In Tulare County, rural homeowners are seeing their wells dry up after almonds go in.
In Madera Country, rural homeowners are seeing their wells dry up after almonds go in.
Longtime farmers locals are asking Fresno County to impose a moratorium on new almond trees.
This economic model, in which powerful outsiders come in, displace the natives and destroy local natural resources (the aquifers) to provide cheap unprocessed goods to a foreign country is pure colonial extraction. I don’t see how it is different from slash-and-burn agriculture in the Amazon to provide cheap beef or cutting hardwoods like teak out of tropical forests. Mostly I am just stunned that my state is on the receiving end; I thought we were first world. I guess anywhere can be exploited if they aren’t willing to protect their poor or their natural resource.
I have been trying to think of ways that the Valley governments can turn the tables on the hedge fund almonds. Could Fairmead incorporate as a town, including the almond acreage, and take it by inverse condemnation? They need some recharge lands and the hydrologic connectivity is well established.
What if Stanislaus County thought of Trinitas Partners as the sweetest, juiciest fly that ever stumbled into their web? They should bleed Trinitas shamelessly. Make them prove their neighborliness by providing the new headquarters for their new groundwater management agency and fund the first few years of study and monitoring wells. Any charity drive in Oakdale should start with a phone call to Trinitas requesting the donation of the big raffle prize. Then, Stanislaus County can start with the real charges. All those Trinitas trucks take a toll on county roads; an assessment for re-paving should be based on truck weight and traffic. There are dust containment costs that should be assessed to the largest acreages, and it would be real neighborly ifTrinitas would pay for a new asthma clinic and air quality monitoring station.
The proper attitude for Stanislaus County is that some slow, rich pockets just got snagged and everything that could possibly be billed to them should be. When Trinitas goes under, it should at least leave some nice public buildings and newly re-paved roads behind. Does anyone from Trinitas Partnership vote in Stanislaus County? The Commissioners’ actual constituents hate Trinitas. They’ll reward Commissioners who find ways to internalize the externalities caused by the new giant orchards.
Finally, those orchards will one day be abandoned when pumping depths and energy costs get too high. The time to impose clean-up costs is now. Poor Central Valley counties, do you remember 2009, when all those foreclosed houses were abandoned and it was expensive to patrol them, keep mosquitos down, mow lawns? Did you wish you had laws on the books to force banks to pay those costs? Pass those now, for when mega-orchards go under (drip tape disposal in your landfills, irrigation pipe clean up, restoration requirements if it was not ag land before, well closure costs). They won’t be watching now and you’d have a hook to go for the rich hedge fund if they suddenly decide to divest from almonds.
I don’t know why California is allowing big agri-business money to dispossess her people. That seems more like Louisiana or Texas. I hope a local government can turn the tables.