Author of The Hoyt Report, providing hay market analysis and insight.
In 2003, there were 610,000 acres of almonds in California compared to 1,090,000 acres of alfalfa hay. In 2015, there are an estimated 1,060,000 acres of almonds in California and 820,000 acres of alfalfa hay, according to USDA. This significant turnaround is due to profitability in growing almonds in spite of a 74 percent increase in acres since 2003. Due to a lower market on alfalfa hay, particularly Fair and Good quality, there are alfalfa hay acres being converted to almond or pistachio trees in 2015 in Central and Northern California.
With the strong demand for acres to grow almonds, offering prices for land continues to spike higher. There have been dairies that sold in Central California this year, one big dairy that I know of, where owners could not refuse such a strong offer, reports of $30,000 per acre. Some dairies have converted acres to almonds the past few years to become more diversified.