The nefarious nut

Two-thirds of the almond and pistachio crops are sent overseas

Each almond takes a gallon of water to produce
  • Each almond takes a gallon of water to produce

Are almonds "the center of a nefarious plot to suck California dry?" asks the publication Mother Jones, which has been reporting regularly on the possibility of a Southwest megadrought and the problem with so much California water going to agriculture.

In its April 15 edition, the magazine notes that California's drought-stricken Central Valley produces 80 percent of the world's almonds, sucking up almost 10 percent of the state's agricultural water use — more than the entire population of Los Angeles and San Francisco uses. Each nut takes a gallon to produce, says Mother Jones.

Almonds bring in $11 billion annually to the state's economy. Two-thirds of the almond and pistachio crops are sent overseas. Nut production is growing (pistachio acreage has grown 118 percent in the last decade), while alfalfa and cotton production are shrinking. Reason: profitability. Almonds net the farmer $1431 per acre, and pistachios bring $3519.

But, as in almost everything else, the lucre is raked in by a favored few. Manulife Financial, the Canadian investment firm, owns 24,000 acres of land producing almonds and pistachios. TIAA-CREF, the big retirement fund, controls a large part of the market, as does Terrapin Fabbri Management.

In an earlier edition, Mother Jones told how Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick own more than 70,000 acres of almonds and pistachios. The Resnicks say they are the world's largest supplier of the nuts.

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When California secedes from the failing U.S., we should stay with Hawaii for the macadamia nuts, pineapple...future presidents and Alaska for the melting snow.

shirleyberan; It's Texas that wants to secede, not California. We won't miss Texas. Best, Don Bauder

Maybe we can keep Austin, and the rest of Texas can go!

As nutty (hardy har har) as it sounds the Resnick's influence apparently even goes so far as our Middle East policy. Seems Iran's pistachios are highly prized - so pistachio sanctions against Iran helps Beverly Hills pistachio farmers.

ImJustABill: If true, it's not nutty to see billionaires influence our foreign policy. Best, Don Bauder

The Resnicks once owned The Franklin Mint, which sold $millions in so-called "coins" that were actually basically worthless shiny medallions. Coin dealers wouldn't touch them. They also hawked collector plates, diecast car replicas, dolls, etc., all overpriced and not having much value as the company cranked out so many of them.

dwbat: How do you think they got to be billionaires? Best, Don Bauder

I Googled them and learned they have several companies, including Teleflora and Fiji Water.

dwbat: I have actually purchased a bottle of Fiji Water. Not bad. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder Fiji is almost 6000 miles away from the US mainland I wonder how much fuel is burned shipping water from Fiji. Also, having spent time in Cleveland, you might find this article interesting.

danfogel: Funny. My wife, our oldest son, and I were discussing the difficult logistics of Fiji Water just the other day. Best, Don Bauder

Ah, the manifestation of synchronicity, which happens often. But people too often just call it a concidence.

dwbat: On the other hand, too many people say it's not a coincidence; it's a result of skill, of divine intervention -- something like that. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder, The most complicated skill is that of simplicity.

danfogel: Simply true. Best, Don Bauder

It's usually harder to write a simple song than a complex one. One of Cole Porter's biggest hits was a simple one, "True Love," which he wrote for the movie "High Society."

All this anti-almond talk should not obscure the fact that almonds are good for us and that California almond orchards in bloom in the spring are exquisitely beautiful. The clever guy who dreamed up the one almond/one gallon of water equation probably worked at Porter Novelli, the outfit that produced our ever-sunny Mayor Faulconer.

monaghan: Almonds are good for us, and also for the foreigners who buy our exported almonds. Best, Don Bauder

Perhaps we should place limits on exported nuts. There certainly seem to be enough of them in California already, especially in the government. Maybe some of the excess almonds and pistachios could be given to the poor. who are in need of good nutrition. That would seem to be a better choice than Gweneth's 6 limes.

danfogel: Yes, it would be great if we could export some of our political nuts. It's not going to happen. Best, Don Bauder

Uh-oh, Proposed new (Wiki says they want independence as a country too) Pacific State of Jefferson with (19) counties of Northern CA and Southern Oregon to separate by bio-eco region. They have a reputation for prodigious plants.

shirleyberan: Pacific State of Jefferson? No comprehende. Best, Don Bauder

There's been recent movements to split the state of CA. I think Jefferson was one of the proposed states in one of the proposed splits.

