Bayer’s “Grow On” Tool Pinpoints Sustainable Farming

Program Segmented for Different Crops

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Nevada Smith of Sacramento is a marketing manager for Bayer Crop Science’s Western Region. California Ag Today recently spoke with him about Grow On, a tool that farmers can use to identify, apply, and communicate sustainable farm practices.

“It’s a tool to help growers really think about how they approach the marketplace and how they communicate the message around sustainability. We think it’s a critical aspect for not only … their success but our success,” Smith explained. “But there’s many things they’re not really identifying that they do every day from a common standpoint that they need to promote themselves. What we’ve really done in the next step which we felt was missing was really going after each crop segment. In the Grow On campaign, we have a citrus segment, a tree nut segment, a grape segment, and several other ones. “

Segmenting the program can help target specific aspects of each type of crop.

“You can really understand what aspects might provide you from a labor point of view that really affects grapes and … performance,” Smith said. “If I’m a citrus guy, what am I doing about bees? These are different components, so you don’t really overlap. We’re really trying to ground into each crop.”

The idea behind Grow On is to give farmers the tools to be advocates for farming and sustainable agriculture.

“Bayer’s producing this before the marketplaces, which I really don’t understand, and let them be their own conduits,” Smith said. “We’ve talked about advocacy. We’ve talked about what growers are doing each day to solve their own problems to keep themselves sustainable, but now’s an opportunity to take these little aspects in six different buckets here and really understand how they can talk the story themselves.”

“We look at the big picture, and what we’re trying to do is provide solutions to what Bayer’s providing. They’ll begin to see other things that their doing themselves. They can organize themselves in thought and provide those tools to whoever’s buying their commodity and crop and also to that persons who’s asking them why do you farm? How are you helping the environment through your practices? This is the platform for them to do that.”

For more information about Grow On, visit cropscience.bayer.us.

More California Ag News

“Grow On” To Help Growers Bayer Crop Science’s Grow On Campaign Has Six Focus Areas By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Grow On is a tool developed by Bayer Crop Sci...
Bayer Launching CoLaborator Space in Sacramento Biotech Startup Lab to Serve as Incubator By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor Bayer Crop Sciences Biologics Group in West Sacramento is Bayer's global...
New Nematicide Available New Velum One Nematicide Registered For Use in California By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Horticulture crops in California and Arizona ca...
Support Agriculture By Being An ‘AgVocate’ Bayer CropScience Says Farmers Need to AgVocate with Consumers By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster The California Association of Pest Control A...

Agricultural Guestworker Act Won’t Help California

Proposed Legislation Long Way from What State Needs

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s Agricultural Guestworker Act is moving forward for the full Ag Committee to consider it, but according to Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation, it’s a long way from what California needs.

“They did something with the H2C proposal. It’s a long, long, long ways from what we need here in California. We’ve been very clear on that … with Kevin McCarthy’s office, being the leader of the Republicans and really our key architect for all things that go through the Legislature, and so we’re in constant contact with Congressman McCarthy,” Wenger said.

The ag leaders in California are pretty astounded that Congress is doing anything about labor.

“We’re glad we finally got something to discuss, but there’s a long ways to go,” Wenger explained. “As it’s written, as it came through the subcommittee, there’s really nothing there that would work for our employees here in California and give us the kind of flexibility that we need, but we need a vehicle to start the discussion. … Talking to Congressman [David] Valadao’s office, Jeff Denham and others on the Republican side because it’s really got to be led by the Republicans.”

“We  now need a lot more that will allow for some portability of our workforce, in order to get legal documentation for those folks that don’t have good documentation that are already here in our state working without touchback, because we know folks aren’t going to go back and stand in line for 20 years waiting for some kind of a work authorization.”

 

More California Ag News

Simplifying Ag Terms Important in Advocacy Advocating for Ag with Simplified Terms By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor It’s important when the agricultural industry is speaking with others ou...
Washington Post Writer Sees Ag Issues with RAISE A... Disconnect Exists with Urban Politicians, Ruben Navarrette says By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor Ruben Navarrette grew up in the Central Valley and i...
Farm Workers Strive For Success Farm Workers and Dreamers Work Hard To Reach the American Dream By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Joe Del Bosque is a diversified farmer in w...
Ag Unite Addresses Critical Ag Issues Ag Unite Brings Stanislaus County Together By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau was recently recognized with a ...

