USDA-NASS Projects California Almond Crop Up 18 Percent to 3 Billion Meat Pounds

The California Almond Objective Measurement Report, published today by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), estimates that the 2020 crop will be 3.00 billion meat pounds, up 18% from the 2019 crop production of 2.55 billion pounds.[1] This estimate is even with the 3.00 billion pounds estimated in the California Almond Subjective Forecast, published in May 2020.

According to the 2020 Objective Report, the average nut set per tree is 5,645, up 21% from the 2019 almond crop. The Nonpareil average nut set is 5,621, up 27% from last year’s set. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.51 grams, down 2 percent from the 2019 average weight.

“This year’s crop is proof that California is the perfect place to grow almonds,” said Holly A. King, Kern County almond grower and Chair of the Almond Board of California (ABC) Board of Directors. “Perfect weather during bloom, coupled with the steps almond growers have taken to ensure our orchards provide a healthy environment for honey bees and other pollinators, resulted in the abundant crop we are seeing on the trees up and down the Central Valley.”

Recent disruptions in global trade due to COVID-19, and ongoing trade disputes and negotiations with China and other key markets extending into the year, have caused some short-term challenges with the current crop, but the long-term outlook remains positive.

“As a shelf stable and nutritious food enjoyed by consumers around the world, we’ve weathered these disruptions in pretty good shape,” said Almond Board President and CEO Richard Waycott. “Domestic and export shipments are up year-to-date, and we expect global demand to be stronger than ever as we market this year’s record crop.”

While the Subjective Forecast provides an initial estimate of the 2020/2021 crop, the Objective Report is based on actual almond counts and uses a more statistically rigorous methodology to determine yield. In Dec. 2019, ABC’s Board of Directors approved a modified sampling protocol to further improve the accuracy of USDA-NASS’s reporting. From this year forward, the Objective Report will include measurements from 1,000 target orchards throughout the state (an increase of 150 samples from 2019) and provide nut counts on not one but two branches per tree. The Objective Report will also provide the weight, size and grade of the average almond sample broken down by growing region – no longer growing district – and variety.

USDA-NASS conducts the annual Objective ReportSubjective Forecast and Acreage Report to provide the California almond industry with the data needed to make informed business decisions, and thanks all farm operators, owners and management entities for their time in providing the information necessary to create these reports. These reports are the official industry crop estimates.

Should Farmers Meter Their Pumps Now– in Terms of SGMA?

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

With the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) closing in on growers throughout California, there are many questions. One big one is that should growers go ahead and put a meter on their pumps? Helping the farming industry comply with SGMA is Chris Johnson, who owns Aegis Groundwater Consulting, based in Fresno. He’s recommending that growers put a flow meter on their pumps, but he does understand their hesitation.

“I think they’re concerned about what’s going to happen if they provide a mechanism where someone can come out and actually measure, record and evaluate how much water they’re using, that somehow that’s going to go against them,” said Johnson. “And the reality of it is, is that somebody might very well do that but they’re better off knowing that going in, they’re better off understanding and being able to manage and represent for themselves upfront.”

It may be a good idea to meter pumps now.

Now, currently we have the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, which have finalized the Groundwater Sustainability Plans.  “The Groundwater Sustainability Plans are the deliverable that the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies are tasked with. But you have to understand the scarcity of data we actually have to work with, to actually be able to make decisions,” said Johnson. “And as a consequence, what so many different GSAs are forced to do is to either accept existing data at face value, or they’re having to interpret what the data might be in the absence of actual functional information. And so, it may very well misrepresent what the basin as a whole is having to go through, and they may put restrictions on farmers and growers based on that. And so, that is where having your own data helps you defend your water use, helps you protect yourself.”

<PATRICK: I believe the online version of this article ended here.  I would support that, in that the preceding text focuses on the importance of having specific data for individual wells.  The following text is more a soliloquy on GSP’s and data gathering and validity.

