Food Safety is Critically Important for Consumers

Safe Food Alliance’s Big Lab in Kingsburg Will Serve Ag Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Tom Jones, senior director of analytical services with the Safe Food Alliance, about the new state of the art food safety lab in Kingsburg.

“We have laboratories, not only here but also in Kerman, Winters, as well as Yuba City,” Jones said. “But this is a big lab; our main lab that will provide plenty of space for research and testing.”

food safety
Tom Jones Sr. Director of Analytic Services for Safe Food Alliance

“We were in a laboratory in downtown Fresno that … was less than  8,000 square feet. We’re now in more than 20,000 square feet, and it’s made a tremendous difference—a lot more space and capacity for us to do our work,” Jones explained.

There is adequate room for additional sample storage, more instrumentation as the business grows and more people doing more work.

“We also have room for additional incubation of samples, so in the microbiological testing, that’s a big issue,” Jones said. “It is a much easier place to work in.”

“The first piece of instrumentation actually installed in the new lab before we officially moved in was our GC Mass Spectrometer Time of Flight system, and it’s a powerful system to be able to analyze for unknown compounds,” Jones said. “If you have a problem … you can take that sample, run it through the GC Mass Spectrometer and start getting data right away. Even if you don’t know what you’re exactly analyzing for, you can actually start the process there, so that’s really exciting.”

“You need qualified people to run that machine So, that’s a big part of the testing world as well. And the end goal of all of this new technology is to keep consumers safe,” Jones continued. “Our mission is to see a safe food supply from farm to fork, and we’re really excited to have this facility because we can test to a wider range of food products, using a wider range of analysis. We are here to help support our agricultural community as well as the food processing community as we export to the world.”

(Additional Photo is of the Open House at the new lab in Kingsburg.)

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Tom Stenzel Says Produce Safety Critical

California Ahead of the Curve on Food Safety

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, a lobbying group in Washington D.C., recently spoke with California Ag Today about new developments in food safety as well as some recent issues in regards to labor.

“Our industry’s been revolutionized in the commitment to food safety over the last ten years. Everybody from the ground up through the processing facilities … it’s our number one priority. The same time, the feds have these new rules and regulations that are coming out with some compliance states starting now in 2018, so we’re just trying to make sure that it is reasonable enforcement that the Feds understand as they’re looking at farms, looking at processing facilities, that we’re in this together. Ultimately, all of us just want to make sure that consumers have safe food,” Stenzel said.

Stenzel said many producers in California are already ahead of the curve when it comes to food safety.

“I mean, you look at the leafy greens industry on the Central Coast: They’ve been ready for a good while with very high produce safety standards,” he noted. “But … there’s some areas across the country where it’s going to be a little bit more challenging. But that’s OK, too, because everybody wants to raise their game. They want to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can to deliver safe food.”

Stenzel noted that labor is a big issue, especially in California.

“The number one issue I’m hearing across the country from fruit and vegetable agriculture is the shortage of labor. Now for us, the solution – it’s going to be two parts. It’s got to be a new future guest worker program, and for that, we really thank U.S. Congressman and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte for raising the issue [and] pushing a bill. It’s not everything we want to see, but at least he’s raising his head on that issue,” Stenzel said. “However, we need to deal with the current workforce.”

“We also need to have a bigger commitment to get legal status for those who are already here. These are men and women who’ve been here for twenty years,” he explained. “This is their home where they have raised their families, they’ve got children who are U.S. citizens and they’re working in our fields. We can’t deport them. That doesn’t make sense as a country and certainly not as an agricultural industry.”

 

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Farmers Appreciate Leafy Green Marketing Agreement

Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Raises Bar

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

The Leafy Green Marketing Agreement took huge steps in the advancement of food safety.

Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California of the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, said, “In 2007, there had never been government inspectors on the farm on a routine basis related to food safety.”

Many other regulators such as the Department of Public Health would often check in on businesses. However, there had never been a routine food safety oversight program on the farm.

Farmers joined this agreement voluntarily. “All of these companies that have joined, and been in the program since 2007, they do so voluntarily, and they pay the freight,” Horsfall said. This raises the bar for food safety and provides value to the industry.

Farmers, who were wary at first, came back to Horsfall saying, “They sleep better at night knowing that they’ve got this program in place, that the auditors are going to be there.”

The California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement continues to improve. Every year, the numbers are studied to see what areas have a continuing problem.

“We have used that to decide what to create in a training program. We hope that we’re helping the industry to better comply with these standards as we go along too, by offering the training,” Horsfall said.

For more information, visit the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement web page.

 

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Maintaining Food Safety – LGMA Part 3

Understanding the Farming Operation

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today met recently with Jon Kimble, and among other topics, he reported on food safety in the state of California. Kimble is the operations business development manager at Safe Food Alliance.

Jon Kimble, Safe Food Allicance

Safety is a big concern for those who work in the agricultural community. Kimble spoke on how it is important that farmers assess those on their property.

“If you see somebody getting out, and getting into your fields, certainly you want to talk to them and make sure they are not going to impact the safety of your products, because that is your financial future.”

Operations such as U-Pick, people out in the fields, or people part of an activity raise concern. Risks may be managed in terms of providing hand washing, communication, putting up signs, and making sure they understand that they can impact the safety of others when they’re out in the field.

“It really comes down to just practical due diligence, activities, recommendations that come right out of the good agriculture practices that has been developed over the past few decades,” Kimble said.

Kimble also spoke to California Ag Today about the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA). This puts standards and measures in place to protect the safety of the crops.

“That is a great example of voluntary activity rising up from within the industry to control risks and control hazards,” he said.

The industry has established the best practices, which have led to a world class food safety program through the LGMA.

“The first compliance dates are coming up in January, and I think a lot of growers do not realize how soon their compliance dates are hitting,” Kimble said.

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It Is California Cantaloupe Week!

California Cantaloupe Week Begins in Fresno County

By Lauren Dutra, NAFB Summer Intern

 

Established by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors for this week, Monday July 25 through Sunday, July 31,“California Cantaloupe Week,” recognizes Fresno County as the lead canteloupe-producing county in California, which currently produces 75% of all cantaloupes sold in the United States.

Steve Patricio, president and CEO of Westside Produce, a grower, packer and shipper in Firebaugh said, “The quality has been absolutely outstanding this year, with some of the highest sugar results we’ve seen in recent years.” Patricio has also observed great demand in the marketplace as well.  At this point, it’s time to eat those beautiful California cantaloupes,” he noted.

Tri Westside ProducePacked with nutrition, “Cantaloupes are one of the most outstanding things we can eat for our health,” Patricio affirmed. “That daily dose of cantaloupe can do wonders for a healthy lifestyle.”

The California Cantaloupe industry has been on the forefront of the food safety movement throughout the world, “You can be assured that every cantaloupe grown, packed and shipped from California meets the highest standard of food safety anywhere in the world,” Patricio stated.

The California Cantaloupe Advisory Board (CCAB) requires all California cantaloupe growers, packing operations, and cooling facilities undergo mandatory announced and unannounced government food safety audits. The audits are based on a set of food safety standards developed from 20 years of university research along with input from government, food safety and farming experts. CCAB food safety systems allow for science-based standards to be updated as new information or science becomes available.

You can review all of the safety checkpoints here.

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Food Safety: Protecting Consumers, Protecting Brands

The Acheson Group Lends Commodity Groups Food Safety-Based Brand Protection 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

David_Acheson
Dr. David Acheson, Founder and CEO of The Acheson Group

With the overall importance of food safety, it’s important that growers remain diligent in the enforcement of their food safety protocols. Dr. David Acheson is the Founder and CEO of The Acheson Group; a consulting firm for food and beverage companies as well as those who provide technical support to the food industry.

He noted that part of risk management is taking the particular commodity into account. Things like leafy greens and cilantro are examples of some of the more high-risk crops. One method of mitigating the risks involved is through the adoption of good agricultural practices. “That gets back to everything from controlling the quality of water that you’re using to irrigate, especially if its spray irrigation,” said Acheson.

Some other ways of lowering risk include making sure the equipment that’s being used is properly sanitized, checking for animal encroachment, as well as being mindful of the time it takes to get the product refrigerated after its been harvested. Acheson noted that, “as soon as you chop it out of the ground, you’ve got exposed surfaces and you’ve got pathogens where bugs can grow.”

