California Fresh Fruit Association: Top Issues in 2019

Immigration and Labor Cost are Big Issues

News Release

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) recently announced their Top Issues for 2019. Members were surveyed in December 2018 and ranked the top issues for CFFA to concentrate on in 2019.

George Rodanovich

President of the California Fresh Fruit Association, George Radanovich, stated “As in years past, our membership has given us strong direction in identifying their top priorities for 2019. The issues of labor, water, and food safety, will lead our list of issues. CFFA will continue to serve as the primary liaison between regulatory and legislative authorities by acting as the unified voice for our members on these and many other issues.”

Here are the results:

1) Federal Immigration Policies Addressing Current and Future Labor Force

2) Increasing Wage Costs (Base Wages/OT Thresholds)

3) Water Supply Availability and Curtailment

4) Immigration Enforcement (ICE)

5) Groundwater Management Requirements (S.G.M.A.)

6) Labor Regulatory Compliance

7) Water Quality Requirements and Clean Drinking Water Liability

8) Federal and State Food Safety Compliance Requirements

9) Health Care Costs (Policy Costs/Paid Sick Leave)

10)  Plant Health Materials (Pesticide, Herbicides, Fungicides, etc.)

As always, it will be the Association’s goal to work on behalf of its members to address these issues and many more, in an effort to create a better working environment for their businesses.

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Modesto Irrigation District Files Legal Action Against State Water Board

MID Lawsuit Challenges CA Water Board On Misguided Plan

News Release from Modesto Irrigation District

Modesto Irrigation District (MID) filed a lawsuit on Jan. 10 against the California State Water Resources Control Board in response to their vote to approve Phase 1 of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.

MID’s lawsuit primarily challenges the State Water Board for failing to comply with both the United States and California Constitutions and the California Environmental Quality Act.

MID is among many parties—including our partners in the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority—who are pursuing independent legal action against the State Water Board.turlock irrigation canal

“The State Water Board misused its power to adopt a misguided and devastating plan,” said MID Board President Paul Campbell. “Given their current plan, we’re left with no choice but to pursue legal action. We must protect our more than 130-year old water rights, our water supplies, and the communities we serve.”

To balance the needs of our environment and customers, MID continues to advocate with our Tuolumne River partners for a durable solution composed of both flow and non-flow measures. Parallel to filing this lawsuit and consistent with the State Water Board’s direction, we’re working collaboratively to present a voluntary agreement for the State Water Board’s consideration in the coming months.

“Our voluntary agreement will ensure water security and reliability, includes environmental improvements, enhances fish populations far beyond what is projected in the state’s current plan and most importantly, guarantees timely implementation,” said MID Board Vice President John Mensinger. “Their plan threatens not only Central Valley ag and urban water users, but also the water supply of more than two million people living in the Bay Area.”

MID’s legal action reinforces our commitment to protect the environment, our customers, our region, and our water supply. For more information and to read MID’s full filing, visit www.mid.org.

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Retirement Reception Honors Ag Commissioners Les and Marilyn Wright

Les and Marilyn Wright To Retire and Relocate to Nebraska

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Nearly 100 people gathered at the Clovis Rodeo Hall to honor Les and Marilyn Wright, who have served faithfully as Ag Commissioners in Fresno and Tulare Counties, respectively. These two counties, along with Kern County, have consistently been among the nation’s top three agricultural counties.

Les Wright, who served as Fresno Ag Commissioner since August 2013, will officially retire in late January. Marilyn Wright (née Kinoshita), who served as Tulare Ag Commissioner since December 2009, will officially retire in late March.

Les and Marilyn Wright, soon to retire as Ag Commissioners

Together, they will relocate to the beautifully mountainous Sioux County, in the far northeastern part of Nebraska, where the population density is one person per square mile. This represents a return to Marilyn’s home state, where she grew up on a farm and studied agronomy at the University of Nebraska and Arkansas State University.

Highlights of Marilyn’s career include implementing an aggressive county-wide walnut theft ordinance and taking in more than 113,000 pounds of outdated pesticide products from Tulare County growers during her department’s Legacy Pesticide Disposal Event in 2018.

Les Wright was raised on a cattle ranch in northern California. Instantly, upon becoming Ag Commissioner Fresno County, he helped navigate county farmers through one of the worst droughts in state history.

