Food Tank’s Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Knowledge Gap

Food Tank’s 1st Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Gap in Agricultural Knowledge

Good Starting Point for Constructive Conversation

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Several hundred food activists attended the First Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento last week, hosted by Food Tank, in partnership with the Visit SacramentoCalifornia Farm-to-Fork Program, and University of California, DavisDanielle Nierenberg, co-founder and president of Food Tank noted having the event in Sacramento enabled West Coast agricultural experts to contribute to the discussion.

“We were really excited to feature California agriculture, because it’s such a huge part of the American economy,” said Nierenberg. “Californians are feeding the world, and we need to really highlight what these amazing producers are doing. When the Farm to Fork program of the Visitors Bureau reached out to us, we were thrilled to partner with such an amazing group of people, as well as UC Davis folks and the Center for Land-Based Learning,” she said.

Food Tank, an abbreviation of Food Think Tank, is a 501(c)3 non profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters that values education, inspiration and change.

According to their website:

Food Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day. We will offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems.

The organization begins with the premise, “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.”

Food Tank, Farm Tank SummitWith the goal of feeding the hungry world of nine billion people in a few years, “Food Tank highlights hope and success in agriculture. We feature innovative ideas that are already working on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories. These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up. And that is where we need you. We all need to work together to find solutions that nourish ourselves and protect the planet.”

Nierenberg clarified, “I don’t necessarily think we need to scale up food production; I think we need to scale out different innovations that are working. We’re wasting about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s enough to feed everyone who’s hungry today, so we don’t necessarily need to ramp up production. We need to have better distribution, and processing practices that can help get food to people who need it the most,” she said.

“We need the political will behind those things,” she continued, “to build the infrastructure necessary for farmers to have better processing facilities, to have better storage facilities, to have better roads—if we’re talking about the developing world. I don’t necessarily think that we need to invest in producing more calories; we need better calories. We need more nutrient-dense food, and we need less starchy staple crops,” she noted.


Editor’s Note: Activists overtook the stage during the event, and the conversation was notably challenging for panelists. In an effort to Cultivate Common Ground to link consumers with the farmers who grow their nutritious food—and vice versa—California Ag Today has chosen to share some interesting statements from presenters and attendees to illustrate, perhaps, where the discussion could begin:

Regarding farms and processing facilities, big is bad, and small is good.

Regarding food quality, organic produce is healthy and safe, while conventional produce is unsafe and full of pesticides.

One of many moderators from the Bay Area, Twilight Greenaway, managing editor of Civil Eats mistakenly introduced Oscar Villegas, Yolo County Supervisor, District 1, as being from Sacramento County. When Villegas corrected her, Greenaway said, “I’m showing my Central Valley and Bay Area eliteness.”

Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, noted that farmworkers are invisible in California agriculture. “There is racism in the fields. We need more worker unions and we need farmworkers to be paid much more than they are now and the farmworkers should be getting pensions from the farmer.”

Michael Dimock, president, Roots of Change, said to the audience, “You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. Keep working with your NGOs. They know policy. In turn, they can work with the legislators.”

“You need to be in the capital, pursuading the legislatures to support their bills. They want to be reelected, and if they don’t do what we ask them to do, they are scared.”

“In the meantime, we have to be nice to farmers because farmers are scared. We are putting a lot of pressure on them; They are in a vice. Our movement has supported bills AB 1066 – the overtime bill, minimum wage increases, organic farming legislation,  and workers’ rights.”

Kerryn Gerety, founder and CEO, Lazoka, referred to John Purcell, vegetables global R&D Lead, Hawaii business lead, vice president and distinguished fellow, Monsanto Company, and said, “There is an elephant in the room, the Monsanto rep. Monsanto has all the technology patents. We all want transparency and we need you to be more transparent.”

Continuing, “Why doesn’t Monsanto open-source some of your patents and release the intellectual property so others can take advantage of your teçhnology?”

Purcell answered, “We are an Ag company. Why would our company invest a million dollars on technology and let everyone have it? It is our investment and we need to have the opportunity for a return on that investment.

During a panel discussion of food companies including Blue Apron, Almond Board of California, and Bayer CropScience, that covered organics, Jennifer Maloney, food chain sustainability manager, Bayer CropScience, said, “We do support  the organic industry, because we have biological products that work in organic as well as conventional [farming].”

