California farmers brace for drought, unemployment

February 2, 2014 • Business

In this Thursday Jan. 30, 2014 photo, Felicia Grant, a lieutenant at the Salvation Army listens to a devotional before handing out free food to needy residents in Los Banos, Calif. Grant fears that the state’s drought will be so severe this year that middle-class families in the Central Valley will need free food along with the farm workers. She hopes that they’re not afraid to ask for help when the time comes. “It may start at the bottom,” she said. “But it reaches the top.” (AP Photo/Scott Smith)

MENDOTA, Calif. (AP) — Amid California’s driest year on record, the nation’s leading agricultural region is locked in drought and bracing for unemployment to soar, sending farm workers to food lines in a place famous for its abundance.

One-third of the Central Valley’s jobs are related to farming. Strains on water supplies are expected to force farmers to leave fields unplanted, creating a ripple effect on food processing plant workers, truck drivers and those who sell fertilizer, irrigation equipment and tractors.

No place may be harder hit than Mendota, a small farm town where unemployment rose above 40 percent at the height of the economic recession in 2009, also a dry year. Mayor Robert Silva said he fears this year could be even worse.

“We’re supposed to be the cantaloupe capital of the world,” Silva said. “But we’re the food line capital of the world.”

Residents of Mendota late last year began seeing tough times on the horizon when little rain fell in the valley and snow didn’t blanket the Login to read more

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