Ag Organizations Praise Newsom’s Water Supply Strategy

Western Growers Praises Gov. Newsom’s Bold Water Supply Strategy for California

In response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Water Supply Strategy that was announced , Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia issued the following statement:

“We applaud Governor Newsom’s bold and comprehensive water infrastructure and management strategy. Our farms are in distress due to water insecurity, increasingly placing millions of Californians in our agricultural regions at great risk of economic harm. To adapt to climate realities, the Governor’s plan recognizes the urgent need to build new and improve existing infrastructure and to streamline and improve the practicality of the regulatory processes that govern them. Critically, that means new and expanded surface and groundwater storage to capture wet year flood flows that are too infrequent to be missed. While we have only seen this plan for the first time today and are certain to have many questions about it, Governor Newsom has given us reason to move forward with optimism. This is clearly not just nibbling around the edges. We echo the Governor’s sense of urgency and look forward to working with his administration in good faith to turn this plan into action.”

California Fresh Fruit Association Comments on California Water Supply Strategy Plan

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) reacted to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Water Supply Strategy Adapting for a Hotter, Drier California proposal, and is appreciative his Administration is taking action to address the state’s ongoing drought and help increase water supplies.

CFFA President Ian LeMay stated “We appreciate the efforts the Newsom Administration has taken to address the critical need for water investments to guarantee the continued sustainability of California agriculture. This plan recognizes the need to expand on existing surface and groundwater infrastructure while streamlining the process to get construction started on new storage projects. Every person in our state, nation and world relies on agriculture, and the Association appreciates Governor Newsom’s action to ensure that California continues to be able to have a safe and resilient food supply. Our state and industry cannot survive without a reliable water resource.”

CFFA looks forward to working with the Newsom Administration to implement this vital water action plan to address our state’s water supply and prepare for future drought years.

2022-08-12T08:37:32-07:00August 12th, 2022|

New Directors of Almond Board of California Begin Their Terms

By Almond Board of California

The new Board of Directors of the Almond Board of California took their seats on Thursday with four voting members beginning new terms to help guide ABC’s support of one of California’s most important crops.

Board members, whose terms officially began Aug. 1, also elected Alexi Rodriguez as chair and re-elected George Goshgarian Jr. as vice chair.

“Our industry is facing many challenges right now,” said Rodriguez. “I’m looking forward to working with this talented and dedicated board and organization. I believe we have the resources and experience to navigate these complicated times.”

The 10-member ABC board has five grower members – three representing independent growers and two representing cooperative growers – and five handler members, also with three independent and two co-op representatives. Some members sit in three-year seats, others in one-year positions.

The grower representatives elected or re-elected in this year’s elections are:

  • Paul Ewing, an independent from RPAC, LLC in Los Banos. He was re-elected to a one-year term.
  • Brandon Rebiero, an independent grower from Gold Leaf Farming in Modesto who previously served as an alternate and was elected to a three-year term.

The handler representatives were re-elected in both positions this year. They are:

  • Darren Rigg, an independent handler from Minturn Nut Co. in Le Grand. He was re-elected to a one-year term.
  • Mel Machado, a co-op handler with Blue Diamond Growers from Modesto re-elected to a three-year term.

In addition, the board has three alternates elected or re-elected this year:

  • Katie Staack-Dorsett, an independent grower with Grizzly Nut, LLC from Waterford This is her first term as an alternate.
  • Chad DeRose, an independent handler with Famoso Nut Co., LLC in McFarland, who was re-elected.
  • Mark Jansen, a co-op handler with Blue Diamond Growers from Sacramento who was also re-elected. .

