Almond Farmers Defend Water Usage During Drought

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MODESTO --

Almonds are still four months out from harvest but Californians are giving farmers hell about growing the water thirsty crop during the drought.

"You feel like there’s a bull’s-eye on your back sometimes,” says farmer Jake Wenger.

Wenger says the crop is being unfairly targeted.

While it does take roughly one gallon of water to grow one almond, it's also one of the state’s biggest exports.

"California is about a $45 billion agriculture economy, and almonds account for about 15% of that. So you're looking at almost $7 billion in economic activity,” Wenger said.

California's almond industry has been receiving a lot of criticism recently. So much so, that when FOX40 stopped by the Blue Diamond Almond Growers facility here in Sacramento, they told us they didn't want to take part in any discussions about the drought.

"I always like to joke that agriculture is the only area where everyone is an expert,” said Wenger.

While Governor Brown ordered urban water users to restrict their water usage by 25 percent, Wenger says farmers actually have it worse.

"Our water in our irrigation district was cut 60 percent this year. I’ll take the 25,” said Wenger. "We were hit first. We've been dealing with the drought for years."

This year an estimated 1 million acres of California farmland will be removed from production because of the drought.

Wenger's family has been farming here in Modesto since 1910. This year, they're cutting down 10 percent of their trees.

"We're tearing out 10 percent,” Wenger said. “How many people in town is this drought causing to lose 10 percent of their revenue at the end of the year?"