Last week the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its 2017 pesticide residue sampling data results. FDA concluded: “The latest set of results demonstrate once again that the majority of the foods we test are well below the federal limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Note the term “once again” in FDA’s statement. They used it because government residue sampling data year after year reaffirms the safety of our food and the exceptionally high level of compliance among farmers with laws and regulations covering the use of organic and conventional pesticides.
Let’s get a little technical for a moment and focus on how FDA residue sampling is protective of consumers. FDA employs a three-fold strategy to enforce the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tolerances or safety standards for pesticide residues.
If you haven’t heard – September is National Fruit and Vegetable month. Yes, it is time to celebrate the only food group health experts and nutritionists agree we should all eat more of every day for better health and a longer life.
While decades of studies have shown the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables are overwhelming and significant, the safety of both organic and conventional produce is also impressive. Government sampling data shows an over 99% compliance rate among farmers with the laws and regulations required for pesticide applications on organic and conventional fruit and vegetable crops. This led the United States Department of Agriculture to state that: “The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world.”
Many health organizations are promoting National Fruit and Vegetable month to remind consumers about the importance of increasing consumption – only one in 10 of us eat enough of these nutrient-packed foods each day.
However, studies show a growing barrier to consumption is fear-based messaging which inaccurately calls into question the safety of the more affordable and accessible fruits and veggies. This messaging is predominantly carried by the same activist groups year after year despite studies which show that “prescriptions” for fruits and veggies could reduce health care costs by $40 billion annually. Or that 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year.
Marcy L. Martin was named today as the new president of the Citrus Research Board (CRB). The appointment was announced by CRB Chairman Dan Dreyer, who said that Martin was selected after a nearly year-long national search for the very best candidate to lead the organization.
Martin joins the CRB with more than 25 years of experience with California commodity organizations. She most recently served for 14 years as director of trade for the California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA), where she advocated on behalf of the state’s fresh grape, blueberry, pomegranate and deciduous tree fruit production in governmental, legislative and policy issues. Prior to that, she had been controller of the California Apple Commission for ten years.
In 2015, then U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack appointed Martin to the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) for Trade in Fruits and Vegetables. In his announcement, Vilsack said of those who were appointed, “They are an invaluable asset as we work to enact trade agreements and trade policies that deliver the greatest economic benefit for U.S. agriculture and for our nation as a whole.”
“California’s citrus growers, packers and shippers have demonstrated through their keen understanding that an industry must invest in sound research to meet the challenges of a constantly evolving environment, marketplace and consumer,” said Martin. “The Citrus Research Board, industry, staff and research community have stepped up to take on looming challenges, specifically huanglongbing, that have devastated citrus production within other regions, both domestically and globally. This is an area I am passionate about, and I look forward to bringing my experience in the technical and regulatory arena to the team.”
Dreyer said, “The Board is pleased to have Marcy Martin taking the helm of CRB. Her extensive experience with commodity organizations and local, state and federal regulatory agencies will be a key ingredient to the success of CRB projects and priorities. She comes to the CRB with extensive knowledge of fresh tree fruit production and the agricultural use of plant protection products. Our Board members were impressed by her dedication to and passion for agriculture.”
“The California citrus industry is an important economic contributor and an icon of the Golden State,” Martin said. “Citrus is part of our American and Californian agricultural footprint – a commodity we need to preserve and foster. I’m honored to be part of this continuing tradition.”
Martin officially will join the CRB on October 1 and will be based out of the CRB headquarters in Visalia, California. She will take the reins from Interim President Franco Bernardi.
“We cannot thank Franco enough for his dedicated service to the CRB throughout the past year,” said Dreyer. “He did an excellent job in guiding the organization through a challenging period, and the Board has been truly grateful for his leadership.”
Big numbers announced today from Tulare County Ag Commissioner Marilyn Wright on the 2017 crop year.
“Our value is 10.5 percent up from last year, at 7,039,929,000. So, that’s 669 million more than the previous year,” Wright said.
And, of course, more water in the system probably helped, as it did in Fresno County, which announced $7.028 billion in its 2017 Crop Report, released earlier this month.
