Steve Patricio Honored for Significant Contributions to Agriculture

Western Growers will award Patricio the prestigious 2018 Award of Honor on October 30

News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh

Western Growers will honor Steve Patricio, whose visionary leadership has advanced the agricultural industry by leaps and bounds, with the 2018 Award of Honor. The Award of Honor is Western Growers’ highest recognition of industry achievement and is given to individuals who have contributed extensively to the agricultural community.

“Steve has been a tireless advocate for agriculture, and his ability to turn some of the most tumultuous challenges that our industry has faced over the past few decades into opportunities is unmatched,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. “He has already left a tremendous legacy as someone who shoulders the responsibility of igniting change that advances the industry as a whole.”

Steve Patricio to be Honored by Western Growers Association

Patricio, the Chief Financial Officer of Westside Produce, based in Los Banos, is being recognized for his immeasurable leadership and contribution to the agricultural industry, making significant advancements in food safety and the protection of public health. Steve led the creation of the first-ever mandatory food safety compliance program for the California cantaloupe industry, as well as helped raise millions of dollars to fund research geared toward preventing foodborne illness. He also played an integral role in the establishment of the California and Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreements, which today have become the model for produce safety and accountability.

“When you look at the success of California agriculture, Steve is a true representative of why the ag community is as successful as it is today,” said Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the Center for Produce Safety. “He truly embodies passion and proactivity, and his commitment to food safety to benefit both the consumer and industry is unlike any other.”

Patricio’s tenacity does not just stop at food safety. Patricio has spent countless hours throughout his 45-year tenure in the industry advocating for a sustainable supply of water for farmers to grow the food that feeds the state, nation, and world. He has taken every opportunity, as he did when he was asked to join former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the San Luis Reservoir, to call attention to the need for more surface water storage and stress the need for a comprehensive water solution. Furthermore, Patricio launched the industry’s first orientation program for agribusinesses that focused exclusively on water rights.

“Steve has one of the brightest minds and quickest wit in the industry,” said Bob Gray, past chairman of Western Growers and former president/CEO of California Ag Leadership Foundation. “He is a contributor of substance, and the expertise and competence he has brought regarding food safety and water have made major impacts for the industry.”

A Los Banos-native, Patricio is deeply involved in the community and industry. He has served as chairman for Western Growers, Center for Produce Safety, California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, and Monrovia Nursery Company. He has also held leadership positions at Western Growers Assurance Trust, Monsanto Vegetable Seeds Advisory Council and the Produce Marketing Association.

“I was speechless when I found out I was selected for this award,” Patricio said. “I never thought that, at the end of it all, I would be a farmer or involved in this honorable and wonderful world that I am so engaged in today. I often tell youth that your career chooses you, and because I followed the path life decided to take me on, I am proud to say that I am a farmer. I couldn’t imagine being in any other industry.”

Patricio’s accomplishments and passion for shaping the ag industry will be recognized at the Award of Honor Dinner Gala at the Western Growers Annual Meeting on October 30 in Palm Desert, CA.  There, Patricio will be honored by his peers, friends, and family. To attend the ceremony, visit http://www.wgannualmeeting.com/.

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Re-Nuble: Eliminating Food Waste By Converting it to Fertilizers

Wasted Food Can be Processed for Agriculture

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently met with Tinia Pina, CEO of Re-Nuble. She told us about the company and what they stand for.

“We focus on sourcing food waste from wholesale food distributors,” she said.

Re-Nuble works on diverting food to food banks instead of landfills.

Re-Nuble primarily sources in urban areas due to compliance and regularity drivers to divert the food from landfills. New York City has a 2020 goal of achieving zero waste.

“The waste that can not be diverted to food banks is processed in a more cheaply manner,” Pina said.

This waste is turned into a product that is sold directly to farms as well as through resellers as an organic liquid fertilizer and pelletized fertilizer.

“It is just raw green food waste. There is that much volume at the wholesale produce distribution level,” Pina explained.

Food that ends up as ‘waste’ is usually because it does not meet food safety compliance.

“It could be from temperatures varying, the food fell on the floor,  broken pallets, and anything that would subject it to the risk of contamination; that is at the point that we collect it,” Pina said.

Re-Nuble is essentially networking, collecting, and turning food around as another renewable resource.

“We work with a hauler  to source it from our one wholesale food distributor and we take it on a daily basis and we basically, within 24 hours, turn it into either a liquid fertilizer that is sold as a fertilizer for controlled environment agriculture or as a pelletized fertilizer, which is great for soil environments,” Pina explained.

