Casey Creamer Named New President/CEO of California Citrus Mutual

New Role Effective Feb. 1

News Release

 

CCM appoints current Executive Vice President and veteran agriculture industry representative.  Current President, Joel Nelsen to step down after 37 years at the helm and assume new role within the organization.

 

The California Citrus Mutual (CCM) Board of Directors has named current Executive Vice President Casey Creamer as its new President and CEO effective February 1st.  Creamer came to CCM last February after a national search process to eventually assume the role of President.  He succeeds Joel Nelsen, who has guided CCM for the last 37 years.

Huanglongbing
Joel Nelsen semi-retires after 37 years at the Helm.

“The citrus industry is very fortunate to have had an individual of Joel’s caliber the last 37 years.  That kind of loyalty is not only rare, it’s unheard of,” Board Chairman Curt Holmes said.  “Joel has taken a relatively small industry and has given us a huge voice.  We’ve faced many challenges over the years and have addressed them head on with his energy and passion leading the way.  We are incredibly grateful to him for his service and we appreciate his willingness to stay engaged in the industry.

“We are also very excited to have Casey on board as our new President and CEO,” continued Holmes.  “The Board conducted an extensive search process and interviewed viable candidates from across the country.  We ultimately found the right person in our own backyard.  His prior experience working for a sister commodity organization and his work representing growers on water issues made him an ideal selection.  Over the last year, his knowledge of the citrus industry has greatly expanded, and he has quickly become a valuable member of the CCM team on behalf of the industry.”

“I’m humbled by the opportunity to serve,” Creamer said.  “I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with some of the best leaders over my career and have nothing but respect and admiration for the job that Joel has done advancing issues important to the citrus industry.  I’m looking forward to carrying on the many successful traditions at CCM, while constantly seeking new ideas and pathways to address the significant challenges we face.  With the enthusiasm and commitment that exists in this industry, I am confident that together, we tackle any obstacle thrown our way.”

 

Citrus Growers Prepare For Sub Freezing Temps

Central Valley Citrus Growers Prepare for Cold Weather 

News Release

Central Valley citrus growers are anticipating subfreezing temperatures over the weekend. Forecasts show colder temperatures throughout the Valley Friday evening through Sunday morning, with the coldest areas expected to dip into the upper 20s and possibly the mid-20s.

Growers are prepared to implement frost protection measures if temperatures drop below freezing. This includes the use of irrigation water and wind machines to elevate grove temperatures by 3 to 5 degrees, thus mitigating the potential for frost to occur.

Generally, navel varieties can tolerate temperatures as low as 27 degrees without risk for damage, whereas Mandarin varieties tend to be susceptible to damage at temperatures below 32. The key factor is the duration of time at or below these thresholds. The potential for damage increases when cold temperatures persist for several hours.

At this time, forecasts do not suggest a critical freeze event will occur this weekend; however, growers will certainly be watching the temperature closely and activating freeze precautions as necessary.

According to the 2017 county crop report data, 90 percent of California’s commercial citrus crop is grown in Madera, Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties. This represents a total crop value of $3.1 billion. Statewide, citrus is a $3.8 billion crop.

Citrus Mutual Encouraged by Farm Bill

California Citrus Mutual Commends Congress for Action on 2018 Farm Bill

News Release

This week, the U.S. Senate and the House passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill, with overwhelming bipartisan support. This legislation will direct agricultural policy and authorize funding for key agricultural programs in the federal government for the next 5 years.

President Trump has the opportunity to enact the 2018 Farm Bill before the end of the year.

CCM President Joel Nelsen offers the following statement:

“California Citrus Mutual applauds the Farm Bill conferees and House and Senate Ag Committees for moving forward a bill that includes priority programs for specialty crop producers. Jeff Denham, Jim Costa, and Jimmy Panetta were crucial voices for California farmers on the House Ag Committee. Along with Representatives Julia Brownley, Ken Calvert, and David Valadao, the California Members were instrumental to securing funding for research, trade and market enhancement, and pest and disease prevention that will directly benefit California specialty crop producers.

“With support from Congressmen Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes and Senators Feinstein and Harris, key programs and funding for the U.S. citrus industry will continue in the next Farm Bill.

“The U.S. citrus industry will receive funding to continue priority research to identify a solution to Huanglongbing, a devastating plant disease that is threatening the sustainability of our domestic citrus industry. This is a significant win for U.S. citrus growers.

“On behalf of the California citrus industry, I thank the Congressmen and Congresswoman, our U.S. Senators, and our colleagues in the specialty crop industry who worked diligently over the past several months to create a bipartisan Farm Bill that provides crucial resources to ensure our farmers can continue providing nutritious produce to Americans and people around the world.”

