California Commodity Ag Digest 5/1/2024

California Commodity
Weekly Ag Digest


Organic walnuts that were sold at natural food stores and coop retailers in 19 states are being recalled after sickening 12 people and hospitalizing 7 in California and Washington State.  The walnuts were distributed by Gibson Farms of Hollister, CA.  Source:  NY Times
For the dairy industry, infection of cattle with H5N1 avian influenza virus creates challenges at two levels.  The overriding concern is always for the safety and healthfulness of milk and dairy products.  Proper pasteurization should kill the virus so that it cannot cause infection. The other major concern is for the health of the dairy herd and the people who take care of the dairy cattle.  Source:  UPI
 Recent rains have caused significant damage to strawberry crops in Fresno, California, leading to fears of financial losses for farmers. Heavy rainstorms resulted in flooded fields, causing strawberries to rot and making it difficult for workers to harvest the remaining crop. This damage adds to the existing challenges faced by farmers due to the pandemic.  Source:  YourCentralValley
A San Joaquin Valley official is being accused of orchestrating an "epic California water heist." The official allegedly manipulated water records to distribute water to wealthy landowners, diverting it away from small farmers and indigenous communities. The accusations shed light on ongoing water battles in the region, exposing the vulnerabilities and inequalities within California's water management system.  Source:  LA Times
Health officials confirm that pasteurized milk remains safe from bird flu. The concerns arose due to the outbreak of bird flu in several countries. However, health authorities reassure consumers that properly pasteurized milk undergoes a heating process that eliminates any potential viruses, including bird flu. This information aims to alleviate worries and maintain confidence in the safety of pasteurized milk consumption. Source:  Tag24
 Hog Island Oyster Co. in Tomales Bay has finally received permit approval to harvest edible seaweed, including sea lettuce and nori. The seaweed, which grows naturally as a byproduct of shellfish farming, will be used to flavor dishes such as nori butter and sea salt. The company recently completed its first major harvest, collecting 500 pounds of wet seaweed. The nori will be dried, reducing its weight, while sea lettuce can be used fresh. The environmental benefits of seaweed growth in absorbing carbon and reducing water acidification.  Source:  San Francisco Chronicle
Cherry season is expected to arrive right on schedule at East Bay farmers' markets. Despite some concerns due to earlier storms, cherry farmers anticipate a fruitful crop this year. Different varieties of popular cherries, such as Bing, Rainier, and Brooks, will be available for consumers to enjoy throughout the season. Source:  East Bay Times
Grimmway Farms, a leading produce company, has acquired the assets of San Miguel Produce, Inc., based in Oxnard, California. This purchase enhances Grimmway's expansion plans and commitment to delivering innovative products. The integration of San Miguel's fresh-cut operation expertise will enable new product offerings and better serve the evolving needs of retailers and foodservice providers. The acquisition also supports Grimmway's goal to reduce food loss and waste by maximizing crop utilization through post-harvest options. Both companies share similar values, which will facilitate growth in the value-added convenience vegetable market. Grimmway plans to retain the existing team and continue production at San Miguel's facility in Oxnard.  Source:  Nature Fresh
 According to early results from the FDA, pasteurization effectively kills the bird flu virus in milk. Concerns were raised about the potential transmission of the virus through milk due to outbreaks in several countries. However, the initial findings indicate that the pasteurization process, which involves heating the milk, is successful in eliminating the bird flu virus. This information offers reassurance regarding the safety of pasteurized milk consumption in relation to bird flu.  Source:  CBS News
A campaign is underway highlighting the health benefits of table grapes. The campaign aims to promote the positive effects of consuming table grapes on heart health, emphasizing the nutritional value of grapes and aims to encourage consumers to incorporate more table grapes into their diets.  It showcases scientific evidence that links table grape consumption to various cardiovascular benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, improved blood pressure, and enhanced blood flow. Source:  The Packer
 An investigation conducted by the California State Department of Food and Agriculture suggests that activists advocating for animal rights may have unintentionally spread avian flu in Sonoma County. The investigation discovered that the activists entered a poultry farm that had been infected with avian flu and subsequently traveled to animal rights conferences across the country, potentially spreading the virus. The findings highlight the importance of biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in agricultural settings.  Source:  ABC7
There has been an infestation of the Oriental fruit fly in Santa Clara County, resulting in a widespread quarantine in various cities, including Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and portions of Cupertino, Milpitas, and San Jose. The quarantine, which covers 112 square miles, restricts the shipment of fruits and vegetables out of these areas until next June. The infestation poses economic and environmental threats, as it can lead to significant crop damage. The California Department of Food and Agriculture plans to treat the affected area using an organic pesticide. The Oriental fruit fly is an ongoing issue in California, impacting agriculture and trade.  Source:  ABC7
