Almond Board Announces Exceptional 2023 Almond Leadership Class

By Rick Kushman, Almond Board

The outstanding 14th class of professionals begins a year-long immersion to become the next great leaders of the California almond industry

The Almond Board of California (ABC) is proud to announce the Almond Leadership Program class of 2023, a group of 18 exceptional professionals expected to help lead the industry into the future.

This next generation of leaders was chosen from nearly 50 highly qualified applicants. They come from diverse backgrounds across the full range of the industry, and include growers and processors, sales and real estate representatives, consultants, pest control advisors and more.

The Almond Leadership Program (ALP) began in 2009 and has graduated more than 200 industry members. Dozens now serve on ABC workgroups, committees and even the Board of Directors.

“The industry is seeing the enormous benefits from more than a decade of the leadership program, and while we seem to say this every year, this 2023 class is simply outstanding,” said Rebecca Bailey, the ABC specialist who oversees ALP. “This program helps great people become great leaders. It’s clear that these talented, passionate people will continue to be great assets and advocates for our industry for years.”

Members of this 14th class – while still working at their jobs – will be immersed in every aspect of the industry, including ABC activities in global marketing, production, nutrition research, food safety and more. They’ll sharpen their communication skills and build lasting relationships with industry leaders, ABC staff and each other.

“I’m honored to be joining a group of industry leaders who will be taking both the almond industry and the agriculture community into the future,” said 2023 participant Diane Power, a sixth generation California farmer and sales associate in Modesto with Pearson Realty. “I look forward to all the experiences and opportunities we will have to learn about the almond industry, and to the many relationships we will form through this year.”

Class members will be guided by volunteer mentors – many of them ALP graduates – who will help them develop the skills, knowledge and perspective to improve their industry and their communities.

“We all play unique roles in the almond industry,” said 2023 class member Megan Chicoine, the general manager of U.S. operational support for Manulife Investment Management in Redding. “As young emerging leaders, we have the ability to make significant impacts by actively participating in our industry.”

The leadership program will also offer class members thorough looks at the impacts on the industry of social, economic and environmental issues and the regulatory climate. In addition, participants will take on a yearlong, self-directed project focused on improving the California almond industry. Some past projects have led to important breakthroughs for the industry.

Leadership class members kicked off their training with a two-day orientation a week ago at the ABC offices in Modesto, which included one-on-one talks with their mentors.

“The one thing everyone has in common is they love agriculture,” said mentor Chandler Wilson, a technical sales rep for NutriAg USA. “We all want to be better. The mentors believe in the program and many have been through it. We’re eager to give back to the industry and these new leaders. We’ll share our experiences in and out of ALP, and together, we’ll all learn and grow as individuals and professionals through the whole process.”

Once again, class members will raise money for California FFA, pledging to raise more than $25,000 in scholarships for high school students interested in pursuing agriculture in college. Through the years, ALP has raised more than $225,000 for FFA.

The 2023 Almond Leadership class members are Alana Ambrosino, Ripon Manufacturing Company, Inc.; James Broaddus, BASF Agricultural Solutions; Destiny Camden, BeeHero Inc; Chris Chavez, ofi; Megan Chicoine, Manulife Investment Management; Lincoln Denlinger, Salida Ag; Lauren Dutra, Ceres Imaging; Brian Ganyo, Bayer Crop Science; Robert Gray, Burchell Nursery; Darryl Hadlich, WiseConn Engineering; Thomas Martin, TRÉCÉ Inc.; Erick Mendonca, Miller Chemical; Chris Miller, Blue Diamond Growers; Vance Millwee, Treehouse California Almonds, LLC; Mitchell Moreda, RPAC LLC; Diane Power, Pearson Realty; Matthew Reamer, South Valley Farms; and Tylor Wilbourn, BeeHero Inc.

Bayer Crop Science has sponsored ALP for a number of years and is the sponsor of the 2023 class.

2023-02-08T09:10:03-08:00February 8th, 2023|

Could The Almond Industry Be Overplanted?

