The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year authorizing legislation that sets policy for an array of agricultural and food programs. The farm bill is renewed every five years, with some exceptions.
The current farm bill, The Agricultural Act of 2014, was signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 7, 2014, and allows for continuation of key programs for specialty crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implements the many programs funded by the farm bill.
Farm bill programs of interest to the almond industry include:
Tree Assistance Program (TAP) — Qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers who experienced losses from natural disasters that occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011, can sign up for TAP. TAP provides financial assistance to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) — Funding to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices that conserve scarce water resources, reduce erosion on fields and other conservation efforts is available through EQIP.
National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program — Funding is available for USDA-certified organic producers and handlers for certification-related expenses they incur from Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, 2014. Payments cover up to 75% of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years. Signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, it aims to ensure the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. The ABC has worked with industry members to craft comments on several issues of importance to the California Almond industry. They include:
Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food
Standard for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption
Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals
Designation of High-Risk Foods for Tracing
Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals
Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration
Governor Brown’s Drought Task Force, composed of the Governor’s Office, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board and Office of Emergency Services, publishes a “Weekly Drought Brief” that highlights current conditions, key action items from the past week, and links for more information.
Current Reservoir Conditions
Current reservoir levels in terms of capacity and percent of historical average can be found here.
Current Regional Snowpack
Check here for the most recent snowpack reports during the reporting season.
California Almond shipments to Europe are finally transitioning from VASP to Pre-Export Checks (PEC) effective August 1. ABC staff have been conducting one-on-one training with handlers, and organizing webinars for shippers and European trade to ensure a smooth rollout.
Detained consignments were reported in several ports due to confusion over the starting date – the EU regulation went into effect in mid-July. The European Commission issued a clarification through the rapid alert system which helped the situation.
ABC staff is continuing to meet with European authorities and trade during this transition period.
Efforts Continue to Address Extension of Fosetyl-Al MRL
Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are working closely with DFA and European associations to provide data needed to support extension of the MRL for fosetyl-Al. In a reply to European associations, the European Commission questioned the need to extend the MRL, stating concerns that doing so would establish a “precedent.”
U.S. government authorities are working closely with their counterparts in Europe to address the justification for the extension, given the fact that there is no risk to consumers (based on the EU’s own risk assessment) and to do so would avoid considerable trade disruption for the $2.7 billion in tree nut exports.