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Bird owners urged to take precautions for avian flu

Courtesy of the UCANR News

The highly contagious avian flu is being spread primarily by migratory birds, putting backyard and commercial poultry and game birds at risk.

“Poultry owners should take precautions to prevent their birds from contacting waterfowl or the habitat that waterfowl frequent because this strain of avian influenza is highly contagious,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine associate professor of Cooperative Extension.

Infected waterfowl shed the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in their feces and respiratory secretions, where the virus can remain viable for months in the environment.

“If you can’t confine your birds in a coop, focus on good sanitation and reducing contact with waterfowl and their habitat such as agricultural fields and ponds,” he said.

Pitesky urges commercial and backyard chicken owners to monitor their birds for the following symptoms:

  • Reduced egg production
  • Trouble breathing
  • Clear, runny discharge from nose, mouth and eyes
  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drinking less
  • Swollen eyes, head, wattles or combs
  • Discolored or bruised comb, wattles or legs
  • Sudden death

To prevent exposure to potentially infected waterfowl, Pitesky suggests reassessing and redoubling biosecurity efforts to prevent contact between wild animals and domestic poultry.

Specifically, he recommends keeping birds away from ponds and other open water where they may contact waterfowl, which are the primary reservoir of the disease. To prevent cross-contamination, use clothing and boots that stay on your property and avoid sharing equipment with other bird owners.

A local veterinarian or UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor may have more suggestions to reduce risk.

For more information about protecting birds from avian influenza, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/files/225352.pdf.

Unusual or suspicious sick or dead domestic birds should be reported to the California Department of Food and Agriculture Sick Bird Hotline at (866) 922-2473.

Suspicious wild bird deaths can be reported to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Laboratories/Wildlife-Health/Monitoring/Mortality-Report.

2024-01-19T07:56:02-08:00January 19th, 2024|

$5 Million Grant Awarded to Help Farmers Enhance Pollinator Habitat in Citrus Groves

Courtesy of California Farm Bureau

The California Farm Bureau and its partners have received $5 million from the California Department of Food and Agriculture to implement climate-smart farming practices in citrus groves in 11 counties. The project, which is part of CDFA’s Pollinator Habitat Program, will focus on hedgerow planting, carbon sequestration and soil management practices, all of which create safe pollinator habitat in citrus groves.

It will fund 20 to 45 citrus groves over three years in Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Tulare, San Diego, Placer and Ventura counties. The citrus sector in these counties generates around $2 billion per year, playing a crucial role in job creation and contributing to agricultural and environmental sustainability efforts.

“This grant will help citrus growers offset costs associated with their efforts to increase pollinator habitat and learn more about how growers can protect pollinators while still controlling harmful insects and plant diseases,” said James Cranney, president of the California Citrus Quality Council, the lead organization on the grant. “The data collected from these projects will help the industry to tell its story about their contribution to pollinator protection and climate change.” 

The grant was awarded to a partnership between CCQC, California Farm Bureau and the Xerces Society.

CCQC will recruit citrus growers to join the program and create pilot projects that will then help other growers determine the feasibility of developing climate-smart production practices.

California Farm Bureau will provide all administrative support and technical assistance on healthy soil management practices through its science and research nonprofit, the California Bountiful Foundation.

The Xerces Society will provide technical assistance on pollinator-related aspects of the project, including native plants, hedgerow planting and identifying optimal locations for these features that balance pollinator health with crop productivity.

“It was important to bring the right organizations into this grant application,” California Farm Bureau Administrator Jim Houston said. “As the largest farmer organization in the state, we have the resources and know-how to implement such projects since we are designed to serve the farming community.”

Xerces Society Pollinator and Agricultural Biodiversity Co-Director Eric Lee-Mäder said, “We are excited to be part of this project and provide pollinator habitat technical assistance for citrus growers wanting to further their environmental sustainability efforts, including carbon sequestration, which contributes to reducing the effects of climate change. These partnerships are critical to building trust and making progress on so many different fronts.”

More than 80% of the awards will fund the cost of on-farm healthy soil management practices in citrus groves. As required by the funding agency, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers—as defined by the 2017 Farmer Equity Act—will receive at least 25% of the funds.