Both Ag Commissioners have worked diligently to control populations of Asian Citrus Psyllids, which vector the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease in citrus. To date, no positive HLB trees in commercial citrus have been detected in the Valley’s billion-dollar citrus industry.

“It’s been a fun ride on most days over the years,” said Marilyn. “Some nights my brain was still working at 2 am, and I will not miss those days. I will also not miss the anti-pesticide crowd.”

“Yes it has been one heck of a ride,” said Les. “I’m grateful for the friends and colleagues that believed and fought the way we did for the ag industry in Fresno County. I have been fortunate these last few years, because my wife, Marilyn, was Ag Commissioner for Tulare County. We were able to travel to Washington D.C. and Sacramento together. It has been fun,” Les said

In honor of Les and Marilyn Wright’s service, funds are being raised to support the Fresno State Rodeo Team. Rodeoing is one of Les’ passions.

Rodeo has a long history at Fresno State; it is the University’s oldest club sport, with a rodeo held every year since 1949. A recent generous family foundation with local ties made a $250,000 gift to establish an endowment for the Fresno State Bulldoggers Rodeo Team and committed to match an additional $500,000 if that amount is raised by May 2019. If you are interested in supporting the team in honor of les and Marilyn Wright, please contact the Ag One Foundation at 559-278-4266 or visit www.fresnostate.edu/jcast/agonefoundation.

 

 

Curious of How Safe is Fresh Produce?

Residue Calculator Helps Public Understand How Safe Food Is

News Release

Recently, we have shared new government residue sampling results from the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR).  These programs consistently show that 99% of the foods sampled had no detectable residues at all or residues found were well below safety levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For those who do not want to review these lengthy government reports, the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) created an easy-to-use “residue calculator” on safefruitsandveggies.com, which is based upon the USDA data.  We asked toxicologists with the University of California Personal Chemical Exposure Program to analyze this data.  Their findings: A child could literally eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or veggie in a day and still not have any health effects from residues.  This analysis shows how very minute residues are, if present at all.

The residue calculator features 19 of the most popular fruits and veggies, and you can click on a man, woman, teenager, or child to see the number of servings one would have to consume.  For example, a child could eat 181 servings or 1,448 strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from residues.  Apples?  A child could eat 340 apples in a day.  Kale?  7,446 servings!

These government reports and the UC toxicological analysis underscore the diligence of fruit and vegetable farmers when it comes to the judicious use of pesticides approved for organic and conventional crops.

“… Growers and farmers are adept at following our comprehensive rules to ensure produce is grown to the highest pesticide standards,” said Brian Leahy, Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

“Based on the PDP data, consumers can feel confident about eating a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables,” concludes the USDA report.

Read, learn, choose but eat more organic or conventional fruits and veggies for better health and longer life.

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California Crop Values for 2017 Released by CDFA

Full Statistics Now Available For the Crop Year 2017

News Release

The California Agricultural Statistics Review for crop year 2017 has been released. It reports that California’s farms and ranches received more than $50 billion in cash receipts for their output. This represents an increase of almost 6 percent in crop values compared to 2016.

California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. California is the leading U.S. state for cash farm receipts, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agricultural value. The top producing commodities for 2017 include:

Dairy Products, Milk — $6.56 billion

Grapes— $5.79 billion

Almonds— $5.60 billion

Strawberries— $3.10 billion

Cattle and Calves — $2.53 billion

Lettuce— $2.41 billion

Walnuts— $1.59 billion

Tomatoes— $1.05 billion

Pistachios— $1.01 billion

Broilers— $939 million

Complete Report at this Link:

https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/Statistics/PDFs/2017-18AgReport.pdf

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Alliance for Food and Farming Supports Industry

Alliance for Food and Farming Works Hard for the Produce Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Since 1989, the Alliance for Food and Farming based in Watsonville has constantly been on guard for the national produce industry. They fight against misinformation on conventional farming, all while supporting organic production.

Teresa Thorne has been with the Alliance since it began and now serves as Executive Director. She is assisted in all aspects of running the non-profit organization by Rosi Gong. These two women share respect and admiration for the farmers who work diligently every day to bring healthy fruits and vegetables to our table.

Teresa Thorne

The Alliance is a nationwide organization representing growers and shippers in California, the Northwest, Texas, Florida, and other states.

