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Be a Good Neighbor — Minimize Harvest Dust

While almond growers and processors prepare for the busiest time of the year, the Central Valley community will soon be reminded of what comes with harvest — dust. Dust impacts everyone in the Valley, from almond growers to orchard workers to neighbors. While dust is a normal byproduct of almond harvest, it’s an unwelcome visitor to those who live, work and play around our orchards.  Ripon area almond grower Matt Visser reviews the Almond Board’s Dust Tool Kit during the 2015 harvest with harvest equipment operator Armando Castillo. The Tool Kit complements a Managing Dust at Harvest technical guide in both English and Spanish. Research on Dust Reduction The good news for everyone in the Central Valley is that nine years of research by Almond Board of California (ABC) and decades of research by manufacturers has resulted in equipment improvements and has uncovered ways that growers can reduce the amount of dust produced at harvest time. They include the following: Using newer equipment that is specifically designed to reduce dust is the most effective way to minimize dust levels during harvest. If working with custom harvesters, consider asking your harvester to use low-dust equipment, and prior to harvest always discuss your expectations for practices to reduce dust in the orchard. Review and implement practices outlined by new ABC harvest dust resources like the Harvest Dust Tool Kit and technical guides, ensuring that all those involved in harvest are made aware of expectations. Almond growers and their practices play an important role in maintaining air quality in the Central Valley. That role comes with a responsibility to make sure neighbors know what to expect during almond harvest. Communication Before Harvest Before harvest begins, consider reaching out to neighbors with a phone call or written note to let them know what to expect during harvest. This includes nearby schools, churches, businesses or any place where people gather. Setting realistic expectations with these neighbors ahead of harvest establishes industry members as a respectful and trustworthy part of the local community. Establishing those lines of open communication will also give neighbors the option of contacting growers directly with concerns instead of relying on local government officials or regulators. As continual improvements are made in this area, we can all breathe easier at harvest. To learn more about ways to reduce dust during harvest, visit Almonds.com/HarvestDust.
Newsletter Item
// Orchard Management

Agriculture Added to Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has released a new draft of a scoping plan that lays out how California is meeting and is expected to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions required by Assembly Bill 32. The 2006 law requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, back to 1990 levels, by 2020, and even further, to 20% of 1990 levels, by the year 2050. The scoping plan provides a roadmap for meeting required greenhouse gas reductions for eight key economic areas including energy, transportation, water and agriculture. For the 2020 goal, agriculture was not expected to directly contribute to GHG reductions, but to reach the 2050 goal, the plan proposes that GHG targets be set specifically for agriculture. ARB expects GHG reductions can be achieved in agriculture through reductions in N2O emissions from fertilizers, water-pumping efficiencies, methane capture from dairies and other sources. It has not been clarified if these reductions will be mandated through the use of particular practices, encouraged through incentives to integrate certain practices, or simply taxed to incentivize the desired GHG reductions. Over the next two years, a panel will determine both the goals and how those goals for agriculture should be met. At the same time, ARB still wants to see agriculture provide offset credits to economic sectors that are regulated under the current cap-and-trade system. The offset credit system allows an individual who voluntarily reduces their greenhouse gas emissions in some way to then sell those credits to businesses that are required to reduce their greenhouse gases. Initially, the ag sector had explored whether it could earn money for offset credits under AB32. However, the system has since become extremely complicated both in terms of the criteria that need to be met to be considered an offset credit and the verification procedures. The California rice industry has stepped up to be the first to try to navigate this maze. A “rice protocol” with a focus on methane emissions reductions has been drafted and was opened for public comment in mid-March. ARB hopes to complete the process of accepting the protocol by this fall to allow rice growers to sign up in early 2015. However, with the recent scoping plan announcement that agriculture is now expected to contribute specific GHG reductions, ABC’s Gabriele Ludwig said it is unclear whether such voluntary protocols will ultimately become mandatory in the future.
Newsletter Item
// Government Affairs

Cover Crops Star in ABC CASP Workshops

(Feb. 21, 2020) – Since 2010, California almond growers have attended California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) workshops to determine what areas of improvement exist on their operations and learn how CASP, a self-assessment tool, can help them identify those improvement areas. Now, a decade later, the Almond Board of California (ABC) has completed its 2020 CASP Pollination and Cover Crops workshop series, which focused on best practices to protect and maintain honey bee health, the role cover crops play in that effort, and how CASP tools and ongoing ABC-funded research support growers in their efforts to ensure a successful pollination Growers at the workshop in Ceres had an opportunity to walk through the CASP Pollination and Bee Health module with Eric Harris from SureHarvest, the third party organization that oversees the CASP program. and the protection of honey bee health. ABC held three workshops last month: one at Sutter Union High School, one in Ceres at the orchard of ABC Board member Christine Gemperle, and one in Buttonwillow, hosted by Farmland Management Services (FMS). Over 80 industry members attended these workshops, attendees ranging from growers to PCAs to farm managers. “Increasing the adoption of honey bee health best management practices – which for many growers could involve planting cover crops – is essential in order for the industry to achieve its Almond Orchard 2025 Goal of increasing environmentally friendly pest management practices by 25%,” said Tom Devol, senior manager of Field Outreach and Education at the Almond Board. “CASP is also key to the industry’s success as it not only provides insights on better farming practices but also will be the tool ABC’s uses to track growers’ progress towards achieving each of the four 2025 Goals. This combination of sharing best practices alongside CASP makes for informative workshops that give growers the tools they need to be successful.” Foundational at each workshop were ABC’s Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs). Developed in 2014 and updated in 2018 with input from the almond community, beekeepers, researchers, UC Davis, California and U.S. regulators, and chemical registrants, the Honey Bee BMPs represent the Almond Board’s most extensive educational documents to date to ensure that almond orchards remain a safe and healthy place for honey bees. This resource lays out simple, practical steps that almond growers, together with beekeepers and other pollination stakeholders, can take to protect and promote bee health on in and around their orchards, and in their surrounding community. At the workshop in Sutter, students from the high school’s ag department had the opportunity to join industry members in learning from subject matter experts such as Daryl Brum, a retired Blue Diamond grower representative who now works with the high school on their cover crop program. Sutter Union High School has its own orchard that is used for teaching purposes within its ag department. Recently, the school chose to plant cover crops in its orchard to reduce dust levels around the school and to prevent run off into the surrounding roads. During the workshop, many growers had questions for Billy Synk, director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m. (PAm.), who spoke about PAm.’s Seeds for Bees program at each of the three CASP workshops. Launched in 2013, Seeds for Bees offers free seed mixes for bee forage/ cover crops to almond growers with orchards of all sizes. In the 2018-19 Seeds for Bees program, PAm. reported that 149 California almond growers planted 8,005 acres of cover crops in and around their orchards, representing 27 counties throughout California. “We’re trying to expose this program to more and more growers,” said Synk. “We believe there’s more opportunity for cover crops to be utilized, and while we don’t think cover crops are appropriate on every inch of every orchard, they have worked from Bakersfield to Chico.” In addition to providing food and habitat for bees, Almond Board-funded research shows that cover crops add organic matter to soil, increase water infiltration and water-holding capacity, reduce erosion and provide a natural weed control, among other benefits. In Ceres, which saw many grower attendees, subject matter experts received more questions about the practicality of cover cropping. One grower asked if cover crops compete against almond blossoms during bloom, to which ABC Chief Scientific Officer Josette Lewis explained how ABC-funded research shows that supplementary forage does not compete with almond blossoms for pollination but instead improves bee health, allowing for more robust hives. Gemperle, a grower who is also a hobbyist beekeeper, plants cover crops in her orchard primarily to provide habitat and a supplemental food source for honey bees. When sharing about her experience in planting cover crops and their benefit to her first and main crop – almonds – Gemperle said she experiences heavier hives and happier beekeepers. "I look at the relationship between beekeepers and almond farmers as symbiotic in many ways," Gemperle told Female First magazine in a 2019 interview. "Over the years, we have changed our farming practices and planted forage to promote bee health and nutrition because, at the end of the day, stronger hives can produce bigger crops." Growers attending the workshop who had tried cover crops on their operations said they saw similar benefits as Gemperle, and that they noticed no competition between the blossoms and the forage during the bees’ time in the orchard. In addition, growers who had completed the CASP Pollination and Bee Health module, attested to the ease of working through the module and how the program as a whole helped them improve their growing practices. Finally, in Buttonwillow, Farmland Management Services’ Samantha Lopes shared how their operation decided to plant cover crops not between the orchard rows but in an adjoining field. FMS does not irrigate the acreage were cover crops reside, but instead plants the seeds before fall rains – working closely with the Seeds for Bees program – and then lets nature take care of the rest. Since planting cover crops, FMS has received positive feedback from the neighboring community, members of which like to see the crops add color and life to the land situated near Highway 99. “Farmland Management Services has participated in the Seeds for Bee’s program for 3 consecutive years now with approximately 95-acres of pollinator habitat,” said Lopes. “Nurturing populations of pollinators help to ensure the sustainability of our operations, client asset, and our environment.” ABC’s next series of CASP workshops, focused on Irrigation and Nutrient Management, will be held in mid-April, followed by a series on Integrated Pest Management in May. For a list of upcoming workshop dates, growers can visit Almonds.com/Events. To learn more about CASP and the Pollination and Bee Health module, growers are encouraged to check out Almonds.com/Growers/Sustainability.
casp growers looking at assessment
Newsletter Item
// About the Almond Board, About the Almond Industry

