California Drought: Farmers Shaking Almonds off Trees to Save Orchards

Almond tree (Justin Sullivan / Getty)
Justin Sullivan / Getty

Farmers struggling in the California drought are shaking almonds off their trees to save the trees themselves, according to Victor Davis Hanson, a farmer and conservative commentator.

Hanson, commenting on the most recent edition of his podcast, the Victor Davis Hanson Show, said that the lack of rainfall and the absence of new water infrastructure projects in the state was forcing farmers to sacrifice the crop to save the trees, which require significant investments of money and time.

“Even driving along the west side [of the Central Valley],” Hanson noted, “you’re starting to see things I never saw before. There are orchards out there where they’ve shaken the almonds off, to keep the tree alive but not to have enough water for the crop this year.”

Other farmers are scrapping almond trees altogether, the Wall Street Journal noted on Monday:

The drought, which began last year, has spread across nearly all of the western U.S. Combined with looming restrictions on groundwater usage, it is prompting a reckoning in California’s $6 billion almond industry, which grows about 80% of the world’s supply. The situation is reshaping the state’s food sector, forcing farmers to reassess which crops they will have the water to produce, and where. It is also challenging food-company executives tasked with keeping grocery store shelves filled when reservoirs or wells run dry.

With no water flowing from canals to his Huron, Calif., farm, Jim Anderson in February opted not to plant 6,000 acres he typically devotes to crops like garlic and carrots. Instead, he sent groundwater from his wells to his almonds, which represent decades of investment. Still short of water, Mr. Anderson pulled out 400 acres of almonds in April.

“We’re grinding up trees as we speak.” Mr. Anderson said. “Beautiful orchards that could’ve lasted another five or six years.”

Despite the Biden administration’s recent push for infrastructure spending, little attention has been paid to the development of water infrastructure, such as reservoirs or desalinization plants, which could help alleviate California’s drought. Current infrastructure was developed half a century ago for a state population that is half of today’s size.

Though the drought is being attributed in the media to climate change, former Obama administration official Stephen E. Koonin notes in his recent book Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters that long-term trends in drought as a result of climate change are difficult to determine, and that some research suggests “a leading cause of multiyear US droughts over the past millennium has been internal variability of the atmosphere.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new e-book, We Told You So!: The First 100 Days of Joe Biden’s Radical Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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