$102.7 Million Available to Help Expand Specialty Crops

USDA Funding Program to Help Support Local Projects

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Specialty crop growers in California may be able to use part of the $102.7 million available to support local projects and to help expand markets for specialty crops.

“Every state has agricultural priorities that contribute to the well-being of farm families, consumers and the economic health of rural America,” said Under Secretary Greg Ibach in a recent press release. “These programs target resources to the state, local and regional level where the people who understand the issues best can find solutions that help everyone.”

Resources to be apportioned include:
  • $72.15 million is directed to state departments of agriculture in 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to support farmers growing specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. States use the grant to fund research, agricultural extension activities and programs to increase demand for agricultural goods of value to farmers in the state or territory.
  • $13.35 million is directed to 49 projects supporting direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agri-tourism through the Farmers Market Promotion Program.
  • $13.45 million is directed to 44 projects to support the development and expansion of local and regional food businesses to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets through the Local Food Promotion Program.
  • $1.1 million is awarded for nine projects through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.

For more information about these programs, visit www.ams.usda.gov

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Worker Transportation Pay is a New Threat to Agriculture

Plaintiff Trial Attorneys Pushing For Ag to Pay for Transportation Time

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Something serious that could cost growers a lot of money concerns paying for worker transportation to and from a field, which traditionally has not been paid.

Michael Saqui is the principal owner of the Saqui Law Group, with offices in Roseville and Salinas. He specializes in labor and employment in agriculture.

“We’ve been having area meetings around the state regarding what we consider to be the most pressing and catastrophic issue facing agriculture today,” Saqui said. “The macro view is the proliferation of litigation against farmers for wage and hour Private Attorney General Acts.”

Saqui said it’s moved from nonproductive time, which could have bankrupted many companies had there not been a fixed put in through AB 1513.

“However, now the California Rural Legal Assistance and plaintiff attorneys have moved to the next big issue and that’s farm worker transportation.”

Farm worker transportation spins off the fact that we have a serious labor shortage, and we’re transporting workers greater distances than ever before.

And workers in car crews and buses and vans are being transported or transport themselves greater and greater distances.

“And the theory, of course from plaintiff trial attorneys is that even when they’re clearly voluntary mechanisms by which workers get transported on buses and vans, that it’s defacto involuntary because their theory is that farm workers have no position or station in life to make their own free decisions or have no other means, which is simply not the case.”

“Our workers for the last 30 years through car cruise and carpooling arrangements in vans have been getting around in servicing our crop needs and we have the best, most productive workforce on the planet,” said Saqui. “The plaintiff trial attorneys just keep nipping at different issues, and this is an issue that could potentially cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.”

For more information go to www.CAFarmersforFairness.com.

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Gerawan Votes Were Counted in a Professional Way

Votes Were Announced, Union or No Union

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Following Election Protocols, below is a rundown of what happened at 2550 Mariposa Street, Fresno, California. The Gerawan ballots arrived by with ALRB officials carrying them in a black container with red handles. They arrived at the building at approximately 10:15 AM. Watch video here: https://youtu.be/dttdNbUQbG4

Number counted

ON STAGE

1 Veronica Cervantes ALRB Board Agent is running the election
1 UFW voter observer On stage, seated for observation and simultaneous tallying
1 Gerawan farm employee, Angel Lopez. On stage, seated for observation and simultaneous tallying
2 ALRB voter observers On stage, standing for observation
1 Gerawan farm employee On stage, standing for observation
2 ALRB employees On stage, standing for observation in Black Vests with ALRB patches
8 TOTAL ON STAGE

AUDIENCE

100 Silvia Lopez, Jessie Rojas (Pick Justice), Gerawan employees, people in red UFW t-shirts,; media.
2 Lawyers: Tony Raimondo, Ron Barsamian
1 Eduardo Blanco, ALRB
2 Assmb. Jim Patterson, Shannon Dee Grove (Kern County)

Observation Notes

Black cooler with red handles contains ballots.

