KERN COUNTY (KFSN) --Effective immediately, Kern County-based Wonderful Orchards is pulling 10,000 acres of almond trees in western Kern County.
That's a lot of nuts, but Tulare County Farmer Mark Watte wasn't surprised to hear the news. He believes it was a business decision based on a combination of factors. "But no doubt as the price has gone from $4 a pound to $2 a pound or somewhere in that vicinity, and it does appear that our water situation is still going to be kind of short," Watte said.
Wonderful cited limited water resources and pricing as reasons for taking out the almonds. Watte says weaker sales in China and a stronger United States dollar have contributed to the fall in price. But $2 is still strong, and Watte doesn't see farmers rushing to pull almond trees in Tulare County. "I don't see any widespread orchard removals or anything, quite the opposite. Acreage continues to be converted from row crops to trees," Watte said.
"The San Joaquin Valley, we have a major portion of the production here so anytime we hear about losses, it's significant," said Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita.
Kinoshita said that in 2014, the drought forced farmers to take out a quarter of a million acres of row crops in Tulare County. She says only a small percentage replaced them with nut crops while most of the land went fallow. She expects idling to continue but is optimistic for a wet march. "Overall the growers are going to be very accepting if we have a wet March," she said.
"March is still in the window to be very beneficial for us," Watte said.