Maloney also talked about agricultural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology such as smart sprayers that spray only targeted areas.

Matt Wadiak, founder & COO, Blue Apron, responded, “It’s not about smart sprayers; it’s about biological systems in the field and trying to lean on them instead of spraying.”

Maloney replied, “Yes, that is exactly what IPM is.”

Keith Knopf, COO, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, commented on the organic question, “the way we see organic versus inorganic—that is not the discussion for us. What’s more important to us is, is it the candy bar or the apple?”


This two-day event featured more than 35 speakers from the food and agriculture field, interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees. This was the second in a series of three 2016 Summits, following the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit that completely sold out and drew in more than 30,100 livestream viewers. The third Summit will be held in Chicago on November 16, 2016.

Almond Conference Announces AIM Strategy

Annual Almond Conference Announces AIM Strategy and Improved Leadership

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Leadership was the recurring theme for the 3,000+ attendees over the three-day 43rd Annual Almond Conference, hosted by the Almond Board of California last week in Sacramento. “We are focused on the fact that the almond industry is accepting its responsibility to provide leadership for California agriculture and to use our treasure and talent to work on solutions for a lot of the problems that are very daunting,” said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board. “We have talked a lot about what is expected by consumers and by consumer product goods companies, which is our customer base,” Waycott noted.

At the conference, the Almond Board launched Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM), a major strategic effort designed to further increase the almond industry’s efficiency and sustainability, that features four major initiatives described by Waycott:

Water Management and Efficiency – A focus on accelerating almond farmer transition to more efficient irrigation scheduling and management practices to maximize the most crop per drop of water.  This initiative, which builds on the 33 percent reduction in water used per pound of almonds achieved by the industry over the last 20 years, includes working with farmers to fine tune irrigation techniques and adopting more advanced water management technologies.

Sustainable Water Resources – First, an exploration of how to best leverage a unique strength of the California Almond industry—its acreage—to accelerate natural flood-year groundwater recharge of aquifers. Collectively, California’s aquifers are the state’s largest water storage system; water recharged through this program would benefit all Californians, not just farmers. Second, an investigation of opportunities to recycle water from multiple sources, such as municipal wastewater, as a way of increasing overall water availability for farmers and all Californians.

Air Quality – Investigation of various methods the almond industry can help meet the Central Valley’s exacting air quality standards. This initiative will scrutinize all components of almond farming that impact air quality and evaluate opportunities to decrease emissions. This initiative will identify alternatives, such as decreased fossil fuel use, that will result in cleaner air for all those who live in California’s Central Valley—farmers, their families, and surrounding communities.

22nd Century Agronomics  A recognition that we need to better understand and then adopt the technologies that will lead California farming into the 22nd century. The Almond Board of California will lead a comprehensive exploration of almond farming techniques, bringing an exploratory mindset to consider all options as to what innovations and technical “leap frogs” will be needed to sustainably farm in the future. Each component of almond farming will be considered, from land preparation and varietal development, to equipment and processing.

Link: Almond Board of California

Almond Growers Conserve Water

Almond Growers Conserve Water…Period!

By Laurie Greene, Editor, California Ag Today

At a recent drought forum, California Ag Today spoke with Mike Mason, an almond grower and partner with Supreme Almonds near Wasco, as well as  chairman of the Almond Board of California. Noting breakthroughs in the almond industry, Mason said, “Facts bear out that we use 33 percent less water today than we did 20 years ago for every pound of almonds grown. There’s no reason  not to expect a similar result over the next 20 years given the ongoing research and funding we do through the Almond Board. We will continue to become more and more efficient, not just with water use, but with fertilizer and everything else we do in farming as well,” said Mason.

“Keep in mind that almonds, like all flowering plants, transpire 95 percent of the water they take up,” said Mason. “Water moves through the vascular system of the plant and exits the stomata of the leaves. When the stomata open, pure water exits and carbon dioxide enters the leaves. The carbon is used in photosynthesis to make carbohydrates that enable the almond almond tree to produce almonds. It’s all part of the universal water cycle that enables life to exist on the earth!”

