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Climate Change Could Mean Almond Production Moves North To Idaho From California

Climate Change Could Mean Almond Production Moves North To Idaho From California

Almonds have been grown almost exclusively in California's Central Valley and rake in billions of dollars for the state's economy. But with rising temperatures thanks to climate change, increasing drought, and a scarcity of water in California, researchers are seeing if Idaho might become a suitable place to grow almonds.

California: The Home of Almonds

Virtually all almonds in the U.S. are produced in a 20,000 square mile area in the middle of California. The hot and dry Mediterranean climate there helps produce $17 billion worth of crops every year.

“Almonds are just ideally situated to grow in the Central Valley, California, better, really, than any place else in the world,” said Richard Waycott, the CEO of California’s Almond Board.

Temperatures rarely dip below freezing and historic rain levels have created rich soil, providing an environment suitable for almond growth.

But as the climate warms, the trees will need more water. Drought conditions in the state could threaten the expansion of almond production.

“One of the challenges that not just almonds, but really any ag[riculture] in California is seeing now and I think will see into the future is really at that nexus of heat and water,” said Lauren Parker, a post-doctoral fellow and coordinator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) California Climate Hub.

California is trying to fix the problem by limiting groundwater use, but the heat and dry conditions are relentless

“It’s hitting the growers up and down the state pretty hard,” Waycott said.

Still, California’s almond industry continues to expand. Despite the pandemic’s impact on international trade in 2020, California produced more than 3 billion pounds of almonds for the first time, an unprecedented increase of 37% over just two years earlier.

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