By Patrick  Cavanaugh, Contributor

There are tough times for the almond industry and it’s beyond their control in most areas, but could part of it be because almond growers over-planted? Brian Ezell is vice president of the almond division of Wonderful Company. He explains his viewpoint.

“It’s typical behavior in farming,” said Ezell. “The differences, you’ve got permanent crops that takes a lot of upfront investment, and once you have that upfront investment, you don’t want to exit very quickly. Where in a row crop, you can have years where weather affects it, drops production, prices go up and then the next year, everybody wants to plant more tomatoes or whatever. But then they can jump right back out of it the next year if the price goes back down,” he said.

But Ezell says it’s not so easy with the permanent crops, with that up-front investment. “When you look at the Almond’s side, what happened is we had some very high pricing from 2012 through 2015, through that drought period,” he noted.

So, suddenly the crop was extremely profitable. “However, during that period from 2014 to 2020, an average of 102,000 acres was planted every year,” explained Ezell. “The normal is about 36,000 acres,”  he added.

“So 186% of normal, year after year for seven years is just not a sustainable thing, especially when you consider a balanced industry in supply and demand, organic demand growth without affecting price is about 6%,” Ezell said.

2023-01-18T12:47:35-08:00January 18th, 2023|

Almond Sector Assesses Toll After its ‘Toughest’ Year

By Christine Souza, California Farm Bureau

With the ongoing multiyear drought, global logistical challenges and inflationary impacts affecting California’s $5 billion almond crop, leaders in the almond sector say they are hopeful for a return to a more profitable outlook in 2023, with a more orderly supply chain and lower production costs.

Almond Board of California President and CEO Richard Waycott told several thousand attendees at the organization’s 50th annual conference, held Dec. 6-8 in Sacramento, that “the past year is probably the toughest we’ve had as an industry.”

As part of the state of the industry address, Waycott, joined by Almond Board Chair Alexi Rodriguez of Campos Brothers Farms in Fresno County, cited challenges affecting the almond sector. These include limited water supply, logistical and supply-chain issues, rising interest rates, inflation and the war in Ukraine.

“This combination has created this perfect storm that has had a profound impact on our industry,” Rodriguez said. “This industry has been through challenging times before, and with great challenges come great opportunities for growth and innovation.”

She added, “We are a resilient industry, and together we’re going to get through it.”

In presenting the economic outlook for California almonds, David Magaña, a Rabobank vice president and senior analyst based in Fresno, said the state’s almond acreage decreased this year for the first time in more than 25 years. The decrease was first reported in a Land IQ report commissioned by the Almond Board.

Total standing acreage as of Aug. 31 was estimated at 1.64 million, compared to 1.66 million acres at the same time in 2021, the report stated. Bearing acres—orchards producing almonds and planted in 2019 or earlier—increased slightly to 1.34 million from 1.31 million last year. Nonbearing acres—new plantings going back to 2020 but not yet bearing almonds—dropped to 294,000 acres from 353,000 acres in 2021.

“On the supply side, we expect to continue to see large volumes of almonds—depending on the weather and depending on water—in the next few years,” Magaña said. “The most optimistic view I have is the global middle class will continue to demand food that we grow here in California, including almonds.”

California growers this year are expected to produce 2.6 billion pounds of almonds. This is less than the amount shipped in each of the past two years, which were the two largest production and shipment years since record keeping began. Waycott said, “Hopefully we can see things come into a better equilibrium.”

Looking ahead, Waycott told attendees that the Almond Board plans to drive global demand through marketing programs and new product development, such as consumption of almonds to promote skin health and use of almond hulls as a food ingredient.

In addition, Waycott said, the Almond Board is halfway to achieving its 2025 almond orchard goals to achieve zero waste, increase environmentally friendly pest management, reduce dust and increase water efficiency.

In a panel session on managing less water, farmers and water leaders discussed approaches such as use of more groundwater recharge and development of regional strategies.

