Protecting California Ag Production

U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Focus on Ag Production in California

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Brad Greenway, Chairman of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, and Allison Garriga, Vice President of Strategy & Operations, recently spoke to us about some of the conflict going on in California between those who support modern agriculture in California ag and those who don’t.

“It’s hard to find anywhere on the planet that’s more important than California relative to not only food production, but of course the folks that are advocating against modern agriculture, against the technologies that we use on a farm today … a lot of it’s a lack of understanding. And there is that core food movement that’s in the Los Angeles and San Francisco area,” Greenway said.

“There’s some very, very strong voices out there that are opposed to the production that’s happening in the San Joaquin Valley, and we just have to find a way to continue to talk to those folks,” Greenway said.

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is promoting films in hopes of counteracting these anti-agricultural movements.”

“We’re promoting a film right now—it’s called Food Evolution–which explores the controversy surrounding GMOs. And it helps viewers understand the true story of science used in agriculture,” Greenway said.

The film is narrated by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the American astrophysicist and science communicator. Tyson closes the film by saying: “The good thing about science is that it is true, whether you believe it or not.”

“We need to do more and more, getting that out to more and more consumers across the country and especially the West Coast. Part of it is that we have to also find a way to put money behind some of those issues in social media,” Garriga said. “When we do see something that maybe has a viral capability that may take off on Facebook or Twitter, we’ve got to be ready to put a little money behind it. That’s what we have to do.”

“That’s what the people are doing against us. That’s what we have to do to counter some of this activity,” Garriga explained.

For more information on the Alliance:  http://www.fooddialogues.com

Watch the Food Evolution trailer here.

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Reaching Consumers with Film and Social Media

Brad Greenway: Reaching Consumers in a Different Way

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Brad Greenway is Chairman of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. California Ag Today recently spoke with him and Allison Garriga, Vice President of Strategy & Operations, about the importance of communication between farmers/ranchers and consumers, and how his organization is bridging that gap.

“We’re a true alliance, so we’re made up of 105 different agricultural organizations and a few corporations who are largely funded by farmers and ranchers. Some of the funding comes through checkoff dollars,” Greenway said.

“Our focus is to talk to consumers in a way that perhaps agriculture hasn’t done before,” he explained. “We try to go through pop culture. We try to go through the entertainment industry. We want to take advantage of the trust that consumers have in farmers and ranchers, but of course the lack of understanding on how we grow and raise food, so we’re trying to bridge that gap, and we are using the farmer’s voice to do just that.”

The Alliance is working through film initiatives, documentaries and their food dialogue efforts to bring all voices and all opinions about agricultural production to the same table. The film Farmland was done through the efforts and funding of the Alliance.

“That’s the focus as we generally believe. We’re not listening to the folks that are against modern agriculture; they’re not going to hear us. That’s because our goal is to have an open communication,” Greenway said.

It’s important that everyone does their part in making sure that farmers get their voices heard.

“Whether you’re on social media, wherever you are, it’s getting consumers to hear our voice,” Garriga said.

“So there’s always people that say, ‘Well, all my friends on Facebook are agriculturalists.’ Actually, they’re probably not, and so we’ve all got to do what we can do. And what we do as an organization ourselves is try to focus on the coasts,” Garriga said.

“You kind of think of the smile geography of the country. If you drew a big smiley face across the forty-eight states. That’s where we focus our efforts,” she explained.

For more information on the Alliance:  http://www.fooddialogues.com

View the Farmland film trailer here: https://youtu.be/Uu3BOK5yN5o

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My Job Depends on Ag Continues Growth

Decal Sales Go to Nonprofit

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently spoke with Steve Malanca, one of the founders of My Job Depends On Ag Facebook group, which he started alongside Erik Wilson. The page was inspired by an economic number that stated that California Agriculture is only two percent of the gross domestic product of the state.

Not want to sit still on what looked like very small contribution to the overall California economy, Malanca, a former equipment salesman, crafted a decal in 2013 with the message My Job Depends on Ag. The idea was to spread the word that agriculture contributes to millions of jobs in the state, including restaurants, banks, clothing stores, supply stores, almond candy manufacturers, tortilla factories and virtually every business in smaller farm communities.

