TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Thousands of acres of farmland of what was once the largest lake west of the Mississippi are now covered in floodwaters.
Farmers and ag workers facing a crisis. Tens of thousands of acres of farmland that helped feed the valley and the world near Corcoran are now in limbo.
Water from old Tulare Lake was diverted to irrigate thousands of acres of farmland. It’s usually bone dry, but after a wave of atmospheric rivers, the lake is quickly filling up and experts say it’s just the beginning of what could be an agricultural disaster.
“This is a once in a lifetime this is a once and a hundred-year flood that were seeing and were just at the begging it’s only march,” said Dusty Ference Executive Director of the Kings County Farm Bureau.
With the flooding, farmers can no longer plant or harvest crops and crops that would normally be planted could be a total loss.
“Tomato planting has been delayed other plantings have been delayed because of this and really we don’t yet know what’s not going to be harvested because of this because it might be underwater now or it might be too muddy to get to harvest” Ference continued
The Kings County Farm Bureau says a quarter of the jobs in the county are ag-related.
“Literally everybody is going to feel the repercussions of this. Farmers are gonna feel it first, but employees are gonna feel it, there’s going to be less work,” said Ference.
The United Farm Workers says the flooding is financially devastating to farm workers.
“For the folks who are undocumented they can’t get unemployment and they can’t get access to programs U.S citizens can access,” said Antonio De Loera-Brust with United Farm Workers.
“This is an already incredibly vulnerable population that is already barely making ends meet living paycheck to paycheck. We estimate that approximately one month to two months’ worth of wages have been lost by farm workers,” Loera-Brust continued.
The main question on everyone’s mind is what comes next?
It’s a waiting game at this time to see what the damage ultimately is, the bureau says if you experienced damage to fill out a survey form to better help the county get disaster relief from FEMA.