California Dairy Research Foundation Awarded $85 Million from USDA for Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Project

By Jennifer Giambroni, California Milk Advisory Board

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing up to $2.8 billion in projects selected under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity. Applicants submitted more than 450 project proposals; 70 were selected for funding.

The California Dairy Research Foundation, in partnership with more than 20 other dairy organizations, was among the recipients. CDRF’s grant partners include California governmental organizations, corporations and cooperatives, universities, producer organizations, environmental organizations, and others. The USDA has established an estimated funding ceiling of $85 million for this project to advance climate-smart dairy farming; the final award will be granted in the coming months.

“CDRF is extremely pleased to have received this grant on behalf of the entire collaborative team. The project brings together organizations throughout the value chain to the benefit of our hard-working dairy producers and the environment. We look forward to working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Milk Advisory Board, Dairy Cares, the universities and others to implement this advanced climate-smart ag project in California’s dairy industry,” said CDRF’s Executive Director Denise Mullinax.

Over the next five years, the project, “Partnering to Invest in and Build Markets for California’s Climate-Smart Dairy Producers,” will work to build climate-smart dairy markets and provide financial incentives for California dairy producers to adopt climate-smart manure management practices to reduce both methane emissions and nitrogen surplus and will leverage matching funding from non-federal sources.

“This funding represents the next critical installment and chapter in California’s world-leading dairy methane reduction efforts,” said Michael Boccadoro, Executive Director of Dairy Cares. “On-farm projects will be designed to not only reduce methane but will significantly improve water quality outcomes, ensuring broad benefits for our rural farm communities.

Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities is part of USDA’s broader strategy to position agriculture and forestry as leaders in climate change mitigation through voluntary, incentive-based, market-driven approaches.

“Dairy families in California continue to step up to ensure the agriculture sector contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “The partnership between the State and dairy families has resulted in significant methane emission reductions making California a national and international leader in supporting on-farm livestock methane reductions using climate-smart agricultural management approaches and other environmental benefits, including improved water quality from dairy farms”.

Other partners supporting this project are California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, California Milk Advisory Board, Dairy Cares, California Dairy Campaign, California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, Milk Producers Council, National Milk Producers Federation, Sustainable Conservation, Western United Dairies, California Farm Bureau Federation, University of California, Davis, University of California, Riverside, University of California Cooperative Extension, Truterra, California Dairies, Inc., Challenge Dairy Products, Nestlé.

2022-09-21T10:17:24-07:00September 21st, 2022|

World Agricultural Robotics Expo to Launch Oct. 18 in Fresno

Robots to ease labor shortage, climate concerns

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Drought, climate change and labor scarcity are driving farmers to seek new ways of accomplishing farming tasks. Sensors enable more precise application of precious irrigation water. Robotic machinery help plant, weed, prune and harvest, even in triple-digit weather. What other problems can technology solve?

World FIRA, the leading event in Ag Robotics, will launch FIRA USA in Fresno on Oct. 18, to provide autonomous systems and robots to California and North American growers.

Jointly organized between the French association GOFAR, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Western Growers Association and the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Initiative, FIRA USA 2022 will bring together people with diverse expertise for three days of problem-solving, decision-making and planning.

  • WHAT: World FIRA (International Forum of Agricultural Robotics) to bring together representatives of the agricultural, technology and finance industries for a fresh approach to adapting to climate change and labor issues.
  • WHO: Specialty crop growers, robot manufacturers, scientists, technologists, startup owners and investors
  • WHEN: From Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 8 a.m. to Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. Free registration for journalists at https://avolio.swapcard.com/FIRAUSA22/registrations/Start.
  • WHERE: Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center, 848 M St, Fresno, CA 93721
  • VISUALS: Robots performing tasks such as planting, weeding and harvesting in the field Oct. 20 at 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • SPEAKERS: Karen Ross, Secretary of the CDFA; Ben Alfi, Co-Founder of Blue White Robotics; Erez Fait, Co-founder of Agrinoz; Walt Duflock, Vice President of Vice President of Western Growers; Mark Borman, President of Taylor Farms California; Aubrey Bettencourt, CEO of Almond Alliance; Erez Fait, Chairman and Co-founder of Agrinoze; and more. See full list: https://bit.ly/3B8hGT6

The three-day event will feature ample opportunities to interview panelists, growers, robotics manufacturers and other participants. To learn more about FIRA USA , visit www.fira-agtech.com/event/fira-usa.

