It’s a day that ends with Y, so the world is met with yet another entry in the voluminous tome entitled 2014: Year of the War on Almonds. Today, the No. 1 Enemy of the Nut is none other than the noble but needy salmon!
In the Westlands Water District of the San Joaquin Valley, 15 percent of farmland is planted with almond trees. Almonds have surged in popularity among farmers in recent years because A) they are delicious (cut to me gleefully sprinkling almonds on everything I eat) and B) even though they are fucking expensive (cut to me weeping at the grocery store cash register), people will still buy them (see A). And while almond trees do not need to be replanted from season to season, they require huge quantities of water to flourish — just over one gallon per almond.
An old-ish state law in California requires that in dry times (like right now!) surfacewater supplies be diverted to replenish salmon habitats. Farmers, one might expect, are not really into that — and those in the Westlands Water District have unsuccessfully tried to lobby to change these regulations. From the New York Times:
The proposals in the failed legislation — which was sponsored by Representative David Valadao, Republican of Hanford, in the southern San Joaquin Valley agricultural heartland — “would upend a whole number of laws” and long-established priority rights to surface water, said Kate Poole, a water expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
She added, “We have clearly exceeded the ability of our water supplies — including surface and groundwater — to meet the demands we’re putting on it. We have to change, stretching how much we can get out of each drop through expanded urban and agricultural efficiency.” But, she said, “the Republicans in Congress seem to want to go in the other direction and upend the centuries-old priorities and give water to more politically powerful wealthy interests.”
It’s worth noting that Not All Almond Farmers are wealthy nut barons — as Grist fellow Madeleine Thomas reported earlier this year, there’s been a trend in California farmers turning from dairy to almonds just to stay financially viable.
We can argue until the cows come home (spoiler: They are not coming home, because they have turned into almond trees) about whether farmers or fishermen will suffer more from this conflict. However, the true victim is undeniably Gwyneth Kate Paltrow, who survives exclusively on a diet of soaked organic nuts, wild salmon, and fire-roasted copies of A Rush of Blood to the Head. Can we please all get over ourselves and JUST THINK OF OL’ GWEN? Seriously!