Harris Farms Will Idle Thousands Of Acres On The Westside

Salad lovers{}could be paying more for{}their favorite greens by this spring.{}{}Due to a lack of irrigation water{}a major Westside farmer has decided not to{}plant lettuce in 2014.

Two things are becoming a common sight on the{}Westside due to the drought and a dismal federal irrigation water outlook.{}{}You will see thousands and thousands of acres of{}fallowed land plus{}trees and vines being yanked out because growers can't find enough water to keep them green.{}

Steve Ozuna is in charge of the field crops grown for Harris Farms. Normally this time of the year lettuce would be peeking out of the ground. {} But Ozuna says it's been crossed off the list for 2014.{} "We knew that we had to supply water to our permanent crops... the almonds, pistachios and asparagus."

That's a big hit for the Westside and the Valley's economy.{}{}On average one acre of lettuce produces 21-thousand heads.{} Harris usually plants 1500 acres in the spring.{} That's 315-million heads of lettuce that won't be going to market.

Lettuce is also labor intensive.{} Ozuna says Harris employs close to 700 people in the spring to get the crop picked over a six week period.

Harris Farms normally plants 1500 acres of lettuce in the spring and 1500 in the fall. {} But due to the lack of irrigation water Ozuna says things will be a lot worse.{} "We have roughly 10-thousand acres of open ground and out of the 10-thousand were gonna be farming roughly 500 acres."

Ozuna says that means 90 percent of the labor force that relies on Harris Farms for a paycheck won't see one.{} The Westside has some of the most productive land in the world but because the Bureau of Reclamation can't guarantee a drop of irrigation water this year, growers aren't willing to plant and hope things change.

Next Thursday Valley growers and farm workers are bussing to Sacramento to stage a water rally at the State Capitol.{} They want to call attention to a lack of state and federal irrigation water due to environmental regulations.