University of California, Davis

California Marijuana Growers Can’t Take Much to the Bank

Study analyzes tension between legal cannabis, financial industry

Legalization of marijuana in California has helped some financial institutions in the state increase their assets. At the same time, many banks, feeling stifled by federal regulations, deny services to licensed growers, manufacturers and retailers, a new study shows.

“Licensed cannabis businesses need to bank their cash and take out loans to build their businesses, but many banks worry that by doing business with the cannabis industry, they’ll be flouting federal laws,” said co-author Keith Taylor, University of California Cooperative Extension community development specialist. “Banks that won’t accept legal cannabis cash deposits and don’t provide loans, aren’t monetizing their deposits. Marginalized cannabis communities are missing out on capital.”

Of the banks and credit unions contacted by researchers at The Ohio State University and University of California for the study, most were not knowingly involved in the cannabis industry.

Combining data on bank holdings and interviews with growers and bankers, the research –published online in the journal Agricultural Finance Review – paints an initial picture of how the marijuana and financial industries co-exist in California now, and suggests regulatory changes could create new opportunities for both.

The data analysis did make one thing clear: Legalization of the estimated $16 billion marijuana industry in California has been a boon to financial institutions. But restricted access to banking, from checking accounts to loans, perpetuates inequities for those participating in the legal production of cannabis – while unlicensed, illegal growing and exporting continues as an enormous cash-based sector of the industry.

“We need a better understanding of the economics of this industry and all of the questions and implications related to it so the impacts of policy choices are intentional,” said lead study author Zoë Plakias, assistant professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at The Ohio State University.

“If we want to have a more equitable society and allow communities to keep more of the value of this crop, how do we do that? We first need to characterize what happens in communities when you legalize cannabis.”

Plakias and Margaret Jodlowski, assistant professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State, conducted the study with researchers Taylor, Parisa Kavousi and Taylor Giamo at the University of California, Davis.

“The tensions we are observing in the cannabis banking space comes about in part due to the inequity felt between large cannabis and small and legacy operators,” Taylor said. “The ‘big guys’ are able to absorb a great deal more than ‘Ma and Pa.’”

Legalization benefited financial institutions indirectly

Marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Even in states that have legalized recreational and medicinal use of cannabis, it is still a federal crime to possess, buy or sell marijuana. California legalized recreational cannabis for adults in 2016, and the industry is overseen by the Department of Cannabis Control.

Data used by the researchers for this study included bank and credit union call data for the years 2015-2020. The analysis showed that assets held by financial institutions in counties that legalized marijuana had increased in that period by almost $750 million and loan activity rose by about $500 million.

These benefits are presumed to be spillover effects of better overall economic health that followed cannabis legalization in specific counties, Jodlowski said, because the interviews with financial institutions indicated there has been little appetite among banks to associate with the marijuana industry.

“It’s important to remember when talking about loans that it’s not possible to identify whether they were for cannabis operations, and they’re probably not based on what we heard from stakeholders,” she said. “It’s more of a general relationship. The bank is doing better, and they’re able to lend out more in general and earn more interest from loans.”

When they narrowed the analysis to banks that operate only in California, the researchers found that for each single new manufacturing or retail license, bank assets and loan capacity grew by tens of thousands of dollars. Cannabis cultivation licenses, on the other hand, had no impact on California banks’ holdings.

“This suggests that a lot of the economic benefits of legalization come from other stages of the supply chain – and it’s not a foregone conclusion that farmers benefit from legalization,” Plakias said. “There’s a need to think about how farmers who are producing cannabis in the legal market, often operating in rural environments with a weaker economic base to start with, can be supported in the context of economic development.”

The team also interviewed marijuana farmers and representatives from banks and credit unions in Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties – the “Emerald Triangle” region known historically in California and nationally for the quantity and quality of marijuana produced there.

Cannabis growers face obstacles, risk-adverse bankers

On the financial side, bankers reported being hamstrung by ambiguous federal guidelines that pose a real risk to financing cannabis, largely because banks are required to report suspicious transactions to the federal government. They might be seen as players in a criminal enterprise even by providing banking services to employees who work for licensed members of the cannabis industry, or they could lose big on lending if cannabis-related assets backing a loan were seized by federal agents.

“What’s consistent across all financial institutions is that it’s very costly, and does involve taking on some risk, to be in compliance with all of the guidelines – the risk being that even if you follow all guidelines to the letter, there’s no assurance that you can’t still get in trouble,” Plakias said.