Hundreds of Studies Point to Glyphosate Being Safe

Herbicide is Non-Toxic if Used Correctly, Expert Says

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Glyphosate herbicide, produced under the well-known brand of Roundup, or any of its generic labels, has been studied around the world with absolutely no findings showing it to be toxic if used correctly. California Ag Today recently interviewed Liza Dunn, an emergency medical doctor, and also a medical toxicologist on the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, about the herbicide. She’s been working with Monsanto for about a year.

Monsanto has done lots and lots of studies, and not only Monsanto, but there are six full data packages that review using very, very, very intensive laboratory and epidemiologic techniques to look and see if something is actually causing a problem,” Dunn said.

But according to media reports, glyphosate does cause big problems.

“We have never found any problem with any health claim with glyphosate, and this is both independent researchers and researchers who are based with industry, so when you look at the evidence objectively, there is no health claim that has ever been demonstrated with glyphosate. If you use it as directed, it is incredibly, virtually non-toxic,” Dunn explained.

According to Dunn, that’s been proven by more than 100 toxicology studies.

“There are different levels that you have to study when you’re bringing your product to market, so different things that you have to look at. We have produced multiple, multiple studies, way in excess of what regulatory agencies have required, in order to demonstrate the safety and virtual non-toxicity of our product,” Dunn said.

 

More California Ag News

Paraquat Resistance in Weeds? Weeds Now Showing Paraquat Resistance By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director There's been weed resistance to glyphosate herbicide, but now some we...
BPIA Executive Director Talks Biological Products Biological Product Industry Meets in Orlando By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Nearly 200 individuals from the worldwide biological products ...
BioSafe Systems Offers Biological Control Products BioCeres Beneficial Fungi Kills Important Pests By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director California Ag Today recently interviewed Jay Sughroue, Ph.D...
Chlorpyrifos Under More Scrutiny in California California Regulators Pursuing Health Protections for Chlorpyrifos News Release The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) announced re...

Bayer Launching CoLaborator Space in Sacramento

Biotech Startup Lab to Serve as Incubator

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Bayer Crop Sciences Biologics Group in West Sacramento is Bayer’s global headquarters for microbial base crop protection products. The company recently announced that a new biotech startup lab space known as the Crop Science CoLaborator is available in 3,000 square feet within the West Sacramento facility. Jon Margolis, head of research technologies for Bayer Biologics, recently spoke to California Ag Today about the project

Jon Margolis

“This is a part of the original building as we built it out,” Margolis said. “We set aside about 3,000 square feet in the back to be dedicated to this incubator space, and now we’ve just finished the construction.”

The lab space is scheduled to become available in December.

“It’s part of kind of a larger strategy for Bayer,” Margolis said. “So we have actually now three of these so-called CoLaborator spaces. So there’s one in Mission Bay associated with UCSS in San Francisco. There’s another one in Berlin, and then this is the latest. But this is the first one for Bayer that’s dedicated to agriculture and food research.”

We asked Margolis what the meaning is behind the CoLaborator.

“It’s really based around the idea that for start-up companies, there’s a clear benefit of being associated and nearby to Bayer, not so much for the facilities as much as the opportunities to be able to talk to and interact with us,” Margolis explained. “From our side, it’s a great thing because it gives us kind of a reason or an opportunity to be talking to start-ups in this space who might be interested in renting this.”

Bayer is already starting to solicit for tenants for the space.

“It’ll be a combination of office and then fully modern, what we call, wet lab or biochemistry and cell biology kind of labs, which would be able to host up to three different companies,” Margolis said. “So typically, these early stage start-up companies are comprised one to three people, and what they’re really trying to do is get the initial proof of concept to really show that their idea, their technology works, to then be able to go out to investors and get the next round of funding. So this is kind of in that sweet spot because there’s not a lot of that space in the local area.”

More California Ag News

New Nematicide Available New Velum One Nematicide Registered For Use in California By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Horticulture crops in California and Arizona ca...
Fresno State’s WET Center Home to BlueTechVa... BlueTechValley Series - Part 3 By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director We're continuing our series on California Ag Today regarding the BlueTechVal...
PowWow Energy Gets Major Funding The Central Valley Angel Group Invests in PowWow Energy, Inc. News Release PowWow is applying data science to solve practical problems in agricultur...
Napolitano Says Ag Needs Technology UC President Janet Napolitano: Technology Drives Ag By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Janet Napolitano, President of University of California...

