Promises of rain to come withstanding, California is still smack in the middle of a long, punishing drought. So what does it look like when a top agricultural state undergoes years of drought? Not good, friends.
The USDA and NASA’s Ames Research Center put out this map comparing the amount of idle farmland four years ago to today—and found that the amount of idle land this year had topped 1 million acres. That’s double what we were seeing four years ago.
But, hey, the U.S. is blessed with a wide swath of farmland, that is distributed fairly well across the country. Surely, if California’s food production falls off, the other states can pick up the slack, right? Well, to some degree—but it certainly won’t be seamless.
California’s climate is especially good for producing fruits and vegetables that may not grow so easily elsewhere (hence the current hand-wringing over the state of our almond supply). Even more problematically, though, the state doesn’t just produce the largest portion of the U.S.’s food—it’s also the state with the most food manufacturing plants. Our food infrastructure is set up under the assumption that California is, and will remain, a top producer.
If the drought does pull California down over the longterm, we could be looking at a huge change in our food system.