MORGAN HILL (KPIX) – As Santa Clara County falls deeper into drought, local wine and crop growers said they would be okay for this year, but cattle ranchers are already hurting.
The beauty of pasturelands in southern Santa Clara County hides hard facts. Grasses used for cattle grazing are short and stubby because of little rainfall this year and what’s there is drying out fast in the sun.READ MORE: Brush Fires Break Out Along I-280 Near Downtown San Jose
“It’s already bad and it’s probably not going to get any better because we won’t get any rain now until next fall,” said rancher Jim Warren.
Santa Clara County’s $4 million cattle industry is facing hard times in the face of what are now extreme drought conditions.
Warren said ranchers are having to buy feed and hay, sometimes from three states away, which drives up their costs.
“You’re better off almost to sell the cattle than you are to keep the cattle and trying to feed them,” Warren said.
That could mean higher prices for beef, and possibly, beef shortages at the supermarket.
“It’s really hard to predict way out front, but it looks to me like this business is in trouble,” Warren said.
Other ag businesses in the county are doing better.
“These vines are cabernet sauvignon and they’re established with a drip system,” said winemaker George Guglielmo.READ MORE: UPDATE: Suspect Arrested After 94-Year-Old Asian Woman Stabbed In San Francisco's Tenderloin Neighborhood
He outfitted his Morgan Hill vineyard with a drip irrigation system as a hedge against dry years like the one we’re heading into.
“We do everything we can to maintain the least amount of water we can use, whether it’s in the vineyard or in the winery or wherever,” Guglielmo said.
Because the vines have deep roots and the groundwater situation in the Santa Clara Valley is healthy, Guglielmo is cautiously optimistic his vineyard can weather the extreme drought conditions forecast for the county.
Other nearby growers are already irrigating row crops like lettuce, tomatoes and bell peppers with sprinklers which use more water.
“It’s the row crop growers that consume, that need more water. They have to get a plant growing from seed all the way down,” Guglielmo said.
Santa Clara County’s agriculture production is big business, with crops valued at just over $300 million.
The Agriculture Commissioner says the extreme drought declaration will trigger special aid for farmers such as low interest loans to help with higher water bills or other increased expenses.
Unlike many areas of the state, Santa Clara County growers are not expected to leave farm fields fallow.MORE NEWS: Two Children Age 8 and 12 Suffer Minor Injuries in Oakland Shooting
“Water has always been an issue in agriculture. It does take water to feed the world,” Guglielmo said.