The fertilizer is either resold through some of Re-Nuble’s distribution partners or directly to the farms. Re-Nuble is currently in New York; however, they are working on extending out to California.

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Kroger Backs off “Net 90” Payment Plan to Produce Shippers

Produce Industry Gets Praise for Unified Voice on the Matter

News Release

The California Fresh Fruit Association is pleased with Kroger’s recent announcement that produce shippers will not have to comply with its new “Net 90” payment plan.

California Fresh Fruit Association President George Radanovich stated, “We appreciate Kroger’s acknowledgment that the ‘Net 90’ payment plan didn’t work for the produce industry. We stand by our position that Kroger’s original push to implement its plan was wrong and illegal.”

To force suppliers to forfeit their rights under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), an act created specifically to protect the perishable fresh fruit industry, was unconscionable and should never have been proposed.

Radanovich continued, “We would like to commend the fresh produce industry for coming together as a unified voice for our industry. Today we held the line on an important issue.”

Radanovich concluded, “As I’ve stated before, the fresh produce industry has been a good partner to Kroger; we appreciate that Kroger remembered that partnership and fixed the mess it created.”

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Governor Brown Includes $12.5 Million In Budget for HLB Control

HLB Funds To Be Used by the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program

News Release

Recognizing the importance of protecting California’s commercial citrus industry and backyard citrus trees, Governor Jerry Brown’s 2018-19 California state budget includes $12.5 million from the general fund dedicated to fighting an incurable citrus disease called Huanglongbing (HLB).

Signed last week, the funds will be used by the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP), a program primarily funded by California citrus growers and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The CPDPP helps detect and eradicate Huanglongbing in residential areas, suppress Asian citrus psyllid populations, control the movement of the Asian citrus psyllid, enforce regulations, and fund outreach programs to homeowners, industry members and local governments.

While Governor Brown’s commitment to helping fight HLB is a step in the right direction, California citrus is at a crossroads. More than 685 cases of Huanglongbing have been detected in California, with more than 350 detections in 2018 alone, all in urban areas of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.

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Motion Filed in Fifth District Court to Count the Votes!

Editor’s Note: Anthony Raimondo with Raimondo & Associates filed a motion with the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno to count Gerawan ballots .

 

SILVIA LOPEZ AND GERAWAN FARMING, INC V. AGRICULTURAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA IN AND FOR THE FIFTH APPELLATE DISTRICT (FRESNO)

No. F073730

To Whom It May Concern:

On May 30, 2018, the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno issued a unanimous decision that the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) violated farmworkers’ Constitutional and statutory rights by refusing to count their ballots, essentially stripping them of their right to decide for themselves whether to be represented by a union.

Silvia Lopez and her co-workers from Gerawan Farms organized themselves in opposition to the state’s effort to force the United Farm Workers Union, a dying union looking to save itself with money from their paychecks, and through determination, organization, and civil disobedience forced the ALRB to hold what was the largest farmworker vote in history. From the dawn hours to late in the evening, thousands of farmworkers voted on whether to be represented by the union. Sadly, the ALRB, in cahoots with the union, refused to count the votes, suppressing the workers’ vote in order to protect the UFW.

Anthony Raimondo
Anthony Raimondo, of Fresno-based Raimondo & Associates, attorney for Gerawan employee spokesperson, Silvia Lopez

Since that time, the workers have been fighting to expose ALRB corruption and get their ballots counted. While they believed that day had finally come, the ALRB has chosen to defy the court and continues to refuse to count the ballots. In fact, the ALRB refuses to confirm where the ballots are stored, or whether it has them at all.

On behalf of the Gerawan workers, Silvia Lopez has filed a motion with the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno, respectfully requesting that the Court order the state to immediately open the ballots, complete the election process, and preserve the record of the election as appeals wind their way through the Court.

The workers believe, as the Court ruled, that to suppress worker votes violates not only principles of democracy, but principles of government transparency as well. In the view of the workers, there is simply no justification to refuse to count the ballots, except for a desire to avoid exposing the overwhelming worker opposition to UFW representation.

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Immigration Policy: Focus, Initiate and Stop Reacting

Opinion/Editorial

By Arnoldo S. Torres with the National Institute for Latino Policy

I want to focus on the imperative of altering the narrative set by this president and his supporters and proposing policies that are comprehensive, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of the nation.  Regardless of any success or failure this year to pass any elements of immigration reform, I cannot underscore enough the urgency and importance for altering the false narrative.

