Category Archives: Agricultural News


Western Farm Press. 15 February 2016.  U.S. and Chinese officials appear to have reached an agreement on a phytosanitary protocol for the shipment of American-grown milled rice into Chinese ports, according to a statement by the USA Rice Federation.

Most trade exports believe China has been importing more rice than it reports with most of the foreign-grown rice coming from Cambodia, Thailand and other countries along its southern border, but none from the U.S.

“The challenge now is to move from agreement to shipments,” said USA Rice Federation CEO Betsy Ward, who, in the past, has described the long-running negotiations as “complex,” and involving issues that seemed to have little to do with actual pest issues faced by rice producers in the U.S.

“This extraordinary agreement has been a long time coming, and I commend the U.S. negotiators and USA Rice for sticking to it and getting us a phytosanitary protocol that while more complicated and detailed than any other rice protocol in the world, is something both industries appear able to make work,” said Dow Brantley, USA Rice chairman.  read more


Growing Produce. 8 January 2016.  International trade is a major factor in the American agricultural economy. A key player is China. In fact China’s impact on slowing growth on trade and agriculture is a session topic during the 2016 USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Over the last two decades, China’s economic prosperity and increased consumer demand for food has significantly contributed to the record growth in U.S. agricultural exports. From fiscal year (FY) 2000 to FY 2015, the value of U.S. agricultural and related exports to China rose from $1.7 to $25.9 billion. Currently, nearly 17% of all U.S. agricultural exports are destined for the Chinese market. These export figures highlight the critical importance of the U.S.-China trade relationship for U.S. agriculture and underscores the U.S. interest in China’s ability to maintain a strong and stable economy.Several U.S. agricultural sectors have capitalized on the market opportunities created from China’s economic growth. Traditionally U.S. exports to the country were dominated by land-intensive bulk commodities that were processed for domestic consumption or re-exported. Recent increases in Chinese consumer purchasing power and improved standards of living have generated new demand for luxury items and ready-to-eat foods.

Looking forward, many of the macroeconomic conditions traditionally signaling long-term growth and trade expansion readily exist in China. An increasingly urban population, a burgeoning middle class, and higher disposable incomes have increased Chinese consumers’ ability to diversify diets and purchase high-value, protein-rich foods. Additionally, growth in China’s food consumption is forecast to outpace its domestic agricultural production by more than 2% per year between 2015 and 2020, resulting in an increased demand for food imports (IHS Global Insight).

U.S. trade with China has been rewarding; however, China’s economic slowdown, subsequent reforms, and recent decline in U.S. exports to China have raised legitimate concerns among agricultural stakeholders about the potential impact to U.S. exports in the near and distant future. China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is projected to drop to 6.1% in 2016, their lowest level since 1990. Moreover, China is pursuing a variety of economic and regulatory policies that promote agricultural self-sufficiency and protect domestic industries. Finally, whether directly or indirectly triggered by the recent economic slowdowns in China, a majority of U.S. agricultural exporters have experienced severe decreases in sales to the region over the last year. Total FY 2015 U.S. farm exports to China are down approximately $4 billion or 13% from the previous fiscal year and are projected to drop even more in FY 2016. Collectively, these events have created uncertainty within the global agricultural marketplace and have caused broad speculation on the future of U.S. trade with China.


Sacramento Bee. 6 January 2015.  Wavering economies among key California trading partners in the last half of 2015 landed with a thud in the Golden State in November.

The value of California’s merchandise exports in November was $12.86 billion, down 13.6 percent from $14.89 billion in November 2014 and the worst November showing since 2009, according to Beacon Economics.

Beacon, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, on Wednesday broke down California’s export totals from U.S. Commerce Department figures.

“Buyers abroad are pinching their pesos, loonies, yuan, yen and euros, assuming they have any,” said Jock O’Connell, Beacon’s international trade adviser. “Then they’re reckoning with the fact their currencies are buying far fewer greenbacks. It’s not an ideal time to be an American exporter.”

However, Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon, noted that the annual decline was driven in part by a rising dollar: “It must be remembered that these are nominal figures, and part of the decline is driven by the appreciation of the U.S. dollar over the last year. California exporters price their products in local currencies, meaning a rise in the dollar brings in less revenue from foreign sales.”

By that reckoning, Beacon’s California export price index suggests a 7 percent decline in the value of exported goods, equating to real exports declining about 6 percent, by volume, in the period.

Beacon said California’s exports fell across the board, year over year.

Shipments of manufactured goods totaled $8.1 billion in November, down 13.4 percent from $9.36 billion last year. Exports of non-manufactured goods – chiefly agricultural produce and raw materials – tumbled more than 17 percent, to $1.77 billion from $2.14 billion. Re-exports fell nearly 12 percent, to about $3 billion from almost $3.4 billion.

Owing to a stronger showing early in 2015, Beacon noted that California’s year-to-date export trade through November 2015 was lagging the previous year’s record pace by only 4.3 percent.

California exports hit an all-time record of $174.13 billion in 2014. On a straight-up dollar basis, not accounting for inflation, 2014 marked the fourth consecutive year of record-setting exports.

Beacon said it did not expect California’s December export numbers to reverse the downward spiral.

Previous Beacon reports indicated a slowing of economies in traditionally strong markets receiving California merchandise, particularly China, which just this week saw a meltdown in stock prices. O’Connell noted that trade with Canada and Japan also slowed near the end of 2015.

California is not the only one feeling the impact of the global economic ripples. Beacon said Wednesday that the value of merchandise shipped by business rival Texas in November was down 14.4 percent from the prior year. U.S. exports fell 10.4 percent in the year-over-year period.

On the import side, California took in $36.11 billion in goods in November, up 1.4 percent from $35.61 billion in November 2014. Some goods entering California go to other states, so exports are considered a more accurate measure of the state’s trade health.

Read more here:


Western Farm Press. 16 December 2015. On the heels of the FDA approving the first genetically-modified food animal – an Atlantic salmon – for U.S. consumers, it’s worth checking on what’s happening in the rest of world. That’s especially true in the case of China, where President Xi Jinping has been pushing his nation to greater and quicker adoption and development of GM crops and animals.

As more farmworkers abandon rural China for cities and it becomes more difficult to produce good yields on polluted farmland, the desire of the Chinese government to jump head first into biotech waters is for real. The state-owned ChemChina has made its desires clear by trying to buy Syngenta. A few years ago, the company made a bid to buy Dow AgroSciences.

The acceleration of biotech adoption by the Chinese has been fueled by the populations’ increased prosperity. Folks with more cash in their billfold are more apt to buy a steak or a bucket of chicken. That means an increased need for grains to grow the animals out. The government’s calculation is easy to sum up: GM crops mean easier ways to combat pests and weeds and GM food animals can pile on the pounds much quicker while consuming less grain.

But it isn’t just food animals China is moving to genetically modify. Reports have surfaced that the country has invested some $200 billion since 2005 to bolster its high-tech abilities.

A Global Risk Insights story says a Chinese company, in conjunction with one from South Korea, is set to open the “world’s largest cloning facility” in 2016. “This enterprise is the not first collaboration (as the) companies previously teamed up to clone Tibetan mastiffs — expensive boutique dogs which are considered status symbols in China.”

What is the new cloning collaboration planning to produce? “Once operational, the facility is slated to produce one million beef cattle embryos per year, as well as sniffer dogs and race horses,” the report continues. The companies “hope to profit from rising beef consumption in China, with their cloned products both meeting that demand, while also allowing China to reduce its reliance on foreign imports, thus improving food security. … The Chinese government appears to be more open than others to cloned products supplementing food production, as witnessed by the fact that currently many strawberries and bananas sold in China are cloned.”