The Facebook page was launched in April 2015.

“It continues to grow,” Malanca said. “It grows in increments of a thousand members every four to six weeks, and we’re reaching 78,000 members in the three-year existence, and the message continues to grow.”

“Our California decal sales are now more than 60,000, and for the third year in a row, through the Central Valley Community Foundation, our profits are going to add more than $20,000 to a nonprofit account in order to continue giving out scholarships for kids.

Malanca’s job definitely depends on ag. He now works at West Valley Almond Huller in Mendota. And he told us about research trying to find a way to use of excess almond hulls. It’s called bio-solarization, which targets the use of almond hulls in row crop applications.

“The idea is to add 10 to 12 tons of hulls per acre on row crop beds, which come in various widths of 60 inches to 80 inches,” Malanca said. “By incorporating a huge amount of hulls over the top couple of inches of that soil, they can then cover it with plastic and create an environment that’s conducive to fumigant application, which kills soil pathogens. The idea is to substitute a chemical fumigant for hulls and accomplish the same goal.”

 

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Tom Stenzel Says Produce Safety Critical

California Ahead of the Curve on Food Safety

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, a lobbying group in Washington D.C., recently spoke with California Ag Today about new developments in food safety as well as some recent issues in regards to labor.

“Our industry’s been revolutionized in the commitment to food safety over the last ten years. Everybody from the ground up through the processing facilities … it’s our number one priority. The same time, the feds have these new rules and regulations that are coming out with some compliance states starting now in 2018, so we’re just trying to make sure that it is reasonable enforcement that the Feds understand as they’re looking at farms, looking at processing facilities, that we’re in this together. Ultimately, all of us just want to make sure that consumers have safe food,” Stenzel said.

Stenzel said many producers in California are already ahead of the curve when it comes to food safety.

“I mean, you look at the leafy greens industry on the Central Coast: They’ve been ready for a good while with very high produce safety standards,” he noted. “But … there’s some areas across the country where it’s going to be a little bit more challenging. But that’s OK, too, because everybody wants to raise their game. They want to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can to deliver safe food.”

Stenzel noted that labor is a big issue, especially in California.

“The number one issue I’m hearing across the country from fruit and vegetable agriculture is the shortage of labor. Now for us, the solution – it’s going to be two parts. It’s got to be a new future guest worker program, and for that, we really thank U.S. Congressman and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte for raising the issue [and] pushing a bill. It’s not everything we want to see, but at least he’s raising his head on that issue,” Stenzel said. “However, we need to deal with the current workforce.”

“We also need to have a bigger commitment to get legal status for those who are already here. These are men and women who’ve been here for twenty years,” he explained. “This is their home where they have raised their families, they’ve got children who are U.S. citizens and they’re working in our fields. We can’t deport them. That doesn’t make sense as a country and certainly not as an agricultural industry.”

 

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Water Storage Is Big Issue

ACWA Supports Storage for Entire State

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Water storage is a big issue in California. Tim Quinn, the Executive Director of the Sacramento-based Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), which represents water agencies throughout the state, recently spoke with us about California water and the importance of water storage in the future as well as his experience working with water agencies in such diverse parts of the state.

“My association strongly supports the notion of a comprehensive plan, and they want it to work for everyone,” Quinn said. “In my world, I do not have the northern wanting to sell the southern route or the ag areas wanting to sell to urban dwellers or the reverse.”

Tim Quinn

But Quinn does describe some tension in the state. “There is a lot of east-west tension in this state. It use to be north and south water, and it’s still there, but not as much as east-west, the coastal demographic,” Quinn said. “It’s the coast versus inland and conservative agricultural California, and so we’re working on building bridges in that regard, but my association represents professional water managers and their boards of directors in the state of California, and they are united in wanting a comprehensive plan to move forward that works for everyone.”

Quinn said that one comprehensive plan that’s beneficial to everyone is water storage. The Association of California Water Agencies doesn’t necessarily promote the building of one specific dam, but instead it promotes improving water storage as a whole.

