CDFA To Hold Good Ag Neighbors Workshops

Workshop Designed for Produce Growers and Livestock Areas to Promote Food Safety

News Release

In order to facilitate dialogue between different sectors of California agriculture about cooperation to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is partnering with the University of California and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bring the livestock and produce communities together for a series of workshops.

The workshops, titled Good Ag Neighbors, are designed for fruit and vegetable growers, livestock owners, and others interested in learning about how produce safety and livestock management practices can work jointly to promote food safety.

The workshops will be held in two California locations, with the first scheduled for June 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville. The second workshop is scheduled for June 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Robert J Cabral Ag Center in Stockton.

“Agriculture is complex,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This is particularly true in California, where diverse agricultural operations often exist side-by-side, with each of them required to comply with a myriad of regulations designed to protect the public, the environment, and the food supply.”

Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary
Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary

Diversity is extremely important to the fabric of California agriculture. Also important is open communication channels between diverse partners. This has become more apparent with the CDFA’s newly created Produce Safety Program, which is working on behalf of the U.S. FDA to enforce produce safety regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The workshops will address lessons learned from recent investigations of produce-related foodborne illness outbreaks, examine key research findings, and consider future research needs.

The workshops are being conducted by the UC Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security and will include presentations by researchers and industry representatives. The day-long agenda will focus in the morning on reviewing regulations, laws, and practices already in place to protect food and environmental safety, while the afternoon will be spent in various breakout groups examining how these practices can be leveraged.

Participants should come prepared to share their experiences as well as their produce safety questions.

The workshops are offered free of charge. For more information and to register, please visit http://www.wifss.ucdavis.edu/good-ag-neighbors/.

American Society of Agronomy Meets

Plant Soil Conference Discusses Nitrogen Management

By Patrick Cavanaugh Farm News Director

Dan Munk is a UC California Cooperative Extension Fresno County Farm Advisor who specializes in irrigation, crop nutritional management and cotton production systems. He recently spoke about the California chapter of the American Society of Agronomy holding its annual plant and soil conference recently in Fresno. Attendance was great, and agronomic issues regarding water, irrigation and nutritional management were covered.

“[The] California chapter of the American Society of Agronomy convenes a annual meeting known as the plant and soil conference, which was held recently in Fresno for a day and a half. We had the CDFA Secretary Karen Ross address the group as well as some nutrient management experts from across the state and outside of the state,” Munk said. “And we discussed agronomic issues related to water irrigation, nutrient management in agriculture. And there was a pest management session as well.”

There were more than 220 top state agronomists, with many Certified Crop Advisors as well as some growers and industry affiliates attending that meeting.

Nutritional management plans for efficiency, especially for nitrogen, are being closely looked at and discussed.

“I think the nutrient management plans that we’re doing is something that we need to continue to get better information. We have an understanding now of where some of the limitations are now for efficiencies,” Munk explained. “I mean, we can’t always be 100 percent efficient in these things and when we are, that’s when you get into the situation where you have some yield losses. So there’s, there’s always going to be some nitrate movement out of the root system in agricultural systems. That’s just the nature of the beast.”

Protecting California Citrus Industry

State’s Citrus Industry at a Crossroads

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, told California Ag Today recently that the fight to protect the California citrus industry from Citrus Greening is ongoing with many moving parts.

“We are working closely with both with USDA and county ag commissioners to protect our important citrus industry,” she said. “And funding from our federal agency partners is important in the fight.”

“There is a strong sense of urgency, and I honestly feel we’re at a significant crossroads because of the most recent Huanglongbing infected tree finds in Southern California that keep the infected Asian Citrus Psyllid numbers up,” Ross explained.

She noted that the biggest challenge is citrus in the state’s urban areas.

“The beauty of citrus is that nearly every Californian has a citrus plant of some kind. That’s also one of our biggest challenges right now, because we’re very dependent on our urban residential neighbors to allow inspectors to repeatedly go to their door, in order to take samples, and then possibly having to go back and pull trees.

Ross said that the state has dedicated full time leadership to help fight HLB. There’s a lot of moving parts in the program.

“It’s gotten very large, and we’re going do whatever we need to do to make sure California citrus has a long, long part of our history and our economy,” she said.

Ross noted that the Asian Citrus Psyllid isn’t the only pest concerning California agriculture.

“Besides our big Asian citrus psyllid program, we have ongoing medfly infestations, several fruit fly infestations, and light broth apple moth infestation, and we are working on Japanese beetle eradication programs,” she said.

CDFA’s Karen Ross: Water and Labor are Big Issues for California

CDFA Secretary Says State has High Water and Labor Standards

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, spoke to California Ag Today recently about the two big challenges regarding California agriculture.

“[The] two biggest challenges we have are labor and water. Some days, labor’s number one and water’s number two, but they’re both always right up there,” she said.

Karen Ross

Ross spoke at the recent California Citrus Conference in Visalia.

“I think for the future, water is very key to how we’ll grow. I think it’s important for people to think about how we farm in this state,” she said. “We farm to extremely high environmental standards, and extremely high labor standards. Those are responsibilities that we have taken on. I certainly hope that people will continue to buy California to reward that kind of stewardship, because it comes with a price.”

Ross noted that investment is key with labor, automation and water.

“We just have to get through a couple of really big, challenging issues,” she explained. “Automation’s going to definitely be more of our future, and as we invest in that automation, we have to make sure we’re concurrently investing in the workforce skills development to go with it, because they will be different jobs.”

