Posts Tagged: drought
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources experts were able to provide accurate information about the water use on commodities that have been criticized for water consumption during the drought.
The director of UC ANR's Agricultural Issues Center, Daniel Sumner, was one of three guests on the one-hour talk radio program Your Call, which was broadcast on KALW, Local Public Radio in San Francisco. The topic - How would reducing our intake of meat and dairy affect the drought? - was prompted by off-the-cuff comments made by Gov. Jerry Brown in June. Answering the question, "Is part of the drought strategy to reduce meat consumption?" Brown replied, "If you ask me, I think you should be eating veggie burgers."
On the Your Call show, Sumner explained that beef consumption has little impact on the California drought.
"I do want to make clear, when it comes to water embedded in any product, it depends where the water is from," Sumner said. "We feed cattle in California with grain from the Midwest."
Dairy production is another issue. "Dairy cows are fed lots of grain, soybeans and canola coming from Canada and the Midwest, but also silage and alfalfa, much of which is from California. California dairy is a drought water issue. Beef really isn't."
UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist Dan Putnam appeared on the KTVU Evening News to discuss alfalfa water use with reporter Ken Wayne. Putnam said the drought has hurt the state's alfalfa industry.
"Statewide, it's been fairly devastating," Putnam said. "We're at the lowest acreage we've seen probably since the 1930s."
He also noted the importance of the crop, a key part of dairy cattle's diets.
"An average field of alfalfa produces approximately 2,400 gallons of milk per acre," Putnam said.
Tom Barcellos, a longtime member of the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation workgroup, was featured in a Los Angeles Times story about the impact of the drought on the dairy industry. Barcellos said he fallowed 300 acres of farmland this summer and is buying feed from contractors in Nevada, Texas and as far away as Australia.
"If we don't get rain or have a good winter, our farmers might leave the state," Barcellos said.
Dairy products - milk, cream, butter and cheese - are by far the largest segment of California agricultural production, contributing $140 billion annually to the state's economy. But the the state's industry is shrinking.
According to Lesley "Bees" Butler, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, California has lost 1 to 2 percent of its dairy industry in the last three years. About 100 dairies go out of business every year waiting for rain.
"It's a huge time of uncertainty," Butler said.