Washington Post Writer Sees Ag Issues with RAISE Act

Disconnect Exists with Urban Politicians, Ruben Navarrette says

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Ruben Navarrette grew up in the Central Valley and is a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. California Ag Today caught up with him recently at an event in Fresno called the The Latino Paradox: Immigration Forum. He spoke about the RAISE Act S.354, which severely limits immigration into the U.S. because it would be based on education and skills.

Ruben Navarrette

“There’s this disconnect in Washington and New York … mostly urban areas where politicians don’t think much about agriculture, agribusiness,” Navarrette said. “They have no clue about where this fruit is coming from when they walk down the street in New York and they see an orange. They don’t understand how dangerous something like the RAISE Act would be if you ultimately limit the amount of people who come here based on education and skills.”

The RAISE Act will limit immigration from Latin American countries. Meanwhile, U.S.-born citizens don’t go out to work in the fields.

“I think there’s a lot of people who wrongly believe that American workers will do those jobs if the wages are high enough, and the way they tell the story [is] to make the agribusiness and the farmers into the bad guy,” Navarrette said. “If you know enough farmers and you go out into enough fields and you interview enough farmers and enough workers, you know that’s completely false. Farmers could be in business for 30 years and never in 30 years have they ever had an American come to them and say, ‘Can I pick peaches?’ ”

With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act (DACA), if dreamers are sent back, there are questions about what may happen with their parents.

“If they go back, the parents may ultimately self-deport as well and that’s going to be disruptive,” Navarrette said. “Clearly it’s a mistake for us to believe that sort of agriculture and DACA, they’re all separate from each other. The issues are all intertwined. When a farm worker is working in a field, he cares about whether the local police have the authority to detain him, if he’s pulled over. He cares because he has kids who are in the DACA Program, so farming isn’t necessarily segregated. The farm workers are piped into all these different issues.”

 

More California Ag News

Farm Workers Fearful for Future Americans not interested in farm worker jobs, Western Growers Association says By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director The noble farm workers m...
Farm Workers Strive For Success Farm Workers and Dreamers Work Hard To Reach the American Dream By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Joe Del Bosque is a diversified farmer in w...
Who Safeguards Farm Worker Rights? – Part 8 Pick Justice, Gerawan Farm Workers Protest Forced Unionization By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor Jesse Rojas, spokesperson for Pick Justice, a farm ...
Seat Belts Important to Farm Worker Safety Year-Round Nut Harvest Safety -  Part 2 By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Safety should be top priority on farms, especially during harvest. ...

Letter in Support of Temperance Flat Dam

California Building Industry Association Supports Temperance Flat Dam Project

Many letters are flowing to the California Water Commission in support of Temperance Flat. Here is just one of them!

 

 

Mr. Armando Quintero

Chairman

California Water Commission

P.O. Box 942836 Sacramento, CA 94236-0001

 

Re: Support for Temperance Flat Reservoir

Dear Chairman Quintero:

The California Building Industry Association (CBIA) is a statewide trade association that proudly represents 3,000 members, ranging from homebuilders and trade contractors to suppliers and industry professionals. CBIA member-companies are responsible for over 90% of the privately financed and privately constructed new homes built in California each year. As such, we take great interest in the Water Commission’s Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) and its process for allocating Proposition 1 funds for projects to improve the statewide water system. CBIA has historically been a strong supporter of efforts to increase water supply – our organization was a key stakeholder in the water bond negotiations in 2009 through the successful Proposition 1 bond on the ballot.

Given our longstanding interest in California’s water system, we wish to express our support for the Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir Project given its ability to provide essential water storage for the state of California. As one of the projects identified in the 2000 CALFED Record of Decision, the project would provide up to 1.26 million acre-feet of vital water storage, thereby improving water supply and the flexibility needed to manage California’s precious water resources.

An increase in water supply is particularly important given the state’s current and projected housing crisis. Housing supply is not keeping up with demand nor has it in several decades. The current backlog of housing is estimated at two million homes needed. Additionally, to keep pace with growth, the state needs at least 180,000 new units per year through 2025. With low supply and skyrocketing costs, it is not surprising that California’s overall homeownership rate is at its lowest level since the 1940’s. The State ranks 49 out of the 50 states in homeownership rates as well as in the supply of housing units per capita.

One critical component for addressing California’s housing needs is there must be an adequate and reliable source of water. While today’s homebuilders employ the newest and most effective water efficiency technology, new housing projects cannot be approved and built without identifying water supply. Temperance Flat would help provide that reliability so that our members can move forward on much needed housing projects throughout the state.

