California Corporate Farms Increase Water Use While Small Farms Offer To Cutback

AlmondGrove

There is hardly any contention that America has become a nation that exists for the benefit of corporations and the rich. Republicans in Congress and state legislatures have made little effort to conceal their intent to give all of the nation’s wealth to their generous donors. Sadly, the rich, particularly wealthy corporations, are not content with collecting the nation’s man-made resource (wealth) and are on pace to take what is left of Western states natural resources as well. In California, the greatest natural resource, water, is in extremely short supply and the oil industry, the Nestle Corporation, and corporate agriculture is rapidly draining what is left of California water for pure profit.

As it stands today, according to very generous estimates by NASA, California likely has less than one year of surface water left with no end in sight to the historic drought. It is true that in nearly every neighborhood  and municipality, areas accounting for less than 20% of California’s annual water consumption, residents are tearing up lawns and landscaping, installing low-flow toilets, taking shorter showers, installing rain barrels, and using gray water trapping systems to preserve the precious resource. Residents cutting their water use by 25% have rightly accused the agricultural industry of not doing anything to curb its water use, and corporate farms have fought back with public relations campaigns explaining how their produce feeds much of the country and should be exempt from water restrictions.

Farmers have been fighting to maintain their right to use as much of what little water remains as they want to irrigate their money-making crops. Their claim is that they were too important, make the state too much money, and argue that they feed the nation. Although there is some validity to their claim of feeding the nation, agriculture has been spared the same mandatory water-saving restrictions urban Californians face. However, yesterday in a sign that some small-scale farmers realize the record-setting drought is a real danger to their survival, some in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region struck a deal with state officials to give up a quarter of their water this season.

Any farmer willing to opt in on the deal will either leave part of their land unplanted or find other ways to reduce their water use although there are no plans for how to monitor their compliance. If they fallow their fields, crop insurance will cover their losses so there is little risk to their livelihood in saving water, but any saving is better than none. State officials are hopeful that the concession will prompt similar agreements throughout the state’s agricultural industry which uses 80 percent of the state’s water, but it is doubtful there will much, if any, change because corporations maintain a very large percentage of the state’s agriculture industry.

What is never discussed is that a relatively large amount of California’s dwindling water supply goes to large corporate farms growing, and expanding by tens-of-thousands of acres, water intensive nut trees; primarily profitable almond trees. The latest records show corporate agriculture recently planted a whopping 150,000 new acres of almonds in spite of the drought, or the incredible amount of water required, to produce a commodity set for export on the foreign market.

This new almond acreage will use more water than the average annual yield of all the current and proposed CALFED water storage projects put together according to Steve Evans of the Wild Rivers Consultant. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) estimates that the CALFED projects will have a combined average annual yield of 410,000 AF under normal rainfall conditions; conditions California is not expected to experience anytime in the foreseeable future.

According to Tom Stokely, the Water Policy Analyst for the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), “It’s a good thing for urban users to conserve water, but since agriculture uses 80 percent of water, a lot of people feel their efforts to conserve water are so that a wealthy corporate almond farmer can plant more trees and make greater profit. These new statistics on increased almond plantings actually PROVE that we are conserving water in urban areas so that more almonds can be planted.”

Corporate agriculture and the Republicans in their employ argue that if the acreage was not planted with water intensive almonds, it would be planted with cotton or some other crops that feed the nation. However, as Mr. Stokely rightly noted; “Cotton and row crops are not permanent and you can fallow them any given year. You cannot fallow permanent crops like almonds and pistachios.” No, but they can be ripped out by their roots and sent to the corporate headquarters as firewood.

Stokely continued that “It’s inexcusable to increase the demand for California water by 500,000 AF in the midst of a historic drought.” According to agriculture experts, using a figure of 3.5 AF (one foot of water per acre) of water for every acre of almonds, the new acreage of 150,000 acres X 3.5 af/Acre = 525,000 AF of water for a commodity that is primarily being sold overseas.

If California’s rainfall ever returns to average, there will still be insufficient groundwater to irrigate just the new trees, much less the existing 870,000 acres or any of the crops that actually feed a very significant number of Americans across the country. As an aside, most California nuts are sold on the foreign market because they are free of taxation; plus almonds are not what are known as a “food crop” like other fruits and vegetables that are less water intensive and consumed domestically.

One example of why urban residents mandated to slash their water use are in an uproar is the action of Beverly Hills billionaire Stewart Resnick. Resnick is the owner of Paramount Farms; the largest tree ‘fruit’ grower in the world. At a recent annual nut conference hosted by Paramount Farms, Resnick revealed his current expansion of almond acreage during the record drought. During the event, Resnick bragged about increasing his nut acreage and cited a 118 percent increase for pistachios, 47 percent increase for almonds, and 30 percent increase for walnuts. The conservative-owned media did not publicize Resnick’s boasts any more than they report the Nestle corporation’s theft and bottling of Californians’ water because they fear losing advertising dollars;  or they fear inciting California residents to violence.

