Community Members Invited to Support Favorite UC ANR Programs May 19-20

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

California farmers can grow crops with less water. Gardeners can control pests with safer methods. Community members can take steps to protect their homes from wildfire. Children can learn life and work skills. Families can stretch their food dollars to provide nutritious meals. Californians have benefited from University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources research and outreach in many ways. And thanks to the state’s historic boost to UC ANR funding, more UC Cooperative Extension scientists and educators are being hired to address the unique needs of communities across California.

From noon to noon on May 19-20, the public is invited to donate for UC ANR Giving Day, sponsored by Tri Counties Bank, to enhance their favorite UC ANR projects or programs. 

The 24 hours of giving will expand UC ANR outreach to benefit the health and well-being of more Californians throughout the state.

In the past, donations have been used to fund UC Master Gardener demonstration gardens, purchase teaching supplies for California Naturalists, and fund scholarships for children to develop life and work skills in UC ANR’s 4-H programs.

Donors are invited to give to UC Cooperative Extension in their counties, Research and Extension Centers and favorite programs. When visitors click “GIVE” on the upper right of the website http://donate.ucanr.edu/givingday, fund choices appear in drop-down menus. 

Online gifts made between noon on May 19 and 11:59 a.m. on May 20 may help programs qualify for prize challenge awards. Donations can be made at http://donate.ucanr.edu/givingday.

If you prefer sending a check instead of donating online, please make checks payable to “UC Regents” and specify the fund, then mail to UC ANR Gift Processing, 2801 Second Street, Davis, CA 95618.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.

2022-05-17T12:07:18-07:00May 17th, 2022|

Hoobler, Machado Join Farm Land Trust Board

Bill Hoobler and Mike Machado Appointed to California Farmland Trust’s Board of Directors

California Farmland Trust is proud to introduce well-respected industry professionals and community members, Bill Hoobler and Mike Machado, as new board members.

Hoobler and Machado have been active supporters of CFT for several years and bring a wealth of institutional knowledge and deep-rooted passion to the organization.

“Bill and Mike both offer a talented skillset and valuable expertise to the board, and their combined knowledge in policy and finance will be tremendous additions to our organization,” said Charlotte Mitchell, executive director at California Farmland Trust. “We are thrilled to have such accomplished individuals join the board and look forward to working towards continued success, in service to our critical mission.”

Since 2018, Hoobler has served as a CFT committee member and dedicated his professional life to the agriculture industry. He worked in the Farm Credit system for over 39 years, specializing in lending and crop insurance, before retiring in 2016 and starting his own crop insurance agency in Patterson.

“Being involved with CFT since 2018 has been rewarding,” Hoobler said. “California farmland needs to be protected and CFT is just one way to assure that farmland will remain farmland, forever.”

Machado, a Linden native, grew up on his family’s over-100-year-old farming operation and returned to the family business after serving in Vietnam. Machado also served 14 years to the California State Legislature, where he focused on water, banking, insurance, and budget accountability. In 2015, Machado and his family placed an agricultural conservation easement on their family farm, and later in 2021, Mike protected an additional two parcels.

“Without agriculture, we don’t eat,” Machado said. “Without farmland, we don’t have agriculture. That is why the work of California Farmland Trust is so important.”

Hoobler and Machado join the existing 11 members of CFT’s board of directors and will both serve on the Budget, Finance, and Risk Management committee.

2022-05-09T11:13:42-07:00May 9th, 2022|

Port Delays Worsen as Harvest of New Crops Approaches

By Ching Lee,  AgAlert

As ongoing port congestion and persistent shipping obstacles continue to block movement of California agricultural goods, farmers and exporters face bulging warehouses and dwindling cash flow that threaten to sink some businesses.

Tree nuts, fresh produce, dairy products and other California farm commodities struggle to find rides on vessels and containers in which to ship them, with ocean carriers rushing to set sail empty rather than hauling agricultural exports.

“We have 50 loads packed and ready to ship, that customers would take tomorrow, that we can’t get on the ship,” said Bill Carriere, a Glenn County walnut grower and handler.

