Congressman Valadao Introduces Bill to Expand Access to Fresh Produce for Those in Need

Today, Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-22) joined Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to introduce H.R. 5589, the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act. This bipartisan, bicameral bill establishes a new mechanism for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase a wide variety of U.S.-grown fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution to those in need. 

“We need to ensure our food insecure residents in the Central Valley have access to the fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables we grow right in our own backyard,” said Congressman Valadao. “This bill not only helps our neighbors in need, but it also helps our domestic agriculture sector by ensuring the produce they grow is being put to good use. I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bipartisan bill that will strengthen our agriculture economy and make fresh produce more widely available to those in need.”

“Far too many families across the United States do not have readily available access to high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The USDA’s Commodity Procurement program buys more than $3 billion in domestically produced foods annually and helps drive important reforms across our food system. That is why I am introducing the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act with Senator Sherrod Brown and Congressman David Valadao. This will allow our diverse local and regional supply chains the opportunity to distribute U.S.-grown fresh produce to those in need.”

“Improving access to local fruits and vegetables is a win-win for Ohio farmers and residents,” said Senator Brown. “Not only does this bill make it easier for Ohio residents to access local produce, but it will also help create shorter American supply chains, ensuring Ohio small family farmers and businesses keep more of their money in their community.”  

 

Background:

On average, USDA directly purchases more than $2 billion annually of domestic commodities to redistribute to feeding sites around the country. Today, only five fresh produce commodities are available within the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) catalog, accounting for just under $6.5 million of purchases. While USDA added a fresh produce box in 2021, it has had limited uptake due to constraints to the current program that limit the variety of fresh produce that can be included. The Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act seeks to address the shortcomings of the current program to make a wider variety of produce available to organizations serving food insecure populations.

The Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act would:

  • Provide USDA with an additional tool to partner with existing growers and fresh produce distributors to procure a greater amount of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Distribute U.S.-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to local food banks, schools, youth-serving organizations, tribal governments, and other nonprofit community members serving nutrition insecure populations.
  • Strengthen access to a wide variety of U.S.-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to recipients in need by including at least seven types of U.S.-grown fresh fruits in vegetables to vulnerable communities living in poverty.

Provide opportunities for a wider variety of high-quality produce sourced, packed, and distributed from growers and distributors of all sizes, including veteran, women-owned, and socially disadvantaged members of the agriculture community.

2023-09-21T09:47:14-07:00September 21st, 2023|

Farmers Save money, water by adopting climate-smart agriculture practices

Courtesy of UC ANR News

CDFA, UC ANR help farmers access $36 million in grants to improve water-use efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions 

A Hmong small-scale farmer in Merced County has saved about 14.4 acre-inches of water annually and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12.406 MTCO2e per year (equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions produced from burning 1,396 gallons of gasoline) after upgrading her farm. Rosie Lee – who sells Asian greens, green beans, corn, strawberries and other produce at her farm stand and to Asian markets – is one of hundreds of growers benefiting from California Department of Food and Agriculture incentives and funds with the assistance of Climate Smart Agriculture community education specialists.

“She is one grower who would not have access to those funds without my bringing my computer out to the field,” said Caddie Bergren, a Climate Smart Agriculture community education specialist who has been working with growers in Merced County since the program’s launch.

To make it easier for farmers to adopt new practices, CDFA and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources partnered to create the Climate Smart Agriculture program.

“Since 2019, UC ANR’s Climate Smart Agriculture Team has provided in-depth technical assistance to more than 1,300 farmers and ranchers in 24 counties,” said Hope Zabronsky, academic coordinator for UC ANR’s Climate Smart Agriculture team. “Through their strong relationships with diverse farming communities, they support the implementation of soil health, water efficiency, and manure management practices that optimize climate benefits for all growers and Californians.”

The program’s community educators work with farmers and ranchers in 24 California counties to get CDFA-funded grants and implement Climate Smart Agriculture projects. These efforts, which emphasize outreach to underserved farmers and ranchers, have resulted in a total of $36.5 million invested from the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program or SWEEP, the Healthy Soils Program, and the Alternative Manure Management Program.

