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Severe storms have devastating impact on Central California crops

Severe storms devastate Central California farms
Severe storms have devastating impact on Central California farmers 02:35

Corcoran, California — California's Central Valley produces a quarter of the nation's food, but a parade of atmospheric rivers this winter caused severe storms that destroyed thousands of acres of crops.

The storms, which have been linked to climate change, swamped 150,000 acres in the region, according to numbers from Kings County officials.

About 99% of the nation's pistachio supply is grown in Central California, per data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Pistachio farmer Nader Malakan estimates that about 1,200 acres of pistachio crops were destroyed, to the tune of $15 million.

"It's going to hurt," he told CBS News. "It's a lot of money."   

California's Central Valley flooding Tulare Lake pistachio trees
A view of rows of flooded pistachio trees from the reemerging Tulare Lake, in California's Central Valley on April 27, 2023, near Corcoran, California.  Getty Images

The flood damage in Kings County this winter is estimated to have caused $1 billion in losses, county officials said.

Perched outside Corcoran, Tulare Lake, which was drained a century ago — and still didn't even exist a few months ago — has returned with a vengeance and looks like an ocean. In the mountains above, one of California's largest snowpacks on record is starting to melt. According to forecasters, high temperatures in the coming weeks could prove catastrophic.

 "You kind of get an overwhelming sense of doom in a way," said Lakeshore Dairy farmer Brandon Goedhardt. "How do you stop this?"   

In March, flooding forced thousands of people to evacuate the Northern California agricultural community of Pajaro, after the Pajaro River's levee was breached. 

Goedhardt and other farmers are using massive piles of dirt to reinforce and add onto a nearly 15-mile-long levee designed to hold back the rising tide. While the farmers said they are receiving some assistance from FEMA agents on the ground, they are the ones footing the bill.

Goedhardt said there is nowhere safe enough, or large enough, to move his barn of cows.

Kings County Supervisor Doug Verbund said crews will finish the levee before the next major melt, but there is no guarantee it will hold.

"Mother Nature is in control," Verbund said. "We're just, you know, tying to put our finger in the dike as we go."

Goedhardt said it is all hands on deck this week, but their hearts are sinking.   

"We're a family farm," Goedhardt said. "You know the families have been doing this for generations, and I'd hate to be the one at the wheel, and we lose it all."

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