Johnson explains what will happen when the sustainability plans are in place in 2020. “I think what will happen is once the GSPs are filed with the Department of Water Resources, there’s going to be a period of reflection where people are looking at the adequacy of information supporting the plans. There’s going to be outside parties that question the adequacy of the data and plans, and ultimately out of that will come the next step, which is, ‘Okay, now we have these in place, we know there are a lot of shortcomings.’ Let’s go fill in those gaps. Let’s go get this data together,” said Johnson. I think that most of the regulatory agencies recognize there are data gaps. Let’s just work through the process is there thinking.

“Let’s get ourselves to where we can now start collecting the data. So, in theory, what we’re going to see is over the next 20 years a refinement in all of this, as more information is available, as scientists and engineers get to provide analysis to the policy makers, we end up with a better product in the end,” Johnson noted.

But will that product be good for the growers? “That’s a difficult question to answer because better in the end is leading us towards answering a question with, you’ll have as much water as you want. Well, that’s unlikely to happen,” Johnson said.

“I think there’s going to be significant changes in how we grow things in the Central Valley. The consequence of that may be everything from less food coming out of the Central Valley and/or higher food prices as these businesses attempt to maintain some degree of solubility, so to speak, financially, trying to meet these limited resource. Because that’s essentially what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re coming back and saying : Something bad happened. Now, we’re going to limit this resource.”

The agricultural industry throughout California keeps pushing that it’s too important, we have to provide food for the nation and the world. “I think the more important way to look at this is, is that California can’t afford to have ag fail. And as a consequence, we have to find a means to meet all these different demands and do so in a way that helps keep ag moving forward. It just probably won’t look like what it does today,” he said.

Farmers Need to Serve on Water District Boards

 

It’s a Good Idea That Farmers Serve on Boards of Water Districts

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the AgInformation Network

William Bourdeau is executive vice president of Harris Farms in Southwest Fresno County. Harris Farms is a diversified operation, farming, almonds, pistachios and vegetable crops. Bourdeau is very busy, but he does take the time to serve on different water district boards.

“I’m the vice chairman of the board of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, and a director for Westlands Water District,” said Bourdeau.

Bourdeau explains the major water systems in California. “The Central Valley project is federal and in the State Water Project, is a state project. And you know we’re supposed to be working together in coordination,” said Bourdeau. But he said all the water districts and farmers need to do a better job at that.

“There was an effort underway to do just that. It was called the voluntary agreements. I’m fairly certain it’s stalled, but I hope we all come together and make decisions that are in the best interest of everyone,” he said.

“And I do think having a vibrant domestic food supply capability that requires reliable water supply is critically important to our survival,” explained Bourdeau.

And he has something to say about the COVID-19 virus situation. “Well, I hope that the situation we find ourselves in right now, people realize and recognize the importance of having a vibrant domestic food supply capability, particularly during a pandemic, but just in general, it’s a foundational element to any successful society,” noted Bourdeau.

McCarthy Applauds Final Feasibility Report on Repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal

On Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sent Congress the final Feasibility Report under Section 4007 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act for the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. This marks a critically important step forward in restoring lost water capacity to the communities served by eight irrigation and water districts along the Friant-Kern Canal. 
 
“Water is the lifeblood that supports our communities and the food we grow on the eastside of the Central Valley,” said McCarthy. “However, subsidence on the Friant-Kern Canal is adversely impacting many communities’ ability to get the water they contract and pay for through the canal, including in Kern and Tulare Counties. 
 
“I want to commend Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman for their work on finalizing this feasibility report, which under the WIIN Act, now makes this project eligible to receive construction funds from Congress. I also want to thank Friant Water Authority Chairman Chris Tantau, CEO Jason Philips, and other local stakeholders for their support and commitment to advancing this project.  
 
“There is still work to be done, but Reclamation’s actions today represent a significant milestone in supporting the more than one million acres of farmland that provide sustenance to the United States and across the globe.”

