California Rice Commission President and CEO Tim Johnson applauded CDFA Secretary Karen Ross’ efforts in securing $75 million in drought relief for agricultural businesses into Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal.

Speaking at a State Food and Agriculture Board meeting on Tuesday, Johnson said the modest grants will hopefully help businesses make it to next year. He was excited to see the administration and Legislature agree on this as well, unlike other drought and water provisions that will likely continue to evolve throughout the summer in a series of budget trailer bills.

Both Johnson and Colusa County Agricultural Commissioner Anastacia Allen described the dire conditions hitting the farming communities in the Sacramento Valley. Allen said her county has dropped from an average of 150,000 acres of rice to just 7,000 this year. She worried the trucking companies, aerial applicators and farmworkers may not return when the rains do.

Johnson pointed out that farmers “will be okay,” due to USDA’s “very robust” crop insurance program for rice. Prevented planting coverage allows growers to gather indemnity payments to cover fixed costs.

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Meanwhile, rice growers in the Sacramento Valley were not at the center of the state's first sweeping curtailment orders for the year.

The San Joaquin River watershed will see “significant, very deep cuts and curtailments” starting Wednesday, according to Erik Ekdahl, a deputy director at the State Water Resources Control Board, during a hearing Tuesday.

With spring snowmelt, the board has been curtailing just three post-1914 water rights in the watershed. But with the snowpack almost entirely gone and reservoir storage levels peaking for the year, the board will now cut into rights that date as far back as 1900.

The Sacramento River watershed will not face significant curtailments, and Ekdahl owed that to a reduction in use from settlement contractors along the Sacramento and Feather rivers.