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$40 Billion: Drought Could Be One Of Most Expensive Disasters in History

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NATOMAS (CBS13) — Federal water regulators estimate California’s drought could be one of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history, and it could be quite costly for all of us at the grocery store.

Kyle Amarel is a fourth-generation rice, wheat and alfalfa farmer, but he’s never seen his land look this dry.

“This is the main canal that feeds a lot of farmers with water for all of their rice fields, it’s usually full this time of year,” he said. “There’s still rent to be paid, bills to be paid.”

The lack of rain has forced him to drain half of his rice fields. His other crops are suffering too.

“It would be like somebody coming into your house and telling you, ‘What’s your salary?’ and you tell them and they say, ‘OK, we’re going to take half of it away from you,” he said.

California’s drought is so severe, experts say it could have a $40 billion impact on the state’s economy, and they say it could end up being one of the top 10 natural disasters our country has ever seen.

Amarel says it’s already forcing farmers to downsize, and it could wipe out some altogether, especially when food prices start going up next year.

The ripple effect could cripple the state’s economy, and farmers who remember the drought of 1976 are still bracing for the worst.

“They say that was one of the worst droughts in history, and I really hope this one doesn’t beat it,” he said. “If it does, then I may be working at McDonalds.”

Amarel says if the weather stays dry, he could be forced to cut his profits for next year in half again, putting him at 25 percent of normal.

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