ImJustABill: I know there has been talk to split California, but I don't know about the Pacific State of Jefferson. Best, Don Bauder

This has been around for quite awhile. The idea is to take part of southern Roegon and Northern Ca. and secede to for the state of Jefferson.A handful of counties have informed the Sect of State of their declarations for independence from the state and I think that one county actually has succession vote scheduled next year. Personally, I like Tim Draper's idea of dividing California into six smaller states much better.

danfogel: What ever happened to the idea of Texas seceding? It was endorsed by Rick Perry, who now wants to be president. Best, Don Bauder

Ah, the Texas Nationalist Movement. Or as I call it, the stooges go cowboy. A little full disclosure here. My dad's parent were from Texas. My grandfather was born there and his parents moved there when they were first married. My grandmother wasn't born there, but here parents moved to Texas when she was about 6 months old. About 5 yrs ago, my daughter was researching the Texas part of our family history.Long story short, she eventually found what was left of the farm my grandfather was born on was "available' so I bought it.
If Texas was to secede (Rasmussen poll I once read found that 31% of Texans thought they could but only 25% wanted to), the rest of the country could lose a lot. Off the top of my head, I can come up with the country's worst healthcare provider, some of the nation's strictest abortion laws, one of the worst states for women's rights in general, the state that executes the most people, including at least one who was likely innocent, one of the worst states for voter discrimination, especially towards student, low-income and minority voters, a state that does not does not recognize same-sex relationships in any way on the state level, the world’s 7th largest producer of greenhouse gases, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Chuck Norris, Matthew McConaughey, chicken fried steak, the world’s largest calf fry cook-off, chicken bingo and last but surely not least, El Paso. You used to be able to carry a loaded firearm AND have an open container while driving, but I heard a few years back that was changed, so it's can't be included. An interesting note is that after Texas started talking about succession from the country, Austin residents started their own petition to secede from Texas.

You are mostly right -- and especially nice to have bought part of your granddad's TX homestead -- but putting Matthew McConaughey on your list of Terrible Things About Texas was deeply wrong.

In spite of those weird car commercials, McConaughey is without a doubt the sexiest and best actor in Hollywood today, bar none. "Mud" was a dud, but "The Lincoln Lawyer," 'Killer Jim," the AIDs movie and that "True Detective" series with Woody Harrelson were terrific. Also, from what I hear, Austin has become Brooklyn Southwest, and as a nation, we could easily live without either of those phony hipster scenes.

Understand your points on McConaughey, I just don't care for him myself. Only been to Austin a few times. On one trip a found a vintage Tele and a twin reverb, so that was was pretty cool. Had some pretty good food there, too. I think McConaughey lives in Austin. My great grandfather's spread was a few miles up the 10 from San Antonio, so we stayed in SA. It was actually my daughters idea to take a road trip to Austin.

My less-than-enjoyable time spent in Texas was Army basic training at Ft. Bliss, then serving the rest of my "sentence" at Ft. Hood (Killeen). But weekend trips to Austin were a nice getaway.

My condolences. "Bliss" is such a strange name for a spot like that, and Fort Hood (called Ft. Head for a time in the 70's for all the pot use) was just a big place that allowed tank warfare maneuvers. Even die-hard army types tried to avoid those posts.

