Drought taking a bigger toll on California agriculture

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Harvest time is starting to arrive at farms across California. And many of the state’s key crops are expected to be smaller this year than usual because of the drought.

The water shortage has led to shrinking yields of everything from rice, corn and hay to almonds, pistachios and oranges. The drought already prompted an early harvest of the state’s grape crop, which is expected to be smaller than usual.caldroughtmap

And some farmers could really feel the pinch. The Sacramento Bee reports that an estimated 420,000 acres of farmland, or about 5 percent of the state’s total, has gone fallow this year, including about a quarter of the state’s rice fields. Economists at U.C. Davis say the combination of higher water costs and revenue losses could slice about $2.2 billion off the state’s $44 billion agricultural sector this year. That means economic distress for some farmers and lost jobs for farmworkers.

It also means that consumers can expect to see higher prices – and not just in the produce aisle. The lower crop yields could further push up prices that are already rising on everything from milk and beef to bread and pasta sauce.