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Delay is sought for almond rule

August 08, 2007|From the Associated Press

FRESNO — The largest organization of almond growers is asking the government for a six-month delay before enforcing a new rule requiring all California almonds to be pasteurized, saying farmers can't adjust in time to meet the original deadline.

In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it would require virtually all almonds to be pasteurized by Sept. 1, following salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 that were traced to raw almonds.

Now the California Almond Board wants to push back the implementation date to March 1, 2008, to give pasteurization facilities time to set up their processes and machinery and avoid interrupting the flow of nuts to the market.

California's 6,000 almond farmers expect to harvest a $1.4-billion-plus bumper crop this year.

Board officials said that without enough pasteurizing capacity, the industry can't move forward.

USDA officials said Monday that they would consider the board's request for a delay but that the pasteurization rule itself would not be changed.

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