This is the full board:

VOTING MEMBERS                                                                                      TERM

Grower #1:            Paul Ewing, RPAC, LLC                                                    1 year

Grower #2:            Brandon Rebiero, Gold Leaf Farming                           3 years

Grower #3:            Joe Gardiner, Treehouse California Almonds, LLC       3 years

Handler #1:           Alexi Rodriguez, Campos Brothers                               3 years

Handler #2:           Bob Silveira, Vann Family Orchards                              3 years

Handler #3:           Darren Rigg, Minturn Nut Co. Inc.                                 1 year

Co-op Grower #1: George Goshgarian Jr., Goshgarian Farming Co.        3 years

Co-op Grower #2: Christine Gemperle, Gemperle Orchards                   3 years

Co-op Handler #1: Mel Machado, Blue Diamond Growers                       3 years

Co-op Handler #2: Alicia Rockwell, Blue Diamond Growers                    3 years

ALTERNATES

Grower #1:             Katie Staack-Dorsett, Grizzly Nut, LLC

Grower #2:             Vacant

Grower #3:             Chris Bettencourt, Suvik Farms

Handler #1:            Ron Fisher, Fisher Nut Company

Handler #2:            Dexter Long, Hilltop Ranch, Inc.

Handler #3:            Chad DeRose, Famoso Nut Company, LLC

Co-op Grower #1:  Kelli Evans, Evans Farming

Co-op Grower #2:  Kent Stenderup, Stenderup Ag Partners

Co-op Handler #1: Mark Jansen, Blue Diamond Growers

Co-op Handler #2: Dean LaVallee, Blue Diamond Growers

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

ABC is a Federal Marketing Order dedicated to promoting California almonds to domestic and international audiences through marketing efforts and by funding and promoting studies about almonds’ health benefits, as well as ensuring sustainable agricultural practices and food safety.

2022-08-11T11:21:09-07:00August 11th, 2022|

UC Davis Community Ecologist Louie Yang Shares Expertise at National Monarch Summit

By Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis

UC Davis community ecologist  Louie Yang, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, was one of 12 invited scientists nationwide who delivered a presentation during the two-day Monarch Butterfly Summit, held recently at the Capitol in Washington D.C. and organized by Sen. Jeffrey Merkley of Oregon.

It was a gathering of science experts and policymakers to share science and conservation actions to help the declining western monarch population. The scientists discussed the natural history of the monarch (Danaus plexippus), its population status, habitats and barriers to conservation success.

“It was a great group of folks working hard to connect science and policy to improve monarch conservation,” Yang said. “It was a privilege to part of it.’

During the summit, the Department of the Interior announced a $1 million award to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a Pollinator Conservation Center.

Last year two bills to support the Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat (MONARCH) Act and the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act were proposed; and if passed, these acts would support a variety of initiatives focused on monarch research and conservation.

Sen. Merkley organized the summit in collaboration with the Department of the Interior. Officials attending included Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland; Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon; Sen. Alex Padilla of California; Cong. Jimmy Panetta of California; Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks (USFWS) Shannon Estenoz; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  Director Martha Williams.

In addition to Professor Yang, three other scientists affiliated with UC Davis gave scientific presentations:

  • Professor Matt Forister, the Trevor J. McMinn Endowed Professor in Biology, Foundation Professor, at the University of Nevada, Reno. He holds a doctorate in ecology (2004) from UC Davis where he studied with major professor Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology
  • Elizabeth Crone, professor and population ecologist at Tufts University and a UC Davis collaborator who recently completed a six-month sabbatical at UC Davis.
  • Sarina Jepsen, director of the Xerces Society’s Endangered Species and Aquatic Program, who holds a master’s degree (2006) in entomology from UC Davis. She studied with major professor Jay Rosenheim, distinguished professor of entomology.

Others giving scientific presentations were Amanda Barth, Western Monarch and Native Pollinator Working GroupWendy Caldwell, executive director, Monarch Joint VentureRyan Drum, wildlife biologist, USFWS; Wayne Thogmartin, quantitative ecologist, U. S. Geological Survey;  Cat Darst, wildlife biologist, USFWS, Cheryl Schultz, professor, Washington State University, Pullman; Sarah Hoyle, pesticide program specialist policy lead, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; and Francis Villablanca, professor, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

“Senator Merkley has been a champion for conservation since he entered the senate,” blogged Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. “Mace Vaughan and I have worked with his staff in the past on improving pollinator provisions in the Farm Bill, and I have had the pleasure of meeting with him several times.  He is also very interested and worried about western monarchs.  Sarina, Jennifer Hopwood Emma Pelton, and I worked with his staff on the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act (which passed but is awaiting funding) and the Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat Act of 2021 (or MONARCH Act).  Sarina also met with him at Pismo Beach to see overwintering monarchs during this past year.”