Top of mind at the Alliance is the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which will soon release its Dirty Dozen list of popular fruit and vegetables that they deem the public should not eat due to crop protection material contamination. Furthermore, they recommend that consumers only eat organic food.

The EWG list has come out since 1995, and the Alliance has debunked it with facts.

“We work diligently to put factual information out, to help consumers make the right choices for their families in the produce aisle,” Thorne said. “For the EWG to call healthy and safe conventionally grown produce dirty is really unconscionable and has no scientific basis.”

The Alliance wants the consumer to choose what is affordable, choose what’s accessible and buy it where it’s most convenient but choose to eat more every day, for better health and longer life.

The EWG is incentivized to promote organics, and because they are a multi-million dollar organization, they are able to get to the press.

“We are not even close to the budget they have, and we are always puzzled and surprised when they constantly refer to us,” Thorne said.

In fact, the EWG always refers to the Alliance as a front group that represents big farmers who produce both organic and conventional fruits and vegetables.

“If you want to call us a front group for farmers, it’s okay. But to try and categorize us as this big organization, we’re not, but what we have on our side is science and experts in the areas of nutrition, farming, toxicology and risk analysis,” Thorne explained.

“It’s interesting that the EWG has never questioned our science, and they’ve never questioned any of the content on our website, www.safefruitsandveggies.com. And it’s largely because they can’t, so they’re only real road is to try and discredit the organization carrying it,” Thorne continued. “That’s why they make allegations of us being a front group. But they are very much incentivized to promote organics; there’s no doubt about it. And again, that’s why they’re a multi-million dollar organization, and has celebrities as their spokespersons, and we don’t.”

And of course it is okay to promote organic food, but not at the expense of conventionally-grown produce.

“EWG is one-sided. It promotes organically-grown produce, yet maligns conventionally-grown produce—outright saying it’s unhealthy. That’s the crutch of the Dirty Dozen list,” Thorne explained.

“We strongly advocate organic as well as conventional production. We’re advocates for all fruit and vegetable production,” Thorne said.

The Alliance is also an advocate for consumer choice in the marketplace for conventional or organic produce, whether you prefer to buy at your favorite warehouse store, small grocery store, or farmer’s market. The Alliance wants consumers to have the choice of fruits and vegetables no matter how it’s grown.

The Alliance also interacts with consumers on social media, and many are confused as what they should be eating.

“We see a lot of confused consumers in our social media, and many consumers go to our website and sign up for informational food safety emails from us,” Thorne said.

“And that’s why we try and provide information for consumers on our website from nutritionist about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and from farmers about how they preserve food safety and really … [get] that message across,” Thorne said. “We want consumers to know that the farmer’s first consumer is their own family. So food safety is obviously a top priority for them.”

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Berry Industry Without Methyl Bromide

Berry Industry Must Now Work Smarter in Post Methyl Bromide Era

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The strawberry fruit production industry, with the exception of plant nurseries, has reached the point where methyl bromide is no longer available under any circumstances, and new alternatives or strategies must be found to protect strawberries from serious diseases.

The University of California is focused on a holistic approach, which includes the tried-and-true method of integrated pest management in this post Methyl Bromide era.

“None of the alternative fumigants are as good as methyl bromide,” said Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor for Santa Cruz County, who is working closely with growers on alternative methods. “So one area that we could focus on is different strategies at the time of planting. For example, strawberries have different chill times. You must add cold conditioning to give the plant more vigor.”

Mark Bolda

There are many questions. Could the colors of the plastic mulch that growers are using manage the temperatures of the soil? How about the amount of fertilizer that is being used?

“We need to start integrating these variables into the way we grow strawberries with the lack of fumigants that are as effective as methyl bromide,” Bolda explained. “We need to integrate all these things and others in order to grow berries with the lack of available fumigants that are as effective as methyl bromide.”

“It’s a little disappointing that here we are at zero-hour and we do not have this worked out,” he continued. “The University of California Cooperative Extension have had a number of meetings in my office, as well as other places where we get many people in the same room to try to figure out what we know and what we don’t know.”

“There’s a lot of smart people in the industry, and I know we can get on this and find solutions,” he said.

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CDPR: 96% of Produce has No Residue Or Far Below EPA Levels

CDPR Releases New Residue Results

News Release

Recently, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) released its 2017 Pesticide Residues in Fresh Produce report. During its 2017 survey, CDPR found 96 percent of all samples had no detectable pesticide residues or residues were below levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The CDPR report complements the recently released United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Pesticide Data Program results which found 99% percent of the foods sampled had no detectable residues or residues were well below EPA tolerances. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also conducts pesticide residue sampling.  FDA results mirrored the USDA’s.

