AgroFresh Accelerates Growth Plan with New Facility in Central California
AgroFresh Solutions, Inc.—a global leader in produce freshness solutions— has opened its Innovation Center in Fresno.
In addition to advancing its core post-harvest technologies, AgroFresh’s R&D and Technical Service & Development Center in Fresno will drive innovation in coating and packaging solutions, antimicrobial products, and furthering AgroFresh’s data-driven FreshCloud™ platform.
The Innovation Center will be led by a highly skilled team of post-harvest physiologists with a strong focus on developing solutions and servicing specialized crops such as citrus, table grapes, kiwifruit, avocado, berries, and broccoli.
“Innovation and crop diversification is central to our success, which is why we continue to invest in our innovation centers,” says Ann Beaulieu, vice president of R&D and regulatory at AgroFresh. “We strategically chose to open this office in Central California because this location enables us to expand our services to a broader range of crops while positioning our company for long-term growth.”
The newly-opened center is divided between a conventional office space and laboratories with capabilities to solve challenges, partner with customers, and break new ground across post-harvest biology, plant pathology, and analytical chemistry. The center will also accommodate growing commercial and operational teams.
Learn more about AgroFresh’s current job openings by visiting their career portal.
California farmers are careful with crop protection products because they know the importance of producing safe and wholesome food for their customers across the nation and in their export markets. “However, I think that there are some real challenges facing growers in California today,” said Thomas Jones, senior analytical services director for the Fresno-based Safe Food Alliance.
“As growers send their commodities around the world, they’re facing increasing challenges of knowing the right chemicals to apply and at what levels. We have our own strict regulations within California, if needed, [that govern] not only the application but also the maximum residue levels (MRL) or tolerances allowed for various crops,” said Jones.
“That’s also carried onto the federal level; we have very strict EPA regulations. But as we [export] into other countries, they may have entirely different regulations,” said Jones. He noted this could be confusing not only to farmers, but also to registrants of crop protection materials because there is a lack of standardization of MRLs in different countries.
“Historically, there was the CODEX system, a UN-based system geared towards a more international standard for pesticide residues. It was very thought out, and very scientifically based,” Jones said.
However, as Jones explained, many countries do not want to follow the important scientific standard. “Increasingly, we are seeing countries want to establish their own systems, their own tolerances. They may be responding to their own political pressures within their countries.”
“We are seeing a process called ‘deharmonization’ in which every country wants to establish its own positive list of what is allowed and what is not allowed in [farm] products. Sometimes, those are in agreement with U.S. regulations and California state regulations; sometimes they are not. So it is important that [our] growers know not only what is legal in this country and in our state, but also what is allowed in their target [export] markets.”
Jones commented it is now known that some of these marketers [apply] random low MRLs and keep other MRLs high on some of their own products in order to get a marketing edge. “Some of those MRLs may or may not be based on any scientific standards.”
“There are a number of great tools out there,” he said. “There are a number of great software programs. Obviously, anything that [information growers] can get out of the print media or any educational courses are really essential. It is important to work with your Pest Control Adviser (PCA), as well. It’s important that [farmers] know what they are up against, as far as growing these crops,” said Jones.
The Safe Food Alliance is available to growers to help them qualify to meet the standards in the U.S. and abroad. “We [provide] training twice a year on fumigation safety for the various processors of dried fruits and tree nuts. We focus particularly on commodity fumigations and on what treatments are allowed and not allowed. We also have a full-service pesticide-testing laboratory and are very aware of the requirements in these other countries, so we’re happy to help both processors and growers with our monitoring efforts,” noted Jones.
Featured Photo: For these California-grown peaches to be shippable to any out-of-state U.S. consumers or international export markets, they must meet scientific Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs).
California Assembly Sends AB 1066 Overtime Bill to Governor
By Patrick Cavanaugh Farm News Director
The California Assembly voted 44 to 32, yesterday, August 29, in favor of a bill that would make California the first in the country to give farmworkers overtime pay after working 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week instead of current law that mandates agriculture workers earn overtime after 10 hours per day or 60 hours per week.
