The Latest: Study says drought cost to grow by $500 million

Jun 2, 2015, 12:30 PM

11:25 (PDT)

A new forecast says the economic impact of California’s drought will grow by $500 million in 2015, to $2.7 billion.

The study released Tuesday by the University of California at Davis includes a one-third increase in the number of acres that farmers are fallowing for lack of water. The total is now 564,000 acres.

The study says the drought, now in its fourth year, will be worse for state farmers this year in terms of reduced water availability and economic impact to agriculture.

California is the country’s leading state in terms of agricultural production.

Researchers say that even with increased groundwater pumping, state farmers in 2015 will run 2.5 million acre-feet short of the water they normally use.

However, the study says overall increases in crop prices are expected to remain modest in 2015, at less than 2 percent.

An acre-foot of water is enough to supply one to two households for a year.

___

11:15 a.m. (PDT)

A U.S. senator says a push by federal lawmakers to address California’s water shortage will likely become an effort to help several Western states.

The move could complicate what has already proven a difficult task but also provide motivation for more senators to make drought relief a priority.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wrapped up a Tuesday hearing about the drought by saying it highlighted the need to take up a broader bill than Congress has considered in past sessions.

She said the situation is dire in California but the focus moving forward needs to be Western-wide.

Congress has struggled over the past three sessions to pass a drought relief bill. The House passed legislation that stripped away environmental protections to divert more water to farmers. But the Senate has refused to go that route.

Cannon Michael, a farmer from Los Banos, California, told lawmakers that he has left 2,500 acres unplanted because of the lack of water and may be forced to idle thousands of acres more pending regulatory decisions designed to provide more cold water for fish.

“There’s no relief coming anytime soon,” Michael said after the hearing.

___

Associated Press writers Ellen Knickmeyer in San Francisco and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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(Dave Ellis/The Free Lance-Star via AP)...
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The Latest: Study says drought cost to grow by $500 million