Almond harvest is in progress in the Western United States. Generally, the earlier varieties are ready mid-August and harvest continues throughout October. We visit a producer in Chowchilla, California about this year's crop and why dairymen are jumping into the business.
Harvesters are busy in Chowchilla, California as the almond industry continues to grow.
"It's exploded here the last ten to fifteen years," says Chowchilla, California producer, Greg Hooker.
It's an industry that does not come naturally to producer Greg Hooker. Like many dairymen in California, he saw an opportunity and went for it.
"The almonds has balanced out the milk check at times and vise versa. The price has come down almost fifty percent from its peak but it's still profitable. It's probably one of the most profitable crops to grow in California at this time," says Hooker.
Hooker isn't the only dairymen getting into almonds. A representative with Western United Dairymen estimates thirty percent of California dairymen are diversifying with a nut crop. Despite a slight decline, Hooker says he's experienced record prices the last four or five years.
"The Co'ops are saying at this price, demand has picked up as well. So, it sounds like we've reached some type of equilibrium on supply and demand at the price we're at now," says Hooker.
The Almond Board of California says this year's crop is forecast to exceed two billion pounds for the first time since 2013.
"Last year we suffered a little due to the drought. Some areas did. We did pretty good. This year, I think it's going to be a record crop," says Hooker.
The Board says growers have reduced the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds by thirty-three percent but drought and water remain a concern to area farmers.
"Last year we fallowed about fifteen percent of our farm ground. So, that's farm ground that we owned. We're paying property taxes on and we've invested in and we couldn't grow a crop there because we didn't have the water," says Merced, Calif. producer Simon Vander Woude.
Dairymen are also reaping an added bonus. That's a by-product to feed their livestock.
"This is the hull. It's the fruit. This is what cows will eat. We'll feed a lot to cows and heifers," says Hooker.
A complimentary crop that will continue to be viable into the future.
The California Almond Board says the state's 2015 acreage is estimated at 1,100,000 acres located from Chico to Bakersfield. Hooker says he'll harvest around three thousand pounds or a little better per acre.