More than 46,000 California FFA members, or one out of every two students from the FFA chapter in your community cannot afford the prominent blue corduroy jacket. A contribution from you would also help fund crucial leadership events they will attend.
Future Farmers of America is a perfect way to teach our youth business, speaking, and technical skills. In addition, the value of hard work and entrepreneurship that are the building blocks of our country’s prosperity.
FFA was a great way for FFA Students and millions of others to build strong connections, lifelong friendships, and a business network.
FFA is an ever-growing vocational agriculture organization that has over 92,000 members in California. The support we provide to our youth will provide them great opportunities to grow and succeed.
As industry leaders it is our responsibility to contribute and build a foundation for future generations.
Your contribution is critical in changing the outcome of Americas youth. Please support the FFA Foundation Board in backing our students. The cost of a jacket, tie or scarf is $75. Blue Diamond will match every jacket purchased before December 3rd 2019. If individual can purchase 150 jackets by December 3, 300 members will receive a new FFA jacket. Thanks Blue Diamond!
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.
Less than two percent of the United States population is working in agriculture. This may not sound like much, but let’s break it down. Two percent of the population means roughly 21 million jobs, 10 percent of the total workforce, and more than 160,000 farms. The greatest credibility for this huge industry goes to the farmers who work 365 days a year to feed the world. But who is advocating for them while they’re out in the field? That’s where Rob Schrick and Bayer Crop Science comes in.
Schrick, the Strategic Business Director for Bayer, knows the importance of promoting the industry and making consumers more aware of where their food comes from.
“What we’re trying to get across is that everyone in agriculture needs to lean into the conversation about ag, and be a proud ‘Agvocate’ for our industry,” he said.
Explaining the importance of farming, using both science and an emotional connection is key to getting this incredibly important concept across.
One way Bayer is striving to accomplish this goal is by working with youth involved in 4-H.
“We’re trying to get the kids even more excited about STEM,” Schrick explained.
STEM is a program that combines Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to give the kids hands-on education and inquiry-based science learning, which they can relate to agriculture and share with their community.
It is said that today’s youth are tomorrows leaders, and Bayer is helping the future leaders found in 4-H represent the farmers that work so hard to provide the world with a safe, affordable food supply.
Kroger’s Net 90 Payment Intention Will Hurt California Farmers
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
The California Fresh Fruit Association told California Ag Today recently that they do not want to see any relaxation or easing of Kroger Supermarket Chain in what they announced as a 90-day payment intention for all vendors.
“What our industry wants to see is Kroger to withdraw this proposal and to go back to the 30 day payment period,” said Ian LeMay, Director of Member Relations and Communications with the California Fresh Fruit Association in Fresno.
Kroger is the largest supermarket chain in the U.S,. spanning the East, South, and Midwest, and they have stated that they want a net 90 day payment plan on all vendors, including the farmers in California, which provides up to 70% of the fruits and vegetables and 100% of the nut crops that consumers enjoy throughout the year.
As to why Kroger is going this way? It’s most likely to help on their cash flow.
“That’s not necessarily the prerogative or needs to be the interest of our shippers. The shippers have a payroll to make and other bills to pay and they don’t need to carry that credit for Kroger,” LeMay said. “It’s just not good business and not to mention, we’re dealing with multiple commodities with many of our commodities, with a harvest that does not last many weeks. I mean, cherries here in California are six weeks long, so they’re supposed to carry that credit longer than their own season? It just, that doesn’t make sense.”
And making matters worse is that Kroger is even asking farmers to forfeit their rights under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, created by Congress to specifically protect the perishable fresh fruit industry. The act states that payments must be made in 30 days.
“Their answer to that … [is] that they’re partnering with Citibank and that … if you want an expedited payment, then you would have to basically pay upwards of .72 percent on the money you’re owed, so you’re actually going to have to pay money to get money back,” LeMay explained.
LeMay said he thinks when two people are doing business with each other, there’s an expectation that they will keep agreements between each other.
“This is not what California shippers agreed upon. Kroger wants to force this on then. We would like to see Kroger withdraw and hold true to PACA,” he said.
New technology helps farmers use water to maximum effectiveness
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
At the recent big Almond Conference in Sacramento, there were a lot of discussions on water use in almonds. And while growers are doing a great job in conserving, there’s always ways to improve, according to Larry Schwankl, UC Cooperative Extension Irrigation Specialist Emeritus. He shared with California Ag Today the take-home points of his talk in front of several hundred growers.
“We have been researching, ‘How much do growers need to irrigate?’ We want to make sure that their irrigation system are effective and that they know how long to operate it and then ways of checking to make sure that they’re doing a good job and utilizing soil moisture sensors and devices,” Schwankl said.
