Jeff Dahlberg Retires from KARE

Director of the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center retires

UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jeff Dahlberg, also the director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center (KARE) in Parlier, invoked his 35 years of sorghum expertise to increasing interest in growing the crop in California and to better understanding plants’ ability to tolerate drought. Dahlberg retires Jan. 8.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger in the early 1980s, Dahlberg was intrigued by sorghum, a staple food being cultivated by the country’s vast population of subsistence farmers.

“I was impressed with the fact that sorghum was so drought tolerant,” Dahlberg said. “Nigerien farmers relied solely on rain for their sorghum and millet crops.”

Upon returning to the U.S., he earned a master’s degree at the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. at Texas A&M, where his research focused on sorghum. He worked with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Puerto Rico for 7 years and then spent the next 10 years as research director with the National Sorghum Producers in Lubbock, Texas.

When Dahlberg took the helm of the 330-acre UC agricultural research center in 2010, he and colleagues at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center and at UC Davis began conducting sorghum forage variety trials. Sorghum wasn’t new to California. In the past, it had mainly been used for animal feed. But Dahlberg believed the crop’s adaptability – excellent for forage, biofuels and gluten-free human food – offered the grain a rosy future in the Golden State.

“With our research, we have provided California farmers who are thinking about growing sorghum access to locally generated, research-based information to help them make the decision,” Dahlberg said.

In 2015, Dahlberg and UC Berkeley specialist Peggy Lemaux launched a sweeping drought research project at KARE. The five-year study, funded with a $12.3 million grant from the Department of Energy, researched the genetics of drought tolerance in sorghum and how soil microbial communities interacted with sorghum roots to battle drought stress.

A journal article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2018 presented the first detailed look at the role of drought in restructuring the root microbiome. The plant switches some genes on and some genes off when it detects water scarcity and access to water.

“That has implications for feeding the world, particularly considering the changing climate and weather patterns,” Dahlberg said.

In recent years, Dahlberg helped reestablish tea research at Kearney, initiated nearly 60 years ago in a study funded by Thomas J. Lipton, Inc. At the time, Lipton was seeking to grow tea for the instant tea market. When the Kearney tea research program was scrapped in 1981, a researcher had a handful of the best tea clones planted in the landscape around buildings at Kearney.

Those shrubs became the basis for a new tea research trial planted at Kearney in 2017 with UC Davis professor Jackie Gervay Hague to determine whether drought stress impacts the production of phenolics and tannins in the tea.

“We know we can grow good tea here and we can grow high tonnage,” Dahlberg said. “We want to determine if we can do that on a consistent basis and whether we can improve tea quality through irrigation management.”

In retirement, Dahlberg plans to relocate to Lake Ann, Mich., to be close to family. UC Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist Khaled Bali will serve as interim director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

2020-12-28T18:21:37-08:00December 28th, 2020|

Blue Diamond Growers Love Cooperative

Growers are Loyal to Blue Diamond Growers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the Ag Information Network

Blue Diamond Growers, is the only cooperative in the almond industry, and it has loyal growers. Charles Crivelli is a Walnut and almond grower in the Stanislaus County area. He’s a member of Blue Diamond Growers and he loves being part of that Cooperative.

“Blue Diamond is the only cooperative and bit is the largest almond processor in the world. It’s been a real leader in the industry working along with the Almond Board of California and a dynamic organization— constantly developing new product lines, and they spend a lot of time on promotion marketing, truly been a leader in the industry,” said Crevelli.

“There’s about a 110- plus independent processors. And then there’s the Blue Diamond Co-op, with 3,000 members give or take. It’s a dynamic organization, and an organization that I have really enjoyed being a part of,” Crevelli said. “And the CEO Mark Jansen has done a fantastic job. Just doing a phenomenal job and leading the organization in the industry.”

And Jansen’s been heading up the co-op for more than 10 years.


Blue diamond Growers was founded in 1910, which means the Co-op is 110 years old this year.

2020-12-16T18:19:47-08:00December 16th, 2020|

Jose Dias A New UCANR Agronomy/Weed Advisor


Jose Dias Named UCANR Agronomy and Weed Management Advisor

José Luiz Carvalho de Souza Dias joined UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) on Nov. 2, 2020, as an area agronomy and weed management advisor in Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties.

