University of California, Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources

Advances in Pistachio Water Management Workshop July 7

Join UC Nut Crops Advisor Catherine Mae Culumber, Irrigation Specialists Daniele Zaccaria and Khaled Bali, Irrigation Advisor Blake Sanden, Professional Researcher Elia Scudiero, and other University of California experts in this in-person Water Management Workshop on July 7, 2022 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, CA to learn about the latest research and advances in Pistachio Water Management and Irrigation. CEU credits for Soil & Water Management have been approved for this workshop. 

This workshop will be held at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, CA on July 7, 2022.

Registration includes participation fee, coffee breaks, lunch, and access to workshop presentations.

Topics Include: Pistachio soil-plant-water relations, stress physiology, evapotranspiration and crop coefficients, soil-water budgeting, soil characterization and salinity mapping, tree water status, irrigation scheduling, and strategies for Pistachio irrigation management under limited and impaired water supplies. A set of irrigation-related methods, technologies, and products to help growers schedule and manage irrigation will also be presented during the Workshop. 

Who Should Attend: Pistachio growers and farm managers, representatives from the pistachio production industry, irrigation consultants and practitioners, CCAs, CPAs, water resource managers, water conservation districts’ personnel, irrigation districts’ managers, extension specialists and advisors, professional researchers, university students, and representatives from state agencies. 

To register, click here.

2022-06-22T09:55:46-07:00June 22nd, 2022|

Pest Variability Poorly Understood

UC Davis Ecologist Daniel Paredes: Understanding Pest Variability Key to Managing Pest Outbreaks

Newly published research led by UC Davis ecologist Daniel Paredes suggests that pest abundances are less variable in diverse landscapes comprised of multiple crop types and patches of natural habitat.

“As a result, pest outbreaks are less likely in diverse landscapes,” said Paredes, who analyzed a 13-year government database of diversified landscapes encompassing more than 1300 olive groves and vineyards in Spain. The database documented pests and pesticide applications.

The paper, “The Causes and Consequences of Pest Population Variability in Agricultural Landscapes,” appears in the Ecological Society of America journal, Ecological Applications. Co-authors are UC Davis distinguished professor Jay Rosenheim of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Daniel Karp, associate professor, Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology.  The research is online at https://bit.ly/3a64WRN.

Pest variability: an understudied but critical topic
Although population variability is often studied in natural systems, the need for long-term pest population data collected across many farms has largely prevented researchers from studying pest variability in agricultural systems, said Paredes, a postdoctoral fellow in the Karp lab.

“However, understanding variability in agriculture is key to understanding when pest outbreaks are likely to occur,” Paredes said. “Farmers are really risk averse, with fear of very rare but severe pest outbreaks driving their decisions.  But huge datasets are needed to understand when outbreaks are likely to occur and better inform management.”

“We found that more variable pest populations are more likely to downgrade crop quality and induce catastrophic damages,” Paredes said. “For example, the likelihood that olive flies consume more than 20 percent of olive crops doubled when comparing the most versus the least volatile populations.”

What causes a pest population to be variable?
Having shown that more pest-population variability is more likely to cause problems for farmers, the researchers then set out to discover what farmers could do to manage variability.

One key factor that emerged was the type of landscape the crops were grown in, specifically whether the landscape was dominated by vast fields of a single crop variety or more diversified. Pest populations were both more abundant and more variable in crop monocultures.

However, while landscape type influenced both pest population sizes and variability, this was not always the case for other variables. “This research shows that the factors that promote high overall mean pest density are not necessarily the same factors that promote high variability in pest density,” Rosenheim said. “So, mean densities, which is what researchers have been studying for decades and decades, are only part of the story.  Variation in density, and in particular unpredictable severe outbreaks, need to be studied separately.”

The take-away message?

“In Spain, planting multiple crops and retaining natural habitats would help stably suppress pests and prevent outbreaks,” said Paredes, a native of Spain who holds a doctorate in environmental sciences (2014) from the University of Granada. “Diversifying agricultural may be a win–win situation for conservation and farmers alike.”

“Therefore, we encourage agricultural stakeholders to increase the complexity of the landscapes surrounding their farms through conserving/restoring natural habitat and/or diversifying crops,” the researchers wrote in their abstract.

Tapping into other large datasets such as this one, will be key to understanding whether diversified landscapes also help mitigate pest variability and outbreaks in other areas, they said.