The following statements were also issued on the feasibility report:
 
“Thanks to President Trump and Leader McCarthy, today’s resulting action furthers the Trump Administration’s commitment to America’s hardworking farmers who need water to feed our nation. Earlier this year, President Trump and I joined Leader McCarthy and other elected officials in the House in Bakersfield where the President signed the ‘Memorandum on Developing and Delivering More Water Supplies in California,’ directing the Department to invest in western water infrastructure and provide water to California’s communities and farms.” – Interior Secretary David Bernhardt
 
“Addressing reliable water and power delivery in the west is a top priority for the Trump Administration, and the 50-year old Friant-Kern Canal is front and center. Restoring the capacity along the middle stretch of the canal is critical to providing reliable water supplies to one of the most agriculturally-productive regions in the nation. Thank you Leader McCarthy and colleagues for your strong support for the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project.” – Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman
 
“On behalf of Friant Water Authority and its members, I want to thank Secretary Bernhardt, Commissioner Burman, Leader McCarthy, and our other federal partners and congressional representatives who have helped maintain momentum for reaching this critical milestone. The nearly 15,000 farms and dozens of communities who rely on the Friant-Kern Canal are deeply appreciative of your leadership and support for this project, which is absolutely critical to maintaining jobs and economic prosperity for our agricultural communities in the San Joaquin Valley.” – Friant Water Authority Chairman Chris Tantau
 
“For nearly three years, Friant Water Authority staff and team of consultants have been working in partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation to assess the magnitude of the Friant-Kern Canal’s conveyance challenges, and developing alternatives for addressing it. This final study not only affirms that this project is feasible, but that it provides a high value for investment by local and federal partners.” – Friant Water Authority CEO Jason Philips
 
“As the southernmost district on the Friant-Kern Canal, the cumulative effects of the canal’s constriction land at our doorstep. And, as the single largest Class 2 water contractor, we live and die by our ability to recharge groundwater aquifers using canal supplies. With the feasibility study now complete, we can move forward to repairing the canal and restoring needed water supplies for our farmers and small communities who rely on the recharge water it delivers.” – Arvin-Edison Water Storage District President Edwin Camp
 
“Even if your job doesn’t have anything to do with agriculture, if you live in the San Joaquin Valley, water matters to your quality of life.  Today’s milestone is a critical step in implementing a project that will help our region thrive as we work towards long-term groundwater sustainability.” – Porterville Irrigation District Chairman Eric Borba
 
“The full utilization of our existing water conveyance infrastructure, which includes the Friant-Kern Canal, is paramount to the long-term economic viability of production agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. The Kern County Farm Bureau, its Board of Directors and members, and the communities it serves depend on accessibility to surface water supplies in order to maintain one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Therefore, the Kern County Farm Bureau is in full support of restoring the capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal, and is encouraged by Bureau of Reclamation’s development of the final feasibility report that will help make this into a reality.” – Kern County Farm Bureau President John Moore
 
“This repair is an essential project so that growers serviced by the Friant-Kern Canal can continue the essential service of producing food. As SGMA groundwater restrictions loom, every gallon of surface water provided is one less gallon of groundwater extracted.” – Tulare County Farm Bureau President John Guthrie

Westlands Water District announces recipients of its 2020 West Side Scholarship

Westlands Water District is proud to announce the recipients of its 2020 West Side Scholarship. The West Side Scholarship program recognizes and rewards exceptional academic achievement and leadership shown by graduating seniors at area high schools.
“Westlands is proud to recognize these outstanding students,” commented Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands. “These scholarships represent a small gesture of thanks to the communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that make our region productive and vibrant. Our hope is that these students will continue to contribute to their communities and make them even better for future generations.”