We strongly support this project, as it would help ensure that California has the ability to sustain its growing water needs by enhancing deplenished water resources and providing the necessary flexibility in the system to manage those resources. We look forward to working with the California Water Commission and the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority to advance this important project.

Sincerely,

Erin Guerrero

Vice President of Legislative Affairs

 

Many other letters are coming in for support. Here is who to contact, by e-mail or U.S. mail, with your comments attention to:

California Water Commissioners and Executive Director

California Water Commission

P.O. Box 942836

Sacramento, California 94236-0001

CWC@water.ca.gov

Mr. Joe Yun, Executive Director

California Water Commission

P.O. Box 942836

Sacramento, California 94236-0001

joseph.yun@water.ca.gov

More California Ag News

Push for Temperance Flat Dam Plans for Water Storage Due August 14th By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor Five years after a devastating drought in California, the lack of wate...
Temperance Flat Dam Offers Many Important Benefits Temperance Flat Dam Feasibility Studies Underway By Laurie Greene, Editor The San Joaquin Valley Weather Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA), a Join...
Final Feasibility Study Begins for Temperance Flat... Temperance Flat Dam Would Provide Groundwater Relief, Jobs By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Mario Santoyo, executive director, San Joaquin V...
Historic Temperance Flat MOU Signing Assemblymember Bigelow on Historic July 1 MOU Signing By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director East of Fresno at Friant Dam last Friday, July 1, the...

Almond Growers Conserve Water – Part 2

The Value of the California Almond Industry – Part 2

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The California almond industry is doing very well as a leading crop desired by consumers around the world, and growers are doing a tremendous job in growing the crop efficiently. This is Part 2 of a multipart series on the value of the California almond industry.

Buddy Ketchner runs a consulting firm called Brand K Strategies, and he works closely with the almond industry. He said that a cornerstone of industry is the fact that about 78 percent of the almond growers farm almonds under drip or micro sprinklers.

“That’s why we have the fact now that we’re using 33 percent less water than we were 20 years ago. I think that investment and that commitment to continual innovation is one of the reasons the industry’s done well. Now, all food takes resources, all food takes water, all food takes energy to grow,” Ketchner said. “I think what the almond industry has done well, and needs to continue doing, is to make sure that we’re doing it in the most effective, the most efficient, the most productive way. Not just for our growers but for the Earth and for the planet, which is what they do.”

The almond industry is committed in saving even more water over the coming years. There is a solid trend going on in the food industry that’s known as plant protein.

“I think one of the things we talk a lot about is the rise of the plants. The notion is that as populations increased, that as the middle classes increased globally, there’s a sense that we need to have protein that comes from plants as well as animals. So, people choose plant-based proteins for a number of different reasons,” Ketchner explained.

“For some of them, it’s because of the environmental story; they believe it’s more sustainable. For some people, it’s a health story; they just think it’s healthier or lighter, or it has some contribution to health that makes it a better choice for them than animal protein,” he said.

“For some people, it’s cost. There are a lot of reasons people pick plant-based protein. And how people are choosing to get their protein. I don’t remember what the latest statistic is. I think it’s like eight percent of the population is vegetarian, but 33 percent of the population regularly chooses vegetarian and plant-based protein options. It’s just how they want to balance their diet,” Ketchner said.

“I just want to make sure I’m clear: All food is good. I think animal protein is great, and plant-based protein is great. Consumers are looking for a balance in their diet, and so lots of reasons why that’s grown, but almonds are certainly part of that trend,” he said.

More California Ag News

Almonds Nearly Perfect Food (Part 1) The Value of the California Almond Industry By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director The California almond industry is doing very well as a leading ...
Rice Fields Provide Habitat for Wildlife Fields Alive with Life in the Summer By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor Rice fields provide a great source of food for consumers, but they also provid...
Steve Forbes Talks Unnecessary Regulations in Ag Steve Forbes Says Ag Tech Driving Agriculture By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Steve Forbes of Forbes Media was in Salinas recently at the F...
Push for Temperance Flat Dam Plans for Water Storage Due August 14th By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor Five years after a devastating drought in California, the lack of wate...

Almonds Nearly Perfect Food (Part 1)

The Value of the California Almond Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The California almond industry is doing very well as a leading crop desired by consumers around the world. That’s according to many people in the industry, but one person who knows even more is Buddy Ketchner who runs a consulting firm called Brand K Strategies working with food companies and industries to help them navigate the changing food world at a strategic level. He’s based in Boulder, CO, but he is heavily involved in the California almond industry.

