Many Questions Around SGMA Law

SGMA Law is Poorly Written

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

A recent meeting brought farmers and other stakeholders to California State University, Fresno to discuss the possible impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

SGMA requires governments and water agencies of high and medium priority groundwater basins to halt overdraft pumping and to bring those basins in equal levels between pumping and recharge. Under SGMA, these basins should reach sustainability within 20 years of implementing their sustainability plans. For critically over drafted basins, that will be 2040. For the remaining high and medium priority basins, 2042 is the deadline.

Don Wright,the publisher of WaterWrights.net, which is the only agriculture water reporting service in the Valley, spoke om the topic.

“SGMA is an overwhelming concept for most people because it’s an overwhelmingly poorly written law,” Wright said. “However, you show me anybody more creative than a farmer trying to get water. Hopefully, people left [the meeting] with the hope that others are looking out for solutions.”

Farmers and other stakeholders attended a recent SGMA meeting at California State University, Fresno.

Wright explained that the meeting helps blunt the impacts, the intended consequences, and the unintended consequences that come from legislation like this.

On the panel were farmers, agronomist, soil engineers, farmers, and a water attorney.

“All of these people are intimately involved in how the junction between water being delivered to the plants and harvest taken place. A lot of questions were answered, more importantly, we started defining the issues that need to be asked. And often that’s often the most critical step,” Wright said.

Lauren Layne, a water law attorney with Baker Manock and Jensen, suggested that farmers take action and put meters on their wells to start collecting data that could be of use to them.

“That’s a double edge sword,” Wright said. “For one it’s, it’s like putting a GPS on your vehicle for the government to follow you around. You don’t want that. You don’t want the government necessarily know how much water you’re using. But on the other side, if you keep that information private, once SGMA starts being implemented, and you can prove that you’ve used X amount of water, you can report your average cost per acre. Also, if a farmer is in an area with surface deliveries, how much does the surface deliveries impact your pumping? That’s a great combination to have.”

Wright said if the industry can get enough information, then they can report that the reason the farming industry needs to repair aquifers is due to cut offs from the deliveries to farmers.

Service providers, product manufacturers, and designers are looking at solutions to SGMA. These products can be seen at Fresno State’s Water Energy and Technology (WET) Center.

“It’s all about how can we keep farmers farming,” Wright said. “I know when a farmer is by himself and your back is against the wall, people are looking out for you.”

Wright also explained that the people that are populating the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) boards are not the enemy.

“They are men and women like you and I, with a stake in it. They are not the ones trying to cut off the water; they are the ones with boots on the ground dealing with a poorly written law.”

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Entrepreneurship Forum is Biggest in Valley

Entrepreneurship Forum in Clovis on Nov. 15

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The Central Valley Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum will be held in Clovis on Nov. 15th. This forum should be the largest event for innovation and entrepreneurship in the Central Valley. Industry leaders, angel investors, entrepreneurs and business owners will be there to share advice and strategies on how to make it in today’s economy.

“We are gearing up for our big event that will be held at Clovis at the Veterans Memorial District in the auditorium,” said Helle Peterson, manager of the Center of Irrigation Technology at California State University Fresno.

“We actually have the whole building because we have multiple things going on. We will have a series of workshops during the day that’s all around financing, investment, entrepreneurship, innovation. We also have five companies that will pitch their technology or their business to a group of potential investors. The whole community will be there, and we’re very excited about that,” Peterson said.

“There’s an evening program attached to that, which we call the stock exchange. It’s where we will have 20 entrepreneurs exhibiting their technology business and then the audience will go around and invest in these businesses with monopoly money. It will create excitement of which company we think will be more successful,” Peterson said.

The keynote speaker will be Paul Singh, the founder of disruption Corporation.

“He’s actually one of the founders of 500 Startup, which is a really well-known accelerator in the Bay area, and he can really talk to that entrepreneurship innovation space,” Peterson said.

Find out more about the event and register for it here.

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Fresno State’s WET Center Home to BlueTechValley Entrepreneurs

BlueTechValley Series – Part 3

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

We’re continuing our series on California Ag Today regarding the BlueTechValley Initiative, which was established on the Fresno State campus in 2011, and part of an innovation cluster that provides access to commercialization services that will accelerate innovation and growth of water and energy-oriented companies in 39 counties from central to northern California.

We spoke to Helle Petersen, the manager of the Water, Energy and Technology Center – also known as the WET Center – at Fresno State, where BlueTechValley is centered.

“The WET Center is a physical building located on the Fresno State campus, and it has six offices for entrepreneurs that want to grow their water, energy or agricultural business and be around companies that share those same visions and the same business,” Peterson said. “The WET Center also has a testing lab to test different kind of water technologies.