Cannabis growers they interviewed reported paying fees ranging from $200 to $3,000 per month for bank accounts, which they found to be cost prohibitive. These limitations leave most licensed marijuana producers and retailers in the lurch, forcing them to rely on nontraditional financing arrangements – maybe investing in friends’ endeavors – or risk running cash operations.

“There is a lot of evidence that cash can be better for a local economy because cash tends to stay local – but we are now a credit-based economy,” Jodlowski said. “In this day and age it’s incredibly harmful for local economic development to have an entire sector that’s denied access to credit, because so much of developing as a household, or individual, or industry requires credit and requires demonstration of credit-worthiness.

“That’s a fundamental harm of these sorts of restrictions.”

This research is part of a larger project on cannabis and community economic development in California supported by a grant from the UC Davis Cannabis and Hemp Research Center. As part of this project, the California authors on this paper recently published a review of the opportunities and challenges marijuana legalization poses for localities in which the crop is cultivated and sold.

“It’s clear we need policies making cannabis banking and finance more equitable,” Taylor said. “It’s also clear that ‘Ma and Pa’ enterprises need to associate together in formal organizations so they can achieve economies of scale and harness their political power to endure the transition to legal.”

Despite the stigma attached to marijuana, even when legal, its status as California’s most valuable crop – estimated to be worth more than almonds and dairy combined – attracts outsiders who are better-equipped to come up with funding to get their operations started and compete with legacy growers who have lived and worked in California for generations.

This trend necessitates development of evidence-based policies that take all participants into consideration, the Ohio State researchers say.

“Our findings speak to confusion around existing policies and the need for streamlining, clarifying and having a more unified approach to regulating this industry,” Jodlowski said.

2022-01-20T13:14:22-08:00January 20th, 2022|

UC Davis Doctoral Student Alison Coomer Wins Global Nematode Thesis Competition

UC Davis doctoral student Alison Coomer is an international champion

By Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology

UC Davis second-year doctoral student Alison Coomer is now a global champion.

Coomer, a member of the laboratory of nematologist Shahid Siddique of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, just won a world-wide competition sponsored by the International Federation of Nematology Societies (IFNS) for her three-minute thesis on root-knot nematodes.

She delivered her video presentation virtually on “Trade-Offs Between Virulence and Breaking Resistance in Root-Knot Nematodes.” She will be awarded a busary and plaque at the 7th  International Congress of Nematology (ICN), set May 1-6 in Antibes, France.

Coomer earlier was selected one of the nine finalists in the 22-participant competition, vying against eight other graduate students from the University of Idaho, Moscow; and universities in England, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Kenya, Belgium and South Africa.

“Our entire lab is glad for Alison winning this award,” said Siddique. “This is an outstanding performance and Alison has really been working hard for that. I feel proud about it. I am also looking forward to Alison’s presentation at ICN.”

Judges announced that Rhys Copeland of Murdoch University, Australia, won second, and Laura Sheehy of Liverpool John Moores University England,  scored third. They also will receive busaries and plaques at the 7th  International Congress of Nematology.

IFNS hosts the competition, IFNS 3-Minute Thesis, “to cultivate student academic and research communication skills, and to enhance overall awareness of nematodes and the science of nematology.”

The competition began with 22 participants. Each was required to present a single static slide, and not use any props or sound-effects. In the finals, a panel of judges–six nematologists and three non-experts from other areas of plant sciend science–scored them on the quality of their research presentation, ability to communicate research to non-specialists, and the 3MT slide.  (See the winning videos at https://bit.ly/3naarTe)

In her presentation, Coomer related that: “Root-knot nematodes, specifically the MIG-group, consisting of Meloidogyne incognita, javanica, and arenaria, are the most damaging of the plant parasitic nematodes causing severe yield loss in over 2,000 different plant species including tomatoes. The Mi-gene, which is a resistance gene in tomato, has been used in commercial farming and has been praised for its effectiveness towards the MIG group. This gene has been cloned but the mechanisms of how it’s resistance works is still unknown.” (See video at https://www.ifns.org/alison-coomer)

Coomer, a doctoral student in plant pathology with an emphasis on nematology and advised by Siddique, is working on her dissertation, “Plant Parasitic Nematode Effectors and Their Role in the Plant Defense Immune System.”

