Ciatti Co. Hoping for a Smaller Winegrapes Crop in 2017

Brexit Also A Concern for California Sellers

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

The Ciatti Company – a worldwide company headquartered in San Rafael, CA – has been in the wine, grape concentrate and spirit brokerage business since 1971. They are experts in the industry, and President Greg Livengood spoke to California Ag Today recently to give an update on this year’s harvest and prices around the globe.

Ciatti Co. President Greg Livengood
Ciatti Co. President Greg Livengood

“World supply is down a little bit this year from last. We saw some major weather events in the southern hemisphere to start out the year. … Starting in January in Argentina, we saw a fair amount of rain throughout the harvest. They were down a little over 30 percent from their three-million-ton average harvest and that really set the tone for South America,” Livengood said.

“Right behind that, the Chileans got going. They hit about the halfway point of their harvest when El Nino came and slapped them around a little bit. It rained very hard there – five major weather events – and their crop was down at least 20 percent, but in addition to that, they probably would have been down more, but they tried to salvage some of that fruit that suffered a lot of damage from the rain.”

According to Livengood, all of this may not affect pricing in California.

“It certainly helps to set a floor, a pricing floor, and that floor has come up,” Livengood said. “I don’t know that pricing necessarily will go in any direction here based on what happened down there, but … it’s a much more shallow dive that pricing could potentially take here if things go the wrong way.”

A real concern for California winemakers is actually Brexit – Britain’s exit from the European Union.

“ U.K.’s been a very good … market for wine. It is. They don’t grow a lot of their own so they’re buying it from everywhere else. It’s been a very good market for the U.S. The problem with Brexit is the economy. It’s the value of the pound, so the pound took a big hit when Brexit was announced. There’s concern it will take more of a hit. That decreases their buying power and that’s a concern for us here in the U.S. because our prices are generally a little bit higher than all of our competitors around the world,” Livengood said.

“We’re selling on the California name and we’re selling on quality and so as that consumer and as that retail buyer in the U.K. has less buying power, we do have concern that they may look for alternatives to California.”

Overall, Livengood actually hopes for a smaller crop worldwide because high crop yields in multiple years isn’t necessarily a good thing for the industry.

“You never want really long oversupply.  2013, worldwide, it was a bumper crop just about everywhere.  We had too much wine in ‘14 and ’15 … and it’s taken us almost three years to really eat through a lot of that inventory.  A shorter worldwide crop here in 16 is certainly something that we would welcome.”

Grower-PCA Communication is Critical

Grower-PCA Communication is Critical

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Emily Symmes, UC Cooperative Extension Integrated Pest Management Advisor, Butte County, is amazed at the professionalism of growers and Pest Control Advisors (PCAs). “I deal directly with growers and land managers, as well as crop advisors and pest control consultants” said Symmes, “and everyone has so much to do out there, so grower-PCA communication is critical. Sometimes it is amazing how they get it all done. I feel lucky, as I get to focus on the pest management and other production activities throughout the season,” she noted.

Symmes maintains there has to be a lot of communication back and forth between the growers and PCAs and herself. “And within each question there is a deeper conversation,” she elaborated, “but it can get lost in the shuffle of running from one thing to the next. Everything is very time sensitive in agriculture; we don’t have control over weather and things that tend to drive pest population cycles.”

“So within each of those key pest management questions, there is a subset of questions:

  • How do we know that it is time?
  • Are we doing the right thing at the right time?
  • Are we using the right materials?
  • Are we considering the big picture?’”

“The other big key ingredient is follow-up—evaluating:

  • How did we do?
  • Did the treatment work?
  • Did it cause any potentially negative impacts that we weren’t aware of?
  • Did we have to come back and do something additional (after-the-fact)?
  • More questions about the treatment, time, and material.”

    PCA Responsibilities (CA DPR)
    PCA Responsibilities (CA DPR)

And on any California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) recommendation, there is a question before the last signature line, ‘Have you thought of any other alternatives before you make this application?’ IPM practitioners sometimes misunderstand this to mean, ‘Well they don’t want us to treat.’ But it is really an acknowledgement that we know how important all of our management tactics are,” Symmes noted.

