After Tough Negotiation, Raisin Price Decided

Raisin Price Set At $1650  Per Ton


More Thompson Seedless Vineyards To Be Pushed


The Raisin Bargaining Association (RBA) announced that it has reached agreement with its signatory packers on the 2013-14 Natural Seedless raisin harvest announced field price.  The price will be one thousand six hundred fifty dollars ($1,650.00) per ton or eighty-two and one half cents ($0.825) per pound.  The price is calculated using the following formula:

         Base price                                $1,457.00                      $0.7285

         Moisture @ 10%                             80.00                          .04

         Maturity @ 75%                              50.00                          .025

         Container rental                              21.00                          .0105

         Transportation (minimum)              15.00                           .0075

         RAC assessment                            14.00                          .007

         USDA inspection                            13.00                          .0065

         2013 Announced RBA field price     $1,650.00 per ton  $0.825 per lb.

Raisin growers have sent a strong message to the industry that they prefer selling raisins on a 100% basis now and into the future.  With that in mind, the Board of Directors of the Association worked diligently toward a compromise with their signatory packers to establish a fair price that reflects the additional California raisin production for this season. 

The Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) recently estimated the 2013 Natural Seedless raisin crop at 348,437 tons in comparison to deliveries of 311,090 tons last year.  The $1,650 per ton price for the 2013 Natural Seedless raisin crop is a 13% reduction to last year but takes into account the additional crop that is estimated for production as well as the challenging market conditions that the industry will be facing.

The agreement calls for growers to be paid in three installments this year as opposed to four installments last season.  65% of the payment will be due fifteen (15) days after completion of delivery, 20% will be due to growers on or before February 28, 2014, and the final 15% will be payable on or before April 30, 2014.

raisin character

In the past, grower reserve raisins generated funds to assist the industry in marketing additional production into world markets.  The effort to sell this year’s additional production without reserve programs and the temporary elimination of state marketing and promotion funding are two reasons why the RAC assessment of fourteen dollars ($14) per ton has been included in the pricing formula.  This will provide an opportunity for the industry to work together through the RAC in support of efforts to market 100% of each year’s crop without reserves.

As reported from the International Dried Grape Producing Countries Conference in October, there continue to be strong indicators that Turkey has a significantly smaller dried grape crop to market this coming season.  California and Turkey are the two largest producers of dried grapes in the world.  It was also reported that South Africa, Chile, and Argentina have suffered tremendous frost damage in their vineyards, which will severely limit their harvest, which begins in January. The ability to take full advantage of what appears to be a tremendous sales opportunity requires an announced field price.

The Raisin Bargaining Association Board of Directors understood the importance of establishing this important benchmark in a timely manner to sell the maximum amount of raisins this year.  However, they are also well aware of the impact it has on the grower community.  Labor, water, and energy costs have significantly increased for growers over the past twelve months further squeezing their bottom line margins.  As agricultural resources in California are depleted, vineyard owners will continue to seek the best utilization of their land. 

California Ag Today editors spoke with Steven Spate, an RBA Grower representative, and a raisin grower. He said: “We are witnessing a large amount of raisin grape vineyards being removed (between 8,000 and 15,000 acres) from production this year in favor of more mechanized and profitable crops such as almonds, walnuts, and citrus.” 

“Time will tell what impact this acreage reduction will have on the future of the California raisin industry but taking the necessary steps to market this year’s crop was extremely important for the Raisin Bargaining Association to accomplish.  We are now counting on the California raisin packers to sell this crop to provide a better future for the remaining growers in our industry,” Spate said.

Spate added that processors thought the price should have been lower, but growers generally thought that shortages in Turkey and other areas should have boosted the price. “But still, there are excess raisins on the market and it has created a downswing in price.

Growers who are pushing out vineyards say that the lower price is only one factor that is in play. Chronic labor shortages are also encouraging growers to plant a less labor-intensive crop.

2016-08-25T21:49:44-07:00November 26th, 2013|


Economy, Water, Trade and Labor were Big Topics at 32nd Agribusiness Conference

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor


The reality of the 2014 Federal water allocation, new trade agreements, and the prospects of immigration reform were some of the topics discussed at the 32nd Agribusiness Management Conference, held at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Fresno, and hosted by Mechel Paggi, Director of California State University Center for Agricultural Business.

Dr. Joseph Castro

California State University, Fresno (CSUF) President Joseph Castro

California State University, Fresno (CSUF) President Joseph Castro, the first CSUF president native to the Central Valley and close to agriculture, opened the conference. “I’m happy that our Jordon College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology has had such a tremendous impact in helping to provide a well-educated work force to serve the many facets of the agricultural industry in the valley and beyond.

