While historic winter storms have battered much of the US, California is suffering its worst drought on record. So why is America’s most valuable farming state using billions of gallons of water to grow hay – specifically alfalfa – which is then shipped to China?
The reservoirs of California are just a fraction of capacity amid the worst drought in the state’s history.
“This should be like Eden right now,” farmer John Dofflemyer says, looking out over a brutally dry, brown valley as his remaining cows feed on the hay he’s had to buy in to keep them healthy.
In the dried-up fields of California’s Central Valley, farmers like Dofflemyer are selling their cattle. Others have to choose which crops get the scarce irrigation water and which will wither.
“These dry times, this drought, has a far-reaching impact well beyond California,” he said as the cattle fell in line behind his small tractor following the single hay bale on the back.
“We have never seen anything like this before – it’s new ground for everybody.”