New Institute Launched to Help Improve Soil Health

PRN Newswire. 3 December 2015. With more than one million organisms in a single teaspoon of Earth, soil is the starting point for plant, animal and human life. It is the foundation for society, providing the basis for food production, healthy families and economies.

To ensure that soil continues to be a vital natural resource for generations to come, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and Farm Foundation, NFP, today announce the formation of the Soil Health Institute. The announcement coincides with World Soil Day (Dec. 5) and celebrates the 2015 International Year of Soils.

The Soil Health Institute’s mission is to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of the soil. It will work directly with conventional and organic farmers and ranchers, public- and private-sector researchers, academia, policymakers, government agencies, industry, environmental groups and consumers – everyone who benefits from healthy soils.

The organization will serve as the primary resource for soil health information, working to set soil health standards and measurement, build knowledge about the economics of soil health, offer educational programs, and coordinate research in all aspects of soil and soil health.

“Leonardo DaVinci once mused ‘We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot,'” says Bill Buckner, president and chief executive officer, Noble Foundation. “Hundreds of years later that sentiment is just as accurate. The Soil Health Institute will provide much needed research funding so we can better understand our soil. We will make that research publicly available, so we can work together to provide solutions for improving our soil and protecting it for our children and grandchildren.”

The Soil Health Institute is an evolution of the Soil Renaissance, an initiative established in 2013 by the Noble Foundation and Farm Foundation to advance soil health and make it the cornerstone of land use management decisions. The Soil Renaissance brought farmers, ranchers, soil scientists, economists, environmental interests, agribusinesses, NGOs and government agencies together to examine the role of soil health in a vibrant, profitable, sustainable natural ecosystem. Their work identified the need for a national organization to serve as a hub for measurement standards, economic data and coordinated research.

“There are many short-term initiatives in progress that are regionally focused or examining only selected elements of soil and soil health,” says Neil Conklin, president, Farm Foundation. “The Soil Health Institute will be a permanent organization that will coordinate the long-term work needed in this area.”

The Noble Foundation will continue to provide financial support for the new institute. Next steps will be to broaden the base of involvement with both private and public entities to provide necessary funding for the Soil Health Institute’s activities.

How Can You Help?For more information about the Soil Health Institute, visit (Please note: media may access b-roll/video clips and audio clips regarding the Soil Health Institute announcement at

Farm Foundation, NFP serves as a catalyst for sound public policy by providing objective information to foster a deeper understanding of issues shaping the future for agriculture, food systems and rural regions. The Foundation does not lobby or advocate. Our 83-year reputation for objectivity allows us to bring together diverse stakeholders for discussions on economic and public policy issues. The issue of soil health became prominent in discussions of A Dialogue on Food and Agriculture in the 21st Century, a Farm Foundation initiative to promote discussions on the challenges to be addressed if agriculture is to feed 9 billion people in 2050, while protecting and maintaining natural resources.

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation has focused on soil health since it was created by Lloyd Noble in 1945 to help protect the soil and safeguard the land for use by future generations by working directly with agricultural producers to effect change in regional soil health. An independent, nonprofit institute headquartered in Ardmore, Okla., the Noble Foundation conducts direct operations, including assisting farmers and ranchers, and conducting plant science research and agricultural programs to enhance agricultural productivity regionally, nationally and internationally.


Western Farm Press. 2 December 2015. Despite the drought and low chill hours, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting a record California walnut harvest of 575,000 tons statewide, up 1 percent from last year’s estimated 570,000-ton harvest.

Although most growers have completed the bulk of their harvest, it may be awhile before the industry knows whether a new record was achieved. Some growers point to the variability among orchards and varieties as reasons why the crop may come up short of a record.

Jake Wenger grows walnuts near Modesto, Calif. He says once the trees lose the leaves that he’ll have a better idea how many nuts remain on the trees and whether he needs to re-shake. So far, he believes the crop size looks similar to last years.

