A new report assesses wildfire losses across key sectors in California and identifies where knowledge gaps need to be filled. While agriculture has not seemed to face significant losses, the report finds only anecdotal evidence to show this.
Southern California wildfires in 2007 burned nearly 1,000 acres of farmland, with about $42 million in crop damage and $1.5 billion in overall property losses.
The 2017 Sonoma County wildfires, on the other hand, threatened substantial losses to the wine industry. Yet a follow-up study found less than 1% of vineyard acreage and 7% of the region’s wineries were affected. And a 71% drop in tasting room visits was short-lived. The 2020 wildfires have presented greater concerns about losses to smoke taint.
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The 2013 Rim Fire cost the ranching sector millions of dollars from lost grazing and killed livestock.
Crop losses are not systematically tracked across the state for wildfires and no studies have shown the broad economic impacts, according to the report. The researchers also found that only half of agricultural producers have insurance coverage, though that information is from 2007. “Most high value crops in California are not covered by federal crop insurance programs,” they write.
The report, produced by the California Council on Science and Technology, offers policymakers a framework, with more work to be done.
“A more accurate accounting may result in more than double the currently reported costs,” the researchers caution.