India is Top Export Destination for Almonds, Worth $650 Million Annually
Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) released the following statement after India imposed retaliatory tariffs up to 70 percent on American products, including almonds. Rep. Harder’s district is one of the largest producers of almonds in the country, and India is the top export destination for the product.
“This trade war has to end. The president is shooting from the hip on his trade policy and it’s Central Valley almond farmers that are left holding the bag. India is our top export partner and we just can’t afford to take this hit. I’m going to continue pushing the administration and the USDA to stop this devastating cycle of retaliatory tariffs. We need to be supporting our farmers, not cutting off our markets and depressing our economy.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the United States exported over $650 million worth of almonds to India in 2018.
FruitsAndVeggies.org Has Been Updated
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Eating more fruits and vegetables is important. California Ag Today recently spoke with Teresa Thorne executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, based in Watsonville She expressed the need to eat more fruits and vegetables and discussed how the website FruitsAndVeggies.org has been updated.
“Whether you choose organic or conventional, choose either with confidence,” Thorne said.
Both organic and conventional fruits and vegetables are safe.
“Experts everywhere agree that we should buy even more,” Thorne said.
“Our website was getting a little bit old and rickety,” she explained.
The website, FruitsAndVeggies.org, was launched back in 2010. New sections on the website help readers understand the necessity of eating more fruits and vegetables.
“These new sections are kind of a fun take on our more traditional nutrition information,” Thorne said.
They also have fun facts such as how eating a lot of strawberries can help whiten teeth. And eating leafy Greens like spinach can lead to healthier hair.
“Things along those lines are just kind of fun little tidbits,” Thorne said.
“It is proven that consuming more foods and vegetables improve your mood, they’re great for you and you can be happier too if you eat more,” Thorne said.
The facts section also clarifies safety and prevention information.
“We also have another section about produce safety,” she said.
This was based on a popular blog that was published approximately one year ago. The information was consolidated it into one quick and easy section for viewers to easily read some interesting facts.
“One being that if we increased our serving by one serving of a fruit and vegetable in a day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented annually,” Thorne said.
With So Many Electric Cars, Why Not Electric Tractors?
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
There are many different models of electric cars—they are even mainstream in most U.S. cities and other countries—and now farmers may soon have electric tractors to use in specialty crops in California.
Bakur Kvezereli is president and CEO of Ztractor, the first autonomous electric tractor for specialty crops. Kvezereli, who is based in Palo Alto, explained why the tractor is being developed in California.
“First, California is our market. Second, we teamed up with some great engineers, who graduated from Stanford, and my school, which was MIT. We were friends, and we wanted to look into this technology looking to replace the 25 or 30 HP diesel motor as well as the 30-gallon diesel,” he said.
“And we started as an electric tractor company in September 2017. And in two months, we realized that to achieve an electric tractor, you have to find a solution for making it autonomous,” Kvezereli explained.
“We now have three models in our manufacturing pipeline. One 24 horsepower will be available to the farmers this year. The next model will be a bigger tractor, 45 horsepower, which will be available 2020, and a 125 horsepower will be available in 2021.”
“Our basic tractor will have all the usual features found in most other tractors. The premium model line will have more features, especially on the software and hardware area. The zTractors will have no emissions and no hydraulics—just strong torque power.”
A four-hour charge will provide 6 to 10 hours of work in the field. “It requires only level two charging similar to car charging. “We are exploring a better battery, however currently it is the nickel ion technology,” Kvezereli said
“Horsepower is where we estimate the metrics for a tractor. What we think farmers care about is torque. In electric, to achieve higher torque is much easier than to achieve it with diesel power, and electric technology in general is very reliable for many types of tasks,” said Kvezereli.
The electric tractors keep the same three-point hitch as well as a PTO, both electrically operated.
“We build everything based on the requirements for the PTO and three-point hitch, and I think that’s what makes the Ztractor different from any other robotics companies that will provide a better tractor. It’s a general purpose and can replace a regular traditional tractor,” he said.
The main farming operations will be strawberry vineyards and vegetable operations. The tasks will include soil preparation and crop management. Harvest tasks are not yet available.
The prices for the tractors, calculated at $1,000 per horsepower, are similar to traditional tractors.
Almond Grower and Board Chair Holly King Attends White House Briefing with President
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced almonds will be included in the administration’s new trade mitigation package. This package aims to continue the support of farmers and ranchers impacted by delayed negotiations and trade disruption with China.