Agricultural exporters say their shipping problems—which trace to pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions that started in 2020—have only gotten worse. More shipping companies have notified them that they won’t stop at the Port of Oakland to pick up containerized farm products, which account for 60% of total exports through the port. The companies opt instead to return ships directly to Asia following long delays in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Only one ocean carrier—Mediterranean Shipping Co.—so far has committed to servicing the Port of Oakland, said Roger Isom, president and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association and California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association.

The Northern California port saw 67,910 empty containers leave its shores during the first two months of this year. That’s compared to 37,263 empties during the same time in 2020, according to a letter that agricultural groups, including the California Farm Bureau, sent to the Biden administration last week. The letter further noted that three out of four containers at U.S. ports return to Asia empty.

Because ships continue to bypass the Oakland port, exporters say the opening in March of a new “pop-up” yard for pickup of empty containers has offered limited relief. The temporary hub, located offsite of the port, allows shippers to stage export loads while avoiding busy marine terminals where most empty containers are stored.

As of last week, there were more than 500 containers in the yard, said port spokesman Robert Bernardo. The port saw 83 ships stopping in Oakland in March, compared to 93 a year ago. Reduced vessel arrivals were due in part to a COVID-related port shutdown in Shanghai, the port said.

Though the port has enough empty containers to cover current demand, Bernardo said supplies remain “in constant flux.” He said he expects inventory to tighten as imports from China begin to resume.

Aside from dealing with a shortage of containers, agricultural shippers say they struggle to secure bookings, which often get canceled or “rolled,” meaning the cargo wasn’t loaded onto the scheduled vessel, usually because there’s no room.

To read more, click here.

2022-05-04T12:14:43-07:00May 4th, 2022|

Westlands Water District awarded $7.6 Million Grant by the California Department of Water Resources

Grant Funds Will Help Create Drought Resilience, Increase Investment In Recharge Projects, and Drive Regional Groundwater Sustainability

 Today the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) awarded Westlands Water District, which serves as the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for the Westside Subbasin, a $7.6 million grant as part of the Department’s Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Proposition 68 Implementation Grant Program. This grant provides critical investment in the District’s efforts to ensure a sustainable groundwater basin.
“As we enter the third year of historic drought, Westlands remains committed to utilizing the most proactive, innovative, and scientifically-sound strategies in groundwater management,” said Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands. “This grant funding from DWR will be instrumental to the District’s implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and to achieving groundwater sustainability. We are grateful for the support and investment in these vital projects.”
The grant funding will further three key efforts within the Subbasin: the Storage Treatment Aquifer Recharge (STAR) Program, Phase 1; the Westside Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) 5-year Update; and the Westside Subbasin Geophysical Investigation for Recharge Potential.
The STAR Program will establish a network of treatment and aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) facilities in the Westside Subbasin. These facilities will treat water from the unconfined upper aquifer and provide temporary storage of surplus supplies. Based on current design, each treatment facility could treat up to 10,000 acre-feet a year and each ASR well could inject up to 1,200 gallons per minute to be stored for later use. Phase 1 of the STAR Program includes planning and identification of locations for the treatment facilities.
The funding will also support the District’s 5-year review and update of the Westside Subbasin GSP. This update enables the District to assess the implementation of the GSP and incorporate the latest information on groundwater conditions, technology, and science. The 2025 update will reflect progress towards achieving the Westside Subbasin 2040 sustainability goals, key groundwater project, and SGMA regulations compliance.
Lastly, the grant provided by DWR will also provide funding for the Westside Subbasin Geophysical Investigation for Recharge Potential. This Investigation consists of conducting geotechnical examinations on lands within the Westside Subbasin to identify groundwater recharge potential. The data collected will help interested parties, such as growers and/or the District, determine if a proposed site is feasible for groundwater
2022-05-03T11:03:46-07:00May 3rd, 2022|

Fresno County Farm Bureau Recognizes Journalists


FCFB Celebrates Agricultural Champions and Journalistic Excellence

After a two-year hiatus, Fresno County Farm Bureau held its third annual “Bounty of Fresno County” celebration on Thursday, April 28, at Wolf Lakes Park in Sanger.

Fresno County Sheriff-Coroner Margaret Mims was recognized with the FCFB “Friends of the Family Farm Award” for her vigorous support and contributions to Fresno County agriculture and rural communities. Sheriff Mims has served as the 25th Fresno County Sheriff-Coroner since November of 2006 and is now finishing up her final year of service.

Additionally, FCFB announced the winners of the 28th annual Journalism Awards.

Serving as judges for the Journalism Awards were Fresno Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer Amy Fuentes; California Cotton Ginners & Growers Association and Western Agricultural Processors Association’s Assistant Vice President Priscilla Rodriguez; and FCFB President Daniel Hartwig.

Award winners received the coveted FCFB tractor trophy, which was generously donated by Kuckenbecker Tractor Company.

The criteria for the awards were: thorough and objective coverage of issues, given time and space limitations; educational element for the agriculture industry or the consumer; and portraying the personal stories of those who make up the food and agriculture industry, making issues relevant to consumers and Valley residents.

Audio

Patrick Cavanaugh, Ag Information Network, “Initial Zero Allocation Is Part of Massive Decline in Water Availability,” February 2022.

Farm Trade Print

Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press, “Rice Fields Benefit Endangered Salmon,” January 2022.

General Print

Edward Smith, The Business Journal, “Growers, Experts Say Conventional Wisdom Around Drought is Flawed,” June 2021.

Video

Aurora Gomez/Reuben Guerra, ABC30, “Children First: Firebaugh High School’s FFA program,” September 2021.

“Heavy Puller Award”

18THIRTY Entertainment was recognized with the FCFB “Heavy Puller Award” for their many shows featuring agriculture including American Grown: My Job Depends on Ag, Tapped Out, Silent Sacrifice, and the Creek Fire documentary.

2022-05-04T12:10:00-07:00May 2nd, 2022|

New UCANR Extension Specialist Coming

UC ANR to recruit 16 new UC Cooperative Extension Specialists

 

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources will be recruiting 16 new UC Cooperative Extension Specialists over the next 12 months. This is in addition to the five UCCE Specialist positions released for recruitment last fall and two co-funded UCCE Specialist positions since May 2021 – one in partnership with UC Merced and another with UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

To date, 106 UCCE Specialist and Advisor positions have been released since spring 2021, thanks to increased 2021-22 state funding. The positions are located in communities across California.

“We are positioned to make an even bigger difference in the lives of Californians by having so many more boots on the ground,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

UCCE Specialists perform research on campus with other campus-based academics and in the field with UCCE Advisors, who work directly with farmers, families and other Californians.

Currently UC ANR has UCCE Specialists located on six campuses – UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced – at UC ANR’s research and extension centers and in county offices.

“We are excited to strengthen partnerships with additional UC campuses by placing UCCE Specialists at UC Irvine and UCLA for the first time,” Humiston said. “We are also adding a position in UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.”

The new UC Cooperative Extension Specialist positions are listed below:

  • Agricultural Toxicology Specialist, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Molecular Biosciences and CAES Department of Environmental Toxicology
  • Agroecology Specialist, UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Department of Environmental Studies
  • Climate Resilience and Labor Specialist, UC Berkeley School of Public Health
  • Dairy Cattle Production Health and Management Economics Specialist, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Teaching & Research (located in Tulare County)
  • Diseases of Nursery Greenhouse and Native Crops Specialist, UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology
  • Economics of Diversity and Equity Specialist, UC Berkeley Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics
  • Economics of Food Supply Chains Specialist, UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
  • Engineered Wood Products and Design Specialist, UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management
  • Food Crop Safety Specialist, UC Riverside Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology
  • Nutrition and Health Equity Specialist, UC Davis CAES Department of Nutrition
  • Regenerative Agriculture Specialist, UC Merced Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
  • Soil Health Specialist, UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources
  • Subtropical Fruit Crop IPM Specialist, UC Riverside Department of Entomology
  • Urban Water Quality, Health and Justice Specialist, UC Irvine Department of Civil and Environment Engineering
  • Water Equity and Adaptation Policy Specialist, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation
  • Weed Science Specialist, UC Riverside CNAS Department of Botany and Plant Sciences

The full list of UCCE positions released is posted on the 2021-22 Release of UCCE Positions web page. More about the process is available on the 2021 Call for Positions web page.