“One of my highest priorities as president is to further strengthen our agricultural programs in the broadest sense. In the next week, I will formerly establish a presidential commission on the future of agriculture at Fresno State. The commission will include leaders from the campus and industry coming together to assess our programs and to think about what the needs are now and in the future,” Castro said. “I want these leaders to make recommendations on how to further strengthen our agriculture program.  

Following Castro, Terry Barr, Chief Economist, CoBank, presented an economic outlook.  He noted that economic decisions are not being made fast enough, because the economy is about the same as it was a year ago. “There are still many issues that are unresolved,” he said, adding, “If you don’t make decisions then you don’t move forward.”

Terry Barr, chief economist, CoBank

Terry Barr, chief economist, CoBank

“We have been through a very dynamic period over the last 10 years. In the first half of that 10 year period, everyone was talking about the rising middle class in China and India and what it was doing for agricultural product demand,” said Carr. “From 2004 to 2008, we had the best of all possible worlds with strong economic growth and growth in the middle class. That was an extremely strong time for agricultural exports. In late 2008, we experienced different economic turmoil and global recession; however, agriculture was pretty well insulated,” Carr added.  

 “Today, demand for agricultural products remains very strong, mainly due to global shortfalls of some commodities and, of course, growth in China. Going forward in the next five years, we expect a period of continued turmoil, requiring policy changes to realign management, including budget deficits,” noted Carr.

“China is still going to be important but there will be some major geopolitical realignments globally.  We are not going to see rapid growth with solid demand. As we go forward, agriculture will probably have to find the new normal,” he said.

“In the US, there is a lot of policy inaction, and there is no long term strategy to reduce the debt. The US dollar is important to agriculture in terms of our competiveness on a global basis,” Carr explained.  “From 2002 to 2011, the US dollar fell in value by 38 percent, and our global competitiveness was extremely strong during that time. But we have to believe that the dollar is going to get stronger, not weaker, against most other currencies, with the exception of China.”

Carr noted that China is really driving the global economy at this point in time and what happens there has extraordinary influence on Ag pricing in the future. “They have a lot of room for stimulus, and they have $3 trillion in reserves that they are deploying both domestic and globally,” he said.

 “Brazil, Russia and India are emerging markets, which have slowed since the 2004-2008 experience. However, those economies are now in a more normal growth path,” Carr said.

Paggi then spoke about two trade agreements that are on currently in the forefront, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Mechel Paggi, director of California State University Center for Agricultural Business

“Basically every commodity we work with in California, particularly from the Central Valley, has a huge stake in the export market,” said Paggi. “We produce about $44 billion worth of product and 38 percent of it moves into international trade. It’s tremendously important to us,” said Paggi.

“TTP and TTIP are the two most important preferential trade agreements to be negotiated since NAFTA,” he noted.

“Our TPP partners encompass a market of nearly 500 million consumers with a combined GDP of nearly $12 trillion,” Paggi said.  Partner countries include Canada, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Vietnam, Brunei and Japan.

“The TTIP with the EU spans 28 countries with more than 500 million consumers and a GDP of $16.5 trillion,” said Paggi.

“These agreements would give us more marketing opportunities, which at the present time are less than completely open to us, so the benefits would have tremendous potential for us,” Paggi explained.

Paggi said that there is tremendous debate on these potential agreements within the U.S. Also, farmers in the foreign countries involved are worried about opening up their market to U.S. imports.

These agreements would also help to strengthen the existing trade agreements that already are in place with many of the countries in the area.

 “We also need to realize that a tremendous amount of trade among these countries is already covered in existing agreements, so what we would be doing with the TTP and TTIP is expanding the membership and bringing everyone into the same circle,” Paggi commented.

Paggi said, in summary, the U.S. has a choice to remain engaged or be left behind. None of these agreements or policy solutions is perfect, so there will have to be a pro-con compromise.

“Also, keep in mind,” Paggi continued, “that trade agreements promote economic well-being, and economic stability promotes political stability, so the benefits of these agreements often transcend simple market access and sales opportunities.”

Tom Birmingham is General Manager of Westlands Water District, an agency of 615,000 acres on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley in Fresno and Kings Counties. “We are here to talk about ‘What’s on tap,’ which is a metaphor that creates an image I wish were applicable on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley,” Birmingham began, “I am not just talking about the Westlands Water District, I am talking about the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that includes the service of every agency that has an agricultural contract with the U.S.”