For more information on the awards, visit California Farm Bureau’s program webpage or CDFA’s fact sheet

 

2024-01-17T11:01:00-08:00January 17th, 2024|

Almond Board CEO Clarice Turner Among Top 50 Diverse Candidates to Lead Boards

Courtesy of the Almond Board of California

The Almond Board of California congratulates President and CEO Clarice Turner for being named one of the Top 50 Diverse Board Candidates in America by Equilar and the Nasdaq Center for Board Excellence.

The award was created to provide a definitive roster of “exemplary individuals among the pool of highly qualified diverse candidates who will propel companies and boards into the next era of board leadership,” said David Chun, founder and CEO of Equilar, a national executive intelligence firm.

“I want to give a heartfelt thank you to Equilar and Nasdaq not just for the honor but also for their collaborative dedication to advancing opportunities for underrepresented groups within today’s corporate boardrooms,” said Turner. “The Almond Board of California has long understood that different experiences and viewpoints make our industry and our communities stronger, more inclusive and more vibrant.”

Nominations for the designation came from a number of organizations across the country, a range of Equilar Diversity Network partners and the selection committee, composed of directors on S&P 500 boards, leaders in the board search industry and distinguished figures from the corporate governance sector, Equilar said.

“The Board of Directors is delighted to congratulate Clarice on this outstanding leadership distinction,” said Alexi Rodriguez, chair of ABC’s Board of Directors. “It’s an honor for her to be recognized by major business leaders around the country and it’s a testament to her leadership abilities, which are a great asset to our industry.”

Turner has a long history of serving on corporate and non-profit boards, including the Culinary Institute of America, Delicato Family Wines, the National Restaurant Association, Washington State University School of Business and San Francisco State University Lam School of Business.

2024-01-11T10:32:41-08:00January 11th, 2024|

Karl Stock as Regional Director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Courtesy of the Friant Water Authority

Friant Water Authority CEO Jason Phillips statement on the appointment of Karl Stock as Regional Director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

“The Friant Water Authority is excited to hear the news of the promotion of Karl Stock to be the next Regional Director of the California Great Basin Region of the United State Bureau of Reclamation. Karl has many dedicated years of service with the Bureau and has extensive knowledge of the many water challenges we are facing in the West. His long history of finding solutions to the complex issues facing water, resource, tribal, and wildlife issues will undoubtedly serve the Bureau and its stakeholders well. We look forward to working closely with Mr. Stock in his new role.

He will have big shoes to fill as the footprint left by his predecessor, Ernest Conant, is immense. Since 2019, Ernest has led the region, and one of the most complex water systems, the Central Valley Project (CVP) through some of the most challenging times, including prolonged drought periods, regulatory pressure and headwinds, and the urgent need to address aging infrastructure in dire need of attention.

Without Ernest Conants leadership, the effort and construction project to repair the Middle Reach of the Friant-Kern Canal would not be where it is today, only months away from completion.

The entire Friant Division recognizes and thanks Ernest for his dedication to the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, and we look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the incoming Regional Director in the years to come.”

2024-01-09T14:50:36-08:00January 9th, 2024|

Clarice Turner: Almond Growers Dig In to Find What the Best Practices Are

There is a Halo that Surrounds Almonds

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the Ag Information Radio Network

Clarice Turner, a ninth-generation California farming family will take the reins of the Almond Board of California at the end of this month, after Richard Waycott steps down after 21 years.

Turner comments on how she prepared for this job, traveling throughout the state in listening sessions with growers and others in the industry. “It’s interesting as I talk to people outside the industry, you realize the halo that almonds have, and how we are so revered as being the leading edge in so many things. And talking to growers you hear that reinforced from people who want to be 100 percent organic to biodynamic,” said Turner.

“Growers told me that they have been farming the same ground for four generations and we have been taking care of the soil, and it is not certified to do any of that, but we know what we know because we have generations to protect. We want to hand this down to our families that will come beyond us,” noted Turner. “So, their care and stewardship are there and they want to dig in to find out what the best practices are.”

And Turner credited almond growers with something very special regarding bees. “This was astounding to me when you think about bees, 86 percent of the bee-friendly certified farms are almond orchards. It’s incredible, all the things that are already happening because it’s the right thing,” she said.

