Harris Farms Will Idle Thousands Of Acres On The Westside - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Harris Farms Will Idle Thousands Of Acres On The Westside

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Western Fresno County -

Salad lovers could be paying more for their favorite greens by this spring.  Due to a lack of irrigation water a major Westside farmer has decided not to plant lettuce in 2014.

Two things are becoming a common sight on the Westside due to the drought and a dismal federal irrigation water outlook.  You will see thousands and thousands of acres of fallowed land plus trees and vines being yanked out because growers can't find enough water to keep them green. 

Steve Ozuna is in charge of the field crops grown for Harris Farms. Normally this time of the year lettuce would be peeking out of the ground.   But Ozuna says it's been crossed off the list for 2014.  "We knew that we had to supply water to our permanent crops... the almonds, pistachios and asparagus."

That's a big hit for the Westside and the Valley's economy.  On average one acre of lettuce produces 21–thousand heads.  Harris usually plants 1500 acres in the spring.  That's 315–million heads of lettuce that won't be going to market.

Lettuce is also labor intensive.  Ozuna says Harris employs close to 700 people in the spring to get the crop picked over a six week period.

Harris Farms normally plants 1500 acres of lettuce in the spring and 1500 in the fall.   But due to the lack of irrigation water Ozuna says things will be a lot worse.  "We have roughly 10–thousand acres of open ground and out of the 10–thousand were gonna be farming roughly 500 acres."

Ozuna says that means 90 percent of the labor force that relies on Harris Farms for a paycheck won't see one.  The Westside has some of the most productive land in the world but because the Bureau of Reclamation can't guarantee a drop of irrigation water this year, growers aren't willing to plant and hope things change.

Next Thursday Valley growers and farm workers are bussing to Sacramento to stage a water rally at the State Capitol.  They want to call attention to a lack of state and federal irrigation water due to environmental regulations.

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