BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - Local walnut grower Steve Lambert has been a rancher since he was 22 years old.
To him, he has never seen a drought this bad but he’s not worried about water levels right now.
“We are worried about what we are going to be doing in the fall,” Lambert said. “We’ve got water now, but we know that in the next month or two, water is going to drop down and we are going to be tighter. We are seeing a lot more usage on our trees because it’s been so hot early on.”
Many farmers are already sizing down their orchards and livestock and Lambert is one of them.
“I have some friends that farm towards Bakersfield and they are talking about maybe cutting out every other tree just to keep the trees they do have alive, alive,” he explained. “I know a lot of rice farmers fallowed some ground because they knew they wouldn’t have enough water for that. For me, I’ve sold a few loads of cows because I knew I wouldn’t have enough feed.”
Farmers are also worried about what this drought will do to employment and the economy, both on a local and state level.
But aside from water, many farmers are frustrated over one thing: lack of storage.
“We haven’t built anything since Oroville in ’65,” Lambert continued. “Our state has grown three times at least. We need storage and I think this will wake people up. When all of the sudden you turn on your faucet and there is no water, you’re going to think we need storage up here.”
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California.
All farmers can do right now is hope for the rain in the fall.
“Until it affects mass populations, we don’t do anything. I think this drought is going to do that. We’ll get through it. We always do. I just hope we get rain in the fall,” he said.