Full Statistics Now Available For the Crop Year 2017
The California Agricultural Statistics Review for crop year 2017 has been released. It reports that California’s farms and ranches received more than $50 billion in cash receipts for their output. This represents an increase of almost 6 percent in crop values compared to 2016.
California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. California is the leading U.S. state for cash farm receipts, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agricultural value. The top producing commodities for 2017 include:
CDFA Surveys Predict Curly Top Vectored by Leafhoppers
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Curly top virus is a common disease in California. In its worst years, entire fields have been lost to curly top in the foothills of the Central Valley, and it can infect a variety of plants from a total of 44 plant families as well as 300 individual species.
Curly top commonly affects tomatoes, peppers, beets, spinach, potatoes, and beans, as well as a variety of weeds. A common characteristic of curly top is stunting of the plant as well as curling and twisting of the leaves, where it gets its name, curly top. Leafhoppers are the main vector of the virus.
Currently, the CDFA conducts a yearly curly top prediction where they monitor numbers and the leafhopper population as well as the prevalence of the virus to give a scope of what the upcoming year might look like.
“Curly top virus was very low in 2018 as predicted—based on the amount of virus carried by the leafhoppers and the leafhopper population,” said Bob Gilbertson, Plant Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis.
“We hope that CDFA will continue to carry out the leafhopper screening for the virus and for the population so growers get a prediction of what the curly top incidents will be the coming year,” Gilbertson said. “It’s good that we can tell growers when there’s going to be a bad curly top year so they can implement additional strategies.”
These strategies include changing where they’re going to plant a field or using timed insecticides, particularly systemic insecticides like the new Verimark (From FMC) insecticide to manage curly top.
“We’ve already found that that material can slow down the spread of curly top in a field,” Gilbertson explained. “So in a year where it’s predicted to be bad—high populations of leafhoppers carrying high amounts of the virus—then you as a grower would then want to consider using some of these insecticide approaches.”
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Tests Show Low or No Pesticide Levels in Most Fruits and Vegetables in California
By Charlotte Fadipe, California DPR
Once again, tests showed that the vast majority of fresh produce collected by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) met national pesticide residue standards. During its 2017 survey, DPR found 96 percent of all samples had no detectable pesticide residues or were below levels allowed by the U.S. EPA.
The findings are included in DPR’s just released 2017 Pesticide Residues in Fresh Produce report.
“DPR carries out an extensive sampling of pesticides on fresh produce, and once again it shows that California consumers can be confident about eating fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Brian Leahy, Director of DPR. “California growers and farmers are adept at following our comprehensive rules to ensure produce is grown to the highest pesticide standards.”
The 2017 report is based on a year-round collection of 3,695 samples of produce from 28 different countries, including those labeled as “organic.” DPR scientists sampled produce from various grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food distribution centers, and other outlets throughout California. The produce is tested for more than 400 types of pesticides using state-of-the-art equipment operated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) sets levels for the maximum amounts of pesticide residue that can be present on fruits and vegetables, called a “tolerance.” It is a violation if any residue exceeds the tolerance for the specific fruit or vegetable, or if a pesticide is detected for which no tolerance has been established.
California Specific Results
More than a third of the country’s fruits and vegetables are grown in California, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). In 2017 DPR found:
-About 25 percent of all produce samples tested were labeled as Californian-grown,
-About 95 percent of these samples had no residues on them or were within the legal levels,
-About 5 percent of California samples had illegal residues, including kale and snow peas. These are pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance or had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity. However, none of those residues were at a level that would pose a health risk to consumers.
Other highlights from the 2017 report include:
-41 percent of all produce samples had no detectable residues at all,
-55 percent had residues detected within the legal level.
-4 percent of all the samples had pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance or had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity.
A portion of Los Angeles County, including the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, has been placed under quarantine for the Mexican fruit fly following the detection of three flies, including two mated females, within the City of Long Beach. Mated females are significant because they indicate a breeding population that increases the risk of spread of this pest. CDFA is working collaboratively on this project with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.
The quarantine area measures 79 square miles, bordered on the north by CA-91; on the south by the Pacific Ocean; on the west by I-110; and on the east by Palo Verde Avenue. A link to the quarantine map may be found here: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/mexfly/regulation.html.
