Produce Passes All Residue Testing in 2017

FDA Produce Residue Sampling “Once Again” Verifies Safety

Last week the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its 2017 pesticide residue sampling data results. FDA concluded: “The latest set of results demonstrate once again that the majority of the foods we test are well below the federal limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Note the term “once again” in FDA’s statement. They used it because government residue sampling data year after year reaffirms the safety of our food and the exceptionally high level of compliance among farmers with laws and regulations covering the use of organic and conventional pesticides.

Let’s get a little technical for a moment and focus on how FDA residue sampling is protective of consumers. FDA employs a three-fold strategy to enforce the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tolerances or safety standards for pesticide residues.
If you haven’t heard – September is National Fruit and Vegetable month. Yes, it is time to celebrate the only food group health experts and nutritionists agree we should all eat more of every day for better health and a longer life.
While decades of studies have shown the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables are overwhelming and significant, the safety of both organic and conventional produce is also impressive. Government sampling data shows an over 99% compliance rate among farmers with the laws and regulations required for pesticide applications on organic and conventional fruit and vegetable crops. This led the United States Department of Agriculture to state that: “The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world.”

Many health organizations are promoting National Fruit and Vegetable month to remind consumers about the importance of increasing consumption – only one in 10 of us eat enough of these nutrient-packed foods each day.

However, studies show a growing barrier to consumption is fear-based messaging which inaccurately calls into question the safety of the more affordable and accessible fruits and veggies. This messaging is predominantly carried by the same activist groups year after year despite studies which show that “prescriptions” for fruits and veggies could reduce health care costs by $40 billion annually. Or that 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year.

2019-09-23T15:06:22-07:00September 23rd, 2019|

Steve Patricio Honored for Significant Contributions to Agriculture

Western Growers will award Patricio the prestigious 2018 Award of Honor on October 30

News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh

Western Growers will honor Steve Patricio, whose visionary leadership has advanced the agricultural industry by leaps and bounds, with the 2018 Award of Honor. The Award of Honor is Western Growers’ highest recognition of industry achievement and is given to individuals who have contributed extensively to the agricultural community.

“Steve has been a tireless advocate for agriculture, and his ability to turn some of the most tumultuous challenges that our industry has faced over the past few decades into opportunities is unmatched,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. “He has already left a tremendous legacy as someone who shoulders the responsibility of igniting change that advances the industry as a whole.”

Steve Patricio to be Honored by Western Growers Association

Patricio, the Chief Financial Officer of Westside Produce, based in Los Banos, is being recognized for his immeasurable leadership and contribution to the agricultural industry, making significant advancements in food safety and the protection of public health. Steve led the creation of the first-ever mandatory food safety compliance program for the California cantaloupe industry, as well as helped raise millions of dollars to fund research geared toward preventing foodborne illness. He also played an integral role in the establishment of the California and Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreements, which today have become the model for produce safety and accountability.

“When you look at the success of California agriculture, Steve is a true representative of why the ag community is as successful as it is today,” said Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the Center for Produce Safety. “He truly embodies passion and proactivity, and his commitment to food safety to benefit both the consumer and industry is unlike any other.”

Patricio’s tenacity does not just stop at food safety. Patricio has spent countless hours throughout his 45-year tenure in the industry advocating for a sustainable supply of water for farmers to grow the food that feeds the state, nation, and world. He has taken every opportunity, as he did when he was asked to join former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the San Luis Reservoir, to call attention to the need for more surface water storage and stress the need for a comprehensive water solution. Furthermore, Patricio launched the industry’s first orientation program for agribusinesses that focused exclusively on water rights.

“Steve has one of the brightest minds and quickest wit in the industry,” said Bob Gray, past chairman of Western Growers and former president/CEO of California Ag Leadership Foundation. “He is a contributor of substance, and the expertise and competence he has brought regarding food safety and water have made major impacts for the industry.”

A Los Banos-native, Patricio is deeply involved in the community and industry. He has served as chairman for Western Growers, Center for Produce Safety, California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, and Monrovia Nursery Company. He has also held leadership positions at Western Growers Assurance Trust, Monsanto Vegetable Seeds Advisory Council and the Produce Marketing Association.

“I was speechless when I found out I was selected for this award,” Patricio said. “I never thought that, at the end of it all, I would be a farmer or involved in this honorable and wonderful world that I am so engaged in today. I often tell youth that your career chooses you, and because I followed the path life decided to take me on, I am proud to say that I am a farmer. I couldn’t imagine being in any other industry.”

