New Report Finds Over 35,000 Local Jobs Rely on Westlands Water District Agricultural Production

Water Restrictions Have Wide Reaching, Negative Impacts on Farms, Local Communities, and the Nation

By Westlands Water District

A new analysis highlights the significant, positive economic impact that agricultural production within the Westlands Water District has on the State of California and the country as a whole. The Economic Impact of Westlands Water District (Study), conducted by Michael A. Shires, Ph.D., outlines the far-reaching consequences of inadequate and unreliable water supplies on economies and communities.

The Study analyzes the economic impacts of the agricultural activities occurring within Westlands Water District. The Study also investigates how challenges such as water supply restrictions, climate change, inflation, supply chain disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic can seriously threaten the quantity and quality of food available to the people of this nation. Taken together, these challenges underscore the important role that California’s agricultural production plays in national security and why protecting America’s domestic food production is essential.

According to the Study, on an annual basis, agricultural production within Westlands Water District is responsible for generating over $4.7 billion in economic activity and supporting over 35,000 jobs across the regional economy. These jobs produce the wages, tax revenue, and consumer spending that drive economic activity throughout the state.

“The farms within Westlands Water District are significant suppliers of fresh produce and other agricultural products both to the nation and the world. Activities in Westlands directly and indirectly employ and support tens of thousands of households and creates billions of dollars of economic value,” said Dr. Shires. “While there are a range of complex, modern policy and economic crises that may influence the level of that production, there is no real domestic alternative for production of these critical agricultural products.”

The farms in Westlands and the associated share of the country’s food supply, are at risk. While farms in Westlands continue to produce billions in economic activity, support communities in the San Joaquin Valley, and employ thousands of farmworkers and growers, we recognize that this production – and the livelihoods of those behind it – is highly dependent on water availability,” said Tom Birmingham, General Manager of the Westlands Water District.

When farmers do not have adequate water supplies, they are forced to make difficult decisions. They fallow otherwise highly productive land, and, in some instances, abandon planted acres because they lack water to continue irrigating their fields. Those decisions have widespread impacts. The Study found a “striking” correlation between “poverty levels in [Fresno and Kings] counties…with the shortfalls in water deliveries from the [Central Valley Project] to the Westlands Water District.” Poverty rates in these two counties are directly related to the water supply available to farmers in the District – when the District receives little to no water, more people in those counties suffer from poverty, and when the District receives a higher water allocation, the counties’ economic stability improves.

Further, with no domestic alternative for the agricultural contributions of the region, the economic impacts and negative implications of an inadequate water supply extend well beyond the local community. “At a time where instability around the globe has had significant impacts on the entire continent’s access to core crops like wheat, corn, and sunflower oil – on top of rising inflation and fuel costs – protecting the Nation’s domestic agricultural production capacity is fundamental to the security of the United States,” said Tom Birmingham.

“The bottom line is that much of the food in your pantry, refrigerator, and on your dinner table continues to be available because farms in California continue to provide some 80 percent of the nation’s supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. If this domestic production is curtailed, it will make the nation dependent on foreign sources which are, in turn, much more subject to supply chain, transportation, and quality problems,” Dr. Shires said. “If water supplies continue to be uncertain and volatile, there will be irreparable harm to already disadvantaged communities in the region and the acreage available to continue growing this produce will be significantly constrained.”

To read the entire report, visit: wwd.ca.gov/news-and-reports/economic-impact/

2022-03-16T10:50:59-07:00March 16th, 2022|

Congressman Valadao Secures Funding to Improve Central Valley Communities in Annual Government Funding Bill

On Wednesday, March 9, Congressman David G. Valadao voted in support of the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Package. H.R. 2471 provides $1.5 trillion in discretionary resources across the 12 Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bills. Congressman Valadao, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, secured several wins for the Central Valley in the annual spending package.