The dairy industry, which is prominent in Tulare County, came in number one again, representing 25 percent of the total value.
“Milk prices were stronger in early 2017, but they went down later in the year. And they continue to go down, but still it was a big part of the Tulare County ag receipts in 2017,” Wright said.
Following dairy were grape products—including juice grapes, raisins, and table grapes. Table grapes had a stellar year.
Navel and Valencia oranges were next. Cattle and calves ranked fourth, down from category number three in 2016, because cattle prices were off last year.
Tangerines, also known as mandarins, were number five, followed by almonds, cling peaches, and freestone peaches.
Lemons, were ninth on the crop list.
“We only have just over 10,000 acres of lemons in the County,” Wright said.
Wright said the value of this year’s crop report, $7.39 billion, is the third highest value Tulare County has ever reported.
In the ongoing battle against Asian Citrus Psyllids, an insect that is known to vector the fatal Huanglongbing disease in citrus, the California Department of Food & Agriculture has issued a new regulation to require trucks to be tarped when moving citrus. This regulation will be phased in and permit holders will be notified by CDFA.
Joel Nelsen, president of the California Citrus Mutual, explained that the regulation will prevent the spread of this vector-transmitted pathogen. “What we discovered is that psyllids were flying towards fruit sitting in trucks and bins as they were being transited from Southern California to the San Joaquin Valley, because of the aromas that the fruit gives off,” he said.
Fruit is not considered to be a vector of Huanglongbing since ACP can only vector the disease through leaves and twigs. However, these pests are catching rides on trucks all over the state on the fruit that was considered to be relatively safe.
“What happens is the Asian Citrus Psyllid is attracted to the aroma coming off of the orange, and it flies towards it thinking it’s going to find a food source,” Nelsen said. “Well, it rides around on the orange for a couple of hours, until it figures out that there’s no green waste or twigs attached to that fruit, and then it flies off.”
Fruit that is being transported from Bakersfield to Fresno could be taking these hitchhiking pests anywhere along Highway 99. While on this joyride, they could go up and down 5, across 126, or across 10 from Southern California into the San Joaquin Valley. News of new ACP finds have been right along these traveling corridors.
“We discovered that we may be part of the problem in helping Asian Citrus Psyllids spread, or have a hitchhiker role,” Nelsen said. “We made that determination as a result of some research done by the University of California. We ended up talking to growers at seven different grower meetings; several hundred in total were participating in the discussions. We all came to the conclusion that it’s going to cost us some money now, but it’s better than costing us the industry later.”
Editor’s note: We thank John Harris for his contribution to California Ag Today’s CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND. The Almond Board’s Response can be read at Almond Board’s Response on Assessment Increase.
Marketing orders give agriculture a great tool to collect fees from producers to promote products and/or conduct research projects. The concept is great, and increasing demand is always good. To be successful, the plan needs to be affordable and explained so it is understood and backed by a big majority of the producers. I am concerned the Almond Board’s recent assessment increase from 3 to 4 cents a pound—in the absence of an almond producer vote—is unwise.
At the current rate of 3 cents per pound, money raised will increase as production increases, which seem fairly certain. Plus, the fund receives significant help from a government program to encourage exports. A year or so ago, almond growers were doing really well, when many sales were exceeded $4 a pound. But last fall prices dropped significantly, in some cases to the $2 range. This loss in revenue made it tougher for almond growers to break even. A grower producing 2,500 pounds per acre is now paying $75 per acre in assessments; under the new plan it would increase to $100 per acre.
To get feedback from growers, the USDA published a request for comments. The comment period opened on July 18 and closed on August 2. But the industry was not notified until July 27. I commented at the time that I was not in favor of the assessment without full knowledge of the purpose of the extra money. I am certain many growers have an opinion on this, but only five comments were submitted. I think most growers did not realize both the assessment increase was under discussion and a producer vote would not be forthcoming.
The time frame for comments was alarmingly short; however, the USDA has decided to reopen the comment period for 10 days. The reopening of the comment period is expected to be announced within the next two weeks and will be communicated immediately to the industry once it is published in the Federal Register.
