The drought was the major farming story during summer 2015.
An estimated 542,000 acres were fallowed in 2015, up from 490,00 acres in 2014, as farmers used about 10 percent less water than in non-drought years. In 2010, agriculture consumed 33 million acre feet of irrigation water, while urban uses, including landscaping, consumed 8.3 million acre feet. One acre foot is 326,000 gallons.
In 2015, agriculture was expected to use about 30 million acre feet of water. The rain deficit between 2012 and 2015 is equivalent to one year's rain, which averages 20 inches across the state.
Senior holders of water rights were required to report how much water they were withdrawing from rivers and streams, and faced fines for taking excess water set at $1,000 a day and $2,500 an acre foot.
Forecasters are predicting record rainfall in California in 2015, as conditions for a wet El Nino rainy season in 2015-16 are apparent in the Pacific Ocean. Most of California's rain is from atmospheric rivers that bring water from the Pacific Ocean inland.
In recent years, fewer winter air currents reduced these so-called Pineapple Expresses, which are like hurricanes without wind. The last major El Nino was in 1997-98.
An estimated 7,500 jobs were lost in 2014 and 10,100 in 2015.
Agricultural employment in California rose by an average 4,000 jobs a year over the past decade, including an average 6,000 a year between 2011 and 2014.
Statewide agricultural employment rose only 2,500 between 2013 and 2014.
The Department of Labor in July 2015 provided $18 million in National Dislocated Worker Grant funds to create jobs for legal farm workers displaced by the drought.
The temporary jobs will pay $10 an hour and provide employment for up to six months or earnings of up to $14,000.
California provided La Cooperativa Campesina with an additional $7.5 million in state funds to help unemployed farm workers to pay for rent and transportation and to create temporary jobs such as clearing underbrush in mountainous areas that could fuel wild fires.
Shipments of fresh fruits and vegetables from California farms averaged 8.5 million tons a year between 2008 and 2014, but fell to eight million tons in 2014.
This post was an excerpt of the most recent Rural Migration News published in October 2015.
Rural Migration News summarizes the most important migration-related issues affecting agriculture and rural America. Topics are grouped by category: Rural America, Farm Workers, Immigration, Other and Resources.
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