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
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.
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
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.
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.
“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.
Related California Ag News Articles
Legislative Pressure on Agriculture Legislative Pressure Builds for Agriculture
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Dennis Albiani is a lobbyist with California Advocates based in ...
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 process—the 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.”
“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.”
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
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.”
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.
Farmers Pressured to Replace Equipment to Meet 2.5 Microns in Exhaust
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Environmentalist are pressuring the California Air Resources Board to mandate all California farmers` to replace farm tractors, trucks and harvesters in the Central Valley that do not meet the higher standard of less than 2.5 microns in their equipment exhaust.
“This proposed mandate is unnecessary,” said Roger Isom, President and the CEO of the Fresno-based Western Agricultural Processors Association. He is very active in pushing back onerous regulations.
“We’ve done a great job in the last four years replacing equipment on a voluntary basis through the use of incentives,” Isom said. “The incentives were either the state’s Carl Moyer Program where you get the funding through the air districts or through the NRCS EQIP Program.”
“Both of those programs will pay up to 50% of the cost of a new piece of equipment, and while the farmer still has to come up with a big chunk of change, it makes it a lot easier and it’s been very successful,” Isom said. “We got even more reductions that the ARB was looking for.”
“At the last ARB meeting in May, the staff had to provide the board with an update, because they said, ‘Look, we want this PM 2.5 plan to come back in August or September, and we want an update on the progress in May,’ ” Isom explained.
“At that meeting there were two of us from agriculture, but there were more than 30 from the environmental community. Each one of them got up there and said, ‘We want to see a mandatory farm equipment rule. We don’t believe that farmers will do it on a voluntary basis,’” Isom said. “This is despite the fact that we have been doing it very successful, and the ARB agreed.”
The environmental community kept pushing back. We’ll keep you updated on this regulation as it unfolds.
In March, Scott Pruitt, the EPA chief, rejected a 10-year-old request by environmental groups to ban chlorpyrifos for use in agriculture. The active ingredient is used as an insecticide on several crops on numerous pests. However environmental groups, along with some farm workers, are making a lot of noise in Sacramento in hopes that the Department of Pesticide Regulation will pull the plug on the material.
The environmental groups are questioning the safety of chlorpyrifos on not only the environment but also humans. Frank Zalom is a distinguished professor of entomology, agriculture experiment station entomologist, and extension specialist at UC Davis. He said it’s really hard to prove 100% safety.
“We can never be 100% sure if things are safe, and that’s absolutely true,” Zalom said. And that is the direction that the environmental groups want to go to get the attention of the California Department of Pesticide Regulations.
“Often, regulators will make decisions that reflect what popular culture is. And our culture in California is different than the national culture,” Zalom said. “If they decide that they’re going to make a decision based on political reasons, it’ll probably reflect what the rules are in California. It doesn’t surprise me that people are out protesting, even though I haven’t been following any of that.”
Zalom noted that he would like to see DPR make decisions based on a scientific point of view. “I’d say that, yeah, I’d like to see them make decisions based on science, but if you start saying, ‘Well, can you be sure these things are safe?” You can never make sure you’re safe, and that’s where you end up running into that area. Do you want to be 99.9% safe or 100% safe? You’re never going to be 100% and that’s where that leaves that flexibility then for decisions to be made more on a political basis, and so things happen like that,” Zalom said.
“I’d like to think that people are going to continue to make decisions for scientific reasons, but it wouldn’t surprise me that DPR might bend to some protests, and that’s why the people are doing it. I’m sure they think they’re going to be effective in doing that,” he said.
Beth Grafton-Cardwell is a director of the Lindcove Research and Education Center and a research entomologist for UC Riverside. She described to California Ag Today what was going on back in DC regarding this ban.
“Basically, during the Obama era, the circuit court said you must act immediately so the previous EPA director was bending to what they wanted and was going to make a fast decision because he felt like he was being pressured by the court to do that,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “Secretary Pruitt came in and said ‘I’m not going to be pressured, we’re going to get all the science, and we’re going to make a rational decision.’”
