by Dan Bacher, Daily KOS
As Governor Jerry Brown urged Californians to “Save Our Water” by taking shorter showers and letting our lawns turn brown, corporate agribusiness continued to expand its acreage in water-intensive almond trees in the Central Valley.
California’s 2015 almond acreage is estimated at 1,110,000 acres, up 6 percent from the 2014 revised acreage of 1,050,000, according to a California Department of Food and Agriculture report released today.
That’s up 60,000 acres from 2014’s estimated acreage. “Of the total acreage for 2015, 890,000 acres were bearing and 220,000 acres were non-bearing. Preliminary bearing acreage for 2016 was estimated at 900,000 acres,” the report stated.
Kern, Fresno, Stanislaus, Merced and Madera—all located in the San Joaquin Valley—were the leading counties in almond production. These five counties had 73 percent of the total bearing acreage. Nonpareil continued to be the leading variety, followed by Monterey, Butte, Carmel, and Padre.
“This acreage, planted in Drought Year Four, commits about 180,000 AF/year to those trees, a constant burden on groundwater basins and our political system for every one of the next twenty-five years,” commented onthepublicrecord.org. “Had the Brown administration banned new permanent crops in basins with declining groundwater levels, that demand might be in annual crops, flexible in times of high climate variability.”
The almond acreage was estimated at 870,000 acres at the beginning of the drought, according to onthepublicrecord.org. That means that the total almond acreage in California increased by 240,000 acres during the drought!
Representatives of fishing groups, environmental organizations and Indian Tribes have criticized the expansion of acreage for almonds, a water-intensive crop, at a time when Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, and other fish populations are being driven closer and closer to extinction by poor water management by the state and federal governments—and when urban users are mandated to cut back on water use by 25 percent.
Last March, Stewart Resnick, Beverly Hills billionaire and the largest tree fruit grower in the world, revealed his efforts to expand pistachio, almond, and walnut acreage during the drought at the annual pistachio conference hosted by Paramount Farms.
During the event covered by the Western Farm Press, Resnick gloated about the increase in his nut acreage over the previous ten years, including an 118 percent increase for pistachios, 47 percent increase for almonds, and 30 percent increase for walnuts.
Resnick and his wife, Lynda, are among the most avid proponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s California Water Fix, the new name for the Delta Tunnels, potentially the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history. The tunnels will divert water from the Sacramento River for export to agribusiness corporations on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water companies, and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods in Kern County.
See this story for more information about the Resnicks and their influence over the UC system and California politics.