2023-12-19T08:55:26-08:00December 19th, 2023|

American Pistachio Growers Awarded $5 Million Healthy Soils Grant

Courtesy of the American Pistachio Growers

California Department of Food and Agriculture grant promotes carbon sequestration, environmentally-friendly soils management practices

American Pistachio Growers (APG) has been awarded a $5 million grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to help growers adopt healthy soils practices in the Golden State.  The grant is a part of the California Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration of state agencies and departments that promotes the development of healthy soils on California’s farmlands and ranchlands.

The grant to APG is among 14 grants funded through the CDFA Healthy Soils Block Grant Pilot Program, which awarded $62 million in soils block grants in 2023 to various organizations.  The program will fund projects for three years, with a limit of $200,000 per project over the lifetime of the grant. The objective is to better connect farmers and ranchers with programs that encourage and incentivize the implementation of management practices that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases, and improve overall soil health.

“As the non-profit trade association for the pistachio industry, American Pistachio Growers is uniquely positioned to assist growers in implementing and managing various Healthy Soils Block Grant qualified projects,” said Wes Wilson, APG Director of Member Services and Communications. “We look forward to connecting growers with these valuable programs that will not only improve the overall health of our California soils, but have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon, all while increasing yields and reducing traditional inputs.”

The agreement with the CDFA Office of Environ mental Farming and Innovation (OEFI) was executed on December 5, 2023, with grower applications opening January 1, 2024.  APG anticipates funding more than 30 projects, with special consideration given to growers who qualify as Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers or have farms of 500 acres or less.

2023-12-15T08:26:52-08:00December 15th, 2023|

Clarice Turner Will Take the Reins of the Almond Board of California Soon

Turner Comes from A Ninth Generation California Farming Family

By Patrick Cavanaugh with the Ag Information Radio Network

Meet Clarice Turner, who will be the new President and CEO of the Almond Board of California at the end of this month. She is following Richard Waycott who is stepping down as the President and CEO of the Almond Board following 21 years of service.

She comments on her new role at the Almond Board of California. “I could not be more pleased to be in this role. My passion for ag stems a long time back to 1773, that’s nine generations of being a Californian family, and my family has farmed so many different crops over the years as things come and go,” noted Turner.  “I used to do peaches in Modesto, but try to find a stone fruit in Modesto now, there are not too many of them.”

“But it’s a great pleasure to have this role because I’m so passionate about agriculture in the state and I’m worried about it honestly, and the opportunity to be able to make a difference on behalf of a lot of agriculture because we represent such a huge category within the state and frankly within the U.S,” she said.

“That’s a great honor, and pleasure, and I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to go about it yet, but I’m learning like crazy,” noted Turner.  “And what I do know is that there is an amazing group of people out there who care deeply and have lots of ideas, and we are very fortunate to have leaders in the industry who want to collaborate and work together. That gives me a lot of hope and fuels my passion to be able to help take us forward,” she noted.

2023-12-13T22:48:19-08:00December 13th, 2023|

UCCE Advisor Bruno Guides, Learns From Dairies Switching to Milking Robots

Courtesy of UC ANR News

Automatic milking systems increasingly used in California amid labor challenges

When third-generation dairy farmer Shonda Reid first saw a milking robot at a farm show 13 years ago, she immediately recognized that the technology represented the future. Her father, however, took a bit more convincing.

“I came home and showed him and said, ‘This is what we need to do.’ And he thought I was kidding!” said Reid, dairy and farm manager for Fred Rau Dairy, which has a herd of 1,400 milk cows in Fresno County.

Years later, after the family had visited several dairies using automatic milking systems (AMS) across the U.S., they installed their first six robots in November 2021. By fall 2022, they had 24 robots, evenly split between two newly built “free stall” barns where the cows can freely go to the milking machines.

As Fred Rau Dairy was one of the first in California to implement AMS at such a scale, Reid and her team have been instrumental in growing practical knowledge on these systems. She also has been a valued partner to Daniela Bruno, University of California Cooperative Extension dairy advisor for Fresno, Madera and Kings counties.

“Automatic milking robots are not a new technology, but it’s new to California,” said Bruno, noting that the milking robots were first used on small, family-run farms in Europe, where the technology granted family members more time for rest and other pursuits.

