USDA Grant Helps CA Nutrition Incentive Programs

CDFA Receives USDA Grant To Continue Incentives Ag Farmers Markets 

 The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has been awarded a Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) grant of $7,166,877 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fund nutrition incentives at Certified Farmers Markets and small retailers throughout the state.

The grant will help fund the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), which offers nutrition incentives to CalFresh shoppers utilizing benefits at participating farmers markets and retail outlets. For every CalFresh benefit dollar spent, CNIP offers CalFresh shoppers an additional dollar to spend on California-grown fruits and vegetables, within set parameters. This incentive is intended to empower CalFresh shoppers to increase their consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables.

“CNIP addresses food insecurity and access to fresh fruits and vegetables among low-income Californians while simultaneously supporting and expanding markets for California farmers,” CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said. “We’re honored to have been awarded a GusNIP grant for the second time to help continue this good work.”

CNIP began in 2017 and is administered by CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork (CDFA-F2F), which leads CDFA’s food access work. The GusNIP award is matched by state funds to provide funding for incentives, program operations, and marketing and outreach. CDFA will work with seven partner organizations, chosen through a competitive grant process, to implement the program.

“The California Nutrition Incentive Program is a crucial program that I continue to champion because increasing access to farmers markets helps residents improve their health,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, who authored legislation to create the program. “This $7.1 million federal grant is great news and ensures that those who can’t always afford fresh, locally grown produce can now do so. Nutritious food is the foundation for good health.”

More information about CNIP, its grantees and participating retail outlets can be found at https://cafarmtofork.cdfa.ca.gov/cnip.html

CDFA: New Website to Help Farmers/ Ranchers

Farmer Resource Portal is One-Stop-Shop For Help

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is pleased to announce the availability of the new Farmer Resource Portal designed to assist farmers and ranchers by increasing access to information to help farming operations. The portal is available here: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/farmerresources/

This webpage is a “one-stop shop” for farmers and ranchers to find information about available grants and loans including programs that prioritize funding for socially disadvantaged farmers, beginning farmers, female farmers, veteran farmers, and urban farmers. Additionally, there is a list of quick links to information to help farmers and ranchers better understand CDFA regulations and policies.

According to CDFA secretary Karen Ross the information was already available, but she this portal makes it simple and easy to navigate, and it keeps all of the key information in one place.”

The Farmer Resource portal was developed under the tenets of Assembly Bill 1348 (Aguilar-Curry), the Farmer Equity Act of 2017. This law requires CDFA to ensure the inclusion of socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of food and agriculture laws, regulations, policies, and programs.

The Farmer Equity Act defines a socially-disadvantaged group as one composed of individuals that have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.

There are a growing number of socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in rural and urban areas, and CDFA’s Farmer Equity Advisor is working to ensure that these farmers have a voice in policies and programs that affect their livelihoods, as well as increased access to information and resources for their farm operations.

The webpage includes links to new Spanish-language CDFA social media handles, press releases in English and Spanish, and in the future will also have an interactive California map of technical assistance providers who can assist farmers, including assistance in various languages. This will be a valuable resource for farmers who need assistance in languages other than English.

This webpage is just one way that the Farmer Equity Act is being implemented at CDFA. In January 2020, CDFA will submit a report to the Governor and Legislature on efforts to serve socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and female farmers and ranchers in California.

Food Safety Inspections Coming

Operations with More than $500,000 Are First

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Shelly Phillips is with the CDFA’s Produce Safety Program and supervises four inspectors with the eventual hiring of six more. She spoke about what to expect during a food safety inspection of farm operations at the recent Safe Food Alliance Conference in Monterey.

“These will not be surprise inspections. We will be calling and letting growers know that we want to inspect the operation and scheduling an appointment,” Phillips said.

From that point, an inspector will be following up with the farmer with logistic questions such as: “What are you growing?”, “When are you harvesting?”, and “What is the best time in terms of coming out to the operation?”

The goal is to have the inspection be collaborative between the farmer and inspector. It needs to be done during harvesting and handling conditions.

