As California declared multiple drought emergencies and imposed mandatory water restrictions on residents in recent years, the state’s almond farmers expanded their orchards by a remarkable 78 percent, according to new research by Food & Water Watch.
There would be no almond industry without honeybees, and honeybees are struggling mightily to keep pace with the booming almond business, as FERN’s latest story, published with HuffPost, explains. The latest bit of bad news for bees came Wednesday, with the release of an annual survey of beekeepers that recorded winter losses of nearly 38 percent, the highest winter loss rate since the survey began 13 years ago.(No paywall)
Nearly half of the $4.7 billion in Trump tariff payments will go to five midwestern states that are the largest soybean and hog producers in the country, said a farm group analysis on Tuesday. At the same time, an environmental group challenged the USDA to explain its opaque development of the bailout package.
With the honeybee under siege, by pesticides, parasites and disease, The Wonderful Company—the world's largest almond grower—hired a scientist to build it a replacement pollinator, according to FERN's latest story, published with Scientific American.
The Almond Board of California is launching a research initiative to find uses for the byproducts of almond processing, which includes the hulls and shells, says the Business Journal of Fresno, Calif. The results could be biodegradable plastics and additives for pharmaceuticals or biofuels, according to Glenda Humiston of University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
California is the U.S. leader in both dairy and almond production, and it illustrates the rise in popularity of almond milk while Americans are cutting back on milk from dairy cows, says Bloomberg. With a bit of a push from the multi-year drought, some dairy farmers are converting their fields to almond groves for a higher return per acre.
Even during four years of the worst drought in state history, California has seen total farm earnings increase 16 percent and farm employment rise 5 percent. “Both wages and employment in agriculture increased annually from 2012 to 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reaching $12.7 billion and 421,213 jobs in 2015 …”
Between December and March this year, prime pollinating season, 1,734 beehives were stolen from almond groves in California, the nation’s largest producer of the nuts. It is part of a troubling, and relatively new, criminal enterprise that has caught both growers and law enforcement by surprise.
Criminals impersonating shipping companies are stealing millions of dollars worth of California’s high-priced nuts, says The Christian Science Monitor.
California farmers made $53.5 billion in sales in 2014, even as Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency and mandated urban water cuts for 2015. The record sales figures, which represent the most recent data available, were released in a new report by the state agriculture department.
Almonds faced the agricultural version of the water-shaming that was directed at wastrel urbanites in California, called out as one of the thirstiest crops on the planet. Yet almond acreage has gone up every year during the drought and the harvest consistently is larger than before the drought, says Gizmodo.
California's almond growers will harvest a record-setting crop of 2.1 million pounds this year, up 4.5 percent from last year, says USDA, despite a three-year drought. The record crop is 2.03 million pounds in 2011. Acreage is up this year. "Orchards required irrigation in the winter months due to the lack of precipitation, but rain early in the season offered some temporary relief," said USDA.
Since the days of the Gold Rush, "groundwater has been considered a property right; landowners are entitled to what's beneath them," says the Los Angeles Times; California is the only state in the West that does not regulate groundwater.
Drought in California could idle 78 percent of the state's farm land yet, "A booming population and a sharp increase in lucrative crops like berries and nuts that require more water strain the system" says the New York Times.