This project was funded by the National Science Foundation with funds from the Belmont Forum via the European Biodiversity Partnership: BiodivERsA. It was also supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

2022-05-19T13:47:29-07:00May 19th, 2022|

Community Members Invited to Support Favorite UC ANR Programs May 19-20

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

California farmers can grow crops with less water. Gardeners can control pests with safer methods. Community members can take steps to protect their homes from wildfire. Children can learn life and work skills. Families can stretch their food dollars to provide nutritious meals. Californians have benefited from University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources research and outreach in many ways. And thanks to the state’s historic boost to UC ANR funding, more UC Cooperative Extension scientists and educators are being hired to address the unique needs of communities across California.

From noon to noon on May 19-20, the public is invited to donate for UC ANR Giving Day, sponsored by Tri Counties Bank, to enhance their favorite UC ANR projects or programs. 

The 24 hours of giving will expand UC ANR outreach to benefit the health and well-being of more Californians throughout the state.

In the past, donations have been used to fund UC Master Gardener demonstration gardens, purchase teaching supplies for California Naturalists, and fund scholarships for children to develop life and work skills in UC ANR’s 4-H programs.

Donors are invited to give to UC Cooperative Extension in their counties, Research and Extension Centers and favorite programs. When visitors click “GIVE” on the upper right of the website http://donate.ucanr.edu/givingday, fund choices appear in drop-down menus. 

Online gifts made between noon on May 19 and 11:59 a.m. on May 20 may help programs qualify for prize challenge awards. Donations can be made at http://donate.ucanr.edu/givingday.

If you prefer sending a check instead of donating online, please make checks payable to “UC Regents” and specify the fund, then mail to UC ANR Gift Processing, 2801 Second Street, Davis, CA 95618.

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.

2022-05-17T12:07:18-07:00May 17th, 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|

Humiston Touts USDA Climate-Smart Programs Before House Agriculture Committee

Testimony highlights UC ANR’s role in advancing prosperity, sustainability and climate resilience

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Glenda Humiston, Ph.D., University of California vice president of agriculture and natural resources, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and director of the Cooperative Extension Service, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture at today’s (March 16) hearing “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Role of USDA Programs in Addressing Climate Change.

A recording of the hearing can be viewed at https://youtu.be/2_GQI6b6CCs. Congressman Jimmy Panetta, who represents California’s Central Coast, introduces Humiston at the 16-minute mark of the recording. She begins speaking at the 40:38 mark.

In Washington, D.C., Humiston delivered the following prepared statement:

Good morning, Chairman [David] Scott, Ranking Member [GT] Thompson, and Members of the Committee, my name is Glenda Humiston, and I serve as the Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) for the University of California (UC) system. I am honored to have this opportunity to discuss the importance of agricultural research, and other USDA programs, as you begin work on the next Farm Bill.

With UC ANR serving as a vital partner, California continues to be the nation’s top agricultural state. For more than a century, California’s $50 billion agricultural sector has depended on UC ANR, in partnership with our UC campuses, for the stream of new technologies and research breakthroughs needed to stay competitive and be responsible stewards of the land. We are proud to be part of the Land Grant partnership that was developed between states and the federal government with the 1862 Morrill Act, 1887 Hatch Act and the 1914 Smith-Lever Act. That enterprise has, for over 130 years, advanced scientific knowledge in all aspects of food production, and improved production capacity, profitability, and safety of the nation’s food system.

With over 71,000 farms producing 400 different commodities, California is an agricultural behemoth and the sole provider of many high-demand farm products while also exporting roughly a third of its agricultural production each year. Beyond on-farm production, California’s working landscapes include farmland, ranches, forests, wetlands, mines, water bodies and other natural resource lands, both private and public, that are vital sources of ecosystem services. These services are ways that the natural world provides biological necessities, such as clean water, nutritious food, and a livable climate, as well as indirect economic benefits, such as jobs and revenue created along food value chains. More broadly, they encompass intangible goods that contribute to human well-being, such as recreation, aesthetic inspiration, and cultural connection.

Ensuring that those ecosystem services are functioning and remain available to utilize is an ever-growing challenge. There can be no doubt that extreme climate events are changing California’s landscape – fires, floods, drought, more invasive pests are already affecting agriculture. For example, unseasonably warm weather now causes many fruit and nut trees to bloom before the last frost, causing great economic losses. In the coming decades, the changing climate is likely to further decrease the supply of water, increase the risk of wildfires, and threaten coastal development and ecosystems.

