Faced with the fourth consecutive year of drought and a second year of no water from the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project, Tulare County farmer Zack Stuller said he and his fellow citrus growers are in “survival mode.”
“We’re not giving up,” said Stuller, who works for Sun Pacific, a grower, packer and shipper of citrus, table grapes, fresh tomatoes and kiwifruit, and who grows citrus, walnuts and field crops at his home ranch. But, he added, “For a way of life for what we do, you talk to any farmer in this valley or any farmer anywhere, you are taking away his livelihood. It’s very scary.”
The ongoing drought and water shortages are scarring the California citrus belt on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, where blocks of citrus trees are abandoned or have been removed, and for-sale signs and well-drilling rigs are common. Farmers in citrus-growing regions that have no surface water and very little groundwater are scrambling to locate enough water just to keep trees alive.
Standing near a gurgling irrigation pump that in other years has used state-of-the-art technology to irrigate an 80-acre citrus grove, Stuller said, “This is a well that is about to give out; this is the last well (of four) that we have on this ranch.”
Many east side citrus growers depend on water from the Friant-Kern Canal, a federal irrigation project with its primary source of water from the San Joaquin River, delivering water from Chowchilla to south of Bakersfield.
For a second consecutive season, the 20-plus irrigation districts that receive water from this project face a zero allocation of water.
In areas where farmers don’t have access to groundwater, groves of trees, such as navel and Valencia oranges, are being removed so that water can be diverted to more valuable citrus varieties, such as mandarins and lemons.
Source: AgAlert, read the full story.