“It should be based on science. The benefits and risks should be weighed, but it should be based on science,” she said.
Grafton-Cardwell focuses a lot of her time on citrus and she says chlorpyrifos is important for that crop. “Citrus growers, I believe, are already managing these chemicals very, very carefully. They don’t spray during bloom. They don’t spray around schools. They only spray when the wind speed is not too great.
“Growers are very, very careful how they apply chlorpyrifos, and it still has some really important uses. And one of the biggest ones, believe or not, is ants. Ants climb trees. They protect pests against natural enemies,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “In agriculture, we don’t have good ant control for black ants other than applying chlorpyrifos. To make our IPM programs work, we need chlorpyrifos treatments to keep the ants under control, so that’s a good example.”
Dow AgroSciences also sent California Ag Today a statement on the recent developments on chlorpyrifos. Of course, they’re the registrant of a brand name called Lorsban, a chlorpyrifos product.
EPA’s decision is good news for growers because it is based on applicable regulatory procedures and is consistent with good science. Product approvals rest on five decades of experience in use, health surveillance of manufacturing workers and applicators, and more than 4,000 studies and reports examining the product in terms of health, safety and the environment. No pest control product has been more thoroughly evaluated.
Chlorpyrifos is a critical tool for growers of more than 50 different types of crops in the United States. For many important pests, growers face limited or no viable alternatives to chlorpyrifos. When an outbreak of a new pest occurs, growers look to chlorpyrifos as a proven first-line of defense.
Chlorpyrifos contributes significantly to the control of a broad spectrum of insect pests in a wide range of crops, including cereal, oilseed, forage, fruit, nut, and vegetable crops. Chlorpyrifos is not only one of the most effective and economical insecticides available for U.S. agriculture, but there are a number of crops and pests for which no viable alternatives exist.
We are confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products, when used as directed, offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety.
Rice fields provide a great source of food for consumers, but they also provide a great habitat for all kinds of wildlife, especially birds. Matthew Sligar is a third generation rice grower in Butte County. His rice fields are exploding with life this time of year.
“Right now, in the middle of summer, we have ducks that are nesting, so it’s really beautiful to see the baby ducks swimming around in the rice fields. But we have everything from frogs, snakes, raccoons, rabbits, tons of insects that don’t damage the rice. So it’s a beautiful summertime,” he said.
The wildlife that can be seen in the area is very diverse. In the wintertime, different birds come to visit his rice fields. Sligar provides a habitat for migratory birds flying south for the winter.
“After we harvest the rice, we disc and mow the rice straw that’s left in the fields, and we incorporate that into the ground. Then we flood the rice fields, and keep it that way the entire winter. That’s to help decompose the rice straw, and what that does is provide a perfect, natural habitat for those migratory birds, so you’ll see thousands of birds in the rice fields, just ducks, geese, shore birds, gulls, all kinds,” he said.
Watching these birds can be very rewarding. With declining natural habitats for these birds and other wildlife to live in, rice fields are a great place for these animals to thrive.
“It’s just amazing to see the feathers floating on the water, because there’s just so many, and they’re landing. It’s just a beautiful sight, and really rewarding actually,” he said.
Steve Forbes of Forbes Media was in Salinas recently at the Forbes AgTech Summit. California Ag Today had an exclusive interview with him on ag tech and California farming in general.
Forbes said that the only difference between the Stone Age and now is information.
“We have more knowledge, and knowledge comes from experimentation, constant discovery, which agriculture’s been doing for well over a thousand years,” he said. “That pace in agriculture is increasing today, and there’s no reason why, if we don’t do silly things, even though the population will grow 2 billion in the next three decades, the world will not only have sufficient food, but more abundant and healthier food than we can even imagine today.”
And Forbes is aware that the problems facing farmers in California are mostly due to unnecessary regulations.
