Snowpack statewide is only at 59% of its April 1 average, based on electronic measurements according to the California Department of Water Resources. Farmers in the Central Valley producing water-intensive crops such as almonds and tomatoes are already facing some difficult choices. “It’s really serious, particularly in the Central Valley.”
While there may be continued disruptions within the supply chain over the coming weeks and months, there will not be a shortage of food in the U.S. One thing that Sumner assures is that food availability will remain strong. “We’ve all got lots to worry about these days, enough food is not the thing to worry about,” Sumner noted.
California produces about 20 percent of the nation’s milk and has a large poultry processor in Foster Farms, but is otherwise dependent on the Midwest for pork and much of its beef, according to Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California’s Agricultural Issues Center.
The state slaughters dairy cows for hamburger and raises calves for beef. But the 1-year-old livestock is sent to the Midwest for corn and soy feeding before being processed for beef there, he said. “We’ve never produced any hogs to speak of,” Sumner added.
The virtual townhall was co-chaired by Senate and Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairs, Assemblymember Susan Eggman & Senator Cathleen Galgiani.
Opening remarks were by Jamie Johansson, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation. Other presenters included Roland Fumasi, Ph.D., Vice President, Senior Analyst and Manager, Rabo Research Food & Agribusiness at Rabobank; and Daniel Kowalski, Vice President, Knowledge Exchange Division, CoBank.
Sumner said impacts of the virus may encourage a cooling of trade tensions and “tariff-caused turmoil when politicians here and elsewhere realize we need to work together to keep the damage to a minimum.”
Public Policy Institute of California / February 18, 2020
It is important to recognize that global markets and climates interact, and so what economists call “comparative advantage” remains crucial to economic success. Let’s say climate change makes table grapes more expensive to grow here or moves the season earlier. But if climate change affects Mexican growing conditions even more, climate change could cause grapes to become more profitable and therefore expand in California. The crucial issue looking forward is what will grow well in California compared to other places and compared to other crops.
Sumner says while America’s consumption of cow milk is decreasing, the dairy industry overall isn’t in trouble. “That’s right. Milk production is going up,” he said. “Dairying is a tough business but there’s people successful at it and I think the long-term future is really healthy.”