Coomer, originally from the St. Louis, Mo., area, received two bachelor degrees–one in biology and the other in chemistry–in May 2020 from Concordia University, Seward, Neb., where she won the Outstanding Graduate Student in Biology Award. She served as a biology lab assistant and taught courses in general biology and microbiology.

As a biological science aide/intern, Coomer did undergraduate research in the Sorghum Unit of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Lincoln, Neb.  Her work included collecting, prepping and analyzing DNA, RNA and proteins to identify genes that contribute to an under- and over-expression of lignin in sorghum plants.

 

2022-01-11T13:12:33-08:00January 11th, 2022|

UC Davis Entomology Major Known Internationally as ‘Gwentomologist’

UC Davis entomology major Gwen Edosh with a whip scorpion she collected in Tucson. The 21-year-old undergraduate researcher has 21,999 followers on her Instagram account.

By Kathy Keatley Garvey

If you follow “Gwentomologist” on Instagram, you’ll see fascinating images, videos and data on scores of insects, including bees, butterflies and beetles, and such curious critters as wasp-mimicking beetles (genus Clytus) and “burying beetles” or  Nicrophorus beetles (genus Nicrophorus). 

And you’ll see arthropods such as jumping spiders (family Salticidae) and scorpions (superfamily Scorpionoidea).
Who is Gwentomologist? 

She’s 21-year-old Gwendolyn “Gwen” Erdosh, a UC Davis entomology major and undergraduate researcher with 21,900 followers on Instagram, where she shares her fascination, passion and growing scientific knowledge of entomology with the intensity of a moth heading for light. 

Erdosh, president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, a scholar in the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), the recipient of a Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship (PUF) research award,  and a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, brims with enthusiasm.  

In a recent post, she related how she “raised this gorgeous female Hemileuca eglanterina (sheep moth) from a tiny caterpillar!! First time successfully rearing these species. I got a male and female, and I was hoping they’d mate but it never happened. Guess they didn’t like each other. I have some eggs overwintering, and I hope they make it ‘til the spring!”

“I’m in awe with this species of silkmoth,” Gwen continued. “They are one of the few northern California native silkmoths (Saturniidae) and feed on Ceanothus and choke cherry leaves. The adults are day-flying and can fly incredible fast in a zig-zag motion, making catching them extremely hard. The males can be seen flying high in the Sierra mountains in July. Females are much harder to spot, as they are slower and hide out in the foliage, emitting pheromones to attract the males towards them. 

“The best way to see the adult is to rear caterpillars,” Gwen noted. “In the past, I attempted to rear the caterpillars and ran out of host plant. With no method of transportation to the high sierras, I had to give them rose leaves, which worked…until it didn’t. They all got a disease and died. This time, I had tons of host plant, and was able to return to the mountains in my car to get more (they eat way more than you’d expect). I’m really happy that I was able to raise this species successfully, and hope to do it again next spring! The insect season is coming to a close, but certain species only come out around this time, so I’ll be on the lookout.” 

Gwen launched her Instagram account in 2013 to share her passion for moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera).  “Back then, it was one of only a few accounts that focused on such a niche interest,” she said. “It quickly grew in popularity and a community of insect-obsessed teenager formed, all with similar goals. Through social media, we were able to make amazing connections, which I still have today. Eventually, my passion expanded from just Lepidoptera to a fascination with every type of arthropod on the planet!” 

 “On my page, I mainly post my own macro-photographs with detailed captions about the featured insect,” Gwen explained. “My goal is to not only teach others, but also learn a lot myself. I also post fun and engaging videos to encourage others to pursue entomology. Many times, people have told me that my page helped them decide that they wanted to pursue entomology as a career! I love being able to spread the love of insects to others, and will continue to be active on my page.” Additionally, she maintains a YouTube account as “gwentomologist.” 

A 2018 graduate of Los Gatos High School, Santa Clara County, and a UC Davis student since 2019, she anticipates receiving her bachelor’s degree in 2023. In February 2020, she applied for—and was accepted—into the highly competitive RSPIB program, which aims to provide undergraduates with closely mentored research experiences in biology. She studies with community ecologist and professor Louie Yang, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, one of the three RSPIB founders.   

“I actually first met Gwen when she was still in high school,” said Professor Yang. “She was doing a research project with monarch butterflies and emailed me with a few questions. Even then, I was impressed with her knowledge, focus and determination, and was glad to hear when she came to UC Davis. She applied to the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology early on, and was a stand-out student in my ENT 105 Insect Ecology class in 2020. It has been great to have Gwen in our lab, and to see her continuing to develop as a scientist.” 