Tom Birmingham, general manager, Westlands Water District

Tom Birmingham, general manager, Westlands Water District

“Unfortunately, and it almost brings tears to my eyes, next year, when the farmers in the Federal Water districts that use water from the Central Valley Project they open their taps, nothing is going to come. Nothing, that is, unless we have a dramatic change in the hydrology that we have been experiencing over the last year, actually the last eight months,” Birmingham warned.

“In California, water years fall in one of five classifications of hydrology; they have been classified as wet, above normal, below normal, dry or critical. If you talk about average hydrology in California, average rain, average snowpack, average runoff, it doesn’t mean a lot,” said Birmingham.  “Because in fact, what is considered to be an average year, falls into a classification that is called, ‘a below-normal water year,’” he noted.

Birmingham continued, “But Westlands is projecting, and these are projections that the Bureau of Reclamation doesn’t take any issue with, that if we have average precipitation or hydrology for the rest of this water year, plus the same operational constraints the Endangered Species Act imposed in 2013 on the state water project and the Federal Central Valley project, our water supply will initially be zero. If we are lucky, we might get to 5% or 10% of our water supply.”

“So, we are facing a repeat of what we saw in 2009,” he noted, “when nearly half of the bare ground lay fallow in the Westlands Water District; where farmers over drafted the groundwater basin; where we experienced incredible unemployment; where people were forced to stand in lines to receive food, in some cases getting to the front of the line to be told the food bank had run out of food, or to get to the front of the line and be given carrots – grown in China. That, in my perspective, is a tragedy; it is unconscionable,” explained Birmingham.

“But that’s what we are faced with. It is hard to talk about these issues without talking about the Delta,” he said.

“The bad news is that in Kern County or the Friant-Kern service area, farmers and the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley, where groundwater is available, growers have been over drafting the groundwater basin,” said Birmingham.

“Westlands has one of the most sophisticated groundwater management programs that exist in the state,” explained Birmingham. “In fact, in 2009, when the state legislature adopted statutes requiring the development of groundwater management plans, Westlands was actually used as one of the examples of the types of information that could be collected.

But Westlands is projecting that in 2013, farmers in the district will use 598,000 acre feet of groundwater from the groundwater basin, compared to a safe yield of approximately 150,000 acre feet.

“The last time farmers in Westlands Water District extracted that much groundwater was in 1992, the fifth year of an extended drought,” said Birmingham.

“We have talked about subsidence and how it has historically occurred, and we are beginning to experience it in numerous places north of Fresno, Madera and Merced Counties,” he said.

 “In fact, we continue to experience subsidence within the Westlands Water District. It is fascinating to drive long I-5, where it used to be perfectly flat and smooth. Today, as you drive along the Westside, there are lots of undulations. The same is true at the Three Rocks area of Fresno County. I remember highway 33 was perfectly flat, but today now there are undulations as a consequence of subsidence,” said Birmingham.

“We will continue to experience subsidence, but the rate of subsidence will accelerate. Currently the groundwater levels in Westlands are approximately 100 feet higher than in 1967 when deliveries from the Central Valley Project began. When we fall below that historic low groundwater level, we’re going to experience the types of subsidence that led to the authorization of the San Luis unit.

“Congress authorized construction of San Luis to alleviate subsidence on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Birmingham.

“One of the things on tap is there is going to be some type of groundwater regulation. California is one of the few states that generally does not regulate the use of groundwater,” he noted.

There is a lot of groundwater monitoring in California, and in a few regions there are special groundwater management districts created by the legislature. But, generally the use of groundwater is not regulated to the same degree as surface water.

“There exists a lack of statewide effort to regulate the use of groundwater. I would suspect that all of our agencies would oppose that type of statewide legislation,” said Birmingham. “From our perspective, regulations should be made at a regional level because every groundwater basin is different and should be managed on a case-by- case basis instead of state-wide regulations.”

“But it is interesting, half of the farmers in the Westlands Water District take the historic agricultural position that groundwater is the resource available to overlying landowners, and no one has any business regulating their groundwater,” he said.

“If the other 50% of farmers in Westlands, do not become proactive in its management of ground water, as opposed to its monitoring, then the state will step in and do it on behalf of everyone in the state,” said Birmingham.

“Equally as controversial, if management is not done by regional entities like Westlands Water District, it will be regulated by county or state.”

“So, Westlands Water District is actively looking to get into the business of regulating the use of groundwater.”

Ron Jacobsma, general manager, Friant Water Authority

Ron Jacobsma, general manager, Friant Water Authority

There is some good news, tempered with bad news. The good news is there are a lot of resources that can be reasonably and more effectively and efficiently managed.