Patricio’s accomplishments and passion for shaping the ag industry will be recognized at the Award of Honor Dinner Gala at the Western Growers Annual Meeting on October 30 in Palm Desert, CA.  There, Patricio will be honored by his peers, friends, and family. To attend the ceremony, visit http://www.wgannualmeeting.com/.

2018-07-13T12:48:34-07:00July 13th, 2018|

City of Mendota Recovers from Drought

Mendota Resilience and Pride

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

 

For many small San Joaquin Valley cities that have relied on agriculture to support their local economies, the four-year drought in California has dramatically increased unemployment and decreased business revenue. Mendota, a city west of Fresno, hit hard with a 45% unemployment rate, has constructively made calculated adjustments by residents and farmers to recover to its pre-drought economic level, according to Robert Silva, mayor of this resilient city.mendota logo

 

 

“As we have been going through the drought the last four years,” Silva   explained, “Mendota [nicknamed Cantaloupe Center of the World] has been in the spotlight for its high unemployment, and a lot of our farmers are having a rough time. We have had a lot of bad publicity.”

 

“In the laMendota Muralst year or so we have weathered all this,” he stated, “and things are positive now. Our farmers are really understanding how to use every drop of water. We have a lot of new business coming into the community. We have a housing boom that continues to grow, so things are definitely on the rise and we’re standing very proud.”

 

 

“A few years ago, high unemployment forced many people to move away, suddenly creating school classrooms with very few students; however, that has changed too,” said Silva. “Student enrollment is growing and we have added on another school. It is very positive in Mendota; the doom and gloom of a few years ago has gone. Really, it’s gone.”

 

“Financially we’re in good shape and businesses are prospering,” Silva summarized. “It’s good for our city, good for our citizens, and good for business.”

2016-08-24T16:13:22-07:00August 24th, 2016|

CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND: Almond Growers on Assessment Increase

Almond Growers Want Justification and Vote on Almond Board’s Assessment Increase

 

Editor’s note: We thank John Harris for his contribution to California Ag Today’s CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND. The Almond Board’s Response can be read at Almond Board’s Response on Assessment Increase.

By John Harris, owner, Harris Ranch

 

Marketing orders give agriculture a great tool to collect fees from producers to promote products and/or conduct research projects.  The concept is great, and increasing demand is always good. To be successful, the plan needs to be affordable and explained so it is understood and backed by a big majority of the producers.  I am concerned the Almond Board’s recent assessment increase from 3 to 4 cents a pound—in the absence of an almond producer vote—is unwise.

Harris Farms Fresh LogoAt the current rate of 3 cents per pound, money raised will increase as production increases, which seem fairly certain.  Plus, the fund receives significant help from a government program to encourage exports.  A year or so ago, almond growers were doing really well, when many sales were exceeded $4 a pound.  But last fall prices dropped significantly, in some cases to the $2 range. This loss in revenue made it tougher for almond growers to break even. A grower producing 2,500 pounds per acre is now paying $75 per acre in assessments; under the new plan it would increase to $100 per acre.

To get feedback from growers, the USDA published a request for comments. The comment period opened on July 18 and closed on August 2. But the industry was not notified until July 27. I commented at the time that I was not in favor of the assessment without full knowledge of the purpose of the extra money. I am certain many growers have an opinion on this, but only five comments were submitted. I think most growers did not realize both the assessment increase was under discussion and a producer vote would not be forthcoming.

The time frame for comments was alarmingly short; however, the USDA has decided to reopen the comment period for 10 days.  The reopening of the comment period is expected to be announced within the next two weeks and will be communicated immediately to the industry once it is published in the Federal Register.

I urge all producers to take a good look at the proposal and voice your opinions.

This link will take you to the almond assessment comment page: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=AMS-SC-16-0045.

There should be more of a democratic process. I think this proposed assessment increase needs to go to a vote among the growers affected by it and should require strong approval by at least 51 percent of the growers representing 60 percent of the production. We don’t want to micromanage the Board’s process, but large changes like this assessment increase should demand some form of referendum.

I also think everyone would like to know how the millions of extra dollars collected would be used.

And, of course I think the industry deserves more awareness of this proposed increase in assessment. I do not hear people talking about it; many growers may not even learn about the extra assessment until they get their check from their handler next year. I think all almond growers need to know this is happening now and not be surprised next year.

If I asked my boss for a 33% raise, I believe the onus would be on me to sell the idea and win support, rather than just push it through providing little information to the guy who would be paying me.

