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EPA Proposes New Worker Protection Standards
The U.S. EPA announced in February proposed revisions to its Worker Protection Standards that would include, among other proposals, additional signage and training requirements and “no-entry” buffer zones around pesticide-treated fields. The suggested revisions have been in process for more than 15 years as EPA has been gathering input from stakeholders on the current EPA Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides, first established in 1992. Among the proposed changes: No-entry buffer areas of up to 100 feet, depending on type of pesticide being applied. Increased frequency of mandatory training from once every five years to annually, and expand trainings to include additional information on potential routes of exposure and ways to decontaminate. A specially licensed trainer must be present throughout the training. Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs for pesticides whose re-entry interval (REI) is greater than 48 hours. Minimum-age requirement of 16 years to handle pesticides, with an exemption for family members. Additional record-keeping requirements on applications, farmworker training and early-entry notification. New OSHA-standard respirator requirements for personal protection. A more detailed description of the proposed revisions can be found on EPA’s website. The public comment period on the proposed revisions is open until Aug. 18, 2014, and comments can be submitted online at www.regulations.gov.
Building Global Demand
The Global Market Development Committee (GMDC) was established to build global demand for almonds by identifying and pursuing long-term growth opportunities that contribute to the financial well-being of the industry. GMDC applies a high-level strategic perspective to market prioritization, market development planning, and resource allocation between established and emerging markets. The GMDC currently oversees programs in 10 markets. The established markets are the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Germany. The emerging markets are China, India and South Korea. We have also begun exploratory research in Japan and Brazil for future program consideration. By 2020, millennials are expected to make up one-third of the population. What does this mean for the future positioning of California Almonds? And, as the almond crop continues to increase, how will the GMDC programs continue to evolve to foster additional demand for the product? I encourage you to attend the “Evolution of the Almond Board’s Marketing Programs” session at The Almond Conference on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 10:15 a.m., to hear answers to these questions and more. The session covers consumer trends and provides an overview of where the Almond Board will invest its resources to best support the projected increase in almond supply. You can read more about this session in the article, Marketing Programs Propel Almonds to Top-of-Mind. Sincerely, Craig Duerr, Chair Global Market Development Committee
Work Together to Make Progress on Water Policy
When it comes to California water policy, “the impulse in the state of California has been to throw money at water, hoping or wishing that something miraculous will occur, thus solving our current and future dilemmas related to supply,” said Phil Isenberg in a keynote speech on water policy delivered at The Almond Conference in December. Isenberg is a 50-year veteran of state politics and serves as chair of the Delta Stewardship Council. Isenberg noted history has a way of repeating itself. He related the perspective of a Roman general who was tasked with being water master in Rome in the days of the Caesars. The general recorded that people were using water ineffectively and inefficiently, using water they didn’t pay for, and fighting over apportionment of existing supplies as opposed to competing uses. California has had very similar ongoing struggles over its water supply resources throughout the entirety of its history, Isenberg said. Isenberg said he believes understanding the state’s current water challenges requires an understanding of some fundamental facts: The majority of the water supply for the state is sourced from the north and northeastern half of the state. There is an estimated 50 to 60% evaporation loss of all water supply yields. Approximately 20 million acre feet (MAF) of supply occur in the North Coast region and are not able to be captured (at least no present plans or legislation exist to do so) for export south to meet the existing and growing needs of that portion of the state. Due to changes in surface-water supply use and climatic unpredictability, Isenberg warned there will be increased attention focused on groundwater use, specifically on the dangers of subsidence as a result of over-draft throughout the almond-growing region. More attention will be paid to making gains in conservation, including landscape design and watering. Financing of water projects looms large, said Isenberg. He noted presently, that 86% of the costs of projects are financed by local and regional entities, but with “fixes” continuing to prove very expensive, big question marks arise as to how these solutions will be financed and by whom. “Though the state asserts itself as a major player in and determiner of current and future progress, what role will public funds play in future projects?” he asked. Looking to the future, Isenberg said that Delta conveyance must be addressed, and more emphasis placed on local/regional self-reliance and smart water projects, including smaller storage options that were taken off the table years ago. He noted in summation that he is optimistic about the future, and that changes are happening, though seemingly slowly. Further progress can be made if Californians are “prudent and committed to a balanced/shared perspective on use, finally doing it together rather than in spite of each other.”
