Government Data Raises 'More Doubts About the Drought'

California Agriculture Cashing In at Record Breaking Highs

By Patrick Porgans

The Golden State’s agricultural earnings have reached historic highs during the so-called three-year drought.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA), California’s cash receipts from crop and livestock sales, in billions of dollars, are as follows: 2009- $34.841; 2008- $38.407; 2007- $36.386; 2006- $31.426; 2005 – $32.4; 2004- $30.939; 2003- $28.232; 2002- $26.544; 2000 – $26.206; and 2000- $25.185. 

California’s Governor Schwarzenegger, state water officials, 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl, and Fox Cable TV host Sean Hannity, were among those espousing their “Dust Bowl” drought rhetoric for the past three years, depicting images or fallow fields, orchards being ripped out and projections of the state’s agricultural industry going under. It appears their doomsday predictions were all wet.

Government data released yesterday by the USDA, does not support their draconian doom and gloom prophecies reminiscent of the “Great Drought – Dust Bowl” of the 1930’s, and their predictions that billions of dollars in lost revenues were imminent.

In fact, in 2008, the second year of what officials proclaimed may be the state’s “worst drought ever,” agricultural “cash receipts” (revenues realized from all agricultural commodities produced in the Golden State) reached a record-breaking high of $38.4 billion (just recently revised from the initial 2008 estimate of $36.2 billion), up from the previous all-time high in 2007 of $36.4 billion.

But wait, in 2009 the third year of the government “proclaimed drought,” agricultural cash receipts reach $34.8 billion. There’s more, the state’s 75,000 farms and ranches received a record $36.4 billion for their output in 2007, up from $31.8 billion in receipts a year earlier (2006), which was a very wet year. The previous high for the state’s annual cash receipts was reached in 2005 when sales totaled $32.4 billion.

Furthermore, the reduction in cash receipts from 2008 to 2009 is predominately attributed to the significant reduction in California’s decline in revenue was led by the dairy sector, not the results of the “drought” or curtailment in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water exports, purportedly to protect a three-inch fish. Dairy producers received $4.54 billion for their milk production in 2009, down 34 percent from 2008, and down 38 percent from the 2007 record high of $7.34 billion. (Source: Cooperating with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, ·, Media Contact: Kelly Krug, (916) 498-5161 or 1-800-851-1127 · August 31, 2010)

According to the USDA’s report dairy – “Herd size decreased 3 percent from 2008. Milk production from the State’s dairy farms decreased 4 percent. Milk prices received by producers continued to fall from $18.05 in 2007 to $16.82 in 2008 to $11.49 per hundred pounds of milk sold in 2009. California produced 18.6 percent of the nation’s milk supply last year. The volatile beginning to 2009 dairy pricing had a negative impact on both dairy income and total farm revenues in 2009. Milk prices remained low for the first 7 months before beginning to recover.”

The record-breaking cash receipts raise questions and doubts about the government’s motive. Critics claim that this is yet another testament of how government, the agricultural industry and the water agencies are “milking the drought” as a means to instill fear among Californians to gain public support for another $11 billion General Obligation Bond bailout to subsidize cheap water for the water buffaloes, while the masses suffer from the debt-ridden General Fund and draconian cuts in jobs, health care, safety net programs, schools, and a much higher cost for the state to borrow money.

According to the government, Agricultural Statistical Review, “Almond Cash Receipts, 1998-2007,” indicate that revenues peaked in 2005, years before the “pre-drought proclamation”, and show a steady decline each year thereafter. Essentially, they saturated the market.

Coincidentally, the government’s records show that during California’s previous drought, which occurred from the years 1987 through 1992, and, if the government’s records are valid, was, without question, a much worse drought then this latest so-called drought, which occurred when ranchers/farmers/agribusinesses were planting new almond orchards in the San Joaquin Valley.

The records also attest to the fact that between 1998 and 2001, cash receipts from almond production remain relatively constant at around $700 million annually. The increase in almond production (new orchards) was done with the full knowledge that the risk of a drought could have potential adverse impacts on permanent crops, which absolutely require water every year.

However, that apparently did not serve as a deterrent. Be mindful that many of the major government surface water project were built as back-up supplies during droughts; it is customary to use more groundwater during dry periods, even if it cost more. Fortunately, California has 10 times the amount of “usable” groundwater than it has stored in all of its surface reservoirs.

In their rhetoric, the officials and the media, showed pictures of almond orchards being ripped out in certain areas of the arid San Joaquin Valley; however, they failed to inform the public that in some cases those orchards were being ripped out and replaced with a higher and more productive variety of almonds, and/or because some of the orchards had outlived their useful production years.

The global financial crisis also played a key role in the demands for certain high-end agricultural commodities, as did naturally occurring climatic cycles and the related agricultural production elsewhere on the planet. The financial crisis was also aided and abetted by the very same government officials whom are entrusted to protect the public’s interest.

Patrick Porgans and author Lloyd G. Carter are involved in publishing a series of articles, entitled: “Doubts About the Drought.” For more information you can Google Hay! Doubts About the Drought, or visit the following websites: and

The next of this series will be “Doubts About the Drought – Whether the Weather Mattered.”