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From the Fields® - June 15, 2022

By Joe Fischer, Placer County rancher

We've seen some volatility in the marketplace, especially in the cow-cull market. We've seen cows worth a pile of money, and then you can hardly give them away. Trying to time those markets is less scientific and more luck lately. There are spots where people have been making some money on their cull cows. Generally, most of our customers have gotten more for their feeder calves in terms of total dollars than they ever would've expected coming into this season.

There have been quite a few predictions that the live cattle market is going to improve throughout the summer. There seems to be a great deal of optimism with the reduced cow numbers for the cow-calf guy going forward. Consumer optimism is still there. They love our story. They love our products. They're willing to pay for our products. We just have to make sure that the producer's share of the dollar is in line with the cost of operating our business. There's more residual dry matter and feed available in the north region now in the foothills, especially on the eastern side of California. There seems to be some pockets where rangeland has been good. The challenge is we're already running out of stock water in places.

We've seen quite a few little fires popping up like crazy everywhere. The compounded issues of drought that we've had puts our fuel loads at kerosene levels of ignition, and then this late pop of grass that we have is going to create some issues. We've got a big degree of concern for wildfire this year.

By John Moore III, Kern County farmer

We are wrapping up our potato season. The crop on the front end was light, but the back half has picked up to average or above average. The price for processor chip potatoes was set back in January, and market potatoes, including reds, whites and yellows, have performed extremely well in the South Valley.

Our pistachio crop is developing. We expect to have nut fill within the next few weeks. The crop seems lighter than normal, but this is an "off" year. It is mostly green and not a lot of fruit this year.

Citrus is developing well. The warm weather is upon us, and we're going to start doing longer irrigations, soaking the root zone and hoping to start bulking up the fruit over the next three months.

We removed our (old) almonds. I was starting to get some bud failure on our nonpareils. (The removal) was exacerbated by the current commodity price. The hope is that the supply chains continue to sort themselves out and shipping containers become available, so we can start moving the product.

The fuel cost is so extraordinary. Nobody budgeted in $1.80 (per pound) almonds. Any cash flow pro forma had $2.50 almonds, so when you have it consistently at $1.80 or around $2, it's tough. Then you can't move the product.

This is proving to be one of the most, if not the most, expensive years to farm in history. We've aimed to be as inventive as possible with the fertilizers and crop protection materials that we have and just hope that cooler heads will prevail on the policy side, because we've reached a make-or-break point. These high prices change the math on farming, because at the end of the day, it is a business, and this business feeds our families. It's absolutely a tough time.

By Theresa Jeffreys Bright, Colusa County pecan grower

I have relatively good fruit set. Last year, I had a fairly heavy crop with the Pawnee variety; that's what I have as a pollinator. Last year, my Wichita was down. This year, my Wichita should be a heavier crop. I'm hopeful of that. I'm not watering very much this year because of the drought. I'm really impacted because I have rice on two sides of my orchard, and normally that sub-irrigates my orchard. Those two sides are fallowed this year.

This year I have 120 acres in my row-crop operation that are planted in (processing) tomatoes. I think the trees that are thriving will survive with minimal water. I don't have a heavy crop anyway, so I'm not going to be throwing water at them. Financially, I'm going to put my eggs in the tomatoes. I have 75 acres of coriander, which I'm growing for seed. I have 40 acres of wheat. Those crops won't be needing irrigation much longer. The wheat is already cut off. The coriander will be cut off by the end of the month. I've got a 40-acre field that'll probably go into melons, but they don't take a lot of water.

The infrastructure for pecans is changing. We lost one of our processors. Gary Vance, a major huller/dryer for the North Valley, passed away in September from COVID, and the facility is up for sale. Ninety percent of all the pecans grown in Northern California went through Vance's operation. Vance also did most of the marketing for Northern California in-shell pecans. There's a lot of shake up also for the California Pecan Growers Association. Gary was a board member. A lot of growers are just coming into production. It's going to be a tough year with a lot of uncertainty, and nobody really knows for sure what they're going to do.

By Matthew Efird, Fresno County farmer

Triple-digit temperatures have finally arrived in the Central Valley. With these high temperatures come several challenges and concerns on the ranch. Daily heat-stress trainings to ensure employee safety must be conducted each morning prior to the beginning of their shift, and it is imperative to maintain cool water, shade and communication throughout the day.

Crop water demands increase due to the high heat and require an increase in applied water to meet evapotranspiration demands. The lack of surface water this year forces growers to rely on lower-quality groundwater, causing additional crop stress and even damage. With increased stress and heat, pest pressures increase. Mite populations are reaching economic thresholds, and unfortunately, I do not think we will be able to make it to hull split before we must apply a treatment.

The almond crop in our region is looking good considering the early frosts we experienced. The consensus is we are looking at an average nut set. We are concerned with the overall outlook of our walnuts, as low prices, combined with rising costs, do not paint a very positive picture.

Our cling peaches sustained significant losses due to the early frosts, but the fruit that did set will have excellent size, quality and pricing.

The raisin crop on our ranches is looking good, but overall, I think the crop is off a bit. Our fields look very clean given the mildew pressure we have had this year, and we will begin preventative mealybug and mite treatments this next week.

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