“Agriculture is an important part of the climate solution,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This funding enables CDFA and UC ANR to partner with farmers and ranchers to scale up climate-smart agricultural practices. This is essential as we contend with our hotter, drier future.”

Lee, the Hmong grower, had been growing 18 acres of vegetables by flood irrigating with groundwater. To save water and reduce pumping costs, she asked Bergren to help her apply for SWEEP funds to convert to drip irrigation and install solar panels. Bergren brought her laptop to the field to help Lee pull together the necessary information for the application. After Lee received funds for the project, Bergren assisted her with the technical logistics of installing the irrigation and solar equipment.

“I called vendors and we were able to complete the project on time,” Bergren said.

CDFA and UC ANR have published an impact report highlighting the results of the multi-year partnership focused on increasing adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices to reduce water and energy use. 

The investments have funded more than 420 projects, so far. The projects are expected to save an estimated 8.3 billion gallons of water during their lifetime, enough to supply over 75,000 typical homes in California with water for a year. Additionally, there are projected reductions of more than 355,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent, as much as would be achieved by removing 79,110 gas-powered vehicles from roads. 

The report highlights the importance of providing tailored outreach, education and technical assistance to small-scale, non-English speaking, and otherwise underserved farmers and ranchers.

To find the full details of the report, please visit https://ucanr.edu/climatesmartag2023.

2023-09-14T08:07:34-07:00September 14th, 2023|

India Reduces Current U.S. Almond Tariffs This Week

Courtesy of the Almond Board of California

We are pleased to report that India’s retaliatory tariffs on almonds will be removed effective Wednesday, Sept. 6, bringing the tariff rate back down to 35 rupees per kilogram on inshell and 100 rupees per kg on kernels. India published the notification today in their Gazette.

During his state visit to Washington, D.C. in June, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to announce the elimination of the tariffs on almonds and a handful of other commodities, including walnuts and apples, but did not set a concrete date, except to say it would happen within 90 days.

“We are very happy to see the retaliatory tariffs removed, which will both help increase demand in India and reduce the cost to consumers there,” said Julie Adams, the Almond Board of California’s vice president for technical and regulatory affairs. “The almond industry has been working hard along with government officials to reduce the impediments for exports of California almonds to India, which is our largest export destination. We continue to discuss further opportunities to improve export conditions related to tariffs and technical barriers.”

The 20% retaliatory tariffs were announced in June 2018 and imposed in 2019 by India in response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, among other actions. India raised the applied tariff rates on almonds exported to India from 35 rupees to 41 rupees per kg on inshell and from 100 rupees to 120 rupees per kg on kernels.

2023-09-06T08:22:43-07:00September 6th, 2023|

Aubrey Bettencourt Appointed to the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade

Courtesy of the Almond Alliance 

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack, and U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, announced the appointment of Aubrey Bettencourt to the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade. Bettencourt, currently the Chief Executive Officer and President of the Almond Alliance, will serve on the committee until August 2027.

 

With a vast background in agriculture and international trade, Bettencourt has been pivotal in addressing industry trade policy matters and the supply chain crisis. Collaborating with agriculture, transportation, nationwide ports, and global shipping lines stakeholders, she worked diligently to restore the export of American agricultural products.

 

Previously, as the Director of Sustainability for the California Cattle Council and Western United Dairies, Bettencourt united diverse stakeholders to develop collaborative solutions to help dairy farmers navigate new regulatory and natural challenges. Bettencourt also served as the Deputy

Assistant Secretary of Water and Science at the Department of the Interior. 

 

As a fourth-generation California farmer, Bettencourt brings invaluable experience and expertise in agriculture, resource management, policy, politics, and people. She is committed to the agricultural community and the collaborative energy required to ensure sustainable and reliable food, fiber, fuel, and infrastructure sources to meet global needs.

2023-08-31T11:57:05-07:00August 31st, 2023|

New Avocado Proves Tasty, Safer to Harvest at UC ANR Research and Extension Center

Courtesy of UC ANR News

A new avocado, one that complements the widely known ‘Hass,’ will hit the world market soon. The ‘Luna UCR’ variety (trademarked and patent pending) has several characteristics that should be of interest to both growers and consumers, said Mary Lu Arpaia, University of California Cooperative Extension subtropical horticulture specialist based at UC Riverside.

