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California rice harvest impacted by drought after farmers slashed plantings 20%

Another year of drought means another reduced harvest. Cal Rice says 100,000 acres were never planted due to water shortages

ROBBINS, Calif. — Another year of drought means another year of reduced harvest for California rice. Farmers slashed planting by 20% in the spring due to water shortages, which amounts to about 100,000 acres of idle rice fields.

"We don't want to be cut any more than people want to be told how they can treat their back lawn or anything like that," said farmer Tom Butler. 

Butler's Sutter Basin Corp, in Robbins, cut production by 1,000 acres. The fallowed land was never planted, and the soil dried out in the sun. 

"But we understand that sacrifices have to be made, it's part of our water contract that we like to honor and that we have to honor," he said.

Cal Rice spokesman Jim Morris said water issues have been among the challenges. He said cutbacks have impacts throughout the Sacramento Valley.

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"We have many communities that are highly dependent on agriculture, including rice farms," Morris said. 

However, farmers are discovering strong yields and good quality in this year's harvest. There's hope that it could help offset the reduced plantings. 

Meanwhile, the challenges of California farming has inspired many technological and mechanical innovations to improve efficiency. 

"At the end of the day, we’re not going anywhere -- we own this land, and we want to do it," Butler said.

"And we want to contribute to our state, so we’re going to have to evolve with everybody else," he added.

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