If an operation is unwilling or unresponsive, there could be an unannounced inspection.

“If we have called a grower three or four times and there are no return calls, and we have tried to reschedule multiple times, we may do an unannounced inspection because there might be a reason for the push back,” Phillips explained.

Also, if there are uncorrected produce safety issues, there could be an unannounced follow-up inspection.

“This will happen if we have been out to a farm under an announced inspection and there have been corrective actions that need to be observed, and there needs to be a follow-up; then there could be an unannounced inspection,” Phillips said. “We can also come out in response to a complaint or a foodborne outbreak investigation.”

Arriving On The Farm

“Let’s say the inspector arrives on a Tuesday … his or her identification will be shown, as well as a notice of inspection,” Phillips said. “They will want to speak to someone who is directly in charge. That person will be a farm manager or food safety manager, instead of someone not responsible for anything on a day-to-day basis.”

The inspector will explain the scope of the inspection based on what the grower is doing on the operation.

“If the grower is harvesting or packing, then we will be looking at that. We also want to see the grower training, [and] health and hygiene records.”

There is no set time length for the inspections, as it will depend on the size of the farming operation, as well as what the farm has prepared ahead of time for the inspector. Being prepared means having all food safety records available, and knowing where all water sources are. Also, if there are many observations that need to be corrected, then that could extend the inspection time.

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/.

Healthy Soils Initiative Looks at Cover Crops

Cover Crops Between Annual Veg Crops Studied

 By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Research is under way to determine if using cover crops between two annual vegetable crops will improve the soil for future crops. It’s all part of the California Department of Food and Ag Healthy Soils Program—a statewide project.

Amber Vinchesi is a UCANR Vegetable Crops Farm Advisor in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties. She works mainly with processing tomatoes but also with growers farming vegetables for seed as well as fresh market vegetables such as honeydew and cantaloupe melons.

Vinchesi is collaborating with California’s Healthy Soils Initiative, a partnership of state agencies and departments led by the CDFA Healthy Soils Project. It’s a combination of innovative farm and land management practices that may contribute to building adequate soil organic matter that may increase carbon sequestration and reduce overall greenhouse gases.

“We have three sites, and the site that I’m working on is focused on winter cover crops between crops such as wheat, tomato or corn, to improve soil health,” said Vinchesi, who is being assisted by her colleague Sarah Light, the agronomy advisor in Sutter, Yuba, and Colusa counties

Other Healthy Soil sites are located in the Delta area, and overseen by Michelle Leinfelder-Miles, UCANR Delta Crops Resource Management Advisor in San Joaquin County. Brenna Aegerter, a UCANR Vegetable Crops Farm Advisor also in San Joaquin County, is working with Leinfelder-Miles. Additionally, Scott Stoddard a UCANR Vegetable Crops Farm Advisor in Merced County has a site.

The cover crop will be vetch, a legume.

“We hope that it will put nitrogen and biomass into the soil,” Vinchesi said. “We’re not sure what the results will be, but we hope it will help with aggregate stability, water infiltration, and even reduce weed density.”

She noted that the trial, which is in the first year of a three-year project, will include two different seeding rates, a high and low rate, and then an untreated control where there’s no cover crop.

“And we’ll do soil testing to see how things change in the soil over time,” she explained.

California Crop Values for 2017 Released by CDFA

Full Statistics Now Available For the Crop Year 2017

News Release

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:

Dairy Products, Milk — $6.56 billion

Grapes— $5.79 billion

Almonds— $5.60 billion

Strawberries— $3.10 billion

Cattle and Calves — $2.53 billion

Lettuce— $2.41 billion

Walnuts— $1.59 billion

Tomatoes— $1.05 billion

Pistachios— $1.01 billion

Broilers— $939 million

Complete Report at this Link:

https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/Statistics/PDFs/2017-18AgReport.pdf

Oriental Fruit Fly Quarantine Expands in Northern California

New Quarantine Measures 123 Square Miles

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

A portion of Sacramento and Yolo Counties have been placed under quarantine for the Oriental fruit fly following the detection of 15 flies in and around the southern part of the City of Sacramento near the Lemon Hill community.