“The Senator convened the Monarch Butterfly Summit to elevate the conservation issues that western monarchs face, and to include policy makers in work sessions to identify solutions,” Black noted. “Working closely with the USFWS and Xerces, Senator Merkley ensured that issues like pesticides, the availability of early emerging native milkweeds in the spring breeding areas, loss and degradation of western monarch overwintering sites, and other important issues would be highlighted throughout the meeting.  Sarina and Sarah did an amazing job representing Xerces – not only in their talks, but in the working groups.”

Black wrote that the event “raised the profile of western monarchs. One participant that came up to me enthusiastically and said, ‘This was incredible.  I have been working on monarchs for decades and never expected to come to a meeting where three U.S. Senators [Merkley, Padilla-CA, Wyden-OR] a congressperson [Panetta-CA] and the Secretary of Interior [Deb Haaland] come to talk about western monarchs!'”

“We hope will lead to additional focus on key priorities for recovering the western monarch population, such as the essential need to protect overwintering sites and invest in their restoration, and the need to scale up the production of early-emerging native milkweeds, such as Asclepias californica, to support the first generation of monarchs in the Priority 1 Restoration Zone and a focus on protecting habitat from insecticides that can harm monarchs.”

In a news release, the U.S. Department of Interior noted: “In the 1980s, more than 4.5 million monarchs overwintered along the California Coast. Currently, the western overwintering population has declined by more than 95 percent. In 2020, western monarch numbers dropped to all-time lows when only 1,900 overwintering monarchs were observed. In 2021, biologists and the public alike were greeted with the news that monarch numbers were heading in the right direction with approximately 250,000 monarchs estimated at overwintering groves along the coast of California.”

“There is no single cause for the extreme multi-decade drop in the western monarch butterflyoverwintering population numbers,” according to the Department of Interior, which aims to play “a central role in how the United States stewards its public lands, increases environmental protections, pursues environmental justice, and honors our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes.

“Multiple factors have contributed to the long-term decline, including habitat loss and degradation in overwintering groves and breeding areas, pesticides, and the effects of climate change, including drought, increased storm frequency and severity, and temperature extremes,” the news release related. “As with many insects, monarch populations likely fluctuate in response to changes in temperature, precipitation, and other environmental factors. Conservation efforts are focused on an all-hands-on-deck collaborative approach, engaging a broad array of partners to enact large and small-scale conservation efforts for the benefit of monarchs and their habitats. Outcomes from this week’s summit will further contribute to the conservation of this iconic species.”

On July 21, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which works in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, listed the migratory monarch on its Red List of Threatened Species (Endangered). It is not yet listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but is listed (as of Dec. 15, 2020) as a candidate. (See more on the monarch butterfly on the USFWS website.)

Monarch-Milkweed Interactions.

Professor Yang recently authored newly published research investigating wild monarch-native milkweed interactions in rural Davis over a three-year period that yielded three key findings in the search for what factors constrain monarch development.

“First, we documented early and late seasonal windows of opportunity in the wild, migratory western monarch population,” the UC Davis professor said. “Second, our data suggest that early and late seasonal windows were constrained by different factors. Third, climatic and microclimatic variation had a strong effect on the timing and importance of multiple factors affecting monarch development. Broadly, we hope that this study contributes to a more temporally detailed understanding of the complex factors that contribute to year-to-year variation in monarch breeding success.”

The project, funded by two of Yang’s National Science Foundation grants, involved UC Davis, Davis Senior High School and the Center for Land-Based learning. Among them were 107 high school students and a K-12 teacher, 18 UC Davis undergraduate students,  three graduate students and two post-graduate researchers.

“This study collected a high-resolution temporal dataset on milkweed-monarch interactions during the last three years prior to the precipitous single-year population decline of western monarchs in 2018,” Yang said. He organized and led a 135-member team, all co-authors of the paper, “Different Factors Limit Early- and Late-Season Windows of Opportunity for Monarch Development,” published in the journal  Ecology and Evolution. (This document is open access at https://bit.ly/3volFaI.)

Other monarch research from the Yang lab is pending publication.