If the Almond Board is increasing their budget by 33%, shouldn’t the burden be placed on the Board to win the support of growers?  I would think they would communicate a clear plan on how to spend the enormous increase—a strong and strategic plan—they would be eager and proud to share with growers and handlers.

To increase any tax/assessment, the logical thought process should be, “No, unless proven to be needed, supported, and affordable,” instead of defaulting to, “Increase the tax unless we get stopped.”


The Almond Board’s Response can be read at Almond Board’s Response on Assessment Increase.


Harris Ranch and Allied Companies


The Harris Family’s commitment to agriculture spans over 100 years, four generations, and four states, from Mississippi, to Texas, to Arizona, and eventually into California.

J. A. Harris and his wife, Kate, arrived in California’s Imperial Valley in 1916 to start one of California’s first cotton gins and cotton seed oil mills. They later moved to the San Joaquin Valley and began farming there.

In 1937, their only son, Jack, and his wife Teresa, began what is now known as Harris Ranch, starting with a previously unfarmed 320 acres of desert land on the Valley’s Western edge. With vision and determination, Harris Ranch has grown into the most integrated, diversified, and one of the largest agribusinesses in the United States.

Beginning with cotton and grain, Harris Ranch now produces over thirty-three crops annually, including lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, onions, melons, oranges, lemons, almonds, pistachios, walnuts and winegrapes, all backed by their commitment to superior quality and satisfaction. Harris Farms thoroughbreds are raised and trained to compete internationally. Harris Feeding Company, California’s largest cattle raising operation, and Harris Ranch Beef Company produce and market a premium line of packaged and fully-cooked beef products, including Harris Ranch Restaurant Reserve™ beef. All Harris products are served and sold at the internationally acclaimed Harris Ranch Restaurant and Inn.


The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various participants on CaliforniaAgToday.com do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints or official policies of the California Ag Today, Inc.


 

2016-08-10T16:46:47-07:00August 10th, 2016|

It Is California Cantaloupe Week!

California Cantaloupe Week Begins in Fresno County

By Lauren Dutra, NAFB Summer Intern

 

Established by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors for this week, Monday July 25 through Sunday, July 31,“California Cantaloupe Week,” recognizes Fresno County as the lead canteloupe-producing county in California, which currently produces 75% of all cantaloupes sold in the United States.

Steve Patricio, president and CEO of Westside Produce, a grower, packer and shipper in Firebaugh said, “The quality has been absolutely outstanding this year, with some of the highest sugar results we’ve seen in recent years.” Patricio has also observed great demand in the marketplace as well.  At this point, it’s time to eat those beautiful California cantaloupes,” he noted.

Tri Westside ProducePacked with nutrition, “Cantaloupes are one of the most outstanding things we can eat for our health,” Patricio affirmed. “That daily dose of cantaloupe can do wonders for a healthy lifestyle.”

The California Cantaloupe industry has been on the forefront of the food safety movement throughout the world, “You can be assured that every cantaloupe grown, packed and shipped from California meets the highest standard of food safety anywhere in the world,” Patricio stated.

The California Cantaloupe Advisory Board (CCAB) requires all California cantaloupe growers, packing operations, and cooling facilities undergo mandatory announced and unannounced government food safety audits. The audits are based on a set of food safety standards developed from 20 years of university research along with input from government, food safety and farming experts. CCAB food safety systems allow for science-based standards to be updated as new information or science becomes available.

You can review all of the safety checkpoints here.

2021-05-12T11:05:51-07:00July 27th, 2016|

Van Groningen & Sons Adopts Solar

Van Groningen & Sons Becomes Early Adopter of Solar Meter Aggregation

Family owned and operated since 1922, Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. has just completed construction of a 1 Megawatt PV Solar Energy System at their packing, cooling and processing facility located at their company headquarters in Manteca. Designed and installed by Renewable Technologies, Inc. (RTI) of Stockton, CA., the solar system is one of the first to take advantage of the Net Meter Aggregation Policy recently approved by the California Public Utility Commission, allowing for multiple meters to be offset by the production of a single PV solar production system.

RTI worked closely with Paul Hiemstra, warehouse manager at the facility to aggregate 26 electric meters, satisfying the electrical demand of the facility and numerous irrigation pumps across several hundreds of acres of farmland.

The system will generate over 1.4 million kilowatt hours of clean, reliable energy annually and sits atop two large processing buildings. The solar kilowatt hour production will offset approximately 1,034 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions produced by 218 passenger cars, the electricity usage of 142 homes or the carbon sequestered by 848 acres of U.S. forest in one year. This project marks yet another step forward in Van Groningen’s efforts toward sustainability, helping to ensure the continuance of the family farming tradition for many years to come.

Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. is closely linked to the growing, shipping and distribution of melons, sweet corn, nuts, pumpkins and fall décor. Their formula is to offer the highest quality products while conducting business with honesty, integrity and responsibility, a recipe that’s certain to last long into the future.

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Links: Van Groningen & Sons

Photo Source:  Renewable Technologies, Inc., Ryan Van Groningen

2016-05-31T19:27:04-07:00November 9th, 2015|

Fresno Ag Awards

Joe Del Bosque and Earl Hall Receive Ag Awards in Fresno

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

At the Fresno Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Ag Awards Luncheon on Oct. 28,  Westside farmer Joe Del Bosque and businessperson Earl Hall, owner of Hall Management Corp., a labor contracting company, received awards for their commitment to agriculture.

Honored as the Chamber’s 2015 Agriculturalist of the Year, Del Bosque, owner of Del Bosque Farms in Firebaugh, said, “It’s an honor to be here, and I’m so surprised to see not only my family here, but a lot of my friends as well as community leaders that I know. I’m just so pleased to have them attending and supporting. It really is an honor and I’m humbled. I mean, I saw the list of the folks who have been given this award; they’re some of the big leaders that I always look up to.”

Earl Hall

Earl Hall, owner of Hall Management Corp.

Del Bosque was honored for his open farm policy of allowing bloggers and city folks to visit his operation and observe what farming is all about. He also hosted President Obama on an historic visit on Feb. 14 2014. Del Bosque farms almonds, melons, cherries and asparagus and relies on his farm employees to get the crops harvested. He also is a governor-appointed member of the California Water Commission, a public forum to discuss water issues, advise the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on water policy and decides what storage projects to build with 2014 Water Bond funding.

Hall’s Kerman-based company, Hall Management Corp, received the Baker Peterson Franklin’s Ag Business Award. Hall said his company manages the farm production and all of the labor—all of whom work directly for his company—for several different agricultural companies across 500 thousand acres. “We do business in 26 counties around the state,” said Hall. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years, and it’s quite an honor that our company has been recognized today as the ag business company of the year. I have to give all the credit to my people.

____________________

Founded in 1917, Baker Peterson Franklin, CPA, LLP is a full-service, locally-owned accounting and consulting firm in Fresno, California with a 45+ person staff.

With a membership of more than 1,400 businesses and organizations, the Fresno Chamber of Commerce promotes and supports the success of the regional business community through effective advocacy, education and relationship building.

2016-05-31T19:27:04-07:00November 3rd, 2015|

Average Almond Crop for Van Groningen

Van Groningen: Almond Crop Looks Average; Misleading Math on Watermelon Water Use

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Assistant Editor, California Ag Today

Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. farming has been operating in California since 1922. Field Manager Bryan Van Groningen updated California Ag Today, “The almond crop looks pretty average, ‘nothing that looks well over norm. It just depends on which field site you enter in; some of the younger blocks look a little better than the older blocks. So, right now the crop looks pretty old, but it is all across the board.”

Bryan Van Groningen

Bryan Van Groningen

Yosemite-Fresh-WatermelonBased in Manteca, Von Groningen & Sons has a diversified operation growing melons, sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, almonds and walnuts, and livestock feed. Noting recent negative press on almond water usage, Bryan said, “Almonds obviously have gotten a lot of bad press lately, as has ag in general. In looking at some of the water usage figures, I tend not to agree with them. I think a lot of the water usage figures are outdated and incorrect.” He explained, “For example, we grow watermelons, and one of the articles that I read reported that 160 gallons of water was needed to produce a single watermelon. On our farm, it is closer to 35-40 gallons.”

As the state continues to deal with water restrictions, Van Groningen says a lot of fingers are unfairly pointing at the agriculture industry. “I think there is a lot of misinformation being spread around and used to throw agriculture under the bus,” he stated, “making us look like we are the bad guys, when we are actually producing the nutritious food that consumers in our state and the nation eat and enjoy. The agricultural industry has made so many advances in water efficiency that we should actually be labelled as ‘water conservationists’, and not ‘water wasters’.”

Van Groningen says he sees firsthand, every day, exactly how much water is used per crop, because he actively manages the farm’s water. “I sat down and ran the numbers 3, 4, 5 times — just to make sure that I did the math correctly. So, some of this usage is being misrepresented and therefore does not shed a good light on what ag is actually doing.”

2016-05-31T19:28:12-07:00July 3rd, 2015|
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