Cover Cropping Help Available

Cover Cropping Season Has begun: Free Recorded Webinars, Demos Available

 

By Mike Hsu, Senior Public Information Representative at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

Cover crops, typically planted in early fall, deliver a host of agricultural and conservation benefits. But many growers have gone away from planting them due to technical challenges and extra costs associated with the practice. In partnership with the Contra Costa County Resource Conservation District, two University of California Cooperative Extension advisors collaborated to support farmers’ cover cropping efforts and reduce costs.

Kamyar Aram, UCCE specialty crops advisor for Contra Costa and Alameda counties, and Rob Bennaton, UCCE Bay Area urban agriculture and food systems advisor, developed online project content for a free educational series on cover cropping, which entails growing non-cash crops to add beneficial biomass to soils.

The series – comprising 10 webinars and five virtual farm-site visits – features UC farm and urban agriculture advisors and some of California’s foremost experts on cover cropping. It helps growers overcome their hesitations about the practice, which provides benefits such as alleviating compaction, improving water retention and increasing organic matter and nutrients in the soil.

“Our site visit videos include a diversity of cropping systems, operation types and scales, and levels of experience with cover crops, so we really capture a variety of perspectives,” Aram said. “Now, with the videos online, I hope that they will serve as tools for other farm educators, as well as a resource for growers directly.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic scrapped plans for in-person workshops and visits, the series organizers pivoted to online webinars, starting in fall 2020, which drew more than 150 participants. The recorded videos – which cover basic methods, financial assistance, tips for orchards and vineyards and more – expanded the potential reach and impact of the series far beyond Contra Costa County.

“Each video, whether it’s a webinar recording or a virtual site visit, emphasizes different aspects, and the titles are designed to help viewers find the resources they are most likely to benefit from,” said Aram. “There really is something for everyone.”

In particular, the organizers of the series recognized the importance of including technical and extension support to urban and semi-urban farmers in the East Bay and beyond.

“We wanted to make sure to include practical support from fellow farmers that was both accessible and relevant to our diverse small and urban farmers,” said Julio Contreras, UCCE community education specialist. “This meant covering topics like seeding with spreaders or by broadcasting – using small equipment and machinery or no-till systems – and even cover cropping in planter boxes.”

Aram and Bennaton also credited their Contra Costa Resource Conservation District partners: Ben Weise, agriculture conservation manager; Derek Emmons, agriculture conservation coordinator; and Chris Lim, executive director.

The project, funded by a Specialty Crops Block Grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, was also made possible by the generous contributions of time and expertise from presenters and hosts of farm-site visits, according to Aram.

“I hope that the videos will enjoy a long life online; they really contain a wealth of knowledge,” he said.

The series is available for view at http://ucanr.edu/CoverCropsCoCo.

2021-10-15T09:26:26-07:00October 15th, 2021|

CalFresh Welcomes Texts on Healthy Eating

CalFresh Participants Welcome Texts on Benefits of California-Grown Produce

The buzz or chirp of an incoming text message started some San Diego County residents on the path to a healthier diet during this past year. In September 2020, most CalFresh participants in the county – more than 172,000 households – began receiving monthly text messages about the benefits of California-grown fruits and vegetables as part of a pilot program.  CalFresh is for people with low income who meet federal income eligibility rules and want to add to their budget to put healthy and nutritious food on the table.

This novel approach to delivering nutrition messages to California food assistance program participants was developed by a partnership of the Nutrition Policy Institute of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the UC San Diego Center for Community Health, and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, which administers CalFresh in the county.

The HHSA, which had been using its text messaging platform to send administrative reminders and alerts, was receptive to using the tool for sending nutrition-focused information. NPI and CCH partnered with ideas42, a firm that applies behavioral science to solutions for social change, to develop a series of five text messages promoting California-grown fruits and vegetables.

The text messages – originally delivered in English and Spanish, with the addition of Arabic beginning in July 2021 – were friendly and conversational in tone.