“If you look at the list, it doesn’t say Temperance Flat and doesn’t say Sites. It definitely says storage, and we strongly support the process that’s going on with the California Water Commission to find the best storage projects for California,” Quinn explained.

“I don’t think we’ll build just one or just two or three storage projects; I think will build four or five or six projects and will build below the ground projects as well,” he said. “My organization is strongly supportive of that comprehensive plan moving forward representing the entire state. I’m not going to say do Temperance Flat and don’t do this one, but projects like the Temperance Flat are part of our future, and I think you’ll see them moving forward.”

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Safe Food Alliance Shines in Food Safety

CDFA Awards Contract to Safe Food Alliance for Grower Produce Safety Training

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has contracted with Safe Food Alliance, a division of DFA of California, to host 25 Produce Safety Training classes between January and June of 2018. The contract covers central and southern California counties beginning at Madera, Fresno, San Benito and Monterey counties along the north, to the border counties of San Diego and Imperial along the south.

CDFA received $450,000 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to provide farmers with affordable access to food safety training courses which meet the requirements under the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety rule for growers, whose first compliance dates are January of 2018.

The Safe Food Alliance offers technical food safety services to assist growers, packers, processors, and manufacturers in meeting customer and regulatory requirements by understanding and applying recognized best practices for food safety and quality control management. Safe Food Alliance has approved trainers who are able to conduct the classes on behalf of the Produce Safety Alliance. The food safety team includes four Produce Safety Lead Trainers and four Produce Safety trainers, making them the largest Produce Safety training facility in California.

Safe Food Alliance conducted 17 Produce Safety trainings for 662 growers in 2017, including 250 walnut growers as part of a partnership with the California Walnut Board. Safe Food Alliance will be partnering with the California Walnut Board to host six trainings in the spring of 2018 to train 500 additional walnut growers.

Over 50,000 produce farms in California are expected to be covered under the Produce Safety Rule, one of several sections of the new FSMA law. As part of this Rule, these 50,000 farms must employ at least one individual who has completed a food safety training course which meets requirements laid out in the new regulation.

Attendees of this course are eligible to receive a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) which verifies that they have completed the recognized training course. Along with the standard curriculum, Safe Food Alliance will provide additional resources to attendees such as materials to help determine how the regulation applies to their farm; templates for creating required records; a calculation tool to determine if a small farm is exempt; a list of allowable water treatment compounds; and tools for conducting water analysis calculations.

For more information about scheduled Produce Safety Grower Training Courses please contact foodsafety@safefoodalliance.com. More FSMA resources are available at https://safefoodalliance.com/resources/food-safety-resources/what-is-fsma/

 

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Lunch To be Provided

San Joaquin County and Delta Field Crops Meeting this Friday Jan. 12

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Cooperative Extension of San Joaquin County will host the San Joaquin County and Delta field Crops meeting this Friday, January 12 8:00 AM to noon. The meeting location will be at the Cabral Agricultural Center in Stockton. Lunch will be provided.

Among some of the items to be discussed at that meeting will be a Regulatory Update, with Tim Pelican, the San Joaquin County agricultural commissioner; Alfalfa Weevil Management, with Rachel Long UCCE Farm Advisor; California Farmer Voices on Nitrogen Management with Jessica Rudnick, UC Davis; Managing Weeds and Agronomic Crop Rotations, with Kurt Hembree UCCE Farm Advisor: and Tools for Selecting Small Grain Varieties.

There will also be a discussion on Sorghum Seeding Rates for optimum productivity. Michelle Leinfelder-Miles UCCE Farm Advisor has been running some trials

“So we tested five, six, nine, twelve and fifteen pounds per acre,” Leinfelder-Miles said. “I think growers in my region were recommended to plant on that higher side, maybe 12-15 pounds per acre. Feedback that I was getting from researchers including our UC Specialist is that we should probably be planting on the lower end, more like five or six pounds per acre—targeting a plant population of, maybe 85,000 plants per acre up to 100,000 plants per acre. But not overshooting 100,000.”

