A warm winter has led to an early almond harvest and one of California’s largest almond crops to date.
Yolo County’s almond crop alone is valued at $41 million — and its walnut crop at $49 million — and both are expected to grow as the total planted acreage moves from non-bearing to bearing, the county reports.
But all those currently unprocessed nuts — left to dry on the ground in windrows for up to two weeks — have long been an easy target for thieves, who sneak into orchards, gather up the nuts and sell them illegally.
To combat the problem, Yolo County supervisors in May adopted a nut theft ordinance that will require anyone in possession of unprocessed almonds, walnuts or pistachios during the nut-buying season to show proof of ownership.
The ordinance mirrors those previously passed in Butte, Tulare, Solano and Fresno counties, where, according to county staff, reductions in nut thefts have been seen.
Yolo County Agricultural Commissioner John Young, who urged supervisors to pass the ordinance earlier this year, will designate the nut-buying period each year in consultation with growers. This year’s nut-buying period will begin Aug. 1 and last until April 1, 2015, Young announced last week.
During that time, Young, as well as local peace officers, will have the authority to require proof of ownership from anyone in possession of unprocessed nuts.
Proof of ownership forms will be available from the Yolo County Agriculture Department and will include the name and signature of both buyer and seller; vehicle license plate and driver’s license of the seller; weight of the nuts purchased; date and time of transaction; as well as specific location where the nuts were grown.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy