Glyphosate to Be Defended

Bayer Crop Science Will Always Defend Glyphosate Herbicide

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

It is a cornerstone of weed control around the world and even though there are countless pending lawsuits against glyphosate herbicide, company officials vow that they will continue to fight for its continued use, as there has been no evidence that it has caused cancer anywhere in the world.
“The facts are still there, but in three cases that were as found against us, were all in Northern California,” said Steve Gould, a National Account Manager for Bayer Crop Science, speaking at the California Weed Science Society Annual Conference in Monterey “One was the Johnson trial, which was the first trial about the school district employee, the second one was a vineyard owner, and the third one was a consumer. A crop trial is set to start soon in St. Louis.”

Gould said all court case decisions are on appeal. “So, when you see this TV commercial about settlements, count on them continuing as they are funded by lawyers,” said Goud.  “My mother’s 84 years old, and she tells me every time I talked to her about how she’s seen this commercial more and more nowadays than she did a year ago. And I said, ‘Yeah, you’re going to see more and more of it until something more happens down the line with this situation,’” he said. “But nobody’s been paid any money, they’re all on appeal.”

Additionally, there were supposed to be several trials starting in the fall, but those were postponed. And currently, a jury is being selected in Contra Costa County for the next trial. “It’s interesting because there have been about five or six others that have been moved back. So, we were supposed to do some in the fall in St. Louis and they’ve been moved back, and even three of those are still been moved back again,” explained Gould. “These lawsuits are not a class action suit. This is one case at a time, and so far, there has not been any arbitration.”

“I want you to know I asked this question when I went to Scott’s almost two years I asked Monsanto if they are going to defend glyphosate? And the answer was, Yes, they were going to defend glyphosate. Then I came to Bayer and this year, and again, the first week I was in there, I asked, if they were going to defend glyphosate? Has anything changed? And they said, absolutely nothing has changed and that they were going to defend glyphosate,” Gould explained.

If anyone has seen the news/commercials that Monsanto or Bayer are arbitrating and close to settlement? “That’s not us saying that,” noted Gould. And I’ll just leave it at that. Again, that’s not Bayer saying that.

Gould said all the trial activity is not about glyphosate. “If anyone is still thinking that this is just a Bayer issue or just a glyphosate issue…. Wake up,” he said.

“Those who don’t like what we do, and have been fighting us for over 30 years, got a chink in our armor with IARC on the biggest, and safest pesticide, and they’re coming to get us, said Gould speaking from his own perspective.”

“That’s what’s happening folks. Has it affected my life? Yes. Has it affected you? Yes, but it’ll affect even more if we continue to let those who don’t know what we do or understand what we do, take away our tools. And if we continue to sit silently by and watch that, shame on you,” said Gould.

Reducing Food Safety Issues in Leafy Greens

Multiple Efforts Underway to Prevent Future Leafy Greens Food Safety Outbreaks

As public health agencies last week called an end to the latest E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce from Salinas, the leafy greens community, government regulators and the entire produce industry continue efforts on multiple fronts to prevent future outbreaks.

“Foodborne illness outbreaks have a significant and devastating impact on consumers who put their trust in our products,” said Scott Horfsall, CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA). “Members of the LGMA take our responsibility to produce safe food very seriously and work to make improvements is well underway.”

Horsfall explained the LGMA has appointed industry experts to serve on a series of new Subcommittees to address specific areas involved in the production of leafy greens.

As an important reminder, when the LGMA makes changes to our requirements, they are implemented on thousands of farms that produce over 90 percent of the leafy greens grown in the U.S.  Government auditors will then verify growers are following the new practices through mandatory government audits. No other food safety program in the world has this capability.

Numerous additional efforts throughout the produce industry are underway to help understand how future outbreaks can be prevented and contained.

Click here for an action list of efforts underway to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks associated with leafy greens.

Cannon Michael: Sterile Farms?

Farms Are Not Sterile Environments

By Tim Hammerich, with the AgInformation Network of the West

As if growing a crop wasn’t hard enough, farmers are sometimes faced with regulatory interests that appear to be somewhat at odds with each other. I was speaking with Cannon Michael of Bowles Farming Company about their desire to bring biodiversity to their farm. One the the challenges? Food safety audits.

“It is challenging, I would say as a food producer, we are challenged by having a lot of the natural environment around us,” said Michael.  “And I don’t think that people want to think of farms as like a sterile laboratory-type setting. But if you look at how we’re audited in the food safety space, a lot of the regulations would be contrary to a diverse ecology or biology here on the farm.”

Michael and other farmers must comply with food safety audits that seem in contradiction with consumer desires like adding biodiversity and reducing food waste.

“You would think that they would want us to have almost like laboratory conditions. Which, again, I don’t think the consumer really wants that, but there’s that push and pull between the food safety and between the reality of what it is to grow on a farm and have, native species and things running around,” noted Michael. “But we’re being pushed in a lot of ways to have no species on the farm by the way these audits are conducted. But yet we, I think, have consumers that would be horrified if they thought that, you know, a bird couldn’t land in a melon field without those melons being quarantined or thrown away.”

One example of regulations with unintended consequences for our farmers.

Big Question Regarding President Trump and a CA Wheat Farmer

Question: Why is the President Trump Administration Prosecuting Another California Wheat Farmer?

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

In February 2013, with no warning or opportunity to discuss the matter, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers sent wheat farmer John Duarte a cease and desist letter to suspend farming operations. They claimed that he had illegally filled wetlands on his wheat field by merely plowing it. Duarte spent millions to defend himself and to prevent personal financial ruin with legal fees and fines.

He settled just before his trial was set to start August 2017 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, Duarte settled, admitting no liability, but agreeing to pay $330,000 in civil penalty fines and another $770,000 for “compensatory mitigation,” in vernal pool mitigation credits.

Now another wheat farmer Jack LaPant, owner of J and J farms in Chico, is facing the same pressure from the Corp of Army Engineers that Duarte faced. In fact, in 2011, LaPant sold that property Durate was trying to farm wheat that led to his prosecution.

Now, the Army Corps of Engineers is suing Jack LaPant for plowing a wheat field to grow wheat on land that he formerly owned in northern California.

“What I don’t understand is why the Trump administration is doing this. It is William Barr’s Department of Justice, not Jeff Sessions’s, not Obama’s,” said Duarte.

“Why are they prosecuting farmer Jack LaPant with the same absurd interpretations of the [Clean Water Act] that they prosecuted me and my family?” noted Duarte.

“What is Donald Trump doing and what can agriculture expect from his administration if they are going forward with this prosecution on these facts today?” asked Duarte.

Tony Francois is an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation. He represented John Duarte, and he now is representing Jack LaPant. “Jack’s being sued for growing a wheat crop on another portion of the same property the year before, in 2011, so it was a package deal for the Army here.

LaPant was embroiled with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before Duarte.

“The Army’s investigation extended over several years. So they knew about Jack’s wheat crop in March of 2011,” said Francois. “They didn’t take any action regarding him until December or so of 2012, at which point they decided that growing wheat was also a violation of the Clean Water Act.”

In reality, although the CWA does require a permit for the discharge of dredged or fill material into “navigable waters,” LaPant’s wheat-planting did not fall into that category. According to Congress, under the CWA, normal farming activities — such as LaPant ’s — are exempt from the permit requirement.

Francois explained: “Then the investigation and threats from the Army and the justice department continued for about three years after that. And then when the government won their liability ruling on the Duarte case, they pretty quickly filed this lawsuit against Jack. I assume thinking that they were going to sweep him into it, claiming that he can afford to pay millions of dollars in fines, so it appears to be part of the same pattern.”

Mostly that’s how they approached the Duarte case. They saw that he was not only a farmer, but he also operates a major Northern California nursery, Duarte Nursery, thinking he had plenty of money to pay the fine, but Duarte did settle for less than what they were trying to get from him. And Francois sees a significant problem here since the Army Corps of Engineers is the Army.

“I think it’s important for people to recognize what we’re talking about here—the United States Army is regulating how farmers grow food for America. I think we’re accustomed to thinking of the Army Corps as not part of the military,” Francois said. “Of course, I served in the Army and knew a lot of excellent engineer officers who served in the Army Corps, and even some that served as the district engineers that oversee this work that goes on domestically,” Francois said.

“But what’s gone on here is that that important traditional role that the Army has played has morphed, or you could call it mission creep, into a much more questionable, at a policy level, legal authority to regulate farming.”

That happens because of the Clean Water Act authority that the Army Corps has. In that, it deals directly with a deposit of soil into navigable rivers and lakes. If someone needs to build a pier in a lake, they are going to have to dump a bunch of fill to do that. And fairly reasonably, the Army Corp of Engineers is the agency that regulates that.

