Industry News

FDA Provides Opportunity to Address FSMA Concerns

Sept. 12, 2017 – – As part of the implementation of President Trump’s Executive Order 13771 entitled, ‘‘Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,’’ and Executive Order 13777 entitled, ‘‘Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,’’ the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking comments and information from interested parties to help FDA identify existing regulations and related paperwork requirements that could be modified, repealed, or replaced, consistent with the law, to achieve meaningful burden reduction while allowing FDA to achieve their public health mission and fulfill statutory obligations.

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State Water Board Takes on ‘Waters of the State’ Rule

Sept. 12, 2017 – – As the result of federal efforts to revisit the “waters of the United States” rule, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) released its final draft on “State Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of Dredged or Fill Material to Waters of the State” (Procedures).

These new state Procedures consist of four major elements which include the following substantial changes that will impact agriculture and farming and ranching activities.
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FDA Issues Proposed Rule to Extend Ag Water Requirements

Sept. 12, 2017 – – The FDA today issued a proposed rule that, if finalized, would extend the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements by an additional two to four years (for produce other than sprouts).  The proposed extension will give the agency time to take another look at the water standards to ensure that they are feasible for farmers in all regions of the country, while protecting public health. The new agricultural water compliance date the FDA is proposing for the largest farms is January 26, 2022. Small farms and very small farms would have until January 26, 2023 and January 26, 2024, respectively. The proposed rule is open for public comment for 60 days.

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Building Relationships with Legislators 

Sept. 8, 2017 – – The California Almond Industry Political Action Committee (Almond  PAC) was created to make our voice heard through better government relations, legislative affairs  and regulatory engagement.

Almond PAC’s goals are to support our current friends and allies in the California legislature, identify promising candidates and develop new friends and allies that will be important to our industry. The Almond PAC is a very important tool the Almond Alliance uses to accomplish these goals.

Last week Almond Alliance President, Kelly Covello was in Sacramento and met with 20 legislators (listed below) to educate them about the almond industry and priority issues we are working on.

Senators: Bill Dodd, Bob Hertzberg, Jerry Hill, Ricardo Lara, Anthony Portantino and Richard Roth.

Assemblymembers: Joaquin Arambula, Catharine Baker, Raul Bocanegra, Autumn Burke, Anna Caballero, Jim Cooper, Cecilia Aguiar Curry, Todd Gloria, Tim Grayson, Jim Frazier, Cristina Garcia, Monique Limon, Bill Quirk and Blanca Rubio.

From left, Asm. Cecilia Aguiar Curry, Asm. Ash Kalra, Kelly Covello, Asm. Blanca Rubio






Cap and Trade Funding Proposal Released

Sept. 8, 2017 – – Last week Gov. Brown released his proposed $1.4 billion Cap and Trade Expenditure Plan which includes over $250 million in funding to help the agricultural community meet many of the state’s air quality and climate change mandates. The plan recognizes it is important to keep the state’s food producers and value-added food processors thriving as they face regulations and costs unique to California. These incentives will allow growers and food processors to get grants, loans, rebates and other trade-up opportunities for agricultural harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, ag pump engines, tractors and other ag equipment. There is specific funding for almond harvesters and large off road equipment as well as dairy digesters.

This funding will also provide huge steps forward in assisting dairy farmers throughout the state in their efforts to comply with SB 1383 (Chapter 395, 2016) with research and projects to reduce methane emissions and implement air pollution reduction plans.  The association will be working with a coalition of agricultural organizations to encourage the state legislature maintains the Governor’s funding plan plan before the session ends on Sept. 15.


Clean Water Bill Becomes a two-year bill

Sept. 8, 2017

Legislation that will create a “Clean Water Fund” by assessing retail water users and fertilizers has been moved to the Rules Committee and made a 2-year bill.  Even with the fees, some in ag supported the legislation because it would provide clean drinking water to many of the communities we serve as well as provide enforcement protection from the State Water Board against farmers adding nitrogen to lands overlying nitrate heavy aquifers.

SB 623 is a bi-partisan effort to help provide safe and reliable drinking water to residents in disadvantaged communities throughout California. Specifically SB 623 aims to do two things:

  • Raises $140 million annually to clean-up contaminated water sources in hundreds of disadvantaged communities – many of which are in the Central Valley.  $30 million from a fertilizer assessment, dairy and livestock fees, and $110 million from a fee on retail water hookups.
  • Assist over 300 small water systems upgrade their water facilities to provide safe and reliable drinking water for their residents. Over 100 of these small water systems serve disadvantaged residents.