Another area of vulnerability is making sure employees follow the established food safety protocols. Acheson said that when his firm is assessing the risk of an operation, “We’re always looking for, not only are you talking the talk, but are you walking the walk.” Safety means relying on people to follow procedure, “Most companies have good policies and procedures written but do they translate in the fields? To the way the workers are operating?” Acheson said.

Ensuring that all of the safety measures come together in a coherent and effective way is the cornerstone to a successful agricultural operation. Acheson noted that, “The good operations, they’re going to walk the fields just before they harvest to look for any evidence of obvious animal encroachment and are continuing to watch as they move down through the field harvesting the product.”

(Food_Safety)_Flags_in_the_field_mean_stop_harvest_here
Flags in the field mean “Stop Harvest Here”

One way the USDA has tried to limit the risk involved in one particular crop was through the adoption of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement. “I think it was a great step forward,” said Acheson. “I mean, really what it was doing was codifying good agricultural practices in California.”

The agreement has been so successful; it was used as a template for the FDA’s Produce Safety rule. By codifying good agricultural practices through the leafy green agreement, the FDA has taken it a step further with their increased area of jurisdiction. The “FDA has got global jurisdiction over leafy greens and produce that’s grown anywhere in the world that’s coming into commerce in the US,” said Acheson. “If you’re growing spinach in Salinas, or you’re growing spinach in Mexico, or anywhere in the world and you’re bringing it into the US to go into interstate commerce, you are required to follow the produce rule.”

Food safety is of great importance to farming operations of all sizes. “To me, no food company is too small to pay attention to food safety, they can’t.” said Acheson. He also noted that enforcement of safe handling practices is what sets some operations apart from others.

Acheson said, “That’s where you start to see the difference between the good ones and the not so good ones. Because the good ones will say, ‘this is a priority, we need to stop harvesting the rest of this field. It’s maybe 10 acres, but we’ve got to plow it under because we’ve got risks that we can’t control.’” Acheson continued, “That’s where you differentiate from the ones who will say, “well there’s ten acres, maybe we can use 9 of those acres and we’ll just plow under one acre of it.”

It all comes down to being diligent in the adherence to food safety directives. While it can sometimes be challenging for growers to always strictly abide by healthy agricultural practices, the alternative of being lax in enforcement could create dire consequences for not just an individual grower, but an entire commodity group.

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Food Safety First for Valley Harvesting

Food Safety Top of Mind with Valley Harvesting

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor 

Valley Harvesting & Packing, Inc. is a company of people who don’t even think about slowing down; they simply don’t have the time. Headquartered in the Imperial County community of Heber, the company has major operations in Mexico, California and Arizona that supply labor, logistics, trucking and custom harvesting, while never compromising food safety. The company’s customers include Fresh Express, New Star Organics, Frisco Farms, River Ranch Fresh Foods, Dole, Tanimura & Antle, Natural Selections, and Foxy Fresh Produce.

Founded by Steve Scaroni and his wife, Brenda, in 1983, Valley Harvesting & Packing is not far from their home deep in the Imperial Valley, a few miles north of Mexicali, Mexico. As president of the company, Steve Scaroni has an enormous passion for the vegetable industry and spends this time of year in Oceanside, Santa Maria, Oxnard, Salinas and Watsonville, where about 30 percent of the business is harvesting and providing labor for strawberries. The remaining 70 percent is devoted to vegetable harvest, labor and logistics.

“If you look at the scope of the company, statistically,” Scaroni said, “we are ‘touching’ somewhere in the process about 25 percent of every salad eaten every day,” said Scaroni.

Scaroni Family of Companies SFC, Valley Harvesting & Packing Valley Harvesting & Packing is a subsidiary of the Scaroni Family of Companies, founded by Steve and Brenda Scaroni in 1984, that also includes Fresh Harvest, a major labor provider, staffing company and harvesting company to the leafy green and berry industries, SMD Logistics, a harvesting, logistics and maintenance company with a 24/7 Dispatch Center, and Harvest Tek de México, a year-round farming operation. The SMD Logistics fleet of 50 trucks follows the harvest operations to deliver fresh-picked produce straight to the cooler within one hour.