Jose Dias

Prior to joining UCCE, Dias was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he worked with Mark Renz and John Grabber on projects focused on identification of management practices and environmental factors to ensure successful establishment of alfalfa interseeded into corn silage; sustainable management of waterhemp in established alfalfa for dairy systems; and weed control, clover selectivity and resulting yield of grass-clover mixed swards treated with florpyrauxifen-benzyl + 2,4-D in Wisconsin.

Dias earned a Ph.D. in agronomy with focus in weed science from the University of Florida and an M.S. in crop protection and B.S. in agronomy from São Paulo State University in Brazil. He is fluent in Portugese.

His Ph.D. research focused on developing and implementing integrated management practices to reduce giant smutgrass populations in bahiagrass pastures. His M.S. research focused on investigating the selectivity of several residual herbicides applied preplanting of prebudded seedlings of different sugarcane cultivars.

2020-12-03T09:05:40-08:00December 3rd, 2020|

Jim Costa for Ag Committed Supported

U.S. Citrus Industries Support Congressman Jim Costa for Chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee


 In a letter dated November 11, 2020, to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Citrus Mutual (CCM), Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM), and Texas Citrus Mutual (TCM) formally asked that Congressman Jim Costa, D – Fresno, be appointed as the new chair of the House Agriculture Committee.


As a farmer himself, Congressman Costa understands the industry’s issues, such as pest and disease, trade, water, and immigration. Notably, Congressman Costa was instrumental in securing federal funding to support research to find a cure for the devastating citrus disease Huanglongbing.


Congressman Costa’s track record of support for the citrus industry and specialty crops is indisputable. He has led countless bipartisan efforts on behalf of agriculture and rural America.


“The House Agriculture Committee needs a leader who understands its importance not only for our farmers, but for underserved communities, and national security,” says CCM President/CEO Casey Creamer. “Congressman Jim Costa is that leader, and we are proud to offer our strong support.”


“U.S. agriculture, especially fruit and vegetable growers, are at a crossroad. Increasing production costs coupled with unregulated imports, place the U.S. grower in a desperate situation. I am confident that if appointed Chair, Congressman Jim Costa will be a leader for agriculture in addressing these and other critical issues that affect growers and rural communities across the country,” said  Michael W. Sparks, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual.


“The agricultural industry within Congressman Jim Costa’s district is very similar to specialty crops, including citrus within Texas, making him well versed in many of the issues that affect our growers,” says Dale Murden, President of Texas Mutual. “Citrus Greening is a major concern for the Texas citrus industry, and we know Congressman Costa understands the issue well, and we are proud to support him.”


We trust that Congressman Costa will lead the committee with his years of experience and dedication to agriculture in California and the United States.

2020-11-19T13:45:29-08:00November 19th, 2020|

Ron Fisher, A Veteran in the California Almond Industry

Starting a Major Almond Industry Processing Company

By Patrick Cavanaugh with the Ag Infomation Network

Ron Fisher is the founder and CEO and president of Fisher Nut Company based in the Modesto area. He’s been a veteran of the California almond industry since 1980. Here’s his story.

“I started in 1980, working for a company and agriculture was having a tough time all through the eighties. And I saw an opportunity for an independent packer to come into the business that would offer faster cash flow and competitive prices because in the late eighties, the growers were really hurting with high-interest rates,” explained Fisher

Commodity prices were low as well.

“I launched out on my own and opened up an almond processing company that accommodated what the growers needed. And we were able to utilize some of the faster-paying markets to get some cash-flow to the growers that were hurting, to get them through that tough period,” noted Fisher

“And so at that time, we started growing through the benefit of all that. And we were able to offer the growers a slightly different service than was available at that time,” he noted.

“I believe, at the time, there were about 35 handlers in the business. And from there, we were able to grow from our success of accommodating that. And as the industry changed and morphed into a better economic situation where prices were going up and people were planting, more almonds, where water and labor were available. The almond industry within the Central Valley boomed and with that, our company did as well,” he said.



2020-09-09T09:12:31-07:00September 9th, 2020|

Help for for Growers and Climate Change Risk

Helping Growers Manage Risk

By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Information Network

Scientists project climate change will significantly alter the way our food is produced, but what can farmers do about this today? Especially when making decisions such as planting perennial crops that will be in place for decades?

