USDA Issues Secretary’s Decision and Referendum Order on Proposed Amendments to California Walnuts Federal Marketing Order

March 06, 2023

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the Secretary of Agriculture’s decision to propose amendments to the federal marketing order regulating the handling of walnuts grown in California. The decision requires USDA to conduct a referendum on the proposed amendments, which will be held April 3-21, 2023.

The proposed amendments, recommended by the California Walnut Board, would:

  • Eliminate mandatory inspection and certification of inshell and shelled walnuts, and of shelled walnuts for processing.
  • Create a new mechanism for determining and collecting handler assessments.
  • Add authority to charge interest for late payments.
  • Establish an assessment rate of $0.0125 per inshell pound of walnuts.
  • Expand the definition of “to handle” to include “receive”
  • Remove volume control authority.

In addition, USDA is proposing several conforming changes necessary to effectuate the proposed amendments to the marketing order. The Secretary of Agriculture’s decision on the proposed amendments is based on the hearing record and evidence presented at the public hearing conducted on April 19-20, 2022.

The proposed amendments would become effective only if approved by two-thirds of the growers voting in the referendum, or by those representing at least two-thirds of the volume of walnuts grown by those voting in the referendum.

Notice of the referendum order was published in the Federal Register on March 6, 2023.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will mail ballots and voting instructions to all walnut growers of record in California. To be eligible to vote, a grower must have grown walnuts in California during the representative period of Sept. 1, 2021, through Aug. 31, 2022.

Eligible growers who do not receive a ballot may request one by contacting Gary Olson or Joshua R. Wilde with the AMS Market Development Division at (503) 326-2724 or by email at or

Copies of the referendum may be obtained by contacting Geronimo Quinones or Matthew Pavone with the AMS Market Development Division at (202) 720-2491, or by email at or

More information about the marketing order is available on the AMS 984 California Walnuts webpage. Information about federal marketing orders is available on AMS Marketing Orders and Agreements webpage or by contacting the Market Development Division at (202) 720-2491.

Authorized by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, marketing orders are industry-driven programs that help producers and handlers achieve marketing success by leveraging their own funds to design and execute programs that they would not be able to do individually. AMS provides oversight to fruit vegetable and specialty crops marketing orders to ensure fiscal accountability and program integrity.

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