Spring 2013 Newsletter
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New Office for the RBA
No, it was not an April Fools’ Joke when the RBA office on Shaw Avenue was found empty on April 1st. When the new month came around, the Raisin Bargaining Association had moved into office space in Downtown Fresno. Located in the Civic Center Square campus behind the Fresno Convention Center, the new offices of your Association are next door to the Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) and California Raisin Marketing Board (CRMB) again. The new “Main Street” address is listed on the new home page as well as the Contact Us page.
Telephone numbers remain the same but during the moving process we decided to install an updated voice mail system to our office telephone. If you receive the office message, you may dial the following extension numbers at any time:
12 – Glen Goto – CEO
14 – Steve Spate – Grower Representative
24 – Shirley Sons – Controller
We are confident that this system will provide better access to your Association staff. And if you happen to be in Downtown Fresno please stop by and visit the new office.
Closing briefs were submitted in the State litigation of Boghosian Farms, Lion Farms, and Raisin Valley Farms against the California Raisin Marketing Board (CRMB). A preliminary decision has been submitted challenging the decision of whether economic conditions warranted the establishment of the marketing order in 1998. Judge Cadei’s preliminary decision found the adoption and approval of the Marketing Order for California Raisins to be inappropriate and should not have taken place.
The Attorney General’s office has notified the CRMB that it intends to actively challenge the preliminary decision through the appeal process. The Raisin Bargaining Association continues to be a strong supporter of industry-financed research, promotion, and advertising. The Association does not agree with Judge Cadei that there was not economic justification for the establishment of the CRMB in 1998. The RBA and Sun-Maid Growers have agreed to jointly hire the firm of Kahn, Soares and Conway to assist in overturning the preliminary decision. There is no official timetable but this process could easily take a few months to complete.
The industry has also been in court regarding the Federal Raisin Marketing Order. The United States Supreme Court has heard arguments from the ongoing lawsuit of Marvin Horne/Raisin Valley Farms against the USDA/RAC. A decision is expected sometime around June or July this year.
It appears that Congress is preparing to start debate on comprehensive immigration reform in the near future. The final piece to the overall package was dealing with the agricultural component of the proposed legislation. Agricultural interests held together to reach agreement on an “Ag Visa Program” that is base on the AgJobs model that we have supported with the Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR) group for many years. Provisions for workers that are currently without legal documentation and a program for guest-workers in the future were the cornerstones of any legislation that we would support. We appreciate all the efforts of Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League has contributed to get to this point in the process and continue to support efforts to get this written into law.
New I-9 Forms for Future Hires
The Department of Homeland Security has released new I-9 forms to be filled out by prospective employers as of March 2013. The nine page document is actually seven pages of instruction and another example of regulatory overkill. Copies of the new I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form are available in the RBA office for our membership. I-9 forms can also be downloaded by clicking here.
Grape Acreage Report
The 2012 Summary of California Grape Acreage submitted by the California Agricultural Statistics Service was released on March 29, 2013. The estimated raisin-grape bearing acreage was determined to be 200,000 acres or 2.4% less than the prior year. It was also noted that about 19,000 acres of grapes had been removed during the past twelve months of which a significant amount was harvested in 2012 and will not be in production in 2013. Speculation is that a large percentage of those acres were raisin-grape varieties and the trend of acreage reductions is continuing despite the more favorable economic conditions of the past several seasons.
Shipment and Deliveries
The first eight months of the fiscal year through March indicate total industry shipments are lower by 5%. Domestic movement is down 3% and export sales are tracking 8% less than last year. Deliveries as of April 20th are 294,621 tons of Natural Seedless raisins. The industry is still on track to sell 300,000 tons of raisins this year, which would be more than we anticipate delivering.
RBA Annual Meeting
The Raisin Bargaining Association celebrated its 46th Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the Fresno Convention Center. More than 300 members were welcomed to the event by outgoing RBA Chairman Monte Schutz. He reviewed the 2012 price negotiations that resulted in the record $1,900 Natural Seedless field price. He went on to explain the critical nature of recruiting all independent raisin growers to the RBA for keeping field prices at these levels. Fowler Director Michael Kazarian was introduced as the incoming Chairman of the RBA Board of Directors. Young Michael represents the new generation of California raisin grower. He has a genuine presence with our signatory packers and is eager for the challenge of field price negotiations.
CEO Glen Goto reviewed other important issues facing RBA membership such as labor, water, energy, and excess regulation. The Association works closely with fellow agricultural groups like Allied Grape Growers, Fresno County Farm Bureau, Nisei Farmers League, Western Growers Association, Grape and Tree Fruit League to advocate on the issues that continue to make farming even more challenging.
Larry Blagg, California Marketing Board (CRMB) Vice-President of Marketing, reviewed the advertising and public relations efforts of the past twelve months. The efforts of the Scientific Nutrition Research Panel for California Raisins are generating remarkable findings in the relationship between raisin consumption and heart health. The industry is working hard to parlay the research findings into increased consumption by taking the message directly to the registered dieticians, nutritionists, and physicians influencing the public diet message.
Guest speaker, Emily Rooney, President of the Agricultural Council of California updated the impact on California agriculture from the November 2012 election and Democratic super-majority that will be faced in Sacramento. The delicious and traditional “California Raisin Lunch” was prepared and served by Pardini’s Catering to cap off the event.
The RBA would like to recognize the efforts provided by the Caruthers FFA at this year’s annual event. Many thanks to Pan American Underwriters for their generous support of coffee, pastries, and raisin rolls served prior to the start of the meeting and at lunch. We hope everyone will be able to attend the 47th Annual RBA Membership Meeting scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 8th, 2014.
From the Field
This year’s spring temperatures have been above normal and vines are growing rapidly with minimal pressure from powdery mildew to date due in part to the lack of spring moisture. But growers need to be consistent with the treatment of powdery mildew since it is necessary to keep the grapes clean, versus trying to clean up an outbreak after it gets established. Another observation this year, recently we had several days of very high winds, which dried the vineyard floor, and lowered the dew point, which allowed a couple early morning temperatures to dip to the level that some vineyards sustained substantial damage. In many of the vineyards growers had done nothing wrong, but in others it may have been so close that the recent disking or lack of recent irrigation may have made a difference.
We as growers make decisions on our cultural operations based on the best information we have at the time, and past history (mistakes we have made) myself included. Two days before the temperatures dipped I had made the choice to disc my vineyard floor because the weeds were becoming an issue for me. I knew I was gambling with Mother Nature since at that time the high winds had begun and I knew the possibilities, even though in the back of my mind I could hear a voice telling me it was just a couple weeks too early to disc. Ultimately I had made it, but fewer than 5 miles west of my farm, fellow growers had not been so lucky.
We need to consider the possible risks in future spring seasons, in regards to cool temperatures and especially watch when we have several days of high winds. Consider mowing the vineyard middles or application of a burn herbicide. The ideal vineyard to withstand the risk of frost is well irrigated, firm packed soil (undisturbed from recent disking) weed free or mowed middles, current irrigation during the potential frost event, and a recent copper fungicide applied to the vines some believe will give an extra benefit.
This is the perfect time to say don’t do as I do (disking early) do as I recommend, and you will lower your risk of potential crop loss as a result of freezing temperatures.
Good luck with your growing season.