From the grower perspective, the tree is about half the size of the leading variety while producing approximately the same yield per tree as ‘Hass,’ meaning that growers could plant more trees per acre, therefore increasing yield. It also makes harvesting easier and safer.

Another advantage is the flowering behavior of the tree. Avocado trees are categorized into either Type A or Type B flower types. It is generally accepted that you need both flower types in a planting to maximize productivity. The ‘Hass’ is an “A” flower type and ‘Luna UCR’ is a Type “B.”

This is a potential boost for growers since the current varieties that are “B” flower types ripen green and generally receive lower prices for the grower. Similar to ‘Hass,’ however, the ‘Luna UCR’ colors as it ripens, similar to ‘Hass.’

“Hopefully, it will receive similar returns to the ‘Hass’ once it is an established variety,” Arpaia added.

Fruit breeding is a long-term process that she has navigated by building upon the work of her predecessors. Of course, Arpaia has had strong support from colleagues as well, including Eric Focht, a UC Riverside staff researcher and co-inventor of ‘Luna UCR.’

“We had been looking at ‘Luna UCR’ for some time and it was always a very good eating fruit,” Focht said. “After the 2003 release of ‘GEM’ (registered and patented as ‘3-29-5′, 2003) and ‘Harvest’ (patented as ‘N4(-)5′, 2003) varieties, ‘Luna UCR’ was always the top contender for a next release due to the small, narrow growth habit, “B” flower type and the fruit quality.”

“It’s a very nice-looking fruit as well and seemed to be a pretty consistent bearer from year to year.”

A glimpse at how it all started

In spring 1996, Arpaia took over the UC Avocado Breeding Program following Guy Witney who led the program from 1992 to 1995, and Bob Bergh whose initial efforts in the 1950s were foundational in the inception of ‘Luna UCR.’

Arpaia recalls the first trials in the early 2000s of ‘Luna UCR,’ which were tested alongside other promising selections from the Bergh program. “There were a lot of varieties that didn’t perform well, some of which had poor storage life, an important trait that we need if we are going to get the fruit to consumers across the country,” said Arpaia.

The original seed and selection were planted at the Bob Lamb Ranch in Camarillo, and originally advanced trials of the ‘Luna UCR’ variety were planted in four locations: UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Tulare County, UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Orange County, a privately owned farm in San Diego County and another one in Ventura County.

The RECs are among the nine hubs operated by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to support research and educate the public on regional agricultural and natural resource challenges.

ANR Research and Extension Centers become vital

Unfortunately, the 2017 Thomas Fire burned the avocado trees in Ventura, said Arpaia. After a change in management, the trial located in San Diego County was also terminated, leaving the two trials at Lindcove and South Coast REC.

“South Coast REC has a long history of supporting research and extension activities of high value crops important to California, including avocados,” said Darren Haver, director of the South Coast REC, which was often used to show growers the new varieties that were being developed.

“Many of the REC staff have worked with the avocado-breeding program researchers for more than two decades and continue to work closely with them to ensure the success of new avocado varieties, including ‘Luna UCR’,” he added.

In addition to the support provided by South Coast and Lindcove RECs, Arpaia said that UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fresno County – another UC ANR facility – made it possible for her team to conduct critical postharvest and sensory research, and consumer testing of the fruit, which included up to six-week trials of fruit ratings for storage life and taste.

“UC ANR has played an important role in our ability to not only identify ‘Luna UCR’, but in preparing it for the world market, too,” she said.

Preparing to share with the world

Since 2015, Focht had been collecting data for the patent application. Now that he and Arpaia have successfully patented and trademarked ‘Luna UCR,’ they are preparing to expand production by engaging interested growers with the commercial partner, Green Motion who is based in Spain.

“Green Motion contracted for 1,000 trees to be generated by Brokaw Nursery and those trees are currently being distributed, with earliest field plantings likely taking place in fall,” explained Focht.

Focht also said that Mission Produce, based in Oxnard, CA has contracted to graft over a small number of “B” flower type pollinizer trees to the new ‘Luna UCR’ variety, possibly making way for a small number of avocados to be available the following year.

Once planted, the avocado trees will come into “full” production in about five years.

