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California's Dry Weather Could Lead to Higher Food Prices



From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

A period of severe dry weather -- called a drought -- is damaging crops in the American state of California. This could cause a rise in food prices for Americans and people around the world. In the Central Valley of California, farmers are reducing crop size because they do not have enough water.

Last year, California had the least amount of rain since officials began keeping records. And it may be just as bad this year. Water is collected and stored in reservoirs for later use. In California, some reservoirs are empty. The amount of snow in the Sierra Mountains is 75 percent below normal. This snow melts in the spring and fills rivers. The water is used for crops. But now farmers are warning of the possibility of another "Dust Bowl," like the one of the 1930s. That was when severe droughts and dust storms covered farmlands and few crops grew.

Today California farmers produce almost half of all fruits and vegetables in the United States. Much of it comes from the Central Valley. Dan Errotabere is a third generation California farmer. He grows tomatoes, walnuts and other crops in Fresno County. He says the federal agency that controls the water released from dams and rivers has stopped giving him water. He and other farmers say officials are not correctly overseeing the water system. Farmers may not be able to plant crops on more than 200,000 hectares of farmland in the Central Valley this spring. Dan Errotabere will plant crops on just 80 percent of his farmland. He has enough work for only 15 of his 25 workers. Long-term solutions include conservation, recycling wastewater and use of "desalinization centers" that remove salt from seawater.