While the government compelled urban residents to let their lawns die and cut back on showers last summer, California almond growers prevailed upon the same government to subsidize the planting of millions of new trees, all of which needed water. and will need more as they grow. This led to the phenomenon, especially apparent here in Merced in the heart of the state almond deal, of dusty brown towns and lush green orchards in the country, irrigated with new, deeper wells causing more over-drafting and land subsidence while municipal wells in some towns dried up.
In 2014, the amount of almond exports dropped to 67 percent. Ordinary people, i.e. those who are not passing from cradle to grave with only one source of information, the federal annex of agribusiness, the USDA, ask: And how much money did we pay for those millions of trees, plus the costs of transportation, planting and irrigating? Why is the almond nut so necessary to the national diet that we need to subsidize the export of two-thirds of the crop? Is there something so sterling in the characters of almond growers, something so essentially American and virtuous, that we should support their prosperity at the cost of our own? Do we really want to add the nut to the Holy Duo of the subsidized and export-led cotton and rice industries? --blj 11-25-15 Sierra Sun-Times California Almond Growers Review Eventful Season Christine Souza http://goldrushcam.com/sierrasuntimes/index.php/news/local-news/5374-cal... - The success of the California almond business put almond growers and marketers at the center of the drought debate this year—a subject addressed as members of the state's largest almond marketer gathered for their annual meeting in Modesto.
"The historic drought has brought new challenges of water insecurity, unpredictable consequences to intermediate production and supply, as well as unprecedented media attacks," Blue Diamond Growers Chairman of the Board Dan Cummings said.
Addressing an estimated 1,200 people at the cooperative's 105th annual meeting last week, Cummings said he believes California "needs to manage its water better, and stakeholders traditionally at odds over the water allocation need to work together to develop a long-term water strategy."
Blue Diamond President and CEO Mark Jansen said the almond sector became a target in both traditional and social media over its perceived water usage.
"In year four of the drought, many of us believed that the almond industry was under attack. Talk show hosts, bloggers, newspapers were all looking for a villain—and for a while, almonds were that scapegoat," Jansen said.
Reporting eventually became "more balanced," he said, following what he called a "concerted effort" by Blue Diamond, the Almond Board of California and others in agriculture.
"California is the best place to grow almonds," Jansen said, thanks to its unique, hot and dry Mediterranean climate, adding that the state's growers are 10 times more productive, efficient and sustainable than their counterparts in Spain, the world's second-largest almond-growing region.
Cummings, who grows almonds near Chico, reported that Blue Diamond had achieved a new high of more than $1.6 billion in sales during its most-recent fiscal year, while marketing almonds and products to more than 90 countries around the world.
"Worldwide demand remains strong," he said, "maintaining our historic returns."
Jansen noted that the cooperative saw its revenues grow by $200 million, even in a short crop year, by focusing on sales of value-added products.
"Blue Diamond is the unusual food company that is averaging 20 percent growth," Jansen said. "We are really getting near our revenue goal of $2 billion and more importantly, we remain very optimistic on the future growth prospects of almonds."
The cooperative's leaders also cited its efforts to develop new products and its investments in new processing facilities as key factors in its results.
"With our Almond Innovation Center creating an unending stream of new almond products, Blue Diamond is in fact the industry leader in developing new products, new markets and expanding the use of almonds," Cummings said.
At some point the drought will end, almond supplies will grow and prices will fall, he said, and when that happens, "Blue Diamond will be ready to seize the opportunity with innovative, new products, expansion into new markets and smart, highly visible promotional programs."
In recent years, the cooperative has focused on expanding its Blue Diamond brand of products such as its nondairy beverage Almond Breeze, crackers and new flavored snack almonds; Sriracha-flavored almonds were added this year. It has also worked to export those products to buyers in additional countries.
"International retail is our most rapidly growing business," Jansen said.
During the past five years, Blue Diamond said it has begun projects and upgrades to expand total capacity and develop new value-added almond products. The company completed the first phase of construction of a new manufacturing and processing plant in Turlock in 2013, and plans additional expansion during the next few years.
Last week, the company's Salida facility unveiled a new warehouse designed specifically for nonpareil almonds.
Hosting a bus tour of the warehouse, Blue Diamond maintenance supervisor Eric Tualla said it features an automated design with sloped floors, which allows almonds to move into the plant "so that no man will touch the product"—a design intended to promote food safety. The new warehouse has a 60 million-pound capacity.
Jason Costa, main production line manager at the Salida plant, noted that upgrades and new and gentler equipment in the main production line have resulted in less almond breakage. Total capacity for the Salida plant is 240 million pounds.