Scaroni explained, “We have a food safety team overseeing everything we do. We have to do the same thing in Mexico, but even better than in the U.S.” Scaroni commented, “We have a saying in our operation:  Food safety. Everyone. Everyday.”

“Animal intrusion is certainly always an issue,” Scaroni continued, “and you always have to check your water sources. We constantly swab our water tanks. And of course, we are always making sure people wash their hands and no one is sick, has a runny nose or is sneezing. These three things—animals, water and people—are 90 percent of the battle.”

“We believe in and follow the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA),” Scaroni emphasized. “The results show that this program works and we are completely focused on that. Every crew has a safety officer wearing a bright yellow and orange vest to ensure that the crew is operating safely.”

To help the supervisor maintain excellent quality, the safety officer oversees the sanitization of the cutting knives which are washed in a bucket with bleach every two hours, on average; before and after work; at every break and during lunch. “Out here, everyone uses a knife,” Scaroni continued, “so we have to make sure no one gets cut. There is also a lot of equipment in the field, so the safety officer makes sure no one gets run-over.”

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Top Ten Issues Facing Ag

The Top Ten Issues Facing Agriculture:

California Fresh Fruit Association’s Bedwell Lays Them Out

By Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today

For the first time in nearly eight decades, the California Fresh Fruit Association met in San Diego to carry on all the traditions established over the previous 79 years by the organization originally known as the California Grape & Tree Fruit League.

“How does that feel?” said President Barry Bedwell as he addressed a big part of his membership. “For the most part, I think the feedback has been more than positive. As we explain the rationale behind the name change and why we have moved from a very dear moniker, if you will, for an association that has such a great history, I think it is altogether fitting and proper to recognize our position in the state of California,” said Bedwell.

The Association covers the state from Lake County in the North to the Coachella Valley in the South, and represents 13 commodities with a combined value of $2.5 billion.

“The new name transition has gone very well,” noted Bedwell. “And as we look at 2015, I think it is a ‘schizophrenic’ time for agriculture. On the one hand, as our chairman, David Jackson, pointed out, economically, things look very strong for most commodities.”

“However, here we are in a situation of increasing anxiety. If you look at the feedback every year on our top ten issues, you can see the concentration of issues that are not simply operational in scope. They may be historic in impact when talking about water availability and groundwater management, as we move forward,” said Bedwell. “The availability of water, along with the availability of labor, are simply game changers. They can change things overnight. And I think, inherently, farmers understand that and all of you in this room working together as a supply chain understand that.”

Bedwell then announced his traditional Top Ten Issues Affecting Ag and the association and discussed how they changed from the prior year:

#10  Workers’ Compensation costs.  We bought up our partnership with Zenith Insurance. It’s about how to run programs more efficiently to save you money, but we understand that when it comes to the issue of worker’s comp, it is the issue of the legislature changing the laws to benefit certain classes of participants that leads to higher costs that render our competitiveness more difficult.

#9 Invasive Pest Issues. Look no further than what’s happening with the citrus industry and their struggle agains HLB and the idea of the Citrus psyllid continually being found in new counties throughout the state. Pests for us on one hand are more associated with things like the European Grapevine Moth, where we have done a good job, made progress, and have a chance at eradication, but pests are always on our minds because we are only one quarantine away from not being able to ship our fruit, and we understand that.

#8 Water Quality. We hear so much about water availability, but creeping up into our mindset as well, is water quality because we know we have issues with salts and nitrates in the Valley. How does agriculture get involved with this? It continues to be an issue.

#7 Groundwater Management Legislation. We saw on our list—for the first—groundwater management legislation. This is potentially a game changer. We just had a meeting with some of you in Visalia with the California Water Foundation. They are trying to explain the timeframe for this new law, and quite frankly, the more you learn about it, the more you have to be concerned about any potential outcome other than the scope of agriculture in the state of California.

Because what they are saying in an almost commonsense contradiction is that this has nothing to do with your water rights. Those don’t change, but we may limit the amount of water you can use. That is a tough one to figure out at times, but that is potentially where we are headed in the fourth year of the drought. As you hear the vernacular in Sacramento, the mindset begins to change from one of, ‘Maybe we’ll get rain this year,’ to ‘Maybe we are in the fourth year of a ten-year drought.’ So all of the sudden, the mindset begins to change to more management of water. This is a major concern.