To combat such future perils, we must harness the ability of our agricultural and other working landscapes to adapt, to mitigate and where possible, to become a solution to climate change. According to the National Academy of Sciences, U.S. soils and forests have the potential to sequester about 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Emerging markets for carbon credits and government incentive programs could generate tens of billions of dollars per year in new investment for working farm and forest lands within the next several years.

Within this framework, USDA programs are critical to our efforts to support carbon sequestration, improved water management, healthy soils, forest restoration, hazardous fuels management, and wood products innovation, among other provisions that support natural climate solutions. USDA’s new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities is a great example of how targeted funding for pilot projects can create market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices.

As we pursue those climate-smart practices, it is critical that we make full use of existing programs and leverage collaborations among them wherever possible. Supporting partnerships between government agencies with academia and the private sector will enable production of multiple benefits from various actions. As part of this we need to utilize voluntary, market and incentive-based programs to the greatest extent possible and maintain a focus on science-based outcomes. In many situations, transformative innovation is needed – moving beyond just improving existing methods and processes to totally re-thinking how our systems are designed to deliver policy and programs.

UC ANR supports California farmers and ranchers to be resilient to extreme weather events with data-driven tools, methods, and technologies. For example, we are developing drought, heat, and pest-tolerant crop varieties that allow farmers to remain economically viable while also being resilient to extreme weather. Finding new crops suitable for California soils and ecosystems not only improves the productivity of the farm but can have co-benefits such as improving water-holding capacity of the soil, increasing native pollinator habitat, and boosting local economies by increasing value-added products.

We are also pushing our research system to expand collaborative efforts between experts in soil sciences, plant pathology, biochemistry, and other sciences with technology experts in robotics, sensors, artificial intelligence, materials, supply chain logistics, and energy systems to solve today’s complex problems in agriculture. Much like the biomedical revolution, it is the integration of multiple disciplines into a single project that can lead to transformative innovation that improves productivity, food safety, and ecosystem services while also giving rise to new businesses. Great examples of such transdisciplinary research and development include:

  • An initiative to place solar panels over irrigation canals to reduce evaporation of precious irrigation water supplies for farmers while also producing electricity.
  • Implementing healthy soil practices, like cover crops and no-till, to enhance capture of rain and improve groundwater recharge.
  • Programs for farmers to install dairy digesters to convert potentially harmful greenhouse gases into valuable biofuels.

To develop the science, new technologies and better farming practices that are desperately needed, increased funding for agriculture and food-related research and extension is necessary as are new investment in agricultural research facilities. Public funding for agricultural research in the U.S. has declined in real dollars over the past few decades while deferred maintenance of research facilities greatly hampers scientists’ work. Greater investments will help ensure farmers and ranchers have access to the scientifically rigorous tools and information they need to build climate resilience, mitigate environmental impacts, and increase the productivity of their land.

Other exciting opportunities can be found in forest health efforts that convert excessive fuel loads – biomass – into valuable bioproducts while reducing risk from catastrophic wildfires. California’s wildfire crisis continued its destructive march in 2020, each year worse than the one before. Working closely with regional economic development organizations and our California Economic Summit partners, UC ANR is a key partner in developing and implementing recommendations to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risk, incentivize innovation in new and innovative wood products industries and build capacity for manufacturing to enhance forest and environmental health and resilient rural communities. Examples of this work include:

  • Organizing controlled burn associations with local communities and other forest treatment practices such as a software program, Match.Graze, that improves use of grazing.
  • Partnering with the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and the southern California commercial ports to convert biomass into hydrogen and other liquid biofuels to replace diesel in trucks – the largest source of air pollution in that region.
  • Educating homeowners on landscaping, defensible space, and fire-wise plants to improve home-hardening, reduce risk from fire and conserve water.
  • UC Engineering research on materials science is developing new advanced wood products and data to demonstrate the multiple values of construction with such products.
  • Teaming up with community colleges to provide workforce training in forest professions.

The US needs robust funding for wildfire prevention, research, recovery, and extension. Cooperative Extension academics are lead experts in forestry and wildfire research and they provide critical resources to inform strategic fuels management, enhance community wildfire planning, and build community fire adaptation and resiliency. USDA’s Climate Hubs should be expanded so that they can regularly engage stakeholders and prioritize vital research amongst more partners. The U.S. Forest Service’s work on bioproducts is extremely valuable as is their willingness to enter into long-term stewardship agreements with state and local partners.