“When it comes to water, the renewed focus on how do we do intentional groundwater recharge as part of making the sustainable groundwater management actually work in our basins is going to be an exciting opportunity for us,” she said.

Mexico trade mission and Ag labor issues – Looking Forward

Source: Karen Ross, California Agriculture Secretary

While in Mexico City last week, Governor Brown met with Secretary Navarrete Prida of the Mexican Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and signed a letter of intent to address labor rights issues for temporary Mexican workers in California – a matter of high importance, of course, for California’s farmers and ranchers.

Moving forward from that promising development, we are working to create a pilot program than connects at least one California agricultural employer with Mexican officials to establish a set of protocols. Our objective is to help curb migrant worker abuse on a national and international basis, and provide stronger assurances to California agricultural employers that migrant labor employed within a H-2A program are not subject to illegal fees, misrepresentation of employment terms, fraud and other issues.

California, the U.S. Department of Labor, and a network of cross border nongovernmental organizations would work with Mexico to establish a bi-nationally available register of certified labor recruitment agencies. In addition, Mexico would develop a system for monitoring, verifying and supervising the activities carried out by recruitment agencies.

In California, the state would identify agricultural employers that voluntarily commit to using certified recruiters.

In the absence of a national immigration solution, this pilot program can be a great benefit to California’s agricultural community and strengthen our bilateral ties with Mexico.

UPDATE: ACP Quarantine and Advocacy for Unimpeded Eradication

by Laurie Greene, Editor

CDFA filed a proposed emergency amendment TODAY to expand the ACP quarantine area in response to an “infestation” of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), Diaphorina citri, detected in the Farmersville/Visalia area (June 4, 2014), Tulare County. One adult female was found in the area. The proposed 14-mile expansion will include the Visalia area, and the state’s vast ACP quarantine will cover 46,544 sq. miles.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

The regulation defines emergency as” a situation that calls for immediate action to avoid serious harm to the public peace, health, safety, or general welfare.” The government code provides,”if the emergency situation clearly poses such an immediate, serious harm that delaying action to allow public comment would be inconsistent with the public interest, an agency is not required to provide notice.”

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross believes that this emergency clearly poses such an immediate, serious harm that delaying action to give the notice would be inconsistent with the public interest. Therefore, Ross proposed that the CDFA Director may adopt reasonably necessary measures such as bypassing the mandatory notice five working days prior to emergency action in order to carry out emergency provisions. Additionally, she requested that the Director be permitted to establish, maintain, and enforce quarantine, eradication, and such other regulations necessary to circumscribe and exterminate or prevent the spread of any pest which is described in the code.

This comes after the California Citrus Industry’s recent backlash against the Executive Committee of the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee’s proposed easing of the state’s ACP quarantine and eradication efforts.

Joel Nelsen, CA Citrus Mutual President
Joel Nelsen, CA Citrus Mutual President

And, while CDFA uses the word, “infestation”, Joel Nelsen, President of California Citrus Mutual, commented at the recent United Fresh Convention in Chicago, “There were two more ACP finds found in the northeast part of Tulare County. They were individual finds. Intensive trapping and tapping on the trees, looking for the ACP, hasn’t found any more. So one would argue that we’ve got a population—given the finds in the last year—but we’re still talking single digits.” Nelsen believes this demonstrates the eradication programs are working. “We’re supposed to find the ACP before finds a commercial citrus industry, and we’re doing that.”

Nelsen said the Executive Committee’s recent proposal to significantly modify the program was, “based upon some subjective analysis by a team of scientists who in fact believe that there’s more out there than what we can find.”

“So,” he continued, “we’re obligated to prove a negative; and as long as we do the intensive trapping program, as long as we continue the mandated treatment program, as long as we’re aggressively looking for the Asian citrus psyllid—I don’t see how, and industry doesn’t buy into the fact, you have an endemic population. We’re not finding them in volume; everything is isolated.”

“So, when the industry first became aware of this possible change in the treatment zones of the quarantine mandates, the industry challenged CDFA.”

Now, not only does the ACP program remain intact, but TODAY, CDFA Secretary Ross proposed measures for an unhindered and  immediate eradication response by CDFA to ACP discoveries.

Featured Photo Credit: Ted Batkin, Citrus Research Board, “Invasive Pests in California” 1/10.

Governor’s Interagency Drought Task Force Travels State as Drought Endures

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (left) speaking about the drought today at a meeting of the California State Board of Food Agriculture. To Secretary Ross’ left are Dr. Mark Starr of the California Department of Public Health, Secretary John Laird of the California Natural Resources Agency, and Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (left) speaking about the drought today at a meeting of the California State Board of Food Agriculture. To Secretary Ross’ left are Dr. Mark Starr of the California Department of Public Health, Secretary John Laird of the California Natural Resources Agency, and Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

CDFA reported on today’s UC Merced meeting between Members of Governor Brown’s Interagency Drought Task Force, local government leaders and the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

Hundreds packed the meeting at UC Merced. Word on the street is that farmers are disappointed; the only quick solution is to turn the pumps on!

Task Force representatives were CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus, Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci, and Department of Public Health Deputy Director Dr. Mark Starr.

No Water LogoThe Task Force is planning additional meetings around California to listen to the concerns of local officials as the drought continues.