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Employee Q&A: Julie Adams of Global Technical, Regulatory & Government Affairs

In our ABC Q&A series, we bring you brief interviews with some of the minds driving innovation at the Almond Board of California. We speak to a wide variety of folks who work here at the Almond Board, exploring topics from research to conservation to favorite almond recipes.

Today, we talk to Julie Adams, whose role helps get almonds to people around the globe.
 

Tell us about your role at the Almond Board.

I’m Vice President, Global Technical, Regulatory & Government Affairs. I’ve been with the Almond Board for 17 years, and I work on any issue that impacts how we move almonds around the world.

Our team thinks through how regulations affect how we grow, pack and ship almonds. We make sure, for instance, that the pesticides almond farmers and processors may utilize are approved for use in all our markets. Sustainability, in terms of understanding our production practices, has also become a bigger question over the years. For instance, the drought in California and how we use water continues to be something that comes up. As a Federal Marketing Order, we don’t get involved in lobbying and advocacy, but we develop the scientific data and background research on how these changes impact the industry, and we work closely with the Almond Alliance of California to convey that information on behalf of the industry.

What first interested you in joining Almond Board? How has that changed over the years?

The issues facing this industry are so diverse and changing. What’s great at the Almond Board is we’re always willing to say, “We’ve always done it this way, but is there a better way?” No one minds asking the tough questions, and it’s put this industry in a leadership role. People are surprised to hear about the scope of almond production in California and its role in the global economy, and yet it’s still a family business. Even as the industry has grown, it still has the culture of a small industry, which is really nice. That’s one reason why I’m still here.

What accomplishment from your time at the Almond Board are you most proud of?

A number of years ago, shipments to Europe experienced higher rejections due to presence of aflatoxin, a naturally occurring contaminant which can result from high insect damage. The industry came together, and developed a voluntary approach that involved research and changes in industry analytical procedures as well as practices in the orchard to reduce insect damage. This prepared us for mandatory import controls that were implemented in Europe. It took a couple of years, and a lot of engagement with United States Department of Agriculture and European Union (EU) authorities, but the end result is that we had an integrated system of control resulting in fewer rejections. The EU now has confidence in our system and the mandatory controls on our imports were lifted. The real achievement is that we’ve transitioned to being one of only a few crops that are recognized by the EU for pre-export checks.

Tell us about the importance of global trade to farmers.

Farmers understand the impact of regulations here in California, but something like a free trade agreement may seem unrelated to growing almonds. Those negotiations directly impact how we sell almonds in other markets, though. In California, we’re growing most of the world’s almonds, but we still have to promote the crop and make sure it makes it overseas with minimal disruptions. Even as people are becoming more disconnected from agriculture, we’re working to maintain trust in farmers who might be thousands of miles away. We also have to make sure farmers know about relevant changes in international regulations that could impact their farming practices. To me it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. I actually enjoy reading about the latest regulations and working across our diverse government and industry stakeholders to figure out how all the pieces fit together.

What about this new legislation in California, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act?

This is the first time groundwater as a whole is going to be regulated in California. Anyone who uses groundwater, including farmers of all types of crops, are going to be subject to plans for the management of groundwater ensuring that what is taken out matches what is put back in, to keep underground aquifers in balance. That’s going to be one of our biggest challenges here in California in the coming years. Farmers really need to stay engaged at a local level to understand the requirements, and what decisions they’ll have to make about which crops will sustain their livelihood.

What’s your favorite way to eat almonds?

My favorite is a snack mixture. Some salted almonds, cranberries, and chocolate bits, and I’m in heaven.

Check out a few snack mix recipes from the ABC Almond Recipe Center:

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