HMC Farms Announces Autonomous Drone Harvest Pilot Program

By HMC Farms

HMC Farms has partnered with Tevel Aerobotics Technologies to pilot their drone harvesting system utilizing Flying Autonomous Robots. Each robot has the ability to fly, locate fruit, harvest and place the fruit all on its own with no human interaction required.

HMC Farms has a reputation for pursuing cutting edge ag technology. Drew Ketelsen, Vice President and Farm Manager, has a background in civil engineering which gives him a unique perspective on farming and technology. He and Jon McClarty, President of HMC Farms and Drew’s brother-in-law, work together to stay updated on the latest developments and test various forms of ag tech in order to determine the best fit for their farms.

Ketelsen attributes HMC’s high density stone fruit planting system with the ability to utilize drone harvesting. He says, “The years of work we’ve put into cultivating high density orchards are paying off as we implement technology like Flying Autonomous Robot harvesting. We have successfully harvested peaches, nectarines and multiple colors of plums using drones this summer. This project is still in an early stage, but the future potential is very exciting.”

Autonomous harvest options have great potential to fill a crucial need in the agricultural community, which has notoriously dealt with labor shortages over the years. In places like California’s Central Valley, this technology also may help with harvest during periods of extreme heat, as summer temperatures can often reach well above 100 degrees for many days in a row, right at the peak of stone fruit harvest.

2022-07-26T09:40:59-07:00July 26th, 2022|

NASS Forecasts Smaller Almond Crop for 2022

Objective Forecast predicts harvest 2022 will be down 11 percent from last year.

By The Almond Board of California

The 2022 California Almond Objective Measurement Report published Friday, July 8, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimates that the crop harvested in 2022 will come in at 2.6 billion meat pounds, 11 percent below last year’s 2.9 billion pounds.

The estimate is down 7 percent from NASS’s subjective forecast in May and comes in a complicated year. Some growers were impacted by frost in spring while the entire almond industry, and all California farmers, have been navigating a difficult water year and continued logistical issues impacting the ability to ship almonds to meet consumer demand around the world.

“Growers have been working hard in the face of challenging circumstances and it demonstrates their dedication to improving stewardship practices and meeting the demands of consumers,” said Brian Wahlbrink, chair of the Almond Board of California (ABC) Board of Directors.

The forecast for the average nut set per tree is 4,082, 12 percent down from 2021. The Nonpareil average nut set of 3,966 is also 12 percent lower than last year. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.47 grams, up less than 1 percent from the 2021 average weight. The Nonpareil average kernel weight was 1.55 grams, up slightly from last year.

“Despite the shipping and logistical logjams, recent shipment numbers have set monthly records, which demonstrates the demand for California almonds continues to increase in the U.S. and around the world,” said Almond Board President and CEO Richard Waycott. “Almond growers are putting what resources they can afford this year into producing their crop, and their efforts show. Although there was a drop from last year, the forecast reflects the efforts of growers to meet global demand and ensure a steady supply of high quality California almonds.”

ABC’s April and May 2022 Position Reports showed that almond exports set records for both months, even while facing shipping and logistical obstacles, and total almond shipments in May also set a record.

NASS conducts the annual Subjective Forecast, Objective Report and Acreage Report to provide the California almond industry with the data needed to make informed business decisions. Of the crop estimates, the 2022 California Almond Objective Report is considered the more accurate and is based on actual almond counts using a statistically rigorous methodology.

2022-07-11T11:16:45-07:00July 11th, 2022|

Organic Farmers to get Technical Assistance From CDFA and UC ANR

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is awarding $1.85 million to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources to increase technical assistance for California’s organic farmers.

CDFA’s State Organic Program is executing $850,000 in contracts with UC ANR to run through September 2024, while CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation is awarding a $1 million grant to run from July 2022 to June 2025.

“California farmers provide 36% of all organic production in the United States,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This funding expands technical assistance to growers transitioning to certified organic agriculture and supports our strong California community of organic farmers and consumers by conducting field trials and demonstration projects with farmers to improve organic practices.”

California organically farms just over 2 million acres, which is about 8% of the total agricultural acreage in the state, and will likely continue to expand over time as long as consumer demand continues to rise, according to Houston Wilson, director of UC ANR’s Organic Agriculture Institute.

“Demand for organic agriculture has consistently grown every year for the past two decades,” Wilson said. “Organic currently accounts for 5.8% of domestic food sales.”

“We are excited to see CDFA increasing support for organic agriculture as part of a broader climate-smart agriculture strategy,” said Wilson. “As demand for organic continues to rise, California growers need increasingly targeted technical assistance in all areas of organic production and marketing.”

The CDFA funds will allow UC ANR to hire two academic coordinators, which are currently being recruited.

“The academic coordinators will work directly with growers, as well as develop research and extension projects that will involve existing UC Cooperative Extension personnel,” Wilson said. “One of the coordinators will specifically focus on connecting our efforts with small-scale and historically underserved growers through our partnership with the UC Small Farms Program.”

The organic practices can be used by conventional farms as well as organic farms.

“Just as organic farmers benefit from UC ANR’s pest management, irrigation and crop production research, the new knowledge developed on organic practices by the UC Organic Agriculture Institute will be useful for all California farmers,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

Some of the key UC ANR project objectives include:

  • Conduct research on soil health management, carbon sequestration and crop rotations in organic systems
  • Create new extension and training opportunities for organic growers across California
  • Provide technical assistance to both certified and transitioning organic growers
  • Review and summarize organic acreage and practices in California
  • Develop economic analysis of organic production and markets

The 2022-2023 state budget signed last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom includes $5 million in funds for CDFA to assist farmers with transitioning to organic operations, and the USDA recently announced an investment of up to $300 million for the same purpose.

2022-07-08T10:24:12-07:00July 8th, 2022|

DPR Announces Second Year of Enhanced Funding for Grant Opportunities to Accelerate Transition to Safer, More Sustainable Pest Management Practices

By Department of Pesticide Regulation

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced $4.65 million in upcoming grant opportunities to increase the speed and the scale at which safer, more sustainable pest management practices are adopted across the state. The enhanced funds for the 2023 DPR Grants Programs cycle were allocated by the state budget and represent an increase of more than five times the amount in available funding opportunities compared to historical funding levels. Grant applications will open Monday, July 11, 2022.

“Our Grant Programs and their increased funding levels continue to play a key role in the state’s mission to advance the development and implementation of systemwide, sustainable pest management,” said DPR Director Julie Henderson. “Ongoing research, education and outreach are critical to protecting public health and preserving our environment as we accelerate the transition to safer pest management practices.”

DPR offers two grant programs focused on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) research, outreach, and implementation.

  • The Research Grants Program: $3.15 million to fund research into sustainable pest management practices in agricultural, urban, or wildland settings that reduce pesticide use or provide alternative methods or practices that could replace pesticides that present a risk to public health and the environment. Examples of past Research Grant projects include evaluating drone-based releases of biocontrol organisms and testing non-chemical entrapment surfaces for monitoring and control of bedbugs.
  • The Alliance Grants Program: $1.5 million to fund projects that promote or increase the implementation, expansion and adoption of effective, proven and affordable IPM systems or practices in agricultural, urban or wildland settings. Examples of past Alliance Grant projects include providing land managers with the best available information regarding invasive plant management through the use of an online decision support tool, as well as driving the adoption of mating disruption among small almond, pistachio and walnut growers within field clusters.

Last year’s DPR Grants Programs cycle represented the first year of increased funding allocated by the state budget. The department awarded $3.75 million in Research Grants to fund 10 research projects that explore IPM tools for urban, non-agricultural and agricultural pest management. DPR expects to award an additional $1.8 million in Alliance Grants funding later this month.

In addition to enhanced funding, DPR’s 2023 Grants Programs application process has been updated and will now offer an extended solicitation period and a streamlined application process.

The 2023 Research Grants Program solicitation period will open Monday, July 11, 2022. Applications will be accepted through Thursday, September 22, 2022.

Once the solicitation period has opened, application information, links to virtual information sessions and application materials will be available on the department’s Research Grants Program webpage.

The 2023 Alliance Grants Program solicitation period will open Monday, July 11, 2022. Applications will be accepted through Thursday, December 8, 2022.

Once the solicitation period has opened, application information, links to virtual information sessions, and application materials will be available on the department’s Alliance Grants Program webpage.

For questions or clarification concerning the DPR Grants Program, please contact DPRpmGrants.Solicitation@cdpr.ca.gov.

2022-07-07T15:08:59-07:00July 7th, 2022|

California Grower Tells Congress Frozen Food is Important to Increasing Produce Consumption

By American Frozen Food Institute

Testifying on June 14 before the U.S. House of Representatives, Bill Smittcamp, president and CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods and member representative of the American Frozen Food Institute, called on Congress to ensure federal government nutrition programs encourage and incentivize more produce consumption.