“It’s a little difficult to talk about groundwater recharge in a drought year,” said Daniel Mountjoy, director of resource stewardship at Sustainable Conservation. He said the state, growers and water districts must be prepared to Aapply water to the land when it does arrive.

“The most economical way to store water in the state right now is putting water back on the ground and into the aquifer,” Mountjoy said.

Groundwater sustainability agencies are exploring incentives to encourage farmers to recharge in optimal locations, he said.

Fresno County farmer Stuart Woolf of Woolf Farming, which is an irrigator in the Westlands Water District, discussed his response to water shortages.

“Years ago, we started running all of our budgets based the return per acre-foot of water, and that really drove a lot of our plantings,” Woolf said. “I never contemplated that I would ever consider taking out almonds so I could grow more row crops, but fortunately, we’re in a position to do that.”

Woolf said he expects to fallow 1,100 acres of almonds and plant 1,500 acres of row crops.

“We’re losing money,” Woolf said. “They (almonds) use over 4 acre-feet, and I can turn around and grow row crops and actually make a lot more money. I would encourage everybody in the room to be looking at these numbers and looking at your alternatives.”

Searching for solutions, Woolf said, he farms ground in other counties and is looking into growing drought-tolerant crops, including agave for tequila.

“We’re going to give it a try. I have a test plot with about 4,000 plants, so we’re trying to think about these things creatively,” Woolf said.

During a panel discussion on almond pollination, Elina Niño, an entomologist who specializes in honeybees at the University of California, Davis, discussed research related to self-pollinating almond varieties.

Niño said UC research shows yields are higher when honeybee colonies are used for pollinating these varieties. In response to a question about the number of hives needed per acre to pollinate almonds—usually two hives per acre—Niño said, “That is still the question that remains to be answered. This is something that is going to have to be an individual decision for growers.”

The Almond Board conference began 50 years ago as a half-day meeting to share research findings with growers.

Since then, said Stanislaus County almond grower and processor Jim Jasper of Stewart & Jasper, the annual event has become “the Super Bowl of the industry.”

2022-12-14T09:30:19-08:00December 14th, 2022|

California Almond Acreage Drops in 2022 – First Time in Decades

By Rick Kushman, Almond Board of California

Bearing acreage grew but there were fewer new plantings and increased orchard removals

California’s almond acreage decreased for the first time in more than 25 years, according to a new report from Land IQ to the Almond Board of California (ABC).

Total standing acreage as of Aug. 31 was estimated at 1.64 million acres, compared with 1.66 million acres at the same time in 2021. Bearing acres – orchards producing almonds and planted in 2019 or earlier – increased slightly to 1.34 million from 1.31 million last year. But non-bearing acres – new plantings going back to 2020 but not yet bearing almonds – dropped to 294,000 acres from 353,000 acres in 2021.

In addition, the Land IQ 2022 Standing Acreage and Removed Acreage Final Estimate said approximately 30,000 acres are either classified as stressed or abandoned. They were included in the standing acreage total because the orchards “may have the ability to recover,” Land IQ said.

Removed orchards contributed to the drop in total acreage and continued a trend from 2021. Total orchard acreage removed was about 60,400 acres as of Aug. 31 this year compared with 56,900 removed acres in 2021.

“Land IQ’s report may indicate a possible trend towards lower California almond acreage in the year ahead,” said Richard Waycott, ABC president and CEO. “This acreage estimate was based on data collected through Aug. 31, so it does not reflect any additional removals that may have occurred as the harvest and post-harvest seasons progressed this fall. Those data will be incorporated in the next acreage estimate to be published in April 2023.”

The estimate comes from multiple lines of evidence, including extensive examinations on the ground and advanced remote sensing analytics. Land IQ said the 2022 standing acreage estimate is 98.8 percent accurate.

Land IQ’s Final Acreage Estimate in November, along with USDA-NASS’s April Acreage Report, May’s Subjective Estimate and the Objective Report in July are all commissioned by ABC to provide statistical transparency and a robust picture of California almonds to industry stakeholders around the world.