Workshops to Address Irrigation, Nitrogen Efficiency
Two workshops will be held in Modesto and Fresno that will give almond growers an opportunity to learn about tools and techniques to increase irrigation efficiency through Almond Board of California’s (ABC’s) Irrigation Continuum, and to improve the accuracy of nitrogen applications through the use of an online budgeting tool. ABC constantly explores ways that it can help growers become more productive, efficient and sustainable,1 while at the same time meeting regulatory requirements. And as requirements change and research reveals new tools and techniques for improved efficiency, growers are kept up to date through these workshops. The Efficient Irrigation and Nitrogen Use workshops will feature expert speakers on: Updates to California Almond Sustainability1 Program tools that support almond growers; Current standards to meet levels 1.0 through 3.0 of the Irrigation Continuum; and Demonstrations of the online Irrigation Calculator and Nitrogen Calculator. In addition, updates to the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) will be presented, including a discussion of the required Nitrogen Management Plans, which can be generated through the use of the online Nitrogen Calculator. Workshops will be held Feb. 22 in Modesto and March 2 in Fresno. The program begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 12 noon, including a complimentary lunch for those who RSVP. For more program information and locations, see the flier “Efficient Irrigation and Nitrogen Use Workshop.” Be sure to RSVP to Jenny Nicolau at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 343-3248. 1. Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.
Conference Records - Van Soetaert, Chair of Industry Services Committee
Thanks to all who attended for making the 41st Annual Almond Conference such a resounding success! Overall attendance set a record at 2,555, up by 130 from 2012 and 30% from 2011, the last year the conference was held in Modesto. This year’s Gala Dinner was the most heavily attended event of this or any other year’s Conference. It included a hilarious comedy program that ranks up there with the best entertainment yet. Two very deserving industry members were recognized during the evening by Almond Board Chairman Bill Harp and President and CEO Richard Waycott: Martin Pohl, winner of this year’s Almond Achievement Award (see related article), and John Wagaman, who is retiring from Blue Diamond Growers after a long and illustrious career. Congratulations to both men for a lifetime of supporting and improving our industry. Lastly, we cannot thank our sponsors enough for their support of The Almond Conference. Without them, this Conference would not be possible. We hope you enjoyed your Conference and learned something useful, and that you will share with your friends and neighbors the benefits of attending this annual industry-wide event. We look forward to seeing everyone next year at the 42nd annual Almond Conference in Sacramento! Sincerely, Van Soetaert Chair, Industry Services Committee
Nitrogen Fertilizer Application Reporting Requirement Delayed
The new requirement for reporting nitrogen fertilizer applications to cropland has been delayed one year, a result of developments stemming from a report to the legislature about nitrate contamination in groundwater, the Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship (CURES) reports in its current newsletter. The East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition had its first nitrogen reports due on March 1, 2014. That deadline has been extended to March 1, 2015, a date approved at the Oct. 3 meeting of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. The extension was prompted by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the State Water Board pulling together expert panels on how best to monitor for and assess the impact of nitrate from ag nitrogen uses, which might impact what growers will need to do as part of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program requirements. The panels were formed based on recommendations contained in what is being called the “Harter Report,” a University of California study sponsored by the State Water Board. The report resulted in recommendations to the legislature on steps to address increasing nitrate levels in groundwater in the San Joaquin and Salinas Valleys. Two of 15 recommendations in the report focus on agricultural uses of nitrogen fertilizers. The first charged the California Department of Food and Agriculture to create a “Task Force” to develop a nitrogen “tracking and reporting system” for high-risk agricultural areas of the state, and to determine appropriate nitrogen mass balance approaches for the same areas. The second recommendation charged the State Water Board to convene an “Expert Panel” to advise the state on several technical issues including identifying methodologies for determining nitrate movement into groundwater. The CDFA Nitrogen Tracking and Reporting Task Force held four day-long meetings in August and September and released its report of recommendations on Dec. 6, 2013. The report can be downloaded here. The 30-member Task Force was made up of several coalition managers, representatives from the Central Valley and Central Coast Regional Water Boards, the University of California, the environmental justice community and agricultural trade organizations, among others. The State Water Board has yet to convene its Expert Panel.