2023-08-30T08:05:49-07:00August 30th, 2023|

The California story — California Grown report shines spotlight on state’s leading role in food production

Courtesy of the CDFA

California farmers, ranchers and farmworkers work together to produce more than 400 different specialty crops, and California Grown, also known as the Buy California Marketing Agreement, was created to promote those products.

California Grown is a statewide marketing program that utilizes creative storytelling and other innovative approaches to reach millions of consumers. The message for Californians is simple — buying California products brings direct benefit to the state’s economy, communities, farmers, ranchers and consumers. And the message for out-of-state consumers is equally simple — California products are high-quality, nutritious and diverse.

The “CA Grown” license plate is an iconic symbol around the world and encourages all consumers to “Be Californian — Buy California Grown.”

The program’s annual report to the California legislature may be viewed here.

2023-08-29T09:18:53-07:00August 29th, 2023|

CDFA ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR URBAN AGRICULTURE GRANT PROGRAM

Courtesy of Steve Lyle with CDFA

CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork is announcing that applications are being accepted from today through October 23 for a total of $12 million in grants from the 2023 Urban Agriculture Grant Program.

“The growth of urban agriculture is a means for expanding access to fresh produce, building community, providing workforce development, improving urban ecosystems, and increasing agricultural literacy,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “Consumers want to know where their food comes from, and they’re looking for ways to engage in meaningful work in their local community. This grant program serves these overlapping purposes and helps build healthier, more resilient neighborhoods.”

The Urban Agriculture Grant Program is a competitive grant program that funds projects enhancing the viability of urban agriculture across California. The funding for this program was made possible through the 2021-2022 California General Fund budget. CDFA is setting aside up to 10 percent of awards for tribal governments and tribal-based non-profit organizations. Applicants may apply for one of two tracks based on eligibility and project type.

Track 1:  The Systems Builder Community-Based Block Grant – This is intended to increase capacity for community-based organizations with involvement in urban and regional food systems to provide pass-through funding that supports urban agriculture activities.

Track 2: The Urban Agriculture Practitioner Grant — This directly funds urban agriculture projects by supporting costs associated with items like infrastructure, equipment, operations, workforce development, community engagement, and technical assistance.

Visit https://cafarmtofork.cdfa.ca.gov/urbanag.html to view the Urban Agriculture Grant Program request for applications (RFA) and get information about a webinar about the application process scheduled for August 29.

2023-08-24T09:46:52-07:00August 24th, 2023|

CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE LEADS THE NATION IN FUNDING FOR SPECIALTY CROPS

Courtesy of Steve Lyle with CDFA

State receives $23.8 million in federal grant funds

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced funding for the 2023 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). California received $23.8 million out of approximately $72.9 million awarded nationwide.

The SCBGP provides grants to state departments of agriculture to fund projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will fund 46 projects, including the following:

Climate – Processing Tomatoes
The University of California, Davis, was awarded $396,176 to identify drivers of drought resilience and quantify their relevance to water-shortage scenarios in field experiments on California processing tomatoes. Note – California grows more than 95 percent of all processing tomatoes in the US.

Nutrition and Education
1.    18 Reasons, a non-profit organization, was awarded $450,000 to focus on providing hands-on, cooking-based education utilizing specialty crops to low-income families who are disproportionately affected by food insecurity and diet-related nutrition disparities in the San Francisco Bay area.
2.    The non-profit organization Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles was awarded $499,982 to provide sixth through twelfth grade students, adults, and caregivers with culturally relevant specialty crop education which showcases California’s seasonal variety and specialty crop growers, especially targeting underserved communities and Title I schools.

Equity
A project focused on equity was awarded to the California Bountiful Foundation —  $435,867 to support a farmer-to-farmer specialty crop mentoring and education program for beginning specialty crop farmers throughout California, with an emphasis on reaching underserved farmers to enhance their competitiveness and opportunities for success.

Marketing
The Buy California Marketing Agreement was awarded $2.5 million to implement a multi-platform digital campaign, which will include retail and foodservice promotions, to enhance support from the retail and food service trade and increase consumer demand for California’s specialty crop products throughout California.