I urge all producers to take a good look at the proposal and voice your opinions.
This link will take you to the almond assessment comment page: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=AMS-SC-16-0045.
There should be more of a democratic process. I think this proposed assessment increase needs to go to a vote among the growers affected by it and should require strong approval by at least 51 percent of the growers representing 60 percent of the production. We don’t want to micromanage the Board’s process, but large changes like this assessment increase should demand some form of referendum.
I also think everyone would like to know how the millions of extra dollars collected would be used.
And, of course I think the industry deserves more awareness of this proposed increase in assessment. I do not hear people talking about it; many growers may not even learn about the extra assessment until they get their check from their handler next year. I think all almond growers need to know this is happening now and not be surprised next year.
If I asked my boss for a 33% raise, I believe the onus would be on me to sell the idea and win support, rather than just push it through providing little information to the guy who would be paying me.
If the Almond Board is increasing their budget by 33%, shouldn’t the burden be placed on the Board to win the support of growers? I would think they would communicate a clear plan on how to spend the enormous increase—a strong and strategic plan—they would be eager and proud to share with growers and handlers.
To increase any tax/assessment, the logical thought process should be, “No, unless proven to be needed, supported, and affordable,” instead of defaulting to, “Increase the tax unless we get stopped.”
The Almond Board’s Response can be read at Almond Board’s Response on Assessment Increase.
The Harris Family’s commitment to agriculture spans over 100 years, four generations, and four states, from Mississippi, to Texas, to Arizona, and eventually into California.
J. A. Harris and his wife, Kate, arrived in California’s Imperial Valley in 1916 to start one of California’s first cotton gins and cotton seed oil mills. They later moved to the San Joaquin Valley and began farming there.
In 1937, their only son, Jack, and his wife Teresa, began what is now known as Harris Ranch, starting with a previously unfarmed 320 acres of desert land on the Valley’s Western edge. With vision and determination, Harris Ranch has grown into the most integrated, diversified, and one of the largest agribusinesses in the United States.
Beginning with cotton and grain, Harris Ranch now produces over thirty-three crops annually, including lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, onions, melons, oranges, lemons, almonds, pistachios, walnuts and winegrapes, all backed by their commitment to superior quality and satisfaction. Harris Farms thoroughbreds are raised and trained to compete internationally. Harris Feeding Company, California’s largest cattle raising operation, and Harris Ranch Beef Company produce and market a premium line of packaged and fully-cooked beef products, including Harris Ranch Restaurant Reserve™ beef. All Harris products are served and sold at the internationally acclaimed Harris Ranch Restaurant and Inn.
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various participants on CaliforniaAgToday.com do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints or official policies of the California Ag Today, Inc.
Scores of citrus industry leaders, citrus growers, scientists and CDFA officials attended the ribbon cutting event TODAY at the opening of a new greenhouse on the Cal Poly Pomona campus to rear Tamarixia radiata, a tiny parasitic wasp imported from Pakistan because it is an Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) nymph predator. ACP, in turn, is a serious nonnative citrus pest that can vector Huanglongbing (HLB)—a deadly citrus disease also known as Citrus Greening—that has devastated the powerhouse citrus
industry in Florida, threatens to ruin additional citrus economies, and is the biggest threat the California citrus industry has ever faced.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), infected citrus trees “produce fruits that are green, misshapen and bitter, unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit or for juice. Most infected trees die within a few years.” ACPs have been detected in Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of those locations, the HLB disease has been detected in California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Use of the ACP predator, Tamarixia radiata as a biological control for ACP was discovered by Mark Hoddle, biological control specialist and principal investigator, UC Riverside ( UCR), Department of Entomology. The first release of Tamarixia was in December 2011 after USDA-APHIS cleared the natural enemy for release from the Quarantine Facility at UCR.
