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California Drought Threatens 50% Farm Town Unemployment

Joe Del Bosque’s workers are tending irrigation lines and priming pumps for the cantaloupe season on 1,000 acres north of Mendota, California, an area bigger than Central Park. The drought gripping the most productive U.S. agricultural region may claim more than half that land.

Mendota, in Fresno County near the middle of the state, calls itself the Cantaloupe Center of the World. In the last big drought five years ago, unemployment in the town soared to almost 50 percent and the line of farmworkers at the local food bank stretched for blocks. Del Bosque had to cut his payroll 30 percent, and it will probably be worse this year, he said.