Excellent growing conditions are expected to yield a 425 million-pound pistachio crop in 2009.

Higher wholesale prices are expected. The Western Pistachio Association (WPA) reports domestic and international prices have risen due to continued strong consumer demand for pistachio's nutritional benefits and appetite appeal.

"We are on track for a vintage pistachio season in terms of crop quality," said pistachio grower Mike Woolf of California Valley Land Co., in Huron, Calif. Woolf serves as WPA chairman.

"Harvest lies before us, of course, but indications of a good year are strong — especially considering stable-to-slightly increased pistachio acreage, as well as cooperative weather throughout the growing season."

Harvest will begin in September.

The pistachio industry is enhancing its food safety procedures to coincide with this year’s crop.

"Nearly a decade ago, in 2000, the U.S. pistachio industry was progressive in establishing proactive food safety practices; today our industry is determined to make those practices and procedures stronger than ever," said Richard Matoian, WPA executive director.

"As an industry, we are bolstering food safety guidelines to ensure pistachios are uncompromisingly safe, wholesome, and delicious — just as the food industry and consumers should expect," Matoian said.

Earlier this year, the pistachio industry was affected by its first-ever precautionary recall due to potential salmonella contamination. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site reported no conclusive evidence that pistachio products were ever linked to any cases of human illness.

Additionally, the single processor involved in the precautionary action has worked closely with local, state, and federal regulators to implement aggressive safety measures and has recently returned to full pistachio processing and roasting operations.

"The pistachio industry is moving forward with optimism, cooperation, and a commitment to world-class safety standards so that everyone who enjoys our pistachios can enjoy them with confidence," Matoian said.

California, Arizona and New Mexico represent 99.99 percent of the nation's pistachio production. California’s 600 growers produce 98.5 percent of the crop with 198,500 acres planted in 22 different counties. Pistachios contribute about $540 million to California’s economy.

Pistachios are California's third largest nut commodity behind almonds and walnuts. About 60 percent of U.S. pistachios are exported.