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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
Oct 16, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety

Back to School on Nut Tree Fundamentals

For an almond tree to produce the most nuts at the highest quality, it needs proper nurturing and maintenance. Achieving this standard requires sound orchard management and business decisions and a deep understanding of almond tree biology. In many cases, however, the information needed to make these decisions can be hard to find.    Again for 2018, the University of California, Davis, (U.C. Davis) plant sciences department and University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) are offering a two-week pomology course to fruit and nut growers seeking to learn the fundamentals of tree biology and create improvements in the orchard. Through a series of lectures, hands-on exercises and in-field demonstrations, the course aims to educate growers on basic plant biology and how core biological principles intersect with managing fruit and nut orchards.   The course is titled “Principles of Fruit & Nut Tree Growth, Cropping & Management” and will take place February 19 to March 1, 2018, beginning on the U.C. Davis campus.    The course is broken into two week-long segments. The first week dives into agronomy, showcasing research from industry leaders on topics such as tree growth, development and pruning, dormancy and chilling, flowering, pollination and fruit set. Course participants will then put their learnings to practice via in-field exercises and demonstrations.    "The pomology short course is a great opportunity to dive deep into tree biology, and that’s important to almond growers, because it helps explain how the trees make decisions throughout the year and across their lifespan,” said Danielle Veenstra, senior specialist, sustainable farming communications for Almond Board of California and attendee of the 2014 course. “The trees’ biology is hard wired, so a grower’s opportunity for success lies in understanding those realities and managing the orchard with those things in mind.” Course instructor and U.C. Davis professor Theodore M. DeJong (left) explains root excavation to course participants. (Photo Credit: UC Davis) The second week, while optional, offers a valuable line of sight into the wider California agriculture industry. Course participants will embark on a four-day field tour throughout fruit and nut tree growing territory in northern and central California, stopping at current U.C. Davis experiment sites, processing facilities and various orchards along the way.   "Attendees will walk away with a deeper understanding of almond trees, as well as how that biology can impact management decisions,” said Veenstra. “It’s also a great networking opportunity with plenty of time to interact with speakers and other attendees between lectures, hands-on field demos and the field tour.”   Upon completing the course, attendees will be treated to a graduation dinner and will receive a certificate. Scholarships are available for qualified California growers. Industry members of all experience levels are encouraged to register for the course no later than January 24, 2018. To register for the Principles of Fruit & Nut Tree Growth, Cropping & Management course or to learn more about course instructors, registration fees and scholarship information, please visit http://fruitandnuteducation.ucdavis.edu/education/principles/.  
Newsletter
Oct 02, 2017 // Orchard Management

The Program is Packed for The Almond Conference

The event you won’t want to miss is right around the corner. The program is full and the presenters are ready — now all we need is you! Join your peers in December for the 45th annual Almond Conference, where you’ll hear from more than 60 industry experts on topics ranging from almond biomass to aerial almond mapping, from CASP participation to the organic movement.   Among those speaking at The Almond Conference are Daniel Lubetsky, founder and CEO of KIND Snacks, and Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine and two-time presidential candidate. You’ll also hear from representatives at University California, Davis, United States Department of Agriculture, Blue Diamond and more. With more than 45 learning sessions from which to choose and upward of 270 exhibitors to visit, The Almond Conference has something for everyone.   The Almond Conference offers the perfect opportunity to catch up on all that’s happened in the 2016/2017 crop year. At Almond Board of California, for instance, researchers have been busy exploring key topics in the industry, including pest management and pollination, groundwater recharge and FSMA, and they will present their key findings at the conference.   To wrap up the conference in style, the Gala Dinner, held Thursday evening, will feature special entertainment from “The Futurist” Adam Trent. Trent, who is returning to his solo roots after his membership in a best-selling magic show on Broadway, will wow attendees with his skill, personality and humor.   The Almond Conference will take place December 5-7, 2017, at the Sacramento Convention Center. It is complimentary to attend, and online registration is open until November 29 at www.almondconference.com.
Newsletter
Oct 02, 2017 // About the Almond Board