“Cultural practices are important, pesticides are important, but knowledge is really the key ingredient. Growers and PCAs are knowledgeable, have explored the alternatives and know what is going on in this particular orchard block they are signing this legal document for. Honestly, I think we do a great job.”

“I think California has done a fantastic job with this,” said Symmes,”but is there room for improvement? I think there always is.”

Water Forum Aug. 29 Chukchansi Park

Water Forum will present the facts on the drought and environmental restrictions

The Fresno Grizzlies have announced that Netafim USA will be the presenting sponsor of the Farm Grown Central Valley Water Forum scheduled for Friday, August 29th at Chukchansi Park prior to the Tacoma Rainiers vs. Fresno Grizzlies 7:05 p.m. PT game.

The forum topic will center on the current drought conditions and the impacts to the Central Valley Ag industry and rural communities. “There is no greater issue in the Central Valley than the current and future availability of water for agricultural use; forums – like this one – are an essential step towards developing a long term solution for California’s agricultural community,” said Ze’ev Barylka, Marketing Director for Netafim USA.

The panel discussion will focus on the issue of regional impacts, asking the questions: how did the system breakdown, what are the subsequent statewide effects, and finally, what coalitions are being developed outside the Central Valley to assist in fixing the system. Panelists will include representatives from various water agencies, government leaders and officials.

“This partnership certainly brings to light the vital role that Netafim USA plays in providing emerging water conservation and drip irrigation technologies to the Central Valley Ag and farming industry. The partnership will also provide the Farm Grown program with tremendous amounts of exposure to the industry beyond the Central San Joaquin Valley as well, thereby increasing our ability to continue in providing topical agricultural forums to promote agriculture and farming here at the stadium,” said Jerry James, Fresno Grizzlies Vice President of Revenue.

 

The Water Forum Panel will include:

  • Congressman Jim Costa  (CA-16)
  • Congressman David Valadao (CA-21)
  • State Senator Tom Berryhill (14th Senate District)
  • GM of Kings River Conservation District David Orth
  • GM of the Friant Water Authority Ronald D. Jacobsma
  • Marketing Director for Netafim USA and Netafim Mexico Ze’ev Barylka

Forum Moderator Bud Elliott

CA Table Grape Growers Award Nine Scholarships to Local Students

Nine high school graduates from the table grape growing regions in the San Joaquin and Coachella Valleys of California were recently awarded scholarships on behalf of California’s table grape growers, the California Table Grape Commission announced TODAY.

Five of the scholarships were awarded to children of table grape field workers: three $20,000 scholarships to four-year universities and two $3,500 scholarships to two-year colleges. Four $20,000 scholarships to four-year universities were awarded to students majoring in agriculture-related fields.

For 30 years, California’s table grape growers have funded the nation’s first worker- focused scholarship program. The program has awarded over 100 scholarships to field workers and their children from the table grape growing regions in California. A few years ago scholarships were added for students living in the table grape growing regions who plan to pursue careers in agriculture.

“The 2014 scholarship recipients are all very talented and motivated individuals, with a variety of career interests,” said Kathleen Nave, commission president. “These scholarships are one of the ways that California’s table grape growers encourage and support education in their local communities.”

 

The California Table Grape Commission is pleased to announce the 2014 scholarship winners:

 

 

Vanessa Serrato Meza
Vanessa Serrato Meza

$20,000 Four-year Field Worker Scholarship Recipients

Ms. Vanessa Serrato Meza is a graduate of Desert Mirage High School in Coachella Valley, and will be attending University of California, San Diego in the fall to study human biology. Vanessa, having immigrated to the U.S. at eight years old, was interactive with others in her community by tutoring and assisting in their studies while taking numerous Advanced Placement and honor courses at her high school. She plans to use the scholarship to continue her education and someday return to her community to help those in need.

 

Ms. Diana Valenzuela, graduate of McFarland HS
Ms. Diana Valenzuela, graduate of McFarland HS

Ms. Diana Valenzuela is a graduate of McFarland High School, where she ranked at the top of her graduating class with a weighted GPA of 4.39. Diana was a team co-captain on varsity softball, the senior class secretary and a recreation leader in an after school program where she led activities for hundreds of elementary school students. Crediting her parents who came to the U.S. from Mexico and their diligence as her main motivation, Diana plans to study civil engineering at University of Southern California with the goal of giving back to her community by building safe public utilities, such as roads, buildings and bridges. Diana will be a first-generation college student from her family.