Almond Board Chair Holly A. King attended a briefing at the White House recently with President Donald J. Trump and representatives from other major farm groups to discuss the trade mitigation package.
“It is an honor to represent the California almond industry at the White House briefing with President Trump and express appreciation for his efforts to ease the burden of the trade tariffs on California almond growers,” King said. “We have invested heavily in developing the market for California almonds in China for more than 20 years and hope the Administration is successful in negotiating a new trade deal soon so we can get back to business as usual.”
The $16 billion package includes $14.5 billion for the Market Facilitation Program, $1.4 billion in surplus commodity purchases through the Food Purchase and Distribution Program and $100 million in Agricultural Trade Promotion funding. Almonds will be included in the Marketing Facilitation Program. According to the USDA release, “Tree nut producers, fresh sweet cherry producers, cranberry producers and fresh grape producers will receive a payment based on 2019 acres of production.”
The Almond Board has worked closely with the Almond Alliance of California throughout the developing tariff situation to ensure the voice of the California almond industry is heard.
“The Almond Board and Almond Alliance have been actively engaged with USDA, the US Trade Representative and Congress regarding the impact of this trade disruption on almonds. The Alliance has led efforts ensuring almonds are included in the second mitigation package,” said Julie Adams, Vice President of Global, Technical and Regulatory Affairs at the Almond Board. “We look forward to working with USDA in leveraging these funds to best benefit the entire almond industry and our grower communities.”
Overall, trade disputes have underscored the importance of having diverse, healthy export markets, a position of strength that the California almond industry has long enjoyed. For decades, ABC has supported the industry by making significant investments in foreign market development and expansion. Recently, the Almond Board started marketing programs in Italy, Mexico, Germany and re-entered Japan. ABC also ramped up marketing activity in Germany and India.
“While we appreciate almonds’ inclusion in the second package, almonds continue to be impacted by the increase in tariffs, and we’ve seen a significant decline in shipments to China, our third-largest export market,” said Adams. “Getting back to normal trade is critical.”
2019 Crop Predicted to be 2.50 Billion Pounds
For the second year in a row, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is predicting a record California almond crop for the upcoming production year. According to the NASS 2019 California Almond Subjective Forecast issued recently, California almond orchards are expected to produce 2.50 billion pounds of nuts this year, up 8.69% from last year’s 2.30 billion-pound crop. (1)
This forecast comes just weeks after NASS released the 2018 California Almond Acreage Report, which estimated total almond acres for 2018 were up 2% from 2017 at 1.39 million acres. Bearing acres—orchards mature enough to produce a crop—were reported at 1.09 million acres, up 6% from the previous year. Looking ahead, NASS reported preliminary bearing acreage for 2019 at 1.17 million acres, up 7.3% from 2018. (2)
The first of two reports for the upcoming crop, the Subjective Forecast is based on opinions obtained from randomly selected almond growers located throughout the state via a phone survey conducted in April and May. NASS asked growers to indicate their total almond yield per acre from last year and expected yield for the current year based on field observations. The sample of growers interviewed is grouped by size of operation, and different individuals are interviewed each year, allowing all growers to be represented. NASS then combines the yield estimates obtained from each grower and extrapolates the information to arrive at the numbers reported in the Subjective Forecast.
While the Subjective Forecast provides early estimates of the upcoming crop after it is set, NASS’s 2019 California Almond Objective Report will provide a more precise estimate as it uses a more statistically rigorous methodology to determine yield. The report’s data is based on actual almond counts and measurements gathered from over 850 orchards throughout the state and includes the weight, size, and grade of the average almond sample broken down by both growing district and variety.
The California Almond Objective Report will be released on July 3 at 11:50 a.m. PDT. NASS conducts the Objective Report—the Subjective Forecast and the Acreage Report—in order to provide the California almond industry with the data needed to make informed business decisions.
1 USDA-NASS. 2019 California Almond Subjective Forecast. May 2019.
2 USDA-NASS. 2018 California Almond Acreage Report. April 2019.
Former President George Radanovich Goes Back to Washington
This week, Randy Giumarra, the Chairman of the California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) Board of Directors, announced that Ian LeMay will serve as the new president of CFFA. LeMay will succeed George Radanovich, who has held the position since 2016 and will be leaving CFFA to promote sound ag labor policy in Washington, D.C.
Giumarra said, “Ian’s appointment is a reflection of our Board’s commitment to establishing long-term leadership for our industry.”
