Peterangelo Vallis Offers Advice on How Farmers Can Connect with Public
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Peterangelo Vallis, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Wine Growers Association based in Fresno. He says if you were to go around the world and see how farmers interact with the public, you would observe their interactions are different in other countries than here in California.
“Especially if you go to Europe, agriculture is pervasive in the countryside. If you have a city, automatically you’re going to have farmland around it,” Vallis said. “It’s a little different than what we have in California, where you have urban spaces, some desert, mountains and then you tend to have agriculture, but realistically the core portion’s the same.
“If you go to France or Italy, your main business is agriculture. Farmers are not looked at as being different somehow. They are looked at as businessmen who happen to make the food that we’re serving on the table, you’re buying at the store or the restaurateur is preparing for you to enjoy,” he said.
There, they think about the farmer—the agriculturalist, who brings that food to them as “filling up your happy, cheese-loving belly. That’s something that we are totally missing in this country because, by and large, our rural populations are removed from our urban populations,” Vallis said.
“As a result, that’s on us, with our own PR for our own businesses—to come into town and make a place for ourselves. . . show ourselves off so that people recognize when we come in and are thinking about us when we’re not there.”
“It’s just like in the Old West. No one worried about the guy that slunk in the back door of the saloon and just sat there with his hat down hoping no one would shoot at him. But everyone knew the guy with the black hat who walked right through the front door into the middle of the bar, said hello and bought everyone drinks. That’s us!” Vallis said.
President-Elect Trump May Help Make California Agriculture Great Again!
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
The election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States may prove very significant for California. He and his future administration may be able to make sense of the devastating water deliveries diverted from California farms to protect fish species that may already have become extinct, in order to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
Joel Nelsen, president, California Citrus Mutual and a leader in California agriculture, is encouraged by the election results. “You know, the Donald Trump election was a bit of a surprise to me. You can always hope, but the numbers did not look that good. Now that he is our president-elect, I think we can be somewhat optimistic about the next Congress and this next administration,” Nelsen said.
Nelsen said the optimism is going to be on several fronts. “One, I think we have an opportunity now to move water legislation that contains real storage and creates water for a bigger population in California,” he said.
“We also have an opportunity to slow down a rogue agency—which I would call Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and their activity specific to crop protection tools. We can get an effort going to modernize the Endangered Species Act. Nobody wants to eliminate species, but let’s face it, when that was first signed and passed, it was two generations ago. I think we need to take another look at that,” he said.
Nelsen noted there are some opportunities on the horizon. He hopes the upcoming Congress and new presidential administration will generate some positive activity for the California agriculture industry .
Nelsen and other California ag leaders will soon return to Washington to make sure things are getting done. “A couple of us are going back next week for the lame-duck session because we are hoping Congress will pass a budget that will fund the Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanlongbing program,” he said. “There is no money for it in the USDA budget. As a result, the support at the federal level is less than what it could be or should be.”
“Because the current administration is going to be in office until January 19, 2017, the activists have until then to get things moving in a direction that cannot be stopped from their perspective. I don’t think these next two months will necessarily be quiet.”
“We must have a mindset that others will attempt to do what they think cannot be done. It will be up to many of us in leadership positions to ensure that there’s still a balanced approach with this administration before the next one comes in,” Nelsen said.
California FFA Association, a high school youth leadership and career development organization, is very dynamic in the state. FFA chapters are located throughout the state’s agricultural areas. We had a conversation with Michelle Borges, a sophomore at Hughson High School. She is an active member of the Hughson FFA and serves as the 2016-17 FFA Chapter reporter.
“My job is publicizing the FFA to everyone in the community. I write articles to the local newspapers. I’m in charge of the social media for Hughson FFA. Basically any radio broadcast, television broadcast, anything like that to get the word out about FFA,” Borges said.
Borges was also active in the 4-H starting at age five. She raised and sold goats, and she is devoted to California agriculture to this day. “One of the reasons why I love agriculture is because both my parents work in the agriculture industry. Both my brothers were super involved in the FFA, so I was kind of born into it,” she said.
Borges noted that while her family does not farm, they are involved in agricultural education. “My dad is the Dean of Agriculture at Modesto Junior College, and my mom used to be an agriculture teacher in high school, but now she teaches junior high,” she said.