The recipients of the 2020 scholarships are:

Maria G. Ledezman Arreola – Maria, a senior at Firebaugh High School, plans to attend California State University, Fresno, in the fall of 2020. Maria worked as a teacher’s aide at St. Joseph Elementary School, was a group leader for the St. Joseph’s youth group, an active member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) Firebaugh chapter and an FFA State Degree holder. Maria’s dedication to her education was recognized with her status as an Honor Roll student and by making the Superintendent’s list all four years high school. Maria, who is described as a leader among her peers and passionate about teaching others, plans to pursue a degree in liberal studies and aspires to become an elementary school teacher.
Kenia Madelin Servellon Ayala – Kenia, a senior at Mendota High School, plans to attend California State University, Fresno, in the fall of 2020. Kenia volunteered as a translator in her spare time for patients at a rural clinic, worked in her school cafeteria at break and lunch, was an active member of FFA and was a Link Crew member at Mendota High School, which helps steward underclassmen through their high school experience. Kenia carried an impressive grade point average throughout high school while challenging herself with several advanced placement and honors courses. Kenia plans to return to her community after college to serve as a school counselor for her high school.

Magdalena Gallindo – Magdalena, an honors student at Coalinga High School, plans to attend California State University, Fullerton, in the fall of 2020. Magdalena played tennis all four years of her high school career while also volunteering at her church and United Health Care Centers. She participated in several clubs, earned the Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony Award and the AP Scholar Award and was on the Principal’s Honor Roll. Magdalena was described as a leader, a student who always goes above and beyond and as an individual who never hesitates to give back to her community.
Diego Lopez – Diego, a senior at Lemoore High School, plans to attend West Hills Community College in the fall of 2020. Diego served his school and classmates as a teacher’s aide, as well as a project manager and active member for the FFA Agriculture Pathway at Lemoore High School. Diego plans to continue his education in agriculture after West Hills Community College at a 4-year university and earn his degree in Agricultural Project Management.

Sienna Rollin – Sienna, an honors student from Riverdale High School, plans to attend Texas Tech University in the fall of 2020. Sienna volunteered extensively at the Poverello House serving the homeless, the Veterans Affairs Hospital where she aided patients, and Hands Across the Valley as a youth volunteer. Sienna has received numerous awards throughout her high school career including the California Dairy Milk Advisory Board District 8 Dairy Princess title, the Supreme Milk Cow at the Big Fresno Fair, the FFA Chapter Greenhand Degree, and the Veteran’s Affairs Central California Health Care System youth Volunteer of the Year. Sienna plans to major in Agricultural Communications, purse a law degree and someday serve as the US Secretary of Agriculture. 

Kimberly Valadez – Kimberly is the first student from Tranquillity High School to be accepted to an Ivy League School. Kimberly will be attending Cornell University in fall of 2020. Kimberly, only a junior, will graduate from Tranquillity High School with honors and with an associate’s degree from West Hills Community College. Kimberly was actively involved in her school’s FFA chapter where she served as the Chapter Chaplain and Secretary. Kimberly participated in cross country, Upward Bound serving her fellow students, as well as mock trial. She aspires to major in linguistics and become a forensic pathologist.

Each scholarship recipient will receive $1,000 for community college or university expenses. Applicants were judged on their academic performance, school activities and community leadership.
Westlands Water District congratulates each of these talented students and wishes them the best of luck in their future academic and professional careers. 

CDFA Seeks Proposals for Alternatives in Manure Management

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation is now accepting proposals for new manure management practices for inclusion in its Alternative Manure Management Program  (AMMP).

As part of AMMP development beginning in 2016, CDFA identified specific manure management practices eligible for funding, including solid separation and conversion from flush to scrape systems. In subsequent rounds of funding, CDFA expanded the suite of manure management practices through a public process in coordination with the California Air Resources Board (CARB). In total, four categories of manure management practices  that reduce methane emission from dairy and livestock operations are currently funded through AMMP. In addition to manure collection, proposed practices must identify how the separated or collected manure volatile solids will be treated and/or stored to ensure a permanent reduction in methane emissions.

“CDFA has heard from several stakeholders about innovative manure management technologies that might fit into AMMP and offer more options for dairy and livestock operators to meet California’s aggressive methane reduction goals by 2030,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “We are committed to collaborating with stakeholders, CARB, academic researchers and sister state and federal agencies for the continued evolution of this Climate Smart Agriculture program.”

