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.
California ranks #8 in turkey production in the United States (2016), and we supply most of the western states from our poultry farms located in several areas in the state.
The famous Mrs. Cubbison’s Stuffing or “Dressing” originated from a ç, born in 1890 in the San Marcos area of San Diego County. In short, Cubbison graduated from California Polytechnical University in May 1920 with a degree in Home Economics having paid her way through school with the money she earned feeding the farm workers.
Cubbison created her popular stuffing in 1948 using broken pieces of the popular Melba toast and various seasonings. The factory in Commerce, California churns it out in mass quantities this time of year.
California farmers produce almonds, raisins, walnuts, prunes, figs, dates, apricots, pistachios, and pomegranates, right on up the food line.
These are all celebrated Thanksgiving foods.
Celery from the Oxnard and Ventura area completes the stuffing mix. Nutrient-dense carrots, lettuce and fresh spinach from Salinas now arrive, pre-washed and bagged, in your local produce department. Your Thanksgiving traditional green beans come from California growers.
An ample supply of freshly harvested oranges and kiwi fruit, table grapes, strawberries, and raspberries are shipped from many areas in the state. Seasonal features include sweet potatoes from the Merced, about an hour north of Fresno, plus all kinds and colors of potatoes and tomatoes, parsley, onions, and garlic—all crops are raised in California.
Nearly all the fruits, vegetables and nuts that are part of America’s Thanksgiving are sourced from California.
Don’t forget about the great varieties of wine grapes grown in the No. 1 agricultural state that are deftly crafted into delectable California wines.
Or the thirst-quenching Martinelli sparkling apple or grape cider from Watsonville California, near the Monterey Bay area. Local growers provide the tree-ripened fruit to the award-winning company that is still family-owned after almost 150 years and is managed by the founder’s grandson and great-grandson. Here’s something to discuss at your Thanksgiving meal: the company won its first Gold Medal at the 1890 California State Fair in Sacramento.
How about those heirloom and new apple varieties, plus those small round watermelons that we snack on or toss into a dessert fruit salad, topped with California pomegranate arils?
Of course, we raise poultry, and even California lamb, if you want to go that way. Here is a Did-you-know? challenge for your holiday meal: What are the most recent Presidental Thanksgiving Turkeys from California pardoned by United States presidents? (Answers are below.)
And by the way, you know that food-safety pop-up turkey timer that indicates when the turkey has reached the correct internal temperature? Public relations genius Leo Pearlstein and a turkey producer in Turlock, a small town north of Fresno in Stanislaus County, invented this Thanksgiving fixture.
Back in the 1960s, they were sitting in a room trying to solve the undercooked poultry challenge, when they looked up and noticed ceiling fire sprinklers. The sprinklers sprayed water when the room temperature became hot enough to melt a tiny piece of metal alloy in the mechanism. This innovative team of two applied the same concept to the pop-up timer!
With the exception of cranberries, our national day of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest is really a California Thanksgiving.
Here are some friendly topics for discussion at your Thanksgiving Table:
In 2010, President Obama pardoned Apple, a 45-pound turkey from Modesto, California-based Foster Farms; and alternate bird Cider.
In 2015, President Obama pardoned Apple, a 45-pound turkey and an alternate 43-pound bird named Honest, again from Foster Farms.
The Presidential Turkey flock are Nicholas White turkeys, which originated in California’s Sonoma Valley in 1957. Today, the Nicholas White is the industry standard. (Foster Farms)
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.”
Turkeys come from several areas of the state, and while California is ranked No. 7 in turkey production, we do supply most of the western United States.
The famous Mrs. Cubbison’s dressing comes from Sophie Cubbison, a California entrepreneur who was born in 1890 in the San Marcos area of San Diego County. A longer fascinating story made short: In May 1920, she graduated from California Polytechnical University with a degree in Home Economics. In 1948, she added seasoning to broken pieces of the popular Melba toast to make stuffing. A factory in Commerce, California churns it out this time of year.
Farmers and farmworkers in California produce almonds, raisins, walnuts, prunes, pistachios, figs and dates, apricots, pumpkins, pecans and pomegranates. . . right on up the food line.
These are all part of the American Thanksgiving feast.
Celery from the Oxnard and Ventura area, and the rest of the ingredients for the stuffing mix, plus carrots, lots of crisp lettuce and fresh spinach from Salinas — all these greens waiting for you, already washed and bagged in the produce department. The green beans in your casserole come from California growers.
You’ve got oranges and kiwi fruit, table grapes, strawberries, raspberries freshly harvested from the Salinas and the San Joaquin Valleys. You’ve got sweet potatoes from Merced County — this is their pinnacle season. You’ve got all kinds, colors and sizes of potatoes and tomatoes, plus parsley, onions and garlic. . . all grown in California.
