California Just Passed A Law Declaring Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts AND Pistachios To Each Be The Official State Nut
On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into California law that officially declared the almond, pecan, walnut and pistachio to each be the state nut. This is a true thing that happened and not fake news. Section 422.3 of California Government Code now reads as such: "The almond (Prunus dulcis, Prunus amygdalus), walnut, pistachio, and pecan are each the official state nut."
What gives? Almonds, walnuts, pistachios AND pecans are the state nut, according to bill signed by Jerry Brown. Couldn't pick one?— Capitol Alert (@CapitolAlert) July 10, 2017
The heroes of this story can be found in an elementary school classroom in Merced, where a group of fourth graders noticed The Land of Fruit and Nuts' glaring lack of an official California state nut and decided to do something about it. Like reasonable people, the fourth-grade class at Margaret Sheehy Elementary School chose a single nut, and wrote letters to their state representative Assemblyman Adam Gray urging him to help make it official. "Their idea was to make the almond, which is kind of predominate in this immediate area [of Merced], the state nut," Gray's senior policy advisor Robin Adam told LAist.
“We discovered that we were underrepresented because we don’t have an official state nut,” Margaret Sheehy Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Marc Medefind told the Merced County Times. “Other states, such as Arkansas, Texas and Missouri have state nuts but not California.”
Gray took up their cause and introduced legislation to make the almond, which accounts for a $4 billion dollar industry, the state nut. The fourth graders were even invited to the Capitol for an Assembly committee hearing on the matter in May. They showed up in Sacramento looking extremely adorable with extensive almond research at the ready, joined by the mascots from the Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team: Al the almond, Wally the walnut, and Shelly the pistachio. Perhaps the additional mascots should have portended the complications to come.
It turns out there are plenty of nuts in California, and some of the others weren't so happy about the pending legislation. The elementary schoolers and minor league baseball mascots were joined at the hearing by an additional set of guests: representatives for Big Pistachio, Big Pecan and Big Walnut.
"Interestingly, walnut, pistachio and pecan farmers or associations then weighed in [at the hearing] and said, 'Well, wait a minute, we want to be the state nut too,'" Adam told LAist.
California, for what it's worth, does produce 98% of the pistachios in the United States and 99% of the U.S. commercial walnut supply, according to Assembly analysis of the bill. The text is slightly lighter on pistachio facts, merely noting that they were first planted in California in the mid-1970s, and that 2016 pecan production in California was over 5 million pounds.
The Merced County Times reports that after the students spoke, "lobbyists for the walnut, pistachio and pecan growers in California asked that the bill be amended to include all tree nuts, not just almonds." The Fresno Bee reports that legislators representing districts where those other nuts are grown also "wanted in on the 'official' designation."
"They said they're really worthy of being the state nut too," Adam recalled. "Some of the representatives of the other districts said it wasn't really fair to put them up against the fourth graders, who were really cute and really excited, because here they had actually caused a piece of legislation to happen."
After what Adam characterized as "a rather amusing hearing," the bill was amended to include the other nuts. According to Adam, the fourth graders did not appear to object.
"They were perfectly happy with it being amended," he said. "It was still something that they had actually initiated. I think everyone was very happy by the end of the hearing—and amused." The bill passed through the committee unanimously before being approved by the full Assembly. It was later approved by the state Senate before moving to Governor Brown's desk.
The students "took it well,” Assemblymember Gray told the Fresno Bee. “And frankly it was a good civics lesson for them. Creating legislation is not always simple and sometimes you have to compromise to get what you want. But at the end of the day, we are still celebrating almonds along with walnuts, pistachios and pecans.”