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Use Sustainability to Connect with Consumers

Dickey says she enjoys sharing the agriculture story, especially with consumers, and says CASP helps the almond industry tell its story collectively. Almond grower Jennifer Dickey encourages others in the industry to use sustainability as a tool to share her family’s farming story with consumers  On an average day during almond harvest, Jennifer Dickey can be seen lining up harvest crews, ordering parts for a downed sweeper or fixing a hydraulic line on a box scraper. Dickey knows every square inch of the 200 acres of almonds and walnuts she manages for the family’s CR Orchards in Stanislaus County near Turlock, Calif. Her parents, Caroline and Randy Dickey are still involved in the farming business, but Jennifer in recent years has taken over most of the daily operations, along with 35 acres she farms on her own nearby and custom farming operations on an additional 200 outside acres. In that time, Dickey has enrolled much of the acreage in the Almond Board’s California Almond Sustainability Program[1], and plans to enroll her newly planted 20-acre block of Independence almonds on double-line drip. Having an intimate understanding of the day-to-day farming operations made entering data into the program’s nine modules relatively easy. A graduate of Blue Diamond and ABC’s Leadership Programs, Dickey said she enjoys sharing her farming story with others, particularly the urban audience who is not connected to agriculture. “I love learning and I love public speaking; I think it’s fun,” she said. “But mostly I like telling the story about agriculture. These are your consumers and if you want people to be passionate about what you do, you have to explain it to them.” Participation in CASP, she said, helps the almond industry collectively tell its story. “It’s an easy way for farmers to educate people without dealing directly with those people, because the Almond Board can take that information out and educate them for you.” The recent drought helped illustrate the importance of having data in a time of crisis. “ABC had proof during that water crisis about what almond growers were doing to implement water conservation,” she said. “The Almond Board has to have facts to back that up and CASP gives those facts to them.” The California Almond Sustainability Program documents the almond community’s efforts to adopt cost-effective environmentally and socially responsible practices. Confidential information through grower and handler self-assessments of current practices is aggregated for use in communications, education and continuous improvement. A new pump, well and double-line drip irrigation system will help Dickey continue to improve sustainability on the newly planted 20-acre block of Independence almonds. Dickey estimates it recently took less than half a day to do all nine self-assessment modules on her 15-acre block. The process, she said, helped her reflect on her current practices, compare to other growers in her area and around the state, and find potential areas of improvement. “I like to read the questions and see what I am doing in comparison to other growers,” Dickey said. The online CASP system also offers interactive tools, including a nitrogen calculator and mapping tool to develop nitrogen budgets and help meet Nitrogen Management Plan requirements of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. An irrigation calculator also helps develop irrigation schedules on individual blocks. Dickey regularly relies on pressure chamber readings, collected by a seasonally hired college student, along with flow meters and CIMIS station readings to establish irrigation set timing and duration. Filling out the Energy Use module also helped her better grasp the timing of irrigating during off-peak hours so she could more efficiently run her irrigation pumps.  Completing the Nitrogen Management module on that 15-acre block helped Dickey understand that she could better account for nitrogen inputs by testing her water source and actually reduce the amount of applied N during the season. “When I went back after filling out the module, I realized I almost over-fertilized on one block because I wasn’t accounting for N in the water source,” she said. “By participating in CASP I learned we could save money and keep excess nitrogen out of the groundwater in the process.”   [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
Nov 16, 2017 // Environmental Sustainability, Orchard Management