2022-08-10T08:36:26-07:00August 10th, 2022|

Confirmation of New Citrus Virus in California

By Citrus Insider

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed positive identifications of Citrus yellow vein clearing virus (CYVCV) in the city of Tulare detected during California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) routine multi-pest survey. This is the first detection of CYVCV in the United States. CDFA is surveying for the disease in Tulare County residential and commercial properties and will survey in Fresno and Kings counties in the coming months to fully determine the extent of the disease’s presence (which is currently limited to the city of Tulare). The survey results will inform the regulatory approach taken by CDFA and APHIS.

CDFA began initial delimitation survey work in March in a 1-mile core radius area around the initial find site. Since then, CDFA has conducted additional surveys in the surrounding areas, which have resulted in additional CYVCV confirmations in the city of Tulare, expanding the survey area. CDFA is conducting these surveys to gain knowledge on the extent of the infestation and potential impacts of CYVCV, and surveys will be ongoing for the near future. Since the detection of this virus is new to the United States, these learnings – CDFA’s robust pest prevention system that focuses on exclusion and monitoring, as well as CDFA and USDA’s experience responding to other vectored disease threats – will be critical in developing an appropriate regulatory response.

CYVCV can be spread by vectors as they move from tree to tree feeding on foliage. The vectors include citrus whitefly, green citrus aphid, melon or cotton aphid, and cowpea aphid, which are all known to be present in California. CYVCV can also be spread through grafting and the movement of infected propagative materials and rootstocks, or contaminated tools and equipment. While there is no treatment for CYVCV, as of now the best mitigation measure is to control the vector and sanitize tools and equipment. To the greatest extent possible, growers are encouraged to urge their field crews to clean and sanitize all their equipment thoroughly in between jobs or when moving between groves.

For any questions about CYVCV, please call the CDFA Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899 or contact your local Grower Liaison.

2022-08-05T08:35:57-07:00August 5th, 2022|

New Orchard Advisor Brings Research Background

By Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

The central San Joaquin Valley has a new University of California Cooperative Extension orchard crops advisor who once took part in research into the way people pronounce the word “almond.”

Cameron Zuber, a UCCE staff researcher in Merced County since 2016, has been named the orchard crops advisor for Merced and Madera counties.

He will cover a variety of crops in Merced County, including walnuts, almonds and pistachios as well as figs and stone fruit, and will work with walnut growers in Madera County, according to the university.

Among his contributions to UCCE has been to keep alive a project on how Californians pronounce the word “almond” and mapping where they live, color-coding whether they pronounce the “l.”

The website https://ucanr.edu/sites/sayalmond was started by a marketing and social media expert who left the UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources a few years ago, spokeswoman Pamela Kan-Rice said.

Zuber earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental biology and management from UC Davis and a master’s in environmental systems from UC Merced before joining the university as a researcher.

For orchard crops, he has worked on fumigants and other soil pest controls, rootstocks and scion varietals, cultural practices related to tree spacing and whole orchard recycling, according to the university.

He also has experience in water management, having studied flood irrigation for groundwater recharge, irrigation and soil, water and air interactions.

A growing team

Zuber began his new position June 6, joining a growing team of Extension advisors and specialists as UCANR has received increased funding from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature.

He was one of seven new advisors recently announced by the university, with others bringing expertise in wildfire, grapes, small-scale farms and youth development.

Among other advisors working with growers, Joy Hollingsworth began as the new table grape advisor serving Tulare and Kings counties on May 16; Kirsten Pearsons started as small farms advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties on March 1; and Ricky Satomi joined UCCE Sutter-Yuba on March 15 as an area forestry and natural resources advisor in the Western Sierra Nevada region.

2022-07-28T14:58:19-07:00July 28th, 2022|

HMC Farms Announces Autonomous Drone Harvest Pilot Program

By HMC Farms

HMC Farms has partnered with Tevel Aerobotics Technologies to pilot their drone harvesting system utilizing Flying Autonomous Robots. Each robot has the ability to fly, locate fruit, harvest and place the fruit all on its own with no human interaction required.