 

Lissette Garcia
Lissette Garcia

Ms. Lissette Garcia is a graduate of McFarland High School, and plans to attend University of California, Los Angeles to study biochemistry. As a member of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), Associated Student Body (ASB) and the Roaring Leos, Lissete has participated in canned food drives, served as a math tutor, volunteered at the migrant program and elementary school function, and completed various fundraising activities. Lissette, whose parents she says embedded hard work into her, will be a first-generation college student.

 

 

$3,500 Two-year Field Worker Scholarship Recipients

Estefani Hernandez Dominguez
Estefani Hernandez Dominguez

Ms. Estefani Hernandez Dominguez is a graduate of Highland High School, and plans to attend Bakersfield College to study culinary arts. Estefani, who says her parents are the biggest influence in her life, is a deaf student who has not allowed her deafness to prevent her from succeeding. In high school she was the vice president of the deaf club and was an honor student her sophomore year. Estefani’s goal is to become a chef. She loves cooking food for family and friends, and dreams of some day owning a restaurant in Fresno and being the first deaf person with a Food Network television show.

Maria Lozano
Maria Lozano

 

 

Ms. Maria Lozano is a graduate from Reedley High School, and plans to study for an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in medical assisting at Heald College. Maria was very involved in high school, being active with the Spanish Club, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), California Scholarship Federation, Generation Green and was secretary of the Migrant Club, while volunteering in school and community activities. Maria came from Mexico to the U.S. when she was a baby, and refers to her parents as her heroes. She has dreamed of becoming a registered nurse for years. Maria will be a first- generation college student in her family.

 

 

John Taylor Ball
John Taylor Ball

$20,000 Four-year Agriculture Scholarship Recipients

Mr. John Taylor Ball is a graduate from Clovis West High School, and plans to attend California State University, Fresno to study agricultural business. During high school, Taylor was recognized as a Scholar of Academic Distinction, a high academic honor, while being involved in volleyball and basketball and serving the community through organizations such as Assisteens. Taylor’s family has a history in agriculture. His grandfather was a farmer in the San Joaquin Valley for many years. The combination of life experience and his family’s strong ties to agriculture have solidified his career direction and passion for agriculture, specifically the produce industry. Taylor has the goal of some day owning a thriving produce sales and marketing company in the Central Valley.

 

Adilene Gonzalez
Adilene Gonzalez

Ms. Adilene Gonzalez is a graduate from Hanford High School, and plans to double major in business administration and dairy science at California State University, Fresno. Adilene is known as a student who excels in academics and someone who demonstrates a concern for others through community service activities. Graduating with a 4.09 weighted GPA, Adilene was involved in the California Scholarship Federation and HHS Drama Club, and she devoted volunteer time to the local public library and a farm care program taking care of neglected animals. Her life-long goal is to some day administer her own dairy, continuing to keep the roots of agriculture in her family.

 

Julia Reese
Julia Reese

Ms. Julia Reese is a graduate from Clovis North High School, and plans to attend University of California, Davis to study plant science. Julia’s interest in agriculture comes from living in a farming region, her parents’ close ties to agriculture, and projects with 4-H and science fair during high school. Julia was a scholar athlete, graduating as a valedictorian while undertaking a number of co-curricular activities such as water polo, track and field and participating in youth court and key club, co-founding the French club and serving the community through a number of different organizations. Julia envisions her future working in a rural setting in a role that will help improve the production and efficiency of farming. She would like to work with grapes at the production level some day as a pest control advisor or fertility consultant.

 

 

Cristiano Alves
Cristiano Alves

Mr. Cristiano Alves is a graduate from Kingsburg High School, and plans to study agricultural and environmental plant sciences at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Cristiano balanced a rigorous course schedule with many activities such as water polo, involvement with Future Farmers of America (FFA), being his senior class president and a youth group leader and altar server for his church, and volunteering with Kingsburg Choir Crab Feed and Fresno Rescue Mission. His interest in agriculture comes from growing up on a farm and a unique opportunity he had through a vineyard maintenance project with FFA in which he was responsible for harvesting grapes, assessing crop fertility, weed management and pest control. Cristiano says some day he would like to become an agricultural pest control advisor.