“The problem is when you start thinking of soil, not dumped into a river, but soil that makes up a farm, and is moved and broken up and tilled when you plow and farm. The EPA and the Army Corps view that soil on a farm as a pollutant. And when you, in their view, move it a few feet or a few inches, from point A to point B, you’ve dredged it from point A, and you’ve filled point B, thereby polluting it,” Francois said.

 

 

California Strawberry Crop Survey is Optimistic

2020 Strawberry Crop Looks Good

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network of the West

 

Strawberry acres have been down in recent years, due to a number of factors including labor challenges with handling the delicate fruit. But some good news. Additional planted acres and improved varieties may lead to a record crop this year. This according to the California Strawberry Commission. Here’s Communications Director Carolyn O’Donnell.

“So what we know is that a lot of the newer varieties that are being planted and we’re seeing more acreage planted with newer varieties, they tend to produce more berries per acre. So even with the acreage up and with the newer varieties being planted, we expect that we’ll have some potential for record volume this year,” said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell cautions that this information is coming as a result of grower surveys and a lot could happen between now and harvest time. If the crop yields as expected, it should be met with plenty of demand for the tasty and healthy snack.

We have also funded nutrition research for the past dozen or so years, and the evidence is definitely building that strawberries are good for cardiovascular health, they are good for brain health,” noted O’Donnell. “We’re finding that they do have a lot of great antioxidants that help to combat inflammation, which tends to feed a lot of chronic disease.”

California grows about 90% of all strawberries grown in the United States, and more organic strawberries than the other 49 states combined. Here’s hoping for a fruitful harvest for those growers this 

DPR Chief Val Dolcini Speaks About His Dept.

Dolcini Describes His Department

First in a Series from his Presentation at the Almond Board Conf.
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

California Department of Pesticide Regulation is uniquely positioned to serve the varied interest of California, noted Val Dolcini, DPR Director, appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in Oct. 2019.

“For those that don’t know about us, it’s a department where science management and policy intersect to better protect public health and the environment, and hopefully to find common ground on some of the most challenging regulatory, legal, and political issues facing California,” he said.

Dolcini said DPR is a department that’s always in the crosshairs, always under the microscope, and often at the center of controversy, whether the decisions are large or small. “But, it’s also a department full of dedicated public servants, highly trained scientists, talented policy experts, hardworking attorneys, and many others at every level of the organization,” he said.

“In my first few months at DPR, we’ve worked on issues ranging from the first-ever cancellation of a widely used pesticide, issues related to cannabis enforcement, legislation that would ban certain rodenticides,” he said. “We have also focused on several serious pesticide drift incidents in the Central Valley, multi-agency conversations about endangered pollinators, and more trips to the Capitol than I thought possible.”

“So suffice it to say, we are a very busy department of government, and my colleagues and I aren’t simply counting the days, but, in the words of Muhammad Ali, we’re making those days count. We’re continuing to build a culture of customer-oriented accountability in every branch, every office, and at every level of DPR,” explained Dolcini.

Dolcini gave examples: “In a typical year, DPR receives and processes about 5,000 different submissions. This includes new product registrations and amendments to currently registered products. The submissions may be evaluated by multiple branches within DPR, before registration is granted or an amendment is accepted.”

This process is complex, and, as a result, DPR is constantly looking for ways to improve the process and provide that customer service to registrants. They are working to improve process efficiencies in each of the evaluation stations for these submissions.

“The turnaround time at the chemistry station for new products has gone from about a month to just several days,” said Dolcini. “We’ve also doubled the staff at our ecotoxicology station, and we’re starting to see significant reductions in the backlogs there.”

Dolcini also said that DPR is trying to aggressively re-launch the electronic data reporting system, which will now be known as CALPEST, California Pesticide Electronic Submission Tracking. This will allow for a more streamlined review of these submissions by DPR staff around the department. “Hopefully, it will help identify gaps in the submission process early in the process so that we don’t have to go back to registrants, asking for additional information.

Romaine Outbreak Is Declared Over

California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Steps Up Efforts to Improve Safety

 

By April Ward, Leafy Green Marketing Agreement

On January 15, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared e. Coli outbreaks associated with romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas, CA region over and the agencies have lifted the consumer advisory. In a statement, the FDA said there is no longer a need for consumers to avoid romaine lettuce from Salinas.

