The harm caused by the severe drought in California [“California’s lasting drought threatens family farmers,” news, Feb. 10] has been exacerbated by bad policy. For decades, the federal government has heavily subsidized water in the state, particularly for crop irrigation. Artificially low water prices have encouraged overconsumption and planting in dry areas where farming is inefficient and environmentally unsound.

Federal farm subsidies have made these problems worse by boosting demand for irrigation water and encouraging farmers to bring marginal lands into production. Ending farm subsidies while moving toward market pricing of water would help solve recurring water shortages in California and elsewhere in the West.

Chris Edwards, Washington

The writer is an economist at the Cato Institute.