“In a text, you have very few characters you’re communicating with people, so we wanted to make sure we were using cutting-edge behavioral science to construct those messages to have the most impact,” said Wendi Gosliner, NPI senior researcher and policy advisor.

Each text included a link directing recipients to a website developed as part of the project, with information on selecting, storing and preparing California-grown fruits and vegetables; health benefits; tips to reduce food waste; and recipes – including TikTok videos.

Initially running from September 2020 to March 2021, the pilot program was well-received. Nearly 90% of CalFresh participants responding to a survey said they appreciated receiving the texts. “It is very important for us to eat healthy, to teach our children to eat healthy,” wrote one participant. “I love the recipes…they’re so delicious and easy to make…I’m very, very grateful for the help because, without you guys, I would be struggling more and I just want a better life for my children.”

Gosliner said it was encouraging to see that two-thirds of the approximately 5,000 survey respondents reported eating more California-grown fruits and vegetables after receiving the messages, and 85% expressed a desire to see more texts.

“What we see is that there’s definitely a decent-sized population of people participating in CalFresh –now this is just in San Diego County but imagine the entire state – who would benefit from having this kind of information available to them,” Gosliner said. “And there is at least a subset of people who really liked it.”

UC San Diego’s Center for Community Health was instrumental in facilitating the partnership between UC ANR and the HHSA. Further, CCH, in partnership with the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, formed a community council composed of residents representing diverse communities throughout San Diego County. Together, the council facilitated CalFresh participants to take part in focus groups, which provided feedback and guidance on the messaging and design for online resources. Gosliner said the success of the text program has been a direct result of community input and involvement.

“The Center for Community Health-led focus groups were integral to ensuring CalFresh resources were accessible and informative to a wide range of CalFresh participants, and local individuals and families more broadly,” said Blanca Meléndrez, executive director at the UC San Diego Center for Community and Population Health, Altman Clinical Translational Research Institute. “In the process, the text-based campaign also placed a greater focus on the local production of nutritious fruits and vegetables, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, and building new streams of income for the region’s farmers and producers.”

This effort also suggests a simple way to reach CalFresh participants and bridge gaps between the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and programming that offers nutrition education and healthy eating resources.

“By combining UCSD and UC ANR knowledge about healthy eating with our outreach capability, we are able to reach thousands of families via text message each month,” said Michael Schmidt, human services operations manager for the HHSA. “With the click of a button, these families are provided with resources to assist them in making healthier lifestyle choices, supporting a region that is building better health, living safely and thriving.”

The effort has been so effective that HHSA has asked for additional messages, beyond the original five months’ worth of texts and resources.

“The partnership between UC ANR’s Nutrition Policy Institute, UC San Diego’s Center for Community Health, the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency and San Diego County community residents brought together a great team to develop an innovative, technology-based intervention,” said Shana Wright, San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative co-director at CCH. “Each partner provided knowledge, resources and assets that enhanced the project beyond the initial pilot phase, exceeding preliminary expectations.”

Gosliner said the pilot program has been a “great example and wonderful experience” of partnership in action.

“You can sit with your research or program ideas for a long time but if you don’t have people who can help you implement them, then they really aren’t helpful in any way,” she said. “In this case, it was just a nice combination of an idea…with partners who wanted to work to make something happen.”

2021-10-13T15:23:54-07:00October 13th, 2021|

State Water Board Raises Fees Again!

State Water Board Raises Fees Again – Ignores Industry Concerns

 

Recently, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) voted to increase all of their water quality and water rights fees again.  This time they increased the fees across the board.  In one program in particular, the Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR) Fee had already increased by 112% from 2011 to 2020.

This past week, the SWRCB voted to increase those fees another 16.8%!  Despite industry pleas, including testimony from the Association’s President/CEO Roger Isom, the board voted unanimously to increase the economic burden on the agricultural industry once again.