 

Scholarships will be offered again next year, with applications for 2015 available in the fall of 2014 at www.grapesfromcalifornia.com.

Harlan Ranch Bulldozes Citrus Trees Due to No Water

 

Harlan Ranch Loses More than Just Trees

Shawn Stevenson is the Vice President of Harlan Ranch, a third-generation family-owned and operated farm located in Fresno County. He says this is the toughest time the ranch has experienced in its history.

Stevenson spoke as a bulldozer uprooted productive trees last week.  “Once we finished pushing these trees, we’re going to be out about 400 acres of the 1200 acres that’s pushed. In addition, we have another 140 acres we’re just giving enough water to barely keep alive,” said Stevenson. “The balance of our crops are receiving 66 percent of their normal water. So no matter what kind of crop that is out here on Harlan Ranch this year, it’s a very tough year as far as water goes,” he added.

Stevenson explained that the lack of water isn’t just about crops, but the people involved as well.

“There’s not enough water. It impacts the trees. It impacts our employees. Earlier this year I had my first layoffs I ever done because of lack of work, and that’s because we are pushing out so many trees. About 30 percent of our employees were let go. That was the probably the most devastating time that I’ve faced here,” said Stevenson.

He added that this reaches far more than just his farm, that the drought permeates all aspects of the industry, not just growers.

Stevenson predicted that this coming season, he’ll produce and deliver to the packing house about 25 percent of the volume of citrus produced in the past year. “That impacts not only our employees but the packers at the packing house, the people who sell the fruit, and the people we buy pesticides and fertilizers from,” Stevenson added.

With drought reaching the majority of the state, with 58 percent of California at the highest drought-level, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor reportsome farmers are thinking about the future of the industry in California.

“Now, I understand not all of Fresno and not all of California looks this bad, but imagine that we’re like the “canary in the coal mine”. This is what the future of California looks like. This kind of devastation that you see here is what our future looks like. If we continue to have no or little surface water deliveries, and as the groundwater situation continues to deteriorate. Without more surface water, without more water supplies, this is the future of the Central Valley,” said Stevenson.

“Several months ago, I looked back at what the worst case scenario would be and started making plans for that worst case scenario. And, the worst case scenario is about right on track. I don’t think a lot of people realize that is like a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, or a wildfire or an earthquake, it’s just going to take a lot longer time to happen. It’s going to happen slowly—the devastation to our economy, to peoples’ lives, to whole communities,” he said.

Stevenson also mentioned communities such as Mendota and Orange Cove, which rely completely on the agriculture industry for employment, and added, “without work, this can leave entire cities in dire situations.”

“Our water infrastructure has been far out-stripped by the people in this state, so it’s time we update it and figure out how to get more water to more people in the state and try to preserve agriculture for our state, our country, and our world,” Stevenson said.

Modesto Irrigation District leaders hustling to get growers more water

By: Garth Stapley; The Modesto Bee

Nut farmers and other Modesto Irrigation District customers can wait to water crops as late as Oct. 3. That’s two weeks later than initially planned, giving trees a better chance of surviving the drought and being healthy enough to produce again next year.

The MID board also agreed Tuesday to accommodate another round of farmer-to-farmer water transfers with a Sept. 2 application deadline. And the district might offer to sell some extra water reserved in April by a few farmers who haven’t asked or paid for it since then.

Faced with a third consecutive dry winter, district officials in February said the irrigation season would end Sept. 19, several weeks earlier than usual, and capped deliveries at 24 inches per acre, down from 36 in a normal year.

But farmers, especially those raising almonds, have been pressing for later deliveries.

Citing University of California research, Ron Fisher said trees that don’t drink just after harvest can lose 74 percent of nuts the following year.

Some almond varieties, such as padre, mission, Monterey and Fritz, harvest later than Sept. 19, growers told the board.

“I’ve farmed almonds over 50 years and I’ve never got my harvest completed by Oct. 3,” said Cecil Hensley, a former board member. “There is no use having (water) next year if we don’t keep our trees alive.”

Farmers won’t get more than their fair share with the extension; Tuesday’s unanimous vote simply allows them to apply their allotment later in the year, explained board member Jake Wenger, who farms.

