Enforcement of mandatory inspections of California walnuts is being suspended after a recent action from the California Walnut Board (CWB). Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over the past year, it was discovered that many requirements of the Federal Marketing Order were already being met in complying with market demand. CWB Director of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, Joshua Rahm said the action comes at an opportune time as the industry navigates several challenges related to COVID-19, labor, and transportation.
“Very appreciative of that and the USDA enacting a preliminary six-month moratorium on the enforcement of the mandatory inspection requirements. That’s been effective since September 1, 2021, just in time for the new crop year,” said Rahm. “All in all, the decision stands to ultimately benefit the industry by mitigating those market disruptions and some of the challenges and issues I mentioned compiling, and ultimately removing those redundancies and eliminating duplicative costs.”
CWB will be undergoing formal rulemaking changes with the USDA while mandatory inspections are on hold. Rahm commended industry members for making investments in food safety and transparency, allowing for changes to be made in the marketing order. “These customer demands, requirements, and what the market’s requesting, the industry has gone above and beyond to fulfill and meet those requirements,” Rahm explained.
Moving forward, CWB will be establishing a new method for assessing walnut handlers in moving to a receipts-based collection process. The entire effort to enact a moratorium on mandatory inspections has been rooted in industry input. An industry survey conducted in the Fall of 2020 identified the inspections as being one of several priorities to address.
“This is a prime example of industry input and the CWB doing something with it. Regarding the inspection modernization item in accordance with other items of interest, there’s a common theme here,” Rahm noted. “It enables us to work harder for the industry and like all other items of importance, it gets done.”