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Detrimental droughts threaten California agriculture

California farmland has been making headlines lately for some disconcerting reasons. Droughts have plagued the state, and we are suffering because of it. The talk among us farmers has been echoed by many more around the country: Climate change is causing more frequent and more severe droughts, and our crops are suffering.

My wife and I farm olives for olive oil in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. We have been doing this for about 15 years, and thankfully, olives require a lot less water than many of the other crops raised in our area, like grapes for wine, strawberries, peppers, and tomatoes.

But in the past three years, rainfall has been on a drastic decline. This past year, we received less than seven inches of water, down from the 2009-11 average of 24 inches and more than 40% less than the average rainfall since 1950. The nearby Lake Cachuma, a water source for several communities, is at just 35% capacity. Water levels have sunk so low, the old road bed of Highway 154 beneath has been exposed, a truly unsettling sight.

Because of the lack of rainfall, we have been forced to begin watering our trees in January—four months earlier than usual. The drip line we use for irrigation efficiently waters the olive trees, but financing the extra fours months of water and electricity use is costly when we irrigate 12 hours a day for almost 1,000 trees.

Thirsty olive trees

The dryness and devastation of water supplies poses a greater threat to other farmers and cattle ranchers in my area as the problem continues to increase in severity and more strain is put on our depleting aquifers.

How long will it take for members of Congress to wake up to the fact that climate change is real and is having a serious impact on us? We are the farmers who grow the crops this country depends on. By denying reality, some members of Congress hamper our nation’s ability to find solutions.

My wife Shannon and I

Climate change isn't about charts, facts, and figures—it's about real-world impacts on communities and people across the country. I've shared my story—share yours today.

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