Westlands Water District has experienced chronic water supply shortages on a regular basis since the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, and has coped using water transfer contracts based annually or on a longer-term basis with a fixed price.

Also speaking about water was Ron Jacobsma, General Manager, Friant Water Authority. He gave an interesting history of the San Joaquin River, Friant Dam, Millerton Reservoir and canal that serve 1,000s of growers on the East Side of the San Joaquin Valley from Madera to Kern County.


Brent Walthall, with the Kern Water Agency, talked about the many different and historical water districts in Kern County, as well as describing the innovative water banking that is taking place in Kern County during flood years.

Brent Walthall, Kern Water Agency

Brent Walthall, Kern Water Agency

The event was sponsored by California State University’s Center for Agricultural Business, Jordon College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Zenith Insurance Company, Edgewood Partners Insurance Center, and Higgins, Marcus & Lovett.

There was also a session on Immigration Reform and its importance to the Central Valley. We will post that on Nov. 4.
2016-05-31T19:43:12-07:00November 2nd, 2013|

Fresno County Could Slip from #1 Ag County in Nation

Fresno County Could Spiral Downward

400,000 Acres or More May Remain Fallow


By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Top in the News for farmers:
·               Affordable Care Act—it doesn’t matter now.
·               High Speed Rail, no worries.

·               Farm Bill, same.

Water Flows, but Ag May Get Zero in 2014

Water—the only thing that farmers care about right now.  Without water, nothing else matters.
And nowhere is the worry greater than in the Federal Water Districts, such as Westlands, San Luis, and Panoche; all Westside water allocations throughout Fresno County and other counties of the Central Valley will be severely cut.
In 2009, with a 10 percent water allocation, more than 300,000 acres of land in Fresno County were fallowed causing tens of thousands of farm workers to lose their jobs, thrusting many Westside farm communities into catastrophic 40 percent unemployment, and requiring weekly food lines to be established to feed those affected.
Then came 2013 with a 25 percent allocation—moving many farm operations towards an exit strategy because their last resort is to use poor quality well water, high in salt and boron.
But 2014, with a possible zero percent allocation, Westside farmers in federal water districts may not plant an estimated 400,000 acres of row crops and use whatever water they have for their permanent crops such almonds pistachios and wine grapes. Land destined for annual row crops such as fall lettuce, tomatoes, melons, garlic, onions, and peppers most likely will lay idle. Cotton, even with a good market price, would not be planted on thousands of acres.
While not as bad as the Westside prospects, Eastside farms from Fresno County to Kern County, served by the Federal Friant-Kern Canal, are also hurting with dramatically reduced allocations this year that would be worse next year, without significant rain
Fresno County has been #1 in the nation in agricultural gross production ever since it was statistically measured. In fact, the value in 2012 was $6.6 billion. However, in 2014, Fresno County could very well lose its top-of-the-mound status due to fallowed land.

This coming year, Tulare County, which rang up $6.2 billion last year, could eclipse Fresno County for the first time.

Mark Borba
And the numbers for Fresno County could get exponentially worse when it comes to agriculture’s multiplier effect on the economy.
Mark Borba, co-owner of Borba Farms, a diversified family operation in Riverdale, southwest of Fresno, farms row crops. “The average per acre gross revenue on row crops such as cotton, tomatoes, garlic, onions, melons and lettuce is around $3,500 per acre. The minimum multiplier for the economy for gross agricultural production dollars is 3.5, or $12,250 per acre,” Borba said. “When that number is multiplied by what I think will be 250,000 acres, the loss revenue becomes $3 billion. If the idled acreage reaches 400,000, the resulting $4.9 billion in losses would be due to lost gross revenue of crops on that acreage.
William Bourdeau

William Bourdeau, Executive Vice President of Harris Farms, said that with a possible zero allocation, the company would have to idle 9,000 acres of row crop ground from their 14,000 acres of farmland. “We’re not planting at all,” said Bourdeau. “We will only use what water we have for our permanent crops, which include almonds, pistachios, wine grapes and asparagus.