To better understand the feasibility of milking robots for large dairies in California, Bruno – alongside former UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine professor Fernanda Ferreira, University of Minnesota researcher Marcia Endres and other collaborators – began a project in 2020 to study the risks and opportunities of automated systems.

“The information is extremely useful for California producers to make informed decisions about implementing AMS on their facilities,” said Denise Mullinax, executive director of the California Dairy Research Foundation, which supported the effort through a competitive grant. “Cow care, labor requirements and profitability are key issues for producers, and CDRF was pleased to support this project which assists producers in understanding how AMS may impact those areas on their facility.”

Dairy farmer: ‘We needed to make some changes’

The project produced a paper analyzing existing research on automatic systems, which have been more widely used in the Midwest, where there are more small-scale, family-run dairies. In 2020, there were only 14 “box robots” in California, according to Bruno. Now there are about 200 across California – and both Bruno and Reid cited labor challenges as the primary reason for the increased use of automated systems.

“California suffers from labor quality and quantity issues,” Bruno said. “By bringing robots to California, you can minimize those problems.”

Higher costs of hiring and retaining employees, driven in part by new labor laws, are one factor. And then there’s the reliability and availability of labor, as fewer people are willing to do the physically demanding work of conventional milking.

“People just don’t want to milk in a flat barn [a conventional setup where the employee works at the same level as the cow] – there’s a lot of kneeling, squatting, that type of thing – it’s pretty tough on the body,” Reid explained.

Faced with labor shortages and mounting regulatory burdens, Reid said Fred Rau Dairy had to make the leap to automated systems to keep the 80-year-old dairy operation running.

“We needed to make some changes, or we’re going out of the dairy business,” she said.

In a survey conducted by Bruno and her colleagues of large dairies using AMS across the U.S., a majority of the 29 respondents reported reductions in labor costs – but survey results did not offer a definitive picture on whether AMS improved bottom-line profitability.

Calmer, healthier cows

Nevertheless, most of the survey respondents said they were generally happy with their transition to automatic systems.

“It’s totally met our expectations, and cow health has gotten much better, too,” Reid said.

In a typical conventional system where cows are outside in “open corral” pens, dairy employees must cajole the cows into the milking parlor. But within a “free stall” barn where the cows can voluntarily go to the milking robots when they want, as often as they want, the animals are much less stressed.

“When you think about cow handling, if you have robots, you don’t have anybody pushing and screaming at them to walk to the parlor,” Bruno explained. “You have less cow-people interaction so they are more calm; there is less stress.”

In the survey of large dairies using milking robots, more than 90% of the respondents said their cows were calmer. Reid also noted that many people have noticed how calm their cows are in the free stall barns.

“They’re not skittish, you can walk in and they don’t run,” Reid said. “They’ll just watch you or they’ll even come up and start licking on your jacket or shirt.”

Bruno also said that many of the large dairies reported fewer cases of mastitis and other diseases, less lameness, and greater milk production. But she added it’s hard to know whether the benefits can be attributed to the robots and their real-time monitoring technology – or to changes in the physical environment (cows save energy in the free stall barn setup, versus the open-corral system that requires walking to the milking parlor).

Dairy producers seek counsel on potential transition

Less bovine travel from outside to inside was a boon for Fred Rau Dairy during last year’s unusually wet winter.

“Even if it’s just a couple of weeks of rain, that mud and manure and everything – you do what you can, but oh my gosh – it’s a mess,” said Reid, noting that easier facility maintenance during extreme weather was another benefit of switching to automatic systems within free stall barns.

Reid shared many of her experiences with attendees of an AMS Field Day in October 2022, arranged by Bruno, Ferreira and their collaborators. About 60 farmers, researchers, industry representatives and consultants visited Fred Rau Dairy and Jones Dairy in Merced County.

If a dairy producer is considering implementing automatic systems, Reid recommends that they research all their options, visit dairies that use the systems, and check who in their area would be providing service and technical support.

And there are crucial workforce considerations, as dairy workers must learn an entirely new set of skills and processes. Instead of spending their time fetching the cows, prepping them and milking them in the parlor, workers might need to gather and interpret data from the robots. “Cow people,” as Reid puts it, must become computer people.

“You have a group of people who have been with you for a while, and you hope that they can transition to the new technology of what you’re doing,” Reid said.