Sterile male Mexican fruit flies will be released in the area as part of the eradication effort. The release rate will be approximately 325,000 sterile males per square mile per week in an area up to 50 square miles around the infestation. Sterile male flies mate with fertile female flies in the natural environment but produce no offspring. The Mexican fruit fly population decreases as the wild flies reach the end of their natural life span with no offspring to replace them, ultimately resulting in the eradication of the pest. In addition, properties within 200 meters of detection sites are being treated with an organic formulation of Spinosad, which originates from naturally-occurring bacteria, in order to remove any mated female fruit flies and reduce the density of the population. Finally, fruit removal will occur within 100 meters of properties with larval detections and/or mated female detections.
The quarantine affects any growers, wholesalers, and retailers of susceptible fruit in the area as well as nurseries that grow and sell Mexican fruit fly host plants. Those businesses are all required to take steps to protect against the spread of the pest. At the Long Beach/Los Angeles ports, exports as well as imports may be impacted depending on specific circumstances. The quarantine will also affect local residents growing host commodities on their property. Movement of those commodities is not permitted. Residents are urged to consume homegrown produce on site. These actions protect against the spread of the infestation to nearby regions, where it could affect California’s food supply as well as backyard gardens and landscapes.
The Mexican fruit fly can infest more than 50 types of fruits and vegetables. For more information on this pest, please see a pest profile at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/MexFly. Residents who believe their fruits and vegetables may be infested with fruit fly larvae are encouraged to call the state’s toll-free Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.
While fruit flies and other invasive species that threaten California’s crops and natural environment are sometimes detected in agricultural areas, the vast majority are found in urban and suburban communities. The most common pathway for these invasive species to enter our state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers as they return from infested regions of the world. To help protect California’s agriculture and natural resources, CDFA urges travelers to follow the Don’t Pack a Pest program guidelines (www.dontpackapest.com).
Pledging to work together to solve water scarcity issues, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis recently. The signing ceremony kicked off the 2018 Future of Water for Irrigation in California and Israel Workshop at the UC ANR building in Davis.
“Israel and California agriculture face similar challenges, including drought and climate change,” said Doug Parker, director of UC ANR’s California Institute for Water Resources. “In the memorandum of understanding, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization, UC Davis and UC ANR pledge to work together more on research involving water, irrigation, technology and related topics that are important to both water-deficit countries.”
The agreement will enhance collaboration on research and extension for natural resources management in agriculture, with an emphasis on soil, irrigation and water resources, horticulture, food security and food safety.
“It’s a huge pleasure for us to sign an MOU with the world leaders in agricultural research like UC Davis and UC ANR,” said Eli Feinerman, director of Agricultural Research Organization of Israel. “When good people, smart people collaborate, the sky is the limit.”
Feinerman, Mark Bell (UC ANR vice provost) and Ermias Kebreab (UC Davis professor and associate vice provost of academic programs and global affairs) represented their respective institutions for the signing. Karen Ross (California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary) and Shlomi Kofman (Israel’s consul general to the Pacific Northwest) joined in celebrating the partnership.
“The important thing is to keep working together and develop additional frameworks that can bring the people of California and Israel together as researchers,” Kofman said. “But also to work together to make the world a better place.”
Ross said, “It’s so important for us to find ways and create forums to work together because water is the issue in this century and will continue to be.”
She explained that earlier this year, the World Bank and United Nations reported that 40 percent of the world population is living with water scarcity.
“Over 700,000 people are at risk of relocation due to water scarcity,” Ross said. “We’re already seeing the refugee issues that are starting to happen because of drought, food insecurity and the lack of water.”
Ross touted the progress stemming from CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program to promote healthy soils on California’s farmlands and ranchlands and SWEEP, the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, which has provided California farmers $62.7 million in grants for irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water on agricultural operations.
“We need the answers of best practices that come from academia, through demonstration projects so that our farmers know what will really work,” Ross said.
As Parker opened the water workshop, sponsored by the U.S./Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) Program, Israel Agricultural Research Organization and UC ANR, he told the scientists, “The goal of this workshop is really to be creating new partnerships, meeting new people, networking and finding ways to work together in California with Israel, in Israel, with other parts of the world as well.”
Drawing on current events, Bell told the attendees, “If you look at the World Cup, it’s about effort, it’s about teamwork, it’s about diversity of skills, and I think that’s what this event does. It brings together those things.”
Scoop it Forward Event Collects Food for Hilmar Helping Hands
Hilmar Helping Hands received thousands of food items on July 13 as part of a “Scoop it Forward” event to celebrate the official unveiling of the largest hand-painted dairy mural in the United States at the Hilmar Cheese Company Visitor Center.
