Resilience to drought, California tomato crop edition

From the USDA (pdf):

Contracted production of California processing tomatoes is forecast at a record high 14.0 million tons, averaging 48.61 tons per acre, according to a survey conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The current forecasted production is 17.6 percent above the 2013 crop.

Drought has been an issue for some crops, but apparently not tomato:

The extreme drought in California has forced growers to fallow land and cut back on the acreage for many crops, but the impact on tomato acreage appears to be limited. The projected harvested acreage of tomatoes is 288,000 acres, a 12.5 percent increase from 2013.

I’ll speculate that what we’ll see, once the final data on the California Drought of 2014 is in, that what water farmers had access to was shifted to high-value crops like almonds and vegetables, and the acreage drop will be in the low-value stuff.


  1. John & Friends, It all boils down to agricultural economics. When forced to fallow ground for any reason, especially to move water; producers will always set out their worst, and least productive ground. In California this might be the most saline, lowest, least level, etc. With the reduction in total acres down, the better ground becomes more productive as it’s receiving optimum inputs. This phenomenon was often demonstrated in past USDA set aside farm programs. Even with an overall all reduction in acres, the comprehensive yields per acre would increase; often to the point of no actual reduction in production being realized. Hence, surplus commodities often remained in surplus.

  2. I’ll add that tomatoes are VERY profitable row crops. Farmers who are planting them probably have access to secure water (so they do not lose the crop in Aug/Sep), so they will make good profits. Marginal crops (in terms of profits) are going to drop in acreage.

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