Sorry, forget about Jim, the movie was "Killer Joe" about a rogue cop filmed in post-Katrina New Orleans and another great one was "The Paper Boy," totally noir and set in swampy red-neck Florida.

danfogel: You are closer to Texas than I am. My father got his Master's at Texas A&M. My broker is in Austin. We have close friends that originally came from Texas. Otherwise, I have no use for the place. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder not really. As I recall, you're not that far from Denver, a little south I think, so you're much closer than I am in San Clemente. And even if I am in Tucson, I think we are probably about equidistant from Austin. Now, if I am up in Washington, well that's a whole different story.

Almonds join alfalfa as the leading crops that ship water from California to China.

Ponzi: But alfalfa production is dropping. Best, Don Bauder

Lies, damn lies, and statistics again.

Does Mother Jones reveal how "she" came up with "her" figures?

Not that I doubt "her" or mistrust her; I just don't believe any figures, even my own, without revealing my sources and calculations. Intellectual/scholastic discipline.

So here I go, with my own guesses based on studies in the distant past--I look forward to DISCIPLINED corrections.

The evapotranspiration demand (ETo) rate for the Central Valley is in the realm of 4-5 acre-feet per acre. But let's give them 6 acre-feet per acre, even though I'd bet that they may use two or three times that much on alfalfa. One can't conflate alfalfa stats with almond stats, but since alfalfa is highly fertilized, it is likely to "require" more water than nut trees. But just for the hullofit, let's look at just the 70,000 acres x 6 = 420,000 acre-feet of water, or somewhere in the vicinity of 18 trillion gallons per year. Shasta reservoir has a capacity of about 4,552,000 acre-feet, so that works out to a little over nine percent--call it ten percent in round figures.

18 trillion gallons is enough for about 330,000 individuals for one year--IF they are really pinching their water useage down to about 150 gpd/capita. Looks like a mere 3,300,000 people could empty Shasta Reservoir in one year.

So have a look at these figures and figure out what I did wrong, and work out the numbers for the entire service area of the Central Valley Water Project. We need each other to keep each other up to standard.

In other words, let's work together to check out the drought and water supply/needs/demands "equation."

"Mother" can't be wrong.

Sorry, I took more than 15 minutes and the Reader system rejected my edits (even though it allowed me to do the editing, it just wouldn't print it because I took too long. Therefore, you can remove the previous post and read this one instead:

Lies, damn lies, and statistics again.

Does Mother Jones reveal how "she" came up with "her" figures?

Not that I doubt "her" or mistrust her; I just don't believe any figures, even my own, without revealing my sources and calculations. Intellectual/scholastic discipline.

So here I go, with my own guesses based on studies in the distant past--I look forward to DISCIPLINED corrections.

The evapotranspiration demand (ETo) rate for the Central Valley is in the realm of 4-5 acre-feet per acre. But let's give them 6 acre-feet per acre, even though I'd bet that they may use two or three times that much on alfalfa. One can't conflate alfalfa stats with almond stats, but since alfalfa is highly fertilized, it is likely to "require" more water than nut trees. But just for the hullofit, let's look at just the 70,000 acres x 6 = 420,000 acre-feet of water, or somewhere in the vicinity of 18 trillion gallons per year. Shasta reservoir has a capacity of about 4,552,000 acre-feet, so that works out to a little over nine percent--call it ten percent in round figures.

18 trillion gallons is enough for about 330,000 individuals for one year--IF they are really pinching their water useage down to about 150 gpd/capita. Looks like a mere 3,300,000 people could empty Shasta Reservoir in one year.

So have a look at these figures and figure out what I did wrong, and work out the numbers for the entire service area of the Central Valley Water Project. We need each other to keep each other up to standard.

In other words, let's work together to check out the drought and water supply/needs/demands "equation."

"Mother" can't be wrong.

