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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

New Rules Will Further Limit Chlorpyrifos Use

A number of recent regulatory actions may place additional restrictions on the use of chlorpyrifos in almonds in the near future. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has opened a 45-day public comment period on a proposal to make chlorpyrifos a California restricted-use material beginning January 2015. The proposed regulation would mean that the purchase or possession of chlorpyrifos requires a permit from the county agricultural commissioner, who may also require that certain conditions be met prior to issuing a permit. Applications of chlorpyrifos products must be made or supervised by a certified applicator and require a recommendation from a licensed pest control adviser. While not stated in the proposal, DPR plans to restrict the use of chlorpyrifos to situations in which there are no alternatives. The public comment period runs through Nov. 12. Comments on the proposed regulation can be submitted by email to dpr14002@cdpr.ca.gov. In addition, the U.S. EPA has reinstated buffer zones for applications of chlorpyrifos near waterways that have been determined to come in contact with endangered salmon. The buffer zones are part of a settlement agreement finalized over Endangered Species Act litigation brought in U.S. District Court in Washington by the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. Buffer Zones The agreement covers five pesticides, including two commonly used in almonds — chlorpyrifos and diazinon. It establishes no-spray buffers extending 300 feet from salmon-supporting waters for aerial applications and 60 feet for ground applications in certain parts of California, Oregon and Washington. The EPA has developed an online “Salmon Mapper” to help pesticide users of those specific pesticides determine if they are in “no-spray” buffer zone areas. And finally, DPR, responding to mandates to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from non-fumigant pesticides in the San Joaquin Valley, is limiting the use of chlorpyrifos and other key almond insecticides to only low-VOC formulations during the next two years. DPR is required to reduce VOC emissions from non-fumigant pesticides under the State Implementation Plan for the Clean Air Act, aimed at reducing ozone precursors in the San Joaquin Valley. In response to an increase in VOC emissions from 2012 to 2013, DPR has banned the application in almonds and other large-acreage crops in the San Joaquin Valley of high-VOC formulations of products containing chlorpyrifos, abamectin, oxyfluorfen and gibberellins between May and October for the next two years. There are no restrictions on the use of low-VOC products containing these active ingredients. The regulations allow some limited, specific exceptions to these prohibitions, but a recommendation from a pest control adviser is required for all exceptions.
Newsletter Item
// Government Affairs

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

Specialty Crop Grant Funding Furthers Important Almond Research

The USDA’s 2014 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) provided significant funding for research including improved water use and food safety in almonds and other specialty crops. Funds will also help complete the two-way communication cycle of the California Almond Sustainability Program by facilitating outreach and education to almond growers. Among the almond-related projects that received Specialty Crop Block Grant funding in 2014: Continuous Leaf-Monitoring System to Detect Plant Water Status for Irrigation Management Specialty Crop Block Grant funding for this project leverages additional funds from a USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Grant and Almond Board to develop a continuous leaf-monitoring system for measuring leaf water status. The tool will promote precision irrigation management to improve water use efficiency in grapes and almonds. The system consists of thermal infrared sensors along with environmental sensors to successfully detect plant water status and integrate it into a wireless mesh network. Data-Driven Targeted Education to Increase Adoption of BMPs by Almond Growers This Specialty Crop Block Grant will help SureHarvest, which partnered with Almond Board to develop and implement the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP), to develop educational outreach to further the adoption of sustainable almond-growing practices. The recently produced 2014 Almond Sustainability1 Report details strengths of and improvement opportunities for grower practices based on assessments of more than 95,000 acres. This proposal — to educate growers about best management practices and increase adoption of these practices — takes the next steps, which are: 1) Use assessment results to prioritize grower educational needs; 2) provide education through workshops and the CASP online system; and 3) measure progress in BMP adoption. Development of a Statewide Spatial/ Mapping Database for Almonds, Walnuts and Pistachios This project builds on past and current Almond Board of California (ABC) and previous SCBGP funding to develop a statewide map based on remote sensing for some 1.5 million acres of almonds, walnuts and pistachios. This remote-sensing approach provides unique results and has been validated by ABC pilot studies against other alternatives. Many questions the industry faces now involve a spatial component. Having the map will help the industry make better decisions and help determine the implications of various issues. Knowing crop locations and ages will help to better understand yields, potential and locations for biomass for biofuels, where orchards are located in relation to waterways with regard to environmental issues, how many acres are in limited or no-water supply areas. 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 and safe food product.
Newsletter Item
// About the Almond Industry

European Port Authorities Learn About the PEC Program

During the week of Feb. 26, Almond Board of California (ABC) hosted a group of European Port Authorities for a Pre-Export Checks (PEC) seminar. The authorities came from the European Commission, Spain and Romania. The focus of the seminar was to educate port authorities about the almond industry with a deeper look at the Pre-Export Checks program.  ABC hosted a group of European Port Authorities for a Pre-Export Checks seminar in February. The seminar included a field tour of a hulling and shelling facility, a handling facility, a USDA-certified laboratory and, of course, multiple opportunities to take in almond bloom.  Authorities started the week with presentations by ABC staff Beth Van Meter, Bryce Spycher and Tim Birmingham. The seminar continued in the north valley by taking the port authorities on a field tour of a hulling and shelling facility, a handling facility and a USDA-certified laboratory. The authorities were walked through the entire almond growing and handling process with emphasis on PEC-certified consignments.  About halfway through the week, the group visited the Almond Board office in Modesto and participated in a handler seminar. Each port authority was given the opportunity to present port operations at their respective ports. Handlers had an opportunity to ask questions of the various authorities and gain clarification for different situations that arise during the import process. Spain specifically stated that consignments with a PEC certificate will be inspected at less than 1%, while consignments without a PEC certificate will be inspected at 8%.  The last day of the PEC seminar consisted of meetings with Port of Oakland, Customs and Border Protection and FDA, and a tour of Port of Oakland. Delegates became acquainted with operations at Port of Oakland as well as the responsibilities of each of the respective government agencies. Delegates left the seminar satisfied and with an increased confidence in the Pre-Export Checks program.
European Port Authorities PEC Tour
Newsletter Item
// Government Affairs

Industry Goals to Guide Almond Orchards into the Future

Almond growers have been on a journey of continuous improvement for many years, finding ways to responsibly grow more almonds to meet global demand. With predictions of another record crop on the horizon, the Board of Directors of the Almond Board of California (ABC) has been working to prioritize industry resources in four key areas that will ensure almonds remain an economically, environmentally and social responsible crop for California. These four key areas ladder up to the Almond Orchard 2025 goals. The Almond Orchard 2025 goals will serve as a guidepost to lead the industry forward on a path of continuous improvement. By 2025, the California almond community commits to: Reduce the amount of water used to grow a pound of almonds by 20%. Reduce dust during almond harvest by 50%. Increase adoption of environmentally-friendly pest management tools by 25%. Achieve zero waste in our orchards by putting everything we grow to optimal use. These goals build upon a history of significant industry achievements. Over the past two decades growers have reduced the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds by 33%.[1] Since the rollout of a groundbreaking pasteurization program a decade ago, there have been zero outbreaks of foodborne illness attributed to California almonds. And work to put everything grown in the orchard to good use has been ongoing. These efforts have positioned the industry for continued growth. “Our industry continues to grow, which places more focus on us, yet provides significant opportunity. This opportunity presents challenges however, and those challenges need to be addressed to protect our right to farm almonds in California,” said Holly King, chair of the Board. “The same innovation and work ethic that has driven our success in the past will lead us into the future. We hope you'll join us in supporting these goals and pulling together as an industry to achieve these important milestones in our journey of continuous improvement.” Setting goals is the first step. Much work needs to be done to map out the most direct route and set milestones along the way. “This may be the broadest composite endeavor in Almond Board history,” said Kent Stenderup, almond grower and vice chair of ABC’s Board of Directors. “These four initiatives help drive our industry to continuously improve how we grow almonds and reduce our own footprint. By setting these goals we demonstrate both ownership of and pride in our practices.” Work has already begun to develop roadmaps that will pave the way to the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals. As the industry’s largest event, the Almond Conference will serve as an opportunity for the industry to come together and learn how all can participate. “The successes we’ve achieved already allow us to celebrate and build upon our progress,” King said. “We now have the opportunity to define the orchard of the future and work to make it a reality.”   [1] University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14
Almond orchard
Newsletter Item
// About the Almond Industry, About the Almond Board

