CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND: Almond Board on Assessment Increase

Almond Board’s Response on Assessment Increase


Editor’s note: We thank Mike Mason for his contribution to California Ag Today’s CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND, in response to the letter submitted by John Harris.

By Mike Mason, chairman of the Board of Directors, Almond Board of California


Over the history of this [almond] marketing order, assessments have risen and fallen to meet changing business conditions. This increase was voted on by the Board of Directors after much input from growers and handlers.  After the vote, the industry had an opportunity to weigh in again during a USDA-administered comment period.  They will get another chance during a second comment period.

Only after growers have had all of these opportunities to voice their opinions will the USDA make a final decision on the assessment.

The Almond Board of Directors welcomes your feedback and is available to discuss any questions you may have about the critical investments and justification for this assessment increase.

Below you will see a memo I sent to the industry, dated April 14 2016.  It covers why and how the assessment is needed and will be used.


Mike Mason                                                                                                               

Mike Mason is a first generation almond farmer and partner of Supreme Almonds of California, a family owned and operated almond handling operation in Shafter. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Almond Board of California.

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To: Almond Handlers and Growers

From: Mike Mason, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and

Kent Stenderup, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors

Re: Almond Board of California FY 16/17 Budget and Assessment Increase

Date: April 14, 2016

On April 12, the Board of Directors met to review the program and budget recommendations coming forward as a result of the extensive strategic planning efforts which have taken place over the past year.

The Board unanimously agreed to recommend a budget for FY 16/17 with an increase of the assessment from 3 cents per pound to 4 cents for a three year period. The increase is limited to three years due to the expectation that almond production will increase significantly during that time period thereby providing additional funding. This decision was made after extensive dialog among Board members as well as outreach between Board members and Handlers and Growers in the almond community.

There are three principal reasons the Board determined an assessment increase was needed. They are:

  1. 30% increase in production anticipated by 2020. This estimated 600 million pound increase needs to be planned for now, to invest in global demand prior to the production hitting the market.

This substantial volume increase is nearly as much as our largest market currently consumes, and is more than the consumption of our four largest export markets combined. This will require doing more of what has been working, as well as implementing innovative new marketing programs.

  1. Strain on agricultural resources has never been higher. Almonds are currently California’s highest value agricultural crop and soon will be its largest acreage crop. With this leadership comes responsibility. Additional investment will allow us to take a leadership role by investing in and accelerating research which will enable us to address concerns, such as:
    • our changing water supply and quality system,
    • air quality as it relates to harvesting, pesticide and energy use,
    • bee health, which is critical to our success
  2. Transformation of the consumer landscape. The environment in which we are growing and marketing almonds is quickly changing. Consumers are more interested in where and how their food is made. In response to this, the industry needs to take a leading role in the world of sustainable farming, as we have done for so long in the world of nutrition, by transparent communications regarding our meaningful and measured sustainable improvements.

To plan for and address these challenges, your Board of Directors has worked across the Environmental, Production Research, Almond Quality, Technical and Regulatory, and Global Market Development Committees to develop a plan of action. This plan is a two pronged approach including investment in research, via the Accelerated Innovation Management or AIM program (launched at our annual conference), and global marketing:

  • AIM Program: Expand and Accelerate sustainability and production research in 9 areas:
  1. Irrigation and nutrient management
  2. Orchard and rootstock development
  3. Harvesting innovations
  4. Pest management tool development
  5. Pollination research and management practices
  6. Bio-mass and by-product innovation
  7. Food safety leadership
  8. Soil health research
  9. Energy Innovation
  • Global Marketing: Expand our programs to address production growth & changing consumer needs by:
  1. Accelerating programs and results in current markets
  2. Considering additional markets for investment
  3. Increasing communication transparency and trust
  4. Ensuring confidence in our sustainability efforts

Your Board of Directors welcomes your feedback and is available to discuss questions you may have about the critical investments and justification for this assessment increase. The assessment increase will be reviewed by the USDA and an opportunity for public comment will be provided before any change is implemented.


1150 Ninth St., Ste. 1500  *  Modesto, CA  95354  USA

T: +1.209.549.8262  *  F: +1.209.549.8267

To read the original post to which the Almond Board is responding, go to: CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND: Almond Growers on Assessment Increase, by John Harris.

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

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.