Isom pointed out the SWRCB fees far outweigh other environmental fees altogether, and joined the Ag Council’s Emily Rooney, who also testified, in a call for an outside look into the SWRCB’s financial situation and the setting of fees.  It did not sway the board.  In addition to the huge increase on WDR fees, which impact food processors and packing houses, fees for the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) increased 15.6% and fees for Confined Animal Feeding (CAF) operations increase 15.4%.  The Association and other industry groups are currently weighing next options, which may include a call for an audit of the program.

2021-10-13T17:39:23-07:00October 11th, 2021|

Forest Fire Smoke Challenges Ag Employees

Outdoor Ag Employees Need Protection from Smoke and Heat

Farmers Work Hard to Provide Protection

By Mike Stephens with the Ag Information Network

California’s hot  growing season and an ongoing drought feeding out of control wildfires pose challenges for farm employers. The 700,000 acre and counting Dixie Fire and the devastating Caldor Fire have conspired to funnel smoke in agricultural production areas just as summer temperatures have soared into triple digits.

These conditions invoke two regulations that farm employers, perhaps preoccupied with COVID-19 mandates imposed by our state government may have lost sight of. They must follow regulations designed to protect employees from the dangers of excessive heat and wildfire smoke.

No California farm employer should be surprised that Cal/OSHA compliance officers are actively enforcing a standard that should be at top of mind when temperatures routinely exceed 90 degrees.

The Cal/OSHA smoke standard requires remedies when employees are exposed to air quality of 151 or greater on the air quality index for the presence of PM2.5 for more than one hour. They must move work into environments with filtered air if possible. Or, if feasible, employers must reschedule work to a time of better air quality or provide employees with approved particulate respirators under voluntary use rules.

The voluntary use requirements mean it is not necessary to fit test and medically evaluate employees who choose to use a provided N95 respirator.

However, employers must train employees using information provided and the hazards of wildfire smoke and encourage employees to use employer provided respirators when the AQI exceeds 150.

2021-10-04T19:10:15-07:00October 4th, 2021|

Veto of AB 616 A Big Win for Ag

Special OP-Ed 

Vetoing of Bad Farmworker Bill a Win for Ag Community and Republicans

By Jesse Rojas

 

California is home to the most industrious, plentiful, and fresh food supply thanks to hardworking men and women who serve as farmworkers, ranch hands, and workers in our food supply chain. These workers, like many employees, have the right to unionize or not unionize. In recent years, a union has been out for revenge on workers who chose not to join.

The United Farm Workers (UFW) was once a mighty force, but it’s largely become a greedy organization pushing a liberal agenda. Workers part of the union saw little to no results for their dues for decades and UFW paid the price.

In 2013, workers at a Fresno-based farm voted on whether or not to belong to the UFW. Afraid of the results of the election, the UFW brought the issue to court and forced taxpayers to spend millions before the votes would finally be counted in 2018, five years later. The UFW was rightfully afraid. After settling the issue, the results overwhelmingly showed that workers did not want to join the UFW. The state even formalized a decision ensuring that the election protocol used to opt-out of the UFW, a secret ballot election, would be the exclusive means for recognizing a union. In fact, the Court of Appeal called the attempted suppression of the workers’ votes a civil rights violation by the state agency and the UFW.

This secret ballot election process reflects workers’ fundamental right to choose their representation free from intimidation or coercion. The UFW’s attack on this right this year, via Assembly Bill 616 (Stone), would’ve prohibited the secret ballot and enacted a process called a “card check.” Under this new process, union organizers could have approached a worker and asked them in person to sign a card representing their vote for the union. Since the union would know how the workers vote, they could then intimidate or coerce those who chose they do not want to unionize. It is common for 75% or more workers to sign such cards in advance of a union election, only for a majority to reject the union at the ballot box.

Oddly enough, in a statement in support of the bill, the UFW said that farmworker representation elections should be allowed to be conducted the way political elections are.  If they truly believed this, why did they sponsor a bill to eliminate a secret ballot? Could you imagine what that would look like in a presidential election?

When AB 616 faced a final legislative hurdle, all Senate Republicans voted against the measure while only two Senate Democrats joined them in opposition. That split, while not surprising given the makeup of the legislature, is indicative of a massive failure from Central Valley Democrats.