There are several important requirements needed to submit a manure management practice for consideration in the AMMP. Proposal requirements, process for consideration and other details on the submission process can be found on the  AMMP webpage.

Proposals are due by 5 p.m. PT on September 4, 2020 and must be submitted via email to CDFA.OEFI_ammp_tech@cdfa.ca.gov.

Farmers Push Back on Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Penalty

Farmers are protecting their workers. They do not need a threat from Cal/OSHA

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the Ag Information Network

Roger Isom is president and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association, based in Fresno. It’s a trade association representing tree nut processors. He said, ag employers are trying very hard to protect their employees and don’t need a threat from Cal/OSHA.

“We want to provide a safe workplace,” said Isom. “You have to, I mean, this is a serious virus and can spread easily. So you’ve got to be careful about it. The problem we see is if you’re grossly negligent, yes, that’s an issue. But what we’ve seen historically is that Cal/ OSHA could cite you for checking your employees every day, but you didn’t document that you did. Why is that a criminal penalty,” noted Isom.

“We checked our employees and the workers say that we did it, but we don’t have documentation of it. And so now you’re going to make this a criminal penalty. No, that’s, that’s not acceptable,” Isom said.

“My guess is that there certainly is pressure on the legislature to do something. If they eliminate that criminal element and make it a standard penalty that we see typical Cal/OSHA requirements, it’s going to be enforceable.

“People are going to follow it,” said Isom. “Again, we need to do this. We don’t need Cal/OSHA to tell us to do this. We have to do this. So we don’t think it’s necessary for the criminal element at all,” said Isom.

Almond Board Launches Bee+ Scholarship to Promote Bee Friendly Farming

The Almond Board of California (ABC) and Pollinator Partnership are proud to announce the alignment of ABC’s California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP)[1] and Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming (BFF) program to promote the importance of providing pollinators with nutritional forage. To further support almond growers in planting pollinator habitat, the Almond Board is simultaneously launching its Bee+ Scholarship, through which it will provide free cover crop seed to 100 almond growers through Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees program. The scholarship will also cover the cost for growers to register for the BFF program.

The CASP and BFF program alignment and Bee+ Scholarship expand on a commitment made in the Pollinator Protection Plan, announced in January, to promote pollinator health and biodiversity by encouraging almond growers to provide habitat for pollinators in or near their orchards. 

“Protecting and improving honey bee health, not only during the short time that bees are in our orchards but year round, is critical to the success of every almond grower. By working with national organizations such as Pollinator Partnership and Project Apis m., we are expanding our focus to all pollinators, viewing working lands as part of biodiverse ecosystems,” said Almond Board Chief Scientific Officer Josette Lewis, Ph.D. “Responsible farming is at the heart of what the California almond community does. ABC’s Bee+ Scholarship and the alignment between CASP and BFF allow us to increase our support to growers as they remain committed to growing almonds in better, safer and healthier ways, adding biodiversity to their farms, and improving outcomes for pollinators.”

Funding provided by ABC’s Bee+ Scholarship will allow growers to plant an estimated 3,500 acres of quality pollinator forage statewide – that’s in addition to the cover crop seed Project Apis m. typically distributes directly to almond growers through their Seeds for Bees program each year.[2] Currently, over half of almond growers participating in ABC’s California Almond Sustainability Program report allowing native cover crops to grow in their orchards.[3] This scholarship will help to convert more of those native cover crops to quality pollinator forage.

Partnerships Work to Best Serve Pollinators, Almond Industry

With the alignment of the CASP and BFF programs, almond growers who complete assessments in CASP specifically focused on bee health and pest management, and who meet certain BFF criteria, will qualify to register for the BFF program and become Bee Friendly certified. This certification will allow growers and their processors to use the Bee Friendly Farming logo on their product, and growers will be publicly recognized on Pollinator Partnership’s website as being a “Bee Friendly Farm” – in addition to receiving a BFF metal sign to display on their property.

