Almond growers – the alfalfa farmer’s new best friend

Tina Shields, the Colorado River Resources Manager for California’s big Imperial Irrigation District, joked Friday about the newfound celebrity of the California almond. Used to be, alfalfa was the alleged water waster that got all the attention. “The best thing for alfalfa growers is almonds,” Shields quipped at one point during a Las Vegas Colorado River water law and policy conference last week. “It takes the pressure away.”

The latest data out last week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (pdf) estimates that California almond farmers planted nearly 20,000 new acres, with Fresno, Kern, and Madera counties leading the way. Total nut-bearing acreage (trees mature enough to bear fruit) is estimated this year at 890,000 acres.

Total California acreage planted in hay (which includes alfalfa) is estimated to be down 145,000 acres to 1.23 million in 2015.