Gwen’s interest in entomology began with caterpillars. 

“Ever since I can remember, I have always loved caterpillars,” Gwen said. “As a little kid, I would collect any caterpillar I saw and raise it to adulthood.” Amazed that a caterpillar could “magically change” into a moth or butterfly, she decided “to make a book matching every caterpillar to its adult. I did my own research online and in books I had, and soon was quite knowledgeable about Lepidoptera. The summer before 9th grade, I attended Bio Boot camp, the summer camp for kids led by the Bohart Museum, and Tabatha Yang (education and outreach coordinator). “This was the experience that led me to choose entomology as a career. During this camp, I learned everything about entomology and had a chance to meet real entomologists at UC Davis, and do field work. I fell in love with it and kept coming back each summer for the camp.” 

Gwen started her own insect collection, inspired by Jeff Smith (curator of the Bohart Museum’s Lepidoptera collection). “Since then, I have never doubted my decision to be an entomologist, not even once. My passion only grew once I entered college, and I consider entomology a lifelong journey of discovering everything about these beautiful, intricate, and fascinating creatures.” 

“Gwen is one of those students who instantly shows you her enthusiasm and enjoyment of entomology,” Smith said, “and it is just this kind of person who we hope will continue in this important field of science. For those of us looking ahead at the oncoming ‘golden years’ we need to ensure that there will be competent young scientists who will continue the research and who will discover so many more fascinating things about the world of ‘bugs.’ Gwen clearly will be one of these, and I am proud to be associated with her.” 

Gwen said she is most interested in four insect orders: Hymenoptera, Neuroptera, Coleoptera and Hemiptera. “I also really like Mygalomorphs. I am really fascinated by parasitoids, and hope to do research with parasitoids (wasps, flies, etc.) in the future.” 

Following her UC Davis graduation, she plans “to work abroad for a year in South America doing research. I then want to apply for graduate school in the United States. I may decide to get my masters first in systematics, and then decide if I want to get my PhD in insect ecology or insect systematics. I cannot decide between the two. However, I definitely want to pursue a career as a professor and researcher.”

Some of her role models include Louie Yang, Lynn Kimsey (director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor), Greg Kareofelas (Bohart associate), Jason Bond (UC Davis spider specialist, professor and associate dean), and Jason Dombroskie (manager of the Cornell University Insect Collection and coordinator of the Insect Diagnostic Lab.) 

“It is always great to see someone be able to pursue their passion and be successful,” Kareofelas said, adding that Gwen sometimes accompanies him on his many field trips and “she is always welcome.  Her enthusiasm, knowledge and energy make these trips a memorable and learning event for both of us! Her photographic skills enable her to record the insects ‘in nature’ and as a curated specimen. Her curated specimens are an example of how a collection should be made and how it should look.” 

As a 15-year-old high school student, Gwen traveled to the Bohart Museum in 2016 for its annual Moth Night and conferred with many of the scientists. 

At age 16, she served an entomology internship at Cornell University, where her work included identifying microlepidoptra in the family Tortricidae; sampling monarch butterflies for Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) spores; catching and tagging the gray petaltail dragonfly (Petalurid) at a local state park; and collecting, identifying and presenting moths for a Moth Night program at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History. 

“It was incredible!” Gwen said. “That was my first exposure to insect systematics and I fell in love with it. We also did a lot of ecology projects in the field. The best part about it was that for the first time, I was taken seriously and treated like any other scientist–even though I was only 16. I was able to get out of my comfort zone, and grow from it. It was my first time living away from my family for an extended period of time, and it was my first experience in a professional environment. I learned how to dissect tiny moth genitalia, how to differentiate species, how new species are given names and how the process works, how to do public outreach events, how to conduct field research, and how to stay accountable. Jason Dombroskie was an amazing mentor and I seriously cannot thank him enough for his kindness, support, and encouragement.” 

That was not her first internship.  Gwen gained experience at a five-week internship in the summer of 2018 at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens in Costa Rica, where she studied insects, conducted tours, and cared for the arthropods in the insectarium.

At age 12, while attending Bio Boot Camp, Gwen learned about the UC Davis Entomology Club, advised by forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “It had always been my dream to be president one day. From the moment I entered UC Davis, I immersed myself in the club, and became extremely active in it.”  She attends all the meetings and field trips; the members now include some of her closest friends.  Before advancing to president this year, she served as vice president in 2020 and social media coordinator in 2019. 