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Almond Alliance Supports Steve Censky as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture

Aug. 10, 2017

Almond Alliance welcomes the President’s nomination of Stephen Censky to be Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As part of the U.S. Food and Agriculture Dialogue for Trade (Coalition), Almond Alliance encourages the Senate to expedite confirmation of his candidacy.

The Coalition sees Mr. Censky as “uniquely qualified”. He’s dedicated his career to further advancing our sector, strengthening food and agricultural policies to the benefit of all Americans, and ensuring our industries’ access to the global economy. His longstanding leadership in removing trade barriers, negotiating market access openings in foreign markets and resolving complex trade matters affecting agricultural and food interests will be instrumental in growing our sector and creating American jobs. He is dedicated to ensuring a fair and level playing field for the food and agricultural sector and American workers.

Mr. Censky was previously the CEO of the American Soybean Association and Administration of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Letter of Support

Almond Tour Educates Congress on Industry Issues

Aug. 22, 2017 – –Pennsylvania Congressman Dwight Evans, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, was a long way from Philadelphia on Aug. 4 as he toured Travaille & Phippen’s orchards and facilities in rural San Joaquin County but the more he learned, the more he wanted to know about California’s dynamic almond industry.

Almond Alliance President Kelly Covello participated in the tour and said Rep. Evans was “frank about his lack of knowledge about the almond industry but he expressed a desire to learn as much as he could. His district does not contain any farms but he understands the connection between the food on his plate and agriculture. He encouraged the almond industry and agriculture in general to enhance our efforts to tell our story to consumers so they better understand where their food comes from, the technology used, and the industry’s sustainable practices.”

Nick Gatzman of Travaille & Phippen provides tour to Pennsylvania Congressman Dwight Evans, a member of the House Agriculture Committee

Rep. Evans was part of a House Agriculture Committee panel that conducted a Farm Bill listening session in Modesto on Aug. 5. Prior to the listening session, Rep. Evans and several committee staff were taken on a tour, arranged by the Almond Board of California, of the Travaille & Phippen operation in Manteca. Tour participants included Covello, Bunnie Ibrahim and Julie Adams of the Almond Board, Ag Committee staff members Stacy Revels, Troy Phillips and Keith Jones, and Tracey Chow of Rep. Jeff Denham’s staff. The tour was led by Kimi Phippen and Nick Gatzman.


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Alliance expresses support for Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure

 Aug. 10, 2017


Almond Alliance was one of 200 organizations who represent rural communities, U.S. agricultural producers, rural businesses and rural families that comprise the Rebuild Rural Coalition, that signed on to a letter of support of the Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure (Council). The letter urges the President to include representatives in the Council who have experience and expertise in rural infrastructure.

As part of the Rebuild Rural Coalition, Almond Alliance strongly suggest that it is, “imperative that this Council study and make recommendations regarding the appropriate level of federal and private-sector investment in infrastructure projects impacting both urban and rural America […]”

POTUS Letter


Almond Alliance offers Farm Bill comments at Modesto listening session

Aug. 10, 2017

The most recent Farm Bill Listening Session was hosted at the Modesto Junior College Ag Pavilion on Saturday, Aug. 5.  The House Committee on Agriculture members for the listening session included Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11), Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-10), Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-1), and Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-2). Congressman David Valadao (CA-21) who is Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies under the House Committee on Appropriations was also in attendance.

This hearing was held so that members of the agricultural community could provide input on the priorities to consider as the committee drafts the language of the 2018 Farm Bill. A reoccurring concern was to increase funding for the Market Access Program (MAP).

Almond Alliance member Dave Phippen, with Travaille and Phippen Inc., also provided comments highlighting the importance for programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The almond industry has used EQIP funds to upgrade ag motors to help the San Joaquin Valley comply with Federal air quality standards.  EQIP is historically underfunded and always over-subscribed.

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Making Water Conservation a Way of Life Legislation Heard in State Senate

July 25, 2017

All of the long-term conservation bills (conservation as a way of life) AB 1667, AB 1668, AB 1654 and AB 1323 were the subject of a special order of business in Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on July 11. All (except AB 1667) of the bills were stripped of substantive provisions and passed out of committee to Appropriations to be used at a later date for the long term conservation issue if consensus can be reached.

