The almond industry has had a bad rap of late—and we (along with the rest of the media) haven't helped. We've reported on such topics as almonds sucking California dry while others have claimed they are wiping out the world's population of bees.
The almond growers of California want you to know that they feel that the media is picking on them.
Here's the thing. Most of the world's almonds—82 percent—come from California. And given that the state is in the fourth year of a serious drought, attention has fallen on the nuts to see how much water they use. And it turns out that they use a lot. It reportedly takes one gallon of water to produce a single almond and every year, the industry is using up 10 percent of California's water reserves.
Well, the California Almond Board would like you to know that they're not the only ones using a lot of water. Richard Waycott, the president of the Board, told FoodNavigator, "Almonds don't use more water than other nuts or stone fruits such as peaches and they use less water than other crops grown here in California such as cotton or alfalfa."
Waycott believes the almond industry has been singled out, perhaps because almonds are in vogue and are a top crop being grown in California. He says, "It's an amazing case study of how some reporters from the media took a story—when the drought came, they looked to the second largest crop in California and they focused on us and didn't look at others or water usage in total. So we are trying to educate people about the real facts."
The people who bring you your almonds would like you to know that the industry is working to improve its record on sustainability and that a kilogram of almonds produced today uses significantly less water—one third less—that it did two decades ago. The Board also says it has invested $2.5 million this year into figuring out how to better use irrigation and better manage water use.
So, as far as water usage goes, the almond board's argument is as follows: they're not the only ones using a lot of water, they're improving, and they hope to continue to improve.
But that's not all the almond industry has been blamed for.
There's also the bee problem. Yes, you may have read that bees are not doing well, with bee colonies collapsing in North America and Europe. And yes, almond trees must be pollinated by bees. Sure, we all know that a number of reasons have been blamed for bad bee health, such as the lack of genetic diversity and the fall in natural pollen sources. But the almond industry's use of pesticides is right up there, too. As a matter of fact, the Pollinator Stewardship Council (yes, there is such a thing) said 80,000 colonies were poisoned by the almond industry.
Guess what? The California Almond Industry says almond growers shouldn't bear the brunt of the blame for the demise of bees. The Board says it has invested in research projects and established voluntary guidelines to reduce bee deaths from almond pesticides. Those guidelines are called the Best Management Practices and are available to almond growers.
To sum things up, the almond growers want you to know they're really, really trying. So if you want to keep reveling in their almond milk and luxuriating in their almond butter, just know this: they'll be using up some water and possibly killing a few bees in the process. No need to bully them, OK?