Almond Assessment Increase Comment Period Reopened

Comment Period Reopened for Almond Assessment Increase Through October 12.

 

Julie Adams, vice president global, technical, and regulatory affairs with the Almond Board of California, commented in an exclusive interview with California Ag Today on the proposed additional one cent almond assessment increase from 3 cents to 4 cents a pound by the Board of Directors to use in marketing the anticipated crop increases over the next three years, starting this season.

The proposed rule change was first published in the Federal Register on July 18, 2016. The comment period was reopened on Sept. 12 with an announcement in the Federal Register. The comment period is open for 30 days, ending Oct. 12, 2016, at midnight, Pacific Standard Time (PST).

California Ag Today (CAT): Where do almond growers go to make comments about the increased almond assessment?

Adams: Growers can go to www. regulations.gov and search for almonds.

Click here for the direct link to the Assessment entitled, Almonds Grown in California: Increased Assessment Rate.

CAT: The first comment period in August was only two weeks. How long will this one last?almond assessment increase

Adams: The new comment period is now open and will be stay open until Oct. 12. We have also sent out notifications to handlers and we’ve included it in our communication to growers. 

CAT: Why did the comment period reopen?

Adams: Basically this discussion has been going on for quite some time, actually, and started with planning and strategic meetings within the production and environmental research committees. Some of this discussion also started back a year ago when we were talking about all of the challenges facing the industry related to environmental issues, water requirements, and sustainability issues. And then, of course, with the anticipated increase in crop size, what was that going to mean in terms of keeping demand growing ahead of supply?

Discussions at strategic planning meetings underway and within our global market development committees, started feeding up to the Board recommendations that we really needed to get ready both for the challenges facing growers as well as building that [market] demand. It was at that time that the Board started talking about an increase in the assessment for a specific period of time.

We recognized that crops were increasing, and to get us through this period, we really needed to accelerate our activities. The increased assessment was approved by the Board several months ago and was published in the Federal Register. It was, at that point, a two-week comment period. While there had been a lot of communication out to the industry, the comment notification had not been sent out in a timely fashion as it needed to be since it was such a short comment period.

Based on that, as you’ll see from the reopened comment period, USDA determined that they would go ahead and reopen the period for 30 additional days. That’s the process we’re in right now.

Almond Board of California CAT: One argument against the assessment is that the almond industry is heading into big record crop, and the 150,000 to 200,000 non-bearing acreage will soon be bearing—and that alone is sure to increase the Almond Board’s marketing budget.

Adams: It does. What we have found throughout our programs is that the more we can start building consumer awareness and demand for the product, it’s going to be ready as those crop sizes increase. We really want to be ahead of that supply situation so that we’re not trying to chase the opportunities in the market. We want to make sure there’s a strong foundation. As crops are more available, customers are ready to take in that product, really ready to put more on the shelf for consumers, and hopefully [meet] increased demand from consumers.

I think the other part of this assessment increase is about what’s happening on the production side. Research takes time and growers are facing more challenges now in terms of water availability, water quality, production issues, and environmental concerns. There’s more pressure on growers now than ever before. Part of this assessment increase for this three-year period is really to accelerate a lot of the research and work that’s underway on irrigation practices and harvesting practices, and to ramp up our food safety education. We’ve got the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) coming on board now—a  requirement starting to put additional burdens on the industry.

With all of that happening, the concern is that we really need to get in front of all of this. The idea is to do that with some additional funding, so while we’re keeping up our ongoing programs, accelerating some of this research over the next three years will put us in a position, when we do come into those larger crops, where we will already have a lot of those programs in place and we will have accelerated the research so we can continue to meet a very demanding market.

California AlmondsCAT: We can see the need to increase our momentum in research and marketing. Of course, the vast majority of the Almond Board’s budget is for marketing right? Will the vast majority of this extra assessment go toward global marketing?

Adams: The global marketing demand portion of the budget is over 70%. That includes more than just market development. It includes a lot of consumer research, attitudes and awareness research It also includes a lot of the investment we’ve made lately on reputation management—how consumers really perceive almonds and how we need to best communicate back to consumers about what our industry is doing.

CAT: Obviously there is not going to be a vote on the added assessment. There is going to be a comment period, and if the USDA approves the assessment, it will go forward.

Adams: It was a unanimous recommendation coming forward from the Board of Directors and from a number of committees that included industry members that made recommendations to the Board of Directors. Obviously the Board is responding to the strategies and recommendations coming through the committee process. That’s what the Board unanimously endorsed and put forward in a recommendation to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and USDA. Now based on the comments that start to come forward through this period, then USDA will assess all of that and publish a final rule, a final determination, after the comment period closes.

CAT: If the added assessment is for this season, the USDA will have to turn it around very quickly?