AB 1667 was held in Committee. While negotiations with the ag industry had resulted in a compromise bill, the author put the Governor’s original language and all the urban conservation language in the bill prior to committee. It resulted in the bill being held.

Any of the other three could be used for long-term conservation including the possible use of a budget trailer bill.  It is expected that each of the remaining three bills will move out of Appropriations for possible use as a water conservation vehicle at a future date.  It is likely that significant negotiations will probably begin sometime during summer break (on July 21 t o Aug.  21).   Most of the provisions would affect retailers not wholesalers (except some reporting requirements).


Cap and Trade extension passed by Legislature

July 25, 2017

The California Legislature remained in Sacramento prior to summer break for an extra week this year and they made the most of it.  The Governor worked a bipartisan deal on Cap and Trade.  The three bill package was hailed as world leading.  AB 398, California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 and market-based compliance mechanisms passed out of the Senate on a 28 to 12 vote, Senator Berryhill (R) voted yes. The bill was then sent back to the Assembly for a final vote, where it passed 55 to 21.

Last year, SB 32 was enacted, extending California’s Global Warming Solutions Act requiring 40% reductions of carbon emissions below 1990 levels by 2030. It is important to note that SB 32 extended ARB’s authority to use command and control mechanisms to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the future, with little consideration given to the costs of that measure to California’s citizens, consumers and economy. SB 32 was opposed by the agriculture industry and the larger job creation community in California because it did not attempt to balance its mandate with its economic impacts.

AB 398 finds this balance by creating a market-based mechanism that allows food processors, regulated under SB 32, to meet their compliance obligations for reducing GHGs in a cost effective manner.

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Bill with Water Use Fee Raises Concerns

July 17, 2017

Water quality, especially in economically disadvantaged communities, has been a significant issue for several years, exaggerated by the recent drought.  The State Water Resources Control Board and their enforcement division has identified nitrate contamination in groundwater as a priority issue.  For many urban water districts other issues such as perchlorate, arsenic, chrome 6 and other pollutants are also impacting water quality and the district’s ability to meet drinking water standards.  The biggest issue for retail water users is compliance with contaminant levels. SB 623 (Monning) is intended to provide funding to address all water quality issues.  It is currently a vehicle for a few specific issues including:
•    Funding for water quality clean up, providing funds for operations and maintenance of facilities required to provide replacement water, and groundwater clean up.
•    They are discussing a general water fee per water hook up on urban retail water users and specific fees on entities such as agriculture.
•    Liability protection for nitrate users in ag.

The draft proposed language for SB 623 (Monning) includes a retail water fee to raise $110 million to address water quality issues.  There would be a second fee on ag to raise $30 million more dollars.  Details have not been released but a standardized fee using the existing fertilizer mill assessment is one option gaining momentum.  Several in the agriculture community have been working diligently to obtain the liability protections from enforcement in exchange for the ongoing fee.  The association has been working on the proposal, emphasizing regional solutions focused on the areas with the contamination problems and focused payments.


Supporting Federal FY18 Diesel Emissions Reduction Act

July 17, 2017

Almond Alliance signed onto the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) letters to help generate a strong list of 45 supporters for increasing the FY18 DERA appropriation to $100 million (from the current $60 million). These letters were sent on June 30, 2017, to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Interior Appropriations subcommittees in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

DERA is a voluntary program that provides funding to incentivize equipment and vehicle owners to install retrofit technologies on existing heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines, or replace engines and equipment, reducing emissions by as much as 90 percent. DERA has enjoyed overwhelming bi-partisan support in the past and we are hopeful of such support this year as well. Since implementation, DERA has become one of the most cost-effective federal clean air programs. This program effectively cleans our air, protects human health, and creates jobs using American technology.

Click on Interior Appropriation to view the letter.

Interior Appropriations

Coalition Letter Sent to DPR Regarding Chlorpyrifos

July 17, 2017

Almond Alliance, along with many allied associations, joined together  to reiterate the importance of Chlorpyrifos (Lorsban) as DPR moves to finalize its Risk Characterization Document on chlorpyrifos and makes decisions on any additional restrictions on use. The coalition reinforced the importance of the continued and practical availability of this critical tool. The Coalition sent the letter of concern to DPR Director Leahy on July 6, 2017. The letter  urges DPR to review “sound science” before approving unjust restriction on California farmers. The Coalition stands ready to work with DPR.

