Do you realize that 80% of the water used in California is by farms? For decades, when the state actually got a good amount of rainfall annually, this wasn’t a big deal. However, now we are in the driest 30-month stretch in California’s recorded history, and that means big problems for the price of your veggies.
Climatologists believe the 20th century was abnormally wet for California, and now that we are approaching a time of less rainfall, farmers should probably expect 15% less precipitation in the coming decades, and climate change might raise that number.
Over the years, California farmers have turned toward crops of nuts, grapes, and stone fruit, called orchard crops, because they bring more return for the water invested than lower-value row crops like vegetables, cotton, and rice. But orchard crops are less flexible. A broccoli farmer can let land lie fallow during a drought year, but an almond farmer has to keep those trees watered or will lose a long-term investment.
So California keeps getting nuttier. Believe it or not, it’s actually large finance firms like Prudential, TIAA-CREF, and Hancock Agricultural Investment Group that are intentionally cashing in on the demand for nuts among China’s growing middle class. So, these powerful corporations are buying California farmland and starting nut orchards. Demands for water keep going higher and higher.
Oh, the vicious circle. California is so dug in on nut crops that the agriculture sector keeps using water it doesn’t have.
But the US probably won’t start planting vegetable crops tomorrow, since we get nearly 50% of our fruit and 25% of our veggies from Chile, Mexico, Canada, and China.
In order for the US to switch to fruit and vegetable crops, we would need to put in a very different agricultural infrastructure – a very costly proposition. So that broccoli we get so cheaply from Mexico will probably double if it comes from Iowa.