Almonds, avocados, artichokes, alfalfa – these foods may be easy on your belt, but as California’s historic drought deepens, they’ll get tougher on your wallet. The driest span on the West Coast in at least half a millennium is likely to make a whole range of produce more expensive across the country.
The Golden State produces nearly half the nation’s fruits and vegetables, including 95 percent of broccoli, 98 percent of garlic and 99 percent of walnuts. “California is basically all over your market basket,” says Penn State Professor James Dunn, who studies how weather affects food prices. “It’s important in almost any commodity,” Dunn says.
Though the USDA has previously predicted scant overall food price increases this year, Dunn says it’s now clear that the drought will have a “big impact” on grocery bills.
Recent developments don’t bode well for farmers. Just as the growing season gets underway in California’s produce-rich Central Valley, the state has reported astonishingly low snowfall, an important source of irrigation. This fact was illustrated dramatically at the press conference Gov. Jerry Brown staged Wednesday during the annual measuring of the Sierra Nevada snowpack. On a mountain pass where the snow usually tops 5 feet, Brown stood on browned grass and announced extraordinary water restrictions.