Because farmworkers are unable to work some days due to weather or harvest schedules, they have historically preferred to work as many hours as possible on any given day. Now farmers may be forced to restrict employees from working more than 8 hours per day to avoid the costly overtime payroll, which would severely hurt their financial bottom line.
The bill, which has already cleared the State Senate, now moves on to Governor Jerry Brown, who has until September 31st to sign or veto the bill.
George Radanovich, president of the Fresno-basedCalifornia Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) that represents many farmers who rely on hand labor, stated, “It’s a clear example of people who live on black top and cement and who never talk to people in the vineyards or in the fields. They think they are helping the farmworker, and they are not. They’re making it harder for the farmworker and for the farmer,” said Radanovich.
“There isn’t anybody out there who wouldn’t want to pay the workers more than what they’re getting today, or even that overtime,” said Isom. “But consider that California is one of only 5 states that even pays overtime, and none of them pay it after only 10 hours. We already had the most stringent overtime regulations for farmworkers in the country before it was ever adopted. Now, we’ve made it worse; we are going to have the highest minimum wage of any farm state out there, so how do we compete?”
Isom commented, “This last week, U.S. Secretary of AgricultureTom Vilsack was actually calling Assembly members in the State, urging them to support this bill. We were outraged,” Isom said. “When he was Governor of the State of Iowa, his own state had the lowest Ag wages and has no Ag overtime. The majority of our states, 45 states, have no overtime. You could work 16 hours, 20 hours, and not be paid any overtime.”
Isom noted that supporters of AB 1066 are very shortsighted. He predicts the law will only reduce the number of available working hours available for farm employees and thus decrease their earnings. Isom hopes Governor Brown will see this bill as an added negative impact tied to the recently passed increases to California’s minimum wage.
Agriculture leaders are calling for all concerned to put pressure on Governor Brown to veto AB 1066 by Emailing or phoning constantly.
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841 Fax: (916) 558-3160
(Featured photo: Roger Isom, president of Western Ag Processors Association and the California Cotton Ginners Association)
Nisei Farmers League and African American Farmers of California Discuss Disastrous AB 1066 in Sacramento Today
EDITOR’S NOTE: SEE TEDX TALK VIDEO BELOW OF WILL SCOTT, JR., PRESIDENT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN FARMERS OF CALIFORNIA.
TODAY,Manuel Cunha Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League and Will Scott, Jr., president of the African American Farmers of Californiaare meeting in Sacramento with members of the California Assembly to explain the disastrous consequences of AB 1066, referred to as Agricultural workers: wages, hours, and working conditions, on small and minority farmers.
The effects of this legislation, particularly the Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016, will be detrimental not only to the farmworker who counts on the extra hours, but to the farmer who, with the increasing costs of regulations and the lack of water, will be forced to cut back on crops and their workforce, according to their joint press release.
“The small and minority farmer will be adversely affected by this ill-conceived legislation,” said Manuel Cunha Jr. “The small farmer works hand in hand with their workforce in the fields and [is] in a better position —with direct input from the workers—to determine schedules rather than politicians in Sacramento looking for a soundbite,” he explained. “Without meeting with our small and minority farmers and farmworkers, these politicians pass legislation that will cost our workforce money, our farmers crops, and the residents of California the fresh fruits and vegetables they enjoy everyday.”
Both Manuel Cunha Jr. and Will Scott believe the Legislators need to consider the small and minority farmers when casting their votes. “We are confident that after we meet with the Assembly members,” said Will Scott, Jr., they will understand how harmful this legislation is to our farmers and farmworkers. It is our hope that by educating the members, they will understand the importance of this bill and vote No on AB 1066.”
The League continues to inform grower members about ever changing regulations and policies providing legal assistance for labor and workplace related issues. Our leadership and staff maintains a close working relationship with local, state and federal agencies and legislators to assure grower interests are adequately understood and defended.