The 2018 Farm Bill includes $25 million per year for 5 years starting in 2019 for research specific to the invasive insect Asian citrus psyllid and deadly plant disease Huanglongbing (HLB). This Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund will build upon the program created in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) title in the 2014 Farm Bill and complements the $40 million per year program funded by California citrus growers to stop the spread of HLB.

The legislation also includes funding for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program and the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). Additionally, funding will continue for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, which helps growers overcome artificial trade barriers. TASC has been in operation for over fifteen years and was created to address sanitary and phytosanitary issues and technical barriers to trade that prohibit or threaten exports of U.S. specialty crops.

No End in Sight for Stopping Huanglongbing Disease

Millions Spent to Fight Huanglongbing, with No Cure

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

The California citrus industry—made up of 3,500 growers in Ventura, Riverside, and the San Joaquin Valley, and encompassing 70-75 packing houses—is an agricultural facet that continues to make California a fresh citrus powerhouse. Joel Nelsen, President and CEO of the California Citrus Mutual, spoke to California Ag Today recently on the industry-wide issue of Huanglongbing Disease—a deadly disease that has threatened the industry in every part of the state.

“For our industry, it’s a combination of enthusiasm, unity, frustration, and aggravation because we continue to fight the spread of the disease in Southern California.”

“We’re continually frustrated because science has not yet found a cure. We’ve given the scientific community an average of thirty to forty million dollars a year to find a cure for this disease.”

In a recent study done by the University of California, Riverside, economic outputs of the citrus industry is roughly $7 billion.

“It’s an economic engine for certain parts of this state. Lose it, and it’s not a positive alternative, that’s for sure,” Nelsen said.

Study Forecasts Cost of Regulations on California Citrus Industry

Citrus Research Board Explains Cost Impacts on Growers

News Release From California Citrus Mutual

New regulations are expected to cost California citrus growers an average of $701 per acre per year, or $203 million annually statewide, according to a new study commissioned by the Citrus Research Board (CRB).

“Compliance with environmental regulations not associated with groundwater sustainability is estimated to increase costs by $17.7 million, or $67 per acre of citrus,” predicts Bruce A. Babcock, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Public Policy at UC Riverside who authored the study. “New labor requirements will increase costs by $112 million, or $357 per acre, once they are all phased in.”

“Babcock has presented a well-researched economic report that shows how new regulations will increasingly impact California’s citrus industry,” said CRB President Gary Schulz.

The report, Impact of Regulations on Production Costs and Competitiveness of the California Citrus Industry, also predicts that controlling the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) “will increase costs by $65 million, or $248 per acre per year, if controls are extended to all citrus-growing regions.” Compliance training costs are estimated to increase costs by another $29 per acre, or $7.5 million for the state citrus industry.

“As I read and reread Dr. Babcock’s report, two things kept jumping off the page: one, ‘Cost increases borne by California’s citrus but not by … other citrus growing regions decrease the future competitiveness of California’s citrus industry’; and two, ‘… future compliance with these regulations is estimated to increase costs by $203 million, or $701 per acre per year,'” said California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen. “When the cost of citrus at store level gets too expensive, consumers look for lower priced fruit. This UCR report paints a clear path for policy makers if their goal is to drive the citrus industry out of California and onto off-shore production areas.”

The 20-page report includes a breakdown of increases in labor costs, including California’s minimum hourly wage increases, which are scheduled to rise in annual increments to $15 over the next four years. The report also covers the projected cost increases of recent state legislation dealing with paid sick leave, payment rates for rest and recovery periods, overtime and workers compensation.

The section on insecticide treatment addresses grower cost of spraying for ACP, even though the severity of the problem currently differs greatly in various areas of the state. If ACP establishes itself in all citrus regions in the state, which the report says is “almost inevitable,” control efforts would amount to $39.5 million per year, according to Babcock. This would be in addition to the state-mandated tarping of fruit that is transported to packinghouses, at a cost of approximately $9 million per year.

According to the report, The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed in 2011 and is still being implemented, will not require major changes for growers who are already GFSI-certified (Global Food Safety Initiative compliant).

The impact of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is hard to predict, according to Babcock. “It will not be possible to calculate the impact of SGMA until each basin’s groundwater sustainability plans have been finalized,” he states. “Without new surface water supplies, it seems inevitable that some farmland that currently relies on groundwater will need to be fallowed to balance withdrawals with recharge rates.”

Babcock, a Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, has won numerous awards for his applied policy research. He received a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley, and Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from UC Davis.

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. The full report on the Impact of Regulations on Production Costs and Competitiveness of the California Citrus Industry, as well as more information about the Citrus Research Board, may be read at www.citrusresearch.org.

Research Nets Going Over Citrus Trees To Prevent Huanglongbing Disease

Blocking Psyllids Carrying Disease is Key

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Beth Grafton-Cardwell is the director of the Lindcove Research Extension Center in Tulare County and research entomologist based out of the University of California, Riverside. She recently told California Ag Today that there is work being done on installing a net structure to protect trees from Asian Citrus Psyllids, which spread the deadly Huanglongbing disease. Texas A&M researchers are installing net structures on the edge of groves to block psyllids from coming into an orchard.

Psyllids have a preference for borders. These nets could have yellow sticky strips of material with an insecticide on it, so there would be an attract and kill process.

Beth Grafton-Cardwell

Other research is looking at netted structures that will completely enclose the citrus trees.

“Researchers are going to construct a completely enclosed net structure to grow the citrus trees in a block at Lindcove,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “We will study how well one can grow citrus under the screen so there could be the ultimate protection against pests and diseases.”

“The mother trees and increased trees have to be grown under the screen, but the field trees do not necessarily have to be,” she said.

Cold temperatures in the winter to protect the citrus from the psyllid.

“The cold temperatures hardened off the tissue, which makes it hard for the psyllid to find any place to lay eggs, and they probably cost some mortality to the psyllid,” Grafton-Cardwell explained.

Most outbreaks are in Southern California. Los Angeles, Orange County, and a few trees in Riverside.

“Prevention is working and there are fewer outbreaks in the Central Valley,” Grafton-Cardwell said.

Dr. Mark Hoddle and Dr. Kelsey Schall (both from UC Riverside) have been monitoring backyard situations. They are researching the release of beneficials such Tamarixia and other generalist predators like Syrphid flies.

“They have been reducing psyllids by about 70 percent in the backyards, and that’s really good news,” Grafton-Cardwell said.

Labor Contractor Fresh Harvest Deep in Vegetable Harvests

Fresh Harvest Relies on H-2A

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Steve Scaroni, along with his wife Brenda, owns Fresh Harvest, a premier labor provider, staffing and harvesting company for the agricultural industry in the western United States.

Steve Scaroni, with Fresh Harvest.

“Expansion for Fresh Harvest is coming, but the main emphasis is crops related to salads. They even expanded into citrus last year,” Scaroni said.

Fresh Harvest has also expanded into pears. Vegetables are the heart and soul of Fresh Harvest.

“Anything that goes into a salad, a lot of lettuce, romaine, broccoli; we touch a lot of salads every day,” he said.

The H-2A temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers who expect a shortage in domestic workers to bring non-migrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural services for a temporary or seasonal nature.

“If it wasn’t for H-2A, I wouldn’t be in business,” Scaroni said.

Scaroni explained that the H-2A gets legal workers to serve his customers demands for the services he offers. A majority of the demands are labor and harvesting, along with other farm services.

“We’re bringing up 100 irrigators this year to put throughout the Salinas Valley because our Salinas customers can’t get enough irrigators,” he said.

Laborers that show great work ethic will be able to work for a longer period of time. A worker could technically stay if moved from contract to contract.

“If the timing works, he gets up to three years, but then he has to go back for 90 days,” Scaroni said.

New Study Reveals Economic Impact of California Citrus

Citrus Research Board Quantifies California Citrus Industry’s Importance

Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh
      Despite Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones posting a series of anti-ag comments on Facebook, causing a stir in the local community, agriculture provides a huge economic stimulus to his community. In fact, without agriculture in Tulare, the city would most likely be in economic ruin.
     Citrus is one crop that is grown in the county. And the total economic impact of the iconic California citrus industry is $7.117 billion according to a new study commissioned by the Citrus Research Board (CRB).
     “In updating our economic analysis, we selected a well-known expert, Bruce Babcock, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside, to conduct the research. His findings quantified the significant impact of citrus on California’s economic well-being,” CRB President Gary Schulz said.
     According to Babcock, the California citrus industry added $1.695 billion to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016.
     “California citrus is a major contributor to the economic value of the state’s agricultural sector and is much larger than just the value of its sales,” he said. “Estimated full-time equivalent California citrus jobs totaled 21,674 in 2016-17, and estimated wages paid by the industry during that same time frame totaled $452 million.”
     Babcock added, “The application of management skills and capital equipment to efficiently utilize land and water to produce high-quality citrus also generates upstream and downstream jobs and income that magnify the importance of citrus production beyond its farm value.”
     In 2016-17, the most recent marketing year of data compilation, Babcock found that the total direct value of California citrus production was $3.389 billion. This value generated an additional $1.263 billion in economic activity from related businesses that supplied materials and services to the citrus industry. Layered on top was another $2.464 billion in economic activity generated by household spending income that they received from California’s industry, according to Babcock, thus rendering a total economic impact of $7.117 billion.
     The study revealed that 79 percent of California’s citrus was packed for the fresh market and 21 percent was processed in 2016-17, which is economically significant because fresh market fruit has a higher value than processed fruit.
     Of further note, California produced about 95 percent of all U.S. mandarins in the most recent reporting season.
     California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said, “The ‘wow’ factor in this report is something, as it relates to gross revenues and positive impact for the state, people and local communities. This enthusiasm must be tempered by the fact that huanglongbing (HLB) can destroy all this in a matter of a year if the partnerships that exist between the industry and government cannot thwart the spread of this insidious disease. Just this week, coincidentally, Brazil authorities reported a 20% reduction in fruit volume. Reading how that would affect our family farmers, employees and the state is sobering.”
     The CRB study also looked at the possible impact of a potential 20 percent reduction in California citrus acreage or yield or a combination of the two that could result from increased costs associated with meeting government regulations, combatting the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and warding off the invasion of HLB, a devastating disease that has decimated citrus production in many other growing regions such as Florida. Babcock calculated that such a reduction could cause a loss of 7,350 jobs and $127 million in associated employment income and could reduce California’s GDP by $501 million in direct, indirect and induced impacts. The CRB currently is devoting most of its resources to battling ACP and HLB to help ensure the sustainability of California citrus.
     Babcock is a Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and has won numerous awards for his applied policy research. The economist received his Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Masters and Bachelors degrees from the University of California, Davis.
     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 and the full report on the “Economic Impact of California’s Citrus Industry” may be found at www.citrusresearch.org. 

