California’s drought has brought increased scrutiny to the San Joaquin Valley’s almond industry, which is one of the largest users of water in the state. But as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports, industry leaders say the drought is actually helping to fuel the shift towards nut crops.
Since the drought began just over three years ago 65,000 acres of almonds have been planted in California.
Joe Del Bosque farms nuts and vegetables in Madera County. He’s already stopped farming some of his crops, because he doesn’t have the water. And what water he can purchase or pump is very expensive. He says that’s one factor contributing to the almond boom.
DEL BOSQUE: “We have to calculate out what crops can still sustain those costs. Today almonds are the only ones that seem to be able to do that.”
The cost of water before the drought began used to be around $60 an acre foot but today some farmers are paying anywhere between $400 up to $2,000. Despite the high cost of water many farmers are still planting new almond orchards. Julie Adams is with the Almond Board of California.
ADAMS: “Some of this may be decisions that growers have already ordered those trees so they’re putting those orchards in. Some growers have decided to take out older orchards and put in younger trees because that will use less water.”
Adams says the large investment required to plant an orchard and rising prices for the nut mean growers will keep their trees alive as long as they can.