While still in high school, Borges wants to continue pursuing her passion for agriculture. “When I grow up, I want to be an animal nutritionist. I’m really interested in nutrition for animals and I have also raised goats. . . ‘Seeing them grow up and then selling them. That whole project; it is really interesting to me. Also, with FFA, there’s a lot of public speaking competitions and I really enjoy public speaking in front of a crowd,” she said.
To hone her skills for that animal nutrition career, Borges plans to go to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, after she graduates from high school.
“This is basic, basic stuff because, realistically, we’re marketing the fact that we need help to make more food,” Vallis noted. “We’re making safe domestic food, but if we don’t engage with the people that are our customers, we’re never going to be able to get our ideas and our needs across, because we’re just not talking to the right audience.”
“They’re not enough people here in the valley to move the needle. We’ve got to figure out a way to get San Francisco and L.A. appreciating our position, loving what we do, and trusting that we’re doing the very best job possible,” said Vallis.
Vallis is urging California agriculture “to put some dollars together for a major billboard campaign in Los Angeles and in the Bay Area, celebrating our agricultural industry as part of a big PR campaign.”
“Just imagine,” Vallis suggested, “the power of billboards with California farmers and the fruits, nuts or vegetables they produce. The billboard could be up in prime city areas for several months for less than a few million dollars.”
Vallis commended the Almond Board of California for their example of a great starting point. “You know, the Almond Board of California (Board), I think, represents the most progressive part of California agriculture today because the Board understands how much money it takes to penetrate the market. We’re not living in 1932; we need to spend money on this stuff. I mean what does a Super Bowl commercial cost—6-7 million dollars for 30 seconds? It’s an insane amount of money, but that’s what it takes to really move the needle.”
“Billboards around the California’s urban centers or even across the nation, could carry the message of the importance of the California
farmer,” Vallis proposed. “We could campaign on every billboard in America for one month and call it, ‘Hey, We Like to Eat Month’ or ‘Your Stomach Depends On Ag,’” noted Vallis.
“The message must connect with people,” Vallis insisted. “It would probably cost 20 or 30 million just to make that happen, but if you look at the success the Almond Board has had, that is a perfect pathway—a perfect roadmap—for what all of us in California can do at pennies per pound,” he said.
“There are some commodities that don’t make pennies per pound; but on the whole, a couple pennies per pound, put in the right space and put in front of people … Guess what? They’re going to go nuts over the product. Look what almonds have done. If that isn’t a rallying cry for what could happen. . . it would be killer! And it would be killer for our industry,” Vallis said.
Fresno County Ag Commissioner Les Wright on the 6.55 Percent Drop in Ag Value
The Fresno County agriculture value for the 2015 fiscal year was calculated at $6.6 billion. It was down 6.55 percent from 2014, when Fresno County had a record year of $7.0 billion in agriculture value. The report included nearly 400 commodities; 62 of which had a value in excess of $1 million.
The report represents the resiliency and hard work of farmers and farm workers, as well as those allied in the industry.
Assembly Member Patterson Accuses NRDC and Governor’s Office of Bias
By Laurie Greene, Editor
“We are being lied to,” declared Jim Patterson, who represents the 23rd Assembly District in the California State Assembly since 2012, at his recent drought forum in Clovis.
“I have come to the conclusion there is a power structure led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the governor’s office and in the bureaucracies,” Patterson explained. “They are not telling us the truth. They do not abide by their own agreements, and they have a bias against the very water technology and the water systems that have made California a ‘Golden State’. They are biased against dams, reservoirs and conveyance, and every time I turn around, I find another example.”
“We need to have regulatory relief from the State of California in order to buildTemperance Flat (a proposed dam project on the San Joaquin River) and its conveyance systems and to build the improvements at Shasta Dam and Reservoir and at Sites Reservoir,” said Patterson.
“And yet,” he continued, “I know for a fact that we are not going to get that regulatory relief. Nevertheless, the governor and this legislature have given that very same regulatory relief to the Kings’ Basketball Stadium in Sacramento (Golden 1 Center) and to two big NFL football stadiums in the state.”