Adams: They would. Obviously the USDA is monitoring this comment period and will respond to the comments and the issues expressed by individuals who are commenting on the rule. They will reflect their thinking as they come forward.

CAT: If there is a big mixture of No and Yes comments, is it possible that the comment period will stay open past the 30 days to get a consensus?

Adams: I think the USDA will look at the issues and the context of the comments. If the comments are more about clarifications and they feel what has been proposed will deal with those concerns or areas of focus, then they will look at that and make a determination. I really couldn’t say whether they would go forward with an additional comment period.

CAT: And the additional assessment will automatically sunset in crop year 2018/2019?

 Adams: Exactly, and it would go back to the current 3 cent assessment. Really nothing has to be done for that to happen and that’s why the industry put in that sunset period. The Board does not have to vote on it; there does not have to be any further consultation. It will automatically go back to the 3 cent assessment.


 

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American Pecan Council Begins with Nominations

NOMINATIONS TO THE AMERICAN PECAN COUNCIL TO BEGIN SOON

UPDATE:  September 1, 2016. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is seeking nominations of 15 growers and shellers (handlers) to serve on the American Pecan Council.  Members of the council will be appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to administer the federal marketing order with oversight by AMS.

Nomination forms are available on online at https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/moa/986-pecans or by contacting AMS at (863) 324-3375.

Completed nomination forms must be received by AMS no later than Sept. 6, 2016.

Forms may be submitted by mail to USDA, AMS, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, 1124 First Street South, Winter Haven, Fla. 33880 or email Jennie.Varela@ams.usda.gov.


The Final Rule for the Federal Marketing Order for Pecans was published in the Federal Register on Thursday, August 4, 2016. Posted by the , the historic event culminated a three year grassroots effort of pecan stakeholders who collaborated with USDA to write and support the order that is now federal law. This action initiates the process of nominating, selecting, and seating of the administrative body of the FMO, the American Pecan Council. A likely schedule over the next few weeks is as follows:

Week of August 8

  • OMB approves Nomination Forms
  • Call for Nomination Press Release; nomination forms mailed to Shellers and Growers, electronic versions available to download

Week of August 22

  • Deadline for Nominations to be returned to USDA

Week of August 29

  • USDA to mail ballots to growers and shellers to vote on Nominees

Week of September 19

  • Deadline for Ballots to be returned to USDA
  • Deadline for background statements (Nominator should seek to gather this document from the Nominees as soon as someone agrees to be nominated.) Only those with completed background statements can be sent forward on the selection order to the Secretary.

Month of October

  • Selection Press Release for the new Council
  • Conference call with USDA Staff and new Council Members (1/2 day) for FMO Orientation
  • Council meets in person

UPDATES WILL BE POSTED TO THE APB WEBSITE AS THEY BECOME AVAILABLE

FAQ about the Nomination Process:

  1. HPecan Cluster Royalty Farmsow will Nomination Forms be made available? Upon approval by OMB, official forms will be posted on the USDA website, mailed to growers and shellers on current USDA lists, and posted on the American Pecan Board website.
  2. Who can nominate? Any grower within a region can nominate another grower within the same region. Any sheller within a region can nominate another sheller within the same region.
  3. Who is a grower? A person who has produced an average of 50,000 lbs. of inshell pecans over the last four years or who has 30 pecan acres. All production or acreage must be within the 15 state production area (domestically produced).
  4. Who is a sheller? A person (entity) who has shelled at least one million lbs. of domestically produced inshell pecans in the prior fiscal year.
  5. What determines a large grower and small grower? A large grower is defined as having pecan acres equal to or more than 176 acres, and a small grower has less than 176 acres.
  6. What determines a large sheller and a small sheller? A large sheller is defined as having handled 12.5 million lbs. or more of domestically produced inshell pecans in the prior fiscal year, and a small sheller is defined as having handled less than 12.5 million lbs. of domestically produced inshell pecans in the prior fiscal year.
  7. Can a large grower nominate a small grower and can a small grower nominate a large grower for the appropriate seat? Yes
  8. Can a large grower second the nomination of a small grower, and can a small grower second the nomination of a large grower? Yes
  9. Can a large sheller nominate a small sheller and can a small sheller nominate a large sheller for the appropriate seat? Yes
  10. Can a large sheller second the nomination of a small sheller, and can a small sheTree Shaker Royalty Farmsller second the nomination of a large sheller? Yes
  11. If a grower grows pecans in more than one region, in which region can he/she be nominated? In the region in which he/she grows the largest volume of their production.
  12. If a sheller handles pecans in more than one region, in which region can he/she be nominated? In the region in which he/she handled the largest volume of domestically produced inshell pecans within the preceding fiscal year.
  13. Can a vertically integrated pecan operation (grows and shells) be nominated as a grower and a sheller? No, a decision must be made by the person (entity) being nominated whether to be nominated as a grower or a sheller.
  14. Who nominates the candidates for the accumulator and public member seats? Once the 15 member Council is seated, they nominate candidates for the accumulator and public member seats.

