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American Pistachio Growers hoping California drought doesn't sink marketing plans

Richard Matoian, executive director of American Pistachio Growers, said the pistachio industry was set to reach 1 billion pounds of nuts between 2018 and 2020 until the current extreme drought situation struck California. Experts are calling it 400-year drought and the highest 2.5-year cycle since 1895.

IMG 5968George Soares and Jeff Gibbons of Setton Farms talk about water policy in California during a Feb. 14 meeting of American Pistachio Growers in Fresno, CA. (Photo by Ed Boling)"This drought will slow down growth," Matoian said at a Feb. 14 meeting of the American Pistachio Growers in Fresno, CA.

The pistachio industry has been growing steadily over the past decade. Between 2005 and 2013, exports have grown 207 percent and domestic shipments have grown 72 percent from APG growers.

APG serves as a commodity group as well as a trade association for pistachio growers in California, Arizona and New Mexico. Matoian added that the marketing budget for the 2013-14 season is set at $9 million.

Researcher Bob Beede of the University of California Cooperative Extension, said that a drought year will lead to smaller nuts in the following year. He added that the industry has taken great measures to conserve water, with 95 percent of pistachio trees being irrigated through drip irrigation.

George Soares of Kahn, Soares and Conway LLP is working to get a water bond on the ballot in 2014. He said the drought is affecting everyone, not just farmers.

He added that California needs to have a two-pronged goal of spending at least $3 billion for water storage and Delta sustainability, which is a huge issue for environmentalists.