Almond grower Chris Morgner of Chowchilla took a virtual-reality tour, donning a headset that allowed him to see how almonds flow into the plant.
"It was pretty realistic and it is a nice way to get a look inside the new warehouse," Morgner said.
Grower Sonny Johns of Modesto, who attended the meeting with his son Clayton, said he was happy to see that the cooperative is growing for the future.
"It's exciting to see it grow. It's very exciting to be part of Blue Diamond," Johns said.
California farmers account for approximately 83 percent of the world's almond production. Bearing acreage has increased to 890,000 acres. Government estimates put the total California almond crop at 1.8 billion pounds, down 4 percent from the previous year.
(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at email@example.com.)
Reprinted with permission: California Farm Bureau Federation
San Francisco Chronicle
Californians miss water savings target for first time
California’s water savings slipped in October as cities and towns failed to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s 25 percent conservation target for the first time since reductions became mandatory in June, according to state water data released Tuesday...
Daily Caller News Foundation
USDA subsidizes advertising for almonds, wine tours in California and organic pet shampoo
...Blue Diamond Growers, for example, has seen $3.3 billion in reported sales over the last five years. And Blue Diamond’s website claims that the company’s almond products brand, available in 93 percent of American grocery stores, is the most dominant in the United States. Even though its annual sales are three times larger than MAP’s entire annual budget, Blue Diamond Growers has received $28.2 million from taxpayers since 1999 to fund overseas marketing of its almonds.
11-3-15 California Department of Food and Agriculture 2015 California Almond Nursery Sales Report http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Fru... ...There were at least 12.23 million almond trees sold by California nurseries since June 1, 2014. Based on the Almond Acreage Survey, plantings from 2010 to 2015 were used to calculate an average trees per acre of 128. This results in almost 96,000 acres of almonds planted since June 2014. Nearly 33,000 of these acres were Nonpareils. Almost 75 percent of the total trees sold (72,000 acres) are new almond orchard acres and over 19 percent (18,000 acres) replace existing almond orchards. The remaining trees sold replaced trees in already existing almond orchards.
Almond Board of California 2014 Almond Almanac, p.8 http://www.almonds.com/sites/default/files/content/attachments/2014_alma...
Agricultural and Resources Update University of California The 2014 Farm Bill, Commodity Subsidies, and California Agriculture Hyunok Lee and Daniel A. Sumner http://giannini.ucop.edu/media/are-update/files/issues/V17N4_1.pdf
US Department of Agriculture
Disaster Assistance http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=DISASTER_ASSISTANCE
Drought News ·
USDA Provides Aid to 73,000 Rural Californians Impacted by Drought (USDA Press Release 7/18/14) ·
USDA Provides 12-Week Progress Update on Disaster Assistance (USDA Press Release 7/9/14) ·
Reclamation in Partnership with Natural Resources Conservation Service Announces $6.3 Million to Fund Projects for Improved Agricultural Water Use Efficiencies in Drought-Stricken California (Natural Resources Conservation Service Press Release 5/6/14) ·
USDA Continues to Support Oregon's Upper Klamath Basin, Helps Landowners Conserve Water(Natural Resources Conservation Service Press Release 5/2/14)
US Forest Service Proposes New Management Practices for Stewardship of Water Resources(Forest Service Press Release 5/2/14) ·
Cost of Fighting Wildfires in 2014 Projected to be Hundreds of Millions of Dollars over Amount Available (Forest Service Press Release 5/1/14) ·
USDA Designates 240 Counties in Texas as Primary Natural Disaster Areas with Assistance to Producers in Surrounding Area (Farm Service Agency Press Release 4/23/14) ·
Sign-Up Begins Today for USDA Disaster Assistance Programs Restored by Farm Bill (USDA Press Release 4/15/14) · Obama Administration Announces Additional Assistance to Californians Impacted by Drought(USDA Press Release 2/14/14) ·
USDA's Emergency Conservation Program Approved for Drought Assistance in Multiple California Counties (Farm Service Agency Press Release 2/5/14 - PDF, 86KB) ·
Federal Agencies and State of California Coordinating Response to Drought (U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation Press Release 2/5/14) ·
USDA Launches Effort to Assist California Producers Affected by Drought (USDA Press Release 2/4/14) ·
Obama Administration's National Drought Resilience Partnership to Help Communities Prepare for Drought (USDA Press Release 11/15/13) Fact Sheets ·
Farm Service Agency Livestock Forage Disaster Program (PDF, 240KB) ·
Food and Nutrition Service Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in California (PDF, 75KB) ·
Food and Nutrition Service Summer Food Service Program in California (PDF, 73KB) ·
Risk Management Agency Drought Fact Sheets · Rural Development Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants (ECWAG) (PDF, 46KB)