TULARE COUNTY (KFSN) --In Tulare County, walnut buying season has officially begun. Walnut buying stands can now purchase the nuts from gleaners who have gathered what's left of this year's crop from growers.
But the buying process has to be legitimate, and legal as dictated by the county nut theft ordinance.
The ordinance was amended in 2012 to include a buying period, to address the long-standing issue of walnut theft and illegal sales.
"(It was a) very easy and quick turnover," said Tulare County Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Tom Tucker. "And unfortunately it was rewarding criminals for their criminal behavior."
Under county rules, growers are given proof of ownership certificates that are then turned over to the gleaners, who then hand them off to the cash buyers at the various stands.
Tulare County agricultural officials said the process has helped with the theft problem, but hasn't eliminated it.
Now that the buying period is underway, a stand on Farmersville Boulevard near Avenue 264 expects to take in 20,000 pounds of leftover walnuts a day. But they go by the book, meaning if the seller doesn't have the right paperwork, hey are turned away.
"We just reject them right away," said Alex Suarez. "If you don't provide your ID and where you got them, then no, it's a no-go for you guys."
County workers will be inspecting buying stands in the days to come, checking for compliance and looking for any red flags.
"And that will continue until there are no more nuts available to be gleaned. And usually when the weather gets bad within the next 30 days or so, that pretty well brings an end to this season," Tucker said.
In 2015, walnuts ranked number 10 on Tulare County's list of most valuable products, at $197,100,000.