Click on “Coalition Letter” to view the submitted letter.


Coalition Letter to DPR

Bills Move Through Second House Committees

June 30, 2017


This week there were several key bills heard by committees in each legislative chamber.  All bills must be passed out of the second house policy Committees before July 14th.  Click the link below for a summary of some key bills and outcomes.

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Second Annual Fresno PAC Fundraiser a Big Success

June 30, 2017

The California Almond Industry Political Action Committee (Almond PAC) successfully hosted on June 29 the 2nd Annual Fresno Fundraiser!  Almond Alliance sincerely thanks all of our sponsors for their generous support. Contribution to the Almond PAC allows the industry to build relationships with the legislature and gain further influence in Sacramento.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, Todd Winslow, Assemblyman Devon Mathis, Dick Cunningham, Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, Bob Hansen, Guy Newman.

During the event, Almond Alliance provided our members and contributors with an update on issues we are working on for the industry. Additionally, the Almond Alliance extends our greatest appreciation to the elected officials for their continued support and attendance at the event:  Assembly Members Devon Mathis, Frank Bigelow and Jim Patterson.


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Washington DC trip helps build relationships

June 23, 2017

The beginning of summer brings not only a warmer climate, but the annual trip to Washington, DC by a small group of California Almond industry members, along with Almond Alliance of California (the Alliance) and Almond Board of California (ABC) staff.

Almond industry leaders meet with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in his office.

The annual fly-in marks a week of hectic activity as we meet with multiple Federal agencies and multiple Congressional members and/or their staffs.  Our group included Holly King, Triple Crown Holdings, LP; Martin Pohl, Hughson Nut, Inc.; Kent Stenderup, Stenderup Ag Partners, Micah Zeff, Montpelier Nut Company; Julie Adams, Gabriele Ludwig, and Richard Waycott, ABC staff; and Kelly Covello, the Almond Alliance.

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Harvest and Pruning Essentials workshop set for July 6 at Stanislaus Farm Bureau

June 23, 2017

Stanislaus County Farm Bureau (SCFB) and Ag Safe are partnering to offer farmers and farm workers several Spanish language safety-training courses this summer at the SCFB office (1201 L Street, Modesto). There will be no cost to Farm Bureau members (non-member cost is $50).

Nut Safety School – Harvest and Pruning Essentials
Thursday July 6th   8 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Please call the SCFB office at (209) 522-7278 to reserve your seat today, as space is limited to 35 people per class.


California Lawmakers Pass Budget

June 16, 2017

Late Thursday afternoon the California Legislature passed their budget with votes to spare.  The bills were passed a few hours prior to the state’s budget approval deadline with a $183.2 billion package that raises school funding, expands a tax credit for the working poor and gives the Capitol a greater say over University of California finances. Total general fund spending is approximately $125 billion.  The main budget bill passed the Senate 28-10 and the Assembly 59-20 several hours later.
Thursday’s votes come nearly a week after the Legislatures Conference Committee forwarded a plan reflecting agreement with the Brown administration on a range of issues. A final pact followed over the weekend when lawmakers and Brown came to terms on how to spend revenue from a 2016 ballot measure that raised tobacco taxes.  Republican lawmakers repeated long-standing complaints that trailer bills addressed significant policy issues not related to the budget.

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Legislature Passes Complete Overhaul of Tax Agencies

June 16, 2017

The legislature passed a complete overhaul of the tax collection, regulatory and adjudicatory process for tax collection in California. The bill was included in a package that accompanied the budget and the proposal had just 72 hours of review. The Governor is likely to sign the new law. The legislation leaves the State Board of Equalization with only the duties assigned to it under the California Constitution as of July 1. Those duties mainly involve oversight of county property tax assessors and assessment of utility company property.

All other functions related to administration of sales and use tax or special taxes and fees would be shifted to a new California Department of Tax and Fee Administration. Separately, administrative law judges in a new Office of Tax Appeals would resolve appeals from taxpayers who challenge assessments of income tax, sales tax, or special taxes and fees.