Cervantes showed 21 large yellow Legal-sized? Envelope packets, each containing blue ballots and yellow #10 envelopes of challenged ballots

  1. Challenged ballots
    1. Cervantes removed ballots in yellow envelopes designating them as “challenged ballots.”
    2. Silvia said even if there are 300 Challenged ballots, “We’ll be OK.”
  2. Challenged ballots were identified during the Nov. 2013 election under the following circumstances:
  3. Farm employees were told to bring a paystub.
  4. Upon arrival, voters picked at random, were asked to show a California ID as well.
  5. If they lacked a second ID, CA ID, their votes were sealed in yellow envelopes designated as challenged ballots.
  6. Many voters told Silvia their vote was challenged. They were upset, angry and intimidated.
  7. TOTAL Contested ballots 634
  8. These contested ballots will be counted today only if necessary after the blue ballots are counted.
  • #10 Yellow envelopes identify and contain one challenged ballot each.
  • Placed in separate gray tote box to isolate them from the blue [non-challenged] ballots
  • See Silvia Lopez’s comments
  1. Blue Ballots
    1. Blue Ballot Rules. If voter:
      • used a check mark instead of an X OK
      • marked in the outer box instead of inner box OK
      • Marked “No” for unwanted option OK
      • Ballot with marking indicated the ID of the voter UNACCEPTABLE
    2. Counted in bunches of 50 2
    3. Read “No Union” in Spanish
    4. Cervantes made announcements in English, then Spanish
    5. 2:36

 

Union

No Union

Invalid

Challenged ballots

Ballots

197

1098

18

Total

635

 

 

7

No markings Unsufficient to affect outcome of ballot count

 

6

Markings on both boxes

2

Signature reveals ID (separated out)

1

Marked in the middle

1

Contains statement, sticker

1

?

1930 Ballots

Expected from 11/ 2013/

677

1948 Total voters

2645 # Names on list

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Gerawan Statement on the Results of the November 5, 2013 Decertification Election

The following statement was issued on September 18, 2018, by Gerawan Farming Inc. regarding TODAY’S Decertification Election Ballot Count

Fresno, CA — Our employees have been waiting since November 2013 for their votes to be counted. After a historic struggle, they achieved that right today, in spite of the efforts by the UFW and the millions of taxpayer dollars spent by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to deny them that right.

The final vote count was 1,098 “No Union,” and 197 for the UFW.  The employees overwhelmingly rejected the UFW as their bargaining representative – by a 5 to 1 margin – in spite of the ALRB’s last-minute, election day refusal to count approximately 640 ballots challenged by the UFW.

A secret ballot election is intended to embody and reflect the workers’ fundamental right to choose their representation. That right is at the heart of what the Agricultural Labor Relations Act is designed to protect and promote. Today’s vote tally leaves no doubt what our employees want.  It is a ringing endorsement of their right to choose, and a repudiation of concerted, unlawful, and anti-democratic efforts to deny them that right.

We call on the UFW and the ALRB to respect the choices of farmworkers, to certify the results of the election, and to decertify the UFW.  We call on the Legislature and the Governor to take immediate steps to ensure that the ALRB’s violation of the basic human rights of farmworkers never occurs again in California.

CONTACT: David Schwarz

(310) 277-1010

DSchwarz@irell.com

Featured Photo:  Silvia Lopez, Gerawan Farm Employee, listens to the Sept. 18, 2018 Ballot Count of Nov. 2013 Decertification Election.

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2017 Tulare County Crop Report Tops $7 Billion

Tulare Crop Report Shows 10 Percent Growth in Single Year

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Big numbers announced today from Tulare County Ag Commissioner Marilyn Wright on the 2017 crop year.

“Our value is 10.5 percent up from last year, at 7,039,929,000. So, that’s 669 million more than the previous year,” Wright said.

Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County Ag Commissioner
Marilyn Wright, Tulare County Ag Commissioner

And, of course, more water in the system probably helped, as it did in Fresno County, which announced $7.028 billion in its 2017 Crop Report, released earlier this month.

The dairy industry, which is prominent in Tulare County, came in number one again, representing 25 percent of the total value.

“Milk prices were stronger in early 2017, but they went down later in the year. And they continue to go down, but still it was a big part of the Tulare County ag receipts in 2017,” Wright said.

Following dairy were grape products—including juice grapes, raisins, and table grapes. Table grapes had a stellar year.

Navel and Valencia oranges were next. Cattle and calves ranked fourth, down from category number three in 2016, because cattle prices were off last year.

Tangerines, also known as mandarins, were number five, followed by almonds, cling peaches, and freestone peaches.

Lemons, were ninth on the crop list.

We only have just over 10,000 acres of lemons in the County, Wright said.

Wright said the value of this year’s crop report, $7.39 billion, is the third highest value Tulare County has ever reported.