East Stanislaus RCD Offers Free Irrigation Evaluation to Growers

After spending more than $70,000 on new dripline for his 160-acre almond block, Lane Parker liked hearing the word “free” — especially followed by the phrase “irrigation evaluation.” Lane Parker, who grows almonds in Stanislaus and Merced counties, says the RCD irrigation evaluation helped him measure distribution uniformity in his almond orchards. Parker, who farms 800 acres of almonds in Stanislaus and Merced counties, took advantage of a free mobile irrigation lab service offered by the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District (ESRCD). The program consists of an in-field irrigation system evaluation, including an assessment of distribution uniformity, pressures and application and flow rates. “We had this brand-new system,” said Parker, who also chairs the Almond Board of California’s Strategic Ag Innovation Committee, “and were interested in establishing a baseline for the distribution uniformity so we can see how this system holds up.” Benchmarking his new system’s performance, followed by periodic reevaluations, will enable Parker to identify irrigation issues earlier and avoid relying on visual cues in the orchard, potentially averting damage to his trees and yields. “We have iron in our well water, and it was clogging our old system,” Parker said, noting that he’s taking steps to address the iron issue. “The old system was designed to flow 1,400 gallons per minute and we just kept seeing it decline and decline over four years. It got down to 800 gallons per minute, which isn’t enough to meet the trees’ water demand.” The conditions on Parker’s 160-acre block also underscore the need to ensure his new system is providing adequate distribution uniformity. “We have rolling terrain — pretty steeply rolling — so there’s a lot of up and down in elevation change,” he said. On a different 40-acre block managed by Parker, disease — not terrain — served as the primary factor for assessing distribution uniformity. He made a significant change to his irrigation management due to a severe infestation of band canker in his fourth-leaf trees. Parker theorized that his microsprinklers were overwatering the trunks, aggravating growth cracks and making his trees more susceptible to the disease. “It was just devasting. We lost a lot of trees — 400, in fact — and I think we lost 8-9% of our trees to band canker,” Parker lamented. While the system was originally designed to irrigate in two sets of 20 acres each, Parker started irrigating the 40-acre block as 1 set. This reduced the pressure in the system, preventing water applied by his microsprinklers from reaching the tree trunks. Since making the change, Parker has seen a significant reduction in band canker.  However, he knew that changing the irrigation system from its original design could have unintended consequences, so he enlisted ESRCD’s mobile irrigation lab service to perform a free evaluation of the system as it operates now. He’s glad he did. “We were underwatering our trees. The evaluation report showed we had even flow but poor distribution uniformity due to reduced flow and pressure throughout the orchard. We needed to run water 15-20% longer and the evaluation help put a metric on it.” All told, Parker has evaluated 200 of his 800 acres through the ESRCD program and plans to have another 250 acres evaluated soon. He recommends that other growers take advantage of this free service, especially if they are looking to improve orchard health and yields, avoid inefficient water use and plan ahead for a future that will likely include less predictable water supplies. “Growers who have more information about their operations are able to make adjustments, and ultimately improvements. With the water threats that we face, anything that improves efficiency is a plus.” Growers in the ESRCD who are interested in learning more about a free irrigation evaluation should call (209) 491-9320 or email eaststanislausrcd@gmail.com. For growers not located in the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District, many of the 98 Resource Conservation Districts across California offer similar free or low-cost technical assistance programs. You can locate your local RCD at CARCD.org/rcds/find. Growers can also contact Spencer Cooper, senior manager of field outreach and education at the Almond Board of California, to learn more about irrigation optimization and ABC’s Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, a comprehensive manual of irrigation management and scheduling practices ranging from fundamental to advanced management levels. For more information on irrigation management, visit Almonds.com/Irrigation or contact Cooper at scooper@almondboard.com or (209) 604-3727.
Lane Parker
Newsletter Item
// Orchard Management
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