“The industry is enforcing upon themselves even more stringent food safety requirements than were previously in place through the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement,” said Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA).

The statement noted that FDA and CDC have been tracking three outbreaks associated with romaine lettuce. Yesterday’s statement reads as follows: “Federal health officials are declaring two multi-state romaine lettuce outbreaks over. One of the outbreaks sickened 167 people in 27 states. The other outbreak, linked to Fresh Express salad kits, sickened 10 people in five states. There was also a third outbreak in Washington State that sickened 11 people. This outbreak has also been declared over.”

Scott Horsfall, CEO LGMA

Since the consumer advisory was first issued on November 21, 2019 California leafy greens farmers have taken action to prevent future outbreaks.

“The industry is enforcing upon themselves even more stringent food safety requirements than were previously in place through the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement,” said Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), a food safety program established in 2007 to address food safety issues concerning leafy greens.

“We need to prevent this from happening again,” said Steve Church of Church Brothers, a leading producer of romaine lettuce and a member of the Board of the California LGMA. “These outbreaks are devastating to our industry as well as to consumers and they absolutely must stop.”

At a recent meeting of the LGMA, leaders from throughout the California leafy greens community agreed it is industry’s responsibility to strengthen their mandatory food safety practices even further.

“We have to take control of our own destiny,” said Dan Sutton, a leafy greens producer who serves as Chairman of the LGMA. “The LGMA exists to establish food safety standards for farming leafy greens. We need a focused industry-wide effort to figure out what’s happening in the environment where we farm. The members of the LGMA are committed to making real changes to improve the safety of our product.”

The LGMA acknowledged all of the work being done by FDA to help determine the exact cause of recent outbreaks. Details of the investigation are outlined in yesterday’s statement but, to date, investigators have been unable to determine the source of the outbreaks.

According to the FDA, “Our investigation is ongoing, and we are doing everything possible to find the source or sources of contamination. The investigation into how this contamination occurred is important, so romaine growers can implement measures that will prevent future contamination and illnesses.”

“The leafy greens community is extremely motivated to get to the bottom of this and we want to be more involved,” said Jan Berk of San Miguel Produce who serves as vice-chairman of the LGMA. “The FDA investigators are not farmers. They don’t know what’s going on in our fields the way we do. We are the ones who need to fix this.”

Work is already underway to do just that.

“The LGMA is currently conducting a systematic overhaul of the food safety practices included in our program,” explained Horsfall. “We’re working with our industry partner Western Growers to conduct an open, transparent review of the required food safety practices under the LGMA. We will be bringing in outside expertise so that we can incorporate new knowledge and research.”

Additionally, a special meeting hosted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is being planned for February 4 in Salinas. Growers are being invited to participate in a discussion about research opportunities available through a broad study that will monitor environmental conditions in California that may be contributing to outbreaks.

“Our goal is to work in conjunction with leafy greens growers and with the U.S. FDA to resolve the problems that continue to impact romaine,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The LGMA and the entire leafy greens industry has been extremely cooperative in these efforts. We all want to see an end to these outbreaks so that consumers can have confidence in eating leafy greens. We owe this to our consumers and to our growers.”

Horsfall emphasized that actions being taken by the LGMA demonstrate the industry’s commitment to making changes in their food safety practices.

“The benefit of the LGMA system is that when we make changes to our requirements, they are implemented on thousands of farms that produce over 90 percent of leafy greens grown in the U.S.,” he said. “Government auditors will then verify growers are following the new practices through mandatory government audits. No other food safety program in the world has this capability.”

USMCA Passes

California Fresh Fruit Association Applauds Passage of USMCA Agreement

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) applauds the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) out of the Senate today in an 89-10 vote.

The USMCA will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement and enhance the movement of food products between the countries.

CFFA believes this new agreement will benefit California farmers by improving market access in Mexico and Canada. USMCA will build upon the existing trading relationship between the three countries and allows for continued economic growth.

CFFA President Ian LeMay stated, “Mexico and Canada have been vital trade partners over the years for our growers and shippers and the passage of USMCA out of the Senate today comes to the delight of the California fresh fruit industry. Our members look forward to continuing to provide the freshest fruit to consumers around the world.”