#6 Labor Costs. Knowing and trying to educate legislators about the fact that seventy to perhaps eighty percent of our variable costs as farmers is tied up with labor because we deal with the most labor-intense costs possible with our 13 commodities. I don’t look at any as being machine harvested or machine pruned. So, every time there’s a good-will gesture of, ‘Boy, we should move that minimum wage up,’ we try to explain to people we don’t pay minimum wage. Wages are higher; but incrementally, all of our sectors move up, whether you are a tractor driver or an irrigator, and that has a major impact on our ability to compete on a world-wide basis. And you start to see the labor influence spilling into Baja, California.

As you read recently, workers there are demonstrating because they are making about $8/day, and we are probably more about $12/hour for seasonal labor. But we still have to compete with those instances, so labor is always going to be a concern. We always talk about labor laws and regulations.

#5 Agriculture Labor Relations Act. A year ago at this time, we talked about a case involving one of our members, Gerawan, and the United Farm Workers (UFW), who won an election back in 1990, disappeared for 22 years, then showed up again last summer. The UFW said, “We are the certified representatives for the employees, we’re now here, we want our contract.” The catch was that the employees said: “We don’t know anything about you; we don’t know why we should pay you three percent of our wages for dues.”

That situation resulted in a hearing beginning on September 29th. At that time, the hearing was in front of an administrative law judge in Fresno, and was scheduled to go for ten weeks. Those ten weeks finished up about two weeks ago—after 23 weeks had past. That’s incredible, to think, we have heard it cost as high as 7 million dollars to have that administrative hearing, all paid by California taxpayers.

This is not really how the law was intended to benefit the workers. So, as we move forward, we are always going to see efforts by organized labor to change the law to change the scale for their benefit. We saw it last year with SB 25, which really tried to create a perpetual mandatory mediation situation.

We have to continually push back on these bills. The most effective way to do that is to communicate the voices of those impacted, and in this case it is the employees. And so we have tried very hard to create a relationship with the members on the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and a couple of weeks ago when we were in Sacramento, we had dinner with two of the three board members. And I know the chairman spent most of the time speaking with Harold McClarty, president of HMC Farms, so I know we are in good shape. It is really about relationships and that is what we continue to work on.

#4 Healthcare Mandates. What is happening with the Affordable Care Act, and how is impacting you?

We saw some very practical instances last year where many of our members who use farm-labor contractors were approached. And the labor contractors said, “Well, because of the Affordable Care Act, I’m going to have to raise my rates from $0.70 to $1.10/hour. But under closer examination, we said: “Well—hold it. What percent of your workforce really has to be covered under the Act?” In many cases we found that it certainly wasn’t 100 percent; it was sometimes closer to 10 percent. So we are trying to help administer the understanding of that Act for the best benefit of our members.

#3 The Continuing Need for Immigration Reform. It hasn’t gone away. I am so pleased to have Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, here with us today, along with his Board chairman Ron Carkoski, because we work very closely on these national issues with Tom and Ron. And our voice is still there. Our level of frustration has grown because as we entered this legislative session in Congress, guess what? What did we hear most about? E-Verify; the Legal Workforce Act; and the concern that we have documented workers. We don’t disagree with that. We think that’s a great idea, but you don’t put the cart in front of the horse; you don’t do E-Verify before you create a system for a legal workforce. That’s a very simple message we are trying to get to the leaders in Congress, and Tom and Ron do an absolutely fantastic job in helping to get that message across.

#2 Food Safety. Last July, I received a phone call from one of our members on a Saturday. It was hard to gauge the impact at the time, because that member said, “I want to let you know that we had four peaches show up in Australia, and there was an indication of Listeria.” Now in Australia, there is technically a tolerance for Listeria, and these were such low levels of Listeria, that that shipment was released.

It went on its way with no issues. But under further examination, Listeria was discovered in the plant. As the U.S. and FDA have no tolerance for Listeria and as U.S. law requires, there was a recall. This was not a small recall. It was a period from June 1st to, I think, July 17th. That is a huge amount of product.