HMC Farms has a reputation for pursuing cutting edge ag technology. Drew Ketelsen, Vice President and Farm Manager, has a background in civil engineering which gives him a unique perspective on farming and technology. He and Jon McClarty, President of HMC Farms and Drew’s brother-in-law, work together to stay updated on the latest developments and test various forms of ag tech in order to determine the best fit for their farms.

Ketelsen attributes HMC’s high density stone fruit planting system with the ability to utilize drone harvesting. He says, “The years of work we’ve put into cultivating high density orchards are paying off as we implement technology like Flying Autonomous Robot harvesting. We have successfully harvested peaches, nectarines and multiple colors of plums using drones this summer. This project is still in an early stage, but the future potential is very exciting.”

Autonomous harvest options have great potential to fill a crucial need in the agricultural community, which has notoriously dealt with labor shortages over the years. In places like California’s Central Valley, this technology also may help with harvest during periods of extreme heat, as summer temperatures can often reach well above 100 degrees for many days in a row, right at the peak of stone fruit harvest.

2022-07-26T09:40:59-07:00July 26th, 2022|

State Water Board delivers $3.3 billion to California communities to boost drought resilience and increase water supplies

By State Water Resources Control Board

Seizing a generational opportunity to leverage unprecedented state funding to combat drought and climate change, the State Water Resources Control Board provided an historic $3.3 billion in financial assistance during the past fiscal year (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022) to water systems and communities for projects that bolster water resilience, respond to drought emergencies and expand access to safe drinking water.

The State Water Board’s funding to communities this past fiscal year doubled compared to 2020-21, and it is four times the amount of assistance provided just two years ago. The marked increase also comes as a result of last year’s $5.2 billion three-year investment in drought response and water resilience by Governor Newsom and the legislature under the California Comeback Plan, voter-approved Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 funds, and significant federal dollars invested through the state revolving funds.

“The accelerating impacts of climate change have given us all a sense of urgency,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “Bold investments by the administration and legislature, plus $2 billion in federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law dollars expected over the next five years, are evidence that California has the kind of leadership and support it needs to respond to climate change and focus our collective attention on securing a common water future. For our part, the board is proud to have its Division of Financial Assistance serve as the engine for that response through efficient and responsible funding.”

About 90% of the assistance provided this fiscal year took the form of loans to major water‑resilience and drinking water projects. The board provides loans with terms and interest rates that applicants could not receive from a traditional lender, making capital-intensive projects more affordable for communities. This past fiscal year, the board funded 30-year loans at rates between 0.8% and 1.2%.

Almost $270 million in grants were also distributed for drinking water and wastewater projects in disadvantaged communities. Those grant funds will not have to be repaid.

The board has launched an online dashboard that breaks down this fiscal year funding across several categories, including county, disadvantaged status, type of project, and assembly or senate district.

Building sustainable supplies through water recycling

The board prioritized funding for recycled water, which can be generated from wastewater or stormwater and is a sustainable and energy-efficient water source. Direct potable reuse regulations set to come before the board next year expand the potential of recycled wastewater as a source of drinking water, and will help the state reach its goal of increasing recycled water use to 2.5 million acre-feet per year, enough to supply 833,000 three-person households, by 2030.

The board distributed over $1.2 billion across 15 funding agreements for recycling projects, accounting for nearly 40% of the board’s total financial assistance for the fiscal year. Funding recipients include:

  • Pure Water San Diego, a phased, multi-year recycled wastewater program, which received $664 million in low-interest loans from the board as well as about $734 million from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act program. The city of San Diego estimates that the Pure Water program will provide more than 40% of San Diego’s water supply by the end of 2035.
  • The City of Morro Bay, which received over $45 million to construct a new wastewater facility with advanced treatment, conveyance pipeline and injection wells. The facility will allow the city to replenish the groundwater basin and increase supply reliability.
  • Inland Empire Utilities Agency, which received over $16 million across three projects to increase stormwater and dry-weather runoff to help recharge the Chino, Jurupa, Wineville and Montclair Basins.
  • Coachella Valley Water District, which received over $27 million to increase the use of non-potable, recycled wastewater for irrigation to reduce groundwater overdraft.

Taken together, all 15 projects will produce an additional 75,000 acre-feet of water per year for the state by 2030, or enough to sustain 225,000 households annually.

