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Nominate an Outstanding Leader Today!

Since 2011, the Almond Achievement Award has honored an industry or allied-industry member who has added value to the California Almond industry through long-term service, contributions or innovations. Nominations for the Almond Achievement Award are being accepted now. Winners must: Be an individual with long-standing and direct involvement with the California Almond industry Demonstrate lasting impact on and commitment to the California Almond industry Have a record of proven service to the visibility and growth of the industry Contribute to California Almonds becoming a Crop of Choice and supporting California Almonds becoming the Nut of Choice Almond Board of California’s (ABC’s) Industry Services Sub-Committee will evaluate the candidates and make a recommendation to the Board of Directors. The 2017 recipient will be selected by ABC’s Board of Directors and recognized during the gala dinner at The Almond Conference by ABC President and CEO Richard Waycott. The names of the award winners are placed on the wall of the Nonpareil Conference Room at the Almond Board of California office. Nominating an almond industry professional for the 2017 Almond Achievement Award is easy. Simply email Jenny Nicolau (jnicolau@almondboard.com) and state your nominee’s name and company, as well as your reasons for the nomination. Applications must be received on or before October 19 for consideration.
Newsletter
Sep 15, 2017 // About the Almond Board

State Water Board officials briefed on broad scope of Almond Board water research initiatives

From educating almond growers about water management and efficiency to helping develop sustainable water resources, Almond Board of California (ABC) is engaged in a broad array of research initiatives focused on maximizing “crop per drop.” That was the central message Almond Board staff delivered in a wide-ranging briefing for key staff of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in Sacramento.  “It was a great opportunity to talk to water board staff about the vast array of research ABC is conducting on many critical water resource issues,” explained Sustainability and Environmental Affairs Director Dr. Gabriele Ludwig. “Overall, they came away impressed by the financial commitment the almond community is making to researching these issues. They have a much better understanding of the complexity of growing almonds and how committed we are to finding answers based on the best available science.” Conducting the briefing were Ludwig; Agricultural Affairs Director Bob Curtis; Irrigation and Water Efficiency Senior Manager Spencer Cooper and Environmental Affairs Senior Specialist Jesse Roseman. Ludwig outlined how ABC’s Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM) research projects are designed to fulfill the vision of the almond orchard of the future while building on the fact that growers have used 33% less water per pound of almonds produced in the last 20 years.1 1 University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14.  
Newsletter
Sep 15, 2017 // Environmental Sustainability

Interaction between farming and drinking water takes center stage in Sacramento

Hoping to provide clean drinking water to those who can’t afford it, California political leaders are considering major policy changes that would create funding for improving community drinking water systems. Under pressure to provide clean drinking water to rural areas, Sacramento policymakers are considering groundbreaking legislation and policy changes. (Photo credit: Water Deeply/Tara Lohan)   The plans bear a large price tag for farmers and other water users, but come with a promise that the state would make it easier for the state’s farmers – including almond growers – and others to comply with water quality protection regulations.   Two similar, but separate, efforts are moving through the governmental process. The higher-profile effort for the moment is Senate Bill (SB) 623 (Monning), which would create a “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.” The current version proposes to collect $140 million annually, $110 million coming from surcharges on residential and business water bills and most of the remainder coming from a five-mill assessment (one half-cent per dollar spent) on fertilizer sales. Under the draft plan, dairies would also be charged a fee. On September 1, the Assembly Appropriations Committee referred the bill to the Assembly Rules Committee, making it a 2-year bill.   Fixing the drinking water problem Supporters of SB 623, including the Almond Alliance of California and Agricultural Council of California, say the bill will be a way to fix the longstanding problem of poor drinking water quality in many rural communities. Solving this problem would not only improve the quality of life in farming communities but could relieve pressure on the farming community and others with the potential to impact water quality. A key feature of SB 623 is the promise that state officials will not take enforcement action against farmers for violating water quality objectives simply because they use nitrogen fertilizers. However, farmers would still have to meet permit requirements for responsible farming, such as budgeting nutrients to ensure the correct amount of fertilizer is applied to crops. While the fate of SB 623 remains uncertain, a separate and perhaps lesser-known effort is also moving its way through the halls of California government. This effort is a package of amendments to the Water Quality Control Plans (Basin Plans) in the Central Valley of California. These proposed amendments are the product of a stakeholder-led initiative known as CV SALTS (www.cvsalinity.org), which includes representatives of agriculture, food processors, publicly-owned waste treatment plants, other industries, government agencies and environmental justice advocates. Encouraging local management zones Much like SB 623, the Basin Plan amendments proposed by CV SALTS would make it easier for farmers and other “dischargers” (people who use water and then release it back to the environment) to comply with their permits. Also like SB 623, this regulatory flexibility would come with a cost. One major component of CV SALTS’s recommendations is to create “management zones” in which residents would be assured access to safe and affordable drinking water. In turn, farmers, other businesses and local governments who “discharge” water would not face enforcement for exceeding water quality objectives related to salt and nitrates, so long as they participated in their management zone’s efforts. That would include providing financial support for clean drinking water, as well as continuing to comply with permit conditions to protect water quality. Unlike SB 623, CV SALTS’s recommendations do not include a specific cost at this point; it is likely they could vary significantly by region, depending on the extent of local water quality impacts. The CV SALTS recommendations are under review by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is scheduled to vote on the changes by early 2018. After that, the plan would still need to be approved by the State Water Resources Control Board and (for portions of the plan affecting surface waters) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Regardless of the fate of these specific efforts, it is clear the state is devoting an increasing amount of attention to finding solutions to the challenge of clean drinking water. Almond growers would be wise to make sure their voices are heard in the discussion. Learn more http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB623 https://www.cvsalinity.org/
Newsletter
Sep 15, 2017 // Government Affairs