Board Chairman Nick Blom, also a grower, reminded people that they can rent district wells and canals after the regular season ends, for late-season irrigating.

“It’s not the purest snow water, but it’s water,” Blom said.

To augment deliveries, scores of farmers this year have taken advantage of new programs allowing them to buy or sell MID shares in fixed-price transfers managed by the district or open-market sales at any agreed-upon price.

The district has accommodated more than 100 open-market deals for farmers who submitted transfer requests by deadlines of June 1, July 1 and Friday. Tuesday’s 4-1 vote, with Larry Byrd dissenting, adds a fourth deadline of Sept. 2.

“This gives everyone a little more time and flexibility,” Modesto farmer Aaron Miller said.

Wenger initially suggested an Aug. 15 deadline. Attorneys Stacy Henderson and Bob Fores said their clients would appreciate more time and noted that MID General Manager Roger VanHoy had acknowledged that his staff has experienced no difficulty processing transfer requests.

In April, 26 farmers indicated interest in the district’s allocation return program, meaning they might want to sell a portion or all of their MID water shares, or buy water given up by others. The cost was $200 per acre-foot on either end.

The district set aside enough water to cover those potential deals, but a handful of farmers – fewer than a dozen, said civil engineering manager John Davids – did not sign contracts and have not paid for the extra water they initially said they might buy.

Davids did not know how much water remains in that pot, but said it represents a potential $300,000 loss. Board member John Mensinger said that’s “regrettable” and Wenger suggested selling the water to others in what VanHoy termed “something like a last call.”

“Let’s make it available. I think people would take us up on it,” Wenger said.

VanHoy said he will suggest rules for such deals at a future meeting.

The board next meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at 1231 11th St., Modesto.

 

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.

Scholarship Committee Member Minami Honored for 22 Years of Service

Photo: Chairman Louis Pandol (right) congratulates Dr. Dwight Minami (left) after presenting him with a board resolution thanking him for his service.

 

Dr. Dwight Minami’s Service on the Nation’s First Worker-Focused Scholarship Program

FRESNO, CA – Dr. Dwight Minami was honored on July 17 for his service on the committee of the California Table Grape Workers Scholarship Program.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Minami volunteered his time and energy to help evaluate over 1,000 applications that led to the award of college scholarships to California table grape field workers and their children. During his tenure, 76 students were awarded scholarships to attend universities, junior colleges and trade schools to study subjects such as accounting, nursing, engineering, culinary arts, biology and business.

“Dr. Minami’s involvement has been instrumental to the long-term success of the nation’s first worker-focused scholarship program,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. “Using his expertise as a professor at California State University, Fresno and his knowledge of the valley and the agricultural industry, Dr. Minami’s valuable insight and conscientious review of each year’s applications helped ensure that talented, qualified candidates were selected to receive the grower-funded awards.”

The California Table Grape Workers Scholarship Program was established in 1985 and has since awarded over 100 scholarships to field workers and their children from the table grape growing regions in California. Dr. Minami served on the committee from 1993-2014.

“On behalf of the California table grape industry, a heartfelt thanks is extended to Dr. Dwight Minami for his hard work, commitment and dedicated service to higher education, the California table grape industry, and the state’s table grape workers and their families through the field worker scholarship program,” said Nave.

USDA Secretary Brings Water Assistance on Valley Visit

USDA Provides Water Assistance Aid to 73,000 Rural Californians Impacted by Drought

FARMERSVILLE, Calif., July 18, 2014 -USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced USDA is providing $9.7 million in emergency water assistance to 73,000 residents in 11 California counties experiencing the driest year on record.

“This drought is devastating those who live, work and raise their families in much of rural California,” Vilsack said. “It is threatening the survival of whole communities and livelihoods of folks throughout the state. From Siskiyou County in the north to Kern County in the south, this disaster is crippling communities up and down the 600-mile spine of California.

“The emergency water grants we are announcing today are triple the amount we committed to when President Obama and I visited the state earlier this year,” Vilsack added. “I am proud of the work USDA Rural Development staff in California and Washington, D.C., have done to get this funding to those in need and the work they have done with municipal leaders in these rural communities to help residents, businesses and agricultural producers.”

Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack
Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack

Extreme weather, such as the intense drought occurring in the western United States, is putting a strain on water supplies. The Obama Administration is committed to increasing investments in the nation’s water infrastructure to mitigate the impact of climate change and to ensure that all Americans have adequate, safe and reliable water supplies. The National Climate Assessment released earlier this year illustrates the impact of climate change across the country.

This announcement is part of broader Obama Administration efforts to help those impacted by the drought. Through the National Drought Resilience Partnership, launched as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, federal agencies are working closely with states, local governments, agriculture and other partners on a coordinated response.

The 25 rural California communities are being helped by funding provided through USDA’s Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant (ECWAG) program. This program helps rural communities that have experienced a significant decline in the quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency. In January, USDA streamlined the program’s application process to expedite emergency water assistance to communities in need, particularly in drought-impacted areas.

In addition to support from the ECWAG program, USDA is helping rural communities meet their water needs through Water and Waste Disposal loans and grants and Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEARCH) grants. USDA Rural Development has also approved grant funding to establish a revolving fund to provide low-interest loans to rural homeowners for household water wells.

For example, the small community of Cameron Creek Colony in Tulare County is struggling due to severe drought. About 10 percent of its residents have no access to water because their wells have run dry. Others have only intermittent access.

The city of Farmersville, Calif., is receiving a $500,000 ECWAG grant to construct pipelines connecting Cameron Creek Colony to the Farmersville water main and linking residents to the water system. This will provide much-needed relief throughout the community.

The grants announced today are contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA Rural Development has invested more than $310 million to help 345,000 rural Californians receive improved water or wastewater services.

As California suffers through this drought, the Administration has taken action to help those struggling to cope with the hardships it has caused, including:

  • Designated 57 counties as disaster areas, making farmers and ranchers eligible for emergency loans.
  • Targeted $25 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices to conserve water, protect fields from erosion and improve access to water for livestock.
  • Invested $5 million in emergency watershed protection.
  • Provided $7.6 million to livestock producers through the cost-sharing Emergency Conservation Program.
  • Invested $750,000 to reduce aquatic weeds clogging irrigation screens, pumps and canals in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River delta.
  • Set aside $3.3 million of a $30 million national investment to mitigate wildfire threats, protect water resources and provide habitat for at-risk species.
  • Made continuing research investments in water conservation and use efficiency, as well as capacity grants for the University of California’s Institute for Water Resources.
  • Established a network of climate hubs, including a sub-hub in Davis, for risk adaptation and mitigation to climate change.
  • President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

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President/CEO Westside Produce on Food Safety

Stephen Patricio, President and CEO of Westside Produce, a grower, packer and shipper of cantaloupe for California and Arizona, talks about food safety of our locally grown foods.

“The Center for Produce Safety is a 7 year-old organization that facilitates science-based actionable research to improve the quality as well as the safety of the healthy fruits, vegetables and tree nuts we are so proud of,” said Patricio.

Patricio commented that in general, growers have a great understanding of food safety. “There’s been a tremendous awareness over the years I’ve been actively involved, and we’re maturing everyday. Realistically, the industry matures, the workers mature, because the elements of food safety don’t exist in an ivory tower or in an office, or in a tractor or in a shop; they exist everywhere on the farm,” said Patricio.

“From the absolute beginnings on the dirt all the way through the packing houses to the shipping docks to the sales offices; it’s a culture. Food Safety is a culture, not just an action,” he added.

And for those consumers worried about the nutrition and safety of their produce, Patricio reassures that everyone involved in produce cares just as much as they do. “What I continue to tell people is that there is not a farmer, producer, or grower anywhere who doesn’t eat the product that they produced themselves. And, they feed it to their family, their children, their grandchildren. And they’re proud of it, they’re happy with it.”

Patricio continued, “If that’s the approach that people simply take to their daily actions and activities, well, I don’t have to worry about the safety of food. We just have to use our heads and manage temperature and everything from spoilage to cross-contamination that can happen anywhere. But you do a good job of creating a safe product,” said Patricio.

The beauty of California produce, according to Patricio is that it is “not a sterile environment. Everything isn’t produced in a factory, taken off a shelf, or torn out of a plastic container. It’s all healthy and from nature. It’s in God’s container and we just have to do our job of not contaminating it.”