Employees axed as drought claims meatworks' jobs and damage more
Maggie Thomas, 31, left, the executive director of food justice group Feeding the World, in her kitchen outside the Beef Market Market in Fresno, California, last July. The store was forced to shut down as drought conditions worsened. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle Buy photo Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle Image 1 of / 1 Caption Close Employees axed as drought claims meatworks' jobs and damage more 1 / 1 Back to Gallery
Fresno â€” This year, drought conditions are expected to create a food crisis for meatpackers and restaurants that employ thousands of farmworkers in the Valley, leading to thousands of direct layoffs of seasonal farmworkers â€” as well as an eventual loss of jobs, according to projections by food producers and industry groups.
This year marks the 12th consecutive year of heavy rainfall, which has driven the amount of water in the California desert into the state's waterways by up to 60 percent from last year, according to a report released by The Center for Global Agricultural Studies, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The report, "California's Wildfire: What it Means to the State and Economy," projects that more than 1 million acres of agricultural land will be impacted. The report also predicts more than 20,000 direct agricultural jobs will be lost.
The report says it is the second-biggest water-intensive crop globally, and that as California's water and agriculture resources become more depleted, the "wastage of water and land" can be enormous.
"It is not a problem of drought and we are at least getting it back on track," said Steve Guevara, a senior fellow at UC Davis who has served as an expert on the state's agricultural challenges. "For people who live around those agricultural areas, if it is hot, that water they have used for lawns and flower beds is now going to be used to irrigate lawns, garden equipment â€” anything that irrigates the grasses or flowers has to be done in the summer time."
Guevara's report estimates that up to 1.4 million acres of farmland will be affected, with the California River in some areas up to 20 percent more water-rich than it was a few years ago.
"It is going to be a bad year in terms of people's livelihoods because they need to pay their bills, they need to pay their bills for these agricultural commodities and produce," Guevara said. "It isn't sustainable. As more land falls into the water, the land becomes less productive, and the crops produce less and less."
Guevara called on the state's agriculture an
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