“I think most growers are close to where they were last year,” Wenger said. “For us, we’re just a hair off.”

Although blight was not much of an issue this season, Wenger says Navel orangeworm (NOW) caused significant damage to the Vina walnut variety.

“For whatever reason, it seems like Vina had a lot of Navel orangeworm.”

Brent Barton, a walnut grower involved with the family-owned GoldRiver Orchards processing facility in Escalon, believes his yields will be down slightly.

“We’re seeing a crop a little bit below normal quality with higher than normal mold,” Barton said.

“The kernel and color are variable. There’s been some with good color and nuts which are darker. It has varied by the variety, harvest date, and the field.”

Farming near Merced is Bert Crane who says it’s too early to determine the statewide yield. He is waiting for scale tickets form his handlers to determine his yield. Crane sees a trend toward fewer jumbo-sized nuts.

On one ranch with mature trees, for example, Crane says the second pick yielded 71 percent jumbo, 11 percent large, 4 percent medium, and 8 percent ‘babies’. Historically, the orchard has yielded jumbos in the 80 percent range.

Don’t miss the most up-to-date industry news for tree nut farming: Macadamia, Pistachio, Almond, Pecan, Hazelnut, and other tree nuts in the Western United States..
Walnut grower Dan Cummings located near Chico is more optimistic.

“Generally, I think walnut yields are better than last year. The edible meat yields and color are better. The nut sizes are smaller and the jumbo count is not as great as the last several years.”

During most years, Cummings says bloom toward the end of pollination does not set a crop. But this year favorable conditions occurred throughout the entire blossom period. Even the later blooms set nuts.

Cummings, who also grows almonds, says almond growers have reported wide yield variations across California based on orchard locations. He does not believe walnut yields experienced as wide of swings.

Cummings believes the USDA walnut estimate is close to accurate.

As of the last day of the 2014-15 marketing season (Aug. 31), walnut handlers reported receipts totaling about 562.5 million pounds, just short of last year’s USDA objective estimate (570 million pounds)

U.S. exports of shelled walnuts for the 2014-2015 season (Sept. 1, 2014 -Aug. 31, 2015) was 31 percent higher, compared to the 2013-2014 season – reaching 529 million inshell equivalent pounds, according to the California Walnut Board.

Of the total shipments, about 333 million inshell equivalent pounds were exported while nearly 200 million pounds were sold domestically.

Although the 2015-2016 marketing year has just begun, many growers expect walnut prices to fall.

Wenger said, “What I’ve been hearing suggests that walnut prices could be lower – perhaps around $1.25 per pound for Chandlers which is down significantly from last year.”

He added, “It’s still early to say but I think everyone can expect a pretty big drop off from last year. Last year’s prices were astronomical.”

Barton agrees, and sees long-term opportunities for walnuts. He points to increasing walnut demand by consumers. Research suggests that walnuts are a ‘super food.’

On the price side, Barton said, “There’s a new reality beginning to set in with grower prices. Prices are down now compared to two months ago so we expect the farm gate value to drop considerably.

“We’re no doubt in a correction right now,” he concluded.

Ag groups aiming to recharge California aquifers

Western Farm Press. 27 October 2015.  California groundwater recharge has the focused attention of two agricultural organizations as forecasters are calling for a wet winter.

The Almond Board of California (ABC) and Sustainable Conservation will explore ways to use almond orchards to recharge aquifers depleted by years of drought and irrigation pumping. Sustainable Conservation is a nonprofit organization that unites people to steward California’s resources in ways that make economic sense.

The partnership launches just as California is entering a much-anticipated El Niño year, which could bring an exceptionally wet winter. Groundwater recharge returns water to underground aquifers, collectively California’s largest water storage system, through managed flooding with seasonal floodwaters.

The goal is to use almond farmland to capture storm water that is both beneficial to aquifers and almond orchards.

Sustainable Conservation has been partnering with growers on field trials to accelerate groundwater recharge on agricultural lands in the San Joaquin Valley. For more than 20 years, the Almond Board has funded several research projects to understand water movement in the soil, and preserve and improve groundwater quality. 

“Leveraging almond acreage for groundwater recharge has the potential to benefit the entire Central Valley,” said Ashley Boren, executive director of Sustainable Conservation.

“Once a farmer utilizes his or her land to return water to the aquifer, it serves the greater community, not just that farmer,” Boren continued. “Maximizing the capture of excess flood flows during wet years replenishes groundwater supplies for use during dry years, while also reducing downstream flood risk.”

While the ongoing drought continues to impact everyone across California, the almond industry has focused decades of investment in research and improved production practices to protect California’s valuable natural resources.

“Groundwater has always been a vital resource for all Californians, and has played a critical role in maintaining California’s economic and environmental sustainability through the years,” said Richard Waycott, president and chief executive officer of the Almond Board. “The Almond Board will identify farmers who are already using or are interested in trying groundwater recharge to join the Sustainable Conservation program.”

Waycott says the groundwater recharge efforts are part of a large ABC-funded research by the University of California to understand the orchard health impact of applying excess water to almond trees.”


Western Farm Press. 12 October 2015.  California olive oil growers could produce a record amount of extra-virgin olive oil by the close of the 2015 harvest season.

The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) estimates a record-breaking production of four million gallons of California extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), eclipsing 2014’s production of 2.4 million gallons. The increase marks an unprecedented year of growth for the state’s burgeoning olive oil industry, which continues to increase annual production, according to a COOC statement.

As of January, there were more than 35,000 acres of olives planted in California for EVOO production with over 400 growers in the state. The COOC estimates that 3,500 new acres will be planted each year in California through 2020.

Over 75 olive varieties are grown in the state for olive oil production resulting in proprietary blends unique to California.

“We’re very pleased to anticipate such a productive harvest this year among California-based growers and producers,” said Patricia Darragh, Executive Director of the COOC. “Fortunately, olives are a drought-resistant crop and not adversely affected by our state’s water conditions, allowing us to meet increasing domestic and international demand for certified extra virgin olive oil.”

Established in 1998, the COOC offers a seal certification program that promotes the highest standards for olive oil in the world. To gain certification, oils are evaluated according to both chemical and sensory criteria. Only oils that meet the strict requirements are certified for use of the COOC Seal on their product. Under last year’s program, the COOC certified almost 300 oils and estimates well over that number for 2015.  read more



ODNI. 14 October 2015.  The overall risk of food insecurity in many countries of strategic importance to the United States will increase during the next 10 years because of production, transport and market disruptions to local food availability, lower purchasing power and counterproductive government policies, according to an assessment released today by the U.S. intelligence community.

The inter-agency assessment, “Global Food Security,” was prepared under the leadership of the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and drafted principally by the CIA.

The assessment also notes:

  • Demographic shifts and constraints on key inputs, such as land and water, will probably compound the risk. In some countries, declining food security will almost certainly contribute to social disruptions and political instability.
  • Simply growing more food globally will not lead to more food-secure countries because sustainable access will remain unequal; millions lack access to land or income sources to buy sufficient food.
  • Augmenting traditional approaches to agricultural development with lesser-used strategies such as reducing crop and food waste, generating off-farm income activities, conducting research in minor crops and fostering technical education in agriculture would improve the resilience of local and global food systems. Such strategies can help Washington and its allies to develop creative complements to standard approaches and help resolve inherent tensions between goals such as producing more food and conserving water and other natural resources.
  • The intelligence community conducted detailed unclassified research on food security issues in multiple countries and across six food-related commodities: wheat, rice, coarse grains, oil crops, sugar crops and fish.


