NASS Predicts Another Record-Breaking Almond Crop

2019 Crop Predicted to be 2.50 Billion Pounds

News Release

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)

Richard Waycott, Almond Board President, and CEO

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. 

Madera County Ag Economy is Booming

Madera County Has Big Ag Job Base

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Madera County’s financial future is booming. David Rogers, a Madera County supervisor, is excited to know that Madera County is the fastest and number one growing ag economy in the United States.

“I represent most of the farming, and Madera County, which is the fastest growing our economy in the U.S. and has been for the last three and a half, four years,” Rogers said.

Madera County
David Rogers, Madera County Supervisor

Madera  is a business-friendly county.

“We’ve been number one in small jobs, manufacturing growth for the last nine years in a row, and all of that is ancillary to agriculture,” he said.

Pistachios and almonds have aided in Madera County’s financial growth.

“Some of those orchards that were planted five years ago are going to mean big revenue,” Rogers said.

Expansions to the Triangle T System have aided in the conveyance.

“The expansions were in wide areas, and conveyance is so critical to that,” Rogers explained.

There is also a new tunnel system that goes under the river for delivery.

“There was a lot of money that went into developing their system, and it’s paying off big time. I believe it’s almost 50,000 acres. It was 30,000 originally, I think, and it’s expanding more all the time,” Rogers said.

He also commented on the need for proper forest management that will allow more water into the system.

“One of the most important things that we can do right now is continue to emphasize forest management because that is a source of more water,” he said. The better the management, the faster the forests can return to a healthy state. With a healthier forest, that means more water in the system and more water in our ground.

Hershey’s Chocolate Loves California Almonds

Almonds and Chocolate: The Perfect Duo

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

You can find a piece of Hershey’s Chocolate with almonds almost anywhere. The delicious pairing makes for the perfect treat! Karen Ocamb, a supply quality auditor for Hershey’s, is working to make sure the relationship between the almond industry and her company remains sustainable and beneficial.

After visiting the Almond Board Conference in Sacramento, Ocamb reported the good things the board is doing to make the partnership a success.

“My perspective of the Almond Board is a really good, beneficial kind of facility that takes the almonds and gives us a better perspective of what should be done out there,” she explained.

Ocamb also knows the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship between Hershey’s and the almond industry, particularly on the consumer’s behalf. Her goal is to ensure that the communication between the two stay open, in order to keep improving the quality of product for the customer.

“Almonds are a great source of protein, so for the company, blending the chocolate and the almonds together is an essential piece of giving something to the consumer that is beneficial to them, but also sweet,” she said.

Almond Alliance Helps Growers with Advocacy

Almond Alliance Lent a Hand on Tariff Relief

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Like many agricultural sectors, almond growers have also been affected by recent tariff wars. However, almond growers have a true friend in the Modesto-based Almond Alliance.

“We are definitely an advocacy organization, that is the core of what we do,” said Elaine Trevino, president of the Almond Alliance.

Elaine Trevino

“The Almond Alliance educates our legislators, their department officials and cabinet about issues that are important to the almond industry. It is very critical that our elected officials, specifically the urban [ones] that are not familiar with agriculture, understand agriculture. They need to understand … the inputs and the natural resources needed for agriculture, and also understand the best practices that we put into place to be good corporate and small businesses,” Trevino said.

“Obviously with almonds, you have hulls and shells and the biomass that comes with almonds, and so we focus on all aspects of that,” she explained.

Almond growers are being affected by tariffs increases into China. Beginning on April 2nd, the first 232 retaliatory tariffs was seen that affected China. Since then, our turkey has also been affected by the tariffs.

The almond industry exports 67 percent of its production to more than 100 countries.

“Looking at export markets and how they impact the industry is critical. Secretary Purdue came out with the mitigation package,” Trevino said.

The almond industry fought very hard to be included in direct payments. While many say it’s just three cents a pound, the allocation to almonds was $63.3 million.

“It’s our intention that the alliance fight for every penny of that goes back to the growers, and if they are not eligible for the direct payments, then we’ll make sure that they receive it through market promotion that will help move their product and hopefully get those prices back up if they haven’t been affected,” Trevino said.

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.

Lessening Negative Feelings Over Trade War

Walnut Processors Maintain Optimism

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Paul Wenger, past president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. He farms 700 acres of almonds and walnuts in Stanislaus County. He said that California Farmers and other stakeholders of the industry need to be less negative about the current trade war with China.