[[version 2, rejected by Reader—more than 15 minutes]

You might want to address your question on figures to the article writers, Tom Philpott and Julia Lurie. There is no "Mother" at the magazine. ;-)

dwbat: Mary Harris Jones, the magazine's namesake, was born in 1837. In her day, she was a heroine of organized labor. Best, Don Bauder

Yes, I've heard of Mother Jones. I was just saying that she's not part of the magazine, and never was.

dwbat: I will take your word for that. Best, Don Bauder

Twister: I suggest you demand a correction from Mother Jones. Best, Don Bauder

I get

150 gallon / day / capita X 365 days / year X 330,000 people

= 18,067,500,000 gallons / year

~ 18 Billion (with a B not a T) gallons / year

ImJustABill: Take it up with Twister and Mother Jones. Best, Don Bauder

Thanks. I miscounted the commas on my calculator. When I make a misteak, it's a BIG un.

It was stated in one report that the Almond industry employees 100,000 people. I wonder how many of those are illegal and how many make low wages and low/no benefits and receive taxpayer subsidizes?

AlexClarke: Almonds are less labor-intensive than other crops -- another reason big money goes into almond production. Best, Don Bauder

I read a report that used the same figure. I don't know that almonds are less labor-intensive than other crops. The report broke down the jobs total: "Almond growing is responsible for about 21,000 direct farm jobs. In total, including indirect and induced effects, almond growing accounts for more than 68,000 jobs, handling for nearly 27,000 jobs, hulling and shelling for more than 5,000 jobs, and manufacturing for more than 3,000 jobs." I think that 32k jobs just for handling, hulling and shelling sounds kinda labor intensive to me.

danfogel: Preparing almonds for a recipe (splitting them, etc.) is labor-intensive, but growing them is comparatively less labor-intensive than growing other crops. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder I try to stay away from refined sugar as much as possible, but one of the things I do enjoy on occasion are homemade almond shortbread cookies. I make them myself, from my grandmother's recipe. I can't remember the last time I used almonds that were not already shelled. And while almonds are mechanically harvested, as I said, it seems to me that if 32K jobs, about 30% of the total jobs, are just in handling, hulling and shelling, well, that seems kinda labor intensive to me. Compare that to strawberries, whose 40,000 acres typically require 1.5 to two workers per acre to pick each field multiple times.

danfogel: My source says almonds are not labor intensive, compared with other crops, but I won't gainsay your sources. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder, gainsay all you want. It really is of no consequence. My sources are UC Berkeley, the CFDA, and the USDA.

don bauder, Not so much, really. There are all kind of reports and charts and studies available if you just look a little. Ah, the wonders of this newfangled internet thingie. The only thing I can't seem to find is the breakdown of the unemployment stats, by individual states and rate categories. That's why I ask about it.

danfogel: There is a telephone number you can call for unemployment info. I have called it a number of times. I hope I can dig it out. But it only deals with national stats. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder, if it's a 202 area code, I know about it.

Except for worrying about refined sugar, you now seem even nicer: why not post your grandma's almond shortbread recipe?

Re: "Twister: I suggest you demand a correction from Mother Jones. Best, Don Bauder"

I'm not "demanding" anything. I'm suggesting that figuring out the facts in a comprehensive way need not be difficult, and that if a group of your readers would take a little bit of time to calculate the various segments of the State water-supply program's input-output we would inform ourselves better and perform a public service at the same time--not to mention bring you more readers.

Twister: Such calculations may improve readership. But that statement presupposes that your calculations are correct. Best, Don Bauder

Y'see, Don, we all need a good, sharp editor. I just picked this part to use as an example of what a handful of people could do on a larger scale--I can't spare the time right now to do a major study, and hoped to sow the seeds of a measured revolt to replace the window-dressing we are being fed by expensive consultants and government slaves through their bosses.

Better than just being grousing gadflies grumbling generally, eh?

Twister, as I posted above I think your numbers may have a typo. As I see it,

150 gallons/day/person X 365 days/year X 330,000 people = 18,067,500,000 gallons/year ~ 18 Billion (with a B not a T) gallons / year

ImJustABill: I will let you folks battle this one out. Best, Don Bauder

We used to get mixed nuts unshelled in our Xmas stocking and always had a nutcracker in the house. I'm also pretty sure "Twister" has a better brain than most of us.