 “I’m super passionate about the club,” Gwen acknowledged. “In fact, it’s my favorite time of the week during the quarter. The people in the club are absolutely incredible, and we all inspire each other in so many different ways. I feel so grateful that this organization exists at UC Davis, and I’m glad I have a team of officers that really put in the work to make it an inclusive, fun, and educational environment for anyone who wants to join.” 

In addition, Gwen is vice president of the UC Davis STEM Careers Club, booking speakers, and inspiring students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She has also worked as a youth steward for Grassroots Ecology of Central California (removing invasive plants, planting native grasses and trees, and surveying mammals and birds using a motion-activated camera); and as a volunteer counselor at the Walden West Summer Camp, a nature summer camp for elementary-school age youths.   

Although sometimes mistaken for a teenager–“I look young for my age and I’m 5′ 1”–Gwen doesn’t let that stop her. “I now have accepted who I am and I do not let what others think of me affect me or my goals. I am glad that I am unique!” 

Gwen’s hobbies and interests closely align with her career plans. They include collecting, photographing, and pinning insects; exploring and observing wildlife; traveling; creating art;  producing music on FL Studio (digital audio workstation); and spending time with her friends—two-legged friends (people), six-legged friends (insects) and eight-legged friends (arachnids). 

2021-12-22T14:42:03-08:00December 22nd, 2021|

Giving Tuesday Big for UC

Giving Tuesday Donations Exceed UC ANR Expectations

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC Agriculture & Natural Resources

On Giving Tuesday 2019, donors gave $130,311 over 24 hours for UC Cooperative Extension, statewide programs and research and extension centers that make up the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources network.

The donations will help UC Agriculture and Natural Resources extend the power of UC research in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, and youth development to more Californians in their own communities to improve their lives.

“The generosity of our donors will help us keep 4-H leadership-building activities affordable for California kids, and fund research into living with wildfire, farming in a changing climate, healthier foods, pest control for home and environment, and many other issues that concern Californians,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“UC ANR researchers and educators are working in every county to bring practical, science-based answers to residents wherever they live in the state,” noted Humiston.

Thanks to generous donors, volunteers, staff and board members who gave a total of $40,000 in matching funds, there was an incentive for donors across the state who wanted to double the impact of their gifts.

“We set a goal of collecting a total of $125,000 for 4-H and UC ANR from more than 500 donors on Giving Tuesday,” said Emily Delk, UC ANR director of annual giving and donor stewardship. In all, UC ANR received 580 donations on Giving Tuesday.

Donations are still being accepted to boost UC ANR programs and research for a healthier California. To give, visit http://donate.ucanr.edu.

To learn more about how UC ANR is helping your community, visit https://ucanr.edu/About/Locations and follow @ucanr on social media.

2019-12-12T14:14:30-08:00December 12th, 2019|

UC Davis Offering Beginner Beekeeping Classes

Do You Want to Become a Beekeeper or Learn More About Beekeeping?

News Release

The California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is hosting two short beekeeping classes in early August: one on “Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” and the other, “Working Your Colonies.”

Each will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The deadline to register is Thursday, Aug. 1.

“These courses are foundational to beekeeping husband excellence,” said Wendy Mather, program manager. “They are great for folks who are thinking about getting bees next season, as well as those who currently have bees and want to ensure they’re doing whatever they can to ensure the success of their hives.”

The classes are not required to become a California Master Beekeeper, but are highly recommended, as “they will help folks prepare to become a science-based beekeeping ambassador,” Mather said. Instructors are Elina Niño and CAMPB educational supervisor Bernardo Niño, a staff research assistant in the Niño lab.

Planning Ahead for Your First Hives
“Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” will take place Saturday, Aug. 3, and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what’s necessary to get the colony started and keep it healthy and thriving. They will learn about bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to install honey bee packages, how to monitor their colonies (that includes inspecting and monitoring for varroa mites) and other challenges with maintaining a healthy colony.

The course is limited to 25 participants. The $105 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a hive tool), lunch, and refreshments. Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/572.

 Working Your Colonies
“Working Your Colonies” will take place Sunday, Aug. 4, and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what is necessary to maintain a healthy colony. Lectures will cover advanced honey bee biology, honey bee integrated pest management, and products of the hive. Participants also will learn about queen wrangling, honey extraction, splitting/combined colonies, and monitoring for varroa mites.

The course is limited to 25 participants per session. The $175 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch, and refreshments. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/559.

Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. All participants are to wear closed-toed and closed-heel shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

The California Master Beekeeping Program uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. For more information, contact Mather at wmather@ucdavis.edu.

2019-07-15T14:19:28-07:00July 15th, 2019|

Four Students Selected to Represent Real California Milk in Asia, Mexico

Student Ambassadors Share California Dairy Message with International Audiences 

News Release

The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) has selected four students to serve as interns in the second year of the international dairy leadership program. Jessica Brown, Stefani Christieson, KayCee Hartwig-Dittman and Makayla Toste will serve as dairy representatives, working with marketing teams representing CMAB during the summer in Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan.

The interns, selected from students enrolled in agriculture-related programs at colleges and universities throughout the state, were chosen based on academic achievement, connection to the dairy industry, and a willingness to travel abroad and learn more about international dairy sales and marketing as well as a plan to work in the California dairy industry in the future.dairy cattle

Over the six-week period, each intern will spend time with in-country CMAB marketing organizations—Brown in Taiwan, Christieson and Hartwig-Dittman in South Korea and Toste in Mexico—to gain a better understanding of these markets, consumer buying habits, and promotional efforts on behalf of California’s dairy industry.

Brown is currently enrolled at Fresno State, majoring in agriculture business. She was raised on her family’s vineyard in Tracy and has always had a passion for agriculture. Her desire to learn about agriculture outside of the U.S. has provided her with opportunities to study abroad, most recently in Spain. Because of her love of travel and learning about other cultures, Jessica is focusing on international marketing at college, with plans to work in this field of study upon graduation in 2020. Brown is a member of the agriculture marketing team at Fresno State and will be working with Steven Chu and Associates in Taipei, Taiwan.

Christieson is a recent graduate of the UC Davis, where she received her B.S. in Political Science and minors in economics and French. She will be attending graduate school in the fall at Sciences Po in Paris, France, for a year and then will complete the program at Fudan University in Shanghai, China in year two. Christieson plans to complete her master’s degree in international economic policy and pursue a career as agriculture economic policy advisor for an agriculture export market organization to help California farmers continue to expand into emerging and established markets overseas. Christieson will be working with Sohn’s Market Makers, Ltd. in S. Korea.

Hartwig-Dittman is currently enrolled at Fresno State, where she is majoring in dairy science and is employed at the dairy unit on campus. She has a culinary arts degree from Diablo Valley Community College and has experience working in the restaurant industry in California. Her love of travel and food has allowed her to travel outside of the U.S., where she has learned to use dairy products in new and creative ways with hopes to find innovative ways to introduce dairy to consumers around the world. Hartwig-Dittman will also be working with Sohn’s Market Makers, Ltd. in South Korea.

 Toste, a second-generation dairy farmer from Newman, received her B.S. degree in Animal Science with an emphasis in dairy science. During her last year at Fresno State, Toste served as the assistant herdsman for the Fresno State dairy unit, where she was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the dairy and an officer for the Fresno State Dairy Club. After the internship, she plans to work in the California dairy industry in promotion and marketing to help keep the industry viable for the next generation of farmers. Toste will serve as an intern with the team at Imalinx in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

“California accounts for more than 33 percent of all U.S. dairy exports so international trade is essential for our continued growth. Over the last decade, the CMAB has worked closely with partners in Asia and Mexico to develop markets for California dairy products. This program is focused on providing insight into international dairy marketing for future leaders like Jessica, Stefani, KayCee, and Makayla, who will work in the dairy business and one day serve on dairy industry boards and lead industry groups,” said Glenn Millar, Director of International Business Development for the CMAB.

The goal of the CMAB International Internship program is to provide agriculture/dairy college students an opportunity to learn about dairy foods and marketing in the international marketplace. The program looks to develop leaders who will serve on dairy industry boards and work in dairy foods production, processing, or sales/marketing.

2021-05-12T11:17:08-07:00July 12th, 2019|

Delta Smelt Are Poor Swimmers, Unlikely to Reach Pumps

How Many Smelt Are Actually At the Pumps?

By Kristi Diener, Fourth Generation San Joaquin Valley Farmer

Delta smelt are poor swimmers. When they have to swim against voluminous outflows, they struggle. They also lack endurance for distance and swimming against currents. This was the result of the taxpayer-funded swim performance test conducted more than 20 years ago. Why is this important?

