CaWater4All Petition at World Ag Expo

Aubrey Bettencourt, executive director of the California Water Alliance, was at the 2016 World Ag Expo collecting signatures for the CaWater4All Water Priorities Ballot Initiative petition to get on the November ballot. The ballot initiative would reallocate High-Speed Rail funds for water storage projects in the state of California. Video produced and edited by Charmayne Hefley.

Youth in California Cattle

Youth in California Cattle

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

Statistically, it appears millennials aren’t considering agriculture as a career path. The USDA’s “2007 Census of Agriculture: Farmers by Age,” reports the average age of cattle ranchers was 57.8 years old. Malorie Bankhead, director of communications for the California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and a millennial herself, said, “Young people in the beef industry have a really unique opportunity to get involved in something called the Young Cattlemen’s Committee (YCC), the young affiliate of our California Cattlemen’s Association.

Young Cattlemen’s Committee (YCC)
Young Cattlemen’s Committee (YCC)

Bankhead explained, “There are four college chapters: Fresno State, Chico State, Cal Poly and UC Davis. We don’t discourage membership from high school students or even folks younger than that who are interested in getting involved. The membership is $25 per year, and with that, you’re afforded a wealth of opportunity to become involved. We have a fairly robust scholarship program available to YCC members where we interview up-and-coming leaders in the beef industry who are focusing academically and extracurricularly on the beef industry, with the career goal to reenter the beef industry.”

Bankhead said the Young Cattlemen on the Capitol event, set for April 5, “is another opportunity for young people in the industry—specifically YCC members—to come to the CCA office in Sacramento to to learn from our staff about the current hot topics in the beef industry affecting ranchers. We turn to discussions with those folks and each other and build your network in the beef industry. We also tour the Capitol, visit some legislators and network with them on issues impacting the beef industry.” Registration information is forthcoming on the CCA website under the YCC tab.

Valley’s Gold Prepares for Fourth Season

Valley’s Gold Prepares for Fourth Season


By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

Valley's Gold

Currently in the midst of season three, Valley’s Gold, a weekly television series focusing on agriculture in the Central Valley, is scheduled to continue for a fourth season.

Ryan Jacobsen, the series’ host and Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO, is surprised but pleased by the show’s success. “I guess, just by the blessings of being able to do what we do and show this incredible industry, it’s resonating with folks,” Jacobsen said. “They love the show and the opportunities this show has given us to be able to show how our food is produced—not the romanticized viewbut the view of truly how it’s done and the people who come together to make this industry drive. It’s just been a phenomenal opportunity to share Ag’s story.”

Jacobsen said California’s diversity has allowed the show, brought to viewers by Fresno County Farm Bureau and ValleyPBS, to continue with consistent, original content. “You would think after that many seasons we would run out of crops,” Jacobsen said, “but because of this phenomenal Valley and this phenomenal state, we’re finding more and more stories. The more we dig, the more we find and the more we’re able to share the wealth of what we produce here.”

Sponsored by GAR Tootelian, BRANDT and Meyers Water Bank, the show airs on Wednesdays at 7pm PST and is re-broadcasted on the weekends, Saturday at 6:30pm and Sunday at 10:30am.

Vertical Integration and Grape Flavors

Vertical Integration and Grape Flavors

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

Vertical integration, the combination in one company of two or more stages of production normally operated by separate companies, has helped lead to success in many facets of the agriculture industry. Harold McClarty, who founded HMC Farms with Mike Jensen, said without vertical integration, his farm would not be able to survive or have nearly the same level of success.  “We would not be in stone fruit if we were not vertically integrated,” McClarty explained. “There are three profit centers: the growing of it, the packing of it and the selling of it. We have all three of those profit centers. Without them we would not be able to survive the tough years.”

Cotton Candy grape clamshell
Cotton Candy grape clamshell (Photo source: Grapery)

McClarty also said the grape industry has made significant strides in flavor profiles in the marketplace. One popular flavor is Cotton Candy, which is grown and sold by Grapery, a company founded by Jack Pandol in 1996. Grapery also grows and sells Gum Drop grapes, Moon Drop grapes, Flavor Pops grapes and more.

The increase in unique flavors, according to McClarty, has helped grapes become a popular snack. “There’s been a revolution in the varieties of grapes grown just over the last five to seven years,” McClarty said. “These new varieties have revolutionized grapes and enabled us to produce more on less. 

