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California drought is pushing Latino farmers and workers to make difficult decisions
Joe Del Bosque roamed the 2,000 acres of his California farm knowing he couldn't touch nearly half of the land he's owned for decades.
"I got the land, I got the people. I have everything but no water. I can't do it," said Del Bosque, a 73-year-old farmer in Firebaugh, California.
Del Bosque is one of the many Latino farmers and workers whose lives revolve around California's agriculture industry and who have been forced to make difficult decisions due to the ongoing water crisis.
Years of low rainfall and snowpack in the state have now led to rapidly draining reservoirs. Last month, the state's two largest reservoirs reached "critically low levels" just as extreme drought conditions expanded from covering 40% to 60% of the state, according to the US Drought Monitor.
Federal officials dealt a large blow to farmers in the state's Central Valley when earlier this year, they significantly reduced allocations for irrigation. Many of these farmers rely on underground reservoirs for their operations and officials said only a limited number of agriculture customers would receive water deliveries. They are serviced by the Central Valley Project, a complex water system made of 19 dams and reservoirs as well as more than 500 miles of canals across the state.
While farmers have previously made numerous changes in response to the drought, this year's water limits have pushed them to leave more portions of their land idle and reduce the number of workers they hire. Del Bosque says he stopped growing asparagus and sweet corn, solely focusing on melons and almonds, which most of the world's crops are produced in California. Without those crops, Del Bosque was not able to hire about 100 people to work on his farmland.
"These are people who had worked for us for many years, and they're highly skilled people," Del Bosque said.