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Water Storage Is Key Element Sought in Water Bonds

There are several water bonds being considered by the California Legislature, and one key factor being considered in all of them is a provision for infrastructure development, including new storage. Other critical provisions include drinking water quality, water supply for disadvantaged communities, Delta environmental sustainability projects, and regional water management projects and strategies. An $11.14 billion water bond crafted in 2009 has been delayed twice due to economic concerns, but remains on the ballot for this November’s general election. Looming large in the minds of voters has been the enormous price tag and the reported “pork” provisions added to bring support from Southern California lawmakers. Recently, a flurry of alternative bond proposals have surfaced to replace the current bond offering, all with reduced price tags. Agriculture — and almond growers/handlers in particular — are very interested in provisions that provide for increases in storage capacity. If climate change predictions come true, water policy experts say it will be more and more crucial that additional storage capacities be developed to capture and appropriately manage existing yields for environmental as well as agricultural, municipal and industrial needs. In the present $11.14 billion bond, drafters were careful to include a continuous appropriations rider to safeguard the accomplishments of storage projects. Though present bond offerings include between $1.5 billion and $3 billion for storage alternatives, only a few of the present bond alternatives offer continuous appropriations. Time is running short to enact alternative bond legislation. State legislators have until June 26 to draft a legislative measure to qualify for the November general election ballot. It is uncertain at this time whether legislators will indeed negotiate seriously to formulate, then forward, a bond proposal that can garner wide support throughout the legislature. Of the eight-plus bond measures presently introduced, AB 1331, the $8 billion measure authored by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) is the furthest along in the legislative process. This bill, in its present form, includes $2.5 billion for aboveground and belowground storage projects and includes a “modified” form of continuous appropriation language. It also provides $1 billion for water quality, $1.5 billion for protection of rivers and watersheds, a total of $2 billion for regional projects and integrated regional water management, and $1 billion for the Delta sustainability projects. This bill can still be subject to further amendments and other changes. A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll shows that 50% of current voters would likely support the current $11.14 billion bond on the ballot. One in three said they would outright oppose the bond, but this is the first time that a water bond in any form has passed the 50% threshold in polls. The Institute also indicated that voters are finally coming to grips with the indisputable fact that California is in a crisis, with 92% of those polled saying they are seeking to conserve water. Unless an acceptable alternative is finally crafted to replace the existing bond measure, the current bond may face the prospect of again being pushed to the 2016 election. More information on the various bond proposals can be found at the California Assembly website.
Newsletter Item
// Government Affairs

Almond Board of California Remembers Dr. (Zhi)Jun Weng

(Zhi)Jun Weng, Ph.D., an expert in thermal processing, food engineering and food safety, as well as a technology innovator, passed away suddenly on July 16 after serving the food industry for more than 22 years. Dr. Weng was a developer of several U.S. FDA/USDA-accepted commercial thermal process calculation software programs (NumeriCAL, AseptiCAL, HydroCAL, TunaCAL and SurmiCAL) widely used by food and beverage companies. Weng partnered with Almond Board of California (ABC) in 2004, and led colleagues from FMC Corporation (now JBT Corporation) to find a pasteurization solution for raw almonds. After evaluating several of the existing companies' technologies from the company, they developed a thermal pasteurization process, a steam/moist heat based JSP-1 almond pasteurizer, out of impingement technology in 2005, and completed equipment commercialization and validation in 2006. This innovation was the first validated thermal pasteurization technology for raw almonds and provided the industry with a very timely pasteurization option, as at the time Almond Board was under great pressure to have acceptable technology prior to the launch of the mandatory pasteurization program in September 2007. Today, the pasteurizer is widely used by the tree nut industries to ensure food safety. Weng was one of the first ABC-approved process authorities involved in the Almond Board’s landmark pasteurization program. To assist the Board in validation of current thermal processes and new pasteurization technologies during the crucial period when the industry was building and proving pasteurization capacity prior to launch of the mandatory pasteurization program, he also invented an aluminum almond for process temperature profiling. The ABC Board of Directors passed a resolution on Aug. 16 to recognize and honor Dr. (Zhi)Jun Weng for his tremendous contributions and dedication to the California Almond industry. Dr. Weng was a co-inventor of the FMC/JBT JSP-1 Almond Pasteurizer and an ABC-approved process authority. His work and innovation at JBT made a tremendous contribution to the California Almond industry’s success in implementing the ABC pasteurization program. Dr. Weng added a great deal to the advancement of food thermal processing technology. His expertise and services will be greatly missed by ABC. Equally important, he was a cherished friend of his many colleagues at Almond Board of California.
Newsletter Item
// About the Almond Industry

