California walnut farmers should add one more item on your list of things to do before the end of the year – vote in the referendum to determine if the California Walnut Board should be continued.
Ballots are due December 31 and growers who produced walnuts in California from September 2020 through August 2021 are eligible to vote. Like all voters these days, walnut growers have disparate opinions. The pros and cons of the California Walnut Board (CWB) are no exception. Some believe the promotion and education programs of the Board are responsible for moving product from store shelves and have grown consumer demand for walnuts. Some disagree. I would encourage everyone to read an economic study conducted by Dr. Harry Kaiser of Cornell University that considers these and many other activities of the CWB. In its conclusion, this study found that without the investments made through the Walnut Board, grower returns would have been 18 cents per pound lower, which equates to $360 per ton.
I represent the Walnut Bargaining Association (WBA), a grower cooperative devoted to sharing market intelligence and recommending grower prices so our members are informed on whether or not they are getting a fair price from their handlers. As the Executive Director of the WBA, I see tremendous benefits when growers band together and we believe our program has also contributed to higher returns for California walnut farmers.
I don’t want to argue the merits of consumer advertising and promotion. Instead, I need to point out the many CWB activities in addition to advertising and promotion that may be even more valuable to walnut growers and to organizations like the WBA.
First of all, when it comes to grower profits, few things are more important than yield and cost per acre. Over the years, walnut yields in California have increased significantly. A great deal of this is attributed to improved varieties. Over 60 percent of California’s walnut crop is from the Chandler variety which was developed through the California Walnut Board’s breeding programs. Who will develop these improved varieties if the Walnut Board doesn’t exist?
Yields have also been increased through new growing practices that have improved planting density and efficiency. The work done to accomplish this came as a result of CWB’s extensive research program which has also provides growers with information on how to lower inputs and improve irrigation schemes. The Walnut Board has also been a leader in researching the healthy attributes of eating more walnuts.
Members of our Board at WBA work hard to ensure growers are getting the best returns possible. To do this we must have accurate information and data. The WBA relies heavily on crop estimates, statistics on bearing acreage and tree plantings and monthly reports on movement for inshell and meat pounds. This information is critical for growers to make planting and production decisions and has a big impact on the prices they receive. ALL of this data, and more, is provided by the Walnut Board. I can assure you this information would be difficult or impossible to attain were it not for the California Walnut Board.
Some growers may be surprised to know this same kind of information from the CWB was used to directly help support more than $400 per ton paid to walnut growers for damages they incurred as a result of tariff issues. CWB information is also used to secure government purchases for public feeding programs under Section 32 to help alleviate supply imbalances.
The decision to continue the California Walnut Board will be determined by growers. Often, the voices of those who are unhappy outweigh those who are complacent. Let’s not lose one of the most important tools walnut growers have at their disposal because you didn’t act to keep it. Please vote today. Additional details on the referendum can be found here. — By Jonathan Field, Executive Director, Walnut Bargaining Association