of the valley is in double digits.

Actually, in many of these areas the unemployment rate is above 30%. UC Davis agricultural economist Richard Howitt has reportedly estimated that job losses due to drought will be in the range of 30,000 this year.

The effects from this will not only increase the cost burden on the "safety net" as more families require assistance but also will result in long-term higher food costs across the nation.

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