Inter-tie Project Breaks Ground

Securing More Water for Westside

Under blue, cloudless skies near Tracy where the Delta-Mendota Canal and the California Aqueduct are at their closest, officials broke ground to create a tie-in that provides much needed flexibility in managing the state’s water system. The project should be ready for use by 2012.

More importantly, it will provide more reliability of water deliveries to farmers who have been hardest hit by shortages under the regulatory drought. The Intertie will restore as much as 40,000 acre-feet of annual deliveries to the Central Valley project.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region has contracted the construction of the $28 million dollar plumping plant and underground pipeline connecting the federal Delta-Mendota Canal (DMC) and the State’s California Aqueduct (CA).

The Department of Interior has committed $15.8 million thought the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. CALFED funding is $8.8 million Funding for the project includes $15.8 million dollars.

Editor’s note: You may read about CALFED, but do you really know what it stands for?  CALFED Bay-Delta Program, also know as CALFED, is a department within the government of California, administered under the California Resources Agency. The department acts a ringleader, coordinating the activities and interests of the state government of California and the U.S. federal government to focus on interrelated water problems in the state’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The coordinating program was created in 1994 by Governor Pete Wilson and the federal Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt following a decade of chaotic disputes between the state of California, the federal government, environmental interests, and municipal water services.

The Inter-tie, a shared Federal-State water system improvement, connects the two water systems with two 108-inch diameter pipes, running 500 linear feet. The system has a pumping capacity of 467 cubic feet per second gravity flow from the CA to the DMC.

The Inter-tie connecting the DMC with the CA was studied in 1988 by Fresno-based Westlands Water District.

“The only negative thing I can say about this project, is why did it take so long,” said Tom Birmingham, the General Manager for Westlands, which serves 600,000 acres on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley. “This project will provide much needed flexibility for delivery of water to farmers in the valley.”

Birmingham said that the project is expensive but the reality is that the water infrastructure needed over the next 10 to 15 years is going be expensive.  “But because of the conservation and the cropping changes that we have seen in the valley over the recent years—this is a project that farmers can afford.   

“The beauty of the inter-tie is that it will enable Westlands to fill San Luis Reservoir—more often and earlier in the year,” said Birmingham. “This will enable the Bureau of Reclamation to make water allocation decisions earlier in the year at times when farmers can base their planting decisions on those allocation announcements.”

2016-05-31T19:47:16-07:00November 2nd, 2010|

Just Returned From China!

I just returned from a 12-day trip to China. I visited Beijing and Shanghai to report on the exports of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and raisins from California. Trust me, I saw a lot of product in every grocery store that I walked into.

I met with Jessie with PR Consultants Ltd. in Beijing and we toured many grocery outlets to see Almond Board of California promotions and almond displays. Almonds exports to China are huge—142 million pounds so far this year ( as of today). Just four years ago, the industry only shipped 50 million pounds to China.

I visited with Daniel Chan and his colleagues Irene Zhou and Shirley Jiang, all with PR Consultants Ltd. in Shanghai. We met in City Shop a downtown grocery store catering to a strong middle class shoppers. We spoke about the strong almond sales and raisin sales throughout China.

I also met with Paramount Farm’s Anita Lam, in Shanghai. We talked about how the company’s Wonderful brand pistachios are selling briskly. Paramount Farms is responsible of changing a tradition in China, who normally bleached their pistachios turning them a very bright white, while altering there taste. Paramount is convincing the industry that natural roasted and salted pistachios taste better, and are better for Chinese consumers. It’s taking off in China!

Thanks to everyone who help arrange my meeting and were so dedicated to my success in China!

2016-05-31T19:47:17-07:00June 27th, 2010|

Pacific Legal Foundation is Fighting for Water

Folks: Go to to see what the Pacific Legal Foundation is doing about the devastating water cutbacks for California farmers. 

The PFL had filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government declaring that protecting the Delta Smelt is unconstitutional. Following an adverse judgement by Federal Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno, PLF is filing an appeal with the the Ninth Circuit Court.

PLF has strong evidence that Protecting the Smelt is Unconstitutional. 


The image above is a Westlands Water District irrigation turnout in Western Fresno County, standing unbelievably dry for the second year in a row. This image was taken during the 2009 summer season, with thousands of acres of prime farm land laying dry and idle—nearing a potential new Dust Bowl. Additionally, growers are losing their livelihoods, and farm workers are unemployed—as many as 45 percent in some West Side communities. This is all due to a flawed biological opinion regarding the three-inch Delta Smelt.