“The WET Center is very unique. I haven’t really seen anything at any university that’s the same. It was built in 2007 as a partnership between Fresno State and what used to be the Central Valley Business Incubator, but now it has rolled in under the International Center for Water Technology, and it’s part of their program,” Peterson said.

Petersen said it is a very busy place. “As I mentioned, we have six offices, but we also have about 30 other company startups … [and] also more mature companies that are members of the center, and they really want to be part of the community, if you will, because there’s something synergetic about working with companies or maybe talking about some of the same problems you have when you work in the same industry.”

Peterson said the WET Center is expanding for those entrepreneurs that may be coming out of town.

“Actually what we’re doing is across the street … there’s another smaller building that we are actually incorporating into the WET Center, and we’re going to build an additional six offices there, plus a plug-and-play space,” she explained. “ Let’s say you have a tech company out of the Bay Area and you’ve kind of outgrown that space, because you’ve realized you need to be in the central San Joaquin Valley if you have anything to do with agriculture. So you can come down here for a few days a week or a month, and you have a workspace. You also will have a conference room that you can all use.”

This is part of an ongoing series on the BlueTechValley Innovation Cluster, which includes entrepreneurs at several California State Universities and the Sierra Small Business Development Center. It’s all about finding efficiencies in water and energy.

 

 

 

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Blue Tech Valley Innovation Cluster – Part 1

Blue Tech Valley Funded by California Energy Commission

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The Blue Tech Valley Central Valley regional innovation cluster represents an expansion and interconnection of multiple incubators in entrepreneurship programs, with services located at each of the seven designated Blue Tech Valley cluster hubs, collectively serving 39 counties and covering two-thirds of California’s geographic area. Funding for the new cluster is provided by a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission.

The designated hubs for the Blue Tech Valley innovation cluster features Fresno State as the central portion. Other hubs include: CSU Bakersfield, Chico State, Humboldt State University, Cal State University, Monterrey Bay, Sacramento State, and a Sierra small business development center.

California Ag Today recently spoke with Erik Stokes of the California Energy Commission Research and Development Division. Blue Tech Valley was part of a major $60 million initiative the Energy Commission launched about a year ago to really try to create a state-wide ecosystem to support clean energy entrepreneurship across the state.

“As part of this initiative, we created four regional innovation clusters to manage a network of incubator-type services that can encourage clean tech entrepreneurs in the region and really try to help make what can be a very tough road towards commercialization a little bit easier,” Stokes said.

“Blue Tech Valley and their partners were selected to be the Central Valley cluster. A big reason for that was their strength and expertise in the food and agricultural sector,” he explained.

One of the focus areas of the incubator is to find areas in farming to save costs and minimize greenhouse gases.

“We really want to focus on those technologies that can help both reduce water use, as well as energy use,” Stokes said.

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Doug Mederos to be Named Tulare’s 57th Farmer of the Year

Doug Mederos to be Tulare’s Farmer of the Year

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

On March 29, the Kiwanis Club of Tulare County will recognize Doug Mederos as the 57th Farmer of the Year. Mederos – a diversified farmer and owner of Doug Les Farms in Tulare County – grows almonds, pistachios, cotton, silage corn and black-eyed peas. Mederos farms 600 acres and manages another 300 acres for his brother.

Mederos told California Ag Today the award caught him by surprise. “It is pretty humbling,” he said, “especially when you see the list of growers they picked [in prior years], and you always wonder, ‘Do I fit in this list or not?’”

Mederos’ family has been farming for several generations. “My grandfather came over in 1920 and started a dairy, P & M Farms, with his brother. When my father got out of the military, he joined the partnership with my grandfather and my uncle and my uncle’s son, Larry Pires.

“Along the way, my two brothers and my cousin’s sister, Loretta, all worked at the farm. My cousin Larry and I eventually became partners in the Pires and Mederos Dairy operation after we graduated from college.

The partners decided to move the dairy out of California and chose South Dakota. Mederos explained, “I stayed here farming in California, and I’ve been pretty fortunate over the years. We’ve had good years and bad years, but the majority of them have been good. Hopefully continuing on so that at some point I get to retire.”

Mederos’ children may continue their family’s legacy of farming in the Central Valley. “Probably my son or somebody will take over,” Mederos said. “He’s going to go off to Fresno State and to major in Ag business, so hopefully in a few years, he’ll be back here. Who knows, maybe it will be my daughter who comes around and ends up running the farm. You never know.”

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Fresno State Launches New Agricultural Leadership Program

Fresno State’s Avery Culbertson Launches Solid Agricultural Leadership Program

 

By Lauren Dutra, Associate Editor

 

Dr. Avery Culbertson, who is passionate about agricultural leadership joined California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) in August, in a newly created position to develop an Ag leadership curriculum for the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

Dr. Culbertson’s interest in Ag leadership was initially sparked by “being a product of National FFA Organization* (FFA). You have a lot of role models and influences around you. You start getting an idea of what Ag leadership is,” said Culbertson.