The California Legislature consists of individuals from across the political spectrum, including what has been dubbed the “Mod-Dem Caucus.” This caucus has previously played a role in killing bad bills on the wishlist of progressive Democrats in the Capitol, including some that disproportionately harm the Valley. So what happened this time?

The so-called “Mod-Dems” failed to whip the votes of their fellow moderate Democrats. While they may have messaged on the bill on social media, or debated against it on camera, they failed to get the job done behind the scenes and allowed it to reach the governor. Thankfully, Gov. Gavin Newsom heard pleas elsewhere. Senate Republicans and farm advocates loudly expressed opposition to the measure.

In a veto letter request to the governor, Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk(Santa Clarita) made an argument that the governor actually used when he rejected the measure on his desk and Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) put out a statement arguing that this measure “contradicts the principles of our American system of Representative Government.”

Borgeas is right. Farmworkers, farmers, Republicans, and now two governors have also agreed. Intimidation is no way to play fair in any election – including union elections.

Time to give it up, UFW. This is a fight you should not win. No se puede!

 

 

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Jesse Rojas is a farmworker rights activist, spokesperson for Pick Justice, founder of California Farm Workers & Families, and a Central Valley Taxpayers Association board member. Rojas, an immigrant, also launched Mi America En La Radio, the first conservative Spanish-language radio show in the Central Valley. As CEO of The Redd Group, LLC, his organization offers labor relations, human resources consulting, public relations, and political consulting.

2021-09-30T07:58:53-07:00September 30th, 2021|

Open Burning to Phase Out in 2025

Open Ag Burning Part of a Series

 

Open Ag Burning To Phase out

By Mike Stephens with the Ag Information Network

In an unanimous decision, the Air Resources Board (CARB) recently approved a plan to phase out all open agricultural burning by 2025.

Open burning of agricultural materials has started to be phased out in the San Joaquin Valley  chipped materials, a byproduct that needs to be disposed of.

Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, describes some of these hurdles. “Specifically in orchards those materials in most cases were hauled off to a co-generation plant to make energy. The number of those CoGen plants has been significantly declining here recently because they lose their power purchase agreements with the utility companies and therefore they shut down. And so therefore, we lost a very important stream of our ability to send our materials,” Jacobsen said.

Incentive funding is available.

Part of the incentive funding is giving growers the ability to incorporate chipped material  back into the soil, and they’ll pay you some money to do that. In some cases, there is still the desire to haul the material off.

Reincorporating the chips into the soil is being discussed.

“Not only do you have these chips that you reincorporate in the soil, but this comes at a time when we’re experiencing significant drought. You know, these materials don’t break down very quickly without adding water and nitrogen to it,” noted Jacobsen.  “That is definitely a concern for some growers reincorporated. And so for some, they want to continue to find some other avenue for it to remove that wood waste from the field, particularly if it’s maybe for some growers. They just don’t want the wood back in there. But secondarily, it could be diseased wood that becomes an issue as well.”

2021-09-24T19:32:10-07:00September 24th, 2021|

Want Better Heart Health? Consume Walnuts!

Effects of Walnut Consumption for 2 Years on Blood Lipids and Lipoprotein Subclasses Among Healthy Elders

 

By:  Rajaram S, Cofan M, Sala-Vila A, Haddad E, Serra M, Bitok E, Roth I, Freitas-Simoes TM, Kaur A, Valls-Pedret C, Domenech M, Oda K, Corella D, Sabate J, Ros E.

 

Frequent consumption of nuts, an important component of plant-based diets, is associated with 15% lower total cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 23% lower CVD mortality rates. Small, short-term randomized controlled trials (RCTs) indicate that diets supplemented with nuts have a consistent cholesterol-lowering effect; however, no trials of nut-enriched diets for lipid changes focused on elderly individuals, recruited participants from diverse geographical locations, or lasted 2 years. Also, there is little information concerning effects of nuts on lipoprotein subclasses.