Schwankl also suggested that growers use pressure bomb to accurately measure the pressure of water inside a leaf. When used, it’s possible to measure the approximate water status of plant tissues.
In using a pressure bomb, the stem of a leaf is placed in a sealed chamber, and pressurized gas is added to the chamber slowly. The device has been calibrated to indicate whether or not that leaf is stressed for water.
“We can predict how much water the tree’s going to need, and we can predict how much an irrigation system is going to put on, but there’s errors in all predictions,” Schwankl said. “We need to go back and check and make sure that we’re staying on target. That’s where knowing the soil moisture and the plant water status really helps.”
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.
Farmers and Sustainable Conservation Collaborate on Economic Improvements
By Laurie Greene, Editor
Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve some of the toughest issues facing our land, air and waters. Everyday the organization brings together business, government, landowners and others to steward the resources that Californians depend on in ways that make economic sense.
“We partner extensively with farmers in California on a variety of issues which focus on how to find, solutions that will solve the environmental issue, but also work economically,” said Ashley Boren, executive director, Sustainable Conservation, which has a home office in San Francisco as well as an office in Modesto.
“We work with the dairies in California to find manure management practices that work for the farm but also reduce nitrate leeching to ground water, to better protect groundwater quality.
“We help simplify the permeating process for landowners who want to do restoration work, maybe stream bank stabilization or erosion control projects,” Boren said. “We make it much easier to get good projects done.”
“We have a partnership with the nursery industry. This voluntary collaboration aims to stop the sale of invasive plants because fifty percent of the plants that are invasive in California were introduced through gardening, and the nursery industry has really stepped up to be part of the solution on that issue,” she said.
Sustainable Conservation is also doing a lot of work with groundwater. “We think there’s a real opportunity for farmers to help be part of the solution in sustainable ground water management. We are particularly focused on how to capture flood waters in big storm events, and how to spread the water onto active farmland as a way of getting it back into the ground,” Boren said.
Boren noted that she has partnered with the Almond Board of California and other grower associations regarding floodwater management. We actually have a pilot program with Madera Irrigation District and Tulare Irrigation District on helping them with some tools, as well as developing some tools together with them, that will help them figure out how to optimize groundwater management in their basins.
Celebrating California Agriculture – A Refreshing Perspective
By Laurie Greene, Editor
Peterangelo Vallis is the executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association based in Kingsburg, CA. Today, he discusses the great care farmers put into their land.
“Hey, we don’t make any more land. God gave us a green earth. That is what we’ve got, and we live in the best possible place to grow virtually anything,” said Vallis.
“In most cases, anything that has been farmed here in California has been farmed for a hundred years. The soil is better now than it was naturally because we are taking better care of it. We’re putting more natural green material back into the ground,” Vallis explained.
“We are stewards of the land, and we have to be cognizant of that. We have to publicize that fact because farmers are the best people at caring for the land,” he said.
“I think oftentimes we are so busy caring for the land, we don’t do as good of a job pumping our chest up to everyone, going, ‘Hey! You know what? You come try to do this. You try to do it half as good as me, ‘because I’ve learned things from school. I’ve learned things from my family. I’ve learned things from generations. I’ve learned things just because I’m here doing my job and watching out,” Vallis said.
Vallis believes we need to widen the conversation and tell more people that farmers do the things they need to do; they do the things that benefit all society.
“We are proud of what we are doing. You know what? People who eat are the direct beneficiaries. Everyone who opens a can of beans. Everyone who goes and gets some lettuce out of the fridge. Everyone who eats beef, chicken or any other meat benefits from our taking care of the land to continue to produce,” he said.
“No farmer I know and no farmer I have ever met actively goes out and poisons our land, because then they can’t make food. Making food is what we are called to do.”
The California Farm Water Coalition (Coalition) was formed in 1989 to increase public awareness of agriculture’s efficient use of water and to promote the industry’s environmental sensitivity regarding water.
Mike Wade, executive director of the Sacramento-based Coalition, has major concerns about the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB)‘sproposal of taking 40% of the water from many irrigation districts along three rivers that flow into the San Joaquin River to protect an endangered fish. The SWRCB proposes to divert water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers to increase flows in the Sacramento Delta.
Wade explained, “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is important for the United States, and we want to see it work. However, it’s not working. It’s not helping fish, and it’s hurting communities.” But Wade wants to revise the ESA “in how we deal with some of the species management issues.”
Wade said SWRCB is doubling down on the same tired, old strategy that is not going to work any more now than it has in the past. “What happened in the past isn’t helping salmon. What’s happened in the past isn’t helping the delta smelt. You’d think someone would get a clue that maybe other things are in play, there are other factors that need to be addressed.”
