According to data released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are more than 531,000 acres of unplanted land in California. This constitutes a 36 percent increase from the amount of unplanted land in the state a year ago.
The USDA data reflects how many California farmers are struggling to procure enough water to irrigate their crops as major government water projects supplying their water remain lacking as the drought in the Western United States continues into its third year.
Aaron Smith, professor of agricultural economics at University of California, Davis noted that the crops most affected by the water crisis are water-intensive field crops like rice and cotton, which have been declining for years in the state.
The decline in farmland utilization in California comes as production of certain crops like wheat and corn all over the country is expected to decline due to drought conditions, contributing to food price inflation.
The USDA’s report has three different categories for unplanted land: fallow, idle and prevented. The latter category refers specifically to land that can’t be used due to natural disasters, including drought.
In 2020, there were 74,200 acres of prevented land. In 2021, that increased by more than double to 188,800 acres of prevented land. In the latest report, the acres of prevented land once again doubled to 384,200 acres. Experts warned that if drought conditions persist, the number of acres of prevented land could once again double next year.