Almond and Walnut Grower Paul Wenger

“The more we talk negatively, the more that negative things are going to happen,” he said. “As I talked to walnut processors. They’re optimistic. That’s good news. I’ve talked to some walnut processors and said, ‘Well, what’s going to happen this year?’ We shouldn’t expect much as far as prices.”

“Marketing is always a self-fulfilling prophecy and it’s more psychology than it is anything,” Wenger said. “We are one of the largest producers now. Certainly, China is the largest producer. But China had a terrible crop and so they need walnuts, and so strange things can happen and the Chinese are always one that can bend the rules when they need.”

“We know that’s why President Trump has been going after China supposedly over some of these intellectual properties. Certainly, those aren’t the things that hurt agriculture, but we in agriculture are paying the price as we look at these countervailing tariffs that are coming on,” Wenger said.

Wenger explained that the Chinese know that, throughout the Midwest, it was the farm vote that helped and the rural states that helped bring home a victory for the president, so they’re going to go after President Trump.

A large amount of product was sold last season at a low price.

“We just go through the Affordable Care Act and then the port slowdown on the 2015 crop, which went into the 2016 crop, which was a little better We got a little bit better than 2017 crop was a good year for us,” Wenger said. ‘So you’re looking at a pretty good ’18 and now this happens.”

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.

Navel Orangeworm Pressure Could Be Increasing in Almonds

Lack of Good Sanitation Leads to High Navel Orangeworm Numbers

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

It could be another heavy year for Navel Orangeworm (NOW). David Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Kern County and entomologist told California Ag Today that sanitation in almond orchards over the winter was not as good as it could have been.

“Everything right now is about trying to prevent a repeat from last year, and it is a little tricky so we know that sanitation wasn’t as good this winter as it generally should be,” he said. “The best time to shake NOW mummy nuts from an almond tree is after a rain when the nuts are heavier.”

David Haviland on Pyrethroid Review
David Haviland

However, rains came late this season, and by the time the rains left, there was only a few weeks before spring.

“This left a very short window to get any shaking done, and some people did an excellent job during that window to sanitize and other people just couldn’t get around all their acreage,” Haviland said. “On average across the whole industry, sanitation was not up to where it should have been, and it gave growers a difficult start to the season.”

NOW could be early this year, but the crop is on time.

“With all of this prolonged hot temperatures, particularly high night-time temperatures, the trees are shutting down a little bit at night compared to what they would do if the nighttime temperatures were cooler,” Haviland explained.

As a result, harvest is not coming as quickly as people would like.

“The problem is that the longer the nuts are in the orchard, the greater chance there will be NOW damage,” he said.

Timely crop protection sprays are recommended.

Navel Orangeworm Prevention Critical

High Navel Orangeworm Numbers Statewide

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
mycotoxins
Bob Klein

Almonds are deep into hull split, and it is absolutely critical to control any damage from navel orangeworm (NOW), the number one pest in almonds and pistachios. California Ag Today spoke with Bob Klein, manager of the California Pistachio Research Board, about the issue.

“One of the big control strategies for NOW should have happened many months ago during the winter, such as cold sanitation,” he said.

Pest programs start with orchard sanitation. Many growers are lax on sanitation or spend low amounts.

“Those who do stringent jobs are spending $200-$250 an acre on sanitation. And so growers need to be prepared to pay that as far as insecticide applications,” Klein said.

Critical questions that need to be addressed are what you are going to choose to apply and how you are going to time it. When growers are gearing up to put on protective sprays, there are things to remember to increase efficacy. There are always ways in which application can be improved.

If you have a ground rig with fan sprayers, you can get a high kill rate on the lower canopy. You may have to make multiple applications to be able to penetrate the higher portions of the trees.

“You need to look at where your NOW is and maybe make multiple applications. So you can cover both the lower two-thirds of the tree and the top third,” Klein said.

A Plan of Attack for the Dusty Almond Harvest

Reducing Almond Harvest Dust Keeps Neighbors Happy

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
Jesse Guadian

Dust management is an issue that almond growers and their surrounding neighbors face annually. With almond harvest fast approaching, dust control is crucial to keeping our air clean. Jesse Guadian with D & J Farm Management of Kern County knows first hand the steps it takes to cut down on dust.

“We’re in the San Joaquin Valley, where dust is a problem, especially if you’re close to schools and homes,” Guadian said.

Reducing air particles is a year-round job for D & J Farm Management, thinking about excess plant material in the air before weeds even begin to present an issue. This allows for fewer passes through the field when it comes time to mow, ultimately reducing the amount of decomposed plant content in the air.

“We’re reducing all that plant material that stays on the surface … to try to eliminate some of that dust,” Guadian said.