Simultaneously it is imperative that Latinos prepare an immigration reform alternative that allows the public and policymakers to recognize a policy path that can be more effective and humane while protecting our border and internal security. We must not be ethnocentric but rather defy xenophobic nationalism, avoid isolation—not advocate an “open border” but be realistic, balanced, practical, and fair.

Politics have long reigned over policy on the reform of U.S. immigration law. This president’s actions and words over the last month cannot be better examples of this ugly and dangerous reality. In the past three weeks, the President ratcheted up his rhetoric on immigration at his Michigan rally.  We also saw and heard in Michigan and before military audiences that despite there being more than 100 million Americans who can trace their history to Ellis Island, there are far too many who today stand in support of the very sentiments and “know-nothing” values that would have denied their ancestors entry to this nation. The words of fear, anger, and demagoguery sound so similar to what was said in the early 19th century when we experienced the most significant movement of immigrants to this nation from Europe.

Up to now, immigration advocates and Latino elected have responded in kind, defensively and with emotion. The liberal groups funding immigrant rights groups seem more interested in media coverage than creating a strategy that can overcome the political extremism that has evolved in the nation.

False Narratives

The false narrative around the causes and consequences of immigration has a clear intent: repeat it enough times that the public comes to believe that undocumented immigrants are criminals involved in trafficking drugs, who threaten the national security of this nation, advocate for open borders, do not reflect the “best” of their countries of origin, and live in sanctuary cities that are “breeding grounds” for criminals. This must change. It dictates and corrupts the substance and policy path for solutions.

Those advancing this image select anecdotal examples to bolster their mean, racist and xenophobic values. This president does this virtually every time he speaks to his base. Despite his demagoguery comments in Michigan and his threat to close down the federal government if he does not get funding for his border wall, even substantial numbers of evangelicals continue to support an agnostic, at best, in the name of the Lord!

Latinos, immigrant advocates, and liberal foundations spend most of their time responding and reacting, not initiating. This has always placed us in a defensive position while allowing false narratives to be circulated and take hold in the public’s mind and with policymakers.

Many who support these claims fail to come to terms with the facts that immigrants—legal, undocumented and refugees—at the turn of the century were engaged in organized crime in Jewish, Italian, Irish, and English immigrant communities.  Many immigrants that came to the Island of Hope came from countries that fought against the U.S. in World War I and II.

In response to the constant hateful words, bully tactics and persecuting policies on immigration, we have allowed this behavior to infect our judgment.  We have failed to recognize that all immigrants are not Jesus-like—we are human! We have imperfections, and many will do bad things that cause intended and unintended consequences to others.  When these things have happened, we have not condemned such actions, we have, at best, ignored them for fear that we are giving into this narrative.  In failing to denounce such acts we have contributed and strengthened this narrative.

Similarities of Yesterday and Today’s Immigrants

We must remind this nation that today’s immigrants and refugees have much in common with those at the turn of the century. Some efforts have been made to emphasize these points, but they are primarily secondary arguments in the national media.

Latino voices on this issue spend most of their time defending their concerns and aspirations for legalization by engaging in campaigns of embarrassing Republican and some Democrat elected officials. While many deserve it, this is a losing tactic which in most situations has merely served to satisfy the expectations and stereotypes applied to Latinos.

Immigrants yesterday and today have experienced many of the same “push factors” that caused them to make this most difficult journey. They arrive today for the same reasons some 12 million entered between 1892 and 1954. As an Italian immigrant is credited with saying, “If America did not exist, we would have had to invent it for the sake of our survival.” We share the same experiences of living in countries of origin that serve as a police state, suppress economic opportunities, deny education, and ignore the concepts of a democratic society. Contrary to the statements of immigration nationalists, people do not decide to journey to this nation because they want to be Democrats or Republicans. Freedom is what all seek!

Yesterday’s immigrants primarily came via boats in steerage class that government reports described as, “The unattended vomit of the seasick, the odors of the not-too-clean bodies, the reek of food, the awful stench of the nearby toilet rooms make the atmosphere in steerage such that it is a marvel that human flesh can endure it.”

Today’s immigrants must walk through deserts, hostile countries, risk life and limb on trains, pay thousands of dollars up-front and after they enter—if they enter—the U.S. They are profit centers for organized smuggling rings and transportation for illegal drugs. Many perish on this path because they are easily exploited and manipulated.