Delta smelt live in the freshwater/saltwater mixing zone made up of outflow from the fresh waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, and the inflow of saltwater pushed towards that freshwater from the ocean tides. Smelt leave this mixing zone in search of freshwater to spawn, in the late winter to early spring. It is the same time of year when the outflows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers are at their peak. Recently, water surging out from the rivers was equal to 104,900 basketballs per second!

If the smelt are able to swim against these powerful outflows, they don’t go too far, and generally spawn pretty close to the nearest region of freshwater they can find in the delta. However, most smelt being surveyed during spawning are not in the delta at all, rather, in the much smaller waterways to the north where there is a fraction of the freshwater outflow. Twenty-one years ago, UC Davis acknowledged outflows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are actually too high for the endangered smelt!

Delta smelt by metric ruler Photo: USFWS

Delta smelt by metric ruler
Photo: USFWS

Let’s jump to the “pumps.” They are about 60 miles away from where smelt live in the mixing zone of the Suisun and San Pablo Bays. The pumps capture water at the south end of the delta, where it later flows into storage at San Luis Reservoir. Eventually, it is conveyed south to 2/3 of the state.

Water that is not captured by pumping surges out from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers into that mixing zone. These pumps are routinely throttled back because, according to the Smelt Biological Opinion, smelt are in danger of getting sucked-in and killed. The result of not pumping is huge losses of water for human use and huge increases of outflow from these two rivers into the ocean.

So how many smelt, who lack endurance for long swims according to the swim performance test, are actually surveyed near the pumps and at risk of being liquidated? Every month, a trawl survey is conducted to count smelt and find out where they’re hanging out. I pulled up the fish distribution maps for every monthly trawl over a 10-year period. The closest a smelt has been surveyed near the pumps is about 30 miles away from them, seven years ago.

Still, in spite of their own swim performance tests, the opinion is that smelt swim about a 60 mile, squiggly endurance course, destined for the pumps. Remember, they spawn in freshwater, but actually, live back in the mixing zone where they must return. Nonetheless, this opinion is the very hypothesis that ratchets back pumping at full capacity and prevents the securing of water for humans. There are many other facets of the opinion that are questionable as well. Incidentally, just two smelt have been surveyed anywhere in the last 10 months.

Here’s the good news. President Trump signed an executive memo in October, requiring the Biological Opinions to be reviewed and updated. The science is well over a decade old. Please notice it is called an “opinion”, not a fact. Trump set a timeline and a deadline to get it done too. The assessment phase had to be completed by January 31, and it was. The deadline for the new Opinions to be issued is 135 days after the assessment, which I calculate to be around June 15th. I’m counting.

In the next couple of months, we’ll likely be hearing a whole bunch of malarkey coming from the folks favoring water for the sea in the name of fish, instead of for humans and the earth. There will be an uproar when the Biological Opinions are revised to actually help endangered fish, instead of being used as a vehicle to implement an agenda of man-made water shortages, more regulations, increased fees, and new taxes. You will hear misinformation, but you will know the truth.

Delta Smelt Performance Test can be found here.

2021-05-12T11:05:03-07:00May 29th, 2019|

CDFA To Hold Good Ag Neighbors Workshops

Workshop Designed for Produce Growers and Livestock Areas to Promote Food Safety

News Release

In order to facilitate dialogue between different sectors of California agriculture about cooperation to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is partnering with the University of California and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bring the livestock and produce communities together for a series of workshops.

The workshops, titled Good Ag Neighbors, are designed for fruit and vegetable growers, livestock owners, and others interested in learning about how produce safety and livestock management practices can work jointly to promote food safety.

The workshops will be held in two California locations, with the first scheduled for June 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville. The second workshop is scheduled for June 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Robert J Cabral Ag Center in Stockton.

“Agriculture is complex,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This is particularly true in California, where diverse agricultural operations often exist side-by-side, with each of them required to comply with a myriad of regulations designed to protect the public, the environment, and the food supply.”

Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary

Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary

Diversity is extremely important to the fabric of California agriculture. Also important is open communication channels between diverse partners. This has become more apparent with the CDFA’s newly created Produce Safety Program, which is working on behalf of the U.S. FDA to enforce produce safety regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The workshops will address lessons learned from recent investigations of produce-related foodborne illness outbreaks, examine key research findings, and consider future research needs.

The workshops are being conducted by the UC Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security and will include presentations by researchers and industry representatives. The day-long agenda will focus in the morning on reviewing regulations, laws, and practices already in place to protect food and environmental safety, while the afternoon will be spent in various breakout groups examining how these practices can be leveraged.