During this technological transition, and on the myriad other challenges that dairy operators face, Reid said she is grateful for Bruno’s expertise and responsiveness.

“If there’s something that I need, she’s been really good about trying to help – or putting me in contact with the right people,” she explained. “I’ve enjoyed working with her.”

The AMS project team also includes UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine professor Fabio Lima, postdoctoral researcher Thaisa Marques and former postdoctoral researcher Camila Lage.

2023-12-08T08:27:10-08:00December 8th, 2023|

Shannon Douglass Elected President of California Farm Bureau

Courtesy of Peter Hecht at California Farm Bureau

Shannon Douglass, a diversified farmer in Glenn County, has been elected to a two-year term as president of the California Farm Bureau.

Douglass, who previously served three terms as first vice president, is the first woman to head the organization, which was founded in 1919.

“This is an exciting moment,” Douglass said. “Farm Bureau has provided me with tremendous opportunities as a first-generation farmer. I’m excited to be part of the leadership of this organization, which represents the diversity of farmers and ranchers in our state.

“The California Farm Bureau has long played an important role in working to protect the future of America’s most productive agricultural economy,” Douglass added. “We face abundant challenges in farming and ranching today. But California remains a great place to grow food, and Farm Bureau is committed to helping our state farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses thrive for generations to come.”

Douglass succeeds Jamie Johansson, who served three terms as president, beginning in 2017. She was elected Tuesday at the Farm Bureau’s 105th Annual Meeting in Reno.

Douglass is an owner of Douglass Ranch in Orland, which raises cattle and grows walnuts, corn and forage crops, She also co-founded CalAgJobs, an online listing of employment opportunities in California agriculture.

Douglass has served as a director of the Glenn County Farm Bureau and as chair of the California Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers State Committee. She is a graduate of the Leadership Farm Bureau program and the California Agricultural Leadership Program and participated in the American Farm Bureau Federation Partners in Advocacy Leadership program.

Douglass earned a master’s degree in agricultural policy, a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a minor in agriculture business from California State University, Chico.

Shaun Crook, vice president of a family timber business and a real estate agent specializing in ranch, commercial and residential properties, was elected as the Farm Bureau’s first vice president. Crook has served three terms as the organization’s second vice president. He was first elected as president of Tuolumne County Farm Bureau in 2015.

Ron Peterson, a member of California Farm Bureau Board of Directors and past president of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, was elected as second vice president. Peterson is a cattle rancher and dairy farmer who also grows silage crops and almonds.

2023-12-13T23:00:51-08:00December 6th, 2023|

Kern County Agriculture Teacher Wins YF&R Discussion Meet

Courtesy of Peter Hecht

A high school teacher from Kern County earned top honors in the California Young Farmers & Ranchers Open Discussion Meet for his discussion on the tools available and programs needed to help young farmers and ranchers gain access to capital to start an agricultural business.

  Timothy Collins, who teaches agricultural mechanics in Bakersfield and who said he hopes to farm in the future, emerged as the winner in the competition held during the California Farm Bureau YF&R Annual Meeting in Reno, Nevada.

 The Open Discussion Meet featured YF&R participants from across the state. They advanced to the final competition from earlier rounds in which they were challenged to demonstrate their abilities in exchanging ideas and offering detailed opinions on important issues for agriculture.

 Cheyenne Erickson of Antioch in Contra Costa County was first runner-up in the contest. The other finalists were Daniel Jones of Dixon in Solano County and Lillian Smith of Wheatland in Yuba County.

 As the winner of the Open Discussion Meet, Collins earned $5,000. First runner-up Erickson received $1,000, and finalists Jones and Smith each received $500. The winner will represent California in the national contest during the American Farm Bureau Federation annual conference Jan. 19-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 Clayton Merrill, who majors in agricultural communications at California State University, Fresno, was named the winner of the Collegiate Discussion Meet, which was also held during the Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.

 During the collegiate contest, 13 YF&R members from four colleges competed in discussing a question on how Farm Bureau can address water management challenges and seek long-term solutions for farmers and ranchers.

 As winner, Merrill earns $1,250 and will represent California in the national competition during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s YF&R Leadership Conference set for March 8-11 in Omaha, Nebraska.

2023-12-05T08:16:29-08:00December 5th, 2023|
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