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Seasonal updates for tree nuts, census sensibility

Grower optimism rises with springtime temperatures.

Logan Hawkes 1, Contributing Writer

May 1, 2019

6 Min Read
Walnut cluster

After a rocky start to the growing season in northern parts of the Golden State thanks to extreme February and March weather, the arrival of May brings a more comfortable routine and a degree of optimism to growers as the warm season finally settles in.

If you scoured through Western Farm Pressrecent report on the results of the latest Census of Agriculture for California, you may be wondering how spiraling input costs, fewer number of farms, lost agricultural production acres, and other related indicators of the problems we face is good cause for an optimistic outlook on the future in farming.

Undeniably, there are major concerns, and a fair chance that things could get worse before they get better. For instance, there are looming concerns over trade relations with some of our largest trading partners, including the ratification of the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement.

Farm labor remains a looming challenge as well and there is some growing concern about the development and stability of U.S. agricultural policy in the upcoming election year.

But while it may be true that not all things that glitter are gold, there are several positive developments in California’s agriculture sector that should be noted. The emphasis on sustainable agriculture and renewable energy on the farm and ranch rank higher in California than any other state. Concern and care for the environment is a growing trend in U.S. agriculture, but they appear stronger among West Coast growers who have embraced the concepts.

According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, in 2009 the first survey conducted by focusing on the contribution of America's farms and ranches in the production of renewable energy was established, expanding upon the energy question asked in the 2007 Census of Agriculture focusing on energy generated via wind turbines, solar panels and anaerobic digesters.

According to the latest census results, at 14,552 farms, California is the top state using renewable energy-producing systems in agriculture. Solar is the most common renewable energy producing choice on farms and ranches in the Golden State.

In case you missed it, the top commodities for California were fruits and nuts with $17.5 billion in farmgate value, vegetables with $8.2 billion, milk with 6.5 billion, cattle and calves with $3.1 billion, and horticulture with $2.9 billion. The state continues to produce more on fewer acres despite multiple years of serious drought issues.

California’s confusing water issue

The changing water environment in California is a critical issue and understanding what that means to you and your tree nut operation is important. Because of the confusion, the Almond Board of California is staging an upcoming “Navigating the Waters” event scheduled May 14 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare where the issue will be discussed and explained. The event begins at 9 a.m., registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Lunch will be provided; the event ends at 1:30 p.m.

Agricultural technology marketplace

Western Growers has announced they will officially launch an interactive directive soon to serve as a marketplace for new agricultural technology startups. Western Growers say the AgTech Innovation Directory will allow users to identify, research and connect with start-up companies who are developing technologies and innovations to solve the biggest issues facing agriculture. Take a look at the new directory and some of the companies working to move the industry forward.

Blue Diamond’s Call to Arms

Regardless your affiliation or where you process your agricultural products, Blue Diamond Growers (BDG) has long been known as a leader in supporting farm issues and active in promoting farm legislation and activities at local, state and federal levels that affect member and non-member growers.

The fight for effective political action is never-ending and the road is often marked by many obstacles that demand constant scrutiny and a great deal of sweat and tears to protect the rights and challenges facing farmers in a changing world.

Recently BDG initiated a comprehensive fight to secure mitigation funds for growers in light of problems associated with cumbersome trade tariffs. Other recent causes include labeling liabilities and the push against additional tax obligations for producers. But political action comes with a price tag, and members of BDG’s public affairs team have raised a flag of warning that mounting issues are beginning to tax available funds to sustain intense levels of pressure on state and federal legislators. Member producer-owners are being encouraged to watch for a Political Action Committee mailer that should be hitting your mailboxes in the days ahead, an appeal for a one-time donation of $50 that could go a long way in helping the Committee meet its political action goals for the year. You can shortcut the mailer by accessing the information here. Collectively, farmers can make a big difference in the fight for the best representation possible.

Help for strict emission standards

You are no doubt aware of the high cost of new emission standards and if you’re like most farmers, you understand the cost of regulations are burdensome in the least. Supporters of propane-driven irrigation systems claim that the costs of meeting new state emission standards can be offset by changing over to propane systems which they believe are more energy efficient.

Making the switch to propane comes with a price tag, but a new Propane Farm Incentive Program is offering up to $5,000 toward the purchase of new, high energy CARB-ready irrigation engines and equipment. It may be time to explore the possibilities.

Update from Walnut News

May is the time to continue monitoring of codling moth traps to determine flight activity and thresholds. Also, begin and continue monitoring aphid sampling now and throughout the spring and summer months. 

It’s also time to apply the first round of nitrogen now that the heavy rain season is wrapping up. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources farm advisors recommend dividing nitrogen into 3-4 treatments as irrigation can also reduce effectiveness and cause nitrate pollution in groundwater.

Across the Valley’s orchards

Concerning weeds, the high season is upon us. Regardless what you’re growing,  identify your weeds and take action sooner than later. Also remember, consider plant water stress before beginning any comprehensive irrigation program. It’s best to check stem water potential first and consider those soil moisture sensor readings.

Research indicates irrigation can often be delayed until the end of spring when temperatures ramp up in the orchard. Saving water and reducing pumping costs can not only offer an advantage, cool water moves additional oxygen into deep soil that can become a problem for root systems. Avoid excessive flooding in your orchard for best results.

Upcoming meetings

May 7 

OFAC Educational Seminar

Salinas Sports Complex in Salinas


May 8 

2019 Safety and Labor Summit

Ord Bend Community Hall, Glenn


May 8 

Nickels Soil Lab Annual Field Meeting

Nickel’s Soil Lab Estate in Arbuckle


May 8-9 

Grapevine Short Course

South Coast Winery, Temecula


May 9 Agricultural Investment Symposium 2019

Craig School of Business at Fresno State, Fresno


Here’s wishing you a productive month of May.

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

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