Hilmar Cheese Company owners, employees, local officials and the community brought non-perishable food items to donate in exchange for a scoop of delicious ice cream made with Real California Milk as part of the mural celebration, which honors the partnership between the dairy industry and the local community.
“Dairy farm families are the backbone of many of our local communities,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, California Department of Food and Ag Undersecretary. “But their impact goes well beyond that. They benefit the entire state—economically and by providing wholesome, affordable dairy foods.”
The mural is part of a national effort to celebrate the contribution of dairy farms and farm families to local communities. The Hilmar Cheese Company Visitor Center was selected by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy as one of seven locations across the nation to feature a custom mural as part of the Undeniably Dairy campaign. Undeniably Dairy is an industry-wide, national campaign that aims to increase consumer trust in the practices, principles, and people behind the dairy foods people know and love.
Standing 32 feet tall by 60 feet wide, the mural is a creation of muralist Ed Trask of Richmond, Va. The mural creation used 22 gallons of paint and 273 different colors. It depicts the Hilmar Cheese Company’s founding principles of farmers, family, community and faith—and its passion for Jersey cows. It also depicts a child’s journey from experiencing the visitor center as a youth and showing cows to discovering her devotion to dairy and pursuing a career in dairy innovation and research.
“This mural represents our values and foundation,” said Jim Ahlem, chairman of the Hilmar Cheese Company Board of Directors. “We are grateful to our local communities, our employees, the wholesome dairy foods we produce, the next generation of agricultural leaders developed through 4-H and FFA, and of course, the dairy farm families who ship their milk to us and the Jersey cows that produce it.”
“We appreciate that we were selected as one of the mural locations,” added David Ahlem, CEO and President of Hilmar Cheese Company. “We have thousands of families and school children visit each year. It’s important that people understand where their food comes from, and we hope this mural will bring a new connection to dairy.”
HLB Funds To Be Used by the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program
Recognizing the importance of protecting California’s commercial citrus industry and backyard citrus trees, Governor Jerry Brown’s 2018-19 California state budget includes $12.5 million from the general fund dedicated to fighting an incurable citrus disease called Huanglongbing (HLB).
Signed last week, the funds will be used by the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP), a program primarily funded by California citrus growers and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The CPDPP helps detect and eradicate Huanglongbing in residential areas, suppress Asian citrus psyllid populations, control the movement of the Asian citrus psyllid, enforce regulations, and fund outreach programs to homeowners, industry members and local governments.
While Governor Brown’s commitment to helping fight HLB is a step in the right direction, California citrus is at a crossroads. More than 685 cases of Huanglongbing have been detected in California, with more than 350 detections in 2018 alone, all in urban areas of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
Citrus Health Response Program Discussed at UC Riverside
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
California Ag Today recently interviewed Joel Nelsen, president and CEO of the California Citrus Mutual. He spoke on his recent trip to UC Riverside about the Citrus Health Response Program. While speaking with USDA, they discussed the game plans that will be used to battle Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, which is vectored by an invasive insect called Asian Citrus Psyllid.
“We got into it, which I thought was an interesting discussion. What would growers do if in fact HLB was discovered in a grower’s orchard and what would the be obligated to do,” Nelsen said.
“And what came out of that discussion is that we are going to work with the USDA. We’re going to develop a war game scenario. We’re going to bring people into a room and start talking about it, just to see what the reactions were, and we’re going to challenge these individuals to do what needs to be done,” Nelsen explained. “We’re just going to have to figure out how best to address the industry and areas like this.”
Nelsen said that they discussed whether or not there was enough being done in that partnership with the homeowner. “We came to the conclusion that no, quite frankly the industry has been carrying that ball and that USDA and CDFA can do a little bit more in their role as government”
Tree removal and beneficial insects were also discussed.
“We talked about the continued trees being removed, and everybody was satisfied about that. We talked about whether or not beneficial insects can help in this situation. Surprisingly, the answer was pretty much no,” Nelsen explained. “Beneficial releases may help in an urban environment to a small extent, but from a commercial standpoint, it doesn’t help. So there were a lot of discussions, some debate, and most of all, some camaraderie that was developed as far as going forward.”
Nearly 400 trees in front and back yards of homes have been destroyed due to testing positive to HLB disease.