“The real take home message is that we didn’t see the higher seating rates yielding better. We saw basically even yield across the different treatments,” noted Leinfelder-Miles. “So what does this mean? It means that if you’re planting these larger seeding rates, you’re spending more money on more seed, but you’re not seeing a yield benefit from that extra cost of planting more seed.”

Find out more about these seeding rates and other items at that field day. Please RSVP for a Lunch count. (209) 953-6100.

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Bettencourt Says Livestock Program Can Help

Aubrey Bettencourt: Emergency Livestock Assistance Program Available for Losses in CA Fires

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

“It’s been a crash course for me,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, a third generation farmer in California. In November she was appointed by the trump administration to serve as the executive director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s California Farm Service Agency. She is speaking about certain FSA programs for livestock. It would be applicable to all states across the country.

“Whether we are dealing with the emergency livestock assistance program, ELAP,is what we call that,” she said. “ELAP provides financial assistance for eligible producers for certain diseases, adverse weather events, wildfires, and more. These are great programs that we need, especially with some of the disasters California is dealing with.”

She was very close to the situation in southern California with all of the fires, that did affect some cattle. “Any cattleman or woman who is having trouble should get a hold of the FSA office immediately to get into the system to be matched up to the programs such as ELAP,” she said.

“We also have a livestock indemnity programs, so if there is unfortunately a loss of livestock, we can definitely help you with that,” said Bettencourt. ELAP also has a forage program that helps if you have lost the ability to graze.

There are also other programs along the lines of secondary insurance for noninsurable crops that can be purchased ahead of time. “In case there is a disaster, we can help cover some of the costs if you are not able to graze or you are not able to care for cattle in some capacity because of the loss or a disaster of some sort,” she said.

“I would encourage you not only to reach out to our offices, but a lot of the really good trade associations have great information on this as well,” said Bettencourt.

 

For more information, please go to the link below:

https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/disaster-assistance-program/emergency-assist-for-livestock-honey-bees-fish/index

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Paul Wenger Says Stay Involved

Farmer Paul Wenger on His Past Role as Farm Bureau President

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Paul Wenger is a third generation farmer producing almonds and walnuts in Stanislaus County, and he is the past president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. California Ag Today recently caught up with him and asked him about that tenure heading up the largest agricultural state’s farm bureau.

“It’s been a real honor and a privilege to represent California agriculture through the Farm Bureau,” Wenger said. “We are the largest general ag organization and certainly, we don’t replace any of our commodity groups or other organizations, but at times you need that organization that can consolidate the entire state.”

“The diversity of our crops, 250 different commodities north, south, central, east and west, and [to] be able to advocate in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and bring everybody and consolidate that into a singular voice has been a challenge because sometimes we all like to look our own direction. However, we need to think holistically,” he said.

Wenger learned a lot on a trip to Australia.

“The growers there allowed themselves to be divvied up by region and by commodity. They lost control of their water and it was separated from their land, and we certainly can’t have that happen here,” he said. “So just having the ability to bring people together for a singular focus to advocate for agriculture has been a real high spot.”

Wenger said, of course, he’s still a part of farm bureau, but when he left that presidency, he had a message.

“The biggest message is we don’t have to accept what’s happening to us as being inevitable, and a lot of people say we can’t change things, and that’s apathy. With farm bureau, we have elected boards of directors in 53 counties representing our 58 counties,” Wenger said. “Trust those folks to have the same vision that you would have if you were sitting there. Even better, why don’t you get involved and get out there? So my message to farmers and ranchers is we can make a difference to just sit back and do nothing. We should not do that. We cannot do that.”

And Wenger said not having to do the day-to-day duties of the president of the California Farm Bureau, it leaves more time to farming.

“We’ve got some opportunities to expand the farming operation, and we do a lot of custom work, so I’m looking forward to getting back on the farm, but I can’t just shut it off either,” he said.

“When I read the paper and see the news, it makes you want to go to battle with some of these other groups that are always countermanding what we do or the legislature that is just not getting it right. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to say you have a lot of wins, but if we can just keep ourselves in the battle, that gets us farther down the road and maybe it gets better next year.”

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