During that time, there were no confirmed illnesses. That doesn’t mean there weren’t claims, because once you start a recall and information goes out to the public, there will be plenty of claims. But from an association point-of-view, how do we react and plan for the future with regard to food safety? Because all of the sudden, the perception of tree fruit in this instance, and peaches and nectarines, in particular, being a low-risk commodity, has changed.

Is it really a low-risk commodity? Absolutely, it is a low-risk commodity. But are we immune? Absolutely not. We found out that we have food safety issues, like so many other fresh produce commodities. We had to communicate the right way not only to the segment of our members who were involved. Many of them were, quite frankly, in a state of denial, saying, “This shouldn’t be happening.” Well it happened.

But I want to applaud the industry, and especially our leadership Association, who said, “We have to do the right thing. We have to communicate our concern. We have to be positive about this.” They not only moved forward with our membership aspect, but  they also created the partnership with the Center for Produce Safety in Davis to develop the best possible practices as we move ahead.

Food safety was further complicated late in the year because of the apple recall. Now those were candied apples, they had caramel on them. But as you can see, the fact is the Listeria found was attributable to the apples, not the coating. Again, we had an industry that thought, quite rightfully, they were low-risk. And once again, we are learning we are not immune. As we move ahead, food safety is going to be a very important component of our work as an Association.

We have created a food safety sub-committee, chaired by George Nicolate.

#1 Can anybody guess? Water. From our perspective, there are three general areas of water we have to focus on. Number one, the Water Bond, and what happened last summer. It is a very good success story, in that we were able, with the help of individuals in the legislature, to maximize the amount of dollars in that bond for above-ground storage. But in Sacramento today, there are challenges and perceptions regarding dams. People have mindsets that unfortunately go to the extreme and in many case, dams is one of those.

I can guarantee that through the efforts of people who were involved in our Association and through the Agricultural President’s Council, we were able to move up what was first a $2 billion proposal, then $2.5, then $2.7, with a commitment for a subsequent legislation on Cross-Valley conveyance in Kern County.

This was a major accomplishment, but as accomplishments go, unless you follow-through, you’re never going to realize the results. And I think George Soares, attorney with Kahn, Soares, and Conway in Sacramento, said it best when he said, “As these things happen, amnesia sets in with people very quickly. And all the sudden the people with whom you were discussing above-ground storage with will start to say, ‘Well, you know the bond says it doesn’t have to be above-ground storage; maybe we could do local projects, regional projects, or maybe we can do underground banking.’”

Our message has been very clear, “No, the deal that was made was on two above-ground storage units, and the fact is that these will be decided by water commissioners. There are public benefit formulas, and those projects should be at the top. And until they are disqualified, they should be the first two that are qualified.”

As we were up in Sacramento a couple weeks ago, I think there was frustration among our participants as we heard the governor’s point person on water start to demonstrate that amnesia right in front of us. And that was a concern.

Number one, we have to push the true intent of the water bond to the finish line.

Number two, we have to have input into the groundwater management regulations a process that will require regulations sustainable management agencies for local water agencies. This is a very complicated issue. It’s very difficult to talk about what sustainability is. When they set baselines to talk about the ability to use groundwater, it is vital that we have the opportunity to give our input to stress the importance of sustainability and to emphasize that human health also involves vibrant farms and the employment of individuals. We have to have those concepts melded together.

Lastly we have the long-term issues of water conveyance in the state. If we are going to remain the agricultural giant that we are with the, I believe, all time record in 2014, we are going to have to find a more efficient way to move water, whether is that is the governor’s BDC plan, which doesn’t appear to be gaining traction, or not. But longer-term, members have said, “We are not against moving excess water South. We have to make sure the health of the Delta is maintained. We have to respect environmental laws, but we have to respect the impact of agriculture on our quality of life. So, water is at the forefront.

So, how’s the association doing? Very well. Financially we are on strong terms, I feel very good about our name change and our voluntary leadership moving ahead. I think we can take confidence in looking ahead at the future for this Association.

In summary, I just want to reiterate my thanks for being able to work for production agriculture. It is frustrating at times. It’s always difficult. Working with people who sometimes don’t understand, … it reminds me of the saying that I read in the paper yesterday and need to share with you. It is by Mark Twain, who said, “You never want to get into an argument with a stupid person, they will simply drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience.”

