Way To Go Everyone, We Ruined Almonds

Way to Go Everyone, We Ruined Almonds

Great job, internet. Remember all that shit-talking you did about almonds sucking up too much of California's drought-plagued water? Now the price of almonds is way down, and people just aren't grabbing America's nuts like they used to, causing serious damage to the industry. It wasn't only a bad reputation that hurt almonds. American farmers got whipped into a planting frenzy that ended up flooding the market with too many nuts. Now, the price per nut has plummeted, causing the state to lose about $US1.8 billion. Farmers admit they're probably to blame, according to a report that aired on NPR:

"We probably pushed the price up too high," says Darren Rigg. He handles over 50 million pounds of nuts with Meridian Growers in Tulare, Calif.

"It killed off demand, and people at a certain point, they just don't buy," Rigg says. "We're probably coming back into an equilibrium point, but we possibly have overcorrected as well."

Why was the United States growing so many almonds in the first place? We have to go back to the counterintuitive reason for why almonds thrived in an age of water scarcity: Because of the drought, almonds were so financially lucrative that it made sense for farmers to plant more of them, even with the extra water factored in. As Valley Public Radio reports, farmers have been tearing out other crops to make way for almond trees, which resulted in the glut of nuts. This started happening long before the drought, by the way, so some of these almond trees have yet to mature — so even more almonds are on the way.

The other big problem is that the almond industry is built on a precarious economic premise. It banks on the fact that people in other countries like China and India will pay top dollar for America's nuts. That turned out to be not as true in 2015 as it was in 2014, and the market flooded, resulting in a plunging price per pound.

As Gizmodo's Esther Inglis-Arkell, pointed out to me, this is also the same kind of thing that happened when the price of wheat skyrocketed nearly a century ago. The price of wheat went up, so farmers planted more wheat to make big bucks. That sent prices way down, which meant farmers had to produce even more wheat to make money, which pushed the price down even more. Of course, farmers ended up abandoning their crops, and that's how we ended up with the Dust Bowl. Let's hope the Great Almond Crash doesn't have the same effect.

On the other hand, some forward-looking farmers have already given up on almonds entirely and are planting solar panels instead.

[Valley Public Radio via NPR]

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli


Comments

    People are genuinely too stupid to realise the only true impact on the environment (including lack of water) is human population growth. There are simply to many people on the earth by a factor of about 7 and as a result all other species of plant and animal has to make way for our insatiable appetite to consume everything.

      Protip, the global food industry makes more than enough food to feed the entire world, the issue is things like distribution and corruption.

      Not to mention developments in genetics (and also those "evil" GMOs) have resulted in both crops with higher yields and crops with more nutrition per unit.

        So global fish stocks declining, global warming, declining lakes such as the Aral Sea due to agriculture, deforestation around the globe, animal species disappearing....none of these problems would not exist if humans population was a tenth of what it is now. Your probably right....better have 10 or 12 or 50 billion humans on the earth and just pretend these problems are due to something else. I guess science can always overcome these problems rather than the obvious of capping human population.

        That's a myth that is perpetually debunked but people still repeat it.

        They even come with an engineered toxic load to kill all the nasties, gotta be a good thing.

        Lets just tweak it to kill off another targeted species. HS.

      Yes, human population growth is the source of impact, but from another perspective the sun hitting the earth is the source of the impact because it is a prerequisite for population growth.

      Maybe there are too many people on the Earth by a factor of 7 (although I'm by no means convinced) but there is a lot of room for optimisation of our food production and a lot of room for reduced consumption. But the point is that you and the article are simply looking at the problem from different distances, as it were.

        Earth has a carrying capacity, so we have to limit our population.
        If you're going to limit numbers, you ought try to optimize quality, so humans need to think about and discuss what qualities are important in humans.

        The moment we start discussing what should be optimized, we'll be accused of plotting eugenics and genocide and told that we have no right to suggest how people breed, nor to suggest that a teacher is typically worth more than a psychopath.

        I'm going there regardless, because it's important:

        Here are some suggestions for human tendencies I think might be worth optimizing:
        Intelligent, diverse, creative, nonviolent, small, vegetarian, social.

        To clarify, this is about what I'd want to encourage, not about binary absolutes.
        e.g. I see no reason for 100% vegetarianism.
        e.g. I think nonviolence is great, but pacifism is despicable.

        Some of you are thinking "those are just your preferences". Yes, and I can support each with reasoned argument. Societies which have place a premium on reasoned argument have a good historical record of improving the human experience.

        Some of you think this discussion is irrelevant without at least one socially-acceptable implementation, so here's one (happy to suggest others):
        Society can allocate funds to informing mothers about their zygotes before they bring them to term, so mothers might choose to prioritize zygotes with fewer aggression markers or more intelligence markers.

    Get Pete Evans on the case. He'll 'activate' their Almonds.

    I fell for the click bait, this has nothing to do with everyone just that the farmers produced too many nuts and now no one wants to grab their nuts.

      There'll bee at least one person who will want to do that on Farmer Wants A Wife.

    While almonds do require a fairly generous irrigation to provide good yields, they can be given less water to provide leaner yields in the cheap times. I have had nut trees in my backyard that I do it with every other year.

    Then there's beef - 450 gallons for a 1/4 pounder...

    Storm in a teacup if you ask me, the market will balance out in the next couple of years. In the meantime, stop using so much bloody water people, Sheesh.

      I vote for less people and allow us to use as much water as we bloody well like....only how do we choose which humans have to go.

        Well you play the role of Hitler and start WW3. All you have to do is hack into one of America's missile silo's and send a missile at the Russians and 1 at China. Apparently they were quite easy to hack just nobody knew that back in 2010.

    Well if the almonds are so plentiful, time for the fake-food industry to make more use of almond (less soy for everyone) in a whole range of LOW-moo-baa-cluck-quack-neigh-chirps good options in a vegan world.

    I had a thought this morning, vegans claim to be environmentakillists, but many of their "animal eliminated" non-food items (and some synthesised-plastic food items too) come straight from the big-chem-pharm industry, so who's right? The ethical food lobby, focused on kg-H2O per lb/flesh (or almond), or the a-la-naturaliste using no synthetic products but chowing down on a free range rabbit or lamb (dead and cooked preferably) no factory collected and sterilised water usage there, just run of the stream, which for the enviro-gals (sorry guys) out there, isn't WASTE, but VITAL to the longevity and health of the ecosystem.

    Everyone loves marzipan (right?)

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