The use of well water on permanent crops in 2014 will be higher than ever before in 2014. The high salts and boron in that water damage almonds in particular. Recent damage has led to reduced yields in many areas on the Westside. Further use cause long-term damage to trees, which reflect in lost revenue for growers and Fresno County.
“If there is any available water, it could cost the extraordinary price of $1200 per acre foot,” noted Borba.  “Growers would have to pump more well water, which is already being severely over-drafted.”
“If there are no surface water deliveries, the water prices would be too high to make any economic sense,” said Bourdeau.
“Well water quality is very bad and the only thing we can put it on are pistachios and asparagus. None of the specialty crops such as tomatoes or lettuce can handle it,”
said Bourdeau.
“One unplanted crop, lettuce for example, would constitute a significant economic hit in Fresno County. The loss impact would be huge,” he said. “We have a fall and a spring crop, about 1500 acres each. To plant and harvest those 3,000 acres, it takes about 700,000 man-hours,” Bourdeau said.
“Typically if we get a good yield, we produce about 1,000 cartons of lettuce per acre.  Three thousand acres equates to 3 million cartons. Each carton has 24 heads of lettuce, and that equals 72 million heads of lettuce that we would not harvest and put into the market,” said Bourdeau. “And that’s just lettuce; we grow lots of different crops. No doubt this would be multiplied hundreds of times over in the event of a sure and stark zero water allocation.”
“The impact would be devastating and would take a human toll. We have really good people, they are hard working and they want to work. And we are not going to be able to provide them with jobs because of misguided government regulations,” said Bourdeau. “The foundation of the government’s ambition is flawed in that it would not be saving the fish species, but it would be damaging people. And it’s not just the farmer; it’s the farm worker, it’s the economy, it’s the local government, and it would be colossal.”
“Since the San Joaquin Valley economy is based on agriculture, this lost revenue would have an enormous ripple effect—a big and wild swing,” noted Borba.
Just to name a few of the direct services and suppliers that would see a major dip in revenue:
·               Equipment Dealers
·               Truck Dealers
·               Fuel suppliers
·               Custom Spray Services
·               Seed Dealers
·               Auto Parts Suppliers
·               Irrigation Suppliers
·               Fertilizer Suppliers
·               Custom Applicators

·               Harvesting crews

·             Processors of tomatoes, garlic, onion and cotton

·               Crop protection suppliers

·               PCA’s

·               All taxes, fuel, state and federal

Borba said he placed an order with Fresno Equipment earlier this year for four John Deere Tractors, for a total value of about $800,000. “The Carl Moyer program was going to kick in $368,000 because I was upgrading to cleaner emission tractors. When I heard of the possible zero allocation for next year at a May meeting at the Huron office of Westlands Water District, I had to turn the whole deal off,” Borba said.  “I also had five Ford pickups on order at a Fresno Dealership to replace aging trucks on the ranch. I had to cancel that order too. That’s a tremendous ripple effect just from our farming operation,” Borba noted.

This Coming Year Is Different

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

It would be radically different in 2014.  In 2009, many row crop fields did get planted and were irrigated with ground water supplies. But today, ground water supplies and quality are far worse than 2009, which will limit its use for irrigation in 2014.
Stuart Woolf
“We are just going to have to pump more, and this drives me crazy because we all put buried drip irrigation in the ground, and we pump salty water through it,” said Stuart Woolf, president and CEO of Woolf Farming with operations in Huron. “We’re not spreading the salt, we are concentrating it through our drip lines poisoning the drip lines.
“Our investments in conservation are biting us in the tail. It’s hard to be hopeful knowing we will have to rely on even more well water this coming year,” said Woolf.
And the valiant farm workers and other farm employees would be impacted worse than they were in 2009. “They grow our food and fiber every day, and they would suffer terribly by the water restrictions,” noted Mark Borba of Borba Farms, headquartered in the Fresno County area west of Riverdale.
“They live, eat, drink, breathe and sleep the American Dream, and because of Washington Bureaucrats, many would lose it all. Farm workers would lose their homes and the healthcare that I provide. It would be devastating,” Borba said.
Manuel Cunha
According to Manuel Cunha, President of the Nisei Farmers League, “the combination of the two most powerful controlling factors for the agricultural industry in California is water allocation, no matter if it’s State or Federal Projects, and Immigration Reform because our industry would be shattered without farm workers.”
“Let’s say for the next six months we get 28 inches of rain, but if we don’t pass the Immigration bill, and therefore have no available workers, farmers could plant all the tomatoes and onions and other crops they want, but there wouldn’t be anyone to harvest,” said Cunha.
Cunha noted that shutting off the water supply would drive thousands of farm employees out of the area when they lose their jobs. They would leave the farm and not come back,” said Cunha.
“We have to make farming decisions without knowing how much water we will get. Therefore, our annual business model is based upon worst-case scenarios. It’s a terrible way to do business,” said Woolf.
Jesus Cuevas
How can I ask tomato production manager, Jesus Cuevas, to go plant three thousand acres when we may not have water? That could be a huge mistake,” Woolf said. “Instead, we have to figure out a plan on what we can grow with zero surface water, and reduce the tomato acreage. We are already planning to reduce onions and garlic and to fallow a lot of ground.”
“What water we have, we will prioritize to our permanent crops,” Woolf remarked. “We go through all these decisions, only to find out several months later whether or not they were good or not. It’s very difficult to manage your resources very well when you don’t know what your resources are.”
Woolf continued, “We live in a state that has a mountain range which collects snowfall every year. On average, we get something like 200 million acre-feet of annual precipitation in California. The Central Valley represents about 9 million acres that we irrigate—or about 9  percent of the total land in the State. We’ve spent hundreds spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to build the projects… and the choose not to use them? The opportunity cost is horrendous. Think of the lost jobs, income, tax base, etc. It’s criminal to hammer the Valley this way… while having little if any impact to the wellbeing of the Delta. 
Todd Allen farms 600 acres of row crops in Westlands Water District, near Firebaugh. He has no wells, so he must rely strictly on Westlands deliveries of 2.6 acre-feet per acre. In 2009, Allen harvested 40 acres out of 600 due to the regulatory drought.

