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2016 Almond Achievement Award Winner: Dave Phippen

2016 Almond Achievement Award winner, Dave Phippen. Dave Phippen was announced as the 2016 Almond Achievement Award winner at the Almond Conference Gala Dinner held Dec. 8 in Sacramento. Currently a member of the Almond Board of Directors, he is also a member of both the Ripon Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary. “Dave’s gift as a leader has been to become as well informed as possible about all aspects of the industry so he can make educated and thoughtful decisions,” said Richard Waycott, Almond Board president and CEO. “Since Dave has worked with the Almond Board for so many years, he understands the accomplishments and capabilities of the organization and its staff.” Phippen has spent 16 years serving as a Board member for the Almond Board of California, including positions as vice chair and chairman. He’s also participated in several committees, including: One year on Diversity Committee Three years on the Global Market Development Committee Three years on the Industry Relations Steering Committee Three years on Established Markets Subcommittee Four years on the Nutrition Research Committee Eight years on the PR and Advertising Committee Nine years on the Food Quality and Safety Committee Thirteen years on the Reserve Committee Fourteen years on the (Administration) Finance (and Audit) Committee Sixteen years as a Board member (one year as vice chair, two years as chairman) Successful Tours “I’ve worked with Dave to coordinate tours on his operation, and he and his son-in-law, Nick Gatzman, always do a phenomenal job explaining the growing and harvesting process,” said Molly Spence, director of North America, Almond Board of California. "They do this in such a way that helps our attendees, mainly health professionals, understand all the hard, smart and thoughtful work that goes into producing the food we buy at the store.” As both growers and handlers, Travaille and Phippen continuously fosters innovation. From pest management to irrigation and fertilizing through harvest, Travaille and Phippen is constantly integrating technological innovation to help the Manteca grower, huller, sheller, packer and processor farm sustainably while optimizing inputs and production. Encourages Communication “Dave and his family have opened their orchards and plants to dozens, if not hundreds, of visits by reporters, regulators, food and health professionals, customers from around the world, et cetera,” said Waycott. “His attitude is to encourage communication and understanding by inviting industry stakeholders to see firsthand what he and his family are doing. This has contributed to the good reputation of the industry, as well as the growth of almond usage.” Since 2011, the Almond Achievement Award has been awarded to an industry or allied-industry member who has been an integral member of the California Almond industry through long-term service, contributions or innovations. Past Almond Achievement Award recipients include Ned Ryan, Martin Pohl, Joe MacIlvaine, Dave Baker and Jim Jasper. Nominations for the Almond Achievement Award are accepted between August and October each year.
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// About the Almond Board

