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Central Valley Farmers Fight Fears of Drought as Long Dry Spell Stretches Into New Year

STOCKTON (KPIX) If you really want to see how dry December has been you have to leave the Bay Area and come out to the Central Valley -- to farm country.

We talked first to Ken Vogel who grows fruit trees near Stockton.

"Besides being dry with lack of rain we have some very high temperatures -- middle-sixties in December is pretty well unheard of in this area," Vogel said.

Dry December Leaves Central Valley Growers Fearing Return of Drought
Fruit-tree grower Ken Vogel walks through his orchard near Stockton. (CBS)

Ken Vogel, who grows cherries and walnuts on his land, said his trees are dormant right now and not taking up any water.

Moisture in the soil protects the tree roots when the weather turns cold. Usually that's provided by winter rains but now growers are having to add it themselves.

"During the drought I did irrigate in January and February but I don't remember irrigating in December before," Vogel said.

The reservoirs that supply cities are still full from last year's heavy precipitation but most growers rely to some degree on yearly rainfall for their livelihoods. No one is panicking yet about a return to the drought but you can tell they're a little nervous about how the year is starting out.

"Going into that drought, we figured we'd have one dry year. Wwell, we got two dry years. But a five-year type of drought is fairly unknown in this area of California. So we are gun-shy," Vogel said.

Stockton usually gets about 3 1/3 inches of rain in December. Last month, the area only saw 0.05 of an inch.

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