In 2011, he farmed everything. But in 2012, he idled 150 acres, and in 2013, he idled 225. “If I am able to get water from Westlands that I did not use last year, I may be able to pre-irrigate 150 acres of cotton or tomatoes next spring, and then hopefully the Bureau will announce an allocation so that I can finish the crop.”

Allen noted, “The situation now is more dire than ever. I have been really thinking about finding someone to buy me out so that I can get out. When we started out with 25 percent this year, and they reduced it to 20 percent a few weeks later, it really kicked me when I was down,” Allen said.
His brother, Joel Allen, farms 1,000 acres; also in Westlands’ all row crops. “I’m not in any position to put in permanent crops simply because I have not had the means, and I cannot get the support of any banks that are willing to step forward and help someone out in our district.”
Joel Allen
“This year with only 20 percent water allocated, there were many nights that I lay awake wondering how I was going to make it,” Joel Allen said. “As for 2014, we all want to think that it’s going to rain and that things will work themselves out, but if I have to make a decision on my workforce, I probably will not bring anyone back. We’ve already shaved our workforce from 10 people down to two. It’s a struggle finding work for those two, keeping them busy, and that really hurts because I know my employees have rent to pay and mouths to feed, and everyday expenses like I do.”
“If growers have to make plans for a low water delivery, you are talking about very expensive water to buy,” said Vernon Crowder, Rabobank Senior Vice President and Senior Analyst, Food and Agribusiness Research Advisor Group.
“If growers are dependent upon pump water, they are worried about its quality and what that means to certain crops, especially almonds. The big issue is what can be taken out of the Delta to fill the San Luis Reservoir.”

“Even if we invest in all the water project improvements that the original Water Bond addressed, regarding Delta Conservation, new storage, and even the twin tunnel idea fully backed by the Governor, none of these would happen for 20 years,” said Crowder. “So we need to improve the process of getting through reduced water allocations right now. I believe farmers are going to press the state for help in making water conveyance better and faster.”

2016-08-10T12:40:43-07:00October 29th, 2013|


Tree Nuts, Still the 800-Pound Gorilla

Crash of the U.S. Pecan Market a Cautionary Tale, Says Rabobank

The export market for U.S. almonds, walnuts, pistachios and pecans continued to grow in 2012, reaching $6 billion dollars and accounting for over 60 percent of U.S. production. In its most recent report, “Riding The Growth Curve – Can U.S. Tree Nut Exports Continue to Defy Gravity?,” Rabobank questions whether this growth will continue. The author of the report, Karen Halliburton Barber, senior analyst, Produce for the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory Group, says that it should, but that the industry shouldn’t rest on its laurels. “Assuming water limitations will not significantly restrict U.S. production, the U.S. tree nut sector still faces the fundamental uncertainty of when supply and demand will stabilize,” said Barber. “That said, the U.S. tree nut sector is in a good competitive position given its leadership in production and trading history.”In the report, Barber examines the main commodities making up the U.S. tree nut sector:
     Almonds – “Here, the U.S. is the 800-pound gorilla and accounts for over 78 percent of total global production. This is where the U.S. is clearly in a good competitive position but needs to beware of the oversupply spiral.”
     Pistachios – “Iran is slowing down, but they are not out. Water scarcity and weather have caused declines in production in recent years. However, new growth areas are cropping up and competition may heat up in the medium term.”
     Walnuts – “This is the only sector where the U.S. is not the predominant global supplier.  Although China is a net importer because of its large domestic demand,  its share of global production is greater than that of the U.S., providing competition for U.S. walnuts in the Chinese market. An added risk factor is that Chile has begun to compete with the U.S. on quality in key growth markets.”
     Pecans – “This segment is the cautionary tale of the report, warning of what could happen if the right factors line up at the same time. In 2012, the U.S. pecan market crashed. Now largely dependent on the global export market, U.S. pecans were hit with competitive pressures from South Africa, while at the same time dealing with lower yields because of weather challenges. The result of these factors was a 50 percent reduction in grower prices for pecans from July 2011 to January 2013.”