The FDA, USDA and CDPR reports all concluded that these residue results should provide consumers with confidence about the safety of eating fruits and vegetables.

All three government reports garnered very little attention. However, this is reassuring food safety information that consumers should know. Instead, they often receive inaccurate assertions about residues carried by activist groups promoting one production method over another.

The Alliance for Food and Farming supports consumer choice by providing science-based facts to help them make the right shopping decisions for themselves and their families. Whether they choose organic or conventional produce, consumers should know that when it comes to residues, both production methods yield safe produce that can be eaten with confidence.


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Curly Top Virus Light In 2018

CDFA Surveys Predict Curly Top Vectored by Leafhoppers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Curly top virus is a common disease in California. In its worst years, entire fields have been lost to curly top in the foothills of the Central Valley, and it can infect a variety of plants from a total of 44 plant families as well as 300 individual species.

Curly top commonly affects tomatoes, peppers, beets, spinach, potatoes, and beans, as well as a variety of weeds. A common characteristic of curly top is stunting of the plant as well as curling and twisting of the leaves, where it gets its name, curly top. Leafhoppers are the main vector of the virus.

Currently, the CDFA conducts a yearly curly top prediction where they monitor numbers and the leafhopper population as well as the prevalence of the virus to give a scope of what the upcoming year might look like.

“Curly top virus was very low in 2018 as predicted—based on the amount of virus carried by the leafhoppers and the leafhopper population,” said Bob Gilbertson, Plant Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis.

“We hope that CDFA will continue to carry out the leafhopper screening for the virus and for the population so growers get a prediction of what the curly top incidents will be the coming year,” Gilbertson said. “It’s good that we can tell growers when there’s going to be a bad curly top year so they can implement additional strategies.”

These strategies include changing where they’re going to plant a field or using timed insecticides, particularly systemic insecticides like the new Verimark (From FMC) insecticide to manage curly top.

“We’ve already found that that material can slow down the spread of curly top in a field,” Gilbertson explained. “So in a year where it’s predicted to be bad—high populations of leafhoppers carrying high amounts of the virus—then you as a grower would then want to consider using some of these insecticide approaches.”

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Mechanically Harvesting Broccoli

Saving Labor Cost in Broccoli Harvest

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Josh Ruiz and Monsanto Seeds have partnered up to harvest broccoli mechanically. Ruiz is vice president of AG operations with Church Brothers Farms in Salinas.

“They brought us a genetic variety of broccoli where the head does sit up higher. When it comes to broccoli, all varieties have their heads mature at different rates,” Ruiz explained.

That being said, the fields must be harvested multiple times as the crop matures. With these new genetics, you can get it all done in one sweep.

“I want it to be as simple for my people because I want them to be happy. Cutting once and moving on is what makes them happy,” Ruiz said.

There are a bunch of growers around California, Arizona and in Mexico; they want to get that ground back and use it one more time before the season’s over.

“This gives them about a month’s worth of time back in their hands, which, in the world we live in, is huge,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said he is going to continue to develop mechanical harvesting for other crops.

“Iceberg and Romaine are the next two big projects,” he explained.

Iceberg is known to be the “holy grail.” Ruiz has a prototype in the works, and he’s willing to work with anyone who is willing to partner.

“The Broccoli Project, the last five years, has overwhelmed my team and me, but we are ready for the next challenge,” he said

“My day to day is focused on not only running the AG operations for Church Brothers, but I spend a lot of my day focused on innovation and how can we do things better, quicker, faster, cheaper,” he continued.

Ruiz is passionate about automation and innovation. He is currently working with lettuce, romaine, broccoli, cauliflower, spring mix, spinach, and kale.

He said his interest in mechanical harvesting is mostly based out of labor issues, but it goes further from there.

“I see this as the future. I’m not the computer guy, and I’m not the engineer, but I love that stuff, and I want to go find out how to make it possible for me to learn,” he said.

Approximately five years ago, Ruiz began his relations with Monsanto with the Broccoli Project.

“We just unveiled our brand new version of our machine, and I have no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be out there in the field. You’ll see it going down the Salinas Valley from here on out.”

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