Seeds for Bees: Improving Soil and Bee Health with Cover Crops

This guest column was prepared by Billy Synk, director of pollination programs for Project Apis m. (PAm) and manager of the ‘Seeds for Bees’ project. PAm is an organization at the interface of honey bees and pollinated crops. Every year, hungry hives are placed in orchards before the dawn of almond bloom. In growers’ experience, hives that forage on cover crops early (before bloom) are stronger in the second week of February, when almond bloom usually occurs. What’s more, cover crops planted in orchards provide bees with nutrients, allowing growers to boost their pollination potential. In addition to providing better bee health, cover crops improve soil health in the orchard. Orchards will have better water infiltration, earlier field access, reduced compaction and better nitrogen contribution if the right mix is used. All cover crops excel at increasing organic matter, an important, yet often overlooked, aspect of soil health. Organic matter holds 18-20 times its weight in water. In fact, a 1% increase of organic matter in soil can hold up to 19,000 gallons of water per acre! Here at Project Apis m. (PAm), understanding cover crop impact on orchards is part of our persistent tracking and funding of honey-bee-related research. Located at the nexus of two complimentary industries – almond production and pollination – PAm develops programs, such as Seeds for Bees, that fit the needs of both beekeepers and growers. Launched by our experts in 2013, Seeds for Bees is a free bee forage cover crop program that almond growers with orchards of all sizes use to take advantage of the many mentioned benefits of cover crops. Demand for Seeds for Bees has grown steadily. Last year, the program provided 6,200 acres of cover crops to California growers, up significantly from 2,100 acres the first year. Each grower may receive a set amount of seed via Seeds for Bees funding. However, many growers with large acreage will buy additional seed outside the program to supplement coverage of their entire orchard. Planting Cover Crops With the aim of ensuring an early bloom, the ideal time to plant PAm cover crops is by October 5, before the first winter rains. However, some orchards with late harvesting varieties may not be ready by then. Cover crops planted after October 5 will still germinate, though the hive-strengthening aspects will be diminished. Synchronizing cover crop bloom with the bees’ arrival is the best way to take full advantage of the Seeds for Bees program. There are three Seeds for Bees options from which to choose: PAm Mustard Mix is a mixture of Canola, ‘Bracco’ White Mustard, ‘Nemfix’ Mustard, Common Yellow Mustard and Daikon Radish. This mixture is great for adding organic matter and alleviating soil compaction in the orchard and requires the least amount of water among the three options. PAm Clover Mix is a mixture of six different species including Crimson Clover, ‘Hykon’ Rose Clover, Nitro Persian Clover, Frontier Balansa Clover, Berseem Clover and Annual Medic. Unlike the rapid fall growth of the Mustard Mix, this mix grows slowly over the winter. Clovers are nitrogen fixing plants, adding up to 84 lbs. N/acre. ‘Lana’ Woollypod Vetch is not a mixture, but a single species. Vetch, like clover, has nitrogen-fixation properties and should be planted early. The best method for planting is direct seeding with drill equipment. We recommend an orchard/compact drill, equipment sold by companies such as Schmeiser or Great Plains. If broadcast seeding is the only option, a fine seed bed is desirable, since most of the seeds are small, like alfalfa. Ideally, the soil should be disked, cultipacked with a ring roller, planted and rolled a second time. The cover crop can be mowed or disked any time after almond bloom. If reseeding is desired, leaving plants intact until June may be necessary, however, this date will vary depending on the planting date and local climate. Reseeding of the PAm Clover Mix and ‘Lana’ Woollypod Vetch is encouraged, but the PAm Mustard Mix can be aggressive and is not a good candidate for reseeding. Learn more Signing up for the program is easy. There are no applications and no questions asked about financial or crop history. Seed is provided on a first-come, first-served basis. By mid-September, half of the seeds available for free planting are committed, and by the end of October, seeds are usually gone. Almond growers can contact Billy Synk at Billy@projectapism.org to learn more and to enroll in the Seeds for Bees program, which starts in July each year. Additional information may be found at our website: https://www.projectapism.org/seeds-for-bees-home.html.
Newsletter
Sep 15, 2017 // Almond Bloom and Bees