The report concludes by noting that the U.S. tree nut sector’s overdependence on the Chinese market poses the greatest challenge. Yet, U.S. producers are poised for growth over the longer term—both in China and globally. The strategy employed by the almond, walnut and pistachio industries of  a more balanced buyer/supplier parity approach can help continue to moderate the risk. 

2016-08-12T18:04:52-07:00September 25th, 2013|


The Endangered Species Act Turns 40

A Statement by Rob Rivett, President, Pacific Legal Foundation

This year the Endangered Species Act turns 40. President Richard Nixon, on December 28, 1973, signed into law one of the nation’s most powerful environmental laws.  The law vested authority in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to enforce a wave of new regulations, and create a new relationship between homo sapiens and other species.
Soon after its passage, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it the most comprehensive law ever passed for the protection of species and that ESA enforcement must occur “whatever the cost.”  Federal officials have used their power under the Act to regulate private property as if it were public land.
The degree to which the ESA has been successful is a matter of debate.  Of the estimated $3 billion of taxpayer funds necessary to fund the annual operation of the ESA, less than 1 percent of the species in North America have been recovered out of more than 1,400 that have been listed.  One undebatable fact is the law has created a flood of lawsuits, those filed to seek government acts, and those filed to limit them.
Since its founding in 1973 — the same year the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted — Pacific Legal Foundation has been America’s watchdog in the courts to check and reverse government abuse of this and other environmental laws.
PLF has enough experience with the ESA to know that a well-intentioned law can completely turn the tables on common sense, sound science, and the fundamental freedoms of people.  PLF believes in responsible stewardship of our land, water, and air for the benefit of people, the environment, and the species that inhabit it.  The trouble comes when a law designed to help species harms the people who care for the environment — including farmers, ranchers, and foresters — those living and working in America’s “environment.”
The protection of the environment is only one of many competing and important social values in America.  In an orderly society, no single value can be exalted “whatever the cost.”  Environmental laws can and must be administered so as to safeguard, and not thwart, fundamental human needs and rights.  Therefore, Pacific Legal Foundation has assumed a leading role in protecting constitutionally established limits on governmental power and ensuring individual freedom.
Nearly 40 years after its enactment, the Federal Endangered Species Act remains one of the nation’s most potent threats to our constitutionally protected property rights.  Crafted by the Congress with the noble goal of saving species from extinction, and helping them to return to health, the law today has led to controversy and regulatory creep across our nation’s landscape.
Because Pacific Legal Foundation supports a balanced approach to environmental regulations — like the ESA, we’re taking the opportunity in 2013 to examine aspects of the law, with particular emphasis on past and current cases we’ve litigated.
During the course of the year, this landing page will feature PLF opinion articles, videos, podcasts, and news and information about current PLF cases.

Whether you are part of the “regulated community” or just a concerned citizen who values liberty and a thriving environment, I invite you to check in regularly on this page to see our latest postings and to give us your feedback.
Of course, as a nonprofit legal charity, Pacific Legal Foundation welcomes your charitable donations.
If you believe, as we do, that in protecting our nation’s environment, our constitutional rights should not be threatened or endangered by government agencies and activist groups, I invite you to become a supporter of PLF’s legal program.

2021-05-12T11:06:03-07:00August 22nd, 2013|


New Biological Opinion for Yuba River Dams!

According to the Association of California Water Agencies, a federal court ordered a new biological opinion (BiOp) for Daguerre Point and Englebright Dams this week.
U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England set a May 12, 2014 due date for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to issue a new biological opinion, and told the federal government to not utilize the existing 2012 BiOp in the preparation of the new opinion or in any Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing processes for the two dams.
Yuba County Water Agency, Nevada Irrigation District, Pacific Gas & Electric and other plaintiffs challenged the 2012 BiOp, which identified dam removal and other fish passage improvements as the preferred approaches to improve conditions for spring run Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon.


The local water agencies argued that fish passage improvements or dam removal would negatively impact water deliveries and hydropower generation, and imperil the award-winning Lower Yuba River Accord, a regional agreement benefitting agriculture and fisheries. Furthermore, the plaintiffs said the 2012 BiOp was flawed and violated key elements of the Federal Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.


England issued a stay of proceedings until the new biological opinion is done, and he denied a related lawsuit from a local environmental group seeking enforcement of the 2012 BiOp. He also ordered the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the two dams, to continue taking steps to improve fish habitat on the river.
2021-05-12T11:06:03-07:00August 17th, 2013|

Early Harvest Season for Almonds

2013 Almond Harvest To Start

Almond harvest should start in earnest in Kern County, most likely next week, given the 100-degree temperatures everywhere. This is very early for this year’s crop size.
“The Nonpareils are going like crazy,” said Vern Crawford, a long-time PCA for Wilbur-Ellis Co., Shafter Branch. “With the crop estimate down, prices are up, and that’s good since growers had to spend so much on mite sprays this year.”
“This is the worst mite year that we’ve ever had–across the whole county,” Crawford noted. “The reason for the high pressure is not exactly clear,” he said.
“But the biggest problem all growers are having is the lack of water,” Crawford said. “We need more dams and we need the cities along the coast to put up desalinization plants to cut their demand on the water we need for agriculture.”
“Many Kern County farmers are now extracting water at the bottom of their wells and will need to spend $250,000 each to go deeper. Those big deep wells on the West Side with 200 HP pumps are sucking the water from the East Side,” he said.
Crawford warned that the groundwater will not last long. “We are going to barely make it through this season with 30 percent allocations. And next season, if we do not get enough water for the vast orchards on the west side of Kern County, on beautiful ground and with every irrigation economy available, particularly drip, growers will go into survival mode,” said Crawford.
Growers will shake their trees at bloom to eliminate the crop and then give the tree a few sips of water so that that it doesn’t die. Hopefully that will get them to another good winter of rain. But still, it will take the trees two full years to recover.
“And it’s amazing that nearly all of these water problems are due to the Delta Smelt,” Crawford said.

2016-12-07T15:53:34-08:00July 24th, 2013|

Blue Prune Drop

Blue Prune Drop and Leaf Scorch in Glenn and Tehama Counties

According to Bill Krueger UC farm advisor emeritus, Glenn County and Richard Buchner UC farm advisor, Tehama County, overheated prunes are succumbing to pressure due to high temperatures over the last few weeks. Blue prune drop and, in some cases, an associated leaf scorch, often develops following the rapid onset of high temperatures as occurred in June of this year.
Damaged prunes color prematurely (turn blue) and usually drop from the tree. The sun-exposed fruits on the top or south side of the tree are more likely to be affected by becoming sunken or flattened. Leaf scorch and dieback may develop in leaves and twigs near the damaged fruit. When damaged leaves dry, the veins may be a darker brown than the rest of the leaf.
Blue prune  drop is associated with heat stress. Excessive heat results in damage to the fruit that is thought to produce a toxin which is transported to spurs, leaves and shoots resulting in the leaf scorch symptoms. Leaf scorch symptoms are always associated with damaged prunes. They do not occur in areas of the tree with no fruit or on young trees without a crop. Anything affecting fruit temperature can have an effect. This would include:
1. Irrigation – Drop and particularly scorch are generally more severe on shallow soils with limited water holding capacity or in orchards toward the end of their irrigation cycle at the onset of heat. Adequate soil moisture insures maximum evapotranspiration and cooling of the plant.
2. Tree Position or Fruit Location – Leaf scorch is usually worse on overheated border trees, or on the south side of individual trees with greater sun exposure.
3. Cultural Practices – Blue prune appears to be less severe in orchards with cover crops than in clean tilled or drip irrigated orchards. Transpiration from an adequately irrigated cover crop should contribute to orchard cooling. In addition, a vegetated orchard floor reflects less sunlight than dead vegetation or bare ground.
4. Nutrition – While blue prune and leaf scorch does not appear to be directly related to potassium deficiency, anything adversely affecting tree health and condition could contribute to higher fruit temperatures. Adequate tree nitrogen levels promote vegetative growth that shades fruit from direct sunlight.
Krueger and Buchner report they have no sure ways of preventing blue prune drop and the associated leaf scorch. However, you can reduce the risk by making sure trees are healthy, vigorous and well supplied with water. Because the damage is caused by heat and not a disease, it should not continue to expand in the tree. Damaged wood should be pruned out during the dormant season.
Source: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension 

2016-05-31T19:47:14-07:00July 4th, 2013|
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