To build water saving and conveyance systems, Patterson expects to face a gauntlet of litigation from the NRDC. “Though we have tried over and over again, unsuccessfully, to get the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reformed,” he stated, “the Democrats will do it for basketball and football, but they won’t do it for water. That demonstrates to me they are absolutely disingenuous.”
“Secondly, we were promised money in this budget for the Central California InterConnect,” Patterson said. “Putting an interconnect between the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), best illustrated by the Kings River and San Joaquin River Watersheds in the Central Valley, and the state’s California State Water Project (SWP), exemplified by the San Luis Reservoir system, is critically important. We need to connect those projects so we have water conveyance alternatives to improve water reliability and to save us from the kinds of hard decisions that we’ve had to reach now—to starve a portion of the Valley. Because we can’t get water between the two systems, the situation is real and dire.”
“The governor promised those of us who negotiated the bond the budget would include appropriations for the InterConnect,” Patterson reported. There is no such thing. It doesn’t exist, and it didn’t show up in this budget. The governor didn’t come through on his promises.”
“I have tried repeatedly to talk with the water bureaucracies—appointees of the governor—and ask how I could help them understand the importance of giving us back the water,” Patterson commented. “For example, the water behind Shasta Dam right now has been paid for and banked by our farmers. I’ve asked repeatedly, ‘Why can’t we get the InterConnect funded? You promised us that you would do that.’ I’ve asked, ‘What is it going to take for you to understand the importance of storage in the San Joaquin River Watershed?’ It’s like talking to a wall; I get no answer.”
“So, I have had to come to the conclusion that we’re being misled, and it’s on purpose,” he said. “I just don’t believe this governor anymore. That’s a sad conclusion to have to come to, but I think we are seeing a ‘behind-the-scenes hand of power’ called the NRDC, that runs the governor’s office and the state legislature.
When asked what concerned citizens can do, Patterson answered, “Today we heard a lot of passion. I think we need to turn that passion into significant efforts, politically and organizationally. We have to make a real nuisance of ourselves to the governor and to the legislature until they pay attention to us. I have learned in public life, as mayor and now in the legislature, that those people who stand up and are persistent and persuasive get heard. We have got to continue to step up in ever-increasing numbers and be heard.”
“We also have win some elections,” he emphasized. “We are under a one party-dictatorial rule right now. And I would be saying this even if Republicans were the party in rule. Our founders believed there should be separated powers in government and people in office from all walks of life. These kinds of checks and balances get us to good policy for most people, most of the time.”
“You can’t do that in a dictatorship,” Patterson explained, “and that’s really what we have—one party that has all the levels of power and is using them all against us in Central California. And we’re seeing the result of it.”
Patterson tells other members of the legislature on the committees he serves, “You are literally putting a bait fish that striped bass are eating, ahead of the lives and the wellbeing of people and their property, and you’re blaming us for it. The reality is you’re making a drought that is bad into a drought that is a nightmare.”
“If this were to be compared, for example, to a forest fire,” Patterson conjectured, “and the firefighters were told by the governor, ‘Stop trying to save lives and stop trying to save property; go make sure you save that tree over there because there’s a spotted owl in it,’ people would very quickly tell the governor where to go and what to do.”
In 2013, California’s agriculture exports totaled to approximately $19.5 billion dollars. Those exports not only helped to boost farm prices and income, it also supported the existence of approximately 147,700 jobs both on and off the farm.
“Every one billion dollars in agricultural exports generates another 1.2 dollars in economic activity outside the agriculture sector,” said USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Associate Administrator Janet Nuzum. “When we help promote agricultural exports – it’s not just agriculture that benefits.”
According the USDA, U.S. agriculture producers rely heavily on foreign markets to sell their products. Approximately 70% of nuts, 75% of cotton and 40% of grapes are exported internationally, and California agriculture greatly contributes to those statistics.
Ninety-five percent of the world’s food consumers live outside of the United States, and only 1% of U.S. companies actually export.
“Export opportunities for those involved with agriculture are immense,” said California Center for International Trade Development Director Alicia Rios. “Most growers don’t realize that there are many programs out there to help them learn about the industry and can help them to market their product to international food buyers.”
