San Joaquin Valley farms are tearing out older walnut trees and less desirable varieties. They are also looking to plant alternative crops as the price for the nut has plummeted well below the cost of production.
Robert Verloop, president and chief executive officer of the California Walnut Board and Walnut Commission said about last year’s season: “We had extremely high temperatures—up to 117 degrees for three to four days in some areas—and this occurred when walnuts were at their most sensitive stage in growth. We conducted our own informal survey of about 75% of the industry and documented pretty clearly that the range is anywhere from 30% to 40% of the (walnut) volume that was impacted. That means if the handler opens up 100 pounds of walnuts, 30 to 40 pounds is absolutely not usable.”
According to Stanislaus County walnut farmer Gordon Heinrich of Modesto, the price of walnuts is at a 30-year low, and input costs have gone up substantially: “We’re actually operating below the cost of production right now, and everybody’s scratching their heads trying to figure out where you can cut back on your inputs to survive this market situation. There’s not a lot of places you can cut.”