Assistance for drought emergencies and drinking water infrastructure

Over the past 12 months, the rapid progression of the state’s drought has exposed vulnerabilities in aging drinking water infrastructure and caused nearly 1,400 wells to go dry as water tables dropped. The board responded to numerous communities suffering water outages throughout the state with expert support from Division of Drinking Water staff and over $26 million for emergency repairs, bottled and hauled water deliveries, and technical assistance.

Drinking water emergencies are often symptoms of systemic problems, especially for failing water systems that frequently serve disadvantaged communities. In the case of the city of Needles, a severely disadvantaged community of just over 5,000 residents in eastern San Bernardino County, a burst pipe and lightning strike caused the water system, already contending with contamination issues, to fail completely in 2020. Through its Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) drinking water program, the board provided immediate funding for emergency repairs and technical assistance to help the city define its project needs and apply for funding. This past fiscal year, the board approved a grant for over $13 million in additional funding to construct vital water system infrastructure to address source capacity issues, poor water quality and aging facilities.

“It would have been impossible for us to fix our 80-year-old water system by ourselves,” said Needles city manager Rick Daniels. “Our median household income is only $40,000 per year, and we cannot raise water rates to pay for improvements. We are 140 miles away from the next California town and temperatures here can hit 120 degrees, so the water outage in 2020 threatened our very existence. The technical and financial assistance the state provided gave our city a future.”

Established in 2019, the SAFER program utilizes a set of tools, funding sources and regulatory authorities to establish sustainable drinking water solutions in collaboration with water systems and communities. In just the first three years of a 10-year program, SAFER has reduced the number of Californians impacted by failing water systems by 40%, or 650,000.

This past fiscal year, the board provided $984 million, including $118 million through the SAFER program, to advance access to safe and clean drinking water throughout the state. This support funded construction projects, benefitting nearly 8.6 million people, and technical and planning assistance, benefitting 465,000 people

In addition to the water recycling and drinking water assistance described above, the board also provided over $1.1 billion to wastewater and stormwater projects during the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

More information about the Division of Financial Assistance can be found on the board’s website.

2022-07-22T13:41:17-07:00July 22nd, 2022|

Munk, ‘pivotal’ in cotton success, retires after 36 years in Fresno County

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Daniel Munk, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, retired from a 36-year career with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources on July 1. 

“Dan has played a pivotal role in the success of cotton that has been grown in California, especially his work on drought-related growing conditions and how best for cotton to overcome those conditions and thrive,” said Roger Isom, president and CEO of California Cotton Ginner & Growers Association and Western Agricultural Processors Association in Fresno.

“And while I know he has been involved most recently in reduced tillage research, it is his irrigation work that he will be remembered for,” Isom said. “Dan put on numerous irrigation workshops and grower meetings over the years, and he was the cotton industry’s ‘go to guy’ on deficit irrigation and related topics.” 

As a youngster, the Bay Area native was interested in the natural sciences so he earned a B.S. in soil and water science and an M.S. in soil science from UC Davis. 

“I never had an idea of becoming a farm advisor until I worked with Donald Grimes,” Munk said. In 1986, Munk took a job assisting the now UC emeritus water scientist with research on water penetration problems. It was while working with Grimes at Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center south of Fresno, Munk said, “I got an understanding of the importance of agriculture.” 

In 1990, he became a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Fresno County.

“Dan has been helpful,” said John Diener, a Five Points farmer who began working with Munk in the 1990s. “If I needed anything, he was helpful, bringing information like for lygus bug or diseases or new varieties.” 

To solve a salinity problem, Diener consulted Munk. “Dan was an irrigation guy and worked with USDA ARS and NRCS. This was bigger than what a local farmer can do,” Diener said, adding that Munk brought UC technical knowledge and resources from USDA Agricultural Research Service and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to the West Side of Fresno County to build a tile system for managing the salinity in drainage water. “It took a whole group of people to make it happen,” Diener said.

When Munk joined UC Cooperative Extension, California was growing over 1 million acres of cotton, mostly Acala varieties. During the state’s six years of drought spanning the 1980s and 1990s, growers began planting the higher priced extra-long staple Pima cotton varieties instead of Upland cotton types.

