A few bad actors in the pecan industry have American farmers questioning the legitimacy of their newly formed federal marketing order, and the greed of a few may have put the entire project at risk.
America has long been the world’s leader when it comes to all things pecans. The pecan is the only tree nut that is actually native to North America, meaning that all tree nuts, except for the pecan, were imported from other continents to be grown here in the US.
Pecans have a heritage dating back to before America. Early English settlers noticed the tasty tree nut and found it to be worthy of trade early on during the settling of what is now America. Americans have been growing and consuming pecans for several hundred years, even our early American presidents planted pecans in their gardens for cultivation.
Found growing wild in river bottoms and near river banks, the pecan quickly spread across the southern US eventually encompassing 17 states across the south. The widespread adoption of pecans across the US has proved to be one of the industry’s hurdles as the pecan industry struggled for many years to communicate with growers across such a large region.
This lack of communication is what ultimately would allow the bad actors in the industry to prevent the industry from organizing for so long. Around 2010 American pecan growers banded together to market pecans globally and find new markets for pecans.
Forming the US Pecan Growers Council the growers had a slow start but quickly found success for their products abroad. As time went by more growers joined the organization and more funding pushed demand higher and higher for pecan exports.
Perhaps the most notable change in the pecan market was the farm gate value. For the first time in years, farm gate prices for pecans began to see steady improvement. With all this success American pecan growers decided it was time to form a Federal Marketing Order, and really make a difference in the pecan industry.
After several years of hard work, traveling the southern US on the campaign trail, American farmers had the numbers and the vote passed to form the first ever federal marketing order for pecans in 2016. The organization of the American Pecan Council meant American pecan growers now had much more funding for pecan research as well as a marketing budget previously unknown to the industry.
The board got to work quickly hiring a full staff working with some of the top marketing firms in the world. There can be no denying that the federal marketing order was and is working, with demand rising steadily both domestically and abroad each consecutive year since inception.
With demand for pecans at all time highs and rising, you would think that pecan farmers would be thriving and raking in the big money, but you would be wrong.
Since the inception of the federal marketing order American pecan farmers have seen the price of their product drop more than 26% in value, all while demand continues to increase. The USDA published Pecan Production Report in March of 2019, documenting the previous three years of pecan production by state* showing the average production per state, yield per acre, and the price per pound. The prices on average have dropped over 25% by state with growers in Georgia taking the biggest hit with of loss in value of 34.8%, dropping from an average price of $2.50 in 2016 to $1.63 in 2018. Growers in Oklahoma suffered the least with only a 19.42% drop in price from $2.06 in 2016 down to $1.66 in 2018.
Since the onset of the federal marketing order in 2016 American pecan growers have lost nearly 40% of their crops value, in dollars the loss to American farmers equals just over 274 million dollars.
The American Pecan Council has been effective in its work promoting pecans and increasing demand, even in the face of a trade war with what used to be American Pecans biggest customer the APC has still increased demand. Farmers overlooked one important fact when forming the council, its board members. While the council is made up of many hardworking pecan industry participants, some of the members on the council are there only to serve their own best interest and not that of the pecan growers that fund the marketing order.
American Pecan Council member(s) have been caught utilizing American pecan dollars to promote foriegn pecans grown in other countries. Navarro Pecan who sits on the APC, even had the audacity to send a letter to the staff of the APC asking about the use the American Pecans logo on Mexican pecans, in order to deceive buyers into believing the pecans are grown by American growers.
This problem may be getting even more prevalent as the new USMCA deal may eliminate the country of Origin labeling laws when moving between the US and Mexico allowing bad actors like to take their malfeasance to even greater heights.
These bad actors in the industry have put American growers on edge and now has them questioning the legitimacy of the federal marketing order.
In the interest of full disclosure I would like to disclose to the readers that I am an American Pecan grower and I do fully support the federal marketing order.
*USDA does not report on all of the pecan producing states in the US.