  • Principal demand factors that will affect food security in the long-term (beyond 2025) are demographic changes-to include urbanization-and income growth in emerging and developing countries. These trends will influence dietary preferences.
  • The principal supply factors will be: weather, the rate of agricultural technology development and deployment, the availability of resources, and government policies.
  • Agricultural markets, energy availability, agricultural technologies, and supporting infrastructure will not lead to dramatic, “discontinuous” changes in food supply or demand by 2025.  read more



Ag Alert. 12 October 2015.  Efforts to overturn new federal regulations governing “waters of the U.S.” will continue, farm leaders say, despite a federal appeals court ruling that has blocked the rule’s implementation nationwide. The rule would bring more waterways and wetlands under protection of the Clean Water Act, and has been criticized by farm organizations for potentially widespread restrictions on farmland and agricultural activities.

The court ruling, issued last Friday, temporarily suspends implementation of the waters of the U.S. rule, known by the shorthand WOTUS, in 37 states that had been unaffected by an earlier ruling.

“Hearing of the stay was a huge relief for farmers, but they still need to be cautious as the stay is temporary. The fight to rescind the rule is by no means over,” said California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger, who farms walnuts and almonds in Modesto.

Judge David McKeague of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that “a stay will, consistent with Congress’s stated purpose of establishing a national policy, restore uniformity of regulation under the familiar, if imperfect, pre-rule regime, pending judicial review.”

CFBF Associate Counsel Kari Fisher noted that the nationwide stay will remain in effect until the court rules on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case. Although the court action represents good news for those in agriculture interested in sending the regulation back to the drawing board, Fisher said, the stay of the regulation is temporary and does not mean the struggles with the WOTUS rule are over.

“The California Farm Bureau Federation is pleased with the court’s decision to stay the enforcement of the rule, while the court rules on this jurisdictional issue. We acknowledge that it is only temporary, but it’s a positive ruling for farmers and ranchers,” she said.

San Joaquin County winegrape grower Brad Goehring has taken an active role in communicating to legislators in Washington, D.C., and in California the WOTUS rule’s detrimental impacts to farmers, ranchers and other landowners.

In the course of his typical farming activities of moving equipment, preparing land and applying soil amendments last Friday, he became aware of the court’s decision to stay the WOTUS rule. Goehring, who has likened the impact of the rule to being “punched in the gut,” said much of the land he farms could eventually come under the rule’s jurisdiction.

“The ruling that was announced is just liberating,” Goehring said. “The problem is, this is temporary at best. We still need to continue fighting against the rule.”

Farm Bureau and other opponents say the rule greatly expands the regulatory authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, by increasing the number of waters that would fall under the agencies’ jurisdiction and expanding the lands surrounding those waters into their jurisdiction due to newly required setbacks.

“We need farmers to understand although this is a rule of waters, it affects all the surrounding lands,” Goehring said.

An online, interactive map posted on the CFBF website shows how land within California could be affected, with as much as 95 percent of the state’s surface area potentially falling under jurisdiction of the rule; see story.

The EPA and the Corps have said the rule would assist them in determining what streams, wetlands, ponds and ditches would be subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act and provide clarity about which waterways should be protected against pollution. The rule could ultimately require additional permits and increase areas that would be placed under restricted use.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said the appeals court recognized that the rule has “serious flaws,” and cannot go forward until the courts have had an opportunity to understand its effect on farmers, ranchers and other landowners.

“The judges expressed deep concerns over the basic legality of this rule. We’re not in the least surprised: This is the worst EPA order we have seen since the agency was established more than 40 years ago. The court clearly understood our arguments,” Stallman said.

He noted that getting to a final court ruling could take years, at great cost to all involved.

Farm Bureau supports passage of S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which would require the EPA to withdraw the rule and adhere to limiting principles that would ensure that any new proposal conforms to jurisdictional limits set by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

The stay issued last week will be temporary until the court determines whether it has jurisdiction over the petitions for review. Regarding how long the stay may be in place, the opinion said, “Briefing on the jurisdictional question will be completed and the question ripe for decision in a matter of weeks.”

Global Agriculture & Horticulture Consultants