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Almond farmers harvest small crop this year, despite high USDA predictions
harvest pic
Farmers from Orchard Ag Farms, Inc. pick up almonds on Friday morning as they finish up the harvest season. - photo by MAEGAN MARTENS / The Journal

Harvest season is in full swing and despite early predictions, local farmers are seeing a much smaller crop than they did last year—about 30 to 40 percent smaller than last year.

“We are harvesting about 60 percent to 70 percent compared to last year in nonpareil almonds,” said Robert Conway, farmer for Orchard Ag Farms, Inc. “The crop was bad like this in 2005.”

Farmers have only begun harvesting the nonpareil almonds, but it’s not looking good compared to what the United States Department of Agriculture predicted.

The USDA predicted a nine percent increase in almond production in their May Crop Production report — up 120 million pounds from 2009 — and they predicted the crop to be up by 17 percent in their July Crop Production Report.  They predicted the average yield to be at 2,070 pounds per acre, up 110 pounds from last year.

So far, the USDA predictions don’t seem to be matching up with reality.

Some farmers say the wet weather is to blame but according to the USDA May Crop Production, the weather was not expected to affect the crop.

“Despite variable spring weather in 2010, growers reported few negative effects on the coming almond crop. Bee activity was reported to have been hampered slightly by the rain, while overlap of varieties was excellent. . . . Overall, the trees are growing well and the crop is developing in good condition,” stated the USDA May Crop Production report.

Farmers aren’t solely blaming the low crop on the wet spring weather. Other contributors to the small turn out local growers have cited include the strength of the trees and the tendency of the crop.

During bloom the weather was wetter but the trees also take a break every couple of years and don’t produce as much, Conway said. The past three years have been great for his crop, but he said his trees are tired and decided to take a break this year.

But Steve Warda from Sunland Farming in Turlock said the low crop could be due to the tendency of the nonpareil almonds. The tendency of nonpareil almonds is an alternate bearing. It could bare heavy every other year.

He has seen farmers who had a small crop last year bring in a good crop this year and vice versa, he said. It seems as though crops out of the area have done well this year, he said.

Regardless of the many factors that could play into the low turnout, there will be fewer almonds produced this year compared to last year.

“It appears as though the crop is not as good as last year,” Warda said. “It is off from last year in this area.”

Also in their July Crop Production Report, the USDA said that nuts sets, weights and measurements would be higher than in 2009, but that is not what the farmers are seeing so far.

 “It’s just one of those years,” Conway said.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 623-9141 ext. 2015.