Many times, in the world of public policy, that’s what we’re are dealing with at times. But we tend to look at it as an opportunity to educate as well as advocate. Those are two separate things, you have to be good at both of them, and I think our leadership does a very good job with them.

Bedwell gave special thanks to this year’s Chairman David Jackson and his wife Gale. He also reached out to thank his staff for the great job they are doing back at the office and in the field.

For more information, go to: California Fresh Fruit Association.

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AHPA Leadership Urges Members to Support Voluntary Almond Industry PAC

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Almond Hullers & Processors Association (AHPA) Chairman Dick Cunningham and President Kelly Covello urged their membership to support the voluntary California Almond Industry PAC at the association’s 34th Annual AHPA Convention, held on the Big Island in Hawaii over the past three days.

Almond Hullers & Processors Association

Facing immense challenges such as the slowdown of West Coast ports, air quality laws and regulations, net energy metering (NEM), food quality and safety, worker safety, bees and bee health, wastewater treatment, crop protection regulation, aboveground petroleum storage Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, competing research priorities and most urgently, unprecedented drought conditions and public misunderstanding and criticism of almond water usage, the Almond Industry aims to create a unified voice for candidate support, political information and education services.

Through a Memorandum of Agreement with the Almond Board of California (ABC), AHPA is able is able contract for a portion of ABC Logostaff time/expertise to assist in AHPA’s advocacy efforts and provide a unified voice for the industry. The ABC educates regulatory agencies and legislators but is prevented by the USDA Federal Marketing Order to advocate for government policy or legislation.

The California Almond Industry PAC will hold a fundraiser in Bakersfield on May 14th, at Imbibe, 4140 Truxtun Avenue, from 5:30-7:00pm, sponsored by Golden Empire Shelling, LLC., Landmark Irrigation, Inc., Pacific Ag Management, Inc., Paramount Farms, and Supreme Almonds of California.

Fundraisers will also be arranged in the Northern and Fresno areas in the upcoming months.

Sponsorship Levels include:

  • Platinum: $2500
  • Gold: $1500
  • Supporter: $500 (includes a guest)

You do not need to be an AHPA member to contribute or attend the event.

For more information, contact (209) 599-5800 or staff@ahpa.net.

California Almond Industry Political Action Committee
California Almond Industry Political Action Committee

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USDA Offers Tips to Help Keep Your Holiday Illness-Free

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Communications Manager

As the end of the year approaches, it’s likely there are multiple meals and parties in your future. Carrying food from one location to another and sharing dishes with a crowd means more opportunity for bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning. Whether you’re an experienced cook, a first-time party host, or simply adding a dish to the potluck lineup, the holidays can make even the most confident chefs nervous.

To help keep your holiday season healthy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations on how to protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness.

If you have specific food safety questions this holiday season you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. These services are available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish.

Steps to follow during holiday grocery shopping:

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods in your grocery cart.
  • Buy cold foods last.
  • Ask the cashier to place your raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate bag.

Steps to follow during food preparation:

  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
  • Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes requiring raw meat to reduce cross-contamination. Store them out of the way while preparing meat dishes to ensure they don’t become contaminated after preparation.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of dishes to ensure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 145 ˚F with a three minute rest time; fish should be cooked to 145 ˚F; ground beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to 160 ˚F; egg dishes should be cooked to 160 ˚F; and all poultry should be cooked to 165 ˚F.

Fool proof tips when cooking for groups:

  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold, using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140 ˚F and cold items should remain below 40 ˚F.
  • Use several small plates when serving food.
  • Discard perishable foods left out for 2 hours or more.

Steps to follow when cooking a holiday roast:

  • Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw roasts and cooked roasts to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Wash items such as cutting boards that have touched raw meat with warm water and soap, or place them in a dishwasher.
  • To ensure the juiciest possible roast this holiday, use a meat thermometer. Once it has reached the USDA recommended internal temperature of 145 F, the roast is safe to eat.
  • Remember all cuts of pork, beef, veal, and lamb need a three minute rest time before cutting or consuming.

Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov and follow @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter. Consumers with questions about food safety, can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

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