What a year 2020 was, and not for the reasons we've been bombarded with.
There is much to be said about and thankful over being an ag reporter. To me it is as much a way of life as being a farmer, minus the capital investment.
During the year I continued to follow up on the navel orangeworm and efforts to control the moth that has garnered understandable attention by almond and pistachio growers in California. It's said not to be an issue in Arizona pistachios, but that could change over time.
In 2020 we covered the career of a respected University of California entomologist who retired mid-year after decades of work. Beth Grafton-Cardwell became the citrus industry's go-to expert on all things Asian citrus psyllid. Her career was rightly lauded by the California Citrus Research Board and industry at what would be the last live industry event I'd attend in 2020. My interview with her was changed from in-person to a phone-in event on the day California was formally locked down "to flatten the curve."
The much-anticipated Trends report by the California chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers revealed that as farmland values were largely unchanged in 2019, absent the typical unfettered rise in vineyard values in Napa and Sonoma.
What came out of that report was an inkling that land values in 2019 were finally starting to recognize the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act gorilla in the room. We'll watch in the coming years how that plays out as the deadline for the first series of groundwater sustainability plan reports came last year at this time.
We also saw how climate change may be helping some California farmers capitalize on premium coffee as several growers are trying their hand at a world commodity grown predominantly in the tropics. With proper marketing and the kind of agronomic success California farmers practice, producing premium coffee from coastal California regions could be lucrative.
Then there was the announced promise by a table olive processor to provide one million olive trees to growers willing to adopt modern, mechanical harvesting and cultural practices to revitalize an American industry once wrought with unfair trade challenges. Musco Family Olive Company is leading the charge to promote industry growth that will give farmers a profitable option that does not include tree nuts.
Arizona saw its share of attention after the 2020 High Cotton Award was presented to Casa Grande cotton farmer Greg Wuertz. The popularity of pistachios was highlighted as Arizona Nut Company in the southeast corner of the state commenced with a positive harvest season on a year that saw U.S. growers yield their first-ever billion-pound crop.
Arizona wine grape farmer and wine producer Rod Keeling shared with us how he carves his niche near where Native American Chief Cochise held off the U.S. Army for a while in the 19th Century.