Industry groups discuss issues and updates at second Pecan Congress in Dallas
Continuing a new annual tradition for the industry, this meeting provides an opportunity for all industry groups to come together, discuss issues, and share ideas.
The meeting kicked off with a series of workshops, organized by the American Pecan Council, that presented information on using social media, understanding crop protection regulations, and discussing the ongoing Land IQ surveys.
In the first workshop, a team from Weber Shandwick provided tips on using social media for marketing and business promotions. This workshop was quickly followed by a presentation from Charles Rohla and Charlie Graham from Noble Research Institute. Graham and Rohla spoke about food safety, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, and banned products.
At the moment, pecan growers are exempt from FSMA, while pecan processors are included. This workshop served to remind Pecan Congress attendees that growers should prepare for potential changes coming down the regulatory pipeline.
The third and final workshop centered on Land IQ’s findings. Funded by the American Pecan Council, Land IQ has been conducting an acreage and age survey on improved varieties for the top eight producing states with an estimate for the acreage of natives. Land IQ’s Joel Kimmelshue explained how the findings differ from the USDA’s data.
If requested, Land IQ will survey natives as well as the remaining seven states, and in the future, may do trend and yield estimations. The release of the data is still to be determined as the APC looks to protect growers’ privacy.
After the workshops and lunch, Pecan Congress attendees heard from Bob Redding with the National Pecan Federation, who provided updates on trade, disaster relief, and labor legislation.
Redding emphasized that for the next step the industry needs to focus on educating the USDA so that it has a better understanding of natives and the pecan’s value. Preparing for the future farm bill, Redding added that pecans are currently in a good place politically, and even “if things start to change, it won’t be radical for us.”
Each attending organization then updated fellow Congress attendees on ongoing projects and local concerns. Here are a few updates from attending groups.
Starting off the updates, the California Pecan Growers Association stated that its representatives have met with the California Secretary of Agriculture and are discussing a potential weevil and pecan nut casebearer quarantine for pecans entering the state.
Georgia Pecan Growers Association announced that it has changed the name of its Lifetime Achievement Award to the “Annual Hilton Segler Lifetime Achievement Award.”
The National Pecan Shellers Association shared that it is finalizing its federal application for the Pecan Export Trade Council, a protected forum where growers and shellers can share knowledge to compete internationally. The Pecan Export Trade Council plans to have its first meeting before the end of the year. NPSA is also working with the National Pecan Federation on an ag engineering project intending to improve food safety and technology in shelling plants.
The New Mexico Pecan Growers announced that it will be holding its annual meeting and field day on Oct. 25. New Mexican growers are reportedly hopeful this season. The reservoir is at approximately 30 percent capacity and the state’s Pecan Buyers Licensure Act enables authorities to combat theft.
Western Pecan Growers Association, a regional association made up of West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, stated that pecan weevil remains its main issue as the industry centralizes in the West. WPGA is also looking for a full-time executive director.
The West Texas Pecan Growers Association seconded this concern over weevil’s movement into West Texas and New Mexico. Mary Elizabeth Santos, the president of the West Texas Growers Association, explained that the pressure on West Texas is increasing for several reasons. New Mexico passed its Pecan Buyers Licensure Act which inadvertently made it easier for people to bring malpractice to El Paso. Additionally, there has been a large relocation of shellers moving to El Paso; while West Texas growers welcome this move, they’re concerned that the risk of weevils entering the region will rise, said Santos. West Texas also recognizes the complex nature of this issue as other growers, wishing to sell pecans to this area, express concern over the cost of the weevil quarantine. The association calls for shellers to provide input on pecan weevil.
Both the Louisiana and Mississippi Pecan Growers Associations also shared their growers’ management issues. Yearning for relief, Mississippi pecan growers have been experiencing excessive flooding in the South Delta with some places underwater since February. Louisiana pecan growers are combating tumor disease which can kill pecan trees in two to three years; LPGA reported that this problem has been accelerating lately.
After the updates, the Pecan Congress discussed streamlining the industry with one accurate national crop forecast. The APC would potentially create this crop forecast by using data from the Land IQ survey, handler receipts, and other developing technologies.
Ben King representing the California Pecan Growers Association said an official crop estimate would take out the noise in the market and smooth negotiations between buyers and growers.
“The main group point is that we need an actual template we can use. It may take several years but we’re approaching the point where we can finetune and have good figures,” concluded Phillip Arnold, the president of NMPG.
After much discussion, the Pecan Congress wrapped up by discussing the APC’s efforts to fund more health studies and future marketing projects. The second Pecan Congress ended with a call to share data, communicate current projects, and meet again next April.