15 Percent Chinese Tariff will Harm Farmers

CCM President Issues Statement Regarding Chinese Tariff Announcement

News Release from California Citrus Mutual

While the proposed 15% Chinese tariff increase will affect all fruits, nuts and vegetables shipped to China, California Citrus Mutual (CCM) President Joel Nelsen issued the following statement regarding the tariff increase on  California citrus as a retaliatory counter to President Donald Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum:

The decision by the Chinese government to levy exorbitant tariff increases on U.S. produce will surely have a direct impact on California citrus producers. Maintaining access to foreign markets and having the ability to compete in a global market place are critical to the success of the citrus industry.

The retaliatory tariffs imposed by China hinders our ability to be competitive by increasing costs for Chinese consumers, an important market for California citrus. Family farmers in our industry will suffer from the economic fallout unless we can find alternative markets for California’s While our Administration focuses on those business sectors requiring attention, the Chinese Administration has chosen to expand the discussion to include the agricultural industry. In fact, the Chinese indicated last week in a statement that constructive talks could alleviate the real issues, yet insufficient time was given to accomplish that objective. Now Chinese consumers and California citrus producers are innocent parties to a trade debate.

Nelsen, CCM Executive Vice President Casey Creamer, and Board Chairman Curt Holmes have traveled to Washington, D.C. recently for meetings with Congress and the Administration regarding trade and other important issues affecting the California citrus industry.

Patience: How Homeowners Can Help ACP Detection

Authorities Need to Monitor ACP Detection, Confronted With Impatient Homeowners

by Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm Director

44111-CCM-Web_Headshot_Joel-Nelsen
Joel Nelsen, President of California Citrus Mutual

Joel Nelsen, the president of the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual noted that most homeowners do not realize how intensive it is for authorities to monitor traps for the Asian Citrus psyllid (ACP) at their homes.

“Most people don’t realize how intrusive this process is,” said Nelsen. “You’ve got a member of the County Ag Commissioner’s office driving down a street. He sees a citrus tree in a front yard, or he can see it’s tall enough in the back. He knocks on the door. The homeowner’s not home, so he has to come back.”

“Later, he comes back to the home and again, knocks on the door and finds that the homeowner is home. He says, ‘Can I put a trap out here to find out if you’ve got the Asian citrus psyllid?’ The homeowner hopefully says, ‘Yes.’ He comes back in two weeks. He looks at the trap. There’s no ACP. He comes back two weeks later, and if the homeowner is home, he looks at the trap,” Nelsen explained.

“It’s a constant bother to that homeowner,” Nelsen said. “Eventually, they find more than one ACP. Then the inspector says: ‘Can I spray a crop protection material on your tree and kill the Asian citrus psyllid?’”

“Hopefully the homeowner says, ‘Yes,’” said Nelsen.

CCMLogoNelsen noted that the inspector visited five times already within a two month period, and now he needs to do inspect elsewhere, so having that homeowner be amenable to that much intrusiveness is a significant goal.

Nelsen noted, “The consumer education program that forms the partnership between us and them, from our perspective, is vitally important so the consumers understand what Huanglongbing (HLB)—the fatal citrus disease carried by ACP—is”.

“Then when you find Huanglongbing (HLB),” said Nelsen, “and hopefully it’s very minimal, that homeowner is more likely to agree that the tree must be removed. Fortunately, everybody has said: ‘Yes.’”