WAPA Tree Nut Processing Laboratory Dedication Ceremony

(Excerpts from Fresno State News)


This past week, the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State unveiled a state-of-the-art nut processing laboratory Friday with a host of campus and area agricultural industry leaders and supporters.  The project, initiated and coordinated by Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA), was made possible by nearly $800,000 worth of donated equipment and services by Central Valley industry partners.  “We are proud to support Fresno State and create a new opportunity for students to get hands-on training in one of our agricultural industry’s most specialized career fields,” said Christopher McGlothlin, director of Technical Services of the Western Agricultural Processors Association. “This is a unique opportunity for industry partners to come together and contribute their expertise and equipment to benefit the future of Central Valley agriculture.”   The campus laboratory features advanced processing equipment that can process almonds, pistachios, walnuts and pecans to meet industry standards. “The gift will enable the Jordan College to further collaborate with industry, enhance the skills of its students and allow the local companies to remain competitive and thrive,” said Dr. Athanasios Alexandrou, chair of the Department of Industrial Technology at Fresno State.  Another key participant in the lab’s creation was Gary Dunn, director of capital projects at The Wonderful Company’s primary pistachio processing facility northwest of Bakersfield. He oversaw engineering, fabrication and campus installation of equipment on-site that included a bag house air filter, fan system, bucket elevator and equipment stands that were provided by Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds.   Dunn has commuted back and forth from Bakersfield to Fresno State since equipment began to arrive in January 2021, and often stayed overnight with his son, Bailey Dunn, a Fresno State senior in the Department of Industrial Technology. The younger Dunn has assisted in various parts of the construction process and took the Fundamentals of Nut Processing class when it was initially offered this past spring.  Other laboratory equipment that the Dunns have helped install and was donated by other industry supporters includes: 

  • Forsbergs G2 destoner equipment that removes rocks and stones.
  • Forsbergs TKV25 product separator that removes leaves, twigs, dust and other debris, and measures nut density to detect defective products that are lighter and have immature content.
  • Nolin Steel gyrating shaking equipment that uses screens to sort nuts by size.
  • Qcify automated analyzer that measures and compares sample product quality to Cloud-based industry standards.
  • A.B. FAB aspiration system for the separation of foreign material.
  • Portable incline conveyor provided by Capay Canyon Ranch.
  • Chiller equipment donated by Chandler Automation.
  • Air tank and dryer provided by Cortina Hulling and Shelling
  • Airflow ductwork and fan constructed by Robinson’s Sheet Metal
  • Equipment, bucket elevator equipment stand and support installed by Excelsior Construction

Additional construction services were provided by JTI Electric (wiring and mechanical work), Harris Construction (scissor lift), J.M. Equipment (forklift usage) and Piña Brothers (air lines utility work).  

Students will have their first chance to use the fully-functional lab in fall 2022. Adam Salwasser, an almond and pistachio processing consultant, and Emmanuel Ramos, director of operations at Touchstone Pistachio Company, will serve as lecturers for the class. This will enable Fresno State to further collaborate with industry partners, enhance the skills of its students and support local companies.  The class curriculum, which also covers related software and equipment maintenance, was created with help from Dan Pronsolino. The Western Agricultural Processors Association board member and Dunnigan Hills Hulling and Shelling general manager added input in the original project planning.  Pronsolino initially worked with the Jordan College to coordinate a 12-month internship program where students could get hands-on almond processing experience in both California and Australia.   The network of industry-tied contacts and campus lab donations reflect Western Agricultural Processors Association’s wide span of expertise and commitment to serving the industry. The professional organization represents the tree nut industry on regulatory and legislative issues related to hullers and processors, and additional consulting services related to food and operation safety, energy, environmental, labor and tax issues.  “The Central Valley is a national agriculture leader thanks to its ability to evolve and be shaped by innovation and technology,” said Dr. Dennis Nef, dean of the Jordan College. “We sincerely appreciate the efforts by so many industry representatives to make this lab a reality, which also paves the way for new careers and opportunities for our students to feed families around the Central Valley and world.”

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Governor Signs Ag Overtime Bill

Ignoring the pleas of real farmworkers and the agricultural industry, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed AB 1066, the ag overtime legislation. This means that California will have the most stringent trigger of any state in the country for overtime for farmworkers, with 45 states having no overtime protection at all. The Governor signed this bill, supposedly to bring “equality to all workers”, yet taxi cab drivers, commercial fishermen, car salesmen, student nurses, computer programmers, and carnival workers all work without any overtime provisions whatsoever. The Governor signed this ag overtime bill in the same year that minimum wage legislation was also passed that will take California to the highest minimum wage as well as legislation forcing California to adopt additional greenhouse gas regulations for businesses in California. California is the only state in the country subject to such regulations. Today’s signing occurred despite numerous requests by the agricultural industry to meet with the Governor to discuss our concerns. The message is clear. California simply doesn’t care. These provisions will be phased in over the next few years ending with the overtime provisions to be triggered at 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

In the Beginning As folks transitioned out of cotton and into tree nuts, the industry recognized the need to have active and effective representation at the local, state and national levels. Having enjoyed such effective representation over the years from the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, these folks yearned for the same representation in the tree nut processing industry. Issues such as air quality, food safety, labor, taxes, employee safety, and environmental concerns are at the forefront, and there is a significant need for an aggressive and dynamic Association to lead the industry into the next decade and beyond. In recognition of this, the Western Agricultural Processors Association was created in 2009. The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) shares staff and office space with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations taking advantage of a unique and opportunistic situation. WAPA is a voluntary dues organization with four shared staff and one dedicated staff person. Regulatory, legislative and legal issues fall under the purview of this new organization for the tree nut processing industry, which includes almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. From air quality permits to conditional use permits, from regulatory hearings on greenhouse gases to federal legislation on food safety, and from OSHA violations to assisting members on hazardous materials business plans, no issue is too small or too large for WAPA. WAPA has assembled one of the best and most capable staffs in the industry, and the results are already starting to show Membership The Western Agricultural Processors Association represents facilities involved in the processing of almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.Membership in the Association is classified as Regular memberships are limited to almond hullers or processors, pecan and pistachio processors, and walnut dehydrators and processors. Associate memberships are limited to any individual or business entity which is not engaged in agricultural processing, but which provides products or services directly related to the agricultural processing industry. WAPA Associate members include, but are not limited to, commodity brokers, accounting firms, and insurance brokers. Organization The Western Agricultural Processors Association is governed by a Board of Directors, elected by its membership.The Board consists of up to 15 members from throughout the state, and throughout the industry.The Board meets on a quarterly basis and conducts an Annual Meeting in the spring of each year.WAPA, in conjunction with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, conducts a special training school for its members focused on safety.In combination with the school, the Association holds a Labor Management Seminar for all of the managers. Consulting Services In researching and considering the concept of forming a new organization, the Boards of Directors for the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations instructed staff to perform some of the work on a consulting basis first. The point was to determine the workload from consulting and to determine if there was sufficient interest. In November of 2007, the Association began conducting services under consulting contracts for such services as air quality permits and safety plans.The effort has been so successful that demand has progressed outside the tree nut industry into other agricultural processing facilities, including vegetable dehydration facilities, tomato processing facilities, and wheat mills, as well as cotton gins in Arizona.It was determined by the new Board of Directors of WAPA, that WAPA would maintain the consulting services to provide offsetting income to help with the expenses of getting the new organization up and running.Today, WAPA provides for a long list of satisfied clients in the agricultural processing industry, by providing critical services such as air quality, safety, food safety, and environmental issues (Hazardous Materials Business Plan, Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans, etc.).