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Almond Alliance Provides Comments on Modernizing NAFTA

June 16, 2017

The NAFTA agreement continues to play a crucial role in the success of the California Almond industry. Since NAFTA was established in 1993, the total value of U.S. almonds exported to Canada and Mexico has increased by over 650 percent. Taken individually, exports of almonds to Canada have increased from approximately $40 million in 1993 to $267 million in 2016, while exports to Mexico have increased from $6 million in 1993 to almost $80 million in 2016. The foundation for this robust growth in almond exports has been the tariff-free access to Canada and Mexico afforded by NAFTA.

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Almond Alliance Applauds ILWU and PMA for Early Contract Discussions

June 16, 2017

The Almond Alliance joined 119 other organizations representing manufacturers, farmers and agribusinesses, wholesalers, retailers, importers, exporters, distributors, transportation and logistics providers, and other supply chain stakeholders in applauding the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) for agreeing to early discussions on a contract extension. We are especially pleased that early discussions have resulted in a three-year contract extension offer, and we hope ILWU members will give the proposed offer their support when they consider it later this summer.

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Almond Alliance Opposes Declining Facility Cap and Indirect Source Regulations

June 16, 2017

The Almond Alliance joined the freight industry and a variety of other stakeholders across the US in opposing the development of indirect source regulations (ISRs) targeting ports, railyards, and warehouse/distribution centers, and any other ISR-based freight facility target measures or volume caps. Adoption of ISRs and similar measures will limit investment in California’s transportation infrastructure, kill jobs, and hurt the competitiveness of California’s freight system. These types of measures will ultimately yield increased vehicle miles traveled, greater overall emissions (especially greenhouse gases), decreased freight system efficiency, and ultimately delay the development and deployment of advanced technologies. Our freight transportation system is responsible for one-third of the state’s economy and jobs, and the goods movement industry which supports this complex system is united in opposition to these draconian measures.

View opposition letter and fact sheet

Two Polls Promote Intrigue in California Politics

June 9, 2017

While national news focuses on the Russian probe and international political news highlights the recent elections in UK and France, two new polls begin to shine a light on the mood of Californians and make the 2018 election intriguing.

One poll focused on the Governor’s race. A new poll of likely statewide voters suggests the upcoming contest to replace Gov. Jerry Brown could be a competitive one. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to lead the race for California governor. However, he’s now joined at the top of the list by fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa. The former mayor of Los Angeles has pulled to within 5 percentage points of Newsom, 22 percent to 17 percent, according to the survey from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. The institute’s March poll had Newsom at 28 percent and Villaraigosa at 11 percent, even though the contest has remained low-profile.

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California Budget Negotiations Wind Down

June 9, 2017

Members of the budget conference committee and staff will be working through the weekend to finalize a budget that will need to be in print by June 12th to be passed by both houses of the legislature by June 15th, the Constitutional deadline.  The budget has much status quo from last year but a few issues important to agriculture have been included in the conference committee and are looking positive for the final budget.

California Department of Food and Agriculture has Budget Change Proposals providing additional funding and staffing to implement laws passed by the legislature including:

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Almond Alliance participates in FDA Tour of Tree Nut Operations

June 2, 2017

The Almond Alliance recently participated in a tour coordinated by the Western Center for Food Safety, to highlight challenges of the Food Safety Modernization Act rules. In particular, the Produce Safety Rule that growers and some almond huller/shellers will be subject to.

Included on the tour, from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) were Dr. Mickey Parish, Senior Science Advisor and Dr. Samir Assar, Director of the Division of Produce Safety. Dr. Assar has overseen the development of Produce Safety rule, is currently working with his team on compliance guidance and are revisiting the agricultural water testing requirements under the Produce Safety rule. This was Dr. Assar’s first time visiting both almond operations and walnut operations.

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Key Ag Bills get First House Review

June 2, 2017

Today is the deadline for bills to pass out of the first house. Several key bills in which the Almond Alliance engaged in met various fates. Specifically:

· SB 602 (Allen) Neonicotinoids labeling failed passage and was held on the Senate floor.

· AB 1274 (O’Donnell) Reforms smog check and funds Carl Moyer air quality program popular with ag and business. In a last minute push, the association took the lead for an ag and business coalition and pushed the bill over the line for a successful 2/3 vote in the Assembly.

· AB 1163 (Irwin) Funding for CA Grown – the appropriation was reduced from $3 million to $1 million, but it passed off the Assembly floor and moves onto the Senate and there is pressure to include this in the budget.

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U.S. agricultural exports accounted for more than 33 percent of gross farm income in 2016 and supported 1 in 10 jobs.

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