To evaluate a grape, McClarty suggests you “look at a berry’s color, crispness and sweetness; these are the things that make a grape taste delicious. It really is a revolution, and we haven’t seen it in the California marketplace as much as we have in the rest of the United States. The retail chains in California just haven’t embraced it as well as some of the really good supermarkets on the East Coast and in the Southeast,” noted McClarty.

Joel Nelsen on New Cases of HLB in San Gabriel

Joel Nelsen on New Cases of HLB in San Gabriel

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate EditorSave Our Citrus

On Wednesday of last week, two more trees, an orange and a kumquat, were found infected with the citrus-deadly Huanglongbing (HLB) disease in the core of San Gabriel. The trees are located on separate properties. One has been removed, and the other is awaiting the owner’s permission for removal. Last summer, 10 diseased trees were confirmed in the San Gabriel area, and a quarantine, already in place since then, will not need to be expanded.

Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, commented on the HLB discovery, “The two trees were found in the core area, pretty adjacent to the others that were found in San Gabriel,” Nelsen said. The finding “is a result of the program and its intensity in continuing to look for positive HLB finds. Unfortunately, these two trees were positive. The Asian Citrus Psyllids (ACP) in the area have been treated. One tree has already been pulled. The other homeowner wasn’t home so we’re hoping for cooperation there. It’s not positive, but again it shows that the program is trying to find HLB before it finds the commercial citrus industry.”

Agriculture Detector K-9 on Duty!

Agriculture Detector K-9 on Duty!

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

California Ag Today’s associate broadcaster Charmayne Hefley recently asked Soya, a mixed-breed agriculture detector K-9 (canine) with big responsibilities, and Samantha Tomlinson, Soya’s handler with the Fresno County Ag Commissioner’s office, what type of dog Soya is.

ST:      We don’t know exactly what she is for sure, but we’re thinking about getting her DNA-tested someday. We’re thinking she’s a lab-border-collie.

Samantha Tomlinson, Soya and Charmayne Hefley
Samantha Tomlinson, Soya and Charmayne Hefley

CAT:   How long have you and Soya been together?

ST:      We have been matched up since mid-July when we went through the training program in Georgia through the National Detector Dog Training Center.

CAT:   What is Soya able to do for the Ag Commissioner’s office?

ST:      Soya smells out parcels for potential plant material and she alerts us [to suspicious ones] by scratching. We check to see if [the material] has been properly certified and if it’s good to go.

CAT:   What are some of her recent detections?

ST:      She can detect a number of things. She was initially trained on five scents: mango, stone fruit, apple, guava, and citrus. From there, through scent association, she’s been able to find a number of additional agricultural materials, including avocados, blueberries, nuts, soil, cut flowers; anything that is plant material, Soya can find.

CAT:   What region does Soya cover?

ST:      Right now we’ve been covering only Fresno County because we still are in what we call the “acclimation phase,” as she’s still new. We’ve been working at FedEx and UPS, but we’ll broaden our horizons eventually and we’ll be in the post office, GSO, OnTrac, any service that ships parcels.”

CAT:   How important is it for the agricultural industry to have dogs like Soya working for it?

ST:      Well Soya and I are considered a “first line of defense” for California’s multi-billion dollar ag industry. She is in the facilities checking boxes sent from potentially quarantined areas from within the state and from outside the state for materials that may contain any pests or diseases that could prove detrimental to California agriculture.

CAT:   People may not know when they’re shipping certain items—certain plant materials—from one county to the next that the destination county may have a quarantine in place. How do people properly ship plant material?

ST:      Every county is actually different. If you are thinking of shipping some of your backyard fruits to your nephew or grandson, I would contact your local ag commissioner and make sure there are not any quarantines in place for both the county you’re shipping from and the county you’re shipping to. In these facilities, we look for boxes to be properly labeled with the growing origin and we inspect thye contents inside. Depending on what is inside, where it’s grown and where it’s going, we act accordingly.

California Weed Science Society Meeting

California Weed Science Society Meeting

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

The California Weed Science Society (CWSS) held their annual meeting in Sacramento from January 13-15, 2016. The meeting fostered collaboration between Pest Control Advisors (PCAs) and farmers as they gathered to learn the newest innovations in weed science.

John Roncoroni, weed science farm advisor for the UC Cooperative Extension in Napa County, as well as the outgoing CWSS president, said four Fresno State students gave presentations at the meeting on their research. “We’ve had really great student participation—the amount of student scholarships we’ve given is up this year, the posters, the students and our attendance this year is up,” Roncoroni said. Pre-registration was about 530 people.

