In a new report by the University of California Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, agricultural economists have found a few surprises with the drought.
For one, farm revenues and prices this year may have only small impacts or even be higher than in 2020, due to global supply and demand conditions driving up prices. Feed grain and seed prices are higher in the Midwest, along with beef and milk prices. Demand for tree nuts, fruits and vegetables, meanwhile, remains strong. Coastal fruits and vegetables have seen little reduction in supply.
Yet the effects across regions and crops have been uneven, as farmers have idled hundreds of thousands of acres. Growers have adapted by turning to groundwater pumping, cutting acreage to keep trees and vines alive, or shifting water to higher-value crops. Ranchers and dairy farmers have culled herds and moved livestock out of state.
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The researchers are less certain about what lies ahead.
“The state may play host to a conga line of drought-busting atmospheric rivers this upcoming winter or may be left high and dry,” writes John Abatzoglou, an associate professor in the Department of Management of Complex Systems at UC Merced. “The optimist in me hopes the upcoming water year will be one of these wet years and bring some reprieve to the ongoing drought. The pessimist in me says we should prepare for lean years ahead.”