Tapan Pathak is a UCANR Cooperative Extension Specialist based at UC Merced. He is working to develop a tool to translate weather and climate data into management insights for growers.

“It’s a huge effort because we want to be really crop-specific in terms of what type of decisions for we can provide to growers. And so, we’re just getting started on developing this crop-specifically, region-specific tools and the website is going to be Cal Agro Climate,” Pathak noted.

Pathak says they are currently finalizing a prototype in order to share with growers for feedback.

“Since we want to make it a very grower friendly, our next planning is to involve some of the growers and advisory committee to provide some feedback and kind of incorporate their changes. So we are hoping to get those tools up and running by next year or so,” said Pathak.

Once completed, the Cal Agro Climate tool will be able to help farmers reduce weather and climate related risk on their farms.

2020-08-13T10:46:35-07:00August 13th, 2020|

For Many Dairy Families, California is Home


Not All California Dairies Want to Move Out of State


By Tim Hammerich with the

Some California dairies have decided to pick up and move their operations out of state due to heavy regulations and high costs of production. But others, like Tony Lopes in Gustine, remain committed to finding a way to profitably sustain their dairy in the state they call home.

“California is home. That’s where my great grandparents immigrated from the Azores Islands, they found a home in this valley, and they were able to raise their family and their businesses here,” said Lopes. “Now, when they were growing their businesses, regulatory environment, the way people viewed agribusiness versus today is very different. But for our family, and myself personally, I look to that almost as the challenge. Of saying, I want to be a dairy farmer in California. So I’m going to figure out how I can sculpt my business into what is necessary in order to be competitive and successful within California.”

Lopes is trying to build a model dairy by using data analytics, improving his employee retention and satisfaction, focusing on genetics, and diversifying. He hopes this will not only keep him ahead of constantly changing regulations, but also that customers will start voting for the types of local agribusinesses they want at the supermarket.

2021-05-12T11:17:06-07:00August 7th, 2020|

Vine Mealybug

Grape Pest Transmits Grapevine Leaf-roll Virus

By Tim Hammerich with the AgInformation Network 

Vine Mealybug is a pest that transmits the grapevine leaf-roll associated viruses. The University of California Ag and Natural Resources are trying to find better management techniques for vine mealybug. Statewide IPM Program Director Dr. Jim Farrar explains why.

“Vine mealybug is an invasive from the Mediterranean area and it’s more efficient at transmitting the virus,” said Farrar.  “And I think that we sort of didn’t recognize the great potential for damage when this new mealybug came in and was a more prolific vector of the virus. And so now we’re recognizing how important the virus is in impacting grape quality and yield.

“Associated with that, a heightened importance of this new new mealybug in transmitting the virus. And so now we’re starting to play catch up in developing much more robust management plans for vine mealybug and the leafroll virus,” Farrar said.

Grapevine leafroll virus can reduce yields, delay fruit ripening, and reduce soluble solids in the grapes.

For more information on the control of Vine Mealbug, go to the UC IPM website.

2020-08-05T12:39:51-07:00August 5th, 2020|

Water Wins—Thanks to Congressman Harder

Harder Again Scores Millions in Federal Support for Local Water Storage Projects in House Funding Bill

 House Water Appropriations Bill Includes Funding for Del Puerto Canyon, Sites, Los Vaqueros


 After securing substantial support in last year’s funding package, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) announced that this year’s water development funding bill also includes millions in funding for water storage projects which benefit the Central Valley. The bill passed the House today on a vote of 217-197. Once the bill is signed into law, three projects will each receive over $1 million in funding this year – including Del Puerto Canyon, Sites, and Los Vaqueros Reservoirs. These projects are all specifically listed in Rep. Harder’s SAVE Water Resources Act and each received funding in last year’s package.

“Water is priority one for jobs and local farmers. Everyone around here knows that. For years, we were forgotten as federal funding dried up and Sacramento put more and more pressure on our water users,” said Rep. Harder. “That’s changed. Over the last two years, we’ve gotten over $20 million for local projects – including millions for the first new project in my district in 50 years.”