The descendants of past immigrants sit in harsh judgment of those fleeing the same situations their forefathers were fortunate to leave. They argue that their ancestors are different from today’s immigrants which is an ignorance ripe for the type of exploitation that has been growing since the 1980s and only getting worse with time. There is no better example of this ignorance and hovering xenophobic nationalism than the comment made by White House Chief of Staff and former General John Kelly, who stated that the majority of immigrants are “… not people that would easily assimilate into the U.S. … They don’t speak English … They don’t integrate well, they don’t have skills.”  This is almost precisely the very words used to describe the immigrants that came from Ireland, and all of Europe.

There are NO immigrant groups in this nation that have a perfect profile and behavior regardless of when they entered!

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Gerawan Farm Employees Await Justice

When Will the Court Ordered Gerawan Votes Be Counted? Part 1

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Jesse Rojas, a farm worker rights activist and spokesperson for Pick Justice, (PickJustice.com) expects the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) and United Farm Workers union (UFW) will appeal the recent ruling by Fifth District Court of Appeals in Fresno, which ordered the ALRB to count Gerawan Farming, Inc. employees’ votes cast nearly five years ago.

Specifically, on May 30, 2018, the Court ordered the ALRB to count Gerawan farm employees’ votes cast in a November 2013 government-sanctioned election to decertify the United Farm Workers (UFW) as their collective bargaining representative, a union that abandoned the workers for over two decades.

Jesse Rojas, spokesperson for Pick Justice (PickJustice.com)

The ALRB held the decertification election in response to petitions filed by Gerawan employees following notification that the UFW moved to impose both UFW bargaining representation and union dues (three percent of salary) on Gerawan employees under the Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation Regulation created in 2002 but then amended in 2011 to allow ALRB to reverse election wins.

Historically, the ALRB certified the UFW as the bargaining representative of Gerawan employees in 1992; however, the UFW never attempted to negotiate in good faith with Gerawan Farming, Inc. on behalf of the employees, nor did the UFW collect dues. The UFW then abandoned the Gerawan employees for nearly a quarter of a century.

Rojas explained, “Our state government continues to refuse to count the votes. That is un-American. These thousands of workers, Hispanic workers who are Americans, came to this country for freedom and the ability to choose what is best for them and their families. They have been waiting for nearly five years for the government to count these votes. Where are the votes? We don’t even have confirmation of the safety and status of those ballot boxes.”

“When the Fifth District Court of Appeals made this announcement, Silvia Lopez was absolutely stunned by it,” said Rojas. “She feels like we haven’t really won a lot in the last few years. At one time, Silvia said, ‘I escaped the corruption from my government in Mexico and I get to California and I’m starting to experience the same and feel the same way,” Rojas said.

“Ninety-nine percent of my family still lives in Mexico, so I know what we ran away from, what makes this country great, and why we are here. So it’s really sad for us to see in this particular state, with Jerry Brown and the majority of the legislators in Sacramento, they are breaking away families because of economic suppression and government corruption,” he said. “They are destroying jobs or they are complicit in the destruction of thousands of jobs, not just at Gerawan Farms, the biggest example. There are multiple companies where the UFW and the ALRB, both, and our government, have failed to protect worker rights and their jobs.”

“I’ll tell you, ” Rojas continued, “from reading most of the decision, which was over 130 pages, it was historic—not just because they said, ‘Count the votes,’ but because of specific legal arguments they used. They went as far as putting a footnote that told the legislature they should amend or change the law, so this does not happen again. They really went above and beyond to explain why this has been really wrong and why it needs a big remedy.”

“I’m not only biased,” Rojas said, “I am 100 percent pro-agriculture and pro-farm workers because I grew up in farming. You know, the moment my parents and I arrived from Mexico, we encountered the history of the grape strikes and UFW beginnings. I grew up hearing their stories and ideology.”

Seeing how their current actions and results differ from the original movement told throughout history, this drove Rojas to step out and publicly speak about it.

Pick Justice advocates freedom of choice for farm workers. They are concerned citizens who support the rights of workers to choose whether or not they want to have a union represent them. They are standing up for workers who are victimized by a politicized government agency. They believe that freedom of choice is a human right. From their “About Us” page: “People who are not educated are deprived of their freedom by those who are educated.

Pick Justice exists to educate the public about the corrupt relationship between a once-noble union and the dishonest government employees at the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB). We want to help social change to show that, once a union has violated the trust of those it purports to represent, that union no longer votes for the workers.” Pick Justice encompasses the vibrant website www.PickJustice.com, plus YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Snapchat social media outlets.

