This has been a very warm, dry winter in Southern California. That’s great for the businesses down by the beach, but it makes life a little difficult those of us farming.
Lack of rainfall has longterm implications for our ground water and reservoirs. But in the immediate sense it means one thing to a farmer: irrigation. In California, we expect to irrigate much of the year, but we can usually count on a break from November to March. The scarce rainfall this year means that pumps are running, and that costs money. We’ll see $200 to $300 in extra expense per acre this year due to irrigation costs.
At the same time, this weather places stress on the trees. And when trees are stressed they take it out on the fruit. We will likely see a decrease in production, amounting to a few hundred dollars per acre from fruit being smaller than it might otherwise have been.
So the net impact of this winter for most Ventura County farmers is going to be several hundred to perhaps a thousand dollars per acre less net income. Some will be able to take that in stride, but it’s really going to hurt for some of us. Increased expenses and decreased income is never a good combination.
A lot of farmers will be watching the weather more anxiously than usual next month, because things aren’t over yet. Marhc can be unpredictable. Nice rains can save a season. We’ve had “March Miracles” before. Then again, it is also possible to have a freeze in March. With avocado trees blooming in the unseasonably warm weather, they will be particularly vulnerable to a frost that could wreck the 2013 crop, lining up a disasterous year to follow a poor one. Weather is always a risk in agriculture, but this winter has been exceptional trying.
If you have any pull with the rain people, your help would be appreciated.