In response, Munk began studying ways to improve irrigation management for Pima cotton. He and colleagues also studied plant growth regulators and found that by treating vigorously growing Pima cotton plants with plant growth regulators following first bloom, cotton yields improved by 60 to 120 pounds per acre, which translated to a $50 to $100 per-acre increase in crop value, with higher cotton quality and fewer problems with defoliation. 

As water became increasingly limited in California, the state’s cotton acreage plummeted and Munk turned his research to producing crops with less water using reduced tillage systems. In one study, he and his research collaborators found that they could improve water use efficiency by 37% by growing cotton in wheat residue versus conventional tillage. In other research, Munk and colleagues showed that reduced till cotton systems could reduce fuel use by more than 70%, increase soil carbon by more than 20%, and reduce dust emissions by more than 60%, relative to conventional till approaches. Another of Munk’s projects suggests that garbanzos and sorghum can be grown under no-till practices in the San Joaquin Valley without loss of yield.

“He has also been helpful in issues related to nitrogen uptake and air and water quality,” Isom said.

Because of Munk’s expertise in nutrient and water management practices, he was asked to serve on the state’s Agricultural Expert Panel in 2014 to assess agricultural nitrate control programs. They developed recommendations for the State Water Resources Control Board to protect groundwater.

One of the recommendations was to develop a comprehensive and sustained educational and outreach program. As a result, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and UC California Institute for Water Resources created the Irrigation and Nitrogen Management Training Program, for which Munk helped develop curriculum and train growers and farm consultants on best farm practices for nitrogen and water management. Leading the program’s southern San Joaquin Valley courses, he helped certify more than 300 growers, consultants and farm advisors in protecting groundwater.

“I hope these more recent programs will have lasting impacts on farm economic viability and improved groundwater quality,” Munk said.

The farm advisor also extended his irrigation knowledge beyond farms. Working with fellow UCCE advisors and specialists, Munk conducted hands-on training for school landscape staff in 2012-2013. The staff learned how to measure irrigation output, sample soil and manage water to avoid runoff and improve water quality. 

“He has had a huge impact, and his work will remain instrumental in the cotton industry’s survival in California as we deal with ongoing drought issues,” Isom said. “His departure will leave an empty spot in the cotton world today without a doubt!”

2022-07-20T11:51:59-07:00July 20th, 2022|

Robert Verloop Named Executive Director and CEO for the California Walnut Board and California Walnut Commission

By The California Walnut Board

The California Walnut Board (CWB) and the California Walnut Commission (CWC) announced that Robert Verloop has been named executive director and chief executive officer, effective July 11, 2022.  The CWB and CWC represent over 4,500 California walnut growers and nearly 90 handlers, producing over 1.4 billion pounds of walnuts in 2021 that ship to more than 50 countries around the world.

“We are excited to bring onboard an experienced strategic leader such as Robert, his background will well serve the California walnut industry. He has the unique background of leadership roles as a grower/shipper of highly perishable produce and in commodity organizations. Robert understands the challenge to ‘move the crop.’  In addition, he has extensive knowledge and creativity as a marketer working in complex domestic and international markets,” said Bill Tos, the California Walnut Board’s Executive Committee Chairperson.

Mr. Verloop recently held the position of COO for Coastline Family Farms, a family-owned vegetable grower/shipper.  Previously, he held executive/ leadership roles with Naturipe Farms/Naturipe Brands, Sunkist Growers Inc., and the California Avocado Commission.  In those capacities, Robert worked in such areas as marketing and sales promotions in retail, foodservice and ingredient channels in domestic and global markets; issues management; strategic planning; and government relations, working with various state and federal agencies, including USDA, FAS/ATO, CDFA, and FDA.

“When he was a member of the then-Produce Marketing Association Board of Directors, Robert showed a true drive to help find and create solutions for the global produce and floral community. His focus on disciplined marketing and uncovering the implications in challenges and opportunities helped us immensely, and I expect the walnut industry will realize these same leadership benefits,” said International Fresh Produce Association CEO Cathy Burns.