“I think the almond industry is one of the great success stories in American agriculture. And I think it’s living in a place now where people connect to almonds for so many different reasons, for the health, because it’s from nature, it’s unprocessed, it’s convenient, it’s portable. Almonds are almost the perfect food for what people are looking for today,” Ketchner said.

Buddy Ketchner

“And I think over the last 20 years of work, establishing that trust with consumers and with customers on what almonds, not only what they are, but what they stand for, has put us in a really great place,” he said.

And Ketchner says when people make food choices, they’re thinking beyond just what they’re buying. “Part of what they’re doing is they’re signaling what’s important to them, and I think almonds align with people’s values in a lot of ways.

“Over the last few years, we’ve come under some scrutiny because of water usage and other things, and I think those issues are important,” he said. “And I think one of the things we have to do in the industry is make sure that we’re always telling our story and lathering up our story and balancing our stories. Not only on why almonds are good for you, but why almonds are good. And I think that’s really important for us.”

“And ultimately building demand and continuing to grow this industry is about something bigger than just marketing; it’s about telling our story as an industry, not only what we grow, but how we grow it and why we grow it,” he said.

Ketchner explained that one of the cornerstones of the industry’s success has been the investment in research where it’s applied into practice.

“When you have an industry where 76 to 78% of the industry is using some form of drip irrigation or micro sprinklers, but in more sustainable irrigation techniques, that is so far above most industries, almost any other industry,” he said.

And so investing in the research, investing in the technology and then applying it in the field has really mattered.

More California Ag News

Legislative Pressure on Agriculture Legislative Pressure Builds for Agriculture By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor Dennis Albiani is a lobbyist with California Advocates based in ...
Developing On-Site Rescue Plans for Worker Safety Western Agricultural Processors Association Seeks to Improve Worker Safety By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor Agricultural work can be very dangerous ...
Innovative Biomass Conversion to Help Ag New Biomass Conversion Idea Could Help Ag Industry By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Editor A new biomass process will convert woody ag waste, includi...
AgJobs4U Connects Employees and Ag Businesses AgJobs4U.com Helps Workers and Farmers By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster Two years ago, Josh Pitigliano encountered a problem when coming int...

Central Valley Grapes in Demand for Rosé Blends

Rosé Blends Growing in Popularity

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Rosé blends are popular again, according to Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers, a California wine grape marketing cooperative with nearly 600 grower members located from major wine grape regions in California.

The Fresno based association exists for the purpose of efficient and competitive marketing of its members’ grapes as well as offering marketing services for non-members.

Recently, they had their 66th annual grower meeting in Fresno. DiBuduo said there’s some activity from the Central Coast and North Coast wineries sourcing out grapes in the Central Valley.

Nat DiBuduo

“They are looking for quality grapes that they can blend into their different programs. We are getting interest on good Cabernet, Barbera and Grenache in order to make rosé wine,” DiBuduo said. “This is something we hadn’t seen in a long time. Rosés seem to be the buzz all of sudden.”

Evidence has shown that millennials are reaching for rosé blends.

Another popular wine from the Central Valley is moscato, made from Muscat Alexander grapes.

“Moscato is very interesting. Last year, we had more Muscat Alexander than we knew what to do with. This year, we don’t have enough Muscat Alexander. I’ve already sold probably the excess 3000 to 4000 tons that I had and just yesterday got a phone call for another 1000 tons, so yeah, I don’t have enough Muscat Alexander, where last year we were in excess,” DiBuduo said.

We asked DiBuduo the reason for that shortage this year. “I think the heat has caused a crop shortage, you know it’s a caused a weakness in the crop,” DiBuduo explained.

 

More California Ag News

New Chair Sought for Fresno State’s VERC Viticulture Enology Research Center Seeks New Chair By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor California Ag Today met with Dave Zoldoske, director of th...
Innovative Biomass Conversion to Help Ag New Biomass Conversion Idea Could Help Ag Industry By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Editor A new biomass process will convert woody ag waste, includi...
2016 California Winegrape Crop DiBuduo: 2016 Winegrape Crop Up  By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster Allied Grape Growers is a California winegrape marketing cooperative that ...
Students Awarded Scholarships California’s Table Grape Growers Award Scholarships  All recipients will be attending California universities or colleges.   Six field worke...