“After I got my degree in agricultural education and was looking for a job, I met with a colleague who said, ‘There are adult leadership programs around the country, and I want you to start one at New Mexico State University.’”

Having been trained by the California Agricultural Leadership Program, Culbertson was confident that she could successfully launch a program. “They really opened their arms to me,” she commented, “and provided resources. As that progressed, I started defining what leadership was.”

Culbertson asserted, “An agricultural leadership program is not only [about] understanding our industry, but understanding our customer. That became very important to me in and outside of the job. The only way that agriculture can lead in society is by understanding our stakeholders.”

Culbertson thinks it is critical not only to know how to lead—having the skill set to be a great speaker or to be knowledgeable in different fields,” she explained, “we also need to know who we are leading. As I’ve been discussing with my classes right now, leadership is a matter of taking a group of people and accomplishing a collective goal,” she said.


*National FFA Organization (FFA), formerly known as Future Farmers of America, helps students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

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Ryan Metzler Juggles Many Farm Operations

Ryan Metzler Juggles Farm Operations—Large and Small

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Ryan Metzler grew up as a fourth generation California farmer, as his dad and uncle had a fairly big farming operation producing tree fruit and winegrapes in the Fresno area throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Eventually, Ryan’s dad spun off on his own, enabling Ryan to work with his dad for many years.

 

Today, Metzler is a graduate of Fresno State, lives in Fresno, and as vice-president of Capital Agricultural Property Services—the property management division of Prudential Ag Investments—he manages many farm operations in the West. “Most of our clients are large investment groups,” said Metzler, “so these clients will typically look at large agricultural properties as an investment.”

 

As these investment companies typically know little about farming, Metzler explained, “our role is to not only make recommendations about what to plant, but also how to diversify, how many acres, how to process, and who gets to buy the fruit. So we end up growing fruits, nuts and vegetables and just about anything that is consumed,” he said.

 

“My charge is the western region of the U.S., but we manage farms in the Midwest and the East,” Metzler said. “It does give me opportunities to be involved with a lot of different commodities, but I have to say that growing winegrapes is probably my favorite.”

 

Managing many properties takes a very strong team. “I work directly with some managers and then we hire a secondary layer of management to do the tractor work and the day to day operations. We have both the economic responsibility, but also the practical farming responsibility to maintain these properties because they do change over time.”

California Cabernet Winegrapes

 

Metzler also farms 200 acres of winegrapes and tree fruit in the Fresno/ Sanger area. “What I find the most interesting, is that I get to be a small grower and deal with small grower issues, and I also get to be a large grower and deal with large grower issues. And I love to marry up those two challenges because it gives me a great perspective on decision making. Sometimes you have to make a strategy choice and other times you have to make a tactical choice, and I find that mix to be really rewarding,” said Metzler.

 

Metzler summed up farming as “an absolute thrill. I wake up everyday and pinch myself to be lucky enough to do something like this for a living.”

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Jamming Leafhopper Signals

Jamming Leafhopper Signals to Reduce Insect Populations that Vector Plant Disease

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

 

An innovative team of researchers at the San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, USDA Agricultural Research Services (ARS) in Parlier Calif., are trying to confuse leafhopper communication in hopes of reducing certain devastating plant diseases. Of particular interest is the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a large leafhopper that can vector or spread the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa from one plant to another which causes devastating plant diseases such as Pierce’s disease in grapes and almond leaf scorch

 

Dr. Rodrigo Krugner, a research entomologist on the USDA-ARS Parlier team since 2007, explained, “We started on this glassy-winged sharpshooter communication project about two years ago. These insects use substrate-borne vibrations, or sounds, to talk to, identify and locate each other; actually do courtship; and then mate,” Krugner said.

Click here to hear LEAFHOPPER SOUNDS!

Glassywinged Sharp Shooter
Glassywinged Sharp Shooter

 

“This area of research started probably 40, or 50 years ago with development of a commercially-available laser doppler vibrometer (LDV), a scientific instrument used to make non-contact vibration measurements of a surface,” Krugner said. “Commonly used in the automotive and aerospace engineering industries, the LDV enabled an entomologist to listen to and amplify leafhoppers communicating,” Krugner said. “We’ve been doing recordings in the laboratory, learning about their communication with the idea of breaking, or disrupting, that communication. Once we disrupt that, we can disrupt mating and thereby reduce their numbers in vineyards and among other crops.”