Almond Leadership Grads Drive Industry to the Next Level

With harvest’s end on the horizon, 2017 Almond Leadership Program 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 also 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
Sep 11, 2017 // About the Almond Industry

House Committee Members Tour Orchard

The Almond Board of California arranged an orchard and facility tour for Representative Dwight Evans and several House Ag committee staff during their visit to Modesto for the recent 2018 Farm Bill Listening Session.   While Rep. Evans admitted he knew little about the almond industry, he also said that he loves to eat almonds. And while he has no farmers in his urban Philadelphia district, he said he has a lot of consumers who like to eat, adding that consumers need to have a better understanding of where food comes from and stating that ag needs to do a better job of telling its story.   Rep. Evans, along with Stacy Revels, Troy Philips and Keith Jones from the House Ag committee and Tracey Chow from Representative Jeff Denham’s office, spent the morning at Travaille and Phippen, located in the nearby town of Ripon, learning how almonds are produced, the way rootstock is selected and why so many varieties of almonds exist. They also expressed a deep interest in pollination and the yearly process that takes place when hives traveling from all across the United States meet in California Almond orchards in order to pollinate the crop. Rep. Evans was impressed by the fact that a majority of almond farms are multi-generational, family farms and by the industry’s embrace of new technologies to improve production, including efficient irrigation methods, sorting equipment and drones.   ABC would like to thank Kimi Phippen and Nick Gatzman for leading the tour and thank Kelly Covello of the Almond Alliance of California for joining the tour and addressing industry priorities.  
Newsletter
Sep 11, 2017 // Government Affairs

Water Resources Control Board Meeting

State Water Board officials briefed on broad scope of Almond Board water research initiatives From educating almond growers about water management and efficiency to helping develop sustainable water resources, Almond Board of California (ABC) is engaged in a broad array of research initiatives focused on maximizing “crop per drop.” That was the central message Almond Board staff delivered in a wide-ranging briefing for key staff of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in Sacramento.  “It was a great opportunity to talk to water board staff about the vast array of research ABC is conducting on many critical water resource issues,” explained Sustainability and Environmental Affairs Director Dr. Gabriele Ludwig. “Overall, they came away impressed by the financial commitment the almond community is making to researching these issues. They have a much better understanding of the complexity of growing almonds and how committed we are to finding answers based on the best available science.”  Conducting the briefing were Ludwig; Agricultural Affairs Director Bob Curtis; Irrigation and Water Efficiency Senior Manager Spencer Cooper and Environmental Affairs Senior Specialist Jesse Roseman.  Ludwig outlined how ABC’s Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM) research projects are designed to fulfill the vision of the almond orchard of the future while building on the fact that growers have used 33% less water per pound of almonds produced in the last 20 years.1 Curtis noted the benefits of hullsplit Strategic Deficit Irrigation (SDI) (aka Regulated Deficit Irrigation) in reducing water use by as much as 34% during hullsplit while reducing overall seasonal water use as much as 10-15%. However, he pointed out that not all growers can implement these methods as it requires access to water on demand, which most growers do not have, and also depends on careful monitoring of tree stress levels, which many growers are not in a position to do. Spencer Cooper detailed the workings of the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, a comprehensive manual of irrigation practices which has the goal of improving water use efficiency by moving growers along the continuum. The first year focused on distribution uniformity, how to calculate ET and basic system performance. The focus is “boots on the ground” with growers, irrigation services providers, UCCE farm advisers and specialists to build a basic understanding of on-farm water management using the tools available.  Cooper explained the irrigation continuum is being developed to accelerate the transition of growers to more efficient irrigation by use of scheduling and management practices with the goal of maximizing “crop per drop.” Data gathered from ABC’s California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) helps identify the key water use efficiency practices growers are using and how existing outreach programs may help growers achieve their goals. Other key AIM research initiatives are looking at how to develop sustainable water resources. Research is being conducted on how best to leverage almond orchards by increasing groundwater recharge in aquifers at select locations throughout the almond growing region. Also being explored are opportunities to recycle municipal waste water and other degraded water as a way of increasing overall water availability.    Having a continuing dialogue with SWRCB staff is vitally important for the California Almond community, noted Ludwig. “There is such a broad array of complex water issues that affect almond growers – the Irrigated Lands Program, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the Central Valley Salts program,” she said. “We hope to continue these type of briefings with other water stakeholders to let them know how dedicated the almond community is to continuous improvement in how we grow almonds productively, safely and in a way that is environmentally responsible.”   Having a continuing dialogue with SWRCB staff is vitally important for the California Almond community, noted Ludwig. “There is such a broad array of complex water issues that affect almond growers – the Irrigated Lands Program, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the Central Valley Salts program,” she said. “We hope to continue these type of briefings with other water stakeholders to let them know how dedicated the almond community is to continuous improvement in how we grow almonds productively, safely and in a way that is environmentally responsible.”   [1] University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14.  
Newsletter
Sep 11, 2017 // Environmental Sustainability
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