Governor Signs Legislation to Put Water Bond Before Voters

Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to put a comprehensive $7.5 billion water bond before voters in November. The bipartisan legislation, AB 1471 by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D–Lakewood), passed the Senate 37–0 and the Assembly 77–2. It will appear as Proposition 1 on the November ballot, replacing the current $11.1 billion water bond, which was passed in 2009. Rendon, chair of the Assembly’s Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, held a series of hearings throughout the state earlier this year to discuss the 2014 water bond. One of those hearings was held in Modesto and attended by almond industry members. Jim Jasper of Stewart & Jasper Orchards told the committee, “I’ve been through a couple of droughts in the past, and I assure you that this one is unprecedented.” He spoke of a neighbor’s winning bid of $2,100 per acre-foot for 975 acre-feet at a closed auction, saying this “gives you an idea of the pressure some farmers are under when they have a permanent crop and are trying to save it.” Jasper also talked about additional storage to help capture water during wet years. Kelly Covello, president of the Almond Hullers & Processors Association, also commented on the water bond, telling the committee, “Our water system is inadequate and antiquated and in need of upgrades. Without a water bond and a reliable water supply, California’s future is uncertain.” The bond, totaling $7.545 billion, provides for water use efficiency and recycling as well as groundwater cleanup and management. There is also $2.7 billion for additional water storage, which has continuous appropriation — in other words, there is no need to go back to the Legislature each year for funding. The bond calls for investments in safe drinking water, particularly in disadvantaged communities, and provides for watershed restoration and increased flows in some of California’s most important rivers and streams. One of the more contentious water projects, the “twin tunnels,” is specifically precluded from funding through this bond measure. Below is an outline of the final bond. Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 Regional Water Reliability – $810 million Integrated regional water management – $510 million Storm water capture – $200 million Water conservation – $100 million Safe Drinking Water – $520 million Provide clean, safe and reliable drinking water to all Californians. With minimum to leverage federal funds for safe drinking water and clean-water programs and for disadvantaged communities. Small-Community Wastewater Program – $260 million Drinking water public infrastructure – $260 million Water Recycling – $725 million Statewide water recycling projects and activities Groundwater Sustainability – $900 million Prevent and reduce groundwater contaminants – $800 million Provide sustainable groundwater management planning and implementation – $100 million Watershed Protection, Watershed Ecosystem Restoration, State Settlements – $1.495 billion Conservancies – $327.5 million Wildlife Conservation Board – $200 million (restoration of flows) Department of Fish and Wildlife – $285 million (out of delta; no mitigation on Bay Delta Conservation Plan) Department of Fish and Wildlife – $87.5 million (in delta with constraints) State settlement obligations including CVPIA – $475 million Rivers and creeks – $120 million Storage – $2.7 billion Continuous appropriation for water storage projects Statewide Flood Management – $395 million Statewide flood management projects and activities – $100 million Delta levee subvention programs and delta flood protection projects – $295 million General Provisions Funding eligibility requires urban or agricultural water management plans and compliance with 2009 Water Conservation Act Bay Delta Conservation Plan neutral Protects existing water rights and reaffirms area-of-origin protections Assumes repurposing of $105 million from Prop. 84, $95 million from Prop. 50, $86 million from Prop. 13, $25.5 million from Prop. 204, $13 million from Prop. 44, $100 million from Prop. 1E and $7.120 billion of new debt
Newsletter Item
// Environmental Sustainability

