Dozens of pecan growers across Louisiana met at the LSU AgCenter Pecan Research Station in Shreveport earlier this month to discuss how proposed federal regulations could impact their operations. State pecan specialist Charlie Graham said the Food Safety Modernization Act will bring about more stringent guidelines that will be harder for small farmers to implement and adhere to. Under the proposed regulations, Graham said, pecan growers may not be able to run cattle in their orchards.
"What’s currently proposed is a minimum of nine months that the cattle would have to be removed before you can harvest [pecans]. We typically harvest in October, which moves you back to Jan. 1. So they can’t get any of the spring feeding," Graham said. "From that point of view, if that continues, that would mean you’d have to choose: Am I going to be a cattle producer or am I going to be a pecan producer?”
The Food and Drug Administration is proposing that producers would also have to monitor for the presence of wild animals in their production fields and orchards. Graham said there’s plenty of gray area in this one facet of the proposed guidelines.
“You have to monitor that population, and at the time of harvest if you feel there’s been a fair amount of defecation due to the wild animals, you have to abort that crop. But the grower has to make that judgment call," Graham said.
The public comment period has been extended on the proposed guidelines. Graham is urging produce growers to read the more than 1,200 pages of guidelines and submit comments by Sept. 16.
This year’s pecan harvest will be down slightly, Graham said, mainly because the trees are still recovering from the 2011 drought.