Though current public opinion on water use seems to focus on almonds primarily, Mason remains confident that the facts will speak for themselves. It is simply a matter of getting the information out there. Mason elaborated, “We’ve got to go back to education because there are so many ways of comparison, and it is pretty hard to refute some of the things people are saying out there. But I think, over time, as we get the facts out there, public perception will be different.”

Because almonds are proving to be profitable at the moment, other countries are starting to take notice and planting more almond orchards of their own. Currently, California accounts for about 80 percent of the world’s supply of almonds. Mason believes, in spite of increased international competition, California will remain a world leader. “I wouldn’t call it a threat;” he said, “it is more like an opportunity than anything else. I think California will continue to be the world’s supplier, but there are other areas around the world where almonds can be grown, and that’s perfectly fine,” said Mason.

American consumption of almonds has increased roughly 220% since 2005. As a result, almonds have become the most-consumed nut in America, after  surpassing that of peanuts. This explosive increase in demand has been the driving force for almond production expansion.

Now, almonds cover about one million acres in California. On maintaining this level of success, Mason commented, “Markets go up, and markets go down. There are all kinds of different factors that cause these fluctuations, from oversupply to environmental issues. We think we have a bright future with a healthy product. Time will tell,” he said.

AHPA Leadership Urges Members to Support Voluntary Almond Industry PAC

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Almond Hullers & Processors Association (AHPA) Chairman Dick Cunningham and President Kelly Covello urged their membership to support the voluntary California Almond Industry PAC at the association’s 34th Annual AHPA Convention, held on the Big Island in Hawaii over the past three days.

Almond Hullers & Processors Association

Facing immense challenges such as the slowdown of West Coast ports, air quality laws and regulations, net energy metering (NEM), food quality and safety, worker safety, bees and bee health, wastewater treatment, crop protection regulation, aboveground petroleum storage Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, competing research priorities and most urgently, unprecedented drought conditions and public misunderstanding and criticism of almond water usage, the Almond Industry aims to create a unified voice for candidate support, political information and education services.

Through a Memorandum of Agreement with the Almond Board of California (ABC), AHPA is able is able contract for a portion of ABC Logostaff time/expertise to assist in AHPA’s advocacy efforts and provide a unified voice for the industry. The ABC educates regulatory agencies and legislators but is prevented by the USDA Federal Marketing Order to advocate for government policy or legislation.

The California Almond Industry PAC will hold a fundraiser in Bakersfield on May 14th, at Imbibe, 4140 Truxtun Avenue, from 5:30-7:00pm, sponsored by Golden Empire Shelling, LLC., Landmark Irrigation, Inc., Pacific Ag Management, Inc., Paramount Farms, and Supreme Almonds of California.

Fundraisers will also be arranged in the Northern and Fresno areas in the upcoming months.

Sponsorship Levels include:

  • Platinum: $2500
  • Gold: $1500
  • Supporter: $500 (includes a guest)

You do not need to be an AHPA member to contribute or attend the event.

For more information, contact (209) 599-5800 or staff@ahpa.net.

California Almond Industry Political Action Committee
California Almond Industry Political Action Committee

Bayer CropScience Gives $100,000 to Sponsor Project Apis m.’s Honey Bee Forage Program

Every year, more than 1.7 million honey bee colonies are brought to California’s Central Valley to pollinate the vast expanses of almond orchards. Many bees arrive in the fall when little is in bloom to escape their native cold temperatures in anticipation of the world’s largest pollination event.

Prior to and after the almond orchard’s bloom in late winter and spring, there is a shortage of food to help the bees survive. Bees’ food consists of nectar and pollen gathered from blooming plants.

To help address the pre- and post-bloom food challenge, Bayer CropScience is giving $100,000 to Project Apis m., a nonprofit organization dedicated to better bee health through its work with growers. Project Apis m. will use the funds to provide seed mixes to growers in California and Washington who have agreed to plant cover crops for honey bees before and after almond bloom and other key seasons. The project will help build a healthier bee population to support crop pollination nationwide as bee colonies are transported to other states for other growing seasons.

“This initiative is a direct response to the lack of adequate forage needed to keep honey bees healthy and thriving,” said Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP North America. “In 2015, Bayer CropScience is committed to research and partnerships that will make a positive impact on honey bees.”