Other projects focus on increasing sales of specialty crops by leveraging the unique qualities of specialty crops grown in California; increasing consumption by expanding the specialty crop consumer market; providing nutritional education for consumers; training growers to equip them for current and future challenges; investing in training for growers, producers, and operators to address current and future challenges; and conducting research on organic and sustainable production practices, conservation and environmental outcomes, and pest control and disease.

In addition, CDFA is continuing its partnership with the Center for Produce Safety in the evaluation and recommendation of food safety related projects. These projects represent an ongoing effort to address food safety practices and minimize outbreaks of foodborne illness with proactive research.

The 2023 SCBGP project abstracts are available online: 2023 SCBGP Project Abstracts.

2023-08-24T09:44:25-07:00August 24th, 2023|

Deion Sanders Owns His Prime with California Almonds This Season

Courtesy of California Almonds

Hall of Fame athlete and now collegiate coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders and California Almonds are teaming up for a partnership of a lifetime to help consumers own their PRIME. Being in your prime is a mindset, and the grind to own your prime never stops. That’s why Coach Prime and California Almonds are encouraging people to be smart about recovery. Almonds are rich in nutrients that can help with exercise recovery – making them THE food to own your prime.

A perfect exercise food, almonds may improve your recovery response from physical activity. Initial research, funded by the Almond Board of California, conducted among 64 U.S. adults ages 30-65 who are occasional exercisers found that most study participants who ate almonds experienced reduced fatigue and tension during muscle recovery, increased leg and lower back strength, and decreased muscle damage during the first day of recovery.

Coach Prime knows hard work means being strategic about recovery, which is why he adds almonds to his routine for their exercise recovery benefits. Prime Time never ends whether you’re a weekend warrior or a competitive athlete – there’s no “off the clock,” so you have to keep that energy, confidence and consistency up, something Coach Prime instills in his team.

2023-08-24T09:20:52-07:00August 24th, 2023|

LandFlex Program Awards $16 Million in Grower Contracts, Providing Immediate Well Protection for 34,000 Homes

Courtesy of Western United Dairies

Today, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced the successful conclusion of LandFlex Phase 2, providing $16,775,162 in grants to support grower contracts within various Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) for the protection of rural at-risk water systems and advancements in groundwater sustainability.

The awarded funds will be allocated to three GSAs as follows:

  1. Lower Tule Irrigation District GSA: Grant award in the amount of $7.7 million
  2. Pixley Irrigation District GSA: Grant award in the amount of $ 5 million
  3. Westlands Water District GSA: Grant award in the amount of $4 million

“At the heart of LandFlex’s success is its proven effectiveness in addressing critical water resource challenges,” said Anja Raudabaugh, Chief Executive Officer of Western United Dairies. “Initially designed to combat drought conditions, the program has demonstrated remarkable versatility by also proving its mettle in flood protection and identifying active recharge potential. This adaptability has positioned LandFlex as an innovative and indispensable tool for growers to meet sustainability goals in both dry and wet periods.”

One of the program’s key achievements is the immediate protection it provides to drinking water wells serving 34,259 households in underserved communities. By swiftly reducing water demand, LandFlex alleviates pressure on these communities and overburdened water systems while simultaneously supporting the sustainability of both the communities and the agricultural industry.

Moreover, LandFlex plays a pivotal role in accelerating compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Growers who participate in the program can plan ahead and explore innovative farming methods that align with long-term sustainability goals, ensuring the resilience of water systems and critical water infrastructure.

“LandFlex owes its success to the voluntary participation of growers who are committed to supporting their communities and farming for the future,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Almond Alliance. “The program was oversubscribed, and their active involvement showcases their determination to find immediate solutions rather than waiting until 2040 to achieve sustainability goals. By participating in LandFlex, these growers contribute significantly to the well-being of underserved communities and the long-term resilience of at-risk water systems while investing in new farming practices to ensure California agriculture is leading and vibrant for the 21st century.”

The LandFlex program stands as a testament to the power of collaboration between growers, government entities, and local communities. By focusing on the protection of water resources and underserved communities, LandFlex exemplifies the importance of finding innovative, practical, and actionable solutions to address pressing water challenges.

For more information about LandFlex, please visit landflex.org.

2023-07-25T11:40:54-07:00July 25th, 2023|
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