CWSS LogoRoncoroni suspects that rain pushed people to attend, “becausewith that rainwe’re looking at more weeds this year. So people are looking for the newest information on weeds. This year’s conference really has done a really good job of putting that information together. Kate Walker, our program chair, has really done a fine job of putting together a great program.”

Kate Walker, technical service representative for BASF Corporation, is also the new, incoming CWSS president.



California Weed Science Society (CWSS)

The CWSS recently updated its published textbook, Principles of Weed Control, 4th Edition, that focuses on the applied aspects of weed control.  The purpose of this textbook is to provide access to the fundamental principles and concepts of weed management in California. The book is designed for use at the college level by students who have an interest in pursuing a plant science or associated background of course work. It is also a useful resource for individuals studying to become PCAs and applicators or for consultants who work in weed science. For more information, go to the CWSS website Publications page.

Dogs Keep Agriculture Safe

Meet Soya, an agriculture detector K-9, and her handler, Samantha Tomlinson, who works for the Fresno County Ag Commissioner’s office. Tomlinson and Soya work as the first line of defense to protect California’s agriculture industry from potential pests and diseases that can be shipped in packages. Charmayne Hefley reports. Story by Charmayne Hefley and Patrick Cavanaugh.

California Water Priorities Ballot Measure

Petitioning for California Water Priorities Ballot Measure Kicks off Friday in Fresno


California Water Alliance (CalWA) executive director Aubrey Bettencourt announced TODAY that a petition drive for the California Water Priorities Ballot Measure will take place Friday, January 29, 2016, at KMJ Studios, 1071 W. Shaw Avenue in Fresno, from 2-6 pm.

Earlier this week, the proposed ballot measure was approved by Attorney General Kamala Harris, opening the door to begin signature-gathering efforts with initiative supporters. Since the measure’s approval, CalWA has received an overwhelming amount of support and requests for petitions to circulate.

Electronic copies of the petition are not available, as use of them would disqualify the signatures gathered. Requests for petitions may be made online at CalWA will begin mailing petitions on Friday, January 29.

A second signature drive is being scheduled February 9-11, 2016, at the World Ag Expo in Tulare. More information on this event will be available on the CaWater4All website.


The California Water Alliance is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the nature of water and promoting long-term, sustainable solutions that meet the health and security needs of families, cities, businesses, farmers and the environment. 

The California Water Alliance Initiative Fund Committee (FPPC ID#1381113), sponsored by the California Water Alliance, a non-profit IRC §501(c)(4) organization, is a state primarily formed ballot measure recipient committee organized to qualify two or more state ballot measures for the November 2016 ballot. It is permitted to accept unlimited, non-tax-deductible donations from individuals, corporations, partnerships, nonprofit organizations, and any other lawfully permissible sources. For more information and restrictions, please visit




The Water Priorities Constitutional Amendment and Bond Act Fact Sheet

California Water Explained

California Water Use Facts

California Water Polling Infographic

Dogs Detect Citrus Diseases

Dogs Detect Citrus Diseases

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

Animals have been known to be able to use their senses to detect things that humans require extensive technology to detect. Mary Palm, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) national coordinator for citrus pest programs, said dogs have been successfully trained to detect canker disease, and now Huanglongbing disease (HLB), in citrus.

“Over the past four to five years,” Palm said, “a researcher in Florida first determined dogs could actually detect canker, began training dogs,” Palm said, “and then trained different sets of dogs to detect it. It turned out that they were very good at it. In a demonstration there, none of the people could find any symptoms in a particular citrus tree, but the dogs came through and found the symptoms. Once the people came back and looked very closely, sure enough, it was there.”

Palm said the USDA Huanglongbing Multi Agency Coordination (MAC) Group funded research to determine if dogs could detect HLB in citrus as well as they detected canker. There are now five dogs being trained and tested daily. If grower demand increases, the use of canines in pest management could increase.

Palm said they will probably come up in the next year or two with certification criteria for other companies to train dogs and certify them as detectors. Palm said, “They would be able to get a certificate to show they had conducted all of the tests necessary with the [proper] degree of accuracy.” Palm said the dogs in this program have a 99 percent success rate at detecting HLB disease.

Palm said approximately 80 trees are put inside every night, the positive ones in one greenhouse and the negative ones in another. The trees are taken out the next day and positioned in different patterns for dogs to inspect throughout the day. When the dogs are brought out, even their trainers don’t know which trees are positive or negative. The trained dogs are more than 99 percent accurate.”


USDA Huanglongbing Multi Agency Coordination (MAC) Group Funded Projects: List for the Control and Mitigation of Huanglongbing FY 2015