Colusa County farmers are still in full swing amid countywide “stay at home” orders.
A plethora of fields in the county have been harrowed and on April 15, farmers started seeing their rice being sown onto their fields.
Daryl Schaad, of Maxwell, was one of the first handful of farmers to see his rice seeded last week by Moller Aviation.
But with the closure of several county businesses and restricted hours, obtaining parts for farm machinery has become one of the obstacles farmers are currently facing. Finding workers among those ordered throughout the state to “shelter in place” is another.
“With the Covid-19 pandemic, we are having difficulty staffing enough seasonal personnel back to the farm,” said Zach Dennis.
Dennis, a long-time rice farmer of Maxwell, stated that the start of the rice planting season is about the same from last year, give or take a few days. Dennis has about 270 acres of the 401 and 205 varieties planted and expects to plant another 250 acres this week.
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, a water shortage is creating another hardship on farming operations.
Obtaining water for the fields to be flooded – before the rice is sown – is another obstacle farmers in the county are facing. On April 17, Maxwell Irrigation District started releasing water to their landowners. Based on California Department of Water Resources’ April 1 water supply forecast and current hydrologic conditions, the Bureau of Reclamation has announced a decrease in water supply.
“While we were all hoping for a miracle March, after February landed a record dry, we were not so fortunate,” said Regional Director Ernest Conant. “Although March did bring some wetter weather across California, it ended up being relatively dry for Shasta inflow.”
For Maxwell Irrigation District, this means landowners will only see about 75 percent of their contracted water supply.
County residents can expect to see and hear Colusa County crop dusters more in the coming weeks, as farmers diligently work towards a successful 2020 rice season.