UC team: California ag “positioned to weather this drought”

The latest analysis by a University of California team has concluded (pdf) that agriculture in that state is doing pretty well in the current drought, all things considered:

The current drought is causing large economic losses but given innovative responses by farmers and others, those losses have been manageable and California agriculture is positioned to weather this drought.

Losses are big: $1.8 billion in a $45 billion California ag economy, or 4 percent. Agricultural employment continues to grow, but not as quickly as it would otherwise have in the absence of drought:

[L]abor-intensive agriculture has, in fact, been growing, and job growth would have been larger, but for the continuing drought.

With ripple effects through the economy, the UC team estimates a total impact of $2.7 billion, which is a drought impact of a bit more than one tenth of one percent of California’s $2.1 trillion (source) economy.

Where has the adaptive capacity come from?

Adaptation methods include changing the typical crop mix by using water for crops with higher revenue per unit of water, substituting groundwater for surface water, water transfers, and additional use of technology.

One of these in particular, the authors note, poses risks that may be providing adaptive capacity now at the expense of adaptive capacity in the future:

[C]ontinuous overdraft of groundwater, a fast-growing proportion of permanent crops, and the use of irrigation systems that minimize recharge reduce the ability to cope with future droughts.

Californians need to do something about that.

The report is Economic Impact of the 2015 Drought on Farm Revenue and Employment, by Richard E. Howitt, Josué Medellín-Azuara, Duncan MacEwan, Jay R. Lund, and Daniel A. Sumner (pdf)