In California, we are very excited to be working with the Governor and the state legislature to secure a $185 million investment in UC to build new capacity in climate-focused research, innovation, and workforce development. For example, with this funding we would establish Regional Workforce Hubs that will provide on-the-job training opportunities for university and community college students as well as well as leverage the professional learning and career certification infrastructure of the UC Extension programs to offer a portfolio of training opportunities, tools, and resources for college-prep and non-degree seeking individuals.

Just as these programs allow us to implement climate smart agriculture and healthy forests’ initiatives, they also support regional economic development and job creation. Rural Development, the Agricultural Marketing Service and many other USDA programs are important partners as we build climate solutions through more efficient regional food systems, improved supply chains, workforce training, manufacturing of BioPreferred products, and food security initiatives.

If we are to promote resilience and help rural economies better adapt to climate change, we need to harness all programs throughout the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means having senior USDA leadership coordinating climate issues across the entire agency and robustly serving as USDA’s climate representative at all interagency climate-related meetings. For example, USDA must collaborate with federal entities like the Federal Communications Commission to support improvements to broadband access, which is critical for climate-smart precision technologies and rural economies. Similarly, just as USDA has partnered with the National Science Foundation on research initiatives and jointly funding competitive grants, it needs to build closer partnerships with programs like Commerce’s Economic Development Agency and Treasury’s Community Financial Development Institutions to ensure that access to capital, effective economic development planning and infrastructure investments are targeted appropriately and delivered well.

One important way to help ensure wise distribution of program dollars to give the current definition of “rural” serious examination and re-engineering; as it stands now, far too many communities are improperly denied USDA resources due to the antiquated definitions of rural and metropolitan. Strongly encouraging more cross-agency proposals throughout USDA and enhanced support for public-private partnerships would remove barriers and hurdles for industry and communities alike.

The current mix of federal and state capacity funds is generally leveraged many-fold by federal competitive grants, grants from private industry, and other types of unrestricted gifts and awards to faculty conducting research at the nation’s land-grant universities. Competitive funding processes can elicit new ideas and speed up certain research projects; however, they also encourage a shift from programmatic research towards shorter-term project research. Failure to invest in a well-balanced mix of capacity and competitive funds for food and agriculture research could have very negative consequences for decades to come – consequences that would take significant time to reverse.

It takes at least seven to 15 years of research and development to develop a new crop variety – longer for trees/vines. Deploying and/or adapting new agricultural technologies can be even longer. For example, when UC Davis engineer, Coby Lorenzen, designed a machine to automate the harvest of tomatoes in the 1960s, it also required agronomist, Jack Hanna, to develop a less-delicate variety of tomato that ripened uniformly and could be easily plucked from the plant, essential qualities that made machine harvesting feasible. Federal funding that recognizes these realities as well as improvements in technology transfer and support for commercialization is vital.

Faculty and staff at land-grant universities across the nation recognize that their work takes place on behalf of a greater good, a broader goal, and a common vision that is much bigger than their individual achievements. Members of this House Committee on Agriculture can be confident that every dollar of federal investment authorized by the Farm Bill and expended at land-grant universities is guaranteed to be leveraged further, and to spawn innovation and discovery that will be translated into solutions to improve the lives of U.S. citizens. I thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony.

2022-03-17T10:44:04-07:00March 17th, 2022|

Grape Experts Give Workshops on Drought Preparedness, Red Blotch

By UCANR

Grapevine Drought Preparedness Workshop

Grape growers and other industry members interested in grape production and water management in vineyards are invited to UC Cooperative Extension’s Grapevine Drought Preparedness Workshops.

The workshops will be held in person on Friday, March 4, in San Luis Obispo and Friday, April 1, in Hopland.

Registration is $50 and includes a full day of live instruction from UC Cooperative Extension viticulture and grapevine experts. Lunch will be provided.

For more information and to register, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/ShortCourse17.

UC Davis Grapevine Red Blotch Disease Symposium

On Wednesday, March 16, UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology will host a Grapevine Red Blotch Disease Symposium 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Red blotch disease in grapevines, which can dramatically reduce the value of winegrapes, harms plants by inhibiting photosynthesis in the leaves. Infected vines are unable to conduct water effectively, leaving sugar that is created by photosynthesis stuck in the leaves instead of in the berries.

