California drought takes bite out of rice harvest

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WOODLAND, Calif. (AP) — California's deepening drought is shrinking its rice crop, and that's bad news for farmers, migratory birds and sushi lovers.

The state's $5 billion rice industry exports to more than 100 countries and specializes in premium grains used in risotto, paella and sushi. But this year rice farmers only planted 420,000 acres — 25 percent less than last year — because of water restrictions.

The smaller crop could affect Japanese restaurants because nearly all U.S. sushi chefs use medium-grain rice grown in the Sacramento Valley.

The reduced plantings also impact millions of migratory birds and other wildlife that depend on flooded rice fields as habitat, especially in the winter.

Across California, farmers are leaving fields unplanted and tearing out orchards as the historic drought enters its fourth year.