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Roundup: Summer heats up amid trade, pest pressures

News from the orchard and across the nut industry.

It’s hard to even mention tree nut news anymore without at least mentioning the latest updates on U.S. trade issues and developments. The problem, however, is that trade developments have been happening so rapidly lately that the latest news updates are generally not the most recent at all.

But it is worth mentioning that the consensus among West Coast farmers and their support groups, including nut growers, is that the deal reached between the White House and Mexico to avert a possible tariff on all Mexican goods entering the U.S. beginning this month appears to be a positive and well-received development.

It goes without saying that trade concerns run high and deep among U.S. agricultural producers and many are openly expressing their dissatisfaction over ongoing trade disputes.

Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif issued a statement last week noting the importance of avoiding a trade conflict with Mexico.

“We are pleased that this potential impediment to trade between our two countries has been avoided. Mexico represents one of the largest export markets for U.S. agricultural goods, and any tit-for-tat escalation of tariffs would be devastating for American farmers, in particular given the current barriers to access to Chinese markets,” he said.

Nassif also addressed the larger issue of the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

“As significant as this deal is in maintaining our regular flow of trade with Mexico, it is equally critical in clearing the pathway for passage and implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Like NAFTA before it, the USMCA maintains zero-tariff treatment for all produce, a provision that led to the tripling of U.S. exports to Mexico over the past 25 years. Additionally, the USMCA contains favorable terms that will advance science-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures and strengthen Mexico’s labor standards.”

Now farmers and ranchers in the U.S. are waiting to uncover the mystery of a one-page document President Trump pulled from his pocket recently to show reporters what he says outlines additional concessions Mexico’s government will take concerning trade issues in the days or weeks ahead. Speculators say he was probably alluding to the passage of the USMCA by Mexico’s legislative body, which is a step each of the three trading partners involved must take to ratify that new trade agreement.

Potential pest pressure

In other news, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Integrated Pest Management Advisor Jhalendra Rijal tweeted last week that he and others are conducting flathead boring emergence evaluations on walnut branches collected from the field. He noted that he has found adult flatheaded borers starting back as early as mid-May this year and is hoping to determine the extent and range of the problem through his field efforts.

In other pest news, the summer months are certainly a time for the appearance of ant colonies. While some ant species are considered to be beneficial in an almond orchard, David Haviland, Entomology Farm Advisor with UCCE in Kern County, reports there are ant species that can pose a threat once almond harvest arrives.

In southern reaches of California’s Central Valley region southern fire ants can be found, and pavement ants frequent northern regions of the Central Valley. Both species can be problematic in an almond orchard and deserve attention, Haviland says.

Treatment for these species are recommended to begin in May and into June using bait products. This allows the bait to become effective over six weeks or so to provide the best control when almonds are harvested beginning as early as August. He recommends consulting University of California Integrated Pest Management guidelines for appropriate identification, management, and control of troublesome ant species.

News out last week from UCCE Farm Advisor Franz Neiderholzer, namely that nonpareil kernel fill is progressing in the southern Sacramento Valley. Using Feb. 24 as full bloom date this year in the southern Sacramento Valley, hull split should happen around July 10. You can check out the UC Davis Almond Hull-Split Prediction Model for more information.

Niederholzer is also tweeting a heat advisory warning to orchard workers as temps continue to climb across parts of nut country. Already triple digit temperatures have been recorded and more are in the forecast.

Trade mission

To wrap up the news update we return to trade issues with a positive twist. Under Secretary Ted McKinney led U.S. exporters on a trade mission to Colombia earlier this month.

According to McKinney a large number of exporters expressed interest recently in not only Columbia but Panama as well as a fast-growing export destination for U.S. agricultural commodities and products.

“The record size of this trade mission delegation demonstrate the degree of U.S. exporter interest in these markets,” McKinney said in a USDA press release. “I’m thrilled that representatives from 54 agribusiness and associations and six state departments of agriculture (were) on board and ready to connect with potential customers from both Colombia and Panama.”

According to a press release from USDA, the United States entered into free trade agreements with both countries in 2012 and, since then, agricultural export growth has been robust.

 “Our food and farm exports to Colombia have nearly tripled, from $1.1 billion in 2012 to a record $2.9 billion in 2018. And while Panama’s a much smaller market, we’ve also seen our exports grow significantly, from $490 million in 2012 to $683 million last year,” McKinney said.

USDA continues to explore new markets for U.S. agricultural products in hopes of easing trade tensions that have developed with other countries.

For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.

TAGS: Trade
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