This event will be presented both in person at the UC Davis Conference Center and livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.

Presentations will cover the role of treehoppers, treatments, mitigation strategies, the impact of the disease on the composition of wine, and more.

Registration is $250 for the in-person symposium at UC Davis and $150 for the livestream. An application for 3.5 CCE units has been submitted to California Department of Pesticide Regulation and is pending approval.

To see the agenda and to register, visit https://wineserver.ucdavis.edu/events/uc-davis-grapevine-red-blotch-disease-symposium.

2022-02-24T09:14:03-08:00February 24th, 2022|

Special Education Students Cultivate Farm Skills at South Coast REC

Partnership with Esperanza Education Center provides blueprint for other adult transition programs

By UCANR

For students at Esperanza Education Center, an adult transition program serving students with disabilities in south Orange County, there was something deeply satisfying about handpicking 2,000 pounds of avocados.

“There’s a tangible, visual element where you’re like, ‘Wow, I did that – I did it, I can see it, I can feel it in my bones and my muscles,’” said Ray Bueche, principal of the school in Mission Viejo, within the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. “There’s a real sense of accomplishment that you’re seeing in some of these students.”

Ranging in age from 18 to 22, the students are in an adult education program that helps advance their independent living skills and prepare them for meaningful work and careers. They are able to experience the thrill of the harvest – and a variety of other farming activities – through the school’s innovative partnership with UC South Coast Research and Extension Center, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources facility that supports researchers and delivers outreach and education programs.

Given UC ANR’s emphasis on workforce development, Jason Suppes, a community education specialist at South Coast REC, contacted Bueche in 2019 about a potential collaboration. While Esperanza has many partnerships with retail stores and nonprofits that give students invaluable work experiences, none of them offer the farm environment that South Coast REC could provide.

“Part of developing [our students] is getting a wide range of opportunities in a variety of vocational areas,” Bueche explained. “Agriculture is one that’s very hard for us to find.”

Program ‘wildly successful’ from beginning

Unlike other job sites that bring the students in less frequently, South Coast REC committed to hosting the young people every week for three hours (COVID-19 measures permitting), with Suppes and colleague Tammy Majcherek leading them in planting, weeding, maintenance, harvesting and more.

“We can provide opportunities for students to learn skills that could help them potentially find employment in a garden center, in a nursery, at landscapers,” Suppes said. “The program was wildly successful out of the gate.”

Mike Seyler, an Esperanza teacher who accompanies the students to South Coast REC, has seen firsthand the positive impacts of the partnership. He said one student – who at first balked at the idea of being outside, getting dirty and performing physical labor – eventually grew to like the work and took great pride in pulling carrots from the ground and sharing them with his family.

“To physically actually ‘see’ the work you did – they don’t always get to do that,” Seyler said. “It was cool to see someone, who didn’t necessarily like being outdoors, really enjoy it now.”

The change of pace – and place – was especially beneficial for one young woman at Esperanza. Bueche said the nature of the work and the setting helped the student grow socially, as she relished the teamwork and camaraderie needed to accomplish their goals on the farm.

“We really saw a different person come out through her experiences there – she felt more self-confident; she was more personable with people; she was talking more,” said Bueche, who added that she has leveraged the skills she gained into a paid work-based learning experience with a local retailer.

Students bring produce to school, community

All students benefit from Esperanza’s partnership with South Coast REC, as surplus produce from the center’s fields is donated to make healthy school lunches. In addition, students use REC-grown fruits and vegetables at their monthly pop-up restaurant, where they hone skills in preparing and serving a three-course meal.

Their peers, who harvested the produce, derive immense satisfaction from seeing the fruits of their labor go directly to the school.

“They’re able to enjoy eating the stuff that they’re working for,” Seyler said. “And then they see everyone else enjoying it, and I think that really translates well for these guys.”

The students also played a prominent role in an avocado sale last summer, for which they picked 2,000 pounds of produce, bagged the fruit in 10-pound bags and then distributed preorders to the public from a stand at South Coast REC. Proceeds from the event were used to purchase farm tools, shirts and other gear.

“It was an incredible success – everyone loved the avocados,” Bueche said. “The students loved it; the parents came out; community members supported it.”