He continued, “Our board and I have worked closely with Ian over the past four years. We are confident in his abilities and look forward to his leadership. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank George for his time, leadership, and impact that he has made over the last three years. George’s service is greatly appreciated by our entire membership.”
LeMay has dedicated his career to supporting and advocating for the continued success of California agriculture. Since 2015, LeMay has served as CFFA’s Director of Member Relations and Communications.
From 2011 to 2015, LeMay served as the District Director for Congressman Jim Costa, who represents California’s 16th Congressional District. As District Director, LeMay managed the Congressman’s district staff and advised the Congressman on a number of issues, including agriculture, water, and transportation. Prior to working for Congressman Costa, LeMay worked as a California Market Specialist for the Lindsay Corporation. LeMay is a recent graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Program (Class 48).
“I am humbled and appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve the members of the California Fresh Fruit Association in a new capacity,” LeMa said. “I came to the Association four years ago because I believe in its mission, deeply respect its history and see infinite potential in advocating for the permanent fresh fruit growers and shippers of California. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe two great Association leaders in Barry Bedwell and George Radanovich, and thank them for their commitment to bettering our industry. The challenges that face us are many. These have not been easy years for our industry, but I remain confident in the future of California agriculture and our opportunity to advocate for meaningful policy with a unified voice.”
LeMay will begin his tenure as CFFA President on June 1st. Ian and his wife, Molly, reside in Fresno with their two children, Emery Rose and Ellison James, and will welcome their third child this August.
ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION
For more than eighty (80) years the California Fresh Fruit Association has been the primary government relations organization serving the fresh fruit industry. It is a voluntary public policy organization that works on behalf of our members—growers, shippers, marketers, and associates—on issues that specifically affect member commodities: fresh grapes, kiwis, pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, peaches, pears, apricots, nectarines, interspecific varieties, plums, apples and persimmons. It is the Association’s responsibility to serve as a liaison between regulatory and legislative authorities by acting as the unified voice of our members. The challenges are countless for growers, shippers, and marketers as they strive to remain viable in an ever-changing market. Increasing regulatory requirements make it difficult to flourish, regardless of the size of the operation.
The Association’s dedicated staff advocates daily in the best interest of our members to ensure that regulators and legislators are using sound science and accurate information when considering laws or rules that will be imposed on industry members. However, aside from the variety of issues the Association works on, there is an important networking component. As each company has its own business interest, the membership as a whole shares a common, vested interest in the long-term health of tree fruit, fresh grape and berry communities in California.
New, More Stringent Food Safety Practices Adopted to Prevent Outbreaks
By April Ward, LGMA Communications Director
The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board met April 19 and voted to strengthen mandatory food safety practices required on farms.
This means that every box of leafy greens placed into commerce by a certified LGMA member will soon be produced under new, more stringent requirements that are designed to reduce risk when it comes to water used in growing leafy greens. The updates include specific directives such as no longer allowing the use of untreated surface water for overhead irrigation of leafy greens prior to harvest.
The LGMA program has always required growers to test their water because it can be a carrier of pathogens. But the new requirements now include additional safeguards that ensure farmers categorize the source of the water; consider how and when water is applied to the crop; conduct testing to assure the water is safe for the intended use; sanitize water if necessary; and verify that all of the above precautions have been taken
The new standards approved by the LGMA Board are in direct response to investigations conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into last year’s e. Coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce. Clues pointed to irrigation water from sources such as canals and reservoirs as a possible cause of the both the November outbreak and the one associated with romaine from Yuma last spring.
Government and the produce industry, in general, looked to the LGMA as the way to improve the safety of leafy greens. The leafy greens industry group, facilitated by Western Growers, has been working with industry members, growers and members of the academic community to fashion new and more stringent requirements for agricultural water use. And, in fact, the actions taken by the LGMA Board have effectively changed the way 99 percent of the leafy greens in California are farmed.
The LGMA will begin immediately to make sure everyone in the leafy greens community understands how to comply with the new requirements. The updated LGMA Food Safety Practices document is available on our website here. Additional information on specific changes to the LGMA food safety practices will be provided in the coming weeks and dates for workshops and webinars for both leafy greens industry members and the buying trade will be scheduled soon.
The LGMA and its members have an obligation to produce safe leafy greens. We are very aware of the tragic impacts a foodborne illness can have on consumers, our customers, and our entire industry. We are all passionately committed to producing the safest leafy greens possible. The LGMA will continue to make changes to as needed to strengthen the food safety requirements for leafy greens.
