Purchases of walnuts through two federal programs have been authorized in the past few weeks, providing prospects of increased financial aid for the struggling California walnut industry.
The first good news came Aug. 6 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture informed the California Walnut Board of its intent to purchase $20 million worth of walnuts through Section 32, the long-standing federal law that provides assistance for commodities, including walnuts, not covered by farm support programs.
The allocation, which will provide walnuts to food banks and other community-based food distribution programs, is aimed at minimizing the impact of steep tariffs placed on California walnuts sold to major foreign purchasers, including China and India, as part of the current trade war.
The second positive report came Tuesday with an announcement from the USDA that the U.S. walnut industry, which is centered in California, is now eligible to be assisted financially with direct purchases through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
Initially, walnuts were not included for participation in that program, which is providing $16 billion in direct support to producers of a variety of commodities.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said adding walnuts and six other commodities to the eligibility list was a response to “public comments and data.”
Among those comments were pleas made to the USDA by nine California congressmen from walnut-growing areas, including Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, who represents much of the Tracy area. They sent a letter to Perdue demanding greater assistance for walnut growers from USDA programs.
Walnuts have been included in Category No. 1 of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, the California Walnut Board has informed Chris Reece of Great Pacific Nut Co. Growers will be eligible for 26 cents a pound for losses.
The enrollment deadline is now extended to Sept. 11. The Walnut Board has been in contact with the Farm Service Agency to schedule a webinar and will provide further details when finalized.