Joel Nelsen issues Statement Following NASS Navel Orange Crop Estimate

California Citrus Mutual Responds to Navel Orange Crop Estimate

California Citrus Mutual (CCM) President Joel Nelsen issued the following statement in response to the 2014-15 California Navel Orange Objective Measurement Report released today by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Pacific Regional Field Office.

“Today’s release of the navel orange crop estimate by USDA is a necessary and mandated announcement that historically has provided an accurate assessment of California’s Navel Orange crop. Since California supplies 85% of the Nation’s fresh citrus this release is usually received with anticipation and fanfare.

“Generally speaking it sends signals to the consumer and to the markets around the country and world that California citrus growers are back. The number released is developed via a painstaking field assessment and formula that rely upon a bevy of statistics compiled over the years. This year that data base is being disrupted because of the drought and therefore the accuracy of the total number is suspect, in our view.

“The statistical team relies upon specific acreage for fruit-set and limb count which, over the years, establishes a record for the average number of fruit per tree. However, this year there is no way of knowing if that acreage has been affected by the drought, whether it has had a full complement of water, or if it has been removed. Additionally, the statisticians have no way of knowing how much of total acreage has been adversely affected.

“After canvasing a significant number of producers and shippers CCM believes the crop estimate is high. We know acreage has been removed from production but getting figures for a range has been difficult. We know the lack of water has affected fruit size during the growth stages but surveying 126,000 acres is almost impossible. We also agree there is more fruit on the tree as compared to last year, however fruit size is a concern. All of this effects the number of cartons ultimately packed.

“CCM believes that a ‘normal’ crop will materialize in the first four months of the season. The season will start early if we begin to have cooler nights and the fruit breaks into a bright orange color. It also appears that the hot temperatures during the summer has created a highly flavorful crop. Size structure through February will be positive for the consumer. Exterior quality is also excellent.

“Water costs have been obscenely high which will be reflected in sales prices in order for growers to offset the increased expense. The industry is mindful, however, of its obligation to move a quality product to the market at a reasonable price.

“CCM also believes that the amount of Mandarin varieties available to the consumer will be larger than in past seasons due to the increased number of trees now in production. Again, prices will reflect higher water costs.

Last year’s Navel Orange and Mandarin crop was adversely affected by the December freeze. The 2014-15 crop will have a higher number of Mandarins available than last year’s forecast, while Navel Oranges will be equal to or slightly less than last year’s forecast due to factors attributed to the drought.

“All of the above is predicated, of course, on a moderate winter without freeze related losses.”

UC Davis Report Shows Startling, Accurate Water Crisis Snapshot

The report issued today by the California Department of Food & Agriculture and the University of California, Davis presents an accurate water crisis picture of the reality resulting from federal decisions that will reduce the production of food and fiber, according to California Citrus Mutual.

Unfortunately, this picture is not complete. The report indicates the losses which have been incurred to-date, but does not and cannot begin to predict future impacts as permanent crops continue to be ripped out of production as we enter into the hottest months with zero access to surface water,” says CCM President Joel Nelsen.

“The report is a compilation of what the authors know is happening as a result of April calculations. Since then, the Bureau of Reclamation has challenged the Administration’s focus on obesity prevention, school lunch programs, and other campaigns focused on healthy eating by holding water that could otherwise be used for the production of food and fiber.

As such, growers are being forced to make difficult farming decisions that have and will continue to result in reduced plantings of annual crops and the removal of permanent crops.

“If there is a flaw in the report, it is the assumption that ground water supplies are available to offset surface water loss, which may be true in some production areas but certainly not all.

The authors do fairly acknowledge that the impacts to the Friant service area in particular are not yet calculated into this water crisis report.

“The report demonstrates the costs associated with the inability of the Central Valley to produce a viable crop due to zero or minimal water allocation.

As the actions of the shortsighted agencies manifest themselves into reality, the cost will be borne for years to come until permanent crop plantings are replaced and production is regained. Production, revenue, and jobs are in abeyance for several years to come.”

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