 Officials anticipate a delayed wildfire season in California due to heavy rain and snow brought on by the El Niño weather pattern extending into spring. Meteorologists predict another below-normal wildfire season for the state. However, they also warn about the upcoming La Niña, expected to arrive in late summer, which could bring Santa Ana winds and dry conditions. Despite the below-normal forecast, the importance of mitigation strategies, such as brush clearance, is emphasized. The Los Angeles Fire Department has started brush clearance inspections in the city, aiming to ensure defensible spaces around structures to aid firefighters in protecting lives and property. Source:  ABC7
 While the avian flu virus is not known to spread among humans or through the food supply, its transmission to cattle is worrisome since it can mutate. California, being the leading milk producer in the country, is taking steps to prevent the arrival of avian flu on ranches by implementing a testing program for all incoming animals. Avian flu has been detected in dairy cattle herds in eight states, resulting in a significant reduction in milk production. Though California remains uninfected, experts warn that it is a dynamic situation that could quickly change. Genetic analysis suggests that the virus jumped from birds to dairy cows earlier than expected, implying wider spread. Currently, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission, and potential treatments and vaccines are being developed.  Source:  Silicon Valley
 There is an increasing popularity of new table grape varieties among consumers and retailers. Varieties such as Cotton Candy, Candy Hearts, and Candy Snaps are in high demand due to their larger size, crunchier texture, and superior taste. Sustainable varieties that require fewer inputs and have appealing flavor profiles are also gaining traction, leading to repeat purchases. California alone grows around 90 varieties of table grapes, each with unique characteristics. Some retailers prefer the licensed and newest grape varieties, while producers strive to offer high-flavor options to consumers. The availability of new varieties in specific locations may be limited, leading to high demand and a need for strategic planning by grower-shippers.  Source: The Packer
 According to a report by Land IQ to the Almond Board of California, the state's bearing almond acreage has dropped slightly over the past year. This is the first time since at least 1995 that the total bearing acreage has not increased. The report estimates that bearing almond orchards will cover 1.373 million acres, a decrease of around 600 acres. In addition, approximately 71,000 acres of orchards are expected to be removed at the end of the crop year, continuing a trend of decreasing almond acreage in California. Despite this decrease, global demand for California almonds remains strong. The report does not provide an estimate on the actual almond yield for the upcoming crop year but offers a preliminary outlook. A fuller picture of the crop size will be available in July with a report from the USDA-NASS. The final report on the almond acreage for the 2024-25 crop year will be issued in November.  Source:  California Ag Today
According to a recent article on SFGate, dairy cattle in California will now be required to undergo testing for bird flu before being transported out of the state. The new regulation comes as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of avian influenza, which can pose significant risks to both animal and human health. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced the requirement, stating that all dairy cattle shipments over 30 days old must present a negative test result for avian influenza within 72 hours of transport. This regulation aims to ensure the safety and biosecurity of the dairy industry in California and reduce the potential risks associated with avian influenza transmission.  Source:  SF Gate
 According to an article on Fresh Fruit Portal, the 2024 California avocado harvest is expected to be the smallest since 2009. The California Avocado Commission (CAC) estimates that this year's harvest will be around 250 million pounds, which is significantly lower than the average annual production of 350 million pounds. The anticipated decrease in harvest size is attributed to various factors, including drought, heatwaves, and wind events that have negatively impacted avocado trees. Additionally, the article highlights the issue of tree removal due to disease, further contributing to the lower production. As a result, consumers may experience decreased availability and higher prices for California-grown avocados throughout the year.  Source:  Fresh Fruit Portal
 The city of Los Angeles has recently received more rainfall than Seattle, a city known for its rainy reputation. This surprising weather phenomenon has been attributed to an unusual shift in weather patterns, causing wetter conditions in Southern California and drier conditions in the Pacific Northwest. The article highlights that Los Angeles has experienced above-average rainfall in the past year, while Seattle has seen a notable decrease in its precipitation levels. This unexpected reversal in rainfall amounts between the two cities serves as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of weather patterns and the impacts of climate change.  Source:  King5News