During a full Agriculture Committee hearing on U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition programs other than the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Smittcamp urged policymakers to include frozen fruits and vegetables in all produce incentive programs.

“The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consumers eat all forms of fruits and vegetables to meet the recommended daily intake,” said Smittcamp. “Frozen foods offer a cost-effective and pragmatic way to help people meet these nutritional needs.”

Frozen foods serve an important role in helping people increase overall produce consumption and meet recommendations published in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Research shows that when consumers have various forms of fruits and vegetables available in their home, including in frozen form, their produce intake is higher. In addition, frozen foods can be served with minimal preparation requirements and time, which are identified barriers to produce consumption.

“Frozen fruits and vegetables are fresh produce, simply frozen, and they are a complement to the fresh produce market,” added Alison Bodor, president and CEO of AFFI. “Frozen foods meet the needs of those who may lack the time or resources to cook from scratch, help reduce food waste due to their long shelf life, and allow for year-round access.”

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About AFFI: The American Frozen Food Institute is the member-driven national trade association representing all segments of the frozen food supply chain from manufacturers to suppliers and distributors. AFFI advocates before legislative and regulatory entities on the industry’s behalf, serves as the voice for the industry and convenes industry leadership to create an environment where frozen foods are essential in a dynamic marketplace. www.affi.org

2022-06-28T08:32:07-07:00June 28th, 2022|

California Pollinator Coalition Reports Increasing Cooperation Among Ag, Conservation Groups

Members note successful projects in celebration of National Pollinator Week

By Almond Board of California

A year after coming together to help make the agricultural landscape more friendly to pollinators, members of the California Pollinator Coalition say they’re gaining momentum, building stronger relationships between agriculture and conservation groups that are already increasing habitat on the ground.

The coalition – created in April 2021 and including more than 20 agriculture, conservation and government organizations – says it’s building a stronger network among these groups that has already led to new projects to expand on the success of the efforts of its individual member organizations.

“Thanks to the individual and collective efforts of our coalition members, we’ve seen a lot of positive developments over the past year,” said Laurie Davies Adams of Pollinator Partnership, one of the coalition’s founding members. “The State has also provided $30 million in new funding for pollinator projects, and we’ve seen more and more projects like cover crops and hedgerows installed among the state’s orchards, vineyards, rangelands and croplands.”

As the Coalition celebrates National Pollinator Week, June 20-26, it is assessing the progress its members have helped spur, which includes:

  • More than 65,000 acres of pollinator forage added throughout the state on over 400 farms in the past 18 months.
  • Approximately 340 acres of new and enhanced habitat installed in California for monarch butterflies, with another 40,000 milkweed plants planned this year.
  • $30 million over two years earmarked by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature for sharing costs and providing incentives for farmers, ranchers and vineyard managers to create pollinator habitat on working lands.
  • Working with researchers to advance guidance of habitat placement on farms and working lands.
  • New partnerships built that launched current projects, including creating more California-specific guidance for growers and finding new funding.

“Pollinators are small, but they’re mighty,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “If you want to know how much California agriculture relies on pollinators, look no further than the broad coalition of agricultural organizations that we’ve already built, and the diverse acreage they represent. These partnerships are bearing fruit, with hundreds of farmers and thousands of acres adding forage and habitat to support both managed and native pollinators.”

One example of those partnerships is the diverse group of Coalition members – including Pollinator Partnership, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, the Wine Institute, the Almond Board of California, Blue Diamond, California Dairy, Inc., the California Cattleman’s Assoc., California Farm Bureau Federation, and Project Apis m. – that worked together to apply for a partnership agreement through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service for regional farmer-to-farmer collaboration in 10 California counties on habitat installation and adoption of integrated pest management.

“We are determined to be part of the solution,” said Almond Board of California Chief Scientific Officer Josette Lewis. “Pollinators are crucial for our food production and for our entire ecosystem. All of us in agriculture understand that the most productive path we can take is to work together toward a common solution of protecting pollinators and the working lands of California.”

Lewis briefed Congress in 2021 about the Coalition’s brand of collaborative conservation. She detailed the ways it can be used as a model for protecting pollinators and for a range of other of effective environmental alliances among independent groups, including those who have not always been aligned.

“We need all hands on deck for monarchs and pollinators,” said Monarch Joint Venture Executive Director Wendy Caldwell. “That, of course, includes the agricultural community. I grew up on a farm and know firsthand the hard work, dedication and care farmers put into their land. At MJV, we recognize agricultural stakeholders as instrumental partners in reaching monarch habitat goals.”