Rojas is also founder and CEO of The Redd Group, LLC based out in Bakersfield. “At The Redd Group, we provide all aspects of labor relations and human resources consulting,” he explained. “This year, we started doing more political consulting and public relations, helping campaigns and companies understand data blind spots that may keep them from maximizing their potential and coach them to adopt winning strategies by focusing on the simple 3 M’s of marketing: identify the specific Market, then craft the exact Message, then finally choose the best Medium to deliver the message. Wherever and however we can, we try to contribute our views and beliefs, as well as whatever we can do to change a little bit of the government for the better and create awareness where needed.”

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California Fresh Fruit Association: Kroger Must Not Adopt Net 90 Payment Plan

Kroger’s Net 90 Payment Intention Will Hurt California Farmers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The California Fresh Fruit Association told California Ag Today recently that they do not want to see any relaxation or easing of Kroger Supermarket Chain in what they announced as a 90-day payment intention for all vendors.

Ian LeMay

“What our industry wants to see is Kroger to withdraw this proposal and to go back to the 30 day payment period,” said Ian LeMay, Director of Member Relations and Communications with the California Fresh Fruit Association in Fresno.

Kroger is the largest supermarket chain in the U.S,. spanning the East, South, and Midwest, and they have stated that they want a net 90 day payment plan on all vendors, including the farmers in California, which provides up to 70% of the fruits and vegetables and 100% of the nut crops that consumers enjoy throughout the year.

As to why Kroger is going this way? It’s most likely to help on their cash flow.

“That’s not necessarily the prerogative or needs to be the interest of our shippers. The shippers have a payroll to make and other bills to pay and they don’t need to carry that credit for Kroger,” LeMay said. “It’s just not good business and not to mention, we’re dealing with multiple commodities with many of our commodities, with a harvest that does not last many weeks. I mean, cherries here in California are six weeks long, so they’re supposed to carry that credit longer than their own season? It just, that doesn’t make sense.”

And making matters worse is that Kroger is even asking farmers to forfeit their rights under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, created by Congress to specifically protect the perishable fresh fruit industry. The act states that payments must be made in 30 days.

“Their answer to that … [is] that they’re partnering with Citibank and that … if you want an expedited payment, then you would have to basically pay upwards of .72 percent on the money you’re owed, so you’re actually going to have to pay money to get money back,” LeMay explained.

LeMay said he thinks when two people are doing business with each other, there’s an expectation that they will keep agreements between each other.

“This is not what California shippers agreed upon. Kroger wants to force this on then. We would like to see Kroger withdraw and hold true to PACA,” he said.

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Monsanto Seeds Transitioning to Bayer Crop Science

Bayer Seeds Going to BASF

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Sebastian Langbehn is the commercial lead for the Vegetable Division within Monsanto. California Ag Today spoke to him recently, and he is busy.

“We are right now in the process of integrating into Bayer Crop Science, and we’re pleased about the outcome of the whole regulatory process, where Bayer has purchased Monsanto,” Langbehn said. “We finally got the approval slightly more than a month ago, and there will be a clean cut.”

Langbehn said that the vegetable seed division from Bayer will be divested and will be acquired by BASF, and now the company is in the process for integrating the Monsanto vegetable division within Bayer.

“We see this as an amazing tool that will enable us to tap in with an integrated solution to farms so that we don’t restrict ourselves only to provide solutions through genetics, but through the entire portfolio that we will have within Bayer, as the company’s new vegetable division,” Langbehn said.

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Researchers Take a Look into the Future of Strawberries

Survey Coming to Growers to Gauge Interests

By Hannah Young, Associate Editor

A strawberries survey connected to a project that looks at the future of strawberry genetics will soon be sent to strawberry growers.

Daniel Tregeagle, a postdoctoral scholar of agricultural economics at UC Davis, is working on the survey.

“This project is being run over the state of California, through a number of different institutions, different universities, including the state of Florida,” Tregeagle said. “Strawberry growers all over the country are trying to find out what we should be breeding in the next generation of strawberry cultivars.”Strawberries

The project is part of a Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which is considering what growers are looking for in the next generation of strawberries, Tregeagle said.

“Do they want better yields? Do they want more attractive features that the consumers are going to like? Do they need disease resistance?” Tregeagle asked.

However, growers can’t have everything, because when a cultivar is strong in one area, they tend to be less strong in other areas.

“So what we’re doing in the survey is asking growers what are the main diseases that they’re facing, how are they managing those diseases currently and what would they do differently if they had a better, more resistant strawberry cultivar that could resist those particular diseases,” Tregeagle explained.

Researchers are also interested in looking at fumigation and how they might change in the presence of a more resistance cultivar, Tregeagle added.

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