Support FFA This Holiday Season

With The Almond Conference taking place Dec. 5-7, the timing is perfect to do some early holiday shopping and, at the same time, support a great cause. Both a live and silent auction with a variety of items will benefit the California FFA Foundation. A huge thank-you goes out to the following companies that have committed to supporting the California FFA Foundation through their generous donation to this year’s silent and live auctions. Check out these donors and the items you will see at The Almond Conference, so you can be ready to get your bid on! Live Auction For the second year, a live auction will be held during the annual Gala Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 7. Attendees will have the chance to bid on these items: Pacific Atlantic Crop Exchange: 4 San Francisco Giants tickets behind home plate Mike Kooyman: One-week Mexican vacation Sterling-Rice Group: $2,000 gift certificate to Snow.com Leo LaGrande: Duck hunting trip Noah Jacob: Private Chef dinner for 8 people Jason Jasper: Golden State Warriors lower level seat tickets NEW This Year Throughout the conference, 100 Golden Tickets will be sold. Each ticket is $100, and one lucky person will win and pick their choice of one item from the live auction. The ticket will be drawn at the Gala dinner prior to the start of the live auction. You must be present at the Gala to win! Tickets may be purchased onsite at the silent auction booth all three days of conference. Silent Auction Going on its sixth year, the silent auction will be held on the trade show floor Dec. 5 and 7. Be sure to stop by and place your bid on some fun and fantastic items: AgNet West: Petal tractor Almond Board of California (Booth 625): Toy Tractor American Ag Credit: Baldwin Minkler Farms: Titleist Pro V1 golf balls Bayer Crop Science (Booth 701): Blue Diamond: HUGE Blue Diamond Almonds gift basket Burchell Nursery (Booth 515): California Industrial Rubber: Indoor turkey fryer and peanut oil California Sweet Potato Growers: Locally grown sweet potatoes Capay Canyon Ranch: Classic Wine Vinegar: Specialty foods gift basket Cosyns Farms: Honey Disneyland: 4 Disneyland one-day park hopper tickets DoubleTree by Hilton (Modesto): One-night Dream Deal Duarte Nursery (Booth 1033): Poinsettia gift certificates Gallo Center for the Arts: Comedian Chad Prather tickets GAR Tootelian (Booth 610): Yeti Cooler with GAR Gear Gerber Kawasaki: $500 financial planning consultation gift certificate Golden State Genetics: Gift basket Hilltop Ranch Inc. (Booth 513): Chainsaw and gift basket Hughson Nut, Inc.: Almond gift basket (two) Hyatt Regency Sacramento: Overnight weekend stay and breakfast for two JCS Marketing (Booth 1229): Full page ad John Deere – Belkorp Ag (Booth 1237): John Deere wagon Lincoln Financial Agribusiness Services (Booth 903): Mallvinder Kahal: Better Butter Almond Butter Mamta: Semi-precious stone jewelry set Modesto Nuts: Modesto Nuts swag and 4 tickets Mosaic Event Management, Inc.: 2 Tickets to Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Motomco: 8 buckets of TomCat ground squirrel bait Netafim (Booth 1106): Yeti cooler Pacific Coast Sales: 4 San Francisco Giants tickets, club section Roberts Ferry Nut Co.: Assorted gourmet popcorn basket Satake (Booth 719) Scribe Winery: 4 Hacienda food and wine tastings Semios (Booth 705): Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel: Complimentary suite, parking and breakfast for two Stanislaus County Farm Bureau: Sue Olson: Handmade quilt Suite 52 Living Modesto: Homegoods gift basket Suterra, LLC (Booth 817): Gift basket Syngenta (Booth 621): The Balm Cosmetics: Make-up basket The Parks Group: Homemade toffee Waycott Family: Wine Wine & Roses: Bed and Breakfast gift certificate Want to commit to the future of the California ag industry and join these gracious donors? There is still time! If you’re interested in donating an item, please contact Rebecca Bailey by email or at 209.343.3245.
Newsletter
Nov 16, 2017 // About the Almond Board

FSMA Files: Produce Safety Rule Updates

Straight Talk from FSMA Advisors Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida of Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP You may have heard about changes to the FDA’s calendar for the implementation of the FSMA Produce Safety rule. Yes, yet again! Most notably, the FDA has 1) proposed extending the compliance dates for the agricultural water-related requirements of the rule by 4 years and 2) delayed the start of Produce Safety rule inspections. In this month’s column, we’re breaking down what this news means for you. Update #1: You Will Likely Have More Time to Meet Produce Safety Agricultural Water Compliance Dates Why? FDA is proposing an extension to this action so it can take more time to reevaluate the feasibility and practical implications of the water standards. FDA has proposed extending the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements as follows:[1]   Very small business ($25,000-$250,000 annual sales): January 26, 2024 Small business ($250,001-$500,000 annual sales): January 26, 2023 All other businesses (>$500,000 annual sales): January 26, 2022 Almond Board of California submitted comments in support of the proposed extension. Update #2: Produce Safety Inspections Have Been Delayed Until Spring 2019 Why? Input from farmers and state regulators has proven that more time is necessary to ensure farmers have the training and information needed to comply and that states are able to establish strong produce regulatory programs before inspections begin. Note: It’s important that farms work toward Produce Safety compliance despite this delay. Even though FDA will not be conducting routine inspections, the agency can still take action if necessary to protect public health. Still feeling confused? Almond Board of California is here to help and has developed several new resources to help you get up-to-speed on all things FSMA. Check them out on the grower (almonds.com/growers/fsma) and processor (almonds.com/processors/fsma) webpages.  Please keep your questions coming! You can send them to Tim Birmingham at tbirmingham@almondboard.com with the subject line “FSMA Files.”  This column was prepared by Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida, who are lawyers with Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP in Washington, DC. The FSMA Files column is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. [1] Under the final Produce Safety rule there were two sets of compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements. FDA is proposing to simplify the compliance period structure so that all the compliance dates for these provisions occur at the same time, based on farm size.
Newsletter
Nov 16, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety

Celebrating 10 Years of Breakthroughs in Almond Quality and Food Safety

A groundbreaking mandatory pasteurization program created by Almond Board of California (ABC) and its strategic partners has supported an enviable industry-wide food safety record over the last decade. Since the program’s launch, there have been zero outbreaks of foodborne illness attributed to California Almonds. Today, more than 200 treatment processes have been validated for use on almonds following specific guidelines and review by ABC’s Technical Expert Review panel.  The almond industry initiated these efforts in the early 2000s, when Salmonella concerns were intensifying across the food industry. At the time, conventional wisdom suggested that low moisture foods, such as nuts and seeds, did not pose a threat, since the microorganisms of concern could not grow in these products. ABC engaged food safety experts, USDA and research partners to holistically identify potential risks and develop strategies to control. This collaboration ultimately resulted in the mandatory pasteurization program for Salmonella reduction and implementation of best practices, including Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) for growers and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for processors, as well as updated HACCP guidelines and Pathogen Environmental Monitoring (PEM) resources.  “The health and wellbeing of almond consumers matters deeply to everyone in the California Almond industry. We’re not afraid to tackle food safety challenges head-on, aided by the expertise of our partners, and we’re proud of our pioneering best practices,” said Tim Birmingham, director, Quality Assurance and Industry Services, Almond Board of California. “In response to concerns about Salmonella, we conducted research and led extensive discussions with industry, university and government experts before adopting mandatory pasteurization. After 10 years with zero outbreaks, we’re grateful that we took action.” From 2007 to 2017, ABC invested more than $5 million in food quality and safety research. It remains firmly committed to educating industry members on how to produce the safest and highest quality almonds possible. All findings are translated into clear, practical guidance for growers and processors. The California Almond industry is well positioned to comply with FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) because it has proactively, voluntarily created and implemented so many programs that are already in line with FSMA requirements. The Produce Safety rule under FSMA goes into effect in January 2018 for large-scale orchards or huller/shellers considered farms. Preventive Controls compliance for larger businesses began September 2016 and midsize compliance started September of this year. Visit almonds.com/processors/fsma or almonds.com/growers/fsma for tools and resources. For an infographic timeline of almond quality and safety, click here.
Newsletter
Nov 16, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety

Finding New Uses for Old Coproducts

Can almond coproducts help keep troublesome pests out of almond orchards? New research from University of California, Davis, suggests almond biomass can play a key role in pest management. As part of a research initiative funded by Almond Board of California’s Almond Biomass Working Group, UC Davis researchers sought to determine if almond hulls and shells were compatible with biosolarization technology.  “Biosolarization uses natural mechanisms to create soil conditions lethal to pests,” said Christopher Simmons, PhD, UC Davis, who conducted the research trials. “By combining heat from the sun and natural biopesticides promoted by organic matter from hulls and shells, we can eliminate pests in the soil.”  The research comes as almond production continues to climb, yet traditional outlets for hulls, shells and woody biomass are less. Recent market shifts are forcing changes to traditional uses and spurring new interest in the highest value use of each almond coproduct. The biomass project got its start in December 2016 when UC Davis researchers discussed their approach with Almond Board of California and Nicolaus Nut Company (a fallow orchard owned by Nicolaus Nut Company was proposed as a field trial site). After a feasibility study at UC Davis labs in the spring, field trials began in July 2017. “The fallow orchard, which was slated for transition to almonds from walnuts, was heavily infested with nematodes,” said Simmons. “It provided optimum conditions to test the effectiveness of almond biomass biosolarization.”  Researchers began in the field by amending almond biomass into the soil, laying a drip line on top of the soil and covering the orchard floor with a clear plastic tarp. Following this setup and then irrigating through the drip line, they created a greenhouse heating effect that helped elevate the temperature of the soil. Additionally, bacteria in the soil consumed the almond matter amended in the soil. This microbial activity—in the anaerobic environment created by the tarp covering—led to the accumulation of natural organic acids toxic to certain pests. Simmons and his colleagues will be discussing their biosolarization research findings in depth at The Almond Conference in December. They’ll also preview implications for future crop growth and orchard impact, as the biosolarization site will be planted with almond trees early next season. “Beyond pest management, keeping almond biomass in the orchard can deliver additional benefits,” said Simmons. “You’re putting all this organic matter back into the soil, which will help improve fertility, water holding capacity and microbial diversity of the soil.” To hear more about this research, register for The Almond Conference, taking place Dec. 5-7 in Sacramento. The presentation, titled “Almond Biomass: The Real, Weird and Wonderful Opportunities for Greater Utilization,” will be at 10:45-11:45 a.m. on Dec. 5 in room 308-309.
Newsletter
Nov 16, 2017 // Orchard Management

Food Safety Regulation Influenced by Genome Technology

The latest source of a potentially sweeping change in almond quality and safety is getting its start at a fundamental level: DNA.      (Photo credit: U.S. Food and Drug Administration) For hundreds of years, scientists have sought to crack this genetic code to life. From the earliest theories to the newest discoveries, DNA research has fueled a seemingly endless supply of possibilities and innovations. During recent decades, scientists have refined methods to map out entire genetic codes, or genomes, of organisms. Work that used to take years can now be done in days.  The ability to sequence whole genomes opens doors for industries from healthcare to agriculture. Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expanding its own genomic research to include almonds. The FDA uses whole genome sequencing (WGS) as a tool to identify food contamination and inform regulation. They are embarking on a project focused on nut industries—including almonds—to better understand specific bacteria that may be associated with nuts. Ultimately, such understanding will make it easier to trace foodborne illness outbreaks and uphold food quality and safety, as well as develop and monitor plant programs to address contamination. “The precision of whole genome sequencing gives the industry more finite detail than we’ve had before to help detect outbreaks and maintain nut integrity,” said Tim Birmingham, director of quality assurance and industry services for Almond Board of California.  Along with the incredible benefits of swift and effective response to foodborne outbreaks come additional questions about industry scrutiny. With the FDA’s nut sequencing research still in its early stages, the impact on the almond industry is all but defined. At The Almond Conference in December, Birmingham will be moderating a panel that aims to answer these questions. Panel participants including Dr. Maria Hoffman, a genomics research microbiologist with the FDA, will discuss WGS technology as a practical tool and its impact on the future of almond processing. “Whole genome sequencing is here to stay,” said Birmingham. “The goal is to find the balance between high-grade food safety and efficient business for almond processors.”  In a regulatory environment equipped with WGS technology, handlers’ maintenance of good manufacturing practices becomes even more important. Programs like pasteurization and environmental monitoring are excellent ways to ensure effective control of pathogens. And in the future, as sequencing costs get lower and lower, handlers may even find WGS a viable self-monitoring tool and extension of their own food safety programs. To learn more about the FDA’s research, WGS and its impact on the almond industry, visit Birminghams’ upcoming session at The Almond Conference. The session, titled “Technology in the Food Safety World: Tools such as Whole Genome Sequencing – Friend or Foe?”, will take place 3-4 p.m. on Tuesday, December 5 in room 314. For a full list of The Almond Conference sessions and to register, visit AlmondConference.com.
Newsletter
Nov 09, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety

International Friends Visit the Central Valley

To aid in opening and maintaining global markets, Almond Board of California (ABC) often hosts delegations from overseas. Visits provide an overview of the California Almond industry and often include tours and meetings with the board of directors, ABC staff, almond growers and processors.  Two such visits recently occurred. In one, Almond Board was contacted by Club DEMETER, an association founded in 1987 by the agriculture and agro-food sector in France, whose annual travel seminar brought them to California this year. During their stay in the Central Valley, facilitated by the California Farm Bureau, they visited with individuals in the wine, dairy and almond industries as well as with government officials, including CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and Representatives John Garamendi (D) and Ami Bera (D).       Julie Adam, vice president, global technical and regulatory      affairs, with the Egyptian delegation. During Club DEMETER’s visit with Almond Board, they met with Bob Curtis, director, agricultural affairs, and Spencer Cooper, senior manager, irrigation and water efficiency, to learn about the California Almond industry and our successful irrigation practices. ABC board member Dave Phippen and Sarge Green of the California Water Institute met with them as well. Finally, the 50-member delegation finished their almond visit with an orchard tour. During the second visit, the Almond Board hosted a group of Egyptian tree nut import companies, bakeries and confectioners as part of the USDA Cochran Program. They, too, came to learn about the almond industry and the other tree crops grown in California. After meeting with ABC board members and staff, they met with Daniel Bays, a grower from Patterson, and visited his orchard.
Newsletter
Nov 09, 2017 // Government Affairs

FSMA Files: Navigating FSMA Rules

Interview with FSMA Regulatory Advisors Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida of Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP What is your top recommendation for an almond grower, processor or huller/sheller approaching the FSMA rules for the first time?  HL: Our first recommendation would be to spend some time determining if the FDA classifies you as a “farm” or a “facility,” as its determination might be different than how you view yourself. In addition, FSMA compliance will be different for each of these operations. Under FSMA, farms fall under the Produce Safety rule. Facilities (e.g., operations that manufacture/process almonds) are subject to the Preventive Controls rule. But it’s not always so black and white.  For example, a huller/sheller (H/S) located adjacent to an orchard would be considered a farm. In addition, a H/S not located on a farm would still be considered a farm if the majority of the almonds it hulls/shells are under the same common ownership as the H/S. This would technically make the operation a secondary activities farm under the FDA’s “farm” definition, subject to the Produce Safety rule. Alternatively, an off-farm H/S that does not perform hulling and shelling on the majority of its own almonds would be considered a facility and subject to the Preventive Controls Rule. Or, you could identify as an almond grower, but if you also conduct certain other activities – such as roasting almonds – you would technically be recognized as a Farm Mixed-Type Facility, meaning you would need to comply with both the Produce Safety and Preventive Control rules.   Once you determine whether you are a “farm” and fall under the Produce Safety rule, or if you are a “facility” and fall under the Preventive Controls rule, you then need to ask yourself about the other activities you conduct to determine which other FSMA rules may apply. Once this is done, you need to look into compliance dates and possible exemptions for each rule.  Finally, we recommend that you stay connected with Almond Board of California (ABC). They’re working hard to provide you with background on resources that can help you make the best decisions for your farm. The ABC website, newsletters and various events are great ways to learn more about how you can manage FSMA compliance. Let’s say I am an almond processor that imports spices from a country outside of the U.S. to season my almonds. What steps should I follow to determine my FSMA compliance requirements?  HL: As an almond processor, you would be classified by the FDA as a “facility,” subject to the Preventive Controls rule. There is a requirement within the Preventive Controls rule to perform supplier verification of any ingredients, regardless of whether they are sourced domestically or internationally, if the supplier will be controlling the hazards identified in the ingredients. However, if the processor will be controlling the hazards, or the hazard will be controlled further down the supply chain, then supplier verification is not required.   If you source ingredients from a foreign country and are the “importer” of the ingredients at the time of entry, then you will also fall under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) rule. (Bear in mind that determining if you’re the FSVP importer can be rather complicated!) If you are the FSVP importer, so long as you have met your supplier verification obligations under the Preventive Controls rule, then you are “deemed in compliance” with FSVP; the only additional requirement would be to provide certain identification information at the border through the import filings. It is important to note that if you are receiving imported ingredients, but they are coming from a U.S.-based distributor, it is unlikely you are responsible under FSVP.  Go to the processor FSMA pages for an overview and detailed steps of the FSMA rules that may apply to you. Keep in mind, most compliance dates have already passed for almond processors.  Please keep your questions coming! You can send them to Tim Birmingham at tbirmingham@almondboard.com with the subject line “FSMA Files.”    ABC utilized input from Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida, lawyers with Hogan Lovells US LLP in Washington, DC. in the preparation of this column. The FSMA Files column is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  
Newsletter
Nov 09, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety
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