The NFL also collaborates with other grower and agricultural organizations in both California and other states to help provide a powerful, unified voice for the agricultural community.
Grower members are kept informed through meetings, seminars, newsletters and special bulletins.
Strength, clear focus and growers looking out for growers and farm workers… that is what the Nisei Farmers League is all about.
The Fresno-based African American Farmers of California organization has doubled its membership since it opened a 16-acre demonstration farm in Fresno County, which serves as a testing area where new farmers can get hands-on experience growing a variety of produce.
One of Scott Family Farms primary goals is to reintroduce Southern specialty crops, part of the traditional African American diet, into black communities, to help stop the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Crops include: black-eyed peas, crowder peas, purple hull peas, field peas, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard, corn, tomatoes, okra and sweet potatoes.
“The nutritional value of this food was passed down the generations,” said Will Scott, Jr. “It helped build our immune system; kept us healthy and strong. We hope to pass it on to sustain the next generation.”
For many small San Joaquin Valley cities that have relied on agriculture to support their local economies, the four-year drought in California has dramatically increased unemployment and decreased business revenue. Mendota, a city west of Fresno, hit hard with a 45% unemployment rate, has constructively made calculated adjustments by residents and farmers to recover to its pre-drought economic level, according to Robert Silva, mayor of this resilient city.
“As we have been going through the drought the last four years,” Silva explained, “Mendota [nicknamedCantaloupe Center of the World] has been in the spotlight for its high unemployment, and a lot of our farmers are having a rough time. We have had a lot of bad publicity.”
“In the last year or so we have weathered all this,” he stated, “and things are positive now. Our farmers are really understanding how to use every drop of water. We have a lot of new business coming into the community. We have a housing boom that continues to grow, so things are definitely on the rise and we’re standing very proud.”
“A few years ago, high unemployment forced many people to move away, suddenly creating school classrooms with very few students; however, that has changed too,” said Silva. “Student enrollment is growing and we have added on another school. It is very positive in Mendota; the doom and gloom of a few years ago has gone. Really, it’s gone.”
“Financially we’re in good shape and businesses are prospering,” Silva summarized. “It’s good for our city, good for our citizens, and good for business.”
Diane Laub and Jared Allred, Fresno County mother and son grape growers, shared their passion for grape growing and some insight on their raisin and winegrape operations. “We have mostly Thompson Seedless,” Allred began, “which has been made into raisins for the last couple of years. Sometimes we send them to the winery if the price is right. We also have about 75 acres of overhead trellis dried-on-the-vine (DOV) Fiesta grapes that we use for raisins every year.”
With the harvest season behind them, Allred summarized, “in the first week of August, we went through and cut all the canes on the DOV grapes. The raisins started drying on the vine for a few weeks, and then we sent a mechanical harvester through.”
The mother and son team also farm 85 acres of French Colombard. “We used to have 40 acres of Syrah,” Allred added, “but we took [the variety] out this last year because the price hasn’t been good and the vineyard was not in very good shape.”
“In years past, we used to send all of our Thompson’s Seedless to the wineries,” Allred explained, “but the price hasn’t been good the past three years, so we’ve been making it into raisins. This year, the only thing we have going to the winery is our French Colombard.”
Allred also commented, “The crop this year looks pretty good, actually as good—if not better than—last year. ‘Not a lot of powdery mildew except on the Fiestas, which are always prone to a little bit of mildew.”
Diane Laub, Allred’s mother, explained her role on the family’s farm. “I mainly oversee everything on the farm and also do all the office work. That is what I was brought up doing. I still do all my own work: irrigate, parts runner—you name it.”
Laub is the daughter of the late Don Laub, a well-known and respected leader in agriculture and in the Easton community where he farmed. For 50 years, Don Laub was active with the Fresno County Farm Bureau and served as president from 1986-1988. In 1996, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Sacramento-based California Farm Bureau Federation. He also served on boards of many other agriculture organizations, including Ag One Foundation at Fresno State and California Association of Winegrape Growers.