“Tamarixia can kill ACP nymphs in two different ways,” explained Nick Hill, a Tulare County citrus producer and Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPC) chair. “The first is parasitism. In this instance, a female parasitoid lays an egg underneath a fourth or fifth instar—the larger and final developmental stage of the ACP nymph before becoming an adult—nymphs that are most preferred by Tamarixia for parasitism. When the egg hatches, the Tamarixia larva begins to feed on the under-surface of the ACP nymph. Eventually the larva completely excavates the body cavity of the ACP nymph and pupates inside the empty shell of its host.”
Hill explained the first releases of the tiny and harmless wasp will occur this fall in urban areas, “to help control ACP so that we do not have to do mitigations such as spraying in those areas. We hope to get to a point where we no longer need to go into people’s yards and ask if we can treat the trees.”
“The issue,” commented Valerie Melano, professor and chair, Cal Poly Pomona Plant Sciences and interim chair, Cal Poly Agribusiness & Food Industry Management/Agricultural Science, “is that we need to come up with the best possible ways to raise enough wasps for big releases to prey on ACP. We will have CDFA employees working in this green house, as well as student workers who have participated in our research program all along,” noted Melano.
Hill added, “The idea is to get enough Tamarixia out there so they start reproducing themselves and they become self sufficient. This is tough to accomplish, but researchers think if they can get big numbers of the wasp into the urban areas, they can put a big dent in lowering the populations of ACP.”
The new Cal Poly 5,040-square-foot research greenhouse, built in collaboration with Citrus Research Board and constructed through a $400,000 grant from the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program, will house the second Tamarixia production program in California. CDFA’s Mount Roubideaux facility in Riverside houses current production. Both facilities will support the CPDPC biological control program that oversees releases in urban areas with high ACP populations.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) operates an extensive monitoring program to track the distribution of the insect and disease in both residential areas and commercial citrus groves. Results have determined quarantine zones, guided releases of biological control agents, and prioritized areas for a residential chemical control program. Nearly all of southern California is under quarantine for ACP, due to the fact that more than 15 residential trees have been discovered to be in infected with HLB.
The ACP quarantine in California includes parts of the following counties: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus; and the following entire counties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare County, and Ventura.
First established in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, National Ice Cream Month was scheduled for the month of July, with the third Sunday of the month designated as National Ice Cream Day.
Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications, California Milk Advisory Board, explained why Californians, in particular, have so much to celebrate during National Ice Cream Month. “As the number one ice cream state,” she said, “we produce 126 million gallons of ice cream a year.”
California also leads the nation in milk production, and 99 percent of dairies in the state are family-owned. Including milk production on farms and milk processing, the California dairy industry, supports about 190,000 jobs in the California economy and contributed about $21 billion in economic value added in 2014, according to “Contributions of the California Dairy Industry to the California Economy,” by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center (May 14, 2015).
Ice cream, being both timeless and innovative, has evolved in flavors and varieties over the years, according to Giambroni, while still holding true to the traditional treat you grew up with as a kid. “Ice cream is an important category that represents a lot of the milk produced on California’s more than 1,400 family dairy farms and carry the Real California Milk seal,” she noted.
“We’re seeing adult-friendly milkshakes with the addition of spirits, ice cream sandwiches made with more than cookies, and sundaes with everything from balsamic vinegar reductions to red bean paste,” Giambroni elaborated. Other new ice cream trends include hyper-indulgent flavor combinations, including nuts and fruits grown in California, and “better for you” versions with probiotics, varying levels of fat and sugar, added calcium, lactose-free, and different kinds of oils. “We’re loving the olive oil and walnut oil ice creams for their subtle flavors,” Giambroni noted.
The California Milk Advisory Board works with bloggers on how to incorporate ice cream into events for children of all ages:
Rick’s Ice Cream–Blue Moon-A fruit loops tasting ice cream with super-secret natural ingredients
McConnell’s Boysenberry Rosé Milk Jam–Central Coast, grass-fed milk & cream and cane sugar, slowly-simmered to a thick, rich and decadent milk jam – then churned into house-made, boysenberry & rosé wine preserves.
Breyer’s Strawberry Ice Cream-packed with sun-ripened California strawberries picked at the peak of happiness!
