The California almond industry continues to be challenged by mainstream media and others for its water use in a state trying to keep its – uh – head above water during the fourth consecutive year of drought.
It’s not just almonds under public scrutiny but California agriculture as a whole.
Those wearing the ‘almond hat’ can certainly share ‘lids’ with the western alfalfa industry which gets regular jabs for water used to grow feed for dairy cows to produce milk, ice cream, and other dairy products.
California is not flying solo in the West during these drought times. Arizona farmers continue to fallow ground tied to 15 consecutive years of drought and dropping water levels on the Colorado River. An estimated 75 percent of central Arizona’s water supply is mighty Colorado River water.
Cutting to the chase, the California water war gets uglier by the day with clearly more demand for ‘liquid gold’ than the supply.
I’m sure Hollywood is poised to make a huge loot on the issue. Imagine a new series – California Water Wars – the epic drought-based series where environmentalists, the John Q. Public, and agriculture collide.
With the ongoing struggle for ‘liquid water’ versus ‘paper water,’ agriculture’s credible image has lost some of its shine due to inaccurate perception. Too often perception is viewed as reality these days. Does truth matter anymore? Perhaps not to some misinformed people.
Part of the public’s current complaint about California agriculture’s water use lies in growers’ use of water to grow food and fiber for export. The public’s growing tone is to use water strictly for California use.
In my opinion, this logic is tone deaf if the issue is viewed from 30,000-feet.
Exports allow companies to spread out production costs thereby making products more affordable to all consumers. In essence, exports benefit consumers, including those in California.
And it might be surprising to learn that agriculture has fewer exports abroad when compared with non-agricultural industries.
According to the www.worldsrichest countries.com website, the top U.S.-made products exported to Germany are vehicles followed by aircraft and spacecraft.
The transportation industry certainly uses water to, among other things, cool down each hot metal vehicle chassis in auto manufacturing plants; create car upholstery, batteries, Smartphone, and GPS systems in vehicles; and the like.
In fact, the Top 10 U.S products exported to 25 of the world’s largest countries – in other words the top 250 exported products to these countries – includes just six agricultural items. These include cereal grains, cotton, oil seeds, dairy, eggs, and honey.
Notice that almond exports didn’t make the list. For agriculture, the water-export issue just doesn’t hold water.
It’s ironic that food is the only item on the 250 product export list which humans need to survive yet agriculture gets the blame for water use.
This shines needed light on the ongoing California agriculture-water use debate.