2022-09-21T10:10:50-07:00September 21st, 2022|

San Joaquin Valley Farm and Food Project Awarded $16 Million in Federal Funds

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Local food marketing, business and market support for small-scale farmers and food producers, new agricultural products and technology development are parts of a University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources project designed to boost jobs and farm resiliency in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation Coalition, or F3, received a $65.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Of that award, about $16 million is designated for the Local Farm and Food Innovation initiative led by UC ANR. With the addition of matching share of cost contributions, the total budget for UC ANR’s project is over $20.5 million.

“As a key part of the broader F3 project, this Local Farm and Food Innovation initiative is going to be transformative,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “By strengthening the parts of the food system to better support each other and drive innovation across the region, it’s going to deliver many environmental and economic benefits to Californians.”

Gabriel Youtsey is chief innovation officer for The VINE, a UC ANR initiative that helps new technology make it to market and businesses get off the ground by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and resources, and aligning university and startup technology development with industry needs.

“The Local Farm and Food Innovation initiative is a win for inclusive innovation in agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley and a critical part of the F3 project,” said Youtsey. “It provides a broad set of training and support resources and expertise to help farms, food producers and vendors of all sizes to grow their businesses profitably and sustainably, in alignment with the economic goals of the region.”

To ensure technology solutions address the needs of small-scale farmers, food business owners and local communities, they will be invited to participate in directing the innovation activities, Youtsey said.

“With our deep roots in the San Joaquin Valley, UC Cooperative Extension is uniquely positioned to draw expertise from other parts of UC and expand its efforts in helping farmers and food entrepreneurs realize enduring prosperity and community resilience,” Humiston said. “UC ANR experts are already helping immigrants and other underserved communities adapt to climate change, add flexibility to supply chains and grow grassroots innovations. We are excited the federal government is investing in making food systems more equitable and profitable, and the solutions more scalable.”

To assist small-scale farmers in complying with new regulations and production challenges, adapting to climate change and finding new markets for their produce, UC ANR is convening the Small Farms Technology and Innovation Alliance. They are collaborating with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and other nonprofit organizations to provide translation services, training and marketing assistance to farmers and food producers.

Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor for Fresno and Tulare counties, and Houston Wilson, UC Organic Agriculture Institute director and UC Cooperative Extension tree crops entomology specialist based at UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, are leading outreach and engagement with small-scale and organic farmers.

“While we certainly need to create new tools to address the unique challenges of organic agriculture, it is critical that farmers and other end-users be involved from start to finish,” said Wilson. “The development of appropriate technology requires communication across a wide range of stakeholders.”

To make new technology more accessible for small farmers and food producers, UC ANR will create a new team to test and demonstrate technology that is developed as part of F3 and by startups around the world. To promote adoption, the team will create a tool lending library so farmers can borrow and try out equipment and get training to use it.

“This project will expand on current efforts to support small-scale farmers with access to equipment, new markets and technical support,” said Dahlquist-Willard. “Our team is committed to meaningful engagement of farmers and San Joaquin Valley communities in the development of new tools and resources for the benefit of the region.”

For local food entrepreneurs and vendors, UC ANR will launch the Cultiva La Salud Kitchen and Food Academy and the Saint Rest Food Entrepreneurship Program, which will provide a kitchen, equipment and training. These will create new jobs and, over time, provide a marketplace to sell those products. The Local Food Marketing Assistance Program will promote purchases of locally grown produce and food products.

The Fresno-Merced project was one of 21 projects funded of the 529 proposed for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge intended to uplift underserved communities.

2022-09-16T09:02:43-07:00September 16th, 2022|

Wildfire Poses Greater Threat to Cannabis Than Other California Crops

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Wildfires are an increasing threat to people’s lives, property and livelihoods, especially in rural California communities. Cannabis, one of California’s newer and more lucrative commercial crops, may be at a higher risk of loss from wildfire because it is mostly confined to being grown in rural areas, according to new research by scientists in the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.

