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Vilsack to Almond Board: You need farm bill

SACRAMENTO — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the California Almond Board on Wednesday that it is vital for Congress to pass a new farm bill so that the Agriculture Department can resume promotion of almonds and other U.S. products.

Vilsack made the same point today at a news conference in Washington, saying that he has told a number of farm leaders in recent days that the lack of a farm bill will cause U.S. agriculture to lose export competitiveness.

In his remarks to the Almond Board, Vilsack pointed out that California’s 6,000 almond operations grow all of America's almonds and provide about 80 percent of the world's almonds. He noted that while general agricultural exports are up about 50 percent since 2009, tree nut exports are up more than 200 percent.

The Korean-U.S. free trade agreement, Vilsack noted, has resulted in a 50 percent increase in almond exports to Korea from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2012.

Exports to Russia are another almond success story, he said.

Russia is the second largest confectionery market in the world, and demand for high-quality ingredients such as U.S. nuts and dried fruits have been increasing.
U.S. almonds didn’t enter the Russian market until 2005, but since then the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service office in Russia and the California Almond Board have worked together to organize a series of technical conferences and events that promoted California almonds to the Russian confectionery industry.

U.S. almond exports have grown 10-fold in value to Russia, reaching $90 million in fiscal year 2012, and the United States now supplies about 92 percent of the almonds in Russia, Vilsack said.