Who Safeguards CA Farm Workers’ Rights? Part 4 – Motion to Disqualify ALRB Member Hall

ALRB Rejects Gerawan’s Motion to Disqualify Isadore Hall III

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Our ongoing coverage of developments among United Farm Workers (UFW), Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), Gerawan Farming, Inc. and California farm workers chronicles the continuing, increasingly complex quagmire that masquerades as protecting California farm workers’ rights.

In short, after a series of legal volleys between Gerawan Farming and ALRB this past spring, the ALRB, again, refused to disqualify ALRB Member Isadore Hall III, former state senator (35th District, D-Compton), from participating in specific Gerawan legal cases on the basis of alleged pro-UFW bias.

In legal terms, ALRB issued an administrative order on June 9, 2017, denying Gerawan Farming, Inc.’s May 23, 2017 motion for reconsideration of request to disqualify Isadore Hall III from participating in specific case deliberations and decisions regarding Gerawan Farming, Inc.  Likewise, ALRB also denied Gerawan’s request for a stay of the proceedings pending resolution of Mr. Hall’s participation.

BACKGROUND

Condensed Early History

The UFW was certified as the bargaining representative for Gerawan’s agricultural employees in July 1992, after a 1990 election. After one preliminary negotiating session in February 1995, the UFW disappeared for almost two decades, having never collected dues, negotiated for a wage increase, attempted to bargain for a contract or filed a single grievance on behalf of Gerawan employees during their abandonment, according to an April 17, 2017, Gerawan news release.

In 2013, the UFW  invoked a controversial 2002 Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (MMC) law that allows the ALRB to draft and impose a “contract” on the employer and employees against their will. UFW also proposed that Gerawan employees pay 3% of their wages to the UFW or be fired. Fewer than 1% of the current Gerawan workforce voted in the 1990 election, and many current employees were not even born when that election took place.

California Gerawan farm workers harvesting tree fruit
California farm workers harvesting tree fruit

The majority of employees twice asked ALRB for an election to decertify the UFW. At the ALRB’s request, the Fresno Superior Court intervened and supervised the decertification petition processthe first time in ALRB history that a court oversaw an ALRB election.

On November 5, 2013, thousands of Gerawan workers cast secret ballots to decide whether to decertify the UFW. The ALRB impounded the ballots, which remain uncounted to this date in an undisclosed (possibly insecure) location.

Current History – 2017

Appointment of Isadore Hall III to ALRB

In his January 13, 2017, letter of resignation to Governor Brown as ALRB Chairman, William B. Gould IV stated that the Agricultural Labor Relations Act [ALRA or “Act”] “is now irrelevant to farm workers, in particular, because, for the most part, they are not aware of the provisions, procedures, and rights contained in the law.”

“I have pointed out [in several speeches] that only one representation petition has been filed during the 34 months of my Chairmanship,” Gould continued. “More than 99% of the agricultural workforce appears to be unrepresented and the instances of unfair labor practice charges and invocation of the Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation Act (MMC) are few and far between.”

William Gould, IV, former ALRB chair
William Gould, IV, former ALRB chair

“Regrettably, though the Board adopted the proposed rule 14 months ago for worker education about the Act’s features, the rule has languished in the bowels of state bureaucracy for the past 14 months. My view is that this long delay is substantially attributable to the fact that the ALRB, unlike the NLRB, is not a standalone, independent administrative agency.”

Also on January 13, 2017, Governor Brown designated Genevieve Shiroma as Chair of the ALRB, where she had served as a member since 1999, an appointment that did not require Senate confirmation. Likewise, Governor Brown appointed Isadore Hall III, and the California Senate confirmed his appointment, despite Hall’s public history of pro-UFW activity and endorsements and allegations that he threatened farmers who opposed his nomination.

Agricultural Community Responds to Hall’s Appointment

In Farmers Deserve a Balanced Ag Labor Board,”a letter published in the Sacramento Bee on February 23, 2017 by George Radanovich, (president of the California Fresh Fruit Association), Joel Nelsen (president of California Citrus Mutual) and Tom Nassif (president of Western Growers Association), the authors explained, “The purpose of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) was to bring about a sense of justice and fair play during a tumultuous time in the farm fields of California in 1975.”

“When the ALRB was formed in 1975,” the authors stated, “it was with the understanding that membership would consist of two members representing labor, two representing agriculture, and one public or neutral member. Instead, the board has become one of the most contentious, lopsided administrative boards ever assembled by the state of California. The recent resignation of Chairman William Gould IV and his prompt replacement by former state Sen. Isadore Hall, D- Compton, only further illustrate this imbalance.”

