Daily Reads: Almond Joy

California is experiencing a severe drought, so severe that Governor Jerry Brown recently mandated 25% cuts in water use for individuals and businesses throughout the state. Those cuts did not include agricultural users. Many people are upset that farmers are escaping the restrictions, and they have turned their ire on a specific crop: almonds. It turns out that almonds are a very thirsty crop, with a single nut requiring a gallon of water to produce.Mother Jonesled the charge against almonds in July 2014 when they published an article snarkily titled “Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters.” This article was my first introduction to the economics of almonds, and I immediately agreed that almonds are a wasteful crop to produce during times of such drastic drought – though I have to admit I didn’t stop eating them (I have never had almond milk and I’m not eager to try it regardless of the drought). Now, with the new water restrictions, almonds are the target of people who believe that a crop that uses up to 10% of California’s agricultural water should give way to more drought-tolerant, sustainable crops. Yet, it turns out that there is more nuance to the business of almonds than just their thirstiness and value to the state economy. Today’s two Daily Reads address both sides of the almond debate. One article, from CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture), highlights the value of almonds and points out that they can be sustainably managed by small farmers. The second is an article from Mother Jones responding to several arguments that almonds really aren’t that bad. I invite you to read both, as well as the other articles I linked to, and draw your own conclusions; but as for me, I still think there are better ways to use our agricultural water than to grow a water-intensive crop that is mostly destined for overseas markets.

Making Every Drop Count

Here’s the Real Problem with Almonds

2 Comments Daily Reads: Almond Joy

  1. Ranthropologist

    Thanks for the link. I agree that the dairy and meat industries are a bigger target and need to be part of the discussion, but I think the almond part of the equation is still relevant to the overall question of California’s water use.


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