News and Commentary

Northern California County Will Produce Significantly Less Rice Due To Water Crisis
Agriculture Tech Silos next to flooded rice paddies, Sacramento Valley, California. Mardis Coers / Contributor via Getty Images
Mardis Coers / Contributor via Getty Images

A county in Northern California is being heavily impacted by low water supply, and its rice crop will be significantly less substantial as a result.

Colusa County is the number one producer of rice in the Sacramento Valley, according to the California Globe. In a typical year, it can produce over 150,000 acres of rice. However, in 2022, Colusa officials said they will only be able to grow a portion of their typical crop.

“The economic devastation is unprecedented,” Colusa County Administrator Wendy Tyler told the Globe. “People aren’t dying, but businesses and communities are.”

The initial half of the water in California is pushed out into the ocean because of environmental reasons and endangered fish species, meaning less is allocated to the farms that need it.

“In April 2022, the water districts serving Colusa County were given their final allocation for the 2022 growing season – 0.4-acre feet per acre,” Colusa County officials said in a statement, per the Globe.

“This allocation is not enough to support rice production, and estimates show that the Sacramento Valley will fallow 370,000 of 450,000 acres in the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors service area, primarily in Colusa and Glenn Counties,” they added. “Currently, less than 7,000 acres are estimated to be planted in Colusa County, resulting in a direct financial loss to growers in excess of $270 million.”

California is the second-largest rice-producing state in the nation, just below Arkansas, and around 95% of the rice in the state comes from the Sacramento Valley.

The situation lines up with what Bill Diedrich, president of the California Farm Water Coalition, recently told The Daily Wire.

“The products that we grow this year are on the grocery store shelves next year, certainly not the fresh products, but the processed products,” Diedrich explained.

“I believe that it’s going to show up next year on the grocery store shelves in the processed products shortage,” he said, noting that there are 300,000 acres of rice that are not being grown in northern California “because there’s no water.”

Colusa County authorities recently held a legislative tour and informational session for Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), explaining just how dire the situation has become from the historic drought and a recent freeze that impacted the area.

Tyler discussed the meeting with the Globe, and said that the agricultural sector of the county is being hit in the same way that COVID-19 lockdowns destroyed businesses and cities.

“We need a payroll protection plan and rental assistance,” Tyler said. “We have the third largest farm worker housing in the state. Thousands of people come to Colusa County every season, and work with Colusa County’s own people. Their children go to Colusa schools, so when they aren’t here it impacts our ADA.”

She pointed out that when growers aren’t able to plant and produce crops, people all along the supply chain are negatively impacted.

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