“I came to Congress to deliver results for the Central Valley, and I’m proud that my work on this year’s annual spending bill includes direct funding for local law enforcement agencies, infrastructure projects, clean water for our communities, and Lemoore Naval Air Station,” said Congressman Valadao. “Importantly, this bill includes funding for WIIN Act water storage projects, increases national security spending, funds our police, and secures funding to address the ongoing border crisis. This is by no means a perfect bill, but it is the result of bipartisan cooperation to keep our government running and provide critical support for our communities.”

Congressman Valadao submitted several community project funding requests. The following were included in the final bill:

  • $3 million to rehabilitate 10 miles of the Avenue 95/96 Farm to Market Corridor between Terra Bella and Pixley within Tulare County to improve goods movement, shorten travel times, and improve air quality.
  • $1 million in the Department of Justice for Lemoore Police Dispatch Center project to improve response times to emergency calls and increase overall safety and security.
  • $3 million to the Community Action Partnership of Kern for the Kern Food Bank Expansion to better respond to food insecurity and provide increased support and assistance to some of the poorest communities in Kern County.
  • $3.04 million for Earlimart Public Utility District to install a new sanitary sewer line that would increase wastewater collection capacity and a well treatment improvement project to provide safer and improved drinking water to Earlimart.
  • $413,000 in the Department of Justice for Kings County Deputy Sheriffs’ Body Camera project to fund the purchase and deployment of body-worn cameras for 200 officers.
  • $3 million for Mt. Whitney Avenue Complete Streets to provide safe, walkable infrastructure by reconstructing the road and repairing curbs, gutters, sidewalks and storm drains.

Congressman Valadao was proud to back the following initiatives that were included in the bill:

  • Championing rural communities, agriculture, and water for the Central Valley:
    • $117.25 million for Bureau of Reclamation WIIN Act water storage projects.
    • Continues funding for NIFA and provides an additional $1 million for ARS to prioritize broad spectrum research for soil fumigant alternatives.
    • Language to exclude incarcerated persons from rural development populations.
    • $1.25 billion in Section 502 Direct, Single Family Housing Loans within the Rural Housing Service.
    • $28 million in Section 514 Farm Labor Housing loans under the Rural Housing Service.
    • $1.4 billion is provided for Rural Water and Wastewater Direct Loans, $50 million in guaranteed Water and Wastewater Loans, and $653 million for loan subsidies and grants within the Rural Utilities Service.
    • $490 million is provided for Water and Waste Disposal Grants, an increase of $27 million, within the Rural Utilities Service.
  • Supporting our military, law enforcement, and keeping communities safe:
    • $75.07 million for Lemoore Naval Air Station to complete Hangar 6 Phase 2, which will allow NAS Lemoore to support the mission requirements for the F-35.
    • $413,000 in the Department of Justice for a Kings County, California, Deputy Sheriffs’ Body Camera project.
    • $512 million for Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) programs, including $246 million for COPS Hiring grants.
    • $674.5 million for the Department of Justice Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program.
    • $276 million is provided for border technology, including mobile, autonomous surveillance technology, cross‐border tunnel threats, and geospatial capabilities.
    • $296.6 million of the Office of National Drug Control Policy High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program.
  • Supporting education and Central Valley families:
    • $11.03 billion for Head Start in the Administration for Children and Families.
    • $3 million for Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Quality funding in the Administration for Children and Families.
    • $5,835 for the maximum Pell grant award in the Department of Education.
    • $1.14 billion for the TRIO program in the Department of Education.

$14 million is provided for Education Grants for Hispanic Serving Institutions, an increase of $2.5 million

2022-03-10T09:48:49-08:00March 10th, 2022|

Grape Experts Give Workshops on Drought Preparedness, Red Blotch

By UCANR

Grapevine Drought Preparedness Workshop

Grape growers and other industry members interested in grape production and water management in vineyards are invited to UC Cooperative Extension’s Grapevine Drought Preparedness Workshops.

The workshops will be held in person on Friday, March 4, in San Luis Obispo and Friday, April 1, in Hopland.

Registration is $50 and includes a full day of live instruction from UC Cooperative Extension viticulture and grapevine experts. Lunch will be provided.

For more information and to register, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/ShortCourse17.

UC Davis Grapevine Red Blotch Disease Symposium

On Wednesday, March 16, UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology will host a Grapevine Red Blotch Disease Symposium 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Red blotch disease in grapevines, which can dramatically reduce the value of winegrapes, harms plants by inhibiting photosynthesis in the leaves. Infected vines are unable to conduct water effectively, leaving sugar that is created by photosynthesis stuck in the leaves instead of in the berries.

This event will be presented both in person at the UC Davis Conference Center and livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.

Presentations will cover the role of treehoppers, treatments, mitigation strategies, the impact of the disease on the composition of wine, and more.

Registration is $250 for the in-person symposium at UC Davis and $150 for the livestream. An application for 3.5 CCE units has been submitted to California Department of Pesticide Regulation and is pending approval.

To see the agenda and to register, visit https://wineserver.ucdavis.edu/events/uc-davis-grapevine-red-blotch-disease-symposium.

2022-02-24T09:14:03-08:00February 24th, 2022|

Westlands Water District Statement on Initial CVP Water Allocation

Today the Bureau of Reclamation announced an initial allocation of 0% for Westlands Water District and other south-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) irrigation contractors. This is the fourth time in the last decade the south-of-Delta irrigation contractors have received a 0% allocation. Despite significant precipitation in the fall and early winter, the 2021-22 water year is likely to be classified as dry. January and February were exceptionally dry. The District is disappointed with the allocation but is aware that hydrologic conditions, including low CVP reservoir storage conditions at the beginning of the water year and record low precipitation in January and February, and Reclamation’s obligation to meet Delta water quality and outflow standards imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board, prevent Reclamation from making water available under the District’s contract.

Within Westlands, the continued drought conditions in 2021 resulted in over 200,000 acres fallowed, countless lost jobs, and thousands of acres of food unharvested. The circumstances in 2021 and those facing us in 2022 demonstrate the need invest in infrastructure to better manage the State’s water resources, which includes increased capacity to capture water when its available for transport and use in times of drought. California needs new storage, both surface and groundwater, and improved conveyance facilities. The state must also establish effective water policies that enable adaptive management of the system to maximize the beneficial uses of water throughout the State. Despite the current lack of precipitation, the District is focusing on comprehensive approaches to ensure a sustainable water future.

In spite of the current drought, the District continues to plan, pursue, support, and implement regional and local projects to ensure a sustainable water future for the families that live and work in and around the District. And, as always, the District will look to the coming months with the hope of improved precipitation and an increased allocation.

2022-02-23T12:21:51-08:00February 23rd, 2022|

Congressman Valadao Statement on Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project Initial 2022 Water Allocation

Today, Congressman David G. Valadao released the following statement in response to the Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) initial 2022 water allocation announcement for Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors. Reclamation announced an initial allocation of 0% for South-of-Delta agricultural repayment and water service contractors. They also announced an initial allocation for Municipal and Industrial repayment and water service contractors of only 25% of their historic use.

“This unacceptably low water allocation is a devastating blow to small community agricultural producers throughout the Central Valley. The livelihoods of these people and our global food supply depend on the industry,” said Congressman Valadao. “The Central Valley farming community has endured drought conditions, burdensome regulations, and below adequate water allocations for years. This community is resilient, but the fact remains that our farms will not survive without a reliable water supply for South-of-Delta agriculture. This dire situation emphasizes the need for more storage capacity so we can capture water when we have surplus. California’s water supply allocations must reflect the needs of these farmers and producers so they can continue providing food for the nation. This is alarming and unwelcome news to communities that have continued to suffer from issues like the ongoing supply chain crisis.”

Central Valley agriculture contractors rely on meaningful allocations from Reclamation for their yearly planning. Central Valley farmers and communities have endured disproportionately low water allocations for many years, with contractors receiving well below their contracted supply even during wet years. As a lifelong dairy farmer, Congressman Valadao has experienced firsthand the challenges and frustrations surrounding this issue. He has consistently called for CVP allocations to reflect the needs of the agriculture community, the backbone of the Central Valley economy. Read more on Congressman Valadao’s work on California water issues here.

2022-02-23T11:38:17-08:00February 23rd, 2022|

Almond Board of California Announces 2022 Elections

By Almond Board of California

Elections for the Almond Board of California (ABC) Board of Directors have kicked off for the 2022-2023 crop year with the call to all candidates to file their petitions or declarations of candidacy by April 1, 2022.

There are two independent grower positions and one independent handler position on the ABC Board of Directors to be decided in voting that starts April 21 and ends May 26. Alternate seats for those spots are also open.

To be considered for an independent grower or alternate seat, candidates must be a grower and must submit a petition signed by at least 15 independent almond growers (as verified by ABC). Independent handler and alternate candidates must declare their intention in writing to ABC.

All petitions and declarations must state the position for which the candidate is running and be filed by mail with ABC at 1150 9th St., Suite 1500, Modesto, CA 95354. The deadline for all filings is April 1. Potential candidates who’d like more information can contact Toni Arellano at tarellano@almondboard.com.

“The ABC Board of Directors is such an important and vital part of our industry,” said ABC president and CEO Richard Waycott. “It guides the work of the Almond Board and is key to overseeing the welfare of the industry and of more than 7,600 growers and 100 handlers.”

The ABC board sets policy and recommends budgets in major areas, including marketing, production research, public relations and advertising, nutrition research, statistical reporting, quality control and food safety.

Getting involved provides an opportunity to help shape the future of the almond industry and to help guide ABC in its mission to promote California almonds to domestic and international audiences through marketing efforts, funding and promoting studies about almonds’ health benefits, and ensuring best-of-class agricultural practices and food safety.

ABC encourages eligible women, minorities and people with disabilities to consider running for a position on the Board of Directors to reflect the diversity of the industry it serves.

2022-02-18T08:33:15-08:00February 18th, 2022|

Real California Milk Spotlights Foodservice Innovation With 2022 Events For Professional Chefs

4th Annual Pizza Competition, CADairy2Go and Cal-Mex Invitational Events Showcase On-Trend Recipes and Techniques Using Real California Cheese and Dairy Products

By California Milk Advisory Board

The Foodservice Division of the California Milk Advisory Board today announced the kickoff date for the 4th Annual Real California Pizza Contest, the return of the CADairy2Go competition and the rollout of a new culinary event focusing on Cal-Mex to round out its foodservice events for 2022.

The 4th annual Real California Pizza Contest, a search for the best pizza recipes using cow’s milk cheeses from California, gets underway on March 1st. Professional chefs and pizzaiolos from throughout the U.S, can enter their innovative recipes from March 1 through April 24, 2022, for a chance to make it to the bake-off final on June 22, 2022, in Napa, Calif. and compete for up to $25,000 in prize money.

The CADairy2Go Invitational is inspired by chefs and foodservice operators who made quick, creative pivots to adjust their menus for the takeout and delivery model during the disruption caused by the pandemic. Now in its 2nd year, the event will feature culinary professionals representing a variety of foodservice backgrounds, such as major restaurant chains, independent restaurants, ghost kitchens and food trucks who will gather in October to compete for a chance at up to $5,000 for their innovative To-Go recipes.

The inaugural Cal-Mex Invitational, scheduled for August, captures creations from chefs who specialize in the culinary and flavor fusion of California and Mexican cuisines.

“Cheese is at the heart of culinary innovation – from creative pizzas to flavorful to-go and fusion dishes. As the leading producer of Hispanic-style cheese and dairy products, we’re excited to add the Cal-Mex Invitational to our foodservice outreach program and to see what the chef’s develop,”

said Mike Gallagher, Business and Market Development Consultant for the CMAB. “These competitions offer a tremendous opportunity to partner with culinary professionals to spotlight their creativity using our sustainably sourced Real California dairy products.” 

California is a reliable, consistent source of sustainable dairy products used by chefs throughout the world. As the nation’s largest dairy state, California boasts an impressive lineup of award-winning cheesemakers and dairy processors, that are helping to drive dining innovation.

California leads the nation in milk production and is responsible for producing more butter, ice cream and nonfat dry milk than any other state. The state is the second-largest producer of cheese and yogurt. California milk and dairy foods can be identified by the Real California Milk seal, which certifies they are made with milk from the state’s dairy farm families.

2022-02-16T08:56:00-08:00February 16th, 2022|

Western Ag Processors Association’s Priscilla Rodriguez Completes Prestigious Ag Leadership Program

By Western Agricultural Processors Association

A journey began on October 10th, 2019 that lasted for more than 27 months, and finally came to a conclusion for the Association’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, Priscilla Rodriguez, on February 5, 2022.

This journey covered a span of more than 27 months, and included meetings that covered more than 125 days, not including travel and study time. It included trips to Atlanta, GA, and Washington, DC, as well as Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. Rodriguez was one of 24 members of the historic Class 50 of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation program who completed their program where it began at California State University – Fresno on February 5th.

Disrupted by the Covid Pandemic, but not deterred, Class 50 weathered the storm to complete their program this past month. Rodriguez had the distinct honor addressing the commencement for Class 50 by giving the opening speech. In her comments, she began by stating “We started this program as strangers, quickly became friends and ultimately family. The bonds and friendships created through the program will continue on for years to come. We may all have different stories, but one thing is true for all of us. This program made a lasting impact through the books we read, people we met and the unforgettable experiences we lived.” She ended her opening remarks by encouraging her classmates “As we move forward in our lives, I challenge us to continue to be open minded, inquisitive, empathetic, passionate, resilient, and grateful, and leave your impact on your families, communities, ag industry, and the world.”

Truly words to live by, not just for her colleagues, but for all of us.

Association President/CEO Roger Isom remarked after the event, “Priscilla was made for the CALF program and the CALF program was made for her. The Association is incredibly proud of her for this accomplishment and her speech is indicative of her growth, and just the type of leader she has started to become.  The Association and the agricultural industry are lucky to have her.”

2022-02-15T09:21:55-08:00February 15th, 2022|

Applications Available for California Ag Leadership Program’s Class 52

By California Agricultural Leadership Foundation 

Applications are now being accepted for Class 52 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program (CALP). Applicants should be mid-career growers, farmers, ranchers and/or individuals working in other areas of California’s diverse agriculture industry.

The Ag Leadership Program, operated by the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF), is considered to be one of the premier leadership development experiences in the United States. More than 1,300 men and women have participated in the program and are influential leaders and active volunteers in agriculture, communities, government, business and other areas.

“As we open the application process for Class 52, we are committed to selecting a group of fellows who represent California’s large and very diverse agriculture industry,” said CALF President and CEO Dwight Ferguson. “Our unique curriculum, personalized coaching and a dedicated focus on lifelong learning enables us to produce leaders who benefit their communities, their companies and California agriculture as a whole.”

The 17-month fellowship focuses on mid-career professionals who have a high capacity to lead, a passion for California agriculture and an interest in self-growth and seeing their communities thrive. The program includes approximately 55 days of formal program activities. Four partner universities—Fresno State, UC Davis, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona—deliver comprehensive, diverse and high-impact curriculum designed to improve leadership skills. As a valuable extension to the monthly seminars, fellows participate in national and international travel seminars and receive individualized leadership development coaching.

CALF invests more than $50,000 per fellow to participate in the Ag Leadership Program. The costs are underwritten by individual and industry donations. Candidates are strongly encouraged to talk with Ag Leadership alumni about the program and to attend an informational event. All events will adhere to state and local guidelines for safety and health. 

Detailed program information and the phase one application are available online at www.agleaders.org/apply. Phase one of the three-phrase application process is due no later than April 27, 2022. Individuals are encouraged to complete the application as soon as possible.

2022-02-14T15:30:22-08:00February 14th, 2022|

Special Education Students Cultivate Farm Skills at South Coast REC

Partnership with Esperanza Education Center provides blueprint for other adult transition programs

By UCANR

For students at Esperanza Education Center, an adult transition program serving students with disabilities in south Orange County, there was something deeply satisfying about handpicking 2,000 pounds of avocados.

“There’s a tangible, visual element where you’re like, ‘Wow, I did that – I did it, I can see it, I can feel it in my bones and my muscles,’” said Ray Bueche, principal of the school in Mission Viejo, within the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. “There’s a real sense of accomplishment that you’re seeing in some of these students.”

Ranging in age from 18 to 22, the students are in an adult education program that helps advance their independent living skills and prepare them for meaningful work and careers. They are able to experience the thrill of the harvest – and a variety of other farming activities – through the school’s innovative partnership with UC South Coast Research and Extension Center, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources facility that supports researchers and delivers outreach and education programs.

Given UC ANR’s emphasis on workforce development, Jason Suppes, a community education specialist at South Coast REC, contacted Bueche in 2019 about a potential collaboration. While Esperanza has many partnerships with retail stores and nonprofits that give students invaluable work experiences, none of them offer the farm environment that South Coast REC could provide.

“Part of developing [our students] is getting a wide range of opportunities in a variety of vocational areas,” Bueche explained. “Agriculture is one that’s very hard for us to find.”

Program ‘wildly successful’ from beginning

Unlike other job sites that bring the students in less frequently, South Coast REC committed to hosting the young people every week for three hours (COVID-19 measures permitting), with Suppes and colleague Tammy Majcherek leading them in planting, weeding, maintenance, harvesting and more.

“We can provide opportunities for students to learn skills that could help them potentially find employment in a garden center, in a nursery, at landscapers,” Suppes said. “The program was wildly successful out of the gate.”

Mike Seyler, an Esperanza teacher who accompanies the students to South Coast REC, has seen firsthand the positive impacts of the partnership. He said one student – who at first balked at the idea of being outside, getting dirty and performing physical labor – eventually grew to like the work and took great pride in pulling carrots from the ground and sharing them with his family.

“To physically actually ‘see’ the work you did – they don’t always get to do that,” Seyler said. “It was cool to see someone, who didn’t necessarily like being outdoors, really enjoy it now.”

The change of pace – and place – was especially beneficial for one young woman at Esperanza. Bueche said the nature of the work and the setting helped the student grow socially, as she relished the teamwork and camaraderie needed to accomplish their goals on the farm.

“We really saw a different person come out through her experiences there – she felt more self-confident; she was more personable with people; she was talking more,” said Bueche, who added that she has leveraged the skills she gained into a paid work-based learning experience with a local retailer.

Students bring produce to school, community

All students benefit from Esperanza’s partnership with South Coast REC, as surplus produce from the center’s fields is donated to make healthy school lunches. In addition, students use REC-grown fruits and vegetables at their monthly pop-up restaurant, where they hone skills in preparing and serving a three-course meal.

Their peers, who harvested the produce, derive immense satisfaction from seeing the fruits of their labor go directly to the school.

“They’re able to enjoy eating the stuff that they’re working for,” Seyler said. “And then they see everyone else enjoying it, and I think that really translates well for these guys.”

The students also played a prominent role in an avocado sale last summer, for which they picked 2,000 pounds of produce, bagged the fruit in 10-pound bags and then distributed preorders to the public from a stand at South Coast REC. Proceeds from the event were used to purchase farm tools, shirts and other gear.

“It was an incredible success – everyone loved the avocados,” Bueche said. “The students loved it; the parents came out; community members supported it.”

Those successes illustrate the power of a strong partnership; the South Coast REC team, in fact, received the school’s “Community Partner of the Year” Award for 2020-21, for persevering through the pandemic to deliver the beneficial programs for students.

Over the last two years, Suppes and Bueche – through a lot of creativity and some trial and error – have sketched a roadmap for growing productive relationships between similar organizations and adult transition programs. And after presenting those results to colleagues, other local school districts and nonprofits such as Goodwill and My Day Counts have contacted South Coast REC to provide similar experiences for community members.

2022-02-08T08:40:05-08:00February 8th, 2022|
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