When California Gov. Jerry Brown announced unprecedented conservation measures last week, attention was quickly drawn to farmers, specifically those in the almond industry, who were accused of getting a “free pass” while the rest of the state is left dry.
In the order, Brown requires that the state must cut urban water use by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels — a goal he aims to accomplish through a number of mandatory drought restrictions, including the mandate that cities can no longer water median strips in the middle of roads and the discouragement of water waste with higher rates and fees.
Not among these conservation measures, however, are rules that extend to farmers — leading many people to believe that agricultural producers have been let off the hook.
Yet, this is simply untrue according to “8 Facts about Almonds, Agriculture, and the Drought”, which was published on Wednesday by the Almond Hullers & Processors Association.
According to the organization, farmers are sharing in the painful sacrifice alongside all Californians as they have been faced with a 20 percent water allocation from the state government this year and zero allocation from the federal government.
“We recognize that almonds and agriculture will need to continue to be part of the solution, but the suggestion that agriculture has been let off the hook doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” AHPA states.
Additionally, the drought last year cost farmers $1.5 billion, led to the loss of more than 17,000 jobs related to agriculture, and forced many almond growers to pull out orchards.
“None of us want to see our lawn go brown, but not that many people outside of agriculture have lost jobs or huge portions of their income because of the drought,” said AHPA president Kelly Covello.
This clarification was just one provided by the AHPA, who published the fact sheet to correct claims about almonds and agriculture that lack context or are outright false.
“The conversation about how we’re going to get through the drought as a state is an important one, and it deserves attention, but recently that conversation has been filled with misinformation and bad facts,” said Covello. “We thought that conversations like this ought to feature actual facts so we decided to correct the record on a few things.”
The AHPA also took measures to correct the claim that almonds use 10 percent of California’s total water. According to the association, the actual figure is 8 percent of agricultural water or 3.4 percent of total water — meaning that about 90 percent of the state’s farmland is planted with other crops.
“This mistake is closely tied to the false claim that agriculture uses 80 percent of the state’s water,” said Covello. “Actually according to the state itself, it’s 41 percent.”
Other claims corrected by the AHPA included the idea that the amount of total agricultural water is increasing — it has been steady since 2000 according to the Department of Water Resources — and the accusation that most almost growers are considered “big ag,” as approximately 90 percent are small family farmers.
“If we’re going to have an honest debate about the future of our state, we need to use accurate facts and statistics,” said Covello. “Hopefully this will help add some context so we can have a fruitful conversation based on a full picture of the situation.”