Tree fruit farm worker in California.
Tree fruit farm worker in California.

In place of conducting outreach to all affected stakeholders, including agriculture, “in a matter of 48 hours, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed a termed-out state senator and failed congressional candidate who has no labor law background whatsoever but with strong ties to the UFW.”

Hall’s UFW ties were listed as “financial support by the UFW, personal ties with UFW President Arturo Rodriguez and raising the union banner while marching with the UFW. While a state senator, Hall was the principal co-author of two UFW-sponsored bills and voted in favor of two other bills that would make it easier to force ALRB-written contracts on farmers and workers. These close ties should disqualify him from the position where he will judge UFW issues almost daily.”

“There is no denying that the ALRB’S recent decision to prevent the disclosure of the November 2013 election results, from the high-profile decertification fiasco of Gerawan Farming of Fresno was to cover up the fact that most farm workers don’t want to unionize.”

“Today, California farm workers are protected by the strictest labor laws in the nation, and they decline to unionize because they value a good employer over a union. Brown should recognize this and rewrite the ALRA to guarantee employer representation on the board. California farmers deserve better than a lopsided Agricultural Labor Relations Board.”

ALRB Decides Gerawan Negotiated “in Bad Faith”

On April 14, 2017, ALRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) William Schmidt issued an interim decision finding that Gerawan committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to negotiate “in good faith” with the UFW. Essentially Judge Schmidt contended, “Gerawan engaged in collective bargaining negotiations with the UFW with no intention of reaching an agreement covering the wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment for the employees in the collective bargaining unit.”

According to David Schwarz, counsel for Gerawan Farming, “This decision was riddled with legal and factual errors. The most glaring of these errors was the fact that ALJ Schmidt found that Gerawan failed to negotiate when it had already been ordered to [follow] a process [MMC] where traditional give-and-take negotiation had been replaced by government-imposed forced contracting.”

According to an April 17, 2017 Gerawan newss release, “The so-called MMC procedures are neither consensual nor voluntary. It is forced contracting. The ALRB tells the employer what wages to pay, what employees to hire, or fire, or promote, and what portion of the employees’ salary will be turned over to the union. The employer may not opt out and the employees are not given the choice to ratify or reject the so-called contract that will be forced on them, even if there are provisions detrimental to them.”

“There is a fundamental – and constitutional – difference between consensual bargaining and state-compelled contracting,” said Dan Gerawan, president and CEO of Gerawan Farming. “The ALJ obliterates this distinction.”

Gerawan added that MMC does not facilitate negotiations. Rather, it is an imposed agreement by force of law and Gerawan was compelled to abide by it.

Schwarz explained, “Per the ALRB’s own regulations, MMC kicks in only after the Board has certified that further negotiation between the parties would be futile.”

At that point, according to Schwarz, a government-appointed arbitrator steps in, hears evidence from each party, drafts a CBA (or collective bargaining agreement), which the Board approves and imposes on the parties by force of law. Since there is no place for negotiation in this process, Schwarz contends there is no logical or legal basis for ALJ Schmidt to conclude that Gerawan’s conduct during MMC could justify his finding that Gerawan failed to negotiate in good faith with the UFW.

Gerawan Files Motion to Disqualify Member Hall from participating in “Bad Faith” Negotiating Case
Isadore Hall III UFW flag ALRB
Isadore Hall III with UFW flag prior to his appointment to the ALRB.

On April 28, 2017, Gerawan Farming, Inc. filed a Motion to Disqualify Board Member Isadore Hall from participating in the deliberations in the case above based on documented “sweeping prejudicial” statements Member Hall made against Gerawan.

“Our DQ motion was very compelling,” Dan Gerawan said. “Hall marched specifically against us and our employees and received an endorsement from UFW in return. It’s ridiculous that he was assigned to a job where 90% of his work will be to adjudicate UFW-related issues, and half of his work will be Gerawan-related.”

ALRB Rejects Gerawan’s Motions to Disqualify ALRB Member Hall and to Request a Stay from Participating in “Bad Faith” Negotiating Case

On May 18, 2017, the ALRB rejected Gerawan’s motions to disqualify ALRB member Isadore Hall and to request a stay in order to resolve the motion to disqualify.

