A Billion Pounds of California Almonds Stranded at Ports Amid Drought, Trade Woes

Almond producer David Phippen didn’t need to hear the latest predictions from agriculture economists to know that his industry was on the verge of losing its premier position in the global market.

He saw it coming during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when oceanic carriers discovered they could make twice as many annual round trips — and higher profit margins — by sending empty containers back to Asia to pick up more goods for export instead of waiting in port here to be loaded with his almonds. Almond exports are down by about 13% this year, industry officials said.

It’s Some of America’s Richest Farmland. But What Is It Without Water?

In America’s fruit and nut basket, water is now the most precious crop of all.

It explains why, amid a historic drought parching much of the American West, a grower of premium sushi rice has concluded that it makes better business sense to sell the water he would have used to grow rice than to actually grow rice. Or why a melon farmer has left a third of his fields fallow. Or why a large landholder farther south is thinking of planting a solar array on his fields rather than the thirsty almonds that delivered steady profit for years.