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Drought Could Cripple Northern California Rice Production, Jobs

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — With planting season a month away, rice farmers in Northern California are worried they may lose half of their water this season.

The unsettled water allocations could mean a much lower rice harvest with fewer jobs available.

“We don’t know how much water we are going to get,” said rice farmer Mike Daddow. “In this district, they’ve already said we may only get 40 percent of our water.

The northern valley grows 97 percent of the state’s rice crop. Cutting farmers’ water in half, meaning fewer seeds are planted.

“It leaves a lot of questions for us in how we are going to run our operation,” he said.

Walking on soil that may be left dry this year, Daddow says small towns will feel the impact as jobs will be lost.

“That pool of money shrinks—it hurts everybody,” he said. “All the way from the chemical guys to the crop dusters to the mills down the line.”

Less of the crop harvested here will lead to a smaller supply. Less rice may mean higher prices for sushi restaurants such as Mikuni’s.

“Rice company told me that it is going to go double, or even much higher,” said owner Taro arai.

He has ordered his chefs to get creative, even experimenting with non-rice dishes such as the bikini roll if prices jump too high.

“I don’t know, I’m looking for the idea,” Arai said.

As he looks, Daddow waits.

“I’d like to know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Everybody pray for rain.”

The federal projections will be out by April, which means farmers will have a better idea what they can plant around June. Harvest will come in the fall. At that point in time, we may see prices climb for the rice.

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