At an Agricultural Trade Roundtable event, Nuzum met with and discussed the implications of international trade with key agribusiness representatives from California’s Central Valley. Nuzum noted that American producers actually benefit from trade agreements. The goal is to have them eliminate foreign tarrifs, unscientific regulatory barriers and bureaucratic administrative procedures that are designed to block trade.
With the world’s population growing, and with income fluctuations in developing countries, there are many opportunities for the U.S. ag industry to market its products.
“2015 is going to be a key year in setting the stage on the future conditions that the U.S. agriculture industry will face,” said Nuzum. “If we don’t take advantage of international opportunities, somebody else will.”
For more information about export programs, click on the links below.
The California State Fair is expanding its commercial competitions for 2015 to include a competition for extra virgin olive oil. Of all the olive oil produced in the United States, California produces 99 percent of it.
Extra virgin olive oils in more than 15 different classes and divisions, including blends and flavored olive oils will be judged during the competition. The entry deadline is April 1, 2015. The California State Fair Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition is open only to California olive oil producers.
From July 10-26 the State Fair will feature a special California extra virgin olive oil exhibit with the award-winning extra virgin olive oils on display, interactive educational exhibits, free tastings and market research surveys.
On average, the world consumes approximately 2.25 million tons of olive oil each year and annual consumption in the United States has increased from 30 million gallons to nearly 70 million gallons a year over the last two decades.
Producers wishing to enter the Extra Virgin Olive Oil competition should visit CAStateFair.org to view the competition handbook for rules and entry information.
This project is supported by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which is funded by the USDA and administered by CDFA. The goal of the project is to promote the awareness and availability of award-winning California extra virgin olive oils.
Written By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Communications Manager
With the California Women for Agriculture recently celebrating its 40th anniversary, it’s no surprise that the Central Valley Chapter (CVCWA) is taking initiative to recruit new members.
“The CWA has been an integral part of my life,” said Central Valley Co-President Jane Bedrosian. “I may not have been present at the last Statewide Meeting in San Luis Obispo, but I saw renewed excitement about the CWA on the faces of the ladies who did get to go. I want to help share that excitement about agriculture with our friends and neighbors here in the Central Valley.”
The CWA is a statewide organization dedicated to bringing women together to “speak on behalf of agriculture in an intelligent, informative, direct and truthful manner.” Beginning in 1975, the CWA has been an instrumental organization in shedding positive light on what the agriculture industry is all about. From planning community events, speaking to politicians in Sacramento and promoting agriculture education – CWA members are determined to bridge the gap between agriculturalists and those removed from the industry.
“There is power in numbers,” said Central Valley Co-Presdient Marlene Miyasaki. “I believe that the stronger our presence is in our community, the easier it will be for us to inform others of the hard work necessary to provide food for the world.”
With 18 CWA chapters located throughout the state, there are ample opportunities for women to become advocates for agriculture within their communities. And the kindred spirit doesn’t end there; various statewide meetings are held annually, bringing together hundreds of CWA members from all over California.
The CVCWA has approximately 30 active members, but is looking to expand its membership. With issues like the California Drought and Immigration Reform currently taking the Central Valley by storm, agriculture literacy has never been more crucial.
The CVCWA is planning to make an appearance at the World Ag Expo in Tulare and Farm and Nutrition Day in Fresno; they are also currently working with Fresno County 4-H for other community events.
For more information about the CWA and its many chapters, click here.
The trade agreement includes a number of trade priorities that address such diverse issues as cross-border trade delays, technical dialogue related to beef and organic trade, agricultural cooperative extension outreach, and climate change collaboration.
“Mexico is a vital partner for California agriculture,” said Secretary Ross. “Further collaboration between our countries will enhance the opportunities within the agricultural sector for farmers and ranchers in both of our nations.”
The agreement follows months of dialogue between CDFA and SAGARPA that culminated in a meeting between Secretary Ross and Secretary Enrique Martinez at the Produce Marketing Association trade show in Anaheim at the end of October.
California is the largest agricultural producer and exporter in the nation, with more than $18 billion in food and agricultural exports. Mexico is California’s fifth largest export destination valued at $888 million. Over the last ten years, agricultural exports to Mexico have increased three-fold.