Practically all the fruits, vegetables and nuts make America’s Thanksgiving celebrations festive, and nearly all of them come from California.
And don’t forget about the great variety of California winegrapes cultivated by California growers and then crafted with great care into great California vintage.
Wait! We grow firm, juicy apples and those small round watermelons that are a great snack or accent to a flavorful dessert fruit salad. And besides poultry, we even have California lamb, beef, rice or pasta—if you want to go that way.
Of course, you’ve got Martinelli’s sparkling apple or grape cider from Watsonville, near the Monterey Bay area. Local growers provide the tree-ripened fruit to the award-winning company, which is still family-owned and is run by the founder’s grandson and great-grandson.
At more than 140 years old, Martinelli’s is merely one century younger than our nation. In fact, the company received a first place award at the California State Fair in 1890.
By the way, do you know that little pop-up turkey timer that indicates when the turkey has reached the correct internal temperature? Food public relations genius Leo Pearlstein¹, along with a turkey producer from Turlock, invented that gizmo. Pearlstein, who handled the promotions for the California Turkey Advisory Board, was contemplating the enduring Thanksgiving conundrum—how long to cook the turkey and how to figure out when it is done?
Pearlstein said he and the turkey rancher were sitting in Pearlstein’s test kitchen mulling over ways consumers could determine when the turkey was done. They noticed the fire sprinkler system overhead. When the kitchen gets too hot, the fire sprinkler turns on. A metal alloy in the sprinkler is activated or melted when subjected to the high temperature of a fire in the room (185 degrees Fahrenheit). They applied that concept to the pop-up timer.
Officially, the National Turkey Federation advises consumers also use a conventional meat thermometer to verify that the cooked turkey’s internal temperature reaches:
165 degrees F to 170 degrees F in the breast or
175 degrees F to 180 degrees F in the thigh and
165 degrees F in the center of the stuffing.
¹Leo Pearlstein is founder and president of Lee & Associates, Inc., a full-service public relations and advertising firm, which he opened in 1950. According to the company website, he currently runs the company with his partners, two of his sons, Howard and Frank Pearlstein. He is also founder and director of Western Research Kitchens, the food and beverage division of his agency. He is considered a pioneer food consultant and his agency was recently named as one of the top agencies in the country that specializes in food and beverage clients.
For more food safety guidelines, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) provides this portal.
On Wednesday afternoon, November 9, the Who’s Who of Agriculture will gather at the long-standing celebratory Annual Ag Awards Luncheon in Valdez Hall at the Fresno Convention Center to commemorate the achievements of an individual and a company in the County’s agricultural industry.
Nathan Ahle, president and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, said, “We are very excited about this. This is the 33rd time the Fresno Chamber has presented the Agriculturist of the Year Award, and the 21st time the Fresno-based CPA firm Baker, Peterson and Franklin has presented the Ag Business of the Year Award. We recognize that Ag is really the life-blood of our economy. This event is an honor to do and something we take great pride in.”
This year’s Agriculturist of the Year Award recipient is Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League. “Everybody knows Manuel Cunha—a legend in Valley Ag as president of the Nisei Farmers League for two decades,” Ahle said. “ This gentleman is a force to be recognized with when it comes to fighting for our farmers, fighting for water, fighting for anything and everything that has to do with agriculture in the Central Valley.”
Nisei Farmers League, established in 1971, informs grower members about ever-changing regulations and policies and provides legal assistance for labor and workplace-related issues. The league’s leadership and staff maintain a close working relationship with local, state and federal agencies and legislators to assure grower interests are adequately understood and defended.
The League also collaborates with other grower and agricultural organizations in California and other states to help provide a powerful and unified voice for the agricultural community. The Nisei Farmers League is all about strength, clear focus and growers looking out for growers and farmworkers.
This year’s Ag Business Award recipient, Booth Ranches, is a premium San Joaquin Valley citrus grower. Otis Booth, Jr. founded Booth Ranches in 1957 on 40 acres by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Range near Orange Cove.
Today, Booth Ranches is still family owned and operated on acreage from Orange Cove in the Northern San Joaquin Valley to Maricopa in Kern County to the South. Pasadena-born, fifth-generation farmer Loren Booth currently manages Booth Ranches which boasts premium Navel oranges, Valencia oranges, Cara-Caras, Minneolas and W. Murcott Mandarins that are distributed worldwide.
The selection panel went through a tough selection process, according to Ahle. “Those who have been in the Valley longer than I have tell me this is the strongest group of candidates for the award that we have ever had. I think it just speaks to the great passion that we have for Ag in this community, and Manuel Cunha and the team at Booth Ranches are great, great recipients.”
Many people will be out and about with an extra day off on Labor Day, trying to get that last swallow of summer. They’ll crowd beaches, lakes, parks and backyard BBQs. What better way to celebrate the achievements of American workers than to add fresh-picked California strawberries to the menu?