FSMA Files: Straight Talk from the Experts

Welcome to the first edition of our new FSMA Files column! We’ll use this column to provide you with easy-to-understand answers to your Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) questions. With so much FSMA chatter these days, sometimes it’s hard to know where to turn to get clear, accurate information. Our goal is to make FSMA understandable and cut through all of the noise. This column is prepared by attorneys Maile Hermida and Elizabeth Fawell, who are consultants to Almond Board of California (ABC) on FSMA issues. Based in Washington, D.C., with the global law firm Hogan Lovells, Hermida and Fawell are “food lawyers” who have worked on FSMA since the very beginning. In fact, Fawell was involved back when the legislation was being drafted on Capitol Hill. Both consultants were extensively engaged with FDA during the multi-year rulemaking process and prepared more than 100 comments to the agency. A large large part of Hermida and Fawell’s work now involves advising companies on what FSMA means for their businesses, helping them to develop compliance strategies, and providing strategic advice on public policy issues. To that end, ABC has retained them to help navigate the complex maze of FSMA compliance for the California Almond industry. Some of you may already know them, as they have been working with ABC for a few years, have visited almond operations throughout the supply chain, and presented at both the Almond Quality and Food Safety Symposium and The Almond Conference. The two lawyers understand the industry and FSMA first-hand. In this FSMA column, they will apply that knowledge to help answer questions or concerns you may have around which rules may apply to your operation, and offer tips on how to comply. FSMA Q&A by Maile Hermida and Elizabeth Fawell  When you ask us FSMA questions, our goal is both to provide you with an answer in plain language and to give you the supporting explanation, in case you need to dive deeper. You’ll see our unique approach in the questions and answers below. We strive to provide more direct and timely responses than you’ll receive if you submit questions to FDA through its Technical Assistance Network (TAN) advice portal. Since this column is written by lawyers, we can’t get by without a few important disclaimers.  First and foremost, this column is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We are not acting as your lawyers in preparing this column. If you have legal questions, we encourage you to work with us directly or with your legal counsel. We hope you’ll find this column to be a useful resource. Feel free to send your questions to Tim Birmingham at tbirmingham@almondboard.com with “FSMA Files” in the subject line. Check future issues of The Handle to see our responses. Now for our first questions! Question: Do almonds processed for export need to comply with the Preventive Controls rule? Straight Talk: No. The Preventive Controls rule only applies to food intended for consumption in the United States. This is different from how the Produce Safety rule works, as discussed in the next question below. Explanation: The Preventive Controls rule only applies to “registered facilities.” A facility is not required to register with FDA if it does not manufacture, process, pack or hold food for consumption in the U.S. Following that framework, if a facility has some operations that relate to food for U.S. consumption and some operations that relate to food for foreign consumption, the Preventive Controls requirements only apply to the food for U.S. consumption. That being said, if a facility produces food for both domestic and foreign consumption, the aspects of the operation related to foreign consumption could become relevant to Preventive Controls compliance if they could affect the safety of the U.S. food. For example, if treated almonds for U.S. consumption are on an adjacent line to untreated almonds for export, this could affect the safety of the treated nuts; therefore FDA would likely want to see controls in place that relate to the exported nuts to protect the safety of the U.S. food. Also, even though the Preventive Controls rule doesn’t apply, note that there are other FDA regulations governing food for export that would apply, such as requirements concerning labeling the food and ensuring it meets the requirements of the country for which it is intended. Question: Do almonds grown for export need to comply with the Produce Safety rule? Straight Talk: Yes. All produce grown in the U.S. needs to comply with the Produce Safety rule (unless it falls under an exemption, such as if it will be subjected to commercial processing downstream or it’s grown by a farm with under $25,000 in average annual produce sales — See “Silver Lining” below for exemption information). This is different from the way the Preventive Controls rule works, as discussed in the above question. Explanation: The Produce Safety rule explicitly states that it applies to all produce grown domestically, regardless of whether it is for domestic or foreign consumption. The regulation states:  “Unless it is excluded from this [regulation], food that is produce ... and that is a raw agricultural commodity (RAC) is covered by this [regulation]. This includes a produce RAC that is grown domestically and a produce RAC that will be imported or offered for import in any state or territory of the United States, the District of Columbia or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.” 21 C.F.R. § 112.1(a). (See also 80 Fed. Reg. at 74386.) This means that, in order for the produce to qualify as exempt from the rule, the written disclosure and written customer assurance provisions for produce that will receive commercial processing downstream apply to exports as well. Silver Lining: ABC has been engaged with FDA on what a grower exemption would look like.  Based on ABC understanding (and recognizing we do not have written confirmation from FDA on this approach), an exemption may be possible if: Growers provide written disclosure that almonds are not processed to adequately reduce the presence of micro-organisms of public health significance, and; Handlers provide a written assurance to the grower that almonds will be treated in accordance with the requirements under the mandatory program for Salmonella reduction on almonds, or otherwise will be exported with a disclosure that they are not processed to adequately reduce the presence of microorganisms of public health significance and should be treated in accordance with the regulatory requirements of that country, with such written assurances provided by the customer. Question: Can companies set up separate facility registrations for the different types of operations performed on the same campus, so that they can take advantage of the compliance date extension for facilities “solely engaged” in packing or holding nut hulls and shells? Straight Talk: No. FDA has made it clear all operations owned by the same party and performed at the same general location fall under the same facility registration. Explanation: It would not be possible to obtain separate facility registrations for these different operations unless the ownership was different. That is because of the way FDA has defined “facility” for purposes of facility registration, which is:  “Facility means any establishment, structure or structures under one ownership at one general physical location, or, in the case of a mobile facility, traveling to multiple locations, that manufactures/processes, packs or holds food for consumption in the United States. A facility may consist of one or more contiguous structures, and a single building may house more than one distinct facility if the facilities are under separate ownership.” Even if this business has different structures engaging in different activities, it would still be considered one facility if the ownership is the same. Therefore, it could not register the operations separately to take advantage of the extended compliance date, based on the present ownership scenario. Please keep the questions coming!   
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// Quality and Food Safety