Those successes illustrate the power of a strong partnership; the South Coast REC team, in fact, received the school’s “Community Partner of the Year” Award for 2020-21, for persevering through the pandemic to deliver the beneficial programs for students.

Over the last two years, Suppes and Bueche – through a lot of creativity and some trial and error – have sketched a roadmap for growing productive relationships between similar organizations and adult transition programs. And after presenting those results to colleagues, other local school districts and nonprofits such as Goodwill and My Day Counts have contacted South Coast REC to provide similar experiences for community members.

2022-02-08T08:40:05-08:00February 8th, 2022|

USDA Announces Plenary Speakers for 2022 Agricultural Outlook Forum

Glenda Humiston to speak on market opportunities for climate smart agriculture

By Pamela Kan-Rice, UCANR

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plenary speakers for the 2022 Agricultural Outlook Forum, themed “New Paths to Sustainability and Productivity Growth” to be held virtually Feb. 24–25, 2022.

The opening plenary session will feature a fireside chat between Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Elizabeth Economy, senior advisor to the Secretary of Commerce. Secretary Vilsack and Economy will discuss U.S.-China agricultural trade relations and prospects for the Chinese agriculture market.

The Secretary’s discussion will be followed by a panel titled “Growing Market Opportunities for Climate Smart, Sustainable Agriculture Systems,” which will bring together sector leaders to discuss how climate smart, sustainable production practices can generate both environmental and economic returns, while still meeting the needs of consumers.

Speakers at the plenary panel include:

  • David Allen, VP of Sustainability at PepsiCo Foods;
  • Glenda Humiston, Vice President, Agriculture & Natural Resources at University of California;
  • Mike McCloskey, Co-Founder and CEO of Select Milk Producers;
  • Elena Rice, Chief Scientific Officer of Genus, PLC; and
  • Emily Skor, CEO, Growth Energy

“The Outlook Forum is USDA’s largest event of the year. Being asked by Secretary Vilsack to serve on the opening plenary panel is a significant honor,” said Humiston.

Also, during the Thursday morning session, USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer will unveil the Department’s 2022 outlook for U.S. commodity markets and trade and discuss the U.S. farm income situation.

Along with the plenary session, Forum attendees can choose from 30 sessions with more than 90 speakers. The concurrent track sessions and topics supporting this year’s theme are: climate mitigation and adaptation, supply chain resilience, commodity outlooks, frontiers in agricultural production and technology and U.S. trade and global markets.

Visit the Agricultural Outlook Forum website to register and read the program at a glance. Follow the conversation at #AgOutlook on USDA’s TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Registration to the 2022 Outlook Forum is free but required. Register at https://www.labroots.com/ms/virtual-event/usda-aof-2022.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

2022-01-27T10:59:05-08:00January 27th, 2022|

Farmers Invited to Tour Cover Crops in Sacramento Valley March 3

Farmers and ranchers are invited on a tour to learn how to use cover crops to build soil health. A full-day tour of several cover crop sites in orchards and annual crop fields in the Sacramento Valley is being offered on March 3 by the Western Cover Crop Council’s Southwest Region Committee.

“The goal of this tour is to demonstrate ways to use cover crops effectively in annual crops and orchards in the Sacramento Valley,” said tour organizer Sarah Light, UC Cooperative Extension agronomy advisor.

“This tour will cover a range of topics, including cover crop selection, equipment needed to manage cover crops, considerations for cover cropping in the region, and the importance of building soil health,” said Light, who is also chair of the Western Cover Crop Council’s Southwest Region Committee and a board member of the Western Cover Crop Council.

Cover crop species, cultivars and mixes including legumes, grasses and brassicas will be showcased in Colusa County, with farmers, UC Cooperative Extension specialists and researchers giving presentations.

The tour bus will depart from the Colusa County Cooperative Extension Office at 100 Sunrise Blvd., Suite E, Colusa, CA 95932 at 8 a.m. and return at 7:30 p.m.

Priority registration is limited to farmers and ranchers until Feb. 1. Other interested people may join after Feb. 1. ​The $50 registration fee includes morning refreshments, transportation, lunch and dinner. To register or to see the agenda, visit https://surveys.ucanr.edu/survey.cfm?surveynumber=36190.

Source: UCANR

2022-01-25T08:28:47-08:00January 25th, 2022|

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|
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