Another achievement of the Coalition has been to send the strong reminder that everyone in California agriculture is a stakeholder in protecting pollinators.

“As part of the efforts of California winegrape growers and vintners to increase the sustainability of their vineyards and wineries, they have planted cover crops and hedgerows on thousands of acres,” said Allison Jordan, Executive Director of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. “Those acres provide habitat to vital pollinators while building soil health. Even though winegrapes are self-pollinating, all of us in California wine recognize the importance of pollinators to the state’s agriculture and food systems. That is why we’re partnering with likeminded organizations in the Coalition to increase resources to benefit even more pollinators.”

Entering Pollinator Week, the Coalition continues working to get the word out to more and more farmers about pollinator protection, funding, benefits and programs, including:

The Coalition continues to recruit partners who understand the urgency and share the common goal of supporting the health of both pollinators and agriculture. Current California Pollinator Coalition membership includes:

  • Agricultural Council of California
  • Almond Alliance of California
  • Almond Board of California
  • California Alfalfa and Forage Association
  • California Association of Pest Control Advisers
  • California Association of Resource Conservation Districts
  • California Cattlemen’s Association
  • California Citrus Mutual
  • California Department of Food and Agriculture
  • California Farm Bureau Federation
  • California State Beekeepers Association
  • California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Monarch Joint Venture
  • Monarch Watch
  • Pollinator Partnership
  • Project Apis m.
  • University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Western Growers
  • Dr. Neal Williams, University of California, Davis

About the California Pollinator Coalition
The California Pollinator Coalition, convened by Pollinator Partnership, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Almond Board of California, is made up of a diverse group of agricultural and conservation organizations with the shared goal of providing enhanced habitat for pollinators. The Coalition and its members work to increase habitat for pollinators on working lands. Additionally, the group promotes research and tracks its progress toward healthy and abundant habitats.

2022-06-21T08:23:10-07:00June 21st, 2022|

Hoobler, Machado Join Farm Land Trust Board

Bill Hoobler and Mike Machado Appointed to California Farmland Trust’s Board of Directors

California Farmland Trust is proud to introduce well-respected industry professionals and community members, Bill Hoobler and Mike Machado, as new board members.

Hoobler and Machado have been active supporters of CFT for several years and bring a wealth of institutional knowledge and deep-rooted passion to the organization.

“Bill and Mike both offer a talented skillset and valuable expertise to the board, and their combined knowledge in policy and finance will be tremendous additions to our organization,” said Charlotte Mitchell, executive director at California Farmland Trust. “We are thrilled to have such accomplished individuals join the board and look forward to working towards continued success, in service to our critical mission.”

Since 2018, Hoobler has served as a CFT committee member and dedicated his professional life to the agriculture industry. He worked in the Farm Credit system for over 39 years, specializing in lending and crop insurance, before retiring in 2016 and starting his own crop insurance agency in Patterson.

“Being involved with CFT since 2018 has been rewarding,” Hoobler said. “California farmland needs to be protected and CFT is just one way to assure that farmland will remain farmland, forever.”

Machado, a Linden native, grew up on his family’s over-100-year-old farming operation and returned to the family business after serving in Vietnam. Machado also served 14 years to the California State Legislature, where he focused on water, banking, insurance, and budget accountability. In 2015, Machado and his family placed an agricultural conservation easement on their family farm, and later in 2021, Mike protected an additional two parcels.

“Without agriculture, we don’t eat,” Machado said. “Without farmland, we don’t have agriculture. That is why the work of California Farmland Trust is so important.”

Hoobler and Machado join the existing 11 members of CFT’s board of directors and will both serve on the Budget, Finance, and Risk Management committee.

2022-05-09T11:13:42-07:00May 9th, 2022|

Water Measurement and Reporting Courses Offered by UCCE May 26

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

California water-rights holders are required by state law to measure and report the water they divert from surface streams. For people who wish to take the water measurements themselves, the University of California Cooperative Extension is offering a virtual training to receive certification on May 26.

At the workshop, participants can expect to

  • clarify reporting requirements for ranches.
  • understand what meters are appropriate for different situations.
  • learn how to determine measurement equipment accuracy.
  • develop an understanding of measurement weirs.
  • learn how to calculate and report volume from flow data.

“We are limiting the number participants for the water measurement training to 30 people per session,” said Larry Forero, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor. “If you need this training, please register soon.”

The scheduled trainings will be held Thursday, May 26, at two locations:

  • Redding at Shasta College Farm.  Registration is required and costs $25. To register visit https://ceshasta.ucanr.edu. For more information, contact Larry Forero (lcforero@ucanr.edu) or Sara Jaimes (sbjaimes@ucanr.edu) or by calling the UCCE office in Shasta County at (530) 224-4900. Training will begin at 8 a.m. and conclude at 11:30 am.
  • Woodland at the UC Cooperative Extension at 70 Cottonwood Street. Registration costs $20. To register, visit https://cecapitolcorridor.ucanr.edu. For more information, contact Morgan Doran at mpdoran@ucanr.edu or the UCCE Yolo County office at (530) 666-8143. Training will begin at 2:30 p.m. and conclude at 5:30 pm.

Background:

Senate Bill 88 requires all water right holders who have previously diverted or intend to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year (riparian and pre-1914 claims), or who are authorized to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year under a permit, license or registration, to measure and report the water they divert. Detailed information on the regulatory requirements for measurement and reporting is available on the State Water Resources Control Board Reporting and Measurement Regulation webpage. The legislation requires that installation and certification of measurement methods for diversion (or storage) greater than or equal to 100-acre feet annually be approved by an engineer/contractor/professional.

California Cattlemen’s Association worked with Assemblyman Frank Bigelow on a bill that allows a self-certification option. Assembly Bill 589 became law on January 1, 2018. This bill, until Jan. 1, 2023, allows any diverter who has completed this instructional course on measurement devices and methods administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension, and passes a proficiency test, to be considered a qualified individual when installing and maintaining devices or implementing methods of measurement.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.

2022-04-27T13:22:26-07:00April 27th, 2022|

Today’s World is Full of Uncertainties. Your Food Supply Shouldn’t be One of Them

By Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition

The war in Ukraine and all the global unrest it is causing has focused American’s attention on just how uncertain a world we inhabit.

Inflation was already wreaking havoc on family budgets and now gas prices are also skyrocketing.

Which is exactly why our government should be doing everything it can to reduce reliance on foreign sources for our basic needs, especially food.

Unfortunately, that is the exact opposite of what is happening.

Through out-of-balance regulatory policies and a failure to prioritize western farming, our government is putting our safe, affordable, domestic food supply at risk.

Over 80% of our country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown west of the Rockies and simply cannot be moved elsewhere. Without that supply, Americans will see shortages at the store, even higher prices, be forced to rely more heavily on increasingly unstable foreign sources, or all of these at the same time.

Learn More

When you make a salad, have fruit for breakfast, eat a hamburger with cheese, or put tomato sauce and garlic on a pizza, odds are that at least some of those products came from California.

But without a reliable water supply, that farmland simply cannot produce what our country needs.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In some western states, the government is holding on to existing water supply, rather than release it to farms to grow food. In California, we must move more quickly to build and repair infrastructure that will help us store more water in wet years for use in dry ones like this one. And in general, water policy has become unbalanced in ways that penalize the farms trying to produce our food supply.

California farmers are doing their part and have reduced water use by double digits since 1980. Throughout the West, farms are also important in the battle against climate change because crop production helps remove carbon dioxide from the air. If things continue the way they are, our government is essentially creating deserts instead of food production, which will only perpetuate the cycles of drought and wildfires we’d like to avoid.

Food price increases in 2022 are now expected to exceed those observed in 2020 and 2021. Without changes in water policy, it will continue to get worse.

It has never been more important that U.S. consumers insist on domestically grown food in our stores.

2022-04-21T15:58:13-07:00April 21st, 2022|

Quality Walnuts Are Grown in California

California Walnut Growers Produce Higher Quality Products

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the Ag Information Network

Walnuts are grown in many countries around the world but California walnuts really shine when it comes to quality. Pam Graviet is a Senior Marketing Director International for the California Walnut Commission. Graviet said it comes down to those growers and the processors.

“It’s really what the growers do. I mean, they spend so much care in the orchard, and then when it gets to processing there’s all the extra steps that are taken,” said Graviet. “What they do is partially regulated and partially because of their desire to have a superior product. And that’s actually recognized around the world,” noted Graviet.

“You can get a walnut from Moldova, China, Italy or Australia. There are so many countries that produce them but they see the value that our industry delivers and they want our product,” noted Graviet.

But Graviet said the challenge, and it’s a big challenge, is the price that the growers receive.

“Just like almonds, you have a large supply and you have to develop that demand. And over time that happens, but in the meantime, the price will fluctuate depending on what the supply is on any given year,” she said.

2022-03-16T10:46:05-07:00March 16th, 2022|
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