Funding Program Brings Low-Dust Harvester in Reach of Family Farm
Set sweeper heads to optimum level. Wire tines can be set to as high as one-half inch off the ground and still do a good job of sweeping.For Bryan Jeffries, running a pickup machine while nearby schools were in session used to be impossible. The dust from harvesting operations that ranged from one-quarter-mile to 1 mile away from roads leading to the schools was enough to put the safety of people driving to school or in school buses at risk. “It wouldn’t be responsible to pick up almonds with our old harvester when school’s in session because the dust could blow in that direction,” said the fourth-generation grower, who farms with his dad, Ryan Jeffries, as B&R Almonds, Inc., in Shafter. Technical, Financial Assistance Jeffries had seen low-dust harvest equipment working in the field, but thought it was too expensive. Then, Trent Goehring, with equipment dealer West Kern Machinery, told him about the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides technical and financial assistance to almond and walnut growers who upgrade to harvest equipment shown to reduce particulate matter (dust). “The funds that NRCS provides brought the price in alignment with our budget, so we were able to afford the new equipment,” Jeffries explained. They purchased a new low-dust harvester in time for harvest last year. “By having that low-dust-emission harvester, the amount of dust that comes out is minimal; it produces at least 75% less dust than our old harvester. We can operate without affecting traffic, which creates a safer environment, not to mention reducing the particulate matter that goes into the air,” he added. Jeffries acknowledges the technical help they received from Raul Ramirez and Kathy Fuller, NRCS Bakersfield office. “They are the best, and without their help, we wouldn’t have been able to participate in these programs,” he said. More Options for Managing Dust Even with the low-dust harvester, Jeffries still looks at environmental conditions before harvesting, and implements best practices for reducing dust. This includes: Adjusting the blower spout so it blows into the orchard and away from the road; Setting sweeper heads one-half inch off the ground; Using wire tines; Slowing speed to reduce dust; and Slowing down separator fans. Jeffries noted, “If you are going too fast, in addition to creating more dust, the separator won’t clean the product as well.” As an added precaution, the Jeffries put signs along the roads adjacent to their harvesting operations that say “Dust Blowing” or “Equipment Crossing.” “But this is just an added feature to be more responsible,” Jeffries said. “The NRCS program is a good program for cleaner air and traffic safety,” the Shafter grower concluded. “Anyone who can afford the equipment and can get funding from the EQIP program should look into it, because it creates a lot safer driving conditions for local traffic, and a healthier environment for our workers, our neighbors and ourselves.” Contact your nearest USDA Service Center for information on the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program. See article "Read Up on Keeping Dust Down" for where to find resources about managing dust at harvest.
Almond Industry Gathers on Capitol Hill
From L to R: Richard Waycott, Gabriele Ludwig, Kent Stenderup, Ag. Sec. Sonny Perdue, Martin Pohl, Holly King, Julie Adams, Kelly Covello and Micah Zeff. Each June, Almond Board of California (ABC) staff and industry members visit Washington, D.C. The annual fly-in marks a week of hectic activity as the group, representing several ABC committees and the Board of Directors, as well as the Almond Alliance, meets with multiple Federal agencies and Congressional offices. This year, we met with Congressmen Jeff Denham (R-Modesto), Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and David Valadao (R-Hanford). Both Representatives Denham and Costa sit on the House Agriculture Committee and Representative Valadao is Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. We also met with staffs of the House Agriculture Committee and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif). The focus of these meetings was the 2018 Farm Bill and the many programs leveraged by the California Almond industry. Meeting with D.C. representatives from the American Farm Bureau and Western Growers Association also helped to identify common interests and objectives. No trip would be complete without seeing USDA staff from the various agencies with which we cooperate, including the Ag Marketing Service, the Foreign Agricultural Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Agricultural Research Service. Meetings were also held with the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Finally, we had the opportunity to meet privately with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Secretary Perdue is from Georgia and has a strong agricultural background. Georgia grows specialty crops including peaches and pecans, which should further his understanding of almonds. There is a lot happening in Washington that will directly impact California Almonds and the way we farm. Having a relationship with key stakeholders is an essential part of making sure our issues are being considered. And having growers and processors talk directly about California Almonds is the most compelling way to do it!