With Equipment Options, Whole-Orchard Recycling More Feasible

At a demonstration in Manteca, farm advisor and researcher Dr. Brent Holtz describes his research into the feasibility of chipping and incorporating entire almond orchards using five different pieces of equipment. A horizontal chipper in the background chipped the almond trees on site. Five pieces of equipment rumbled through an old almond orchard in Manteca recently to demonstrate an alternative process for whole-orchard recycling. An excavator uprooted trees, a front-end loader transported the trees to a horizontal chipper, and a spreader and rototiller then spread the chips on the ground and incorporated them into the soil. The process of spreading and incorporating the chipped trees was demonstrated at a field day held at Tallerico Farms and conducted by San Joaquin County farm advisor Dr. Brent Holtz, who has been studying the feasibility of whole-orchard recycling for eight years. Equipment Comparison According to Dr. Holtz, the five pieces of equipment could outperform the Iron Wolf, a single, giant machine that pulls, grinds and incorporates the trees in place. The Iron Wolf costs about $1,500 an acre to operate and recycles trees at the rate of 2 acres a day. The five different machines together cost about $1,000 per acre to operate and cover 15 to 20 acres a day. Moreover, the horizontal wood chipper grinds the trees more evenly into finer particles than the IronWolf, which left some sizeable chunks behind. This brings the whole-orchard recycling option closer to economic feasibility for growers facing the process of replacing old orchards. The chipping, spreading and rototiller equipment was operated by Randy Fondse of G&F Agricultural Service in Ripon. Soil, Tree Effects A modified spreader and a rototiller spread and incorporate chipped almond trees into a field where the trees once stood.In addition to researching a practical equipment option, Dr. Holtz’s work, funded by the Accelerated Innovation Management program of Almond Board of California, continues to look at the effects of incorporating the biomass of an entire orchard on soil characteristics as well as the growth and productivity of second-generation almond trees planted in the orchard. According to Holtz, his research results suggest that the trees will do just as well or better in the presence of additional organic matter, which increases water infiltration and water holding capacity. In addition, as the woody material breaks down over time, it releases nutrients, including up to 1,500 pounds of potassium and 800 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Observing the demonstration was almond grower Matt Visser, of Ripon. “When we took out an orchard 15 years ago and replanted it, I had an intuition that it would be good to incorporate that back into the soil, but that just wasn’t an option back then,” he said. “Whole-orchard recycling meant you burned everything, or cut up the trees and sold them for firewood and burned the brush, or you chipped it all up and hauled it away for cogeneration plants.” Favorable Option With burning less of an option because of air quality concerns, and cogeneration plants shutting down, incorporating the whole orchard seems like a good direction to take, Visser said. “If you are getting a cumulative yield bump, at $2.50 a pound, and if you get 200 more pounds per acre to pay for incorporation, it sounds like it would pencil out.” With the support of the Almond Board of California and a generous grant through USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Dr. Holtz and his colleagues will continue to evaluate the short- and long-term impact of whole-orchard recycling on the health and growth of second-generation trees planted in the orchard, soil health, the orchard’s carbon footprint and nitrogen dynamics, as well as yield response to periods of reduced irrigation.
Newsletter Item
// Orchard Management

Watch for News Impacting Almonds on New Farm Bill Website

The House Agriculture Committee has launched an online resource to provide updates to growers, handlers and other industry members on the 2018 Farm Bill. Every five years, the U.S. Congress establishes its policy for food and agricultural programs. The Farm Bill impacts all Americans as it provides funds to grow safe and healthy foods for consumers and creates jobs in all segments of the food industry.  “The Farm Bill website includes information about the upcoming legislation as well as weekly blogs and a few videos that growers will find interesting,” said Bunnie Ibrahim, government affairs specialist, Almond Board of California. “It will continue to grow with new information.” Following the launch of the site, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conway (R-Texas) said he’s “committed to completing a Farm Bill on time.” “We recognize what’s at stake,” said Conway. “We’re working on getting the policy right and will use this site as a resource as we advance the next Farm Bill.” The Farm Bill sets the course of our nation’s food and farming system through programs covering everything from crop insurance to research in support of sustainable farming practices. There is no better reason to get involved in the process than to make sure the Farm Bill reflects the needs of the California Almond industry to confront new challenges and ensure continued success for generations to come. The current Farm Bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, expires Sept. 30, 2018. Visit the website at agriculture.house.gov/farmbill.
Newsletter Item
// Government Affairs
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