“Our findings affirm that cannabis agriculture is geographically more threatened by wildfire than any other agricultural crop in California,” said Christopher Dillis, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center. “This is an issue in almost all major cannabis-producing counties, not only those in Northern California.”

With licensing to grow commercially in the state only since 2018, the $3 billion cannabis industry is already one of California’s top five grossing agricultural commodities (though not included in the California Agricultural Production Statistics because USDA doesn’t recognize cannabis as an agricultural crop). In 2020, California tax revenues from legal cannabis sales amounted to over $780 million.

To assess the risk of cannabis crops being burned by wildfire, the researchers analyzed licensed cannabis farms in 11 cannabis-producing counties. Dillis and his colleagues overlaid CAL FIRE maps of fire hazard severity zones, historic wildfire perimeters and areas likely to experience increased fire activity in the future with the locations of cannabis farms and other crops in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Monterey, Nevada, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Trinity and Yolo counties. Legal cannabis cultivation is still prohibited in most other parts of the state.

CAL FIRE classifies fire hazard based on vegetation, topography, climate, crown fire potential, ember production and movement and fire history.

The researchers found cannabis fields were located in “high” and “very high” fire hazard zones and closer to wildfire perimeters more than any other crop. About 36% of the cannabis cultivation area, or 986 farms, were in high fire hazard zones and 24%, or 788 farms, were in very high fire hazard zones. Grapes had the next largest percentage of acreage in high (8.8%) or very high fire hazard zones (2.9%), followed by pasture at 4.3% and 1.7%, respectively.

“This work only serves as a starting point for understanding how vulnerable cannabis farms may be to wildfire, as this analysis did not include indirect impacts, such as smoke and ash damage, which may be far-reaching,” Dillis said. “However, we can confidently say that the places where cannabis continues to be grown are at greater risk now, and likely in the future as well.”

For cannabis farms already established in high-risk areas, the authors recommend fire-safety programs to reduce the impacts of wildfire to crops and human health. They suggest traditional wildfire-risk reduction activities, such as managing vegetation and creating fire breaks, but also measures to prevent exposure of farmworkers and crops to wildfire smoke. In addition, they recommend the state pursue options for providing crop insurance to licensed cannabis farmers, which are available for most other agricultural crops through federal programs, but not cannabis.

“In light of the sector’s growing economic importance in the state, the vulnerability of cannabis to wildfire should be considered in future cannabis and rural development policies,” said co-author Ted Grantham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center.

“The legal cannabis market in California is facing substantial headwinds from both market forces and a burdensome regulatory environment,” Grantham said. “This study shows that cannabis agriculture is uniquely exposed to wildfire impacts, which presents yet another challenge for licensed cultivators in the state.”

The Cannabis Research Center is currently conducting a statewide survey of licensed cannabis cultivators to better understand the impacts of wildfire on crops, infrastructure and farmworkers. The survey is funded through a grant from California’s Department of Cannabis Control.

The study “The threat of wildfire is unique to cannabis among agricultural sectors in California” is published in Ecosphere and authored by Dillis, UC Cooperative Extension specialist Van Butsic, postdoctoral researchers Diana Moanga and Ariani Wattenberg, graduate student Phoebe Parker-Shames and Grantham.

2022-09-08T08:22:50-07:00September 8th, 2022|

CDFA Accepting Grant Applications For Pollinator Habitat Program

By CDFA

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is now accepting grant applications for the Pollinator Habitat Program administered by its Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation.

The 12-week application period opened August 31, 2022 and will close on November 23, 2022 at 5 p.m. PT.

Detailed information, including application processes and requirements, and registration links for two informational webinars to review program guidelines can be found on the program website at www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/php.

Pollinators are essential to many of California’s agricultural crops and to the vast biodiversity of the state’s natural ecosystems. The Pollinator Habitat Program’s primary objective is to support pollinators through the provision of floral resources, host plants, and other elements of suitable habitat. The program is designed to help strengthen pollinator populations and improve pollinator health. Projects funded through the PHP can be expected to have additional benefits to California’s biodiversity and agricultural production.

The program was established by the Budget Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 170, Skinner). An appropriation of $15 million to CDFA will provide grant funding for the establishment of pollinator habitats on agricultural lands throughout California.

