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What You Should Know / April 13, 2010

www.google.com -- That cache provided enough to nourish the Resnicks' orchards, but it also offered another benefit. From 2000 to 2007, records show the state paid the Resnicks an additional $30.6 million for water previously stored there as part of a program to protect fish native to the ecologically fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Lynda Resnick's marketing savvy helped build cachet around her otherwise obscure brands, such as POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, Cuties mandarins and Teleflora floral bouquets. Revered among advertisers as the "Pom Queen," she has hired medical scientists to bear out health claims that their fruits and nuts help fight disease and extend life expectancy. Last year, following a nationwide recall of pistachios over salmonella fears, she hired Levi Johnston, the teen father of Sarah Palin's grandson, to promote the snack nuts. The domestic business grew by 40 percent over the last crop year. "We've done more for the pistachio than anyone ever since it was planted in the Garden of Eden," she said in the phone interview. "My husband should be canonized for all the work he's done." Others in agribusiness see it differently. Ali Amin, a Persian immigrant who owns a competing processing plant, filed a lawsuit in late March in Fresno County Superior Court claiming the Resnicks violated California public utilities laws because they turned a profit by selling water to farmers who weren't members of their Bakersfield-based water company, Westside Mutual Water Co. "You feel like David fighting Goliath," Amin said. "If they're allowed to keep doing this, the rest of the independents and small growers won't be able to compete." Amin's lawsuit alleges he lost $5.5 million in revenue when growers lured by water supplies sold their nuts to the Resnicks' plant, which processes almost two-thirds of the nation's pistachios. Amin controls about 5 percent of the market. Resnick and other water users in agricultural Kern County gained control of the Kern bank — the largest underground water storage facility in the nation — in the mid 1990s, following a round of negotiations with the state Department of Water Resources. Their position was that the state had shorted rural areas in allotting water in a previous drought.

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