Ian LeMay

The Association applauds the work of the Administration and our California delegation for their support of USMCA, specifically, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressmen Kevin McCarthy, Congressman Jim Costa, Congressman Devin Nunes, Congressman TJ Cox, Congressman Josh Harder and Congressman Jimmy Panetta.

Spray Safe in Central Valley

Join Forces to Limit Spray Drift in Central Valley

Sponsors include: Western Plant Health Association, California Citrus Mutual, Tulare County Farm Bureau, and Spray Safe 

Bilingual Spray Safe Program Intended to Empower Workers and Improve Communications to Ensure Greater Pesticide Safety for People and Pollinators

By Alexis Silveria, Communication Manager California Citrus Mutual

An estimated 400 Central Valley farmers attended the Tulare-Kings International Agri-Center to participate in Spray Safe, a stewardship program created for and by the agriculture community that promotes effective prevention of accidental pesticide drift from fields, California Citrus Mutual announced today.

Joined by prominent elected officials and high-ranking regulators, participants received training in drift mitigation, pesticide emergencies, and protection for pollinators. It also focused on making sure all involved in pesticide applications are effectively communicating and working in concert, said Spray Safe officials.

“Spray Safe reinforces California’s current pesticide regulations and requirements, which are already some of the toughest in the world,” said Renee Pinel, the President & CEO of the Western Plant Health Association, which was a sponsor of the event.

She said, “more regulations are not necessary, but communications need to improve to make sure farmers, farmworkers and regulators are all effectively communicating to ensure those regulations are being followed.”

“The safe use of pesticides is a top priority for the citrus industry,” said Casey Creamer President & CEO of California Citrus Mutual, another major sponsor. “Educational events such as Spray Safe ensure the safety of our employees and the surrounding communities. We are proud to be one of the many agricultural groups coming together for the protection of our farms, employees, and communities.”

Creamer underscored that Spray Safe is “an example of the agriculture industry acknowledging a problem and implementing a solution proactively.”

“The best thing about the Spray Safe program is that it empowers thousands of workers to speak out if they have any concerns about a pesticide,” said Hernan Hernandez, the Executive Director of the California Farmworker Foundation, a Delano-based organization dedicated to creating a better future for the state’s farmworkers. “Farmworkers need to know what to do in an emergency. It speaks volumes that today’s event was conducted in both Spanish and English.”

The event drew several high-ranking officials and representatives, including

California Department of Pesticide Regulation Director Val Dolcini, Supervisor Kuyler Crocker, as well as County Agricultural Commissioners.

“California has the nation’s strictest pesticide regulations, but it remains DPR’s highest priority to make sure all Californians are aware of the rules and are protected from potential harm,” said Val Dolcini, Director of DPR. “Pesticides touch our air, water, and land. Today and every day, we’ll continue to ensure that these tools are used in a manner that’s both safe and smart.”

The event is one of many such Spray Safe classes conducted over the years.

“Programs like Spray Safe have trained thousands of people,” said Bill Hume, with Simplot Grower Solutions who helps lead the worker safety classes. “We always want to make sure we continue to keep farmers and farmworkers up to date on the latest technology, regulations and best practices.”

Knowing Your Buyer is Goal of Farmer

California Farmer Finds Market in Food Service

By Tim Hammerich, the AgInformation Network of the West

How can more farmers get to know the people who ultimately buy their products?

Michael Bosworth is a 5th generation California Rice Farmer in Rio Oso. His curiosity about where his rice was going lead to him selling rice to high end restaurants in Sacramento. When that seemed to be taking off, he launched Next Generation Foods. The company now supplies food service customers all throughout Northern California with a variety of local foods.

“We also work a lot with the other farmers. We have an olive oil producer, we have a couple of vinegar suppliers, said Bosworth. “We have a great organic farmer named Ed Sills, and he does organic popcorn. We sell a lot of that to the Golden One Center, which is the sports arena in Sacramento that the Sacramento Kings play at. So we’re their exclusive popcorn supplier for them, and they really value local food.”

When asked for advice on how other farmers may better understand their consumers, Bosworth had an interesting and practical piece of advice.

“I would really encourage any grower or any participant in agriculture to go to a food show. You know, farm shows are great. It’s good to learn about what you’re doing on your farm, but it’s really, really good to learn about what’s happening after the product leaves your farm,” he said.

To learn more about Michael’s direct food distribution company, visit www.NextGenFoods.com.