“They’re all in a clearly defined geographical area in Southern California,” Nelsen said. “So what we have is a lot of backyard adventures that bring in rootstock that unfortunately was diseased, and as a result of that, those individuals are the ones that are seeing problems associated with their own trees.”
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Fighting Huanglongbing Is Job One Citrus Health Program Protecting State's Industry
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Joel Nelsen, president and CEO of the California Citrus M...
By Scott Horsfall, CEO of Leafy Green Marketing Agreement
Reprinted from the LGMA Website
CDFA announced recently the creation of a new unit within its Inspection Services Division which will be responsible for educating California produce farmers about new Produce Safety Rule regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act and for conducting routine on-farm inspections of California produce farms to verify they are in compliance.
According to a CDFA press release, this new unit, called the Produce SafetyProgram, will spend 2018 educating California’s produce industry about the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule. On-farm inspections will not take place until 2019. At that time, the Produce Safety Program will begin conducting inspections of California produce farms on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Produce Safety Program inspectors are employees of CDFA, but are credentialed by the FDA and thus have special training and education. The CDFA is working collaboratively with FDA to implement Produce Safety Rule regulations, as are State Departments of Agriculture throughout the country.
The new requirements of the Produce Safety Rule became mandatory throughout the nation on January 26th for farms designated as “large” which means they have $500,000 or more in annual sales. Most farms who grow leafy greens under the LGMA would be characterized as large under this definition. Smaller farms will be phased in over the next few years. In total, it’s estimated there are some 20,000 fruit, vegetable and nut farms in California that will fall under the Produce Safety Rule.
CDFA emphasizes it will be a big job and has stated it will need to work closely with the California produce industry to achieve its goal of 100% compliance with the Produce Safety Rule on California Farms.
The LGMA has been working closely with both the U.S. FDA and CDFA to ensure our food safety program works in conjunction with efforts to enforce the Produce Safety Rule.
Last August, the LGMA Board approved revised metrics so that our required food safety practices are in full compliance with the Produce Safety Rule. We have since received confirmation from FDA that these revised metrics do indeed align with the requirements of the new regulations. In many cases, the LGMA metrics continue to go beyond what is required by FDA. Working from the revised metrics, CDFA will begin using an updated audit checklist that is Produce Safety Rule-compliant checklist for all LGMA government audits beginning April 1.
Because of these actions, CDFA has informed us that California farms who grow leafy greens for certified LGMA members will be considered compliant with the Produce Safety Rule.
More details will be coming as we get closer to April 1, when the LGMA’s new compliance year begins. In the meantime, we want LGMA members to know that FDA will be able to validate compliance with the Produce Safety Rule on farms who grow your leafy greens without the need for additional and duplicative inspections when Produce Safety Program begins inspecting farms in 2019. CDFA has recognized the efforts of the LGMA to establish a culture of food safety on the farm and they acknowledge that mandatory government audits are already taking place on California leafy greens farms who operate under the LGMA.
As a reminder, under the LGMA program, every handler-member continues to be audited by the government an average of five times over the course of the year—with one unannounced audit—and every farmer is audited at least once per year.
This recognition by government agencies at FDA and CDFA is welcome news to the LGMA, our members and produce buyers. The LGMA is pleased to see the addition of this new unit at CDFA to provide government inspections throughout California’s produce industry. And we look forward to additional oversight provided by the Produce Safety Program to further validate that leafy greens are being farmed safely.
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California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Now 10 Years Old
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
After a severe E.coli outbreak nearly a decade ago, California took steps in ensuring the safety of consumers through the creation of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA). We met with Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, which is managed by the CDFA, to talk about the topic.
“The Marketing Agreement was actually created February of 2007. The outbreak was in the fall of 2006 and then, for a few months, the industry worked with the government to figure out what to do, and they created this Marketing Agreement,” Horsfall said. “The Marketing Agreement was moving fast and in the right direction. The leaders of the industry came together or appointed to that initial board of directors. With the little staff, it was those people and their internal staffs who did all the heavy lifting.”
The outbreak was the driving force behind the creation of this Marketing Agreement.
“They saw the impact that the tragic outbreak had on businesses, consumers, and on individuals. The will was there on the part of the industry to do something quickly and I think they brought in the people who had the expertise,” Horsfall said. “The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) were there with the marketing agreement option. Also there was the Western Grower’s Association, Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh. They were all putting up their best people to figuring out a solution.”