Port Issues Continue to Slow Down Business

It has been, nearly, three weeks since the issues at the port began, and the situation has not experienced any improvement.  Long lines at the receiving terminal, the constant changing of   containers, and the uncertainty of vessel departure times have led to higher costs on containers, storage fees as well as transportation.

With the processing season in full swing, more goods including cotton and tree nuts are expected to leave the ports for destinations across the seas.  The effects of the delays at the ports have caused uncertainty among producers as to when their products will be delivered.  The California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA) and the Western Agricultural Processors Association have been collecting information from many of our members regarding their experiences with the ports up to this point.  Some of the repetitive reports that CCGGA and WAPA are receiving regards the long lines that transportation trucks have to wait in.  One almond processor explained that “…the truckers are having to wait in lines for hours and sometimes they will wait in line for 4 to 6 hours and then get turned away because they decided to close.” This, in turn, is driving the price of transportation higher, as drivers are having to spend all day waiting in line to deliver one container.  Container prices are also climbing because shipments are often being received, only to be transferred to a storage yard.

Not only are producers paying more to have their goods stored, but the delays at the ports also have the potential to cost the industry future business.  “We have bookings that have rolled or been delayed by weeks. This creates a huge problem, especially when the sales are guaranteed delivery by a certain date,” wrote one almond shipper.  Demand for tree nuts overseas is at its peak, and buyers are willing to find other producers or methods to meet their demands.  One walnut processor was forced to pay twice as much in transportation fees to have his containers picked up from a storage yard at the port, and trucked across the country to the port in Montreal.

These issues must be resolved quickly in order to keep the industry functioning properly.  CCGGA and WAPA have participated in conference calls with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, informing Secretary Karen Ross of the effects our industry is experiencing.  To ensure that your voices are heard, WAPA has been sending updated reports to the Governor’s office, as well as Senator Feinstein’s office to collectively find a solution.  If you have experienced the long lines at terminals, had your goods transferred to a storage yard when it should have been on an outgoing vessel, or have had to find other means of shipment to ensure your deadlines are met, we want to hear from you.  Please send your information to Chris McGlothlin (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

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Governor Signs Ag Overtime Bill

Ignoring the pleas of real farmworkers and the agricultural industry, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed AB 1066, the ag overtime legislation. This means that California will have the most stringent trigger of any state in the country for overtime for farmworkers, with 45 states having no overtime protection at all. The Governor signed this bill, supposedly to bring “equality to all workers”, yet taxi cab drivers, commercial fishermen, car salesmen, student nurses, computer programmers, and carnival workers all work without any overtime provisions whatsoever. The Governor signed this ag overtime bill in the same year that minimum wage legislation was also passed that will take California to the highest minimum wage as well as legislation forcing California to adopt additional greenhouse gas regulations for businesses in California. California is the only state in the country subject to such regulations. Today’s signing occurred despite numerous requests by the agricultural industry to meet with the Governor to discuss our concerns. The message is clear. California simply doesn’t care. These provisions will be phased in over the next few years ending with the overtime provisions to be triggered at 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

In the Beginning As folks transitioned out of cotton and into tree nuts, the industry recognized the need to have active and effective representation at the local, state and national levels. Having enjoyed such effective representation over the years from the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, these folks yearned for the same representation in the tree nut processing industry. Issues such as air quality, food safety, labor, taxes, employee safety, and environmental concerns are at the forefront, and there is a significant need for an aggressive and dynamic Association to lead the industry into the next decade and beyond. In recognition of this, the Western Agricultural Processors Association was created in 2009. The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) shares staff and office space with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations taking advantage of a unique and opportunistic situation. WAPA is a voluntary dues organization with four shared staff and one dedicated staff person. Regulatory, legislative and legal issues fall under the purview of this new organization for the tree nut processing industry, which includes almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. From air quality permits to conditional use permits, from regulatory hearings on greenhouse gases to federal legislation on food safety, and from OSHA violations to assisting members on hazardous materials business plans, no issue is too small or too large for WAPA. WAPA has assembled one of the best and most capable staffs in the industry, and the results are already starting to show Membership The Western Agricultural Processors Association represents facilities involved in the processing of almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.Membership in the Association is classified as Regular memberships are limited to almond hullers or processors, pecan and pistachio processors, and walnut dehydrators and processors. Associate memberships are limited to any individual or business entity which is not engaged in agricultural processing, but which provides products or services directly related to the agricultural processing industry. WAPA Associate members include, but are not limited to, commodity brokers, accounting firms, and insurance brokers. Organization The Western Agricultural Processors Association is governed by a Board of Directors, elected by its membership.The Board consists of up to 15 members from throughout the state, and throughout the industry.The Board meets on a quarterly basis and conducts an Annual Meeting in the spring of each year.WAPA, in conjunction with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, conducts a special training school for its members focused on safety.In combination with the school, the Association holds a Labor Management Seminar for all of the managers. Consulting Services In researching and considering the concept of forming a new organization, the Boards of Directors for the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations instructed staff to perform some of the work on a consulting basis first. The point was to determine the workload from consulting and to determine if there was sufficient interest. In November of 2007, the Association began conducting services under consulting contracts for such services as air quality permits and safety plans.The effort has been so successful that demand has progressed outside the tree nut industry into other agricultural processing facilities, including vegetable dehydration facilities, tomato processing facilities, and wheat mills, as well as cotton gins in Arizona.It was determined by the new Board of Directors of WAPA, that WAPA would maintain the consulting services to provide offsetting income to help with the expenses of getting the new organization up and running.Today, WAPA provides for a long list of satisfied clients in the agricultural processing industry, by providing critical services such as air quality, safety, food safety, and environmental issues (Hazardous Materials Business Plan, Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans, etc.).