Bayer’s expanded partnership with Project Apis m. will complement its joint field research projects conducted on fence rows near almond orchards at Bayer’s Western Bee Care Technology Station in Fresno, California. Findings from Bayer’s research with Project Apis m. show that forage plantings also can have benefits for growers.

If growers allow forage plantings adjacent to fields, rather than planting from fence row to fence row, they can reduce the loss of irrigation water, better manage soil quality and weeds, and help support wildlife, including pollinators. Local growers and landowners will plant the provided seeds on land with crops and on nearby plots to help ensure direct benefit to them and nearby bee colonies.

“With funding from Bayer, Project Apis m. will be able to work with growers to plant more acres of honey bee habitat right where it can be accessed by honey bees before the almond crop’s first bloom around Valentine’s Day,” said Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m. and liaison to the Almond Board of California’s Bee Task Force. “Additionally, with Bayer’s help from its Fresno Research Station, we know the best plant species and mixes to use to feed bees and save them from starving.”

Project Apis m. will work with almond and other growers to get commitments for cover crops that will be planted in Fall 2015.

 

Almond Board of California Announces 2015 Election

Almond Board of California announced January 20, 2015 as the deadline for filing nomination petitions for two independent grower member positions and two independent grower alternate positions on its Board of Directors.

Each candidate must be a grower and must submit a petition signed by at least 15 independent growers of almonds (verified by Almond Board) in order to be considered for the position.  The petition must state the position for which the candidate is nominated and must be filed with Almond Board of California, 1150 9th Street, Suite 1500, Modesto, California 95354.

Additionally, two independent handler member positions and two independent handler alternate positions are available.  Handlers must declare their candidacy, in writing, to Almond Board no later than January 20, 2015in order for their name to be placed on the ballot.

A cooperative grower member and alternate nominee will be selected through their cooperative association.

For further information call: Sue Olson – Associate Director, Marketing Order Services, (209) 343-3224.

Go to

Commentary: Russian ban shows the folly of using food as a weapon

By Stewart Truelsen; AgAlert

We can only guess how the decision was made for Russia to ban food imports from most of the Western world, but perhaps it went something like this: President Vladimir Putin was sitting with some of his old pals from his KGB days. Putin was desperate for a way to retaliate against the West for its economic sanctions leveled against Russia for intervening to help the rebels in Ukraine. He asked for suggestions.

“Why not a boycott of their food?” suggested a former Soviet general, remembering the grain embargoes of the 1980s. “The Americans, they hate food boycotts and embargoes.”

That much is true—American farmers and ranchers hate the use of food as a weapon. In January 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a U.S. embargo of grain and oilseed shipments to the Soviet Union because of its invasion of Afghanistan. The American Farm Bureau Federation thought it was unwise to single out American farmers by using food as a weapon of foreign policy. If sanctions were needed, AFBF preferred they be across the board, not just on food.

The grain embargo of 1980 proved to be a failure. It stimulated more grain and oilseed production in South America to fill the void left by the U.S. Fifteen months later, when President Reagan ended the Carter embargo, it had cost American farmers around $1 billion in lost export business.

This time, the biggest losers will not be American farmers.

“This is clearly a political move,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman of Putin’s ban on food imports. “It is unfortunate that the biggest losers will be the Russian consumers, who will pay more for their food now as well as in the long run.”

The old Soviet Union was dependent on American grain and oilseeds in the 1970s and ’80s, to make up for harvest shortfalls that were common under the communist system. Beginning in the 2000s, the three major grain-producing regions of the former USSR—Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan—became major grain exporters.

In 2013, Russia was the 20th largest market for U.S. agricultural and related product exports, accounting for less than 1 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports. Approximately 55 percent of these export products will be affected by the ban.

(For California, Russia ranked as the 15th largest export market in 2012, with shipments totaling $144.7 million, or about 1 percent of the state’s total agricultural exports. Almond shipments accounted for roughly 70 percent of the Russian purchases, but the Almond Board of California estimated Russia represented only about 3 percent of the export market for California almonds.)

Neither side, therefore, is as dependent on the other as they were in the past. Soviet grain deals once provided a huge stimulus to the American grain market. Nothing like that exists between Russia and the U.S. On the other hand, Europe supplies 40 percent of Russia’s agricultural market and will feel the sanctions more.

The idea to use food as a weapon is a bad one. American farmers could have told Putin that. Whoever suggested it to him should be put on the next train to Siberia. The Russian people have been turned into unwilling locavores, having to rely much more on locally produced food and paying more for it.

 

California Almond Board Blog Goes Live!

Richard Waycott, President and CEO of the Almond Board of California, launched its new Almond Board blog, almonds.com, TODAY, with the inaugural post (dated 7/22/14), “The Almond Board of California is a What? Understanding Federal Marketing Orders.”

Back in 1950, almond growers asked the United States Department of Agriculture to approve a Federal Marketing Order, so they could all work together to improve the quality and marketing of their crop.  The Almond Board of California was born. A lot has changed since our establishment 64 years ago, including a name change (we used to be called the Almond Control Board) and the broadening of our programs from what initially was just quality standards compliance. Today, we call ourselves an agricultural promotion group.

In their current form, agricultural promotion groups are made up of farmers – in our case growers and handlers – who work together to educate consumers and to research, innovate and promote what they produce.

While you may have never heard of us before, these groups are part of an American tradition and are ingrained in our culture. Whether it’s the dancing California raisins, “Got Milk?,” “Incredible Edible Egg,” “Pork: The Other White Meat” or “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” agricultural promotion groups have created and funded these campaigns. (By the way, have you seen our own “Crunch On” ad campaign that was launched in 2013?)

Different ag promotion groups work in different ways, but essentially they are founded and funded by industry members. They are not funded by taxpayers, which is an occasional misconception. Each year almond handlers contribute money to fund Almond Board marketing and research programs. We develop our own programs and direct our own research, with the USDA providing oversight and review of all external messaging, to make sure they are accurate and comply with FDA and FTC regulations.

At the Almond Board of California, we have worked hard not only to help our favorite nut overcome certain negative perceptions due to their oil content, but more importantly to become the number one nut that surveyed North American consumers associate with being nutritious and heart healthy.*† By creating demand for almonds, we work to build global markets for California Almond growers and handlers.

In terms of research, we have funded $42 million in almond quality and food safety, nutrition, environmental, and production research since 1973.  From developing a new nutritional supplement for our pollinators – the honeybee – to improving water efficiency by 33 percent per pound of almonds produced over the last two decades, the Almond Board constantly strives to be a stellar guardian of the natural resources that almond growers and handlers employ to produce one of the finest foods in the world.

Click here to learn more about the Almond Board of California.

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*ABC North American Attitudes, Awareness and Usage Study, 2013

†Good news about almonds and heart health.  Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces of almonds as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.  One serving of almonds (28g) has 13g of unsaturated fat and 1g of saturated fat.

UC Researchers Trying to Understand Roll of Green Waste and Manure

Almond Growers Are Asked to Return Survey

Researchers are trying to find out the benefit of adding green waste from animal manure and adding it to the soil of permanent crops, and they  are looking for information from local growers.

A team of UC Davis and UC Merced researchers are trying to find how and why fruit and nut growers are using organic matter amended to their soils. These amendments might include green waste composted or non composted animal manure.

The goal of this survey is to help develop better approaches so the organic matter amendment can be used more safely, according to Daniel Schellenberg, postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis, who is the coordinator of the project.

“We’re hoping to find out the benefit to the orchard for using these types of materials and how they might improve environmental quality but as well as to find out are they benefit tree nutrition are they changing the biology in the soil, or they simply increasing the capacity of the soil to hold water.” said Schellenberg.

All California almond growers will be getting a survey in their mailboxes this week.

“We’re working with in partnership with the Almond Board of California we were able to have a mailing that will go out to almond growers about their practices and have also built a website that will allow all growers of trees, fruits, and nuts to be able to take the survey.” said Schellenberg

The survey can be found here.

Previously, the Almond Board of California stated that growers should not use these amendment due to food safety, but there has been no field trials to show the risk. A research goal is to find how amends can be used safely, and to determine how much nitrogen certain amendments can provide for tree and  vines.