Eligible entities can apply for up to $2 million in PHP grants to work with farmers and ranchers to install pollinator habitat on agricultural lands throughout California. Eligible entities include Resource Conservation Districts, non-profits, Tribes, and California public higher learning institutions. For more information about eligibility and a full list of eligible applicants and funded pollinator practices, visit the program website at www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/php.

Please sign up for the PHP email subscription to receive updates regarding the PHP by clicking on the following link www.cdfa.ca.gov/subscriptions/MailChimp-signup.html

2022-09-02T09:51:13-07:00September 2nd, 2022|

Electric Tractors Reduce Carbon Emissions at UC ANR Research and Extension Centers

Zero-emission tractors perform many tasks of diesel tractors, without noise or exhaust

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

The University of California, a national leader in sustainability, has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025. To reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has replaced several of its diesel-powered tractors with electric tractors at its research and extension centers.

Seven of the nine UC research and extension centers – Intermountain located in Siskiyou County, Hopland in Mendocino County, Kearney and West Side in Fresno County, Lindcove in Tulare County, Desert in Imperial County and Hansen in Ventura County – started using the Solectrac e25 in July. The researchers plan to share what they learn from using the electric tractors.

“Charging is easy, we are using a standard 110V connection, no charging station needed,” said John Bailey, director of the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center. “For faster charging, you can use a 220V connection – again, no charging station needed, just a regular receptacle – but we haven’t gone there yet.”

The electric tractor runs for about five hours, depending on the type of use and the speed, on a charge.

“We will use the electric tractor to mix the soil for planting trees in the greenhouse,” said Ashraf El-kereamy, director of UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter, which focuses on citrus research. “Also, for pulling the trailer with the fruit bins during harvest, it will be good as it does not emit any gases.”

The electric tractor is being used to move materials in the loader at UC Hopland REC. “It has worked well for this, functioning similarly to a standard diesel tractor,” said Bailey.

“We have also used it to clean our sheep barn, scraping the pens to get ready for lambing season,” Bailey said. “This involves pushing or dragging straw bedding and manure. The tractor functions well in tight spaces due to its compact size.”

Bailey learned one downside is that the front end is a little too light, making it difficult to generate enough downward pressure with the loader to effectively scrape the floor without reducing the front wheel traction.

“We are planning to add some weight to the front, a standard practice with tractors to increase traction. The tractor has the mounting to enable this so it should not be a big deal,” Bailey said. “Our operators really appreciate the lack of noise and exhaust, especially when working in the barn or in tight spaces.”

The small electric tractor is also being used in tight places at the UC Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake.

“The tractor that we obtained from the company is too small for the majority of our farm needs,” said Rob Wilson, Intermountain REC director. “We purchased a small box scraper and rototiller for the tractor and we are using it around our facility grounds. We also use it out in the field in tight spaces that are too small for our larger tractors to operate.”

“The tractor is quiet, powerful for its size and operates very similar to the diesel-powered tractors with regard to the controls, hydraulics and three-point assembly. The tractor also has a lot of torque and speed.”

Annemiek Schilder, director of UC Hansen Agricultural REC, added, “I think another advantage is that the tractors can go very slowly, which is helpful for some uses such as harvesting.”

The researchers will continue to evaluate the electric tractors throughout the year.

“Our main usage will come in the spring, mowing around our headquarters and on roadsides,” Bailey said. “We are purchasing a 4-foot flail mower that can mount to the rear PTO, but won’t really put it into use until April.” The power take-off, or PTO, is the shaft that transfers power from the tractor to the attachment.

Other benefits of electric tractors include no engine oil to change and no diesel fuel.

“If the farmer already has solar, they will see close to zero fuel charges,” Bailey added. “Even without solar, their fuel costs should be reduced depending on local electrical cost. Also, the engine only has one moving part compared to dozens in a diesel tractor so maintenance costs should be reduced significantly, something that is proving true in electric cars.”

The Solectrac e25 tractors each cost $27,999 and the optional loader was about $4,000.

The California Air Resources Board is offering incentives to buy zero-emission equipment through its Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions Program. FARMER provides funding through local air districts for agricultural harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other equipment used in agricultural operations.

2022-08-30T10:21:20-07:00August 30th, 2022|

Western Agricultural Coalition Warns of Rural Economic Upheaval Without Effective Deployment of Drought Response Funding

Seven organizations offer the federal government immediate assistance in implementing the $4 billion set aside in the Inflation Reduction Act

In a letter sent to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, a coalition of agricultural organizations offered their support, assistance and counsel for the immediate implementation of drought funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Key coalition principles include:

The Bureau of Reclamation should quickly release a Notice of Funding Availability with guidance to water managers currently developing drought response proposals and urgently deploy that funding to address the most critical needs.

As the Bureau of Reclamation develops a plan to deploy drought funding, they should work with local water managers, set goals focused on driving the voluntary participation needed, and keep the process, selection criteria and any necessary agreements simple and transparent.

Any program designed to temporarily reduce agricultural water use must recognize the value of lost production, the extended impact on the rural community and the cost of developing incremental new water supplies. It is also important to avoid any actions that result in permanent disruptions to our long-tern capacity to produce the food and fiber that is relied upon in the U.S. and across the globe.

Agriculture should not be the only sector expected to reduce water use for the benefit of river systems. Urban planners and water users must also seriously address growth and reduce overall use or diversions to protect these systems.

Here is the letter:

Dear Secretary Haaland and Commissioner Touton:

Throughout the Western United States, dire challenges are being faced by agricultural water users in the Colorado River Basin, California’s Central Valley, the Klamath Basin, the Columbia River Basin and its tributaries in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, the Rogue River Basin in southern Oregon, and the Great Basin. We could dedicate reams of pages describing the agonizing plight faced by the farmers and ranchers and the rural communities in these areas. 

As you know, Western water managers are actively responding to extreme drought. This is forcing unprecedented actions by local water purveyors and agricultural producers to react to significant water shortages. In the Colorado River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation recently declared the first ever Tier 2a shortage and is calling for a total of 2 to 4 million acre-feet to protect critical levels in Lakes Mead and Powell. In recent months, many of our local producers and water managers with senior water rights have been engaged in a thoughtful effort to develop plans to protect the Colorado River system. 

Like you, we were pleased to see that Congress recognized the dire situation by appropriating $4 billion to respond to the ongoing Western drought. We now urge the Biden Administration to move quickly to implement the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other available drought funding to use on the ground. 

Beyond the urgency of the dire hydrologic situation faced in many Western watersheds, this prompt action is essential for a variety of other reasons. Significant time and effort are being put into the development of response plans. For those to result in meaningful progress, it is essential to understand the key factors that will be considered by the Department in providing any future financial assistance. The ability of agricultural producers to participate in any voluntary, compensated water reduction program becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, if not initiated and implemented soon. This is due to the timeframes associated with contracting, purchasing, and planting of crops for the coming year. This is particularly important in areas like the Imperial Valley in California and Yuma, Arizona, where large-scale winter-time agricultural production occurs. The process and timing for distributing drought response funding must recognize and be responsive to this reality. 

We write today to encourage you, as a first step, to work with our organizations and members to quickly release a Notice of Funding Availability with guidance to water managers currently developing drought response proposals and quickly deploy that funding to address the most urgent needs. As you develop a plan to deploy drought funding, we also encourage you to consider the following:

  • Work with local water managers to articulate the considerations and approaches to utilizing funding so that the modification or development of viable plans results in desired and defensible outcomes for all engaged; 
  • In basins where voluntary water reductions might occur, any program should set goals focused on driving the participation needed to produce measurable volumes of wet water. Local water managers should also be enabled to decide what management actions will be taken to achieve targets;
  • Keep the process, selection criteria, and any necessary agreements simple and transparent. Requiring prescriptive, complicated, or overly restrictive requirements or agreements will slow progress and reduce participation in programs;
  • Any program designed to temporarily reduce agricultural water use must recognize the value of lost production, the extended impact on the rural community, and the cost of developing incremental new water supplies. It is also critical to avoid any actions that result in profound, long-term economic damage to Western communities as well as the long-term capacity to produce food and fiber that is relied upon across the globe. There are a limited number of places where the climate, soil, and open space overlap. We must ensure that any water solution does not lead to a food supply problem for our nation; and Agriculture should not be the only sector expected to reduce water use for the benefit of river systems. Urban planners and water users must also seriously address growth and reduce overall use or diversions, as opposed to per capita reductions, to protect these systems. The government must also reevaluate the true environmental water needs of river systems in light of projected ongoing drought conditions throughout most of the Western U.S.

Adhering to the recommendations provided above will help ensure that agricultural water users can be meaningful partners in our collective effort to manage water supply and protect important supply systems in exceptionally dry times like those we face now, from the headwaters in the upper basin to the last user in the lower basin.

In addition to focusing on critically needed, near-term steps to endure the current drought, it is essential that we also continue to advance solutions that will improve water management in the long-term. These opportunities include forest restoration activities that improve the health and productivity of our watersheds that are severely out of balance, robust conservation and efficiency measures, and augmentation of supply ranging from groundwater development and recycling to new conveyance and storage, where appropriate. To this end, the immediate deployment of IRA drought response funding will perfectly complement longer-term investments made by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), IRA Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service funding, and other programs. Together, these opportunities present an integrated approach that will boost short, medium, and long-term drought response, preparedness, and resilience for both farms and communities across the West.  

Lastly, we urge you to continue to bring all water users together to develop solutions and ensure agriculture has a place at the table. There has been an unfortunate narrative lately that demonizes irrigation and minimizes the importance of domestic food production. Recent letters and comments by some in the West are clearly designed to encourage moving significant volumes of water offfarm for other uses. These unfortunate portrayals fail to recognize that in many cases their proposals will make senior water rights available as a mechanism to benefit junior water users by preventing cuts that would otherwise be required under water laws. 

This also comes at a time when agricultural water users are busy developing voluntary proposals to help respond to these dire drought conditions that will result in financial losses for many individual family farms, and the rural communities in which they live, if proper compensation is not provided. In addition to the many Western communities and cultures that sustain the American food supply being at risk, we are also jeopardizing the highest labor, crop protection, and food safety standards in the world while simultaneously exacerbating climate change and food insecurity by increasing our avoidable reliance upon imports. 

Protecting the agricultural economy, Western urban and rural communities, and a healthy aquatic environment not only benefits the West, it benefits the entire Nation. For that reason, our members across the West are stepping up, at their own expense, to provide solutions for the viability of their basins and the communities those basins serve. In many cases, that means making senior water rights voluntarily available in order to benefit junior water users. This prevents cuts that would otherwise be required under water laws and, in most cases, would provide immediate measurable protections for the water supply system as a whole. Urban, agricultural, and environmental water users would all benefit from such efforts in the short and long-term. 

Our organizations look forward to working with you further to advance the recommendations included in this letter. 

If you have questions or concerns about this letter, please do not hesitate to contact Dan Keppen (dan@familyfarmalliance.org).

Sincerely,
Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona
Arizona Farm Bureau Federation
California Farm Bureau
Colorado Farm Bureau
Family Farm Alliance
Oregon Farm Bureau
Western Growers

2022-08-29T15:52:23-07:00August 29th, 2022|

UC Study Breaks Down Costs of Growing Organic Strawberries

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Thinking about commercially growing organic strawberries on the Central Coast?

To help prospective and current growers evaluate financial feasibility, the University of California has estimated costs to produce and harvest organic strawberries for fresh market in Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties.

“This revise of the last cost-of-production study incorporates the newest in labor costs along with updates on cultural techniques,” said study co-author Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension strawberries and caneberries advisor in Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties.

The new study, “Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Organic Strawberries in the Central Coast Region-2022,” has been released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

The analysis is based on a hypothetical well-managed organic strawberry farm using practices common to the region, but the costs, materials and practices shown in this study will not apply to all farms. Growers, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors and specialists, pest control advisers and others provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the study.

“Current growers can use it as a baseline to compare with their own cost and returns estimates to make sure they have an accurate picture of the profitability of their organic strawberry enterprise,” said co-author Brittney Goodrich, UC Cooperative Extension agricultural economics specialist. “Many agricultural lenders use these studies as a baseline to determine whether to approve operating or investment loan requests from current and potential strawberry growers.”

The researchers assume a farm operation size of 30 contiguous acres of rented land, with strawberries are planted on 27 acres. The study includes a list of suitable strawberry varieties for the region, but no specific variety is used in the study. The crop is harvested by hand and packed into trays containing eight 1-pound clamshells from April through early October, with peak harvest in June through August.

The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for production material inputs and cash and non-cash overhead. Ranging analysis tables show net profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.

The study’s expanded section on labor includes information on California’s new minimum wage and overtime laws.

“It’s reached a wider audience this time through presentations of the material to students at Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo] and also a group of USDA officials at the California Strawberry Commission,” said Bolda.

“All of this just underlines the value of these studies to California growers and others working in agriculture,” Bolda said.

Free copies of this study and other sample cost of production studies for many commodities are available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.

This cost and returns study was funded by the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Jeremy Murdock, UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, at jmmurdock@ucdavis.edu or UC Cooperative Extension’s Bolda at (831) 763-8025.

2022-08-26T08:15:47-07:00August 26th, 2022|

Henderson Confirmed as DPR Director

California’s new Department of Pesticide Regulation leader will focus on transitioning to safer, more sustainable ways to manage pests

The California State Senate confirmed the appointment of Julie Henderson as director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Henderson’s formal confirmation – passed on a 29 to 0 vote – follows her appointment by Gov. Gavin Newsom in December 2021.

Henderson was acting director from July 2021 until her appointment. Prior to joining DPR, Henderson served as the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Deputy Secretary for Public Policy, beginning in November 2017.

“Julie’s vision of collaboration, equity and sustainability will move this department forward as the state works to support a thriving agricultural sector while elevating public health and the environment,” said Jared Blumenfeld, California Secretary for Environmental Protection. “Californians will benefit from her continued focus on the adoption of safer, more sustainable pest management practices.”

“I’m honored to serve in this position to help protect all Californians and our environment,” Henderson said. “I’m grateful to Governor Newsom for giving me this opportunity and to the Senate for their confirmation of my appointment.”

Since joining DPR, Henderson has led several environmental, public health and community engagement initiatives with DPR staff and state agency partners. Under Henderson’s leadership, DPR worked with CalEPA and the Department of Food and Agriculture in convening the Sustainable Pest Management Work Group in 2021.

The group is preparing to release a draft roadmap focused on accelerating the systemwide adoption of sustainable pest management in agricultural and urban settings to promote human health and safety, ecosystem resilience, agricultural sustainability, community wellbeing and economic vitality. The work group includes by representatives of a wide range of industry, community and environmental stakeholders, along with academic and government partners. The roadmap is expected to be released this fall.

Henderson also led DPR in awarding $3.15 million in grants in July to fund research into sustainable pest management practices in agricultural, urban, and wildland settings. The department also awarded about $1.8 million in grants to fund projects that promote implementation and use of sustainable pest management strategies.

“This is an exciting time for DPR and the state as a whole,” said Henderson. “I’m honored to be a part of this important work.”

 

2022-08-16T13:10:17-07:00August 16th, 2022|

FDA 2020 Residue Monitoring Report Results

Consumers Can Choose Organic and Conventional Produce With Confidence

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Report for Fiscal Year 2020. Since 1987, the report has summarized findings from the program’s annual monitoring of human and animal foods in the U.S.

The FDA found that 96.8% of domestic foods were compliant with the pesticide tolerances set by the EPA. No pesticides were found in 40.8% of the domestic samples.

The industry’s historical high compliance rate demonstrates its commitment to consumers’ health and safety. It is clear from this report that consumers can choose fresh fruits and vegetables with confidence. It also underscores that no one and no group should promote false rhetoric in an effort to discourage consumers from eating healthy and safe produce.

According to the FDA, “The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the FDA’s sample collection and analysis for this year’s report. Both human food and animal food samples collected in FY2020 were smaller than FY2019. Despite the obstacles, results from samples collected and analyzed demonstrated compliance rates similar to what has been shown in previous years.”

Through its Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program, the agency ensures that FDA-regulated foods comply with pesticides safety levels or tolerances set by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health. The EPA is responsible for establishing and enforcing those tolerances for domestic foods shipped in interstate commerce and foods imported into the United States.

The Alliance for Food and Farming recommends consumers who still have concerns about residues to just wash your fruits and veggies. FDA states that washing produce often removes or eliminates any minute residues that may be present.

Read, learn, choose – but eat more organic and conventional fruits and vegetables for a longer life!

2022-08-15T14:19:12-07:00August 15th, 2022|
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