Coming Soon: Chinese Market Access for Pelletized Almond Hulls

(May 22, 2020) – The Phase 1 Trade Agreement between China and the United States, established in January 2020, noted market access for several U.S. agricultural commodities, including pelletized and cubed almond hulls. Now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and China’s General Administration of Customs (GACC) have completed the protocol that will enable the export of pelletized or cubed almond hulls to China. The signing of this protocol is the culmination of three years of collaboration among the California almond industry, government officials, the Almond Board of California (ABC) and the USDA-APHIS and China’s GACC recently completed the protocol that will enable the export of pelletized or cubed (shown above) almond hulls to China. Almond Alliance of California. ABC’s efforts, in particular, to develop market access for pelletized/cubed almond hulls were supported by a USDA TASC (Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops) grant. Now that the protocol has been signed, the next steps is to launch market access, a process that will take a few weeks to develop. USDA-APHIS is currently negotiating final requirements with GACC on how to qualify companies for the program, as USDA-APHIS must develop the approved list of facilities that plan to export pelletized/cubed hulls. USDA-APHIS will also need to certify that exporters comply with the elements of the protocol, including a physical inspection of facilities, before they can issue the approved phytosanitary certificates to ship. Finally, USDA-APHIS must update the PeXD database to reflect export requirements, which will happen when all details have been finalized. Why hulls?   Approximately 4.5 billion pounds of almonds hulls are harvested each crop year. Hulls provide good nutritional value that dairies in the western United States have capitalized on for years. But there is also great potential for hull use in other markets, including China. As a major importer of animal feed ingredients, it is expected that pelletized/cubed almonds hulls will be well-received in China.   In working with USDA-APHIS on this effort, the initial focus on pelletized and cubed hulls was seen as an entry point – but ABC’s work will not stop there. ABC is already in discussion with USDA-APHIS and U.S. trade negotiators on what next steps are needed to initiate a request for market access for bulk almond hulls. Several California companies have expressed strong interest in shipping raw hulls to China, and South Korea, for example, is currently importing almond hulls from the U.S. for animal feed and has been doing so successfully for several years.    “The opening up of pelletized hulls/cubes to China will no doubt provide another avenue to bring more value to growers who produce almonds. It will also help the almond industry in its effort to achieve the Almond Orchard 2025 Goal on zero waste, as finding higher value solutions for hulls is in line with our effort to put everything grown to optimal use,” said ABC Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs Julie Adams. “We see this as a win for exporters and a win for the California almond industry.”  For general information on this protocol, please contact Geoff Bogart, ABC’s principal specialist in Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs, at gbogart@almondboard.com. For information on certification requirements, please contact the trade specialist in the USDA-APHIS PPQ office in Sacramento, Paul Vanderhorst, at paul.j.vanderhorst@usda.gov.
Cubed Almond Hulls
Newsletter Item
// About the Almond Board, About the Almond Industry, Government Affairs

California Almonds Cultivates Its Online Presence

For the past several months, Almond Board has been working closely with various teams across the globe to reposition California Almonds on the ever-evolving World Wide Web. It is the Almond Board’s approach to periodically audit and evaluate ways to realign our website to current online marketing trends, thereby ensuring maximum exposure of almond-related messages to our target audiences. Analytics show that user engagement on our website (how many pages they view, for how long they stay on any particular page, and how many exit altogether upon visiting) could be vastly improved upon. A refreshed website would not only contribute to better analytics, it would also improve our search ranking. As part of the new website launch, we spent a considerable amount of time adhering to the following objectives: Build awareness and increase usage of almonds among consumers, health professionals and food professionals in key opportunity areas. Be the go-to resource for information about almonds for all stakeholders. Educate and inform the almond industry. Act as the ‘hub’ of all online (e.g., social media) information, making almond content easy to find and share. Optimize for social media platforms and mobile devices. One of the most notable changes with the redesign is the change in our website URL from www.AlmondBoard.com to www.Almonds.com (Note: In the near future, www.AlmondBoard.com will forward to the new URL). The driving force behind this change is to convey to consumers that the Almond Board of California is the leader in almonds. Almonds.com, a keyword-rich domain name, can have a positive impact on search engine ranking, making it easier for all target audiences to find the information they are looking for on almonds from the Almond Board of California. In addition, from this point forward, users — including growers and handlers — will default to the North American consumer homepage to highlight our domestic marketing activities. The North American website with the new domain, Almonds.com, was relaunched at the end of last year. The European websites followed shortly thereafter, and by summer, the South Korean and Almond Growers/Handlers websites will be redesigned. You will find California Almonds on the web at: North America: www.Almonds.com United Kingdom: www.Almonds.co.uk France: www.Almonds.fr Germany: www.Almonds.de
Newsletter Item
// About the Almond Board
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