“Any holiday can be celebrated with strawberries as they are available year-round,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director of the California Strawberry Commission in Watsonville. “Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits around. They are sweet but low in sugar, and they are quite nutritious. People are often surprised to find out that having just eight medium strawberries gives you more vitamin C than eating an orange,” she said.
“Grown year-round, right now strawberries are coming mostly from the Salinas-Watsonville area on the Central Coast and also in the Santa Maria area,” noted O’Donnell. “As we get more into the fall there will be less coming from the northern sections and more from the Ventura County area to the south. Eventually strawberries will come out of Orange County and Northern San Diego County. The crop will roll back up the coast again with the New Year. By next April or May, strawberries will be coming mostly from the Watsonville area again,” O’Donnell explained.
O’Donnell said that strawberry growers are very dedicated to growing the best possible product they can for their customers. “Their strawberries are actually often a crop of opportunity. A number of our farmers started as field workers and were able to work their way up to owning a farm because you can produce a lot of fruit and make a good living on a small amount of land.”
O’Donnell said supplies should be plentiful in the grocery store. “We probably have more fruit this time of year than usual probably because rain this past winter delayed harvest, which was good news. Now we’re just working our way along. Folks in the Watsonville areas are also beginning to start preparing their other pieces of fallow ground so that they can plant around Thanksgiving and produce next year’s crop,” she said.
Photos: Courtesy of California Strawberry Commission
The numbers are in for the 2015 Tulare County Annual Crop and Livestock Report. Marilyn Kinoshita, Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Tulare County, reported, “We had an overall value of $6.9 billion, compared to last year, which was more than $8 billion,” which means the County led the nation in total crop value and dairy production, despite a decrease of nearly 14% in one year.
Tulare County’s top ten crops [crop value] in 2015 were:
Kinoshita explained, “Dairy is our number one industry here. Our milk production was off a little bit. We have fewer dairies in business now because of the low milk prices. Anytime your fresh market milk is off, that’s going to affect our overall value. A good 2/3 of that billion-dollar decrease came from the dairy industry. The price was low the entire year, as opposed to the year before.”
Thus far, the reported 2015 county crop reports in the Central Valley are down this year. “Fresno County, for instance, was down 6.5% off its record $7 billion in 2014,” Kinoshita said.
“It has a lot to do with low water deliveries in Fresno and Tulare Counties,” she continued. “The smaller the water deliveries, the more efficient those growers have to be with that water. Anytime you’re pumping water out of the ground, it’s terribly expensive,” she noted.
“Some of our growers have had to decide, ‘All right, I’ve got this much water; I’m going to keep those blocks alive and I’m going to push an older block that isn’t producing as well.’ The returns aren’t as good as some of the newer plantings,” said Kinoshita.
Despite all of that, Kinoshita said agriculture does sit at the head of the table in Tulare County. “Yes, and we need a successful Ag industry to thrive here,” she said.
Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, noted the crop report demonstrates the strength of the agricultural industry. “I think every year when this crop report comes out, it is always a testament to the resiliency of this industry. This industry takes hard knocks, gets knocked down, then steps right back up to the plate and keeps swinging,” Blattler said. “The agricultural sector has a lot of outside challenges that impact the number that we see reported every year.”
Blattler acknowledged the crop value numbers do not reflect net revenue for growers. “It’s always really important for our listeners to know that the crop value is a gross revenue number. When our Ag Commissioner steps to the microphone and speaks to our Board of Supervisors about this report each year, she’s reflecting values that are attributed to all of the gross revenue, and it’s not only the field value,” Blattler said.
“That gross number reported each year also represents our packing houses, our milk processing facilities—the creameries, the butter plants—the packing sheds, all those other parts of our industry that [create] value in our industry,” said Blattler.
Blattler noted up or down, it’s all about the resiliency of farmers. “The industry has its years that are really blockbuster and it has its years when it falls back and we see a reduction acreage. We see reductions in surface water deliveries. The drought is still certainly playing a significant role in the numbers we’re seeing,” she explained.
With regard to surface water, Tulare County is in a bit of a unique position. “As an Eastside county, some of our water deliveries are not as subject to the situation that the Westside is in. In the same sense, we have some significant cutbacks that have been attributed to the San Joaquin River’s restoration and the biological opinions in the Delta—all have had an impact on the Central San Joaquin Valley [water] deliveries regardless of whether you’re Eastside or Westside.
“Also, as the exchange contractors either take greater deliveries of water or give up water, that also impacts the amount available to Eastside growers here in Tulare County,” she said.
In summary, 2015 Tulare Crop Report covers more than 120 different commodities, 45 of which have a gross value in excess of $1 million. Although individual commodities may experience difficulties from year to year, Tulare County continues to produce high quality crops that provide food and fiber to more than 90 countries worldwide.
Featured photo: Tulare County 2015 Crop Report