Also, they are trying to convince the National Academy of Sciences to look at all stressors in the Delta, while reviewing the U.S. Fish and Game biological opinion, which is the linchpin causing the federal pumps to stay off during critical delivery times for growers in the spring and summer.  

Again: go to to see what the Pacific Legal Foundation is doing and view important Press Conference information.

2016-05-31T19:47:17-07:00January 23rd, 2010|

Rain, Snow and Floods!

It’s happening and it’s good news! Rain and snowfall—about 85 percent of normal, and there is plenty of winter left to increase the rain and snowfall.

Let this be a fire-bell ringing in the night for the Federal Government who falsely think we are in a drought, and that is the reason why growers cannot farm on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley. 

FEDS: Do your part and allow the federal pumps to be turned on to provide critical water deliveries to the valley’s and cities of California—–INSTEAD OF LETTING ALL THE CRITICAL WATER GO OUT TO SEA!!

Without the pumps being on when farmers need the water, we have 40 percent-plus unemployment in the West Side communities—and thousands of acres of prime farm land, sitting idle.

2016-05-31T19:47:55-07:00January 22nd, 2010|

Ag Leadership Applications

Applications are now being accepted for Class 41 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. More information and all of the required forms are available at Applications are due May 14.

“Participants in the program find it to be exciting, challenging, thought-provoking, educational and life changing,” says Bob Gray, president and CEO of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF). “Fellows receive a valuable and unique leadership experience that not only benefits them personally and professionally, but also benefits the agriculture industry and their communities.

Founded in 1970, the California Agricultural Leadership Program has more than 1,100 graduates and current fellows. The intensive two-year program is designed to enable fellows to reach beyond perceived limitations and boundaries in order to find common ground with others and to bring about transformational change. For more information call (916) 984-4473.

“The Ag Leadership Program is not about agriculture,” says CALF Director of Education Dr. Charlie Crabb. “It is about passionate, hard-working people in agriculture developing the skill sets, imagination and courage to tackle the challenging issues that face the agriculture industry, as well as our state, nation and world.” 

2016-05-31T19:47:55-07:00January 9th, 2010|

A New Year with Promise

I do hope the New Year will be good for all Western growers of all crops. The water year is shaping up good and hopefully will continue to fill the soil profiles of the west.

2016-05-31T19:47:55-07:00January 3rd, 2010|

Hoping for a flood Year

With a new rain and snow season upon us, let’s hope that we get hammered way beyond average. With a moderate El Nino present, we should definitely experience more rain and snow this season. 

With water in reservoirs rising as I write, it should mean an estimated state water delivery well above 10 percent, which was announced prior to the current rain and snow event.

2016-05-31T19:47:55-07:00December 12th, 2009|

Almond Industry Conference

I just got home from the two-day Almond Industry Conference in Modesto, hosted by the Almond Board of California. More than 1800 almond growers and PCAs were there.

There was a trade show with many companies offering supplies and services for growers. Also there were great seminars with many University of California farm advisors and researchers speaking.

Good News: The almond industry is very healthy with Nov. exports hitting a record breaking 146 million pounds up 24 percent over  Nov. 2009.

Prices are increasing for growers as well. 2010 should be another good year for the almond industry!

2016-05-31T19:47:55-07:00December 11th, 2009|

Facts About California Agriculture

Updated on July 9, 2013

The State is #1 by a Long Shot!

What is the current value of all California agricultural production? $43.5 billion

Does California truly feed the world?

California is the world’s fifth largest supplier of food, cotton fiber and other agricultural commodities. We produce more than 400 different crops—everything from world- renowned wines to specialty items such as almonds and raisins.

For the past 50 years, the men and women who work in California’s fertile fields have made this state the nation’s No. 1 agricultural producer and exporter. If it’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it was probably grown right here in California.

What crops are primarily grown in California?

The Golden State is the nation’s sole producer (99 percent or more) of many specialty crops, such as: Almonds, Artichokes, Clingstone Peaches, Dried Plums (prunes), Figs, Garlic, Olives, Persimmons, Pistachios, Pomegranates, cannery tomatoes, Raisins, Sweet Rice and Walnuts.

California also produces half of the U.S. – grown fruits and vegetables

How many farms are in California?

California has nearly 80,000 farms and ranches—less than four percent of the nation’s total, Yet, the Golden State’s agricultural production represents 13 percent of the nation’s total value.

What are some of the top crop values?

California’s top 20 crops and livestock commodities account for more than $28 billion in value. Each of the top 10 commodities exceed $1 billion in value.

