Published on March 30, 2015 by The Daily Beast
How Growers Gamed California’s Drought
by Mark Hertsgaard
Consuming 80 percent of California’s developed water but accounting for only 2 percent of the state’s GDP, agriculture thrives while everyone else is parched.
“I’ve been smiling all the way to the bank,” said pistachio farmer John Dean at a conference hosted this month by Paramount Farms, the mega-operation owned by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire known for his sprawling agricultural holdings, controversial water dealings, and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to high-powered California politicians including Governor Jerry Brown, former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.
The record drought now entering its fourth year in California has alarmed the public, left a number of rural communities without drinking water, and triggered calls for mandatory rationing. There’s no relief in sight: The winter rainy season, which was a bust again this year, officially ends on April 15. Nevertheless, some large-scale farmers are enjoying extraordinary profits despite the drought, thanks in part to infusions of what experts call dangerously under-priced water.