Cultivating industry prosperity for the long term is at the core of the California walnut industry’s strategic plan. A year ago, the Grades & Standards Committee began working with US Department of Agriculture (USDA) looking into ways to update the outbound inspection process in order to remove redundancies and duplicative costs to bring more efficiency to the industry. As part of this process, the California Walnut Board (CWB) voted to suspend enforcement of mandatory USDA outbound inspections of California walnuts.
This action resulted in USDA issuing a preliminary six-month moratorium on the enforcement of the mandatory inspection requirement, effective September 1, 2021. The Board’s vote to suspend inspections stands to benefit the industry by mitigating market disruptions (i.e. labor shortages, shipping constraints) during the season. The Federal Marketing Order rules governing inspection, which date back to the Order’s inception in 1948, are obsolete as market and customer quality demands have since surpassed USDA grading standards.
In addition to USDA programs, many handlers have already invested in state-of-the-art equipment to comply with food safety, quality, and traceability requirements set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), while also employing qualified staff to oversee rigorous programs to meet additional market-driven quality standards.
“All handlers should know that despite non-enforcement of mandated outgoing inspections, the Dried Fruit Association (DFA) remains available for voluntary inspections and business needs,” said Eric Heidman, CWB Chair of the Grades & Standards Committee.
The market already demands quality that well exceeds USDA grade standards and handlers will continue to inspect product to the specifications as contracted with their customers.
“This moratorium will be extended when the CWB goes through the formal rulemaking process to modernize the Federal Marketing Order,” said Joshua Rahm, CWB Director of Regulatory & Technical Affairs. “As part of this process, CWB will establish a new method of assessing walnut handlers. We are hopeful the new authority will be available for the 2022-2023 crop year and expect assessments to be collected following the formal rulemaking process.”
California walnut grower Donald Norene, stated, “I support the Board’s initiative to streamline and update the inspection process to keep up with current market demands and make it more efficient to save resources, ultimately working harder for the industry.”
While the CWB works through the rulemaking process, it will continue essential operations by tapping budget reserves to offset the temporary non-collection of assessments. The Board will be evaluating its spending to determine how to best operate until the formal rulemaking process is complete.
About the California Walnut Board
The California Walnut Board (CWB) was established in 1948 to represent the walnut growers and handlers of California. The CWB is funded by mandatory assessments of the handlers. The CWB is governed by a Federal Walnut Marketing Order. The CWB promotes usage of walnuts in the United States through publicity and educational programs. The CWB also provides funding for walnut production, food safety and post-harvest research.