About 98 percent of the U.S. pistachio crop is grown in California with the balance grown in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada and Utah. About 70 percent of the U.S. pistachio crop is exported.

The U.S. pistachio industry has a stake in proposed U.S. trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia, and Panama under consideration by Congress. 

“I believe the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement will pass in 2011,” Schramm predicted. “We were able to secure a zero duty for raw pistachios as soon as it is implemented.”

Worldwide trade deliberations are underway in the Doha round of the World Trade Organization talks where market access, tariffs, subsides, and trade rules for agricultural and other products are under negotiation. The Doha round offers the U.S. pistachio industry the opportunity to gain market access in India.

The WPA has sent a letter to Indian officials suggesting a 30 percent reduction in the country’s import tariff would actually generate more revenue for India’s treasury over the long term. Schramm says this proved true in previous negotiations with China.

Turning to California issues, attorney George Soares, a dairyman and managing partner in the firm Kahn, Soares & Conway, Hanford, Calif., discussed the state’s ongoing budget woes and the state’s repeat governor, Jerry Brown.

“We are in trouble in California (financially) and we’ve got to get down to it,” Soares said. “In some ways, Gov. Jerry Brown may be the right person for the time relative to the budget issue. I don’t know if he is the right person at the time on labor issues.”

California’s fiscal woes are reflected in the nation’s second highest unemployment rate, 12.6 percent. The state ranks last nationally in job and business growth. Soares says agriculture and other industries are critical components to California’s recovery.

“Agriculture is the primary driver in this economy,” Soares told the crowd. “We have the most fertile soil and the best climate … plus gas, oil, minerals, and timber. Yet we have so many regulations that restrict the use and development of the wealth.”

Agriculture’s challenge, he says, is to work toward the elimination of some government burdens so agriculture can successfully operate.

Soares discussed California’s changing ethnic population. In 2000, California’s population was 47 percent Caucasian and 32 percent Hispanic. Ethnicity is expected to flip in 2050 with a predicted 52 percent Hispanic and 26 percent Caucasian population. The ethnic shift will bring different attitudes into California politics.

Soares noted about 70 percent of Latino voters voted for Jerry Brown. With an open primary in 2012, Soares predicts more moderates from both major parties will run for office. Soares says future legislatures will likely include lawmakers who actually “talk with one another” instead of dealing with extremes (opinions).

With the ethnic change, agriculture will need to better communicate with lawmakers. He said agriculture has a tendency to talk about its “workers.” The rural mindset needs to change from the term “workers” to “employees.”

Agriculture also needs to toot its horn more in its support of farm employees.

“In the last 10 years, California strawberry growers put up $1 million to provide scholarships for the children of migrant farm workers,” Soares said. “Many commodity industries have a wonderful story to tell and many times we just don’t tell it. I think we have to be a lot better in communication and self help. We have to understand the ethnic diversity in our industry.”