I remember nutcrackers too, when I was growing up. When my mom needed some nuts for her recipes, I was called upon to do the cracking. I think the locally (Oklahoma) grown pecans were the best.

dwbat My grandmother made the best pecan pie EVER. Totally from scratch, using her mother's recipe, from Texas, and the nuts were from the trees she had on the property. I still make it using that recipe once in a while, usually Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I only use the best pecans around, the ones grown in southern Arizona. Oh yeah, Arizona grown pistachios are pretty damn good also.

danfogel: How can I get a slice of your pecan pie the next time you make it? I'll pay! I haven't tasted a good homemade pecan pie for many many years. Those supermarket ones just don't do it for me.

Sorry, but when I make it, it's usually in Arizona or Washington and it doesn't travel well. The key is to use the absolute BEST dark brown sugar, molasses and pure vanilla extract you can find and NOTHING but a premium bourbon. I have a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle that only goes in the pie. Oh and of course the pecans. It's always Arizona grown pecans because they are the best. That makes ALL the difference.

dwbat: Our mom made the recipes for the nuts (two boys and one father.) best, Don Bauder

shirleyberan: And you gathered around the hi-fi and listened to the Nutcracker. Best, Don Bauder

Uncracked nuts. Grammar matters, but who cares?

shirleyberan: What does Gramma have to do with this? Best, Don Bauder

dwbat: The topic has now shifted to grandmothers, apparently. It's my fault. Best, Don Bauder

danfogel: First, we were told not to eat meat because of cholesterol. Recently, we have been hearing cholesterol doesn't count. But now we should not eat meat because of the water needed to produce it.

I can't say that vegans are the only honorable people around because producing veggies takes water, too. Best, Don Bauder

Don' forget clothing. Of course, cotton is the global king of natural plant fibres. But don't forget the others, such as jute, flax, bamboo and hemp. Cotton takes a huge amount of water, the others still use a large amount as well. These days, my wardrobe consists almost entirely of cotton based product: Levis and tshirts and in the summer, shorts and tshirts. And of course you cant forget leather. Shoes, boots jackets, gloves, etc. Whether or not you consider it a by product of butchering cows for meat, it still the same amount of water to sustain the cattle and there is a substantial amount of additional water used in both tanning leather and producing rawhide. What's a person supposed to do? Everything has a price, or more correctly, a cost. Like just about everything else, it boils down to how much you are willing to pay, how much you are willing to sacrifice and where you draw the line between the two.

The article pretends to reveal the methodology. It doesn't. It merely expects us to accept the consultant's AUTHORITY.

I remember black and white TV. My dad listened to the big band records, I know the words to some Glen Miller. I thought the quality of butter used in a pecan pie was the trick, and no shortage of nuts,

shirleyberan: When I was in 8th grade, I had a TV set with a screen so small that it came with a thick magnifying glass more than a foot tall to make the picture larger. That would have been around 1949 or 1950. Best, Don Bauder

My gramma worked as 6th grade camp cook. Took the high road (after cheater grandpa) Cuyamaca, Marston and some other local public school week-long campers. Head cook for hundreds fed and taught me oven fried chicken. She was from a farm in Michigan and could chop the head off a chicken! Top that bitches!

shirleyberan: Our neighbors had chickens during World War II, when everybody produced as much of their own food as they could. After their heads were chopped off, the chickens' bodies continued to flutter.

The real pros just pick up the chicken by the neck, twist, and break the neck. Best, Don Bauder

Don - my favorite comfort food without a doubt is potatoe salad. Her recipe was with mayo sweet picle relish.... Ed's recipe is with Dilll whom I hate.

shirleyberan: Sorry. Potato salad has to be made with dill pickles, not sweet pickles. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder I'm withe the no pickles crowd. Fresh dill only, maybe a little dill seed as well and whenever possible use fresh dill flowers. They add a little color to the appearance.

Pecan pie is delicious. My personal preference was for my dad's recipe.

Potato salad I could do without, but to each his/her own.

I only use dill pickles in my pecan pie recipe!

Mother of God, this column takes the cake.

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