The quarantine zone measure 123 square miles, generally bordered on the north by El Camino Avenue; on the south by Laguna Boulevard, on the west by the Sacramento River; and on the east by Bradshaw Road. A link to the quarantine map may be found here: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/off/regulation.html.

To prevent the spread of Oriental fruit flies through homegrown fruits and vegetables, residents living in the quarantine area are urged not to move those items from their property. However, they may be consumed or processed (i.e. juiced, frozen, cooked, or ground in the garbage disposal) on the property where they were grown, or disposed of by double-bagging and placing in the regular trash bin, not green waste.

Following the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), CDFA primarily uses the “male attractant” technique to eradicate this pest.  Trained workers squirt a small patch of fly attractant mixed with a very small dose of pesticide approximately 10 feet off the ground on street trees and similar surfaces; male fruit flies are attracted to the mixture and perish after consuming it. This approach has successfully eliminated dozens of fruit fly infestations from California over the last several decades.

The Oriental fruit fly is known to target 230 different fruit, vegetable, and plant commodities.  Damage occurs when the female fruit fly lays her eggs inside the fruit.

Small larvae generally enter the fruit at the stem end, although entry can be made anywhere on the fruit, particularly where two fruits touch. Larvae immediately bore to the center of the fruit and feed around the pit. After reaching maturity, they exit from the fruit and pupate.

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 pests to enter the state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers when they return from infested regions of the world or ship infested produce through the mail. Help protect California’s agricultural and natural resources; please Don’t Pack a Pest (www.dontpackapest.com) when traveling or mailing packages.

The Oriental fruit fly is widespread throughout much of the mainland of southern Asia and neighboring islands, including Sri Lanka and Taiwan, and it has invaded other areas, most notably Africa and Hawaii.

Residents with questions about the project may call CDFA’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899. Additional information may be found here: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/off/.

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.

LGMA: A Decade of Protection – Part 1

California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Now 10 Years Old

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Scott Horsfall, CEO of California Leafy Green Marketing Agreemen

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.”

Citrus Referendum Coming Up

Citrus Growers to Vote on Referendum

News Release from Citrus Research Board

California citrus growers soon will receive a critical citrus referendum ballot from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) asking them to vote on continuing the work of the Citrus Research Board (CRB) for the next five years.

The grower-funded and grower-directed CRB was chartered nearly 50 years ago to enable California citrus growers to sponsor and support needed research that industry members otherwise would be unable to individually fund or access on their own. The Board’s mission is to ensure a sustainable California citrus industry for the benefit of growers by prioritizing, investing in and promoting sound science.

Some key areas funded include general production research, a variety improvement research program, a quality assurance program on agricultural chemical residues, and pest and disease control activities. Currently, disease control is crucially important.

The California citrus industry is now in the fight of its life to prevent the spread of the devastating disease huanglongbing (HLB) from California’s orchards.

HLB already has decimated most other major citrus growing regions, including Florida.

In California, HLB so far only has been found in 40 residential trees in Los Angeles; however, unless researchers are able to find a solution, HLB could gain a foothold in the state’s commercial groves. Currently, the CRB is dedicating its primary research efforts to controlling the spread of HLB and eradicating the disease. The Board is beginning to see some promising results; but without the CRB, much valuable research will go unfunded.

“We urge all citrus growers to vote when they receive their ballots from the CDFA,” CRB President Gary Schulz said. “Citrus is important to our state’s economy, employment, health and positive identity. We are proud to proactively protect and sustain the world’s largest fresh citrus market. The work that our researchers are conducting is vital to sustaining the California citrus industry and ensuring its continued success.”

The CRB administers the California Citrus Research Program, the grower funded and grower-directed program established in 1968 under the California Marketing Act as the mechanism enabling the State’s citrus producers to sponsor and support needed research. More information about the Citrus Research Board may be found at www.citrusresearch.org.