State of the Fruit Industry: Advisory Board Members Share What’s Ahead for 2017
(Editor’s Note: As part of our State of the Industry coverage, we asked members of American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines’ Editorial Advisory Board for their thoughts on what fruit and nut growers might see in 2017. Here are a few of their insights.)
Kevin D. Moffitt
President and CEO, Pear Bureau Northwest
A lot of eyes and ears in agriculture will be watching what the new President and Republican-controlled Congress will do. Some of the top issues for pear growers include labor, trade, and regulations.
We are very dependent upon labor as our fruit is picked and packed by hand. I think a comprehensive immigration plan is dead for the near future. The President-elect has asserted his position about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. This could complicate our labor woes.
The President-elect has also mentioned repealing or renegotiating NAFTA and increasing duties on countries such as China. The pear industry in the Northwest exports nearly 40% of our crop and if we lost markets such as our top two, Mexico and Canada, the industry would be very negatively affected.
However, Trump is a deal-maker, so much of his rhetoric may be laying down lines of negotiation, not steadfast policies.
On the positive side, there may be some relaxing, elimination, or suspension of some regulations: for example, the Waters of the United States EPA rule. Suspending or re-evaluating some of these regulations could be a positive for growers.
We may start hearing more about the next Farm Bill already in 2017 as many groups have begun setting out their wishes and priorities.
At retail, the rise of “ugly fruit” will continue.
Crop Consultant, Win Enterprises International, Retired Extension Advisor
2017 will be an interesting year with positive change at all levels of government.
Most noticeably will be the positive effect from reduced regulations. This is welcome news for all farmers and small-business people.
Growers in many of the Northeastern states and New England are exploring new and revamped irrigation systems to deal with the extensive droughts they have found themselves in.
In planning and installing new tree fruit acreage, adequate water must be available from day one and the irrigation system installed and operational at the time of planting.
Executive Director, American Pistachio Growers
Water will continue to be a huge issue for all growers in the West, especially California. Congress appears to be dealing with this issue via legislation and there could be some relief in sight.
However, in California, various state agencies appear to be limiting water supplies. Water that flows down several tributaries of the San Joaquin River may be taken for environmental purposes in order to save endangered fish. This will affect hundreds of thousands of farming acres in the great San Joaquin Valley that had relied upon this water to irrigate their crops.
Additionally, the beginnings of the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will begin to place limitations of the pumping of groundwater, further limiting the ability to grow crops.
Lastly, the Irrigated Lands Program will regulate farmland water discharges to surface and ground waters of the state. So, water will continue to be a big topic for growers in 2017.
President & CEO, Allied Grape Growers
I am looking at an improvement in the overall winegrape market with demand for wine at $10 per bottle and above seeing significant growth.
We see that strengthening the demand and competition for grapes in California’s Northern Interior and Lodi area.
As the demand for the higher priced wines of $15 and above drives the competition for the Central and North Coast grapes, we look at continued demand for most varieties throughout California.
Even the challenged area of the Central San Joaquin Valley may start to see some balance in 2017, as many more acres of vineyards continue to be removed this winter and spring due to low prices and lack of demand in 2016 for certain varieties.
The vast Central and Southern San Joaquin Valley is still home to more than 50% of the California winegrapes sold.
District Horticulturist, Michigan State University Extension
Traverse City, MI
In the cherry industry in Michigan, we have some challenges with the invasive insect pest spotted wing drosophila (SWD), as we have seen this pest population rise, and this rise has a higher potential to overlap with tart cherry harvest.
In response to this challenge, we have formed the Michigan Spotted Wing Drosophila Initiative to address this challenge. This initiative is made up of three components: a university-private industry consortium, a research and Extension task force, and a stakeholder advisory group made up of growers, processors, consultants, and industry leaders.
We will access state, federal, and private funds to support research and educational efforts conducted by the task force with input from the advisory council.
We won’t know what the winter will bring. However, we hope the snow provides good insulation for trees and vines. We are also testing to see how snow impacts SWD winter morph mortality, and our hypothesis is that this nice insulating snow will also protect SWD as they overwinter.
In any case, our experiment will provide good information on this pest’s overwintering in Michigan.
Partner, REASON Farms
Yuba City, CA
I would say we have returned to normalcy financially in the walnut industry.
We all are going to have to analyze our cultural practices and equipment purchases. Doing more and getting more yield with targeted inputs is crucial.
I think plantings will be on a replacement basis, not new growth, for quite a few years to come.
The prune industry will continue to be stable. With a record low yield in 2016 there will be demand for all sizes — with emphasis on larger fruit — and with minimal carry-over it will help further strengthen prices.