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Drought Forcing Cutbacks For Farm Workers, Increases In Food Assistance Need

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Leigh Martinez Leigh Martinez
Leigh Martinez is the multimedia journalist covering the San Joaquin...
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DIXON (CBS13) — California’s drought is proving to be an expensive natural disaster. The drought has cost the state $2.2 billion dollars, 17,000 jobs have been lost, and 428,000 farm acres have gone unplanted.

With no end in sight, the Yolo Food Bank worries more people will be in need of food assistance.

California’s drought has not dried up the farms in Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys the way it’s destroyed farms south of Merced County. The league of California Cities Latino Caucus executive director said if you travel to Fresno and Tulare counties, it’s a very different landscape.

“You could see the almond orchards just being plowed out, acres laying on their side, because of lack of water,” said Arriaga.

Arriaga said orchards take five to ten years to mature and produce fruit. He worries northern counties could suffer the same fate next year.

“The people working this particular industry, crops and so forth, it’s not like they can hold out,” said Arriaga. “They’ve got to go elsewhere.”

Farmers north of Fresno County, for the most part, have planted their annual crops. However, farm workers say they’ve had hours cut, because of irrigation restrictions.

Maria Chavez said her husband works on a Dixon farm cleaning and watering crops. She said he saw several of his coworkers lose their jobs in the last couple of weeks, because of the reduced use of water on the farm.

The Yolo Food Bank said it’s only seen a small increase in families since getting the June delivery of drought assistance food boxes.

“We’re trying to think outside the box and not just think of farm workers, we’re also thinking of landscape and pool cleaning services that all require water,” said Yolo Food Bank relations manager Stephanie Sanchez.

“We contact those contractors and businesses and say, ‘Hey, if you have anyone in need of assistance, if you reduced their work hours, please let them know about our program.”

The Yolo Food Bank received 5,683 boxes in June. It gave away 3,027 boxes to families this summer. Sanchez said the food bank will most likely have enough boxes to get through the month of August, but it hasn’t been told by the state when or if it will receive a second delivery of drought assistance food boxes.

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