Orchard Origins

During the 2020/21 crop year, the California Walnut Board and Commission continued providing value to the industry by building consumer demand for walnuts, providing industry resources, and making sure the California walnut industry had a voice when key governmental decisions were being made that affect the industry. Last year was certainly one for the history books. Not only did we have a record crop of 785,000 tons, but we also had our largest gain in production of over 20% versus 2019. And this was against a backdrop of a world-altering pandemic that shifted the way all of us live, work, and interact with others. Here is a look back at some of the top highlights of the last crop year.


The CWC and CWB continue to work on behalf of the industry’s priorities to ensure the interests of our producers and processors are at the forefront of legislators, regulators, and other decision-making authorities.

Engaging with Government

The CWC efforts on behalf of industry led to over $40MM in USDA purchases of walnuts during the year. Direct payments to growers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) were also a result of CWC efforts, working with USDA, resulting in walnuts’ inclusion in CFAP 1 and payments of over $85MM to walnut growers, as well as CFAP 2.

Given the importance of trade to our industry, keeping walnut priorities top of mind is critical. The CWC lobbied to mitigate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers with the Administrations (Trump and Biden), United States Trade Representative (USTR) and Congressional Representatives to ensure fair and equitable market access for walnuts globally.

Updating the Marketing Order

Over the last year the CWB has been working with USDA through the Grades & Standards Committee to update the Marketing Order’s mandated outgoing inspection process. As part of this effort, the CWB voted to suspend mandatory outbound inspections of California walnuts in an effort to provide immediate relief to the industry while the CWB undergoes formal rulemaking changes through the USDA. The decision stands to benefit the industry by mitigating market disruptions, removing redundancies and duplicative costs.

California State Regulations

The CWC is constantly working with various arms of the California State government to ensure that the walnut industry’s voice is heard when key decisions are being made. The CWC has been actively involved in a working group opposed to California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s proposed mill tax increases. Due to the continued efforts of the CWC on behalf of our producers and other ag stakeholders involved, no mill tax increases will take place for at least two years.

The CWC is pleased to report on the recent progress regarding Section 24-C/Special Local Needs (SLN) registrations for application of fungicides on orchards with standing water. Dithane (Mancozeb) has been approved for usage through December 31, 2025, as well as Champ WG (Copper). After a lengthy process, the CWC has ensured these critical products are available for usage for walnut growers.

Building Demand

One of the ways the CWB and CWC provide value to the industry is through creating and sustaining consumer demand for California walnuts.  

Domestic Retail Marketing

Retail programs help drive additional consumption during a time of year when walnuts are not top of mind with consumers. California Walnuts conducted a snacking campaign that ran May through August, a time of year outside the typical retail promotion period. A core part of the campaign was a national retail promotion with 26 retailers operating over 7,400 retail locations. Additionally, media outreach efforts resulted in 1.6 billion messages on walnuts and snacking during the duration of the campaign. This program was designed to drive snacking usage and encourage retailers to consider promoting walnuts in new ways. 

American Heart Month is another retail program that encourages retailers to promote walnuts outside the holiday period. February 2021 was the second year of national promotion of American Heart Month, with 34 participating retailers representing 10,400 retail locations. Retailers saw an average sales lift of 22.5% during the campaign, which was supported through television and radio advertising reaching 52% of US households. This program has helped shift the mindset of many retailers to believe there is value in promoting beyond the traditional holiday season.

Health Research

Keeping walnuts top of mind with the consumer is important, and one way to do this is to continually remind them of the health benefits of walnuts. The health benefits of walnuts continue to be a top reason for purchase for consumers in the US and in export markets around the world. This is one of the core reasons the CWC continues to conduct health research. Not only are we able to discover new ways in which walnuts benefit our health, but we are able to reach out to the media time and time again with new reasons to talk about walnuts, who then educate our consumers globally.

In 2020/21, 17 scientific papers were published that were supported by the CWC, including findings in the areas of heart health, cognition, gut health, and longevity. This research is important for the advancement of public health, but also gives consumers reasons to add walnuts to their shopping cart.

In the past year, research findings were included in 431 articles yielding 5.9 billion views of content, the equivalent of every American adult seeing health information on walnuts 22 times. 65 different studies were covered, showing that studies published years ago continue to be relevant. Additionally, a new paper from Harvard on walnuts and longevity became the top covered study in just one month with over 1.9 billion views of the news. This news was covered in our export markets as well, resulting in an additional 700 million views globally.

International Marketing

The California walnut industry continues to face retaliatory tariffs in key markets. The CWC was awarded an additional $3.6 million in federal grant funding to help the industry offset trade losses. Funds were used for marketing programs to increase consumer awareness in Germany and India as well as in other markets to expand distribution and expand consumption by enhancing retail and foodservice programs to create new points of distribution. These efforts not only increase purchases where California walnuts were already being sold, but encourage new retailers and restaurants to offer California walnuts as part of their selections.

In the UK, Spain, and Japan, the CWC expanded and diversified the use of California walnuts in foodservice, consumer packaged goods, and retail stores. In the UK, over 1,600 new retail stores now carry California walnuts and there are an additional 172 stores carrying California walnuts in Tokyo, Japan.

Industry Resources

Providing resources that growers and handlers can use to improve their business is another way the CWB provides value. From timely information on topics of interest to industry reporting to research our growers can use on a daily basis, the CWB offers tools and information that are often difficult for one operation to furnish on its own. 

Production and Post-Harvest Research

The CWB conducts research programs to maintain the industry’s competitiveness in producing and processing walnuts while investing in applied projects that directly benefit immediate grower needs. Research topics cross a breadth of areas including: pest management, orchard management, food safety, product quality, byproduct use and new walnut varietal development. Recently, the CWB-funded walnut breeding program at UC Davis released a new varietal, the UC Wolfskill. This new varietal was created in the hopes of finding a later leafing and earlier harvesting Chandler-like variety.

The CWB Grades & Standards Committee approved 11 post-harvest research projects. Three of these projects look at byproduct utilization for the walnut industry with the intent of adding further value across the supply chain for walnut growers and handlers while promoting sustainability. Projects pertaining to byproduct utilization currently funded are focused on walnuts for use in concrete as a curing agent, for use in hydroponic plant production, and using hulls as part of poultry feed.

The Grades & Standards Committee also funded a project that aims to develop methods and a database that can help differentiate walnuts from different origins and cultivars. This will help protect and preserve the integrity of California walnuts’ world-renowned reputation and further mitigate adulteration while promoting product quality.

Industry Resources on the Website

The CWB and CWC are continually striving to provide the most up-to-date resources for our industry. In our digital age, we put a lot of these resources on our website, walnuts.org. When the COVID pandemic hit, we offered a page on our website with a list of resources. The walnuts.org website also contains a report center which houses all the monthly shipment reports, both current and going back several years, as well as past nursery reports, inventory reports, and crop estimates. Most recently, we added production research study annual updates.

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