In 2014, some 500,000 acres of farmland lay fallow in California, costing the state’s agriculture industry $1.5 billion in revenue and 17,000 seasonal and part time jobs. Experts believe the total acreage of fallowed farmland could double in 2015 — and that news has people across the country thinking about food security.
“When you look at the California drought maps, it’s a scary thing,” Craig Chase, who leads the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative at Iowa State University, told ThinkProgress. “We’re all wondering where the food that we want to eat is going to come from. Is it going to come from another state inside the U.S.? Is it going to come from abroad? Or are we going to grow it ourselves? That’s the question that we need to start asking ourselves.”
The California Central Valley, which stretches 450 miles between the Sierra Nevadas and the California Coast Range, might be the single most productive tract of land in the world. From its soil springs 230 varieties of crops so diverse that their places of botanical origin range from Southeast Asia to Mexico. It produces two thirds of the nation’s produce, and, like Atlas with an almond on his back, 80 percent of the world’s almonds. If you’ve eaten anything made with canned tomatoes, there’s a 94 percent chance that they were planted and picked in the Central Valley.