Gilroy Garlic Festival Garlic Ice Cream-July 29-31, 2016
Quarantines are now in place in both Merced and Monterey Counties due to recent Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) detections. One ACP was detected near the City of Merced in Merced County and two ACP in one trap within the City of Salinas in Monterey County.
The quarantine zone in Merced County measures 123 square miles, bordered on the north by Kenney Avenue; on the south by W Dickenson Ferry Road; on the west by Shaffer Road; and on the east by
E Yosemite Avenue. Monterey County’s quarantine measures 111 square miles and is bordered on the north by Pesante Road; on the south by the Salinas River; on the west by Castroville Road; and on the east by Gabilan Creek. The quarantine maps for both Merced and Monterey Counties are available online at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/acp-maps. Please check this link for future quarantine expansions in these counties, should they occur. Quarantines in new counties will be announced separately.
The quarantine prohibits the movement of citrus and curry leaf tree nursery stock, including all plant parts except fruit, out of the quarantine area and requires that all citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems prior to moving out of the quarantine area. An exception may be made for nursery stock and budwood grown in USDA-approved structures which are designed to keep ACP and other insects out. Residents with backyard citrus trees in the quarantine area are asked not to transport or send citrus fruit or leaves, potted citrus trees, or curry leaves from the quarantine area.
ACP county-wide quarantines are now in place in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura Counties, with portions of Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus counties also under quarantine.
The ACP is an invasive species of grave concern because it can carry the disease huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. All citrus and closely related species, such as curry leaf trees, are susceptible hosts for both the insect and disease. There is no cure for HLB and once a tree becomes infected, the diseased tree will decline in health and produce bitter, misshaped fruit until it dies. In California, HLB has only been detected on residential properties in Los Angeles County. This plant disease does not affect human health.
Residents in the area who think they may have seen ACP or symptoms of HLB on their trees are urged to call CDFA’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899 or your local agricultural commissioner’s office (Merced County (209) 385-7431; Monterey County (831) 759-7325). For more information on the ACP and HLB, please visit: www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/acp.
Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual based in Exeter, Calif., spoke about his advocacy for growers and the impact Brexit has on U.S. agricultural trade as he arrived at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport from Washington, D.C. last week. Brexit is an abbreviation of “British exit,” which refers to the June 23, 2016 referendum by British voters to exit the European Union (EU), according to Investopedia.
Nelsen explained, “There were two missions I was on while I was in Washington. One had to do with a proposal to allow lemon imports from Argentina. We’re definitely opposed to it because of pests and diseases, and a lack of transparency in that country over the last one to two decades.”
“We have a comment period,” Nelsen continued, “but we have asked for an extension on that comment period because of the scope of the rule and the economic impact, and we haven’t heard a word on that,” he said. “We met with our colleagues and friends in Washington, D.C. Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer and a couple of House Office Committees have agreed to make a phone call to the Secretary of Agriculture and get a determination on that,” he said.
The second purpose of Nelson’s trip was to discuss trade and the impact on the U.S. economy due to the recent Brexit, as Nelsen is chairman of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC), a national trade committee that offers information and advice about agricultural products and trade issues to the USDA Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative. “People from across the country came, and we talked about trade subjects, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Britain’s separating itself from the EU,” said Nelsen. “It’s obvious that this upset everybody; Ambassador Michael Froman, United States Trade Representative (USTR) who advises the president on international trade and investment issues, said, “I know what I don’t know, and I don’t know a lot right now.”
Nelson explained, “We think [Brexit] will slow down the fresh fruit and vegetable sector, as well as the passage of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, since the U.S. market share of agricultural products and food imported by the EU—the world’s largest importer in the category—is shrinking despite continued growth of the EU market, T-TIP negotiations offer a major opportunity to address unjustified tariff and non-tariff trade barriers to U.S. exports.
“Quite frankly,” Nelsen summarized, “we’re less than excited about [T-TIP] because it didn’t address the inherent problem that we have from competition: fresh fruit and vegetable producers in the EU get a direct subsidy and growers in the United States do not.”
Some additional members of the ATAC for Trade in Fruits and Vegetables include: