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FACTBOX: Water scarcity and agriculture in California
March 13, 2009 / 1:13 AM / 9 years ago

FACTBOX: Water scarcity and agriculture in California

(Reuters) - California is the United States’ top farming state, but its future is clouded by water shortages, forecast to worsen with climate change.

Here are some facts about California farming and water:

-- California leads all states as top farm producer measured by cash receipts of $36.6 billion in 2007, 13 percent of the U.S. total and nearly twice the output of No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Iowa.

-- The state has 75,000 farms and ranches and is home to nine of the nation’s top 10 producing counties.

-- It supplies over half of U.S. fruits, nuts and vegetables and over 90 percent of U.S. almonds, artichokes, avocados, broccoli and processing tomatoes. Grapes, lettuce and almonds are the biggest crops in cash value.

-- California produces 80 percent of the world almond crop and one-third of the world’s canned tomatoes.

-- California is not technically a “breadbasket.” It is not a top five U.S. producer of any grain product, but it is, surprisingly, the nation’s largest dairy producer.

-- Overseas exports have risen in recent years to 25 percent of total production today from 16 percent 10 years ago. The top three destinations - the European Union, Canada and Japan - accounted for nearly 60 percent of the 48-commodity total.

-- Farming accounts for 2 percent of the state’s $1.6 trillion economy, but its demand for equipment, transport, labor and other services make it a key economic sector for the world’s eighth-largest economy.

-- The San Joaquin Valley accounts for 60 percent of the state’s prime farmland and is the world’s most productive agricultural region. It depends mostly on snowpack melt from hundreds of miles away for irrigation.

-- Farming accounts for 80 percent of the state’s water usage, according to the Pacific Institute, but the farm industry and government put the number much lower at 40 percent to 60 percent.

-- California is expected to suffer its third straight year of drought in 2009. Economic losses could rise to $3 billion and 95,000 agricultural jobs will be lost. Federal water deliveries will be zero and state water allocations could be 15 percent of the amount requested.

-- Over the course of this century, climate models show California’s water supply dropping 24 percent to 30 percent, most in the second half, according to studies by the University of California, Davis.

(Sources: Reuters, U.S. Department of Agriculture, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Public Policy Institute of California, Pacific Institute for Studies on Development, Environment and Security, Los Angeles Times and University of California, Davis)

Reporting by Ed Stoddard, editing by Mary Milliken

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