All UC ANR jobs open for recruitment can be found at https://ucanr.edu/About/Jobs.

2022-05-02T15:00:43-07:00May 2nd, 2022|

Water Measurement and Reporting Courses Offered by UCCE May 26

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

California water-rights holders are required by state law to measure and report the water they divert from surface streams. For people who wish to take the water measurements themselves, the University of California Cooperative Extension is offering a virtual training to receive certification on May 26.

At the workshop, participants can expect to

  • clarify reporting requirements for ranches.
  • understand what meters are appropriate for different situations.
  • learn how to determine measurement equipment accuracy.
  • develop an understanding of measurement weirs.
  • learn how to calculate and report volume from flow data.

“We are limiting the number participants for the water measurement training to 30 people per session,” said Larry Forero, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor. “If you need this training, please register soon.”

The scheduled trainings will be held Thursday, May 26, at two locations:

  • Redding at Shasta College Farm.  Registration is required and costs $25. To register visit https://ceshasta.ucanr.edu. For more information, contact Larry Forero (lcforero@ucanr.edu) or Sara Jaimes (sbjaimes@ucanr.edu) or by calling the UCCE office in Shasta County at (530) 224-4900. Training will begin at 8 a.m. and conclude at 11:30 am.
  • Woodland at the UC Cooperative Extension at 70 Cottonwood Street. Registration costs $20. To register, visit https://cecapitolcorridor.ucanr.edu. For more information, contact Morgan Doran at mpdoran@ucanr.edu or the UCCE Yolo County office at (530) 666-8143. Training will begin at 2:30 p.m. and conclude at 5:30 pm.

Background:

Senate Bill 88 requires all water right holders who have previously diverted or intend to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year (riparian and pre-1914 claims), or who are authorized to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year under a permit, license or registration, to measure and report the water they divert. Detailed information on the regulatory requirements for measurement and reporting is available on the State Water Resources Control Board Reporting and Measurement Regulation webpage. The legislation requires that installation and certification of measurement methods for diversion (or storage) greater than or equal to 100-acre feet annually be approved by an engineer/contractor/professional.

California Cattlemen’s Association worked with Assemblyman Frank Bigelow on a bill that allows a self-certification option. Assembly Bill 589 became law on January 1, 2018. This bill, until Jan. 1, 2023, allows any diverter who has completed this instructional course on measurement devices and methods administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension, and passes a proficiency test, to be considered a qualified individual when installing and maintaining devices or implementing methods of measurement.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.

2022-04-27T13:22:26-07:00April 27th, 2022|

Today’s World is Full of Uncertainties. Your Food Supply Shouldn’t be One of Them

By Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition

The war in Ukraine and all the global unrest it is causing has focused American’s attention on just how uncertain a world we inhabit.

Inflation was already wreaking havoc on family budgets and now gas prices are also skyrocketing.

Which is exactly why our government should be doing everything it can to reduce reliance on foreign sources for our basic needs, especially food.

Unfortunately, that is the exact opposite of what is happening.

Through out-of-balance regulatory policies and a failure to prioritize western farming, our government is putting our safe, affordable, domestic food supply at risk.

Over 80% of our country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown west of the Rockies and simply cannot be moved elsewhere. Without that supply, Americans will see shortages at the store, even higher prices, be forced to rely more heavily on increasingly unstable foreign sources, or all of these at the same time.

Learn More

When you make a salad, have fruit for breakfast, eat a hamburger with cheese, or put tomato sauce and garlic on a pizza, odds are that at least some of those products came from California.

But without a reliable water supply, that farmland simply cannot produce what our country needs.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In some western states, the government is holding on to existing water supply, rather than release it to farms to grow food. In California, we must move more quickly to build and repair infrastructure that will help us store more water in wet years for use in dry ones like this one. And in general, water policy has become unbalanced in ways that penalize the farms trying to produce our food supply.

California farmers are doing their part and have reduced water use by double digits since 1980. Throughout the West, farms are also important in the battle against climate change because crop production helps remove carbon dioxide from the air. If things continue the way they are, our government is essentially creating deserts instead of food production, which will only perpetuate the cycles of drought and wildfires we’d like to avoid.