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Gerawan Worker Votes to Be Counted in Fresno

Historic Day Following Five Years of Vote Count Suppression

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Today, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board announced that it will count the votes of Gerawan Farms workers after five years of illegally refusing to tally the ballots.

Supreme Court
Silvia Lopez, Gerawan farm worker spokesperson

Determined to avoid having union dues taken from their wages by a union that had abandoned the workers for almost two decades, Silvia Lopez and the Gerawan Farms employees courageously organized themselves in opposition to forced union membership. In November of 2013, thousands of Gerawan Farms employees voted on whether or not they would be represented by the United Farm Workers (UFW) in the largest worker election in ALRB history.

For five long years, the ALRB has suppressed the vote by refusing to count the ballots while the workers fought to vindicate their civil rights.   The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno ruled in May that the suppression of the vote violated the workers’ statutory and Constitutional rights, and ordered the votes counted. Only after a dismissal of all appeals by the California Supreme Court did the government finally agree to count the ballots.

At 8:30 am on September 18, 2018, the ballots will be removed from the ALRB safe for inspection by the parties, and transportation to Fresno.

The ballots will be counted at 2550 Mariposa Mall, Room 1036 in Fresno at approximately 10:00 am. This tally represents a victory for farmworker rights over a union and a government agency that has tried to silence them.

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A Different Perspective on the Immigration Controversy

Mexico Has a Responsibility Regarding Immigration, Expert Says

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

With immigration becoming a hot-button issue within the political arena, those in agriculture have a deeper insight into this controversial topic. Arnoldo Torres, of the National Institute for Latino Policies out of Sacramento and partner with the public policy consulting firm Torres & Torres, has long been a leading voice for immigration within the ag sector—while realizing both countries (America and Mexico) need to do their part.

immigration reform
Arnoldo Torres

“Mexico has a responsibility to its people. The Central American countries have a responsibility. We’ve got to make sure that those countries are doing what they have to do to keep people from having to go elsewhere to make a living and to live,” Torres explained.

He knows this from personal experience, when his grandfather made a move to America from Mexico, with no opportunity to go back.

“They realized that if they had gone back, there was never going to be a life for them back home,” he said.

Torres further added that the desire for immigrant workers purely correlates with their unique work ethic.

“There’s that saying that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, necessity is the mother of work. I mean, we work to address a necessity.”

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CA Supreme Court Rejects ALRB’s Effort to Avoid Counting Gerawan Farm Votes

California Fresh Fruit Association Applauds CA Supreme Court Order To Count Votes

George Radanovich, President of the California Fresh Fruit Association, applauded the recent decision by the California Supreme Court, upholding the earlier decision by the 5th District Court of Appeals ordering the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to count the employee ballots cast in their 2013 decertification election.

George Radanovich

Radanovich stated, “Today we welcomed this long overdue decision. We are pleased and encouraged by the recent decision by the California Supreme Court, which affirms that the most important opinion in this entire matter, the prerogative of the employees will be heard.”

Gerawan employees voted in a decertification election in November of 2013 to decide whether or not to decertify from the United Farm Workers Union. Despite the fact the ALRB ordered and oversaw the decertification election, they impounded the ballots, denying recognition and acceptance of their decision.

Radanovich continued, “Today’s court action would not have occurred without the determined effort of Gerawan Farming, Inc., the Gerawan family, and in particular, company President Dan Gerawan for defending his company and his employee’s right to choose. This fight has been long and arduous, but

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Marin County Farm Bureau Fights Back on Water Grab

More Water For Fish Will Not Work

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Recently in Sacramento, over one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a rally outside the Capitol building to protest the State Water Resources Control Board water grab. Over 40 percent of the water from Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers may be sent to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today spoke with Sam Dolcini with the Marin County Farm Bureau about the issue.

“I am here because water is critical to the entire agricultural infrastructure in the state of California. We have many dairies in our county that depend on the water from other parts of the state,” he said.

Marin County Farm Bureau
Sam Dolcini

The proposal would dedicate 40 percent of unimpaired flows along the Tuolumne River alone between February and June. This water would be used for fish, wildlife, and salinity control. This would be a huge increase in water currently used for environmental purposes, with water already in short supply.

“This can be devastating for valley farmers, which is why they flock this week to the Capitol building to be sure their voices are heard,” Dolcini said.

Ronda Lucas, General Counsel with the Modesto Irrigation district, agrees that this water grab could be devastating.

“We are one of the six senior water rights holders,” she said. “They are taking the waterfront, and the impact that will have on the Modesto irrigation district will just be devastating.”

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