Following in her father’s footsteps, Diane Laub explained her passion for the business, “It’s just something that I love to do. I don’t know what I’d do without it. You know, it’s my job; it’s my life,” she said.
Fresno County Ag Commissioner Les Wright on the 6.55 Percent Drop in Ag Value
The Fresno County agriculture value for the 2015 fiscal year was calculated at $6.6 billion. It was down 6.55 percent from 2014, when Fresno County had a record year of $7.0 billion in agriculture value. The report included nearly 400 commodities; 62 of which had a value in excess of $1 million.
The report represents the resiliency and hard work of farmers and farm workers, as well as those allied in the industry.
Assemblymember Bigelow on Historic July 1 MOU Signing
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
East of Fresno at Friant Dam last Friday, July 1, the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA) and the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate and complete feasibility studies of the proposed Temperance Flat Dam.
State Assemblymember Frank Bigelow, 5th Assembly District (serving a large portion of Madera County, along with all the foothill and mountain communities north of Madera to the Sacramento area) noted the critical importance of getting Temperance Flat Dam built to store freshwater for the citizens and farmers of California.
Bigelow, a Madera rancher and farmer of pistachios, figs, and persimmons, said, “This is a huge event to enable us to have additional [water] storage. I just am so thankful to the people who put the water bond forward. Without the money that the people have made possible by voting to support the water bond, none of this would be possible; that’s a clear message.”
“Without water,” Bigelow explained, “none of our communities would continue to survive in the way they have for years and years. Much of the water we see is being used in different ways; it is not all going to agriculture, and it is not all going to residential. It is going to the environment. So we’ve got to divide that up by the law now, and in equal proportional value.”
“Right now,” he detailed, “Millerton Lake captures 526,000 acre-feet of [fresh] water, but we have millions of lost acre-feet that flow past every year into the Delta, then ultimately to the ocean.” Upon completion, the Temperance Flat Dam would hold more than twice the amount of water that Friant Dam holds—”especially important for capturing freshwater during heavy rain and snow years,” noted Bigelow.
California Citrus Mutual on the Fight Against the Asian Citrus Psyllid and HLB
By Laurie Greene, Editor
On Saturday, June 4, 2016, Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today’s farm news director, hosted iHeart Media’s Ag Life Weekendshow on “Power Talk 96.7 FM Fresno and 1400 AM Visalia stations, sitting in for broadcaster Rich Rodriguez. Cavanaugh’s invited guests included Alyssa Houtby, director of public affairs, and Chris Stambach, director of industry relations for the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, to discuss the status of the state’s citrus industry amidst the ACP and HLB Infestation.
The Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), certainly the number one pest for California citrus, can spread a bacterium known as Huanglongbing (HLB) that is fatal to citrus trees. As of 2016, 22 trees in the state have been infected with the fatal disease and had to be destroyed. The entire citrus industry of California has been and continues to be concerned that the ACP could take down the citrus industry, as it has in Florida.
Alyssa Houtby explained that the fight against ACP in California “is going well, we hope. The Florida citrus industry has been completely decimated by HLB; an estimated 90 percent of their acreage is infested with this disease.”
“Here in California,” Houtby continued, “we saw it crop up in residential citrus before we saw it in commercial citrus. All of the HLB finds, to date, have been in the Los Angeles Basin.” Houtby said they are working diligently to keep the psyllid population down to decrease the exposure of trees to HLB.
The California citrus industry spends approximately $15 million annually on an ACP assessment program, which includes extensive public outreach. Part of the research entails trapping the pest, conducting survey work in the regions in question, applying treatments in residential areas, and managing a delimitation survey around the area of Los Angeles where the disease has populated.
“That means that we’re scouting very consistently,” explained Houtby, “looking for other trees with the disease and pulling those trees out as soon as we find them. We are doing everything we can here in California to keep the pest and disease from spreading—now that we have it,” she noted.