For more on the new regulations, check out this YouTube video.
New Safefruitsandveggies.com Website Will Improve Visitor Experience
The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) has launched an updated safefruitsandveggies.com website with new content and to improve visitors’ experiences on the increasingly popular site.
“The safefruitsandveggies.com website now receives tens of thousands of visitors each year,” said Teresa Thorne, AFF Executive Director. “We want to continue to improve the site, retain our visitors, and attract new users. The newly formatted site will help us to do that.”
New sections include “A Dozen Reasons to Eat Fruits and Veggies,” and “Five Facts About Produce,” which are based upon popular blog posts. These sections provide quick and easily-retained information about the benefits of eating fruits and veggies as well as the safety of organic and conventional produce.
The Safety Standards section of the website, which provides comprehensive information about the stringent regulations governing the approval and use of organic and conventional pesticides, has also been updated.
“This has become among the most visited sections of safefruitsandveggies.com because all the pesticide regulation information from various government agencies can be found in one place,” Thorne said. “Instead of going through multiple searches and websites to learn more about these regulations, people can just come to safefruitsandveggies.com.”
Still to come are web pages specifically designed for nutritionists and dietitians to help them answer produce safety questions from consumers, their customers, and clients.
“This new web page was actually requested by dietitians, and we are excited to have their input as we build the content,” Thorne said.
“Since research shows consumers find dietitians and nutritionists are among the most credible sources when it comes to pesticide residues and produce safety, it is important they have readily usable information,” Thorne added.
Among the most visited website section continues to be the residue calculator, which shows consumers they could literally eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or veggie in a day and still not have any health effects from residues.
“All of the website content is either based upon peer reviewed research or on analyses by experts in the areas of toxicology, risk analysis, nutrition and farming,” Thorne said. “Consumers can also view 40 videos featuring farmers and scientists, as well as information about peer reviewed studies.”
The AFF works to provide credible, science-based information so consumers can make the right shopping choices for themselves and their families.
“The safefruitsandveggies.com website is the cornerstone of our efforts,” Thorne said. “By providing facts about produce safety and countering misinformation, we hope to remove fear as a barrier and encourage increased consumption of all forms of produce.”
Listening to Customers Concerns Will Help With Skepticism
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
There are biases against large-scale businesses, according to Charlie Arnot, CEO of The Center For Food Integrity. He said that listening to customers concerns will help with the skepticism.
“The fundamental bias we see against size and scale is a belief that the larger companies, the larger entities, will put profit ahead of public interest. We know that’s not true,” Arnot said. “Those of us who work in agriculture … know that the people—the men, and women who work in agriculture—are terrific. They’ve got values that resonate. They’re committed to doing what’s right. But because of the size, the scale of agriculture today, it raises greater questions.”
Arnot explained that this means that the ag industry needs to embrace that consumer skepticism and be willing to address those questions and not be defensive.
“We want to help people understand that yes, the size and scale has changed, but our commitment to do what’s right has never been stronger.
Consider the adage, “it’s better to make a friend than win an argument.”
“And when you get into that conversation, do you want to win an argument or do you want to win a friend?” Arnot asked. “You know, what’s important to you? And frequently if we listen hard enough, we can hear people’s values. We can listen to what they’re talking about and find that place of connection.”
“So when someone says, you know, ‘it makes me uncomfortable to see all the pesticides and the spraying on all the produce in California. I don’t think it’s safe.’ We can either defend pesticides and applications of crop protection chemicals, or we can listen to say, okay, well [what] I heard them say is they care about safe food.”
“Terrific. I care about safe food. Let’s have a conversation about our commitment to safe food as opposed to a conversation about trying to defend pesticides or crop protection chemicals,” Arnot explained.
He said that consumers have many needs when they’re making decisions about food. “Historically, we’ve thought about their rational needs. We’re going to give them information, but they also have social and emotional needs that they’re trying to meet as well.”
“They want to feel good. They want to have that emotional reinforcement [that] they’ve made the right decision for their families. They want to have confidence and feel good [that] they’ve decided to buy food that’s going to be safe and nutritious,” Arnot said. “They want to get that social reinforcement when they bring it out of the bag, when they talk to their friends, when they post a picture on Instagram or Facebook about what they’re doing. They want people to reinforce [that] they made the right choice about what they purchased.”
For more information on the Center For Food Integrity: http://www.foodintegrity.org/