“Human ingenuity will do it. We have the ongoing example of Israel, a country in the desert with very little rainfall, but they don’t have a water crisis because they have brought desalination plants online in only a few years, instead of decades, which occurs in California , and at a fraction of the cost that you would find in this state, because of unnecessary obstacles,” Forbes said. “Farmers here do conserve with drip technology, but farmers cannot do everything regarding the availability of water.”
And Forbes gave a stunning statistic, revealing that satellite images show 14% more green space on the planet.
“It’s amazing, it’s equivalent of two North American continents. Part of it is there’s been a little improvement in weather and advances in agriculture, but the amazing thing -o because the the CO2 levels have gone up, and as we know from greenhouses, CO2 stimulates crops, and that’s what’s happened worldwide and nobody knows about it. We’re getting greener,” he said
Regarding the thought that there is two much CO2 , which is causing damage to the planet? “Well, thankfully the models haven’t been as dire as people thought 10 or 20 years ago, but it’s a fact that CO2 is a stimulant to green vegetation. It allows plants to use water more efficiently, and that’s why in greenhouses they will artificially increase CO2 levels to increase tomato production, other kinds of vegetables,” Forbes said. “It’s amazing, so maybe in 100 years it won’t be good but right now CO2 is doing us more good than harm.”
And while there are people that are experimenting with micro-farms and rooftop farms – small scale farming – and Forbes said that some of these experiments may work, he doesn’t think it’s either/or.
“I think what we see with tech, is that you can have big and small. One doesn’t preclude the other. And again you have the experimentation and [you] see what might have possibilities and people have different tastes, so you might not have a mass market, but there might be a market out there that might make it viable.”
“Just look at what’s unfolding, in terms of high tech already being wedded to agriculture, and the growing experimentation and people’s demands on how foods can be grown. It’s stimulating the human imagination, and that’s where progress comes from. It’s the mind figuring out how can we do this,” said.
Forbes explained why agriculture is high on his list of interest. “It’s simple: Without food, nothing else is possible. and what we’re seeing now is that we just don’t need to produce necessities. Human beings being what we are, we want more variety, we want more different kinds, we want to know how it is grown, we want more instant delivery, and so all of this is stimulating.”
“It’s like the Model T, was once great in its time a hundred years ago – the Tin Lizzie – but people wanted more than just a contraption to get from one place to another. So look at all the vehicles and the high tech you have in a vehicle today. It’s the same thing with agriculture,” Forbes said.
The California Agriculture in the Classroom will hold their 2017 Conference at the Visalia Convention Center this week, and the keynote speaker will be Lori Taylor, CEO and Founder of The Produce Mom. The event is July 14 -15 and will focus on ways to educate children about food and agriculture.
Taylor is speaking during lunch on Friday (12:30 to 1:30). She is also hosting the Taste of California BBQ Dinner (held at FoodLink in Exeter) that night.
The event is inspired by Visalia 6th grade teacher, Julie Cates, who was recognized in 2015 as Outstanding Educator of the Year by California Ag in the Classroom for utilization of The Produce Mom’s produce challenge. Lori Taylor, The Produce Mom, is based in Indianapolis.
“We utilized my brand’s produce challenge calendar and turned it into a classroom tool to help promote fruits and vegetables, agriculture as a whole, and then also we created a platform that can tie in the academic standards from the common core method,” Taylor said.
“It’s been a lot of fun working with Julie Cates. It’s just been a true joy working with her and realizing how applicable the work that we do at The Produce Mom is for the households and the audience that we’re engaging with online on a daily basis,” Taylor said.
“Hundreds of thousands of women all across the United States are part of our audience. It’s great to see that some of the assets that we use on social media to engage in those dialogues with consumers also have a great place and application in the classroom setting and can be used as an educational tool,” she noted.
Taylor said it is going to be a lot of fun to address all of the attendees at California Ag in the Classroom’s annual convention. “It’s a real honor to be asked to speak. My business has been well-supported by many California growers.
Taylor said she looks forward to this opportunity to share more insight about her passion for California agriculture, as well as the multitude of tools available for educators, not only through The Produce Mom but also several of our fresh produce brands and growers, many of which are from right there in California. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said.