The news that some farmers, and the operative word is “some,” in one region of California offered to cut their water use by 25 percent is encouraging, but it really means very little in the grand scheme of the drought. The agreement is not mandatory and the one group that did not ‘opt in’ on the agreement was the very substantial corporate nut growers group that include Republican state legislators and at least on Republican member of Congress.

California will run out of surface water within a year regardless the efforts of residents or smaller farms willing to cut their water use. Even now, as surface water is running out, corporate agriculture up and down the state are busy drilling new and deeper wells as fast as they are planting new almond orchards. Because after they exhaust the surface water, the greedy locusts intend to wipe out what little ground water is left until nothing is left for residents.

14 Replies to “California Corporate Farms Increase Water Use While Small Farms Offer To Cutback”

  1. Why cant the State of California just “legally” confiscate (due to the “emergency” drought conditions) from these corporate “Public-Water” thieves and criminals their physical control and ownership of “all” of their Calif. water-resources and assets that they utilize for “profit-making” purposes? Calif. “residents” could actually “pay” them a “fair-price” (under the circumstances). I’m sure that the State of Calif. could actually make them an offer that they really couldn’t or wouldn’t want too refuse!!! In my opinion.

  2. Because corporations control politicians here, too even though it’s a more liberal state. Fracking continues and Nestle takes all the water it wants.

  3. Then I would “guess” that its about time for us “serfs and peasants” too actually let “all” of “our” crooked, evil and corporate “owned” politicians know who it is that really does “control” them and all of the states water-resources!!! Don’t you think??? Or we could just go “play” a good game of golf. I here the “Greens” are kept up well in the California Desert Cities…

  4. I’ve been conserving water since the 1976-77 CA Drought, this is what the hell happened.
    Jerry Brown I was in power 75-83 and was laughed at for trying to get us to conserve. Some of us did, most did not. Remember Reagan preceded him 67-75.
    Then the republicans were again in control of California 83-99 and all interest to conserve was thrown out the window. This is because the winter of 82-83 was an El Nino one when the end of the Huntington Beach pier washed away during the torrential rain storms.

    Here is the in 1978 of the State of California Department of Water Resources report.
    http://www.water.ca.gov/watertransfers/docs/9_drought-1976-77.pdf

    I am doing my best to cut back by 25% based on my DWP usage in 2013, which is difficult since I’ve NEVER stopped conserving.

  5. The people of California should organize and demand that the large corporations cut back on their water usage. They should also require that the corporate farmers pay a surtax on the water they use. The more water they use the higher the price per gallon. If Nestle and the almond growers are paying $10 a gallon for their wzter they will cut back in a hurry.

  6. Walnut trees? Have you seen the price of walnut per board foot? After they have sucked up all the groundwater, and the trees no longer are sustainable, they can make another fortune harvesting the wood, grown with the water they have pirated.

  7. I live in CA…
    Why can’t we transport water from other States? AMERICA HAS WATER!

    GOP want to transport Dirty Oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico…
    Then Ship it on to THE CHINESE?

  8. Not for long…that oil pipeline under the Mackinac Bridge in the Straits separating lower from upper Michigan is 62 years old. The imported Zebra mussels are all over them, eating away the “protected” covering on those pipelines. And when (not IF)they leak that oil will foul all of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. The Canadians will suffer too, and they should, since it is a Canadian corporation that owns those pipelines. So, no, California had just better do some hardcore conserving, stop bottling drinking water, make the wealthy stop watering their damn lawns, and stop the fracking. So what if there are no walnuts or almonds. No one needs those to not starve or thirst to death, and it would save water for the farmers producing for the rest of the country.

  9. Profiting from Your Thirst as Global Elite Rush to Control Water Worldwide

    http://climatesoscanada.org/blog/2013/02/15/profiting-from-your-thirst-as-global-elite-rush-to-control-water-worldwide/

    WATER WILL BE PRIVATIZED! Our politicians are in bed with dirty corporations. Water is BLUE GOLD and more important than oil. Who controls the water will control the world! T. Boone Pickens is part of the water conspiracy theory. Corporations are moving into our cities to control the water plant systems. The American government will determine who will live and who will die!!! THE BUSH FAMILY has huge tracks of land in Paraguay and Paraguay sits on huge reservoirs of underground water.

    http://www.thomhartmann.com/users/gerald/blog/2010/12/water-conspiracy-theory

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