Almond Leadership Grads Drive Industry to the Next Level

With harvest’s end on the horizon, 2017 Almond Leadership Program (ALP) participants are rounding third base in their completion of the year-long program. Participants’ leadership growth and industry learning isn’t complete at the end of the year, however.    “Following each year, participants are encouraged to join an ABC [Almond Board of California] committee as an honorary leadership member,” said Jenny Nicolau, Manager, Industry Relations. “Attending committee meetings is a natural segue for continued involvement and service in the industry.” Are you ready to bring your career in the almond industry to new heights? Apply for the 2018 Almond Leadership Program. The 2016 Almond Leadership class is taking hold of that opportunity.   Joe Barnett, Blue Diamond operations excellence manager and 2016 ALP alum, is a newly appointed alternate member of ABC’s Industry Services Sub-Committee. In this role, Barnett participates in discussions and helps guide industry programs and events.   “I felt like I added the most value to that [Industry Services] committee based on my skillset and the nature of work that they do,” Barnett said.   Barnett is also a sitting member of the Almond Board’s Biomass Taskforce.   Almond Leadership Program participants must complete a project that aims to improve the industry. In 2016, Barnett joined classmate Rory Crowley, a grower at Nicolaus Nut Company, to research almond byproducts and their potential uses. Their work is especially relevant today as biomass discussions move into the spotlight.   “I plan on being involved with the biomass taskforce until a solution can be found,” Barnett said.   Crowley serves on the Technical and Regulatory Affairs Committee and participates in several local and regional agricultural boards and committees, including the Butte County Farm Bureau.   Syngenta sales representative Ashley Bandoni, another 2016 graduate, recognizes the value in committee involvement. She is an honorary member of the Nutrition Committee. Beyond ABC, Bandoni sits on the Board of Directors of the Merced County California Women for Agriculture, where she was past president.   Long History, Continued Service   The Almond Leadership Program’s emphasis on leadership and service has held strong since the program’s inception in 2009.   Graduates across all years keep busy within the almond community. Ryan Cosyns (class of 2009) and Robert Mahoney (class of 2013) both serve on the Industry Services Sub-Committee with Matt Visser (2010). Darrin Rigg (2009) serves on the Global Market Development Committee and Micah Zeff (2009) is an alternate for the Board of Directors.   At least eleven former participants, including Jordan Phippen, vice president for Pacific Coast Sales, have gone on to mentor new participants in the Almond Leadership Program. Phippen, a five-year mentor, believes the program continues to develop into an even more valuable experience each year.   “When [I was] asked to be a mentor for the program, it was an easy decision. I think the leadership program has done a fantastic job of introducing participants to all aspects of the almond industry while also creating long-lasting bonds between mentors/mentees,” Phippen said. To date, more than 140 dedicated, passionate industry members have graduated from the program.   Are you ready to take the next step in becoming an industry leader? Learn how you can join the 2018 Almond Leadership class here. Applications are available now and will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017.
Newsletter
Oct 02, 2017 // About the Almond Board

