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How Growers Gamed California’s Drought

How Growers Gamed California s Drought The Daily Beast


Consuming 80 percent of California’s developed water but accounting for only 2 percent of the state’s GDP, agriculture thrives while everyone else is parched.

“I’ve been smiling all the way to the bank,” said pistachio farmer John Dean at a conference hosted this month by Paramount Farms, the mega-operation owned by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire known for his sprawling agricultural holdings, controversial water dealings, and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to high-powered California politicians including Governor Jerry Brown, former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The record drought now entering its fourth year in California has alarmed the public, left a number of rural communities without drinking water, and triggered calls for mandatory rationing. There’s no relief in sight: The winter rainy season, which was a bust again this year, officially ends on April 15. Nevertheless, some large-scale farmers are enjoying extraordinary profits despite the drought, thanks in part to infusions of what experts call dangerously under-priced water.

Resnick, whose legendary marketing flair included hiring Stephen Colbert to star in a 2014 Super Bowl commercial, told the conference that pistachios generated an average net return of $3,519 per acre in 2014, based on a record wholesale price of $3.53 a pound. Almonds, an even “thirstier” crop, averaged $1,431 per acre. Andy Anzaldo, a vice president for Resnick’s company, Wonderful Pistachios, celebrated by showing the assembled growers a clip from the movieJerry Maguire in which Tom Cruise shouts, “Show me the money,” reported theWestern Farm Press, a trade publication. At the end of the day, conference attendees filed out to the sounds of Louis Armstrong singing, “It’s a Wonderful World.”

Agriculture is the heart of California’s worsening water crisis, and the stakes extend far beyond the state’s borders. Not only is California the world’s eighth largest economy, it is an agricultural superpower. It produces roughly half of all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables consumed in the United States—and more than 90 percent of the almonds, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli and other specialty crops—while exporting vast amounts to China and other overseas customers.

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I'm angry with the agriculture businesses for being so greedy.

They should have to pay their fair share for their use of so much of California's water.

By the way, California produces half of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables consumed in the United States?

Seems like this alone should qualify us for more water subsidies.

And/or the producers should raise the prices to pay for all the water they're using.

What's shocking to me is that half the fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed in the US is valued at less than 2% of the GDP of California!

John Mackey of Whole Foods told me that the average household spent 50% of its income on food 100 years ago.  While 50 years ago that dropped to 25% of household income.  And today the average household spends only 8% on food... all of which inversely correlates directly with the growing averages of what households spend on medical expenses. 

We eat so much crap instead of real food!  And yet we're paying way more for that supposed pleasure and convenience in pain, suffering and medical bills.


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