Nightly News   |  February 14, 2014

‘Severe Crisis’ Leaves California Farmers Without a Harvest

The farms in Firebaugh, Calif., are on the brink of losing it all as yet another winter day arrives without rain.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> williams: and good evening to our viewers in the west, and that happens to be where we´re beginning this broadcast tonight. the president today visited fresno, and the issue, the crisis that brought him there, is of top importance up and down the state of california and elsewhere, and that´s the drought. it´s one of the driest years in reported history, no relief in sight, while the president today announced $160 million in aid money. while farmers in the central valley are thankful for the economic assistance, they also said it will do nothing to solve the state´s long-term water problems. we begin there tonight with nbc´s miguel almaguer.

>> almaguer: sunrise in the san joaquin valley . in a region that grows 1/3 of the nation´s fruits and vegetables, another winter day without rain. at the local diner in firebaugh , these are difficult days.

>> man: if there´s no water, you can´t farm.

>> lavonne: we are all directly and indirectly together in this.

>> almaguer: lavonne allen could lose her restaurant.

>> lavonne: they´re just not spending any. they´re running scared.

>> almaguer: allen has owned the diner for three years. her husband´s family has been in farming for three generations.

>> joel: it´s a complete loss not just for us, but for our employees and for the community.

>> almaguer: joel allen´s 20-man crew is out of work. next year, he may be out of farming.

>> joel: it´s to the point where we´re scratching our head. what are we gonna do next?

>> almaguer: firebaugh is one of several communities here in the central valley that feeds the nation. but the drought has turned this region into a virtual dust bowl . without water, the harvest in this field is ruined. at the local grocery store, fruit prices are up, sales are down. the market had to lay off three employees, and many more in this town of nearly 8,000 are leaving. firebaugh ´s in serious trouble.

>> mcdonald: without a doubt, it´s a severe crisis.

>> almaguer: city manager ken mcdonald says the situation in firebaugh is so bad, the food bank is feeding farmers.

>> mcdonald: we could have the drought end today, and the city might not be feeling the positive effects of the drought ending for a year or two after that.

>> joel: a lot of people don´t realize the amount of money that´s gonna be lost, the amount of jobs that are gonna be lost. we can´t recapture that.

>> almaguer: the drought is putting businesses and families here under water. tonight, the allens and their neighbors wait for rain as the sun sets on another dry day. miguel almaguer, nbc news, firebaugh , california.