(Source: )

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CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND: Almond Growers on Assessment Increase

Almond Growers Want Justification and Vote on Almond Board’s Assessment Increase

 

Editor’s note: We thank John Harris for his contribution to California Ag Today’s CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND. The Almond Board’s Response can be read at Almond Board’s Response on Assessment Increase.

By John Harris, owner, Harris Ranch

 

Marketing orders give agriculture a great tool to collect fees from producers to promote products and/or conduct research projects.  The concept is great, and increasing demand is always good. To be successful, the plan needs to be affordable and explained so it is understood and backed by a big majority of the producers.  I am concerned the Almond Board’s recent assessment increase from 3 to 4 cents a pound—in the absence of an almond producer vote—is unwise.

Harris Farms Fresh LogoAt the current rate of 3 cents per pound, money raised will increase as production increases, which seem fairly certain.  Plus, the fund receives significant help from a government program to encourage exports.  A year or so ago, almond growers were doing really well, when many sales were exceeded $4 a pound.  But last fall prices dropped significantly, in some cases to the $2 range. This loss in revenue made it tougher for almond growers to break even. A grower producing 2,500 pounds per acre is now paying $75 per acre in assessments; under the new plan it would increase to $100 per acre.

To get feedback from growers, the USDA published a request for comments. The comment period opened on July 18 and closed on August 2. But the industry was not notified until July 27. I commented at the time that I was not in favor of the assessment without full knowledge of the purpose of the extra money. I am certain many growers have an opinion on this, but only five comments were submitted. I think most growers did not realize both the assessment increase was under discussion and a producer vote would not be forthcoming.

The time frame for comments was alarmingly short; however, the USDA has decided to reopen the comment period for 10 days.  The reopening of the comment period is expected to be announced within the next two weeks and will be communicated immediately to the industry once it is published in the Federal Register.

I urge all producers to take a good look at the proposal and voice your opinions.

This link will take you to the almond assessment comment page: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=AMS-SC-16-0045.

There should be more of a democratic process. I think this proposed assessment increase needs to go to a vote among the growers affected by it and should require strong approval by at least 51 percent of the growers representing 60 percent of the production. We don’t want to micromanage the Board’s process, but large changes like this assessment increase should demand some form of referendum.

I also think everyone would like to know how the millions of extra dollars collected would be used.

And, of course I think the industry deserves more awareness of this proposed increase in assessment. I do not hear people talking about it; many growers may not even learn about the extra assessment until they get their check from their handler next year. I think all almond growers need to know this is happening now and not be surprised next year.

If I asked my boss for a 33% raise, I believe the onus would be on me to sell the idea and win support, rather than just push it through providing little information to the guy who would be paying me.

If the Almond Board is increasing their budget by 33%, shouldn’t the burden be placed on the Board to win the support of growers?  I would think they would communicate a clear plan on how to spend the enormous increase—a strong and strategic plan—they would be eager and proud to share with growers and handlers.

To increase any tax/assessment, the logical thought process should be, “No, unless proven to be needed, supported, and affordable,” instead of defaulting to, “Increase the tax unless we get stopped.”


The Almond Board’s Response can be read at Almond Board’s Response on Assessment Increase.


Harris Ranch and Allied Companies


The Harris Family’s commitment to agriculture spans over 100 years, four generations, and four states, from Mississippi, to Texas, to Arizona, and eventually into California.

J. A. Harris and his wife, Kate, arrived in California’s Imperial Valley in 1916 to start one of California’s first cotton gins and cotton seed oil mills. They later moved to the San Joaquin Valley and began farming there.

In 1937, their only son, Jack, and his wife Teresa, began what is now known as Harris Ranch, starting with a previously unfarmed 320 acres of desert land on the Valley’s Western edge. With vision and determination, Harris Ranch has grown into the most integrated, diversified, and one of the largest agribusinesses in the United States.

Beginning with cotton and grain, Harris Ranch now produces over thirty-three crops annually, including lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, onions, melons, oranges, lemons, almonds, pistachios, walnuts and winegrapes, all backed by their commitment to superior quality and satisfaction. Harris Farms thoroughbreds are raised and trained to compete internationally. Harris Feeding Company, California’s largest cattle raising operation, and Harris Ranch Beef Company produce and market a premium line of packaged and fully-cooked beef products, including Harris Ranch Restaurant Reserve™ beef. All Harris products are served and sold at the internationally acclaimed Harris Ranch Restaurant and Inn.


The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various participants on CaliforniaAgToday.com do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints or official policies of the California Ag Today, Inc.


 

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