FSMA Files: Keeping Track of the FSMA Compliance Dates

Straight Talk from legal advisors Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida of Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP Get your FSMA Facts straight from the experts. Almond Board of California has engaged a consulting firm whose lawyers have worked with FSMA since its beginning. In this FSMA Files column, they help clear up some of the uncertainty around the many compliance dates of FSMA.   Question: I’m confused about which compliance obligations were triggered in September 2017 and which will take effect in January 2018. Can you clarify?    Straight Talk September 2017 September 18, 2017 was the compliance date for several requirements under the Preventive Controls rule, including:  Compliance with Preventive Controls for Human Food regulations for “small businesses” (fewer than 500 full-time equivalent [FTE] employees).  Compliance with Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule for larger businesses. Compliance with modified GMP requirements for small businesses (when applicable).    January 2018 January 26, 2018 is the initial compliance date for the Produce Safety rule, applying to farms with more than $500,000 in annual produce sales.  Please note that you may choose to file a written disclosure to be exempt from the Produce Safety rule. Learn more about your options at almonds.com/growers/fsma.    January 26, 2018 is also the compliance date for large-business brownskin almond facilities that only size, sort, grade and pack almonds and/or large business facilities that hull/shell almonds but are not technically considered a “farm.” This fact sheet will help you determine if your operation qualifies as a “farm.”   Explanation: Each FSMA rule has its own set of compliance dates. These dates vary based on the size of the operation, as defined under each rule, and in some cases, also vary based on the type of activities performed at the operation.    For Preventive Controls for Human Food, “large businesses” (more than 500 FTE employees) were required to comply last year (September 2016). The “small businesses” subject to this rule were required to comply this September. Only those companies that meet the definition of a “very small business” (less than $1 million in food sales plus the value of food held without sale) are not required to comply until September 2018.    It’s also important to know that the FDA has delayed the Preventive Controls for Human Food compliance date for (1) certain brownskin almond facilities and (2) certain facilities that almost, but don’t quite, meet the definition of a secondary activities farm. These facilities are not required to comply with the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule until the applicable Produce Safety rule compliance date for their size business. If the facility is part of a company with more than 500 FTE employees, then their compliance date is in January 2018.    The last tricky factor to consider for the Preventive Controls for Human Food compliance dates is that the supplier verification provisions under Subpart G have compliance dates based on your supplier’s own compliance date with applicable FSMA rules. The general principle here is that once your own Preventive Controls compliance date has arrived, you’re required to conduct supplier verification for any supplier for which it is six months after their compliance date. For example, a “small business” would need to conduct supplier verification for a “large business” as of September 18, 2017, but would not need to conduct supplier verification of a “small business” until March 19, 2018.    Compliance with the Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule also began September 18, 2017. This compliance involves the preventive controls requirements for large businesses and compliance with the GMP requirements for small businesses. Note, however, that the FDA recently announced its routine regulatory inspections will not assess compliance with the rule’s preventive controls requirements until the fall of 2018 but will instead focus on compliance with GMP requirements. Bear in mind that many almond operations will not be covered by the Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule based on the scope of their operations.    January 26, 2018 is the first compliance date for the Produce Safety rule. Farms with less than $500,000 in annual produce sales have later compliance dates. As noted above, this also is the Preventive Controls for Human Food compliance date for (1) certain large-business brownskin almond facilities and (2) facilities that are similar to, but don’t meet the definition of, a secondary activities farm.   The chart below summarizes the facilities that have compliance dates arriving in September and January. The Almond Board also has prepared more comprehensive charts that summarize all of the compliance dates for each of the FSMA rules. They are available at almonds.com/growers/fsma and almonds.com/processors/fsma.   Type of Operation Rule Explanation or Notes September 18, 2017 Facility that is part of a small business (<500 FTE employees) Preventive Controls for Human Food This also is the compliance date for these businesses to implement a supply chain program for their larger suppliers (with over 500 FTE employees) Preventive Controls for Animal Food (if applicable) GMP requirements only Facility that is part of a large business (>500 FTE employees) Preventive Controls for Animal Food (if applicable) Preventive Controls requirements (GMP compliance date was September 2016.) January 26, 2018 Farm with >$500,000 annual sales Produce Safety Farms have additional time to comply with certain water-related requirements “Facilities solely engaged in packing and/or holding activities conducted on produce RACs and/or nut hulls and shells” that are part of a large business (>500 FTE employees) Preventive Controls for Human Food Preventive Controls for Animal Food – GMPs only (if applicable) This covers almond brownskin facilities that only size, sort, grade, or pack almonds, as well as facilities that only hull and shell almonds, as long as the facility does not engage in manufacturing or processing activities (i.e., chopping, grinding, mixing, roasting, pasteurizing, salting) For facilities that meet the definition of “secondary activities farms” except for the ownership criterion and are part of a large business (>500 FTE employees) Preventive Controls for Human Food Preventive Controls for Animal Food – GMPs only (if applicable) Facilities that meet the definition of “secondary activities farms” except for the ownership criterion can take advantage of an extension for compliance with the PC rule if: (1) the operation is not located on the primary production farm; (2) the operation is devoted to harvesting, packing and/or holding of RACs (including operations that hull, shell and/or dry nuts without additional manufacturing); and (3) the operation is under common ownership with the primary production farm that grows, harvests and/or raises the majority of the RACs harvested, packed and/or held by the operation   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, D.C. The FSMA Files column is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  
Newsletter
Oct 02, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety
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