In 2018, ABC first commissioned Land IQ, a Sacramento-based agricultural and environmental scientific research and consulting firm, to develop a comprehensive, living map of California almonds. The map is the result of more than a decade of research.

2022-12-05T08:37:35-08:00December 5th, 2022|

Third ID Tool for Industry, Available at Almond Conference

By The Almond Board of California

In the past few years, the Almond Board of California has introduced two identification manuals that have proven to be popular with thousands of almond growers, PCAs and others involved in orchard management. Soon, there will be a third.

At the 2022 Almond Conference in December, the final booklet in the identification series will be released, known as the Almond Disease and Nutrient Deficiency Identification Cards. As the name suggests, it will focus on common diseases and nutrient deficiencies that afflict almond trees and also provide management insights, provided by UC almond industry experts.

Prior to this new resource, the Almond Production Resources: Pests, Water and More Booklet was released in the 2020-21 crop year, followed by the Weed Identification Manual the next season. Both booklets are free and include easy-to-understand photos and captions to help growers and PCAs identify specific issues they may confront in the orchard.

Like the previous two booklets, the third manual was developed by the Almond Board in conjunction with experts associated with the University of California’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources team.

“This third ID set rounds out the family of tangible, easy to use resources that help key decision makers in their daily management of producing almonds” explained Jenny Nicolau, senior manager for industry relations and communications for the Almond Board.

Nicolau said the new booklet contains “calculated and well-informed production practices that can help a grower’s bottom line.” She added that reaction to the first two set of booklets has been “amazing,” and she expects a similar response this time.

“We continue to hear from pest control advisers and growers about how helpful the booklets have been to them,” she said. “And what we’re now hearing is kind of this pass along or domino effect where we know we gave a weed ID or a pest ID booklet to a grower or PCA and they don’t have it anymore. And the reason they don’t have it is that they passed it on to their farm manager or somebody on the labor team. … It’s really helping people identify what they’re seeing.”

Like the previous two booklets, the disease and nutrition guide will be laminated for durability.

“The idea was to create something that was very strong and heavy in pictures with brief descriptions that a grower or PCA could keep in their truck … that they could reference throughout the year when they need to identify different things in the orchard and remind them of some of those management tools available to them,” said Nicolau.

The Almond Disease and Nutrient Deficiency Identification Cards will be available for free at the ABC booth at next month’s Almond Conference, set for Dec. 6-8 at the SAFE Credit Union Conference Center in Sacramento. Attendees can register online now. As in years past, there will be hundreds of vendors representing all facets of the industry on the convention center floor as well as informative panel discussions on a variety of key topics.

Growers or PCAs who want a copy of the pest or weed booklets, or any other ABC resource, can request one by emailing the Almond Board’s Field Outreach Team at fieldoutreach@almondboard.com.

2022-11-11T09:08:51-08:00November 11th, 2022|

Almond Alliance Names New Director of Membership and Events

The Almond Alliance has named Annie Romero the Director of Membership and Events. She will be responsible for developing strategy and overseeing the implementation of all member programming and services. Romero will also oversee the planning and production of the Almond Alliance’s Annual Convention, as well as various membership events throughout the year.

“Annie Romero’s combination of knowledge, experience, and sincere appreciation and respect for the Almond industry and community is absolutely remarkable and essential for this new role,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, Almond Alliance President and CEO. “Most recently, Annie coordinated the wildly successful 2022 Shakin’ It Up Almond Alliance Convention and redesigned and rebranded the Alliance’s multifaceted membership program to better represent and allow access to the almond community and allies. We are very excited to have Annie take on this new role and opportunity for the organization as she works to ensure the Alliance keeps its promises to its members every day.”

Romero joined the Almond Alliance in 2016 and previously oversaw marketing and communications. She has a baccalaureate degree in social science from California State University, Stanislaus.

Romero was raised in Turlock, CA, where she resides today with her husband and daughter.

