The 2007/08 California almond crop is expected to be 19 percent bigger than last season, based on forecasts from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. If realized, it will be the biggest crop ever. Industry groups are equally optimistic.

“We’re still targeting 1.33 billion pounds or more,” says Marsha Venable, assistant manager, marketing services for the Almond Board of California.

That number will likely increase in the future as non-bearing acres come into production. Even though new plantings have slowed somewhat, overall acreage is expected to increase and add to yield potential.

“There are thousands of acres of non-bearing almonds and walnuts in the area, but the amount of new plantings began to taper off last year,” says John Edstrom, Colusa County UCCE farm advisor. “We’ll probably add a couple thousand acres in this area next year.”

For now, it’s regulations that are challenging the industry more than pests or disease. As of June 1, almond growers in the San Joaquin Valley can no longer burn removed orchards as part of a ban on open agricultural burning being phased in by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Growers will still have until June, 2010 to obtain permits to burn prunings from surface-harvested crops such as almonds.

The June deadline on orchard removal burning marks the third phase of the gradual elimination of open burning in the San Joaquin Valley to manage agricultural products, including prunings.

"This process has been going on for several years, but this is the first phase-out deadline to affect almonds directly," says Gabriele Ludwig, senior manager, Global Technical & Regulatory Affairs, with the Almond Board of California.