 

Krugner noted the research team is evaluating two different approaches: one is to discover signals that disrupt their communication, and the other is lure them away from crops or towards a trap. “We may be looking at female calls, for example. An analogous system would be the pheromones, or long-range attraction volatile chemicals released by female lepidoptera, to attract males.” However, since leafhoppers use only sound, Krugner said, “We’re trying to come up with signals to disrupt their mating communication. We’re also looking at signals to jam their frequency range, 4000-6000 Hz, so they cannot hear each other,” Kruger said. “We’re also looking at signals that can be used to aggregate them, or lure them, into one section of a crop, or maybe repel them from the crop. These are all different approaches that we’re investigating right now.”

 

Krugner explained, “Researchers are attempting to perfect the disruptive sounds in order to do the things we need—to actually implement a management strategy for disrupting not only glassy-winged sharpshooter, but anything in a vineyard that actually communicates using vibrational communication. We know what they are saying to each other, which is very important. In the laboratory, the signals that we have look promising in disrupting the communication of these insects, so we’re taking them into the field.

 

Current mating disruption trials are underway in Fresno State vineyards. “We’re going to finish that research, hopefully, next year,” said Krugner, adding, “usually, fieldwork takes two to three years to show something.”


(Featured photo:  Rodrigo Krugner, research entomologist, USDA-ARS, Parlier)


 

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Agriculture Science Recognition Awards, Part 3

Nick Wolfenden Honored With Fresno State Science Recognition Award

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Nick Wolfenden, a graduating senior at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State), who majors in animal science and livestock management was honored with three other Fresno State science students in mid-March.

“Nick has made it his mission to educate the ag community and the public about the growing spotlight on the importance of animal welfare,” said California Assemblyman Jim Patterson, who honored the Fresno State students, along with Sandra Witte, dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State and Lawrence Salinas, Fresno State’s executive director of government relations.

Fresno State Animal Welfare Club (Source: Facebook)
Fresno State Animal Welfare Club (Source: Facebook)

“Nick says his greatest achievement at Fresno State was starting the Animal Welfare Club,” said Patterson. “The club has made a great impact on his fellow students by giving them the facts and skills to teach each other about the focus on the health and welfare of animals in production agriculture.”

As the club’s founder and president, Wolfenden started a movement to get donations to update Fresno State’s school farm so the animal welfare practices used by students would reflect the visions, values and beliefs of Fresno State. These changes have benefited both the animals and the students who care for them.

For a broader perspective, Wolfenden interned with the American Humane Association and became a key player in their Farm Animal Welfare Program. His drive and his passion have been noticed by several organizations and companies across the country who would like him to oversee their divisions.

“In 2015, Nick was honored as both the Outstanding Poultry Science Student and Outstanding Equine Science Student at Fresno State, given by the faculty to the animal science department students who make an impact in their field,” noted Patterson. “He also is an advisor to the Poultry Science Club, member and student advisor to the Equine Science Club, and has been the Future Farmers of America (FFA) Field Day Contest chair in both equine and poultry.”

Wolfenden believes he has the drive and determination to continue to make a significant difference in the lives of farm animals and in the industry that raises them and brings them to market. And he wasted no time in getting a good job offer from Tyson Foods at their global headquarters in Springdale, AR, to begin after graduation. “I’ll be working in their sustainability department helping to oversee their animal welfare division,” Wolfenden said.

“I think every farmer and rancher has to be passionate about their animals’ welfare,” said the senior. “We are making huge steps and big leaps in improving animal welfare and we see that across all industries,” he noted.

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Renaissance in Agriculture

Ryan Jacobsen on the Renaissance in Agriculture 

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

In the past, the children of farmers were known to leave the farm to pursue careers that required higher levels of education and not return. Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said those days are behind us. Jacobsen said nowadays, we are experiencing a renaissance in agriculture, as sons and daughters return to the farms and college students study agriculture.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Jacobsen said. “When you look at the overall agriculture industry over the last decade, it’s been pretty bright.” Despite the recent national and global economic downturn, Jacobsen contends the California agricultural economy remained a shining star. “That shining star created what I consider to be a renaissance in the agriculture industry,” Jacobsen explained, “where we actually saw younger individuals come back to the farm. For so many years we shipped off that talent. We encouraged them not to come back to the farm to be farmers; we encouraged them to go off to other professions.”

“We are truly fortunate to be where we are today,” Jacobsen continued, “because of the renaissance and higher commodities and crop values. We’re seeing sons and daughters able to return to the farms and take their places within their family operations.”

We’re seeing individuals go to college for a career in agriculture,” remarked Jacobsen. “Over at Fresno State, the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology is seeing record enrollment—not just a little bit up, but shattering all previous records.” Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology lists their current student enrollment as of September 14 at nearly 2,000 undergraduates and 75 graduate students.”

“It’s encouraging that young individuals see an opportunity and a future in agriculture, plus the desire to help our industry,“ Jacobsen said.

 

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