2022-10-25T08:16:25-07:00October 25th, 2022|

2022 Almond Conference

The Almond Board of California

The Almond Conference has been held every year since 1973, making this the 50th consecutive year. The event now attracts more than 250 exhibitors and covers the latest advancements in growing, producing and supplying high-quality, great-tasting, and healthy almonds!

This year’s agenda will be packed with content focused on helping growers improve ROI, including water supply, pollination, irrigation, fertigation, rootstocks, pest management and more!

Make plans to join your fellow almond industry members at The Almond Conference on December 6-8 at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Sacramento.

Register here.

 

2022-10-19T09:21:54-07:00October 19th, 2022|

Almond Alliance Welcomes Sara Arsenault, New Vice President

By Amanda Russell, Almond Alliance of California

The Almond Alliance is pleased to announce and welcome Sara Arsenault as its new Vice President. In her new position, Arsenault will oversee state and federal advocacy, including the upcoming Farm Bill, promoting the Almond industry and community’s policy priorities to keep our farmers farming, promote food and consumer safety and international trade, as well as assist in political action, membership services, and association development.

“We’re excited to welcome Sara aboard,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, President and CEO of the Almond Alliance. “Her California roots and nationwide experience are a perfect fit for the Almond community, and her focused, enthusiastic, and committed approach is a perfect fit for the Alliance. Sara will be an excellent addition to the team as the Alliance continues to expand and lead as the voice for almonds in Sacramento, Washington D.C., and beyond.”

Before joining the Almond Alliance, Arsenault led the federal policy division for the California Farm Bureau (CAFB), where she managed the federal policy team and developed the organization’s federal legislative and regulatory strategies.

Before her time at CAFB, Sara spent nearly five years in Washington, D.C., most recently working for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), where she represented the Commissioners, Directors, and Secretaries of Agriculture from all 50 states and four U.S. territories at the federal level. Previously, she spent time working on Capitol Hill and in the private sector, where she led client implementations for a property management software company, Yardi, Inc., on their e-commerce platform.

Sara is a native of Northern California and began her academic career at Modesto Junior College. She went on to obtain her Bachelor of Science degree in animal science and meat science and technology at Texas A&M University.

2022-10-18T09:32:53-07:00October 18th, 2022|

New Directors of Almond Board of California Begin Their Terms

By Almond Board of California

The new Board of Directors of the Almond Board of California took their seats on Thursday with four voting members beginning new terms to help guide ABC’s support of one of California’s most important crops.

Board members, whose terms officially began Aug. 1, also elected Alexi Rodriguez as chair and re-elected George Goshgarian Jr. as vice chair.

“Our industry is facing many challenges right now,” said Rodriguez. “I’m looking forward to working with this talented and dedicated board and organization. I believe we have the resources and experience to navigate these complicated times.”

The 10-member ABC board has five grower members – three representing independent growers and two representing cooperative growers – and five handler members, also with three independent and two co-op representatives. Some members sit in three-year seats, others in one-year positions.

The grower representatives elected or re-elected in this year’s elections are:

  • Paul Ewing, an independent from RPAC, LLC in Los Banos. He was re-elected to a one-year term.
  • Brandon Rebiero, an independent grower from Gold Leaf Farming in Modesto who previously served as an alternate and was elected to a three-year term.

The handler representatives were re-elected in both positions this year. They are:

  • Darren Rigg, an independent handler from Minturn Nut Co. in Le Grand. He was re-elected to a one-year term.
  • Mel Machado, a co-op handler with Blue Diamond Growers from Modesto re-elected to a three-year term.

In addition, the board has three alternates elected or re-elected this year:

  • Katie Staack-Dorsett, an independent grower with Grizzly Nut, LLC from Waterford This is her first term as an alternate.
  • Chad DeRose, an independent handler with Famoso Nut Co., LLC in McFarland, who was re-elected.
  • Mark Jansen, a co-op handler with Blue Diamond Growers from Sacramento who was also re-elected. .

