As the new director of technical and regulatory affairs for the California Walnut Board and Commission, Joshua Rahm has a very large, and very full, plate. He works on behalf of California walnut growers and handlers to be sure they are represented when new rules and regulations are being crafted and monitors within key markets to provide guidance and adherence to the technical trade barriers ensuring global growth and demand for California Walnuts.
Rahm joined the Walnut Board in Fall 2020, bringing a farming background along with a lifetime of professional agribusiness experiences to his new role.
“I’ve been part of agriculture my whole life throughout the entire process from crop research and development, to production and supply chain to what it takes to get that product into consumers’ hands,” Rahm said.
Rahm grew up on a family corn/soybean and hog farm in Iowa and has worked professionally with growers, manufacturers and throughout the global supply chain on technical and regulatory issues of importance to the agricultural community. His national and international experiences in multiple commodities, crop protection and sourcing and procurement, combined with a farming background well suit him for the issues ahead, he said.
“It’s an honor to be a new friend and defender of the walnut industry. With the domestic and international landscape continuing to evolve, it’s a critical time in the industry,” Rahm said. “Keeping the grower and handler community and other stakeholders well-informed with what is involved to protect, develop and sustainably grow the industry is a key driver to keep me staying ahead of the curve.”
Technical Trade Barriers
Key among those issues, Rahm works on technical trade barriers, grades and standards, pesticide regulation and review issues, food safety and regulatory compliance.
On the crop protection front, he serves as a liaison between walnut growers and handlers, registrants and state and federal agencies on pesticide use and registration issues to ensure key products are available to growers.
Through task forces, working groups and other stakeholder groups, Rahm helps monitor compliance with established domestic and export Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) and also facilitates the reporting for the California Walnut Board Annual Statewide Pesticide survey.
Glyphosate is one recent example in which the California Walnut Board has provided vital input on behalf of walnut growers for the US EPA’s evaluation, opinion and consultation for reregistration of this critical weed management tool. As a result of input from several interested stakeholders, glyphosate usage appears to have been secured for the near future while additional weed management tools and mitigation measures are developed. He is also currently working with a group of commodities to secure a Section 24C special local needs registration for fungicide treatment options in orchards this spring.
Technical trade barriers are another critical part of Rahm’s portfolio. Rahm works to provide practical and science-based input on MRLs, fumigation and other potential technical trade barriers and is involved in providing the value-add input for walnut grades and standards, food safety and other post-harvest issues that can impede the flow of California walnuts in key export markets.
In cooperation with national and international groups Rahm responds to international trade issues as they arise. Recently, he led the California Walnut Commission’s effort to coordinate a USDA response to India’s proposed draft standards for several commodities, with a focus on shelled walnuts.
“We have USDA standards that are proven and confirmed and provide alignment for inspection. So we continue to encourage science based standards that are practical and achievable,” Rahm said.
Rahm also interfaces with the California Walnut Board’s production research director, and leads the grade and standards committees to anticipate and address food safety issues, enhance shelf life and improve post-harvest crop health and quality, among other value-added benefits to the industry.
“It’s my job to provide strategic direction and work closely with industry collaborators and researchers in a collective team effort to implement best practices,” he said. This team works together to get relevant information on stewardship and compliance back to the grower and handler community.
In addition to targeting shelf life and food safety, another research priority Rahm is involved with as part of the Board’s Grades & Standards Committee is looking at opportunities for further developing byproduct alternative uses for hulls and shells.
“We’re in the process of looking at ways to reduce or minimize waste while being good stewards of the environment,” he said. “With record crop volume comes record hulls and shells, we want to help our growers and handlers get added value out of their byproducts and also promote sustainability.”
Many of the goals Rahm strives for on behalf of walnut growers are shared in common across other nut and commodity groups, and Rahm works closely with other commodity groups and industry associations to pursue common interests. He is actively involved with the Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association, Frucom (the European Federation of Trade for dried fruit, nuts and other commodities), and other organizations on behalf of California walnut growers and handlers.