Participants should come prepared to share their experiences as well as their produce safety questions.

The workshops are offered free of charge. For more information and to register, please visit http://www.wifss.ucdavis.edu/good-ag-neighbors/.

2021-05-12T11:01:47-07:00May 24th, 2019|

Tulare Center Trains UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Students

UC Vet Students Learn About Livestock Animals in Tulare

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

VMRTC is the Veterinarian Medicine Training and Research Center located in Tulare. The facility is an extension of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The site offers education and training to veterinarians by offering senior veterinary students and residents on-the-farm clinical medical training and residencies in dairy production medicine.

Nathan Brown, a UC Davis veterinary student, is working on practicals in and out of a hospital setting.

“We do rotations in the hospital and outside of the hospital. We have a teaching center and, in addition, we have our California Animal Health and Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS), which is involved with diagnosing foreign animal diseases,” Brown said. “That is sort of the main mission.”

“In the mornings, we do herd checks, we go out to different dairies. We palpate cows for diagnosis of pregnancy, and we’re under the supervision of some of the veterinarians that work at our center,” Brown explained. “In the afternoons, we work on a variety of different projects. One of the projects that we’re working on currently is milking frequency. We are looking at different variables that go into whether or not it’s profitable to move from either two to three times a day or three times a day to two times a day.”

Brown said that the students at the Tulare center are doing their livestock track through UC Davis. “We’re all in our fourth year. It’s been a wonderful experience. Tulare is a great place, and it’s good to see a different part of California.”

Students studying at the center decide which direction they will take regarding animal type or other medical pursuits.

“After our second year, we make a decision about whether we do small animals or large animals,” Brown said. “Some people do equines, other focus on zoo animals—there is a variety of options in our profession and that our school offers.

Brown is pursuing livestock medicine, but he has a commitment to the Air Force to do public health epidemiology for them.

Army veterinarians do clinical medicine for animals on the base. They focus on German shepherd dogs and horses, and they also do some food safety.

“As as a veterinarian in the Air Force, it’s essentially veterinary public health, and my role will be epidemiology on a base, so that’s actually more human focus, and food safety,” Brown said.

“If you kind of think about the historical roots of veterinary medicine, much of the role of veterinarians has been ensuring that food is safe for humans to consume, meaning that the animals are healthy before they get ready for human consumption,” Brown explained. “We must ensure that there’s no points of contamination so that all the food that people eat in this country is healthy and nutritious, and we don’t have to worry about disease.”

Most bases have a veterinary clinic, primarily staffed with army veterinarians.

“My hope is to do some amount of clinical practice at these clinics to sort of keep my veterinary skills relevant. And I’ve had some good advice from some epidemiologists who works at the CDC,” Brown said. “He told me that at least for him, it’s made him a better epidemiologist by keeping his clinical skills relevant because thinking about that differential diagnosis is really a big part of trying to find the cause of a disease.”

2021-05-12T11:17:08-07:00May 2nd, 2019|

Weedy Rice—Not as Simple as it Sounds

Weedy Rice is A Pesky Rice Type in Production Rice Fields

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

Contrary to its name, weedy rice is not in fact weeds in rice—but it is presenting several challenges to California rice growers. To help farmers combat the pesky variety, UC Davis Ph.D. student Liberty Galvin and the horticulture and agronomy graduate group have conducted extensive research.

According to Galvin, the genetic and physiological properties of weedy rice are the same as the cultivated varieties consumers typically eat. So what’s the issue? Galvin said that besides the fact that weedy rice is off in its coloring, it’s nearly impossible to harvest.

“The issue is that the seed shatters, or basically falls to the ground. So when you go through and try to harvest it, the grain does not get collected in the harvester,” Galvin explained.

Although right now it seems that commercially growing weedy rice is not an option, there are ways to prevent it. Galvin’s research found that drilling the seeds at least two inches into the soil will eliminate seed germination or emergence in the field. This is especially useful in California, where tillage is done only to prepare the field, not plant the rice itself.

Galvin said that while growers can produce their own rice seed, it has to be certified by the California Crop Improvement Association or a Rice Seed Quality Assurance Program.  In all cases, growers are required to plant only certified rice seed so there is no opportunity for traces of weedy rice to enter the soil.

“That is why tillage depth is so important, because that’s how you reduce your seed bank,” she said.

2021-05-12T11:05:04-07:00April 30th, 2019|
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