Defining Our Sense of Purpose
As members of this cooperative, our grower-owners know what it means to work together towards a common goal – our mission of maximizing returns for growers who entrust their almonds to Blue Diamond is our clearest example. That common goal gives every Blue Diamond grower and team member a sense of purpose as they begin their day on the farm or at a facility. As preparations for harvest take place, it sharpens our sense of purpose. At July district meetings, growers-owners heard of Blue Diamond’s recent accomplishments increasing almond consumption in both the U.S. and internationally. We also addressed what is happening within the industry and with market pricing. This knowledge benefits our grower-owners and empowers them to make necessary decisions that impact their business and family.
In Spring 2018, market prices were good and stable, and our co-op was thriving! Our businesses were performing and our team members excelled at managing the crop. In May 2018, you may recall, tariffs significantly impacted almond market prices. Over the course of the past year our industry found ways to manage and overcome the tariffs. The good news is that the entire crop will be sold, in spite of the tariffs. Many key varieties of almonds are unavailable, and some buyers are waiting for next year’s crop to fulfill their needs. Countries with tariffs will continue to purchase almonds and, with Australia selling all their crop, customers will be looking to California for the supplies they require. These dynamics keep the almonds moving, which is profitable for both the industry and Blue Diamond.
As a result of the continued tariffs and trade disruption, specifically in China, the USDA recently announced its second round of Market Facilitation Payments to affected growers. Almond growers will be eligible for $143 per acre, which is an increase from the $.03 per pound in the first MFP payments. The inclusion of almonds within these direct payments is possible because of the hardfought effort by the Blue Diamond public affairs team, the Almond Alliance and others within the industry who had the common goal of ensuring the industry’s economic export value was recognized. Although the payments will not completely offset the financial impacts of the tariffs, it is important to note that this signifies a win for our industry as it highlights our crop as an economic driver within U.S. Agriculture.
The surprise of this summer was the NASS Objective Estimate of 2.2 billion pounds. Compared to the Subject Estimate released in May, the forecast is a 12 percent decrease. In my nine years at Blue Diamond, this forecast was the most unexpected. From an industry perspective, 2.2 billion pounds is not sufficient for the foreseeable future. From an almond grower perspective, we can predict that the first half of the crop will sell at a higher price. By December, we will know where the crop stands; the industry will be 70 percent sold. Thankfully, the industry is optimistic and predicting a 2.4 billion-pound crop. With this in mind, we will continue to maintain our promise of competitive returns.
What makes Blue Diamond unique is that we are owned and governed by our growers. We’re proud to be a co-op and proud that every grower has an equal voice when it comes to the best interests of Blue Diamond. I encourage our grower-owners to be active members either by running for a seat on the Board of Directors or Liaison Committee and by simply casting a ballot to elect members to these positions. By increasing participation in elections, Blue Diamond is one step closer to achieving its collective goals and realizing the Best is Yet to Come.