California’s Top 20 Commodities, 2007

  1. Milk and Cream

  2. Grapes

  3. Nursery

  4. Almonds

  5. Cattle and Calves

  6. Lettuce

  7. Strawberries

  8. Tomatoes

  9. Floriculture

  10. Hay

  11. Oranges

  12. Chickens

  13. Broccoli

  14. Cotton

  15. Walnuts

  16. Rice

  17. Carrots

  18. Pistachios

  19. Lemons

  20. Avocados

What are top 10 agricultural counties in California? (Rounded in Billions)

1. Fresno (grapes, almonds, tomatoes, poultry, cattle and calves) $6.6

2. Tulare (milk, organs, cattle and calves, grapes, alfalfa hay and silage) $5.6

3. Monterey (leaf and head lettuce, strawberries, nurseries, and broccoli) $4.14

4. Kern (almonds, grapes, milk, carrots, and citrus) $3.5

5. Merced (milk, chickens, almonds, cattle and calves, and tomatoes) $2.3

6. Stanislaus (milk, almonds, cattle and calves, chickens, and walnuts) $2.2

7. San Joaquin (milk, grapes, tomatoes, almonds, and walnuts) $1.7

8. Ventura (strawberries, lemons, celery, woody ornamentals, and tomatoes) $1.5

9. San Diego (flower and foliage plants, trees and shrubs, bedding plants,

avocadoes, and tomatoes) $1.5

10. Imperial (cattle, alfalfa hay, leaf and head lettuce, and carrots) $1.3

How does California stack up in the nation’s dairy industry?

Milk is California’s No. 1 farm commodity and the Golden State is the leading dairy producer by a wide margin. California produces 21 percent of the U.S. milk supply, 23 percent of the cheese, 31 percent of the butter, 50 percent of the nonfat dry milk, and 15 percent of the ice cream. The state’s dairy farms have increased their milk output every year since 1978.

However, since 2008 California dairymen and women have suffered under low milk prices and high feed prices. 

According to milk production data released early in 2013 by the California Department of food and Agriculture, the state’s diary farms lost $882 million in 2012. An average 1,000 cow dairy with an average per cow production of 23,457 pounds of milk, lost about $310,000 for the year.

Over the last two years, more than 200 California dairies of shut their doors.

2016-05-31T19:47:56-07:00December 5th, 2009|

Bullish on the Almonds

Dave Baker Knows the Almond Industry

He’s worked at Blue Diamond for 35 years

When Dave Baker, who is a Blue Diamond Growers, director of member relations first began working for the cooperative in 1974—it was a record crop year with 230 million pounds!
Needless to say, that with his 35-year history with Blue Diamond, production has grown to levels totally unpredictable just a decade ago.
Baker oversees the 99-year-old cooperative’s enormous field department, and handles communications with growers including all grower programs. He and his staff also manage all the outside receiving—regarding trucking and shelling.
With 6.5 to 7 million pounds of almonds moving daily from point A to B and then to C there is a lot to be done to make sure it’s all in the right place.
“I have a staff of wonderful people,” said Baker from his Salida facility office. “At Blue Diamond Growers we have many departments, and solid teamwork goes into everything.”
When he first began at the cooperative he was a field supervisor taking care of growers in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Contra Costa and Merced counties. He then became a field manager which led to his current role.
Baker was born in Sacramento, where his father was a manager of a farm operation producing hops and rice. When he was young, the family relocated to Merced county. He later graduated from California State University, Stanislaus with a geography degree.
With dramatically increase production throughout the 1980s and 1990s, there was always a big question as to how the industry would ever sell the crop. “I wondered it myself, but then dawned on me on how much the world was changing while watching NOVA on PBS television. On the program there was a satellite image of an urban area in Africa. In the 1980s, there was sparse lighting, and then in the late 1990s the same area was brilliant with light,” Baker said.
“And today you look at China and India with middle classes that are greater than population in the U.S,” he noted
He noted that the global almond market is huge and there is a home for California almonds–even for the emerging bearing crops from recent increases in plantings.
“There has been a gradual and steady increase in plantings the last five years. The increased production will meet the growth in consumption worldwide,” said Baker.
He said that the lower price cycles have a lower valley on the graph, so it’s easier for growers to recover. In the 80 and 90s the lower price cycles lasted longer. But today the increased population with the huge increased middle class is consuming a lot of almonds around the world. Needless to say Baker is bullish on the almond consuming future.
Baker and wife Janna recently celebrated their 41st anniversary. They have two children and five grandchildren and live in the Modesto area, where they also farm Walnuts west of Salida near the Stanislaus river.
—-Patrick Cavanaugh

2016-05-31T19:47:56-07:00November 20th, 2009|
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