Josh Harder

Congressman Harder

Each of the storage projects listed below received the same amount of federal funding in last year’s appropriations bill. Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir will again receive over $1 million to complete feasibility studies and engage with the public on the project. Last year’s investment for Del Puerto Canyon was the first federal funding for a new water storage project in Rep. Harder’s Central Valley district in 50 years.


Storage Projects


Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir – Del Puerto Water District will receive another $1.5 million for the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir. The project will expand off-stream water storage up to 85,000 acre-feet for DPWD, which is based in Patterson, CA, in Rep. Harder’s district. The funding will be used to complete feasibility studies.

Sites Reservoir – Four million dollars in new funding will go to the Sites Reservoir project thanks to Rep. Harder’s advocacy. Sites is an innovative and modern off-stream water storage project, helping the Valley better prepare for droughts while preserving the environment. This project will add over 1.8 million acre-feet of storage to the Northern Central Valley, on average, supplying water to over 1 million homes.

Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion – Rep. Harder worked to secure $7.84 million for this project, which currently stores up to 160,000 acre-feet of water. The expansion will add another 115,000 acre-feet of capacity. The project also provides water to wildlife areas south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.


Airborne Snow Observatory Program


The Bureau of Reclamation has historically provided support for aerial assessments of snowpack across the West to provide accurate, real-time assessments of snowpack to plan for the coming year.

In December 2019, NASA concluded management of the Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) program and transferred it to the private sector, reducing the certainty for federal support of a program with significant public benefits, including improved water conservation, supply and delivery forecasts across the West.

Given the broad bipartisan support of this program and the tremendous water benefits to Western states, Rep. Harder ensured the Bureau of Reclamation would continue supporting the program.

Last year’s House and final funding bills included additional support for the North Valley Regional Recycled Water program. Although it is not included in this year’s House version of the bill, Rep. Harder plans to fight to ensure it’s included in the final bill which will be signed into law.


2020-07-31T13:42:07-07:00July 31st, 2020|

Frieda Caplan Family Scholarship Application Open

Program Enables Family Business Representatives to Engage in the Industry’s Premier Policy Event

The United Fresh Produce Association is pleased to announce that the application period for the 2020 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship is now open.

The Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship Program was founded in 2001 by sisters Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in honor of their mother, Frieda Rapoport Caplan. The program provides the opportunity for representatives from family-owned, United Fresh member companies to attend the United Fresh Washington Conference.

“Our family is pleased to continue to support leadership opportunities for employees of family businesses,” said Jackie Caplan Wiggins, Vice President & COO of Frieda’s Inc. “My mother, Frieda Caplan, was passionate about giving individuals the opportunity for professional development, particularly in the area of advocacy. With the challenges faced by our industry this year, it is critically important for companies to learn about how to advocate and educate for their business at the federal level.”

This year, scholarship recipients will receive complimentary registration to participate in the conference, September 21-25, hosted virtually on the United Fresh LIVE! 365 platform. The highly renowned event will once again include Congressional visits, keynote sessions, workshops, networking receptions and volunteer leadership meetings, all through LIVE! 365. The event also will include an “election night” party culminating in a vote by all attendees to forecast November’s election results.

Applications must be received by August 21, 2020. Each year, the scholarship committee reviews applicants for the program using several criteria, including each candidate’s interest in advocacy work and commitment to the produce industry.

“Thanks to the very generous support of the Caplan family, family businesses throughout the industry benefit from this exceptional leadership opportunity,” said Miriam Wolk, United Fresh’s Vice President of Member Services. “This year’s recipients will take part in all facets of the United Fresh Washington Conference, and acquire the skills they need to be effective advocates on the issues that impact their businesses and the fresh produce industry.”

The United Fresh Washington Conference brings together hundreds of produce leaders from all sectors of the industry for education on critical industry issues and meetings with members of Congress, their staff and top regulatory officials. Scholarship recipients will have an opportunity to network with produce industry executives from across the country, as well as gain an understanding of the political process and how to advocate for their priority issues.

To submit your application for the 2020 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship, visit or contact Mary Alameda, Industry Relations Manager, United Fresh at or 202-303- 3413.


2020-07-31T10:53:14-07:00July 31st, 2020|
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