“Hall’s disqualification would leave the ALRB without a current valid quorum of three members to hear the case,” Schwarz said, “thus lacking the statutory power to act. The Governor can resolve this issue by simply doing what the ALRA requires him to do –  appoint two additional ALRB members, thus bringing the Board to its statutorily-requisite composition, which is five members.”

Gerawan Files Motion for Reconsideration of the Board’s Order Denying Motion to Disqualify Member Hall

On May 23, 2017, Gerawan filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Board’s Order Denying Motion to Disqualify Member Hall, repeating its request for a stay of the proceedings pending resolution of the motion.

“Gerawan filed this motion for reconsideration both to correct serious legal errors in the Board’s initial decision,” Schwarz said, “and to bring to light new evidence regarding the identity of an individual who participated in a conversation with Mr. Hall in which Mr. Hall stated that he was going to ‘get’ Gerawan once he was a member of the Board. This individual, Mr. Shaun Ramirez, provided a declaration in support of Gerawan’s first motion to disqualify Member Hall. However, Mr. Ramirez and his employer, concerned that the Board (or Mr. Hall) might retaliate against them for speaking out, initially asked that Mr. Ramirez’s identity remain confidential.”

“The Board initially refused to consider Mr. Ramirez’s declaration – precisely because he asked that Gerawan not reveal his name for fear of retaliation. After the Board denied Gerawan’s motion to disqualify Mr. Hall, Mr. Ramirez allowed Gerawan to file an unredacted version of his declaration with this motion for reconsideration. This declaration set out in great detail Mr. Ramirez’s interactions with Mr. Hall and Mr. Hall’s statement, in reference to Gerawan, ‘I am going to get their ass.’”

ALRB Denies Gerawan’s Motion For Reconsideration to Disqualify Board Member Hall from Deliberations in this Case

On June 9, 2017, ALRB denied both Gerawan’s motion for reconsideration to disqualify Board Member Hall from deliberations in the case and Gerawan’s request for reconsideration of an immediate stay of the proceedings.

“As discussed,” Schwarz said, “Gerawan filed a motion for reconsideration with an unredacted version of Mr. Ramirez’s declaration. The Board again refused to consider Mr. Ramirez’s detailed account of his conversation with Member Hall. The Board took the position that it was under no requirement to consider such evidence in a motion for reconsideration, as the declaration was not ‘newly discovered’ or ‘previously unavailable.’ The Board discounted Mr. Ramirez’s reasons for desiring anonymity, and disregarded the merits of his sworn statement, without explaining why the revelation of his identity did not require it to reconsider the basis [the anonymity of the declarant] for disregarding it in the first place.”

“Of equal significance is that Mr. Hall participated in deciding his own disqualification motion,”  Schwarz added. “This violates a basic rule of due process and long-standing Board precedent that a member accused of bias cannot decide his own disqualification motion. Instead, Member Hall offered his own statement that he was not biased against Gerawan, albeit without denying or affirming the truth of Mr. Ramirez’s declaration.”

“Unlike Mr. Ramirez,” said Schwarz, “Member Hall’s ‘concurring’ opinion was not under oath.”

In the official ALRB Decision, Hall wrote, “I reject the claims of bias leveled against me by Gerawan and decline to recuse myself from participation in the deliberations in this case.”

Next Steps

In reaction to the Board’s refusal to disqualify Member Hall, Schwarz said, 
“Gerawan will appeal the Board’s decision. We are confident that this unprecedented and unconstitutional decision will not stand.”


Featured photo:  Isadore Hall III marching with UFW prior to ALRB appointment.

Resources

Farmers Deserve a Balanced Ag Labor Board,” by George Radanovich, Joel Nelsen, and Tom Nassif, Sacramento Bee, February 23, 2017.

Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation


 

More California Ag News

Who Safeguards California Farm Workers’ Rights? Mudslinging in the Field By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor In his 1984 Address to the Commonwealth Club of California, American labor leader and civ...
Safeguarding CA Farm Workers Rights – Part 2 Updates on California Farm Workers' Rights  By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor Our ongoing coverage of developments among United Farm Workers (UFW), ...
Who Safeguards California Farm Workers’ Rights? P... What Does "Bad Faith" Mean? By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor Our ongoing coverage of developments among United Farm Workers (UFW), Agricultural Lab...
ALRB Discharges Farmworker Vote, Part 2 Exclusive ... Anthony Raimondo, "Let the People Vote!"   In an exclusive interview with Fresno attorney Anthony Raimondo, California Ag Today's Patrick Cav...