The criteria to become Bee Friendly certified[4] are as follows:

  • provide cover crop forage in or near orchards
  • provide bloom of different flowering plants throughout the growing season
  • offer clean water for pollinators
  • provide habitat for nesting via hedgerows, natural brush and more
  • practice integrated pest management


“Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming program is a perfect conduit to increase pollinator benefits and to ensure protection and sustainability within the almond industry. Almond growers are terrific partners in best management practices, and we look forward to a close and growing relationship in support of pollinators and producers,” said Laurie Adams, president and CEO of Pollinator Partnership.

Because the CASP and BFF program alignment focuses on providing nutritional forage to supplement the diets of native pollinators in addition to honey bees, the decision to launch the Bee+ Scholarship and encourage greater forage planting among growers was a natural complement to the industry’s broader pollinator health initiatives.

“With a crop that relies primarily on honey bees for pollination, it is in almond growers’ best interest to ensure their orchards are a safe place for bees each spring,” said Billy Synk, director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m.

Seeds for Bees aims to provide California farmers with a variety of seed mixes that bloom at critical times of the year when natural forage is scarce, but managed and native bees are active. While the mixes are designed to meet the nutritional needs of honey bees, they also provide habitat and nutrition for other pollinators and beneficial insects. Research supported by Project Apis m. and the Almond Board has shown that pollinator habitat is fully compatible with typical almond production practices and does not interfere with important growing activities like harvest.

“Working together with organizations like the Almond Board of California, Pollinator Partnership and many more, along with many researchers, almond growers and beekeepers, we can achieve far more collectively than we can separately,” said Project Apis m. Executive Director Danielle Downey. “These collaborations, focused on research and data, communication and forage, are a critical component to the long-term sustainability of beekeeping and almonds.”

Farmer Equity Act – Part 2

 

Farmer Equity Act Build’s Diversity

 

By Tim Hammerich, with the AgInformation Network

The California Department of Food and Agriculture recently released the first annual report on the Farmer Equity Act that was passed back in 2017. CDFA Secretary Karen Ross explains the importance of this initiative.

“So this is going to be a forever program, as far as I know. It’s a requirement now in statute. It’s something that we at CDFA are eager to do. And I think it’s critically important that we are every day thinking about inclusivity and equity throughout our farming community, and that has never been more evident than this past month in particular, Secretary Ross

And so this is work that we’re eager to do, that anything we can do to help the diversity of our ag community thrive at all scales with all different business models will be successful for all of agriculture. That’s our strength. Diversity is our strength. We know that in our biological systems, that diversity helps bring resilience. And I think that’s an important part for our community of farmers as well,” said Secretary Ross.

For more resources for socially disadvantaged farmers, visit the CDFA website.

Farmers Doing What They Can—No COVID-19 Penalty Needed

Farmers Pushing Back on Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Penalty

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh with AgInformation Network 

Pushing back on Cal/OSHA that want to press criminal charges of ag employers do not protect their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roger Isom is president and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association, based in Fresno. It’s a trade association representing tree nut processors. He said, ag employers are trying very hard to protect their employees and don’t need a threat from Cal/OSHA.

“We want to provide a safe workplace,” said Isom. “You have to, I mean, this is a serious virus and can spread easily. So you’ve got to be careful about it. The problem we see is if you’re grossly negligent, yes, that’s an issue. But what we’ve seen historically is that Cal/ OSHA could cite you for checking your employees every day, but you didn’t document that you did. Why is that a criminal penalty,” noted Isom.

“We checked our employees and the workers say that we did it, but we don’t have documentation of it. And so now Cal/OSHA wants to make this a criminal penalty. No, that’s, that’s not acceptable,” Isom said.

“My guess is that there certainly is pressure on the legislature to do something. If they eliminate that criminal element and make it a standard penalty that we see typical Cal/OSHA requirements, it’s going to be enforceable.

“People are going to follow it,” said Isom. “Again, we need to do this. We don’t need Cal/OSHA to tell us to do this. We have to do this. So we don’t think it’s necessary for the criminal element at all,” said Isom.