Secretary of Agriculture Ross was fast with the defense of almonds, which I would hope would be the case since it has been a hot topic. But it feels so right, so good to criticize almonds (and I have for years). Why a single-crop ban?
1. It is readily enforceable. Visual inspection would be sufficient, the delineation is clear (almonds, no, everything else, yes). The pain is contained to a very small segment of the population, some of whom are buffered by their wealth.
2. It would free up genuine wet water. One million acres of almonds use four million acre-feet of water and even in California, four million acre-feet of water is real water. That’s about the amount of annual overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley during this drought.
3. Almonds seem frivolous. I like them myself, but they are just a snack.
4. The only justification for almonds is that they draw high prices, but that means that a public resource that everyone wants right now is being transformed to private profits for a few. The conserving public isn’t getting to enjoy the use of that money in exchange for their sacrifice of water.
5. Almonds, especially the
half quarter million acres of almonds planted since the start of the 2006 drought, feel like an arrogant fuck you to the rest of us. The planters knew of drought and decided they’d go ahead, plant trees that must get water and break the aquifers if they had to. Those are everyone’s aquifers, but again, not everyone’s enjoyment of almond profits.
An almond ban doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. It could be ‘no new trees in declining groundwater basins’. It could be ‘we’ll protect our historic almond industry in the Sac Valley but not expansion since 2006, since they must have known about drought’. But it keeps getting mentioned because it makes a lot of intuitive sense. If the State Board does nothing on tree nuts, Secretary Ross will have to keep giving her practiced answers.
ADDED 4/14: Almonds themselves are not evil, but overdrafting our aquifers and destroying our riverine habitats to provide cheap almonds to the world is not the choice I would make.