This is the full board:

VOTING MEMBERS                                                                                      TERM

Grower #1:            Paul Ewing, RPAC, LLC                                                    1 year

Grower #2:            Brandon Rebiero, Gold Leaf Farming                           3 years

Grower #3:            Joe Gardiner, Treehouse California Almonds, LLC       3 years

Handler #1:           Alexi Rodriguez, Campos Brothers                               3 years

Handler #2:           Bob Silveira, Vann Family Orchards                              3 years

Handler #3:           Darren Rigg, Minturn Nut Co. Inc.                                 1 year

Co-op Grower #1: George Goshgarian Jr., Goshgarian Farming Co.        3 years

Co-op Grower #2: Christine Gemperle, Gemperle Orchards                   3 years

Co-op Handler #1: Mel Machado, Blue Diamond Growers                       3 years

Co-op Handler #2: Alicia Rockwell, Blue Diamond Growers                    3 years

ALTERNATES

Grower #1:             Katie Staack-Dorsett, Grizzly Nut, LLC

Grower #2:             Vacant

Grower #3:             Chris Bettencourt, Suvik Farms

Handler #1:            Ron Fisher, Fisher Nut Company

Handler #2:            Dexter Long, Hilltop Ranch, Inc.

Handler #3:            Chad DeRose, Famoso Nut Company, LLC

Co-op Grower #1:  Kelli Evans, Evans Farming

Co-op Grower #2:  Kent Stenderup, Stenderup Ag Partners

Co-op Handler #1: Mark Jansen, Blue Diamond Growers

Co-op Handler #2: Dean LaVallee, Blue Diamond Growers

The ABC board sets policy and approves budgets in major areas, including production research, public relations and advertising, nutrition research, statistical reporting, quality control and food safety.

ABC is a Federal Marketing Order dedicated to promoting California almonds to domestic and international audiences through marketing efforts and by funding and promoting studies about almonds’ health benefits, as well as ensuring sustainable agricultural practices and food safety.

2022-08-11T11:21:09-07:00August 11th, 2022|

NASS Forecasts Smaller Almond Crop for 2022

Objective Forecast predicts harvest 2022 will be down 11 percent from last year.

By The Almond Board of California

The 2022 California Almond Objective Measurement Report published Friday, July 8, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimates that the crop harvested in 2022 will come in at 2.6 billion meat pounds, 11 percent below last year’s 2.9 billion pounds.

The estimate is down 7 percent from NASS’s subjective forecast in May and comes in a complicated year. Some growers were impacted by frost in spring while the entire almond industry, and all California farmers, have been navigating a difficult water year and continued logistical issues impacting the ability to ship almonds to meet consumer demand around the world.

“Growers have been working hard in the face of challenging circumstances and it demonstrates their dedication to improving stewardship practices and meeting the demands of consumers,” said Brian Wahlbrink, chair of the Almond Board of California (ABC) Board of Directors.

The forecast for the average nut set per tree is 4,082, 12 percent down from 2021. The Nonpareil average nut set of 3,966 is also 12 percent lower than last year. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.47 grams, up less than 1 percent from the 2021 average weight. The Nonpareil average kernel weight was 1.55 grams, up slightly from last year.

“Despite the shipping and logistical logjams, recent shipment numbers have set monthly records, which demonstrates the demand for California almonds continues to increase in the U.S. and around the world,” said Almond Board President and CEO Richard Waycott. “Almond growers are putting what resources they can afford this year into producing their crop, and their efforts show. Although there was a drop from last year, the forecast reflects the efforts of growers to meet global demand and ensure a steady supply of high quality California almonds.”

ABC’s April and May 2022 Position Reports showed that almond exports set records for both months, even while facing shipping and logistical obstacles, and total almond shipments in May also set a record.

NASS conducts the annual Subjective Forecast, Objective Report and Acreage Report to provide the California almond industry with the data needed to make informed business decisions. Of the crop estimates, the 2022 California Almond Objective Report is considered the more accurate and is based on actual almond counts using a statistically rigorous methodology.

2022-07-11T11:16:45-07:00July 11th, 2022|
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