The State Water Resources Control Board estimated the proposed 40% diversion of river flow would decrease agricultural economic output by 64 million or 2.5% of the baseline average for the region.
Ag officials warn that if the proposal goes through it would force growers in the area to use more groundwater—which they have largely avoided because the Turlock Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District historically met the irrigation need of local farms.
This is the only agricultural area in the Central Valley that does not have critical overdraft problems. If the state takes away 40% of water available to growers, it could lead to a critical overdraft issue there as well.
“We were really excited to feature California agriculture, because it’s such a huge part of the American economy,” said Nierenberg. “Californians are feeding the world, and we need to really highlight what these amazing producers are doing. When the Farm to Fork program of the Visitors Bureau reached out to us, we were thrilled to partner with such an amazing group of people, as well as UC Davis folks and the Center for Land-Based Learning,” she said.
Food Tank, an abbreviation of Food Think Tank, is a 501(c)3 non profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters that values education, inspiration and change.
Food Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day. We will offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems.
The organization begins with the premise, “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.”
With the goal of feeding the hungry world of nine billion people in a few years, “Food Tank highlights hope and success in agriculture. We feature innovative ideas that are already working on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories. These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up. And that is where we need you. We all need to work together to find solutions that nourish ourselves and protect the planet.”
Nierenberg clarified, “I don’t necessarily think we need to scale up food production; I think we need to scale out different innovations that are working. We’re wasting about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s enough to feed everyone who’s hungry today, so we don’t necessarily need to ramp up production. We need to have better distribution, and processing practices that can help get food to people who need it the most,” she said.
“We need the political will behind those things,” she continued, “to build the infrastructure necessary for farmers to have better processing facilities, to have better storage facilities, to have better roads—if we’re talking about the developing world. I don’t necessarily think that we need to invest in producing more calories; we need better calories. We need more nutrient-dense food, and we need less starchy staple crops,” she noted.
Editor’s Note: Activists overtook the stage during the event, and the conversation was notably challenging for panelists. In an effort to Cultivate Common Groundto link consumers with the farmers who grow their nutritious food—and vice versa—California Ag Today has chosen to share some interesting statements from presenters and attendees to illustrate, perhaps, where the discussion could begin:
Regarding farms and processing facilities, big is bad, and small is good.
Regarding food quality, organic produce is healthy and safe, while conventional produce is unsafe and full of pesticides.
Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, noted that farmworkers are invisible in California agriculture. “There is racism in the fields. We need more worker unions and we need farmworkers to be paid much more than they are now and the farmworkers should be getting pensions from the farmer.”
Michael Dimock, president, Roots of Change, said to the audience, “You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. Keep working with your NGOs. They know policy. In turn, they can work with the legislators.”
“You need to be in the capital, pursuading the legislatures to support their bills. They want to be reelected, and if they don’t do what we ask them to do, they are scared.”
“In the meantime, we have to be nice to farmers because farmers are scared. We are putting a lot of pressure on them; They are in a vice. Our movement has supported bills AB 1066 – the overtime bill, minimum wage increases, organic farming legislation, and workers’ rights.”
Kerryn Gerety, founder and CEO, Lazoka, referred to John Purcell, vegetables global R&D Lead, Hawaii business lead, vice president and distinguished fellow, Monsanto Company, and said, “There is an elephant in the room, the Monsanto rep. Monsanto has all the technology patents. We all want transparency and we need you to be more transparent.”
Continuing, “Why doesn’t Monsanto open-source some of your patents and release the intellectual property so others can take advantage of your teçhnology?”
Purcell answered, “We are an Ag company. Why would our company invest a million dollars on technology and let everyone have it? It is our investment and we need to have the opportunity for a return on that investment.
During a panel discussion of food companies including Blue Apron,Almond Board of California, and Bayer CropScience, that covered organics, Jennifer Maloney, food chain sustainability manager, Bayer CropScience, said, “We do support the organic industry, because we have biological products that work in organic as well as conventional [farming].”
Maloney also talked about agricultural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology such as smart sprayers that spray only targeted areas.
Matt Wadiak, founder & COO, Blue Apron, responded, “It’s not about smart sprayers; it’s about biological systems in the field and trying to lean on them instead of spraying.”
Maloney replied, “Yes, that is exactly what IPM is.”
Keith Knopf, COO, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, commented on the organic question, “the way we see organic versus inorganic—that is not the discussion for us. What’s more important to us is, is it the candy bar or the apple?”
This two-day event featured more than 35 speakers from the food and agriculture field, interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees. This was the second in a series of three 2016 Summits, following the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit that completely sold out and drew in more than 30,100 livestream viewers. The third Summit will be held in Chicago on November 16, 2016.