The California Walnut Board (CWB) is urging growers to participate in an referendum vote to amend its federal marketing order to conduct a credit-back program.
Specifically, it would allow the CWB to credit handlers for eligible market promotion activities of 70 cents per $1 of spend, up to a cap of available dollars based on prior year crop acquisitions, according to a news release.
Growers will receive a ballot by mail from the USDA and will vote Nov. 30-Dec. 11.
“This new authority is one of the many ways the CWB is modernizing the Marketing Order to work harder for our industry,” said William (Bill) Carriere, walnut grower, handler and CWB board member. “The program is designed to encourage handler investment to grow the walnut market through individual marketing activities which, along with the Board’s generic activities, are critical to future crop utilization through the development of new segments of business and new product development,” he went on to say.
This comes at a critical time, as walnut production is projected to deliver a heavy crop this season. “We know that the industry is going to have larger crops ahead of us with an estimated 75,000 non-bearing acres, therefore, we need every tool available to encourage current and future consumption,” said Donald Norene, walnut grower and Board member.
“The program’s development has been nearly two years in the making, with the rulemaking commencing following a unanimous vote of the board in September of 2019. We are grateful to our partners at USDA for their swift action, making this process as efficient as possible to help us get to this point,” said Jack Mariani, Vice-Chairperson for the CWB.
Program remains available to board
If approved by the growers, the authority remains in the order whether the industry uses it or not. The program and its budget ceiling would be determined annually by the board as part of its budget process. If approved, the new authority will come into effect in the current 2020/21 marketing year.
“The board, in undertaking this rulemaking action, is acting on its mission to increase global consumption by utilizing new approaches to grow demand,” stated Michelle McNeil Connelly, Executive Director, CWB. “The referendum poses an important question to the industry, and we encourage everyone to make their voice heard by casting their ballot.”
Ballots must be postmarked by Dec. 11. The referendum is being conducted by the USDA and all growers will have the opportunity to vote. Questions about voting or to obtain a ballot should be directed to Terry Vawter, Regional Director, CA Field Office, USDA, AMS, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Specialty Crops Program at (559) 978-8212.
There are approximately 4,500 growers and nearly 90 handlers in the production area, representing 99% of U.S. production of walnuts. Walnuts are a leading crop in CA with an industry value of $1.9 billion, ranking as the 11th largest export, contributing 85,000 jobs to the economy, directly and indirectly.
The California Walnut Board (CWB) was established in 1948 to represent the walnut growers and handlers of California. The CWB is funded by mandatory assessments of the handlers. The CWB is governed by a Federal Walnut Marketing Order. The CWB promotes usage of walnuts in the United States through publicity and educational programs. The CWB also provides funding for walnut production, food safety and post-harvest research.