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California Drought Hit Farmers, Farm Workers Especially Hard In 2014

ARUN RATH, HOST:

This weekend, as many people take stock of 2014, we wanted to take this time to bring you up-to-date on some of the more compelling stories we brought you this year - first, a couple of very different stories about water. Back in April, we visited farms in Central California to show you the effects of the drought up-close.

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CANNON MICHAEL: It is going to be a year that's, you know, probably, at best, maybe break even, you know, or maybe lose some money.

RATH: He said he would have to lay off a lot of their workers as a result.

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MICHAEL: This year, maybe a third of the guys we'll have laid-off. Probably 20 guys, maybe, we won't bring in.

RATH: When we called up Michael recently, he said the farm did take a real hit on revenues.

MICHAEL: Probably, we were off maybe, you know, 15 percent - 15 percent of what we would've normally - 15 percent to 20 percent of what we would've normally made total on the farm.

RATH: And they did have to lay off several employees.

MICHAEL: We tried to do whatever we could to find, you know - either shortened our schedules or, you know, at least distribute the workload between our crew 'cause we didn't - you know, it's very difficult, if we lay folks off entirely, to ever get them back. So you know, I'd say probably about 10 guys, we couldn't find work for.

RATH: This past summer, UC Davis estimated that more than 17,000 farm employees would lose work because of the drought. They're still waiting for updated numbers. But the weather has been kinder to California lately with some big rainstorms. Cannon Michael says it's been a blessing, but the drought is not over.

MICHAEL: We're not quite there yet. It's good, you know, obviously, to be optimistic and be thankful, but we've still got quite a ways to go.

RATH: In fact, the U.S. Drought Monitor says that almost all of California is still under severe drought and could use a lot more rain. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.