Food price increases in 2022 are now expected to exceed those observed in 2020 and 2021. Without changes in water policy, it will continue to get worse.

It has never been more important that U.S. consumers insist on domestically grown food in our stores.

2022-04-21T15:58:13-07:00April 21st, 2022|

Governor Newsom Signs Executive Order in Response to Western Drought

By Kahn, Soares & Conway, LLP

As California endures the driest first three months of a year in the state’s recorded history, and simultaneously enters a third year of drought, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an Executive Order (Order) to strengthen conservation efforts. According to the Administration’s press release, the Order calls “on local water suppliers to move to Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which require locally-appropriate actions that will conserve water across all sectors and directing the State Water Resources Control Board to consider a ban on the watering of decorative grass at businesses and institutions.”

The Governor is “encouraging suppliers, where appropriate, to consider going above and beyond the Level 2 of their water shortage contingency plans, activating more ambitious measures [and]… has ordered state agencies to submit funding proposals to support the state’s short- and long-term drought response, including emergency assistance to communities and households facing drought-related water shortages, facilitating groundwater recharge and wastewater recycling, improvements in water use efficiency, protecting fish and wildlife, and minimizing drought-related economic disruption.”

Today’s Order also includes the following provisions:

  • Ensuring Vulnerable Communities Have Drinking Water
  • Cuts red tape so communities that need access to emergency hauled or bottled water can get it immediately.
  • Safeguarding Groundwater Supplies
  • Requires local permitting authorities to coordinate with Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to ensure new proposed wells do not compromise existing wells or infrastructure, as 85 percent of public water systems rely heavily on groundwater during drought.
  • Streamlines permitting for groundwater recharge projects that help to refill aquifers when rains come.
  • Protecting Vulnerable Fish And Wildlife
  • Expedites state agency approvals for necessary actions to protect fish and wildlife where drought conditions threaten their health and survival.
  • Preventing Illegal Water Diversions
  • Directs the Water Board to expand site inspections in order to determine whether illegal diversions are occurring.

For more information on the state’s response to the drought, click here. For any questions, please reach out to Louie Brown at lbrown@kscsacramento.com.

2022-03-29T13:28:27-07:00March 29th, 2022|

Humiston Touts USDA Climate-Smart Programs Before House Agriculture Committee

Testimony highlights UC ANR’s role in advancing prosperity, sustainability and climate resilience

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Glenda Humiston, Ph.D., University of California vice president of agriculture and natural resources, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and director of the Cooperative Extension Service, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture at today’s (March 16) hearing “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Role of USDA Programs in Addressing Climate Change.

A recording of the hearing can be viewed at https://youtu.be/2_GQI6b6CCs. Congressman Jimmy Panetta, who represents California’s Central Coast, introduces Humiston at the 16-minute mark of the recording. She begins speaking at the 40:38 mark.

In Washington, D.C., Humiston delivered the following prepared statement:

Good morning, Chairman [David] Scott, Ranking Member [GT] Thompson, and Members of the Committee, my name is Glenda Humiston, and I serve as the Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) for the University of California (UC) system. I am honored to have this opportunity to discuss the importance of agricultural research, and other USDA programs, as you begin work on the next Farm Bill.

With UC ANR serving as a vital partner, California continues to be the nation’s top agricultural state. For more than a century, California’s $50 billion agricultural sector has depended on UC ANR, in partnership with our UC campuses, for the stream of new technologies and research breakthroughs needed to stay competitive and be responsible stewards of the land. We are proud to be part of the Land Grant partnership that was developed between states and the federal government with the 1862 Morrill Act, 1887 Hatch Act and the 1914 Smith-Lever Act. That enterprise has, for over 130 years, advanced scientific knowledge in all aspects of food production, and improved production capacity, profitability, and safety of the nation’s food system.

With over 71,000 farms producing 400 different commodities, California is an agricultural behemoth and the sole provider of many high-demand farm products while also exporting roughly a third of its agricultural production each year. Beyond on-farm production, California’s working landscapes include farmland, ranches, forests, wetlands, mines, water bodies and other natural resource lands, both private and public, that are vital sources of ecosystem services. These services are ways that the natural world provides biological necessities, such as clean water, nutritious food, and a livable climate, as well as indirect economic benefits, such as jobs and revenue created along food value chains. More broadly, they encompass intangible goods that contribute to human well-being, such as recreation, aesthetic inspiration, and cultural connection.

Ensuring that those ecosystem services are functioning and remain available to utilize is an ever-growing challenge. There can be no doubt that extreme climate events are changing California’s landscape – fires, floods, drought, more invasive pests are already affecting agriculture. For example, unseasonably warm weather now causes many fruit and nut trees to bloom before the last frost, causing great economic losses. In the coming decades, the changing climate is likely to further decrease the supply of water, increase the risk of wildfires, and threaten coastal development and ecosystems.

To combat such future perils, we must harness the ability of our agricultural and other working landscapes to adapt, to mitigate and where possible, to become a solution to climate change. According to the National Academy of Sciences, U.S. soils and forests have the potential to sequester about 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Emerging markets for carbon credits and government incentive programs could generate tens of billions of dollars per year in new investment for working farm and forest lands within the next several years.

Within this framework, USDA programs are critical to our efforts to support carbon sequestration, improved water management, healthy soils, forest restoration, hazardous fuels management, and wood products innovation, among other provisions that support natural climate solutions. USDA’s new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities is a great example of how targeted funding for pilot projects can create market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices.

As we pursue those climate-smart practices, it is critical that we make full use of existing programs and leverage collaborations among them wherever possible. Supporting partnerships between government agencies with academia and the private sector will enable production of multiple benefits from various actions. As part of this we need to utilize voluntary, market and incentive-based programs to the greatest extent possible and maintain a focus on science-based outcomes. In many situations, transformative innovation is needed – moving beyond just improving existing methods and processes to totally re-thinking how our systems are designed to deliver policy and programs.

UC ANR supports California farmers and ranchers to be resilient to extreme weather events with data-driven tools, methods, and technologies. For example, we are developing drought, heat, and pest-tolerant crop varieties that allow farmers to remain economically viable while also being resilient to extreme weather. Finding new crops suitable for California soils and ecosystems not only improves the productivity of the farm but can have co-benefits such as improving water-holding capacity of the soil, increasing native pollinator habitat, and boosting local economies by increasing value-added products.

We are also pushing our research system to expand collaborative efforts between experts in soil sciences, plant pathology, biochemistry, and other sciences with technology experts in robotics, sensors, artificial intelligence, materials, supply chain logistics, and energy systems to solve today’s complex problems in agriculture. Much like the biomedical revolution, it is the integration of multiple disciplines into a single project that can lead to transformative innovation that improves productivity, food safety, and ecosystem services while also giving rise to new businesses. Great examples of such transdisciplinary research and development include:

  • An initiative to place solar panels over irrigation canals to reduce evaporation of precious irrigation water supplies for farmers while also producing electricity.
  • Implementing healthy soil practices, like cover crops and no-till, to enhance capture of rain and improve groundwater recharge.
  • Programs for farmers to install dairy digesters to convert potentially harmful greenhouse gases into valuable biofuels.

To develop the science, new technologies and better farming practices that are desperately needed, increased funding for agriculture and food-related research and extension is necessary as are new investment in agricultural research facilities. Public funding for agricultural research in the U.S. has declined in real dollars over the past few decades while deferred maintenance of research facilities greatly hampers scientists’ work. Greater investments will help ensure farmers and ranchers have access to the scientifically rigorous tools and information they need to build climate resilience, mitigate environmental impacts, and increase the productivity of their land.

Other exciting opportunities can be found in forest health efforts that convert excessive fuel loads – biomass – into valuable bioproducts while reducing risk from catastrophic wildfires. California’s wildfire crisis continued its destructive march in 2020, each year worse than the one before. Working closely with regional economic development organizations and our California Economic Summit partners, UC ANR is a key partner in developing and implementing recommendations to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risk, incentivize innovation in new and innovative wood products industries and build capacity for manufacturing to enhance forest and environmental health and resilient rural communities. Examples of this work include:

  • Organizing controlled burn associations with local communities and other forest treatment practices such as a software program, Match.Graze, that improves use of grazing.
  • Partnering with the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and the southern California commercial ports to convert biomass into hydrogen and other liquid biofuels to replace diesel in trucks – the largest source of air pollution in that region.
  • Educating homeowners on landscaping, defensible space, and fire-wise plants to improve home-hardening, reduce risk from fire and conserve water.
  • UC Engineering research on materials science is developing new advanced wood products and data to demonstrate the multiple values of construction with such products.
  • Teaming up with community colleges to provide workforce training in forest professions.

