The California Rice Commission reported that out of the 500,000 acres of rice normally produced in California, only 250,000 will be harvested this year. Sacramento River Valley is known to be one of the top producers of rice, with half of the crop exported to Japan and Korea.
Kurt Richter of Richter Farms stated that he “stretched every drop as far as I could.” Richter managed to produce only about a quarter of his usual yield. “We knew coming into this year, we were in really bad shape because of lack of rainfall and lack of carry-over storage from previous years,” he added.
Richter Farms grows 5,000 acres in Colusa Country normally when there is no drought. However, the farm only managed 1,300 acres this year.
One field had been left dry without any plants or water. This is due to the sparse water supply allocated by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation. According to Richer, a normal low would be a 75% water supply however, for this part of the valley, it was an 18% water supply.
Bruce Linquist, a rice extension specialist from the University of California-Davis, said that this third year of drought is by far “the worst year of drought.”
Linquist added, “The drought dilemma is having a trickle-down effect, from the growers to lost jobs for workers and supply transportation to sushi lovers.” He also noted that the consumer might see the effect of the drought dilemma in higher rice prices.
According to a report from UC Davis, it is estimated that the Sacramento River Valley region will lose USD 1.3 billion in economic impact, with California’s rice industry facing more than $703 million in impacts and 14,300 ag workers out of a job.
Linquist said that after the harvest this September, farmers will start to worry once more. “We need a really good winter, a more than average [of moisture] winter,” he stated.