More People Interested in Ag at Food Safety of California Convention

Agriculture Is Noble Work

By Mikenzi Meyers, Contributing Editor

A panel at the recent Food Safety of California Convention gave viewers a glimpse of hope for a brighter future in the industry. The moderator of the panel was Tom Jones, senior director of analytic sciences with the Safe Food Alliance.

Although important topics like food safety and processing were discussed by the panel, Jones found himself most impressed by the audience.

“The number of young people that are interested in agriculture and the food industry really gives you hope for the future,” he said.

Jones also said he was also pleasantly surprised by the implied support from Capitol Hill in Washington. “They are actually quite excited to be involved with agriculture. They think it’s an important or noble thing to be doing that job for their representative in Congress, which is a real shift from even a few years ago,” he explained.

The Safe Food Alliance was founded in 2016 as a sister organization to the DFA of California, a nonprofit trade association that has expanded beyond quality inspections to servicing new commodities. To find out more about the Safe Food Alliance and their services, you can visit their website here.

California Food Processing: $200 Billion in Value

California Food Processing is Massive Business

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The food packaging business is massive in California. California Ag Today spoke recently with Rob Neenan, president and CEO of the California League of Food Producers, based out of Sacramento, about California food processing.

“The League of Food Producers is a statewide trade association. Our primary function is regulatory and legislative affairs on behalf of our members,” Neenan said.

Rob Neenan is president and CEO of the League of Food Processors

The association represents about 50 food processor members across the state, most of the Central San Joaquin Valley, but it serves seven or eight members in southern California. “We have Del Monte in Modesto. We have Hilmar Cheese in Hillmar. In Lodi and Woodland, we have Pacific Coast Producers. We also have also some nut processors, dried fruit processors, so the whole gamut,” Neenan said.

“There aren’t as many frozen fruit and vegetable companies as there used to be, but we have a few, for example, Del Mar Food Products in Watsonville and a couple of companies in the Merced area,” Neenan noted.

The processing industry represents a big part of the power of California agriculture.

“The annual output of the food processing industry in California is about $200 billion. About $25 billion is in direct value added on top of the ingredients,” he said.

The food processing industry directly employs about 190,000 people. However, if you add in all the people who work in packaging, labeling, trucking, energy, IT, in support of the industry, there are 760,000 people in California whose jobs either directly or indirectly rely on the food processing industry, and that’s on top of the production agriculture component.

It’s the third largest industry in the state regarding the manufacturing sector—only high tech and oil refining are larger in California.

And Neenan explained that there are some significant issues that canners are facing.

“The biggest is the proposed steel and aluminum tariff situation. The canning industry needs tinplate steel, which is also used in cans and aluminum foil, which is inside of some packaging as well. For the canneries left in California, this is going to increase their cost of doing business greatly,” Neenan said.

Manufacturing Consortium

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced late last week that The Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium, led by Fresno State, was one of 12 new communities designated this year under the Obama Administration’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative. IMCP was designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in communities nationwide by supporting the development of long-term economic development strategies.

Consortium members represent major Central Valley public and private institutions from the education, business, economic and workforce development and civic sectors joining forces to foster the growth and creation of food and beverage businesses and middle-skills manufacturing jobs in the Central Valley.

“An IMCP designation is an important signal to potential investors that these communities are a good place to spend their money, and this is smart government at work,” Pritzker said. “By breaking down silos and encouraging communities to take a more thoughtful, comprehensive approach to their strategic plans, we are ensuring that precious federal dollars are used on the most high impact projects and in a way that maximizes return on investment.”

The new communities were selected by an interagency panel based on the strength of their economic development plans, the potential for impact in their communities and the depths of their partnerships across the public and private sectors to carry out their plans.

Consortium members worked together to identify a sector of manufacturing where their community has a comparative advantage and drafted a strategic plan that addresses workforce and supply chain challenges; infrastructure; research and innovation; trade and investment; capital access; and operational improvement for manufacturing companies.US EDA Logo

The 12 designated manufacturing communities will receive:

  • coordinated support for their strategies from 11 federal agencies with more than $1 billion available in federal economic development assistance.
  • a dedicated federal liaison who will help them navigate available federal resources.
  • recognition on a government website, accessible to prospective private foreign and domestic investors, looking for information on communities’ competitive attributes.

Mike Dozier, director of Fresno State’s Office of Community and Economic Development, the lead office for the project, said the opportunity and challenge facing the Central Valley is to claim more value from agricultural production through the food processing industry, along with its supply and distribution chains.

“California’s food system is the largest agricultural economy in the U.S. and among the top 10 globally,” Dozier said in the application. “It produced nearly $105 billion in economic output in 2012, and it was responsible for over 198,000 jobs tied directly to manufacturing.”

With 28 counties located in California’s heartland, the Central Valley plays a dominant role in this economy as America’s “Farm to Fork Capital.”

“Production agriculture has been the Central Valley’s mainstay and competitive advantage, fueling growth in the food manufacturing sector as those industries are part of a highly integrated supply chain,” he said.

The AgPlus implementation strategy will build upon the Central Valley’s unique asset base, committed partnerships and networks to:

  • capture more value-added cluster manufacturing and supply chain activity within the region, including to meet new demand and for local specialty products such as through the Farm to Fork efforts;
  • provide the workforce with the needed skills through successful career pathways models;
  • accelerate the development and adoption of innovative technologies so the Central Valley’s food and beverage manufacturing industry is the most efficient, safe, healthy, viable and sustainable national and global center of innovation for next-generation processing and supply chains;
  • facilitate the transformation of the industry to adapt to the short- and long-term impacts of drought and climate change; and
  • strengthen business operations and access to capital.

Consortium members are: 

Higher Education: Fresno State; California State University, Chico; University of California, Davis; Central/Mother Lode Regional Consortium; Fresno State’s Water, Energy and Technology Center; Los Rios Community College District; NextEd; and UC Merced Small Business Development Center.

Government Entity: Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority; City of Avenal; City of Fresno; City of Winters; and Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

Nonprofit: Valley Vision; Center for Land-Based Learning; Fresno Community Development Financial Institution; Northern California World Trade Center; Sacramento Employment and Training Agency; Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; and Solano Economic Development Corporation.

Private Sector: AgTech Innovation Fund; CalAsian Pacific Chamber of Commerce; Davis Chamber of Commerce; JBT FoodTech; and PackageOne, Inc.

For more information, contact Mike Dozier at 559.278.0727 or