As the California Farm Drought Crisis Deepens, a federal agency rules agricultural heartland won’t get any federal irrigation water this summer.

In a move that will likely signal higher food prices nationally, a federal agency says California’s drought-stricken Central Valley — hundreds of thousands of acres of the most productive farmland in the U.S. — won’t get any irrigation water this summer.

Friday’s announcement by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation follows an earlier warning of no irrigation deliveries from the California State Water Project and leaves Central Valley farms and cities with only wells and stored water to get through the worst drought since the state began keeping records in the 1800s.

Statewide, some 8 million acres of farmland rely on federal or state irrigation water.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency following reports that the water content of snow in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada, whose spring runoff is stored in reservoirs and moved by canals to other areas of the state, stands at 29% of normal.

The announcement is significant because California is the largest U.S. agriculture producer. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent California Agricultural Statistics for the 2012 crop year, the state remains the leading state in cash farm receipts, with more than 350 commodities representing $44.7 billion, or 11% of the U.S. total, in 2012. Over a third of the U.S.’s vegetables and almost two-thirds of its fruits and nuts were produced in California, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said in a report. The federal agency’s announcement will particularly affect San Joaquin Valley farmers who are last in line to receive federal water, San Jose Mercury News reported, adding that many farmers will have to pump already overtaxed wells or leave fields fallow this year. Farmers will leave 500,000 acres of fallow this year, the paper quoted Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, as saying.

17 California Communities Could Run Dry in 100 Days

SFGate reports California drought: communities at risk of running dry.

It is a bleak roadmap of the deepening crisis brought on by one of California’s worst droughts – a list of 17 communities and water districts that within 100 days could run dry of the state’s most precious commodity.

The threatened towns and districts, identified this week by state health officials, are mostly small and in rural areas. They get their water in a variety of ways, from reservoirs to wells to rivers. But, in all cases, a largely rainless winter has left their supplies near empty.

In the mountain town of Lompico in Santa Cruz County, the creek that provides the community with water has run dry, while three wells that tap an underground aquifer aren’t drawing as much as usual.

The water district has required its 1,200 or so customers to scale back water use by 30 percent to preserve what little water it has, but officials aren’t sure the conservation targets are realistic.

“Here’s the problem: We live in the Santa Cruz Mountains. People don’t have lawns. They don’t have gardens. How are they going to conserve 30 percent?” said Lois Henry, president of the Lompico Water District board.

Is Shutting Off Irrigation Water a Good Idea?

Of course it is. It was a bad idea to provide subsidies to water the desert in the first place.

California grows a lot of food. Much of it is because of subsidies that overcharge residential customers for the benefit of farm owners.

Might food prices go up?

Perhaps. So what? You cannot water the desert with water that does not exist.

I have a better idea: eliminate tariffs, crop supports, and all subsidies. We can get peppers, onions, tomatoes, and other produce and fruit items from places that do not have US taxpayer subsidies.

Activists will howl “other countries subsidize farmers”. Without a doubt many do. An if so, it will be at their expense, not US taxpayer expense.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock