Bee Where Program Will Help Keep Bees Safe in The Spring

Beekeepers Must Register Their Bee Hive Locations

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

There’s a mandate set in place by the state of California to help the bee industry safe from pesticide spraying. Ethan Rasmussen with Rasmussen Farms and a beekeeper in the Gustine area of Merced County discussed it with California Ag Today recently. The Bee Where program mandates beekeepers to register their hives under AB2468. It was set up to help pollinating bees during the pollination season. It especially helps the almond crop during bloom.registration of hives

“It’s definitely a step forward for beekeeping industry because we have so many beekeepers coming to California,” Rasmussen said. “The almond industry is growing. It’s going to keep on growing. And that means there’s going to be an increased amount of beekeepers in the state during the springtime for almond bloom.”

With increased bees in almond orchards, it definitely increases concerns, specifically with theft and with sprays, and this program looks like it should help with that.

However, Rasmussen fears too much paperwork because there are so many different locations where there will be bees and so many different beekeepers.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but if we can coordinate and everyone does their part it should definitely a step in the right direction.

And while all of the registrations are done online, Rasmussen noted that there still a complicated amount of paperwork to keep up with all those locations where you will have those bees.

“We’re going to have over 150 locations during almond bloom, and each one of those has to be registered with the county or whatever agency is going to handle it, and that’s a really busy time of year for us. So that’s the only concern I see,” he said.

Rasmussen said that compared to five years ago, almond growers are way more aware of protecting bees, thanks to beekeeping organizations and the Almond Board of California. There have been a lot of resources given to growers, and they are doing well.

“We are not so much concern with almond growers; it may be the peach grower down the road that could be spraying when our bees are foraging,” he said. “The new law is going to keep us registered, so anyone that’s going to spray is going to go through their PCA, and they will know where the bees are. That way, they will know whether or not to spray.”

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Almond Export Diversification Helps During Tariff War

Overseas Markets are Vast for Almond Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Diversification is a strength, Richard Waycott, president of the Almond Board of California, told California Ag Today recently. The Almond Board of California is a nonprofit organization that administers a grower enacted federal marketing order under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When it comes to any losses due to a tariff war in China, the almonds can be redirected to other countries.

“It’s fortunate to be as diversified as we are. Always a strength of this industry is the diversification of our overseas markets,” Waycott said. “I think whatever volume we ultimately do lose—if we do lose volume to China—can be redirected and absorbed by other markets.”

The USDA has opened up a direct payment program to the almond industry if growers were to lose any money in a tariff war.

As those programs were announced, by far the largest piece of the pie, $6 billion, initially was directed to the soybean and corn growers and livestock, while the specialty crops were completely left out of it.

“We got together with the Almond Alliance of California and some of our industry members made a very concerted effort while there was still time to do so before the rules around these programs and those that got to participate were set in stone and were able to convince the powers that be … to open up to the direct payment program to almonds, and the sweet cherry industry did the same,” Waycott explained

Waycott also commented on the epic frost that hit almonds this past spring. And he is not sure of the impact on the crop.

“We realized that we don’t understand the impact of frost on almonds all that well because we saw one side of the street there was quite a bit of damage, while on the other side there was no damage. So I think there’s mother nature at work here that, you know, we don’t necessarily completely understand,” Waycott said.

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Irrigation Improvement Continuum Part of Almond Board’s CASP

California Almond Sustainability Program Offers Big Help to Growers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The Almond Board of California has an Irrigation Improvement Continuum, which is part of the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP). California Ag Today recently spoke with Spencer Cooper, senior manager of irrigation and water efficiency with the Almond Board of California, about the program.

CASP
Spencer Cooper, Almond Board

The Irrigation Improvement module allows growers to move through from the most basic to the most advanced.

“We’re key on growers understanding the fundamentals and foundation of irrigation management practices,” Cooper said. “The more we can get out there with growers understanding the basics, the more we can advance and continue to be progressive and leaders in the industry.”

Cooper said if growers sign up for CASP at SustainableAlmondGrowing.org and complete all nine modules, growers will receive a copy of the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, a 154-page of soup to nuts on irrigation management that has taken more then 40 years of research that almond growers have funded.

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Almond Industry is Strong at 1.3 Million Acres

Almond Industry’s Vision is Continued Strength

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The vision and the overall business model of the almond industry in California are looking very strong. Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board of California, expanded on these strengths in a recent interview with California Ag Today.

“One way that the almond industry has achieved success is the fact that we are very resource rich, and the Almond Board of California is blessed by very strong support financially and strategically for the industry,” Waycott said.

Richard Waycott, Almond Board
Richard Waycott, Almond Board President and CEO

“We have the ability to work on very serious projects and programs for California agriculture and because of our size, just over 1.3 million acres, we can have a tremendous impact on the ecology of the state, on environmental practices, on ag practices that can then obviously be disseminated and taken advantage of by other California agriculture,”  Waycott explained.

Waycott said the almond industry’s role is to produce this wonderful food product for human consumption.

“The hulls and shells [are used] for other purposes, and we’re working very hard on that to determine new applications for those co-products, but then again to use the financial and the talent and treasurer of the industry and the size of the industry to innovate more rapidly and provide for constructive change,” Waycott explained.

Excellent business practices is a part of the Almond Board of California’s mission.

“We do see almonds as being a crop that should be grown in California, and it’s producing a product that should be consumed more by humans,” Waycott said. “The industry strives to farm more sustainably in the future than we do today and to provide for more automation in the industry, better grow our practices is what our mission is, and we’re very much on a road to executing that in a very responsible, in an innovative way.”

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Big Almond Crops Coming, Marketing Efforts Shift to Higher Gear

The Almond Board of California Has Eyes on European Consumers

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

The Almond Conference was held recently in Sacramento, and growers and pest control advisors heard lots of news from forward-thinking industry leaders. Stacey Humble is Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications for the Almond Board of California, which hosts the annual event. She told California Ag Today that extra big crops are coming.

Almond Board of California
Stacy Humble

“You know, we have a dramatic increase in production coming online – about 500 million pounds. So, in terms of marketing, we need to make sure that we are utilizing all the resources that we have to their maximum benefit and that we’re reflecting on lessons learned in synergies and opportunities that we can take from one market to the next,” Humble said.

The Almond Board is looking at how they can strengthen sales in new markets as well as existing markets.

“How we can do more in existing markets so that we’re balancing our investment portfolio?” Humble said. “We’re trying to do more quickly in some markets and establish ourselves for success in the long term in other markets.”

A good example of possible increasing sales is the big European market, such as Germany. They are the biggest importer of almonds, but consumers there do not eat them as a nutritious snack.

“The German consumer loves the flavor of almonds, loves almond products and is very familiar with it, but has the lowest top of mind awareness in any market that we work in when it comes to thinking of almonds as a snack,” Humble said. “That is a huge opportunity. It’s essentially a new market for us, within an established market where we have existing trade relationships, where the consumer is familiar with the product and seeks it out already but just does so as a bakery ingredient.”

 

 

 

 

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Food Tank’s Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Knowledge Gap

Food Tank’s 1st Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Gap in Agricultural Knowledge

Good Starting Point for Constructive Conversation

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Several hundred food activists attended the First Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento last week, hosted by Food Tank, in partnership with the Visit SacramentoCalifornia Farm-to-Fork Program, and University of California, DavisDanielle Nierenberg, co-founder and president of Food Tank noted having the event in Sacramento enabled West Coast agricultural experts to contribute to the discussion.

“We were really excited to feature California agriculture, because it’s such a huge part of the American economy,” said Nierenberg. “Californians are feeding the world, and we need to really highlight what these amazing producers are doing. When the Farm to Fork program of the Visitors Bureau reached out to us, we were thrilled to partner with such an amazing group of people, as well as UC Davis folks and the Center for Land-Based Learning,” she said.

Food Tank, an abbreviation of Food Think Tank, is a 501(c)3 non profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters that values education, inspiration and change.

According to their website:

Food Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day. We will offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems.

The organization begins with the premise, “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.”

Food Tank, Farm Tank SummitWith the goal of feeding the hungry world of nine billion people in a few years, “Food Tank highlights hope and success in agriculture. We feature innovative ideas that are already working on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories. These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up. And that is where we need you. We all need to work together to find solutions that nourish ourselves and protect the planet.”

Nierenberg clarified, “I don’t necessarily think we need to scale up food production; I think we need to scale out different innovations that are working. We’re wasting about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s enough to feed everyone who’s hungry today, so we don’t necessarily need to ramp up production. We need to have better distribution, and processing practices that can help get food to people who need it the most,” she said.

“We need the political will behind those things,” she continued, “to build the infrastructure necessary for farmers to have better processing facilities, to have better storage facilities, to have better roads—if we’re talking about the developing world. I don’t necessarily think that we need to invest in producing more calories; we need better calories. We need more nutrient-dense food, and we need less starchy staple crops,” she noted.


Editor’s Note: Activists overtook the stage during the event, and the conversation was notably challenging for panelists. In an effort to Cultivate Common Ground to link consumers with the farmers who grow their nutritious food—and vice versa—California Ag Today has chosen to share some interesting statements from presenters and attendees to illustrate, perhaps, where the discussion could begin:

Regarding farms and processing facilities, big is bad, and small is good.

Regarding food quality, organic produce is healthy and safe, while conventional produce is unsafe and full of pesticides.

One of many moderators from the Bay Area, Twilight Greenaway, managing editor of Civil Eats mistakenly introduced Oscar Villegas, Yolo County Supervisor, District 1, as being from Sacramento County. When Villegas corrected her, Greenaway said, “I’m showing my Central Valley and Bay Area eliteness.”

Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, noted that farmworkers are invisible in California agriculture. “There is racism in the fields. We need more worker unions and we need farmworkers to be paid much more than they are now and the farmworkers should be getting pensions from the farmer.”

Michael Dimock, president, Roots of Change, said to the audience, “You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. Keep working with your NGOs. They know policy. In turn, they can work with the legislators.”

“You need to be in the capital, pursuading the legislatures to support their bills. They want to be reelected, and if they don’t do what we ask them to do, they are scared.”

“In the meantime, we have to be nice to farmers because farmers are scared. We are putting a lot of pressure on them; They are in a vice. Our movement has supported bills AB 1066 – the overtime bill, minimum wage increases, organic farming legislation,  and workers’ rights.”

Kerryn Gerety, founder and CEO, Lazoka, referred to John Purcell, vegetables global R&D Lead, Hawaii business lead, vice president and distinguished fellow, Monsanto Company, and said, “There is an elephant in the room, the Monsanto rep. Monsanto has all the technology patents. We all want transparency and we need you to be more transparent.”

Continuing, “Why doesn’t Monsanto open-source some of your patents and release the intellectual property so others can take advantage of your teçhnology?”

Purcell answered, “We are an Ag company. Why would our company invest a million dollars on technology and let everyone have it? It is our investment and we need to have the opportunity for a return on that investment.

During a panel discussion of food companies including Blue Apron, Almond Board of California, and Bayer CropScience, that covered organics, Jennifer Maloney, food chain sustainability manager, Bayer CropScience, said, “We do support  the organic industry, because we have biological products that work in organic as well as conventional [farming].”

Maloney also talked about agricultural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology such as smart sprayers that spray only targeted areas.

Matt Wadiak, founder & COO, Blue Apron, responded, “It’s not about smart sprayers; it’s about biological systems in the field and trying to lean on them instead of spraying.”

Maloney replied, “Yes, that is exactly what IPM is.”

Keith Knopf, COO, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, commented on the organic question, “the way we see organic versus inorganic—that is not the discussion for us. What’s more important to us is, is it the candy bar or the apple?”


This two-day event featured more than 35 speakers from the food and agriculture field, interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees. This was the second in a series of three 2016 Summits, following the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit that completely sold out and drew in more than 30,100 livestream viewers. The third Summit will be held in Chicago on November 16, 2016.

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Almond Conference Announces AIM Strategy

Annual Almond Conference Announces AIM Strategy and Improved Leadership

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Leadership was the recurring theme for the 3,000+ attendees over the three-day 43rd Annual Almond Conference, hosted by the Almond Board of California last week in Sacramento. “We are focused on the fact that the almond industry is accepting its responsibility to provide leadership for California agriculture and to use our treasure and talent to work on solutions for a lot of the problems that are very daunting,” said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board. “We have talked a lot about what is expected by consumers and by consumer product goods companies, which is our customer base,” Waycott noted.

At the conference, the Almond Board launched Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM), a major strategic effort designed to further increase the almond industry’s efficiency and sustainability, that features four major initiatives described by Waycott:

Water Management and Efficiency – A focus on accelerating almond farmer transition to more efficient irrigation scheduling and management practices to maximize the most crop per drop of water.  This initiative, which builds on the 33 percent reduction in water used per pound of almonds achieved by the industry over the last 20 years, includes working with farmers to fine tune irrigation techniques and adopting more advanced water management technologies.

Sustainable Water Resources – First, an exploration of how to best leverage a unique strength of the California Almond industry—its acreage—to accelerate natural flood-year groundwater recharge of aquifers. Collectively, California’s aquifers are the state’s largest water storage system; water recharged through this program would benefit all Californians, not just farmers. Second, an investigation of opportunities to recycle water from multiple sources, such as municipal wastewater, as a way of increasing overall water availability for farmers and all Californians.

Air Quality – Investigation of various methods the almond industry can help meet the Central Valley’s exacting air quality standards. This initiative will scrutinize all components of almond farming that impact air quality and evaluate opportunities to decrease emissions. This initiative will identify alternatives, such as decreased fossil fuel use, that will result in cleaner air for all those who live in California’s Central Valley—farmers, their families, and surrounding communities.

22nd Century Agronomics  A recognition that we need to better understand and then adopt the technologies that will lead California farming into the 22nd century. The Almond Board of California will lead a comprehensive exploration of almond farming techniques, bringing an exploratory mindset to consider all options as to what innovations and technical “leap frogs” will be needed to sustainably farm in the future. Each component of almond farming will be considered, from land preparation and varietal development, to equipment and processing.

Link: Almond Board of California

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Almond Growers Conserve Water

Almond Growers Conserve Water…Period!

By Laurie Greene, Editor, California Ag Today

At a recent drought forum, California Ag Today spoke with Mike Mason, an almond grower and partner with Supreme Almonds near Wasco, as well as  chairman of the Almond Board of California. Noting breakthroughs in the almond industry, Mason said, “Facts bear out that we use 33 percent less water today than we did 20 years ago for every pound of almonds grown. There’s no reason  not to expect a similar result over the next 20 years given the ongoing research and funding we do through the Almond Board. We will continue to become more and more efficient, not just with water use, but with fertilizer and everything else we do in farming as well,” said Mason.

“Keep in mind that almonds, like all flowering plants, transpire 95 percent of the water they take up,” said Mason. “Water moves through the vascular system of the plant and exits the stomata of the leaves. When the stomata open, pure water exits and carbon dioxide enters the leaves. The carbon is used in photosynthesis to make carbohydrates that enable the almond almond tree to produce almonds. It’s all part of the universal water cycle that enables life to exist on the earth!”

Though current public opinion on water use seems to focus on almonds primarily, Mason remains confident that the facts will speak for themselves. It is simply a matter of getting the information out there. Mason elaborated, “We’ve got to go back to education because there are so many ways of comparison, and it is pretty hard to refute some of the things people are saying out there. But I think, over time, as we get the facts out there, public perception will be different.”

Because almonds are proving to be profitable at the moment, other countries are starting to take notice and planting more almond orchards of their own. Currently, California accounts for about 80 percent of the world’s supply of almonds. Mason believes, in spite of increased international competition, California will remain a world leader. “I wouldn’t call it a threat;” he said, “it is more like an opportunity than anything else. I think California will continue to be the world’s supplier, but there are other areas around the world where almonds can be grown, and that’s perfectly fine,” said Mason.

American consumption of almonds has increased roughly 220% since 2005. As a result, almonds have become the most-consumed nut in America, after  surpassing that of peanuts. This explosive increase in demand has been the driving force for almond production expansion.

Now, almonds cover about one million acres in California. On maintaining this level of success, Mason commented, “Markets go up, and markets go down. There are all kinds of different factors that cause these fluctuations, from oversupply to environmental issues. We think we have a bright future with a healthy product. Time will tell,” he said.

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AHPA Leadership Urges Members to Support Voluntary Almond Industry PAC

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Almond Hullers & Processors Association (AHPA) Chairman Dick Cunningham and President Kelly Covello urged their membership to support the voluntary California Almond Industry PAC at the association’s 34th Annual AHPA Convention, held on the Big Island in Hawaii over the past three days.

Almond Hullers & Processors Association

Facing immense challenges such as the slowdown of West Coast ports, air quality laws and regulations, net energy metering (NEM), food quality and safety, worker safety, bees and bee health, wastewater treatment, crop protection regulation, aboveground petroleum storage Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, competing research priorities and most urgently, unprecedented drought conditions and public misunderstanding and criticism of almond water usage, the Almond Industry aims to create a unified voice for candidate support, political information and education services.

Through a Memorandum of Agreement with the Almond Board of California (ABC), AHPA is able is able contract for a portion of ABC Logostaff time/expertise to assist in AHPA’s advocacy efforts and provide a unified voice for the industry. The ABC educates regulatory agencies and legislators but is prevented by the USDA Federal Marketing Order to advocate for government policy or legislation.

The California Almond Industry PAC will hold a fundraiser in Bakersfield on May 14th, at Imbibe, 4140 Truxtun Avenue, from 5:30-7:00pm, sponsored by Golden Empire Shelling, LLC., Landmark Irrigation, Inc., Pacific Ag Management, Inc., Paramount Farms, and Supreme Almonds of California.

Fundraisers will also be arranged in the Northern and Fresno areas in the upcoming months.

Sponsorship Levels include:

  • Platinum: $2500
  • Gold: $1500
  • Supporter: $500 (includes a guest)

You do not need to be an AHPA member to contribute or attend the event.

For more information, contact (209) 599-5800 or staff@ahpa.net.

California Almond Industry Political Action Committee
California Almond Industry Political Action Committee

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Bayer CropScience Gives $100,000 to Sponsor Project Apis m.’s Honey Bee Forage Program

Every year, more than 1.7 million honey bee colonies are brought to California’s Central Valley to pollinate the vast expanses of almond orchards. Many bees arrive in the fall when little is in bloom to escape their native cold temperatures in anticipation of the world’s largest pollination event.

Prior to and after the almond orchard’s bloom in late winter and spring, there is a shortage of food to help the bees survive. Bees’ food consists of nectar and pollen gathered from blooming plants.

To help address the pre- and post-bloom food challenge, Bayer CropScience is giving $100,000 to Project Apis m., a nonprofit organization dedicated to better bee health through its work with growers. Project Apis m. will use the funds to provide seed mixes to growers in California and Washington who have agreed to plant cover crops for honey bees before and after almond bloom and other key seasons. The project will help build a healthier bee population to support crop pollination nationwide as bee colonies are transported to other states for other growing seasons.

“This initiative is a direct response to the lack of adequate forage needed to keep honey bees healthy and thriving,” said Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP North America. “In 2015, Bayer CropScience is committed to research and partnerships that will make a positive impact on honey bees.”

Bayer’s expanded partnership with Project Apis m. will complement its joint field research projects conducted on fence rows near almond orchards at Bayer’s Western Bee Care Technology Station in Fresno, California. Findings from Bayer’s research with Project Apis m. show that forage plantings also can have benefits for growers.

If growers allow forage plantings adjacent to fields, rather than planting from fence row to fence row, they can reduce the loss of irrigation water, better manage soil quality and weeds, and help support wildlife, including pollinators. Local growers and landowners will plant the provided seeds on land with crops and on nearby plots to help ensure direct benefit to them and nearby bee colonies.

“With funding from Bayer, Project Apis m. will be able to work with growers to plant more acres of honey bee habitat right where it can be accessed by honey bees before the almond crop’s first bloom around Valentine’s Day,” said Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m. and liaison to the Almond Board of California’s Bee Task Force. “Additionally, with Bayer’s help from its Fresno Research Station, we know the best plant species and mixes to use to feed bees and save them from starving.”

Project Apis m. will work with almond and other growers to get commitments for cover crops that will be planted in Fall 2015.

 

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MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...