“The California industry has always been one to use a proactive approach,” Houtby elaborated. “We saw what happened in Florida, and we realized really early on that we couldn’t stand by and wait for this disease to find us. We had to actively go look for it and find it—before it found commercial citrus—and we’ve done that.” Regarding the 22 trees in the state that have been destroyed thus far, Houtby said, “It could be a lot worse if we weren’t as proactive as we are.”
When locating a positive ACP find in a residential area, Houtby noted, generally speaking, homeowners have mostly been compliant. “There are pockets in this state where folks don’t like government coming in, knocking on their door and asking to spray their trees with pesticides. We understand that. It’s an opt-in/opt-out scenario here. We’re not forcing homeowners in most cases to treat their trees.”
“But that’s a different situation if HLB is present,” she emphasized. “Then we do. We get a warrant, and we go in and treat the surrounding trees. If we’re treating in response to an ACP find, homeowners can opt out, but overwhelmingly, they don’t. They support our program. They understand that citrus is a part of the California heritage, they like their citrus trees, and they want to keep them in their yards. They understand that the alternative tonottreating is that tree will eventually die if it becomes infected. We’ve worked really hard to communicate to the general public about the seriousness of this issue. We’re pleased with the results.” Houtby said.
Chris Stambach discussed the importance of homeowners having a general understanding of the ACP, so if they find something unusual in their citrus tree, they know to call the local ag commissioner.
Stambach detailed ACP and HLB specifications to increase homeowners’ understanding about their beloved citrus trees. “HLB is symptomatic, but it takes a long time for those symptoms to show up in the tree,” said Stambach. “You really have to know what you’re looking for because some fertilizer deficiency issues in the tree will mimic what HLB looks like.”
“Though the ACP is a really tiny little bug, there are some key signs the public can look for,” explained Stambach. “You want to look for that psyllid and the little tubules it excretes on the new flush of growth—pretty much right there at the end of the terminals where all that new growth comes in the springtime and in the fall. That’s key to California, because there are only certain times of the year when that ACP is actively feeding on the citrus tree.”
California has a real benefit over the Sunshine State, where they have to spray 12 times a year to keep the psyllids at bay. “It hasn’t been effective for [Florida],” noted Stambach. “We had a couple of growers out this last winter to our Citrus Showcase. They planted new trees, 4 years old, and although they spray 12 times a year, their orchards are 100% infected with HLB. That’s the devastation that this insidious disease can bring. It’s really difficult to get your hands around it because it takes so long to be able to detect it.”
Another benefit for California citrus, according to Houtby, is, “We have a lot of areas in the state where we don’t have to spray at all because we can use beneficial insects. That’s just the great part about farming in California.”
Houtby and her team often look to Florida for ideas and recommendations on what has worked for them, what hasn’t and what citrus growers here can do to prevent the disease from taking hold of their citrus. Sheclarifiedthat 90 percent of the Florida citrus market is used for juice production; whereas, California is a “fresh-oriented industry, meaning that over 90 percent of our product goes into the fresh market.”
Although California citrus looks for recommendations from Florida, “here in California, there are a lot of things that we can’t afford to do because of the [fresh] market that we’re serving,” said Houtby.” That is what we’re fighting so hard to maintain because we cannot sustain as long as Florida has; we don’t have the luxury of sending a bad-looking piece of fruit into the marketplace like Florida can, because they just juice it. Knowing that, we’re working really hard to never get to the point that Florida has reached.”
As if the dire situation in Florida couldn’t be any worse, they battled with “another deadly bacterial-based citrus disease, citrus canker, brought in from the far reaches of the world,” Stambach said. “That’s a concern we always have with importing citrus. When we import Argentine lemons, for example, we risk our domestic plant health by exposing orchards to a lot of plant diseases they have that we don’t. We want to keep those out of our country,” noted Stambach.