The US needs robust funding for wildfire prevention, research, recovery, and extension. Cooperative Extension academics are lead experts in forestry and wildfire research and they provide critical resources to inform strategic fuels management, enhance community wildfire planning, and build community fire adaptation and resiliency. USDA’s Climate Hubs should be expanded so that they can regularly engage stakeholders and prioritize vital research amongst more partners. The U.S. Forest Service’s work on bioproducts is extremely valuable as is their willingness to enter into long-term stewardship agreements with state and local partners.

In California, we are very excited to be working with the Governor and the state legislature to secure a $185 million investment in UC to build new capacity in climate-focused research, innovation, and workforce development. For example, with this funding we would establish Regional Workforce Hubs that will provide on-the-job training opportunities for university and community college students as well as well as leverage the professional learning and career certification infrastructure of the UC Extension programs to offer a portfolio of training opportunities, tools, and resources for college-prep and non-degree seeking individuals.

Just as these programs allow us to implement climate smart agriculture and healthy forests’ initiatives, they also support regional economic development and job creation. Rural Development, the Agricultural Marketing Service and many other USDA programs are important partners as we build climate solutions through more efficient regional food systems, improved supply chains, workforce training, manufacturing of BioPreferred products, and food security initiatives.

If we are to promote resilience and help rural economies better adapt to climate change, we need to harness all programs throughout the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means having senior USDA leadership coordinating climate issues across the entire agency and robustly serving as USDA’s climate representative at all interagency climate-related meetings. For example, USDA must collaborate with federal entities like the Federal Communications Commission to support improvements to broadband access, which is critical for climate-smart precision technologies and rural economies. Similarly, just as USDA has partnered with the National Science Foundation on research initiatives and jointly funding competitive grants, it needs to build closer partnerships with programs like Commerce’s Economic Development Agency and Treasury’s Community Financial Development Institutions to ensure that access to capital, effective economic development planning and infrastructure investments are targeted appropriately and delivered well.

One important way to help ensure wise distribution of program dollars to give the current definition of “rural” serious examination and re-engineering; as it stands now, far too many communities are improperly denied USDA resources due to the antiquated definitions of rural and metropolitan. Strongly encouraging more cross-agency proposals throughout USDA and enhanced support for public-private partnerships would remove barriers and hurdles for industry and communities alike.

The current mix of federal and state capacity funds is generally leveraged many-fold by federal competitive grants, grants from private industry, and other types of unrestricted gifts and awards to faculty conducting research at the nation’s land-grant universities. Competitive funding processes can elicit new ideas and speed up certain research projects; however, they also encourage a shift from programmatic research towards shorter-term project research. Failure to invest in a well-balanced mix of capacity and competitive funds for food and agriculture research could have very negative consequences for decades to come – consequences that would take significant time to reverse.

It takes at least seven to 15 years of research and development to develop a new crop variety – longer for trees/vines. Deploying and/or adapting new agricultural technologies can be even longer. For example, when UC Davis engineer, Coby Lorenzen, designed a machine to automate the harvest of tomatoes in the 1960s, it also required agronomist, Jack Hanna, to develop a less-delicate variety of tomato that ripened uniformly and could be easily plucked from the plant, essential qualities that made machine harvesting feasible. Federal funding that recognizes these realities as well as improvements in technology transfer and support for commercialization is vital.

Faculty and staff at land-grant universities across the nation recognize that their work takes place on behalf of a greater good, a broader goal, and a common vision that is much bigger than their individual achievements. Members of this House Committee on Agriculture can be confident that every dollar of federal investment authorized by the Farm Bill and expended at land-grant universities is guaranteed to be leveraged further, and to spawn innovation and discovery that will be translated into solutions to improve the lives of U.S. citizens. I thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony.

2022-03-17T10:44:04-07:00March 17th, 2022|
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