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Drought report predicts bleak year for ag economy
drought report pic
An estimated 18,600 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs will be lost in 2015, according to a drought impact study by UC Davis. - photo by Journal file photo

Due to decreased water availability, it comes as no surprise that this year will be even tougher on California’s agricultural economy as the state suffers through a fourth year of drought.

According to a preliminary analysis of the 2015 Drought Economic Impact Study from the University of California, Davis, farmers are estimated to have approximately 2.7 million acre-feet less surface water than they would have in a normal water year scenario. This equates to about a 33 percent loss of water supply.

Land fallowing and job losses are both estimated to be on the rise. It is predicted that approximately 564,000 acres of farmland will be fallowed because of the drought, causing a statewide reduction of $856 million in gross crop revenue.

Additionally, an estimated 18,600 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs will be lost. This total takes into account approximate direct job losses in agriculture at 8,560, as well as indirect and inducted impacts, including increased pumping costs and spillover effects.

This total comes as nearly 1,500 more jobs were lost in 2014 than originally estimated, with approximately 7,500 of them directly farm related.

Economically, the drought will lead to a loss in crop, dairy and livestock revenues of $1.2 billion in 2015. 

Total direct agricultural costs for 2015, which includes crop revenue losses, additional groundwater pumping costs, livestock revenue losses and dairy revenue losses, is expected to add up to $1.8 billion.

Altogether, the total statewide economic cost is estimated at $2.7 billion. 

Since this report encompasses the entire state as whole, researchers noted that regions that are faced with greater surface water shortages and less access to groundwater will inevitably endure larger employment losses and fallowing due to the drought.

To compile this year’s preliminary report, researchers from UC Davis took into account the amount of water available, as estimated by operators of irrigation districts and water projects, since water availability plays a critical role in the acreage and type of crops planted.