Abandoned citrus trees also pose problems for the industry; they can be sanctuaries for ACP. “If those trees are dead, that’s not a problem. They may look bad, but if they are not living, that’s not a problem. It’s when those trees aren’t cared for, aren’t sprayed in a normal routine, and there is a flush of new growth, the trees provide a sanctuary for the psyllids,” he said.
“And ACP are very good at finding citrus. They’ll target the perimeters of new growth on the very first citrus they find. Boom, they’re right on it,” he noted.
“Those abandoned groves create a real problem, particularly when they’re in close proximity to other commercial acreage or even homeowners,” he said. Neglected neighborhood citrus trees can become ACP sanctuaries. “ACPs will feed on them and move on to another tree, and feed there,” Stambach explained. “All that time, if an ACP is infected with the HLB bacteria, it will spread that disease, with a latency period of 2 to 5 years.”
Stambach and his team are working on a critical program in Southern California to remove abandoned citrus trees. “Sometimes it’s just getting a hold of the landowner and making them aware of the situation,” he said. “Our county ag commissioners are really key in contacting those people. We’ve had growers go in and spray their neighbor’s orchard to help them out. There are a lot of different ways to attack that problem.”
Compared to counties in the San Joaquin Valley, Riverside and Ventura Counties typically have a big-ag urban interface, which means there is a lot of acreage intermixed with home sites—small homes with citrus trees. Stambach said, “It’s not really commercial production, but it’s a significant amount of acreage with a number of trees that don’t get treated.”
“We’ve gotten some support from some of our partners in the chemical industry. Bayer CropScience has stepped up and worked with us to put together a program. We’re really happy. We’re working hard to take [ACP and HLB] out.” Stambach said.
“Fresno has evenfound ACPs in residential areas,”commented Houtby on the Central Valley situation. “ACPs are endemic in Southern California, but we’re still at a point in the Central Valley at which we can control these populations and knock them down really quickly when they arrive here.”
Houtby points to the Central Valley’s vulnerability when citrus plant material is moved over the grapevine or from the Central Coast. “We ask that homeowners, and the citrus industry as well, not move plant material out of Southern California into the Central Valley,” she stated. “The psyllid lives on that plant material and not on the fruit. If you’re going to buy a citrus tree, buy it at a local plant nursery or a local Home Depot or Lowe’s. Don’t buy it in Southern California and drive it to the Central San Joaquin Valley,” she urged.
“Our biggest task for homeowners is that they cooperate when the California Department of Food and Agriculture knocks on the door and wants to look at their trees,” Stambach said. “That is the best way you can help us win this battle against the ACP.”
Homeowners can learn how to protect their citrus trees at:
Fresno State’s Jordan Agricultural Research Center Opens May 13
By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor
California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) is on the leading edge of new opportunities with the opening of the new Jordan Agricultural Research Center (Center) at 9 a.m. Friday, May 13, 2016. The new Center, is the first of its kind in the California State University system,” said Fresno State president Joseph Castro, “and is going to transform research in agriculture throughout the Valley and beyond.”
Castro said the Center is just one step towards making Fresno State the best agricultural college. “If there’s any place that should have the best college of agriculture, it should be Fresno, ” he stated, “and it should be Fresno State.”
“The Research Center is a completely privately-funded building,” said Castro. Fresno State reported the $29.4 million project was funded by the Jordan family, who will be in attendance at the building’s opening, among many other friends of Fresno State who helped to get the building off the ground.
Castro shared that some will not be at the ceremony. “Unfortunately we just lost Dee Jordan,” he said, “so she won’t be with us in person; but we know she’ll be there in spirit, and her whole family will be there. The same goes for our alumnus, Harry Moordigian, who passed away recently. He’ll also be there in spirit.”
Construction on the new building broke ground on Friday, June 13, 2014, and will open for student use in just under two years.
Castro summed up the Commission’s recommendations as “right,” and they are being implemented. “We really have a roadmap now to be a much more visible, stronger, more vibrant college of agriculture,” Castro said.