FDA Completes Almond Risk Assessment, Paves Way for Pasteurization Label

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently completed its risk assessment of California Almonds, and their conclusions are similar to those made by Almond Board of California (ABC) after conducting its own risk assessments completed in 2006 and 2012 and performed by Linda Harris, Cooperative Extension Specialist in Food Science and Technology, UC Davis and her colleagues. Those risk assessments supported the requirement for a 4-log reduction process under the mandatory treatment rule, which became effective in 2007. “FDA’s conclusions are similar to ours as to what level of treatment results in less than one case of salmonellosis per year in the U.S. population,” Dr. Harris said. That level of treatment is the 4-log reduction. The FDA’s almond risk assessment was triggered by a request from ABC to recognize a 4-log treatment for Salmonella as being equivalent to a pasteurized product, which is normally considered a 5-log reduction. “Currently, almonds treated for 5-log can be labeled “pasteurized,” Dr. Harris said, “but in the almond mandatory Salmonella rule, a 4-log reduction in Salmonella is the standard.” FDA began collecting data for this risk assessment in 2013, requesting data from the tree nut industry in general, including almonds, precans, pistachios and walnuts. Risk assessments for some of the other tree nuts are expected within a year. Data supplied to FDA came from ABC and Harris, including some that had not previously been published. “FDA took the framework of the risk assessment we did in 2012 and did a deep dive into what we had done, added the new data, and took a new look at analyzing the data,” Harris said. “They did a much deeper statistical, mathematical analysis than what we had done.” One of the largest data packets submitted to FDA is nine years of Salmonella survey data, funded by ABC, consisting of over 15,000 samples. Those data include not only the prevalence of Salmonella in raw California almonds, but also the levels of Salmonella in those positive samples, according to Harris. “The more data the more accurate the risk assessment,” she said, “and having a data set that involves 15,000 samples is a very strong data set.” FDA’s risk analysis verifies our conclusions and lends support to the 4-log process control target that is in the pasteurization rule, but it doesn’t answer the question about labeling product as “pasteurized.” However, ABC is now in a position to resubmit its request to FDA to consider a 4-log reduction to be pasteurized, using FDA’s own risk-assessment data as rationale.  ABC plans to submit a 4-log process to FDA for consideration in the near future.
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// Quality and Food Safety

Managing Harvest Dust a Year-Round Affair for Heinrich Farms

Managing harvest dust is a year-round consideration for almond grower Gordon Heinrich and his family, who farm 700 acres of almonds, walnuts and field crops near Modesto. The Heinrich family has been farming for five generations on the property, which is in an increasingly urbanized area of Stanislaus County. Gordon Heinrich, and sons Jerad and Phil (from right) work together to manage harvest dust year-round on the family’s five-generation 700-acre farming operation in Stanislaus County. “We are trying to be a good neighbor. We know we are never going to be able to eliminate dust, but we are doing everything in our power to keep it at a minimum and be mindful of our neighbors and nearby schools,” Heinrich said. Gordon Heinrich oversees operations with four of his sons, who take responsibility for different aspects of growing and harvest operations at Heinrich Farms. Phil Heinrich, who manages farming operations, says managing harvest dust really begins soon after the previous harvest with good orchard floor preparation that leads to a level, smooth and clean harvest surface later on. “We want to make sure the orchard floor is level. The more uneven the surface, the lower the harvester heads have to operate, which leads to more dust at pick up,” he said. “So it starts right after the previous harvest, we level out mounds from the harvest and touch it up throughout the year. We take steps to minimize the amount of dirt in the windrow. One way to do that is to keep a level, debris-free orchard floor, and you do that year-round.” Year-round management of vertebrate pests, weeds and debris help eliminate disturbances in the orchard floor that can interfere with harvest operations. “The more debris you have, the more dust you are going to get out of your harvester,” Phil said. He also runs irrigation water two to three weeks before harvest to pack down any loose dirt. Jerad Heinrich, who is in charge of field operations and maintaining harvest equipment, agreed managing harvest dust begins well before harvest starts in October. “We are getting equipment ready for the next year right after harvest and right up until the next harvest,” he said. Jerad goes into harvest preparing sweepers, shakers and pickup machines to reduce the amount of dust. He adjusts tire pressure so equipment runs evenly and sets sweeper and pick up machine head heights so they are running at orchard floor level to collect nuts without disturbing the orchard floor. Newer-generation equipment has low-dust innovations built in. But taking additional steps, such as utilizing gravity chains to filter out dust before nuts reach the suction fan and adjusting head heights and fan speeds are critical.  Jerad Heinrich, who is in charge of field operations for Heinrich Farms, adjusts sweeper head heights to ensure they are collecting nuts but not picking up dust with harvested nuts. Speed is another important factor. Jared said reducing pick up machine speeds can significantly reduce the amount of dust generated. He is also careful to use the orchard row ends as filters, shutting down machines at the end of rows to try and keep dust inside the orchard. Gordon noted that all the preparation and steps for reducing dust at harvest do add considerable work for the family-run operation, but it’s important, particularly as urbanization advances on farming communities. Almond Board of California has been investing in research and resources in recent years to not only identify sources of dust at harvest and methods for reducing dust, but also to communicate to growers the best way to get manage the issue. The Almond Board has made practical guides and videos available to growers and workers to encourage adoption of key practices for reducing dust at harvest. These resources are available at Almonds.com/HarvestDust. “ABC is doing a good job of getting information to growers to make them aware of the problem and the solutions,” he said. “And it’s a matter of training our employees and implementing those ideas to get the job done.” Bilingual training materials available through the Almond Board are part of Heinrich’s training program. “Our employees, if they understand the goal, will cooperate. So training them about the importance of driving at the right speed and other concepts is very important,” Gordon said.
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// Environmental Sustainability
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