 

We hypothesized that incorporating walnuts into the usual diet would improve the lipid profile irrespective of differences in geographical and dietary background.

 

Methods: The Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study is a two-center (Barcelona, Spain and California, USA), 2-year, parallel-group RCT testing the effects of walnut-supplemented diets in healthy elders. Lipoprotein changes were a pre-specified secondary outcome. Eligible candidates were cognitively healthy elders (63-79 years old) without major comorbidities. Participants (n=708) were allocated to either a walnut-free (control) or walnut-supplemented diet (≈15% of energy, 30-60g/day). In 2 monthly visits, compliance, tolerance, medication changes, and body weight were recorded. At each visit, 8-week allotments of raw, pieced walnuts were delivered to the corresponding group.

 

Results: 636 participants completed the study (90% retention rate), and 628 had full data for lipoprotein analyses (mean age 69 years, 67% women, 32% treated with statins). Mean baseline LDL-C and triglycerides were 117 and 105 mg/dL, respectively. The walnut diet significantly decreased (mg/dL) total cholesterol (mean -8.5 [95% CI, -11.2, -5.4]), LDL-C (mean -4.3 [-6.6, -1.6]), and intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL)-C (-1.3 [-1.5, -1.0]), corresponding to reductions of 4.4%, 3.6%, and 16.8%, respectively, while triglycerides and HDL-C were unaffected (Figures-B, C). Total LDL particles and small LDL particle number decreased by 4.3% and 6.1%, respectively (Figure-D). Results were not different by study site. Lipid responses to the walnut diet differed by sex: LDL-C was reduced by 7.9% in men and by 2.6% in women (P-interaction=0.007).

 

Conclusion: The results demonstrate that incorporating daily doses of walnuts (≈15% of energy) to the habitual diet of free-living elders with an essentially normal lipid profile resulted in a mean 4.3 mg/dL LDL-C reduction, which is modest, although greater responses have been observed among individuals with hypercholesterolemia. Our data also support a beneficial effect of the walnut diet on NMR-assessed lipoprotein subfractions, with reductions of IDL-C (a sizable contributor to remnant-C) and total LDL particles. Prospective studies have reported that LDL particle number consistently outperforms LDL-C in CVD risk prediction and that remnant-C causally relates to CVD independent of LDL-C. That lipid responses were not different in two cohorts consuming diverse diets strengthens the generalization of our results. WAHA is the largest and longest nut trial to date, overcoming the limitations of prior smaller and shorter nut studies. The novel finding of sexual dimorphism in LDL-C response to walnut supplementation needs confirmation.

WAHA was conducted in free-living individuals, who chose their daily foods, which may be viewed as desirable since it is closer to real life than the situation in controlled feeding studies. On the basis of associations ascertained in cohort studies, the observed shift of the lipoprotein subclass phenotype suggests a reduction of lipoprotein-related CVD risk by long-term consumption of walnuts, which provides novel mechanistic insight for their potential cardiovascular benefit beyond effects on the standard lipid panel. Our data reinforce the notion that regular walnut consumption may be a useful part of a multi-component dietary intervention or dietary pattern to lower atherogenic lipids and improve CVD risk.

2021-09-22T14:17:04-07:00September 22nd, 2021|

Raw Milk Recall!

 

CDFA ANNOUNCES RECALL OF RAW COW MILK PRODUCED AT VALLEY MILK SIMPLY BOTTLED OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

 

Raw cow milk produced and packaged by Valley Milk Simply Bottled of Stanislaus County is the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones.  The quarantine order came following the confirmed detection of the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni in the farm’s packaged raw whole cow milk sampled and tested by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The raw cow milk is distributed in one-gallon (128 oz) and half-gallon (64 oz) plastic jugs with brown colored bottle caps and labeled as “Valley Milk Simply Bottled Raw Milk” or “DESI MILK Raw Milk”. The recall order applies to products marked on the container with expiration code dates of SEP 26 2021 through OCT 03 2021.

Consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any product remaining in their refrigerators, and retailers are to pull the product immediately from their shelves.  Products from the firm marked with other expiration code dates or with bottle caps of a different color than brown are not subject to the recall order.

CDFA found the campylobacter bacteria in a routine sample collected at the Valley Milk Simply Bottled production and packaging facility.  No illnesses have been reported.

Symptoms of campylobacteriosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.  Most people with camplylobacteriosis recover completely.  Illness usually occurs 2 to 5 days after exposure to campylobacter and lasts about a week.  The illness is usually mild and some people with campylobacteriosis have no symptoms at all.  However, in some persons with compromised immune systems, it can cause a serious, life-threatening infection.  A small percentage of people may have joint pain and swelling after infection.  In addition, a rare disease called Guillian-Barre syndrome that causes weakness and paralysis can occur several weeks after the initial illness.

2021-09-22T13:02:21-07:00September 22nd, 2021|

Walnuts in Plant Based Diets

Walnuts Are Part of Plant Based Eating

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

 

The California Walnut Board & Commission are working hard to position walnuts as a perfect plant-based protein food. Jennifer Olmstead is Marketing Director for domestic public relations for the California Walnut Board & Commission. She said you definitely don’t want to overlook walnuts when talking about plants.

They have so many different nutrients to offer. One of them is the fact that they’re the only nut that’s significantly high in essential plant-based Omega-3 ALA.

And she said that’s the kind of Omega-3 fatty acid that you can get only by consuming this type of food. And then of course, they offer a nice amount of plant-based protein and fiber and are also a good source of magnesium.

Olmstead comments on the Have A Plant eating guide, that’s available. “It’s available through the Produce for Better Health Foundation website. And we worked with Produce for Better Health Foundation to develop this Plant-Forward eating guide that’s really targeted to health professionals, retailers, and food professionals,” noted Olmstead.

We have also provided all of those people with a toolkit of recipes, social media posts, graphics, and other assets that they can use to then take the information from the guide and share it with their own customers.

You can find out more information at fruitsandveggies.org, where you’ll find that Have A Plant information also information at walnuts.org.

2021-09-21T19:31:55-07:00September 21st, 2021|

State Allocates $15 Million for Pollinators

Villapudua Leads Critical Investment Opportunity for Agriculture Community

California Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton) celebrated the Assembly’s approval of $15 million recently to support our state’s pollinator habitats.

“Our agriculture community, and thus the world’s food supply, is greatly impacted by the wellbeing of our pollinating populations,” said Assemblymember Villapudua. “By prioritizing investments to support these pollinators and their habitats, we take the needed steps to care for and strengthen our agricultural output and further sustain California’s economy. These funds have never been more important as we navigate the difficult challenges our changing climate has presented for the Central Valley and will work to advance our biodiversity, climate resilience, and sustainable agriculture goals. I want to thank the Legislature and our Governor for recognizing this need and taking action to fund enhancements for these habitats.”

Our pollinators are responsible for bringing us one-third of every bite of food we take. Their pollinating activities help sustain our ecosystems and facilitate the reproduction of many flowering plants the produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, fibers, and raw materials, and helps draw down carbon into plant material and soils to reduce erosion, suppress invasive weeds, and allow native plants and species to thrive.

“California almond farmers know that every almond exists because a honey bee visited an almond blossom. Honey bees and other pollinators need a varied and nutritious diet. State funding will help growers implement those important conservation practices that benefit honey bees as they forage for pollen and nectar in the orchard,” said Almond Alliance President, Elaine Trevino. “The Almond Alliance is pleased that the State Legislature has approved funding for this important activity. We thank Assemblymember Villapudua for his leadership on AB 391, which highlighted the need for funds to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices designed to integrate pollinator habitat and forage on working lands.”

The co-beneficial opportunity to expand pollinator habitats on working lands progress California towards our goals of conserving 30 percent of habitat biodiversity, enhancing our climate resilience, and bolstering our food supply.

2021-09-15T19:24:39-07:00September 15th, 2021|
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