“I am looking forward to working with the staff, the two Boards (CWB and CWC), and the growers and handlers that make up the California walnut industry.  Walnuts are highly versatile and nutritious, ideal for plant-based eating.  In collaboration with the growers and handlers we must respond to rapidly evolving market conditions with a sense of urgency and purpose and continue to build an ongoing dialogue with key customer segments in order to drive sales in all market segments,” added Verloop. “I am also keenly aware of the multi-generational nature of an industry dating back more than a century.  The new generations are inheriting a dynamic industry that continues to evolve through innovation, starting with new advances in orchard management practices, post-harvest management, and developing exciting new consumer products that showcase the versatility and delicious taste of nutritious California walnuts.”

The CWB and the CWC play a vital role in expanding walnut usage occasions and understanding walnuts’ health benefits, solving for production and post-harvest challenges, protecting the industry against burdensome regulations, and building demand for California walnuts globally.  Despite current supply-chain challenges, there is rising demand for walnuts given their versatility and wide range of studied health benefits.  Interest in plant-based eating around the globe is an opportunity for walnuts, which contain protein and fiber, and are the only nut that is an excellent source of essential plant-based omega-3 ALA.[1]

“We look forward to Robert and the CWB and CWC staff working in collaboration with the industry to address the near-term challenges in supply chain logistics, port congestion and rising costs.  At the same time, we will refresh and refocus our long-term strategies given the evolving marketplace and not waiver our focus on the mission of market development and increasing consumer demand globally for our future crops,” added Tos.

About the California Walnut Board

The California Walnut Board (CWB) was established in 1948 to represent the walnut growers and handlers of California. The CWB is funded by mandatory assessments of the handlers. The CWB is governed by a Federal Walnut Marketing Order. The CWB promotes usage of walnuts in the United States through publicity and educational programs. The CWB also provides funding for walnut production, food safety and post-harvest research.

About the California Walnut Commission 

The California Walnut Commission, established in 1987, is funded by mandatory assessments of the growers. The Commission is an agency of the State of California that works in concurrence with the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The CWC is mainly involved in health research and export market development activities. For more industry information, health research and recipe ideas, visit www.walnuts.org. 

2022-07-18T08:15:02-07:00July 18th, 2022|

Congressman Valadao: Fewer Truckers on the Road will Worsen Supply Chain, Raise Costs

Today, Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21) joined Congresswoman Michelle Steel (CA-48) and members of the California Republican congressional delegation in a letter to Governor Newsom urging him to take immediate action to prevent Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) from devastating the California trucking industry and further crippling nationwide supply chains.

“Central Valley families are paying more for just about everything, and they desperately need relief,” said Congressman Valadao. “The last thing we need is more burdensome regulations that will restrict the ability of truckers to move goods throughout our state. Fewer truckers on the road will worsen our supply chain bottlenecks and raise costs for Valley families.”

Read the lawmakers’ full letter here.

Congressman Valadao has been a strong voice in supporting balanced legislation to alleviate these supply chain backlogs:

  • Co-sponsored the TRANSPORT Act, which would temporarily waive operating standards should those standards be more stringent than the federal standard, allowing U.S. Department of Transportation-compliant trucks and drivers from other states to relieve ports and transport goods across the country.
  • Co-sponsored and voted in support of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which became law in June 2022.
  • Demanded vessel operating common carriers be held accountable when their practices intentionally harm farmers from the Central Valley.
  • Hosted a bipartisan roundtable with industry leaders on the ongoing supply chain crisis and the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.
  • Visited the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and discussed lack of container access for agriculture exporters, significant backlogs and congestion, and burdensome trucking restrictions.
  • Led a letter to President Biden alerting the administration to the severe impact supply chain backlogs were having on agriculture exporters and urging immediate action to address the supply chain.

Background:

Inflation this week reached a record breaking 9.1% thanks in part to supply chain backlogs. The lawmakers sent the letter after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up California Trucking Association v. Bonta, a case challenging AB5. AB5 was enacted by state lawmakers in 2019 and reclassifies many independent contractors as “employees,” subjecting them to stricter regulations and increasing costs of operations. The law had been stayed pending appeal, but will now go into effect, potentially shrinking the number of critical independent truckers, further worsening the backlogs at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and exacerbating the supply chain crisis.

2022-07-15T14:31:28-07:00July 15th, 2022|
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