Public Uncertainty Grows as Food Supply And Increased Prices

Western producers continue strong push to protect irrigated agriculture

Farmers and ranchers across the Western United States continue their struggles for water, at a time when war in Ukraine, sanctions  and destroyed ports could take a significant portion of the world’s grain supply out of production or off the market this year.  

“Drought persists across Western and central North America, the heart of our wheat, barley, corn and soybean supply,” said Ty Kliewer, who farms in Klamath County, Oregon. “In the meantime, irrigated agriculture that was built to provide security at precisely this moment, is being dried up by our government.”  

 

EDUCATING THE PUBLIC

Farmers caught in the crosshairs banded together to take out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, sharing the viewpoint that the government’s delivery of water to farmers is critical to ensuring a strong domestic food supply. There is definitely a strong regulatory component to the drought impacting California and Oregon water users served by federal water projects, as discussed further below. 

California-Oregon state line – expressed profound disappointment for the second year of water shut offs that will once again restrict food production. The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) issued a press release citing the impact to consumers driven by this recent federal decision. 

“Federal water policies’ negative impacts on food production comes at a time of global food security concerns, soaring prices at the grocery store, and fears of empty shelves,” KWUA stated. “Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers are bracing for dust storms resulting in poor air quality and other local environmental impacts that predictably arise when once-reliable surface water supplies are directed elsewhere by federal agencies.” 

Please check out and share the press release for the impact reduced water deliveries will have on food, farmers, and the local economy.

 

ELSEWHERE IN OREGON…

In Central Oregon, water users served by North Unit Irrigation District are less than 20 percent of their normal water allotment this year. Many farmers are having to cut out most of their staple crops.  Feed for livestock is becoming increasingly scarce and more expensive. One recent media account estimates there are 25% fewer cattle in the region than a year ago, as ranchers have downsized their herds. 

In Southwest Oregon, Talent Irrigation District’s three primary reservoirs — Hyatt, Howard Prairie and Emigrant lakes — are storing a combined 11% capacity, an all-time low. While TID has yet to announce its allocation for irrigators, it could be even less than it was in 2021, when there was only enough to last five weeks.

 

SACRAMENTO VALLEY FARMLAND TO BE FALLOWED

Water suppliers on the Sacramento River (Sacramento River Settlement Contractors) are receiving approximately 15-18% of their supplies when their contract provides for 75% of supplies in critically dry years. North-of-Delta ag service contractors once again received a ZERO Central Valley Project (CVP) allocation. The Northern California Water Association released a paper estimating the Sacramento Valley will see 370,000 acres out of 450,000 fallowed due to limited water. See the paper HERE.
 

WESTLANDS ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY

Westlands Water District– located on the West side of the San Joaquin Valley – is receiving a ZERO water allocation this year. This is the fourth time in the last decade the CVP south-of-Delta irrigation contractors have received a 0% allocation. 

Westlands recently released THIS REPORT finding over 35,000 local jobs rely on Westlands Water District Agricultural Production.

The study revisits facts and evidence in their 2016 study. It adds information on the impact of COVID-19 to the overall economy. 

The report states that the district “is directly and indirectly responsible for some $4.7 billion dollars of economic activity and nearly 35,000 jobs across the economy.” Activities resulting in a direct impact total $3.2 billion of the $4.7 billion total, the report states.

FRIANT IMPACTS

With the Friant Division receiving a 15% Class 1 allocation, some amount of fallowing will also occur among the Friant Contractors on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. Beyond fallowing, farmers with access to groundwater supplies will need to necessarily turn to groundwater to make up the difference. As this is now the third very dry year in a row, the aquifers they rely on have had very few opportunities to be replenished by excess surface flows. This will have impacts to the Friant Division that stretch beyond just the potential for fallowing.

“We expect that land-elevation subsidence impacts to critical infrastructure will worsen dramatically, and dozens of small, rural, disadvantaged communities dependent on groundwater aquifers recharged by Friant supplies will see their wells go dry,” said Alex Biering, Government Affairs and Communications Manager for the Friant Water Authority. “This will require an emergency response by state and local officials.” 

This also has occurred in 2015, 2016, and 2021. In some cases, Friant Contractors have been able to deliver non-potable supplies to communities whose wells have failed, but there will still be major impacts to the availability of clean drinking water for these communities.

WESTERN FARMER STOCKMAN GUEST COLUMN:
“Food supply shouldn’t be an uncertainty”

In this opinion column Alliance executive director Dan Keppen carries warnings echoed by Western producers that, balance among water uses, Western ranches and farms cannot continue to operate. Ty Kliewer  and other Western producers predict consumers will see shortages at the store, even higher prices, and be forced to rely more heavily on increasingly unstable foreign sources.

“Everyone knows inflation is real and food cost is going through the roof,” said Mr. Kliewer. “The question is this fall will people care what food costs, or be more concerned if they can find it?  There is still time for our state and federal officials to right this ship and remember why we store water and grow food with it.”

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