Farmer Needing Winter Rain Feel the Pain

Farmer Needing Winter Rain Feel the Pain

December 28, 2013

Field Crop Farmers Hurting with No Winter Rain

By Patrick Cavanaugh, editor

Michael Correia farms field crops in Tulare County, relying on winter rains for germination. And since California is having a record drought with negligible rainfall so far this winter, Correia is worried about his crop.

“I farm oats along with alfalfa inter-planted in wheat and we have not been able to get it out of the ground due to less than a half-inch of rain,” Correia said. “So, I am having to irrigate the ground with well water, and I am not sure if I am going to make a crop.”

“We rely on winter rains to grow these crops as well as recharge the ground water,” he said. “So with no rain, we are just pushing the ground water down further. I already have two wells that have dried up on me and now I need to drill some new wells.”

This year is the worse Correia as seen.  He said he started pulling down a living on his dad’s ranch when he was seven-year’s old, and I am 58-years-old now. “Again, I have never seen it this bad,” he said. “One year it did not rain until December 23, but then we got a good rain from that point on.”

Correia noted that “even if we get a good rain in January, February and March it may not bring the underground water supply back up.”

“I could get some help from my two water districts, which are Persian and Watson, but I have had no deliveries from them this season,” he said. “It’s going to be very tough this year and making matters worse is that the power bills will be outrageous. Southern California Edison is already raising our rates because they are having to buy power from other suppliers because they have very little water in the reservoirs to run through there generators for power. So they’re having to buy from coal and natural gas fired generators, which costs a lot more,” Correia said.

He noted that he also usually plants corn in the spring and harvests it 90 to 120 days later. He grows corn for human consumption and well as silage corn for the dairy industry. “I will need to know that I have water before I plant the corn this spring,” he said.

Something he did last year that saved on irrigations is that he planted milo for silage, which gives the same amount of tonnage on less irrigation. “That worked out pretty good for me,” he said.