Agriculture Struggles Unnecessarily, According to Steve Forbes

Forbes Chairman Has Suggestions to Help

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Water and labor are major agricultural issues in California. California Ag Today recently spoke with Steve Forbes, chairman and editor in chief of Forbes Media, about the topics.

“I think that the more people are realizing the enormous opportunities of technology in agriculture. They think that it is going to get better and better in the future,” Forbes said.Everything from reservoirs to desalination plants should be modeled after Israel. They have been building desalination plants because Israel is in a desert where they have been getting rainfall.

Steve Forbes

“This is a very sophisticated use of water in agriculture where they are a real global power,” Forbes said.

Today, Israel uses 10 percent less water as a whole, not per capita, than they did 70 years ago despite the economy being 60 times larger.

Forbes thinks labor is also an issue.

“We are hurting ourselves, our food production, not just in agriculture but construction as well,” he said.

Forbes said we should recycle the programs that we once had, programs where returning people come in for specific time periods for specific jobs. This would help prevent the illegal immigrant problem because workers know they can come back.

On another note, he discussed the current trade war that the U.S. is in with China.

“If you hear 10 percent tariff on aluminum, that’s a 10 percent sales tax; put it that way and people’s eyes go up and they get it right away,” Forbes said.

Putting sales taxes on American consumers, agriculture, farmers, and businesses is not the best way to resolve very real trade abuses.

“Everyone knows from the disaster and the depression of the 1930s what trade wars can lead to,” Forbes said.

Forbes also explained that GMOs greatly benefit producers and should not be attacked as harmful to consumers.

“GMOs have been studied fairly well, and they are making food more plentiful. It makes food a safer in terms that you don’t have to use as many pesticides,” he said. “GMOs make a better use of water, and there is a lot less loss to diseases and insects. We are using human ingenuity to make the human condition better.”

Farmers Add Emotional Connection to Food

Bayer Reports Consumers Still Trust Farmers

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Adrian Percy, Global Head of Research and Development for Bayer Crop Science, told California Ag Today recently that he believes the public still trusts farmers.

“There’s a high degree of trust,” he said, “and I think that comes from the fact that there is an emotional connection with food and the fact that growers are known to be trying to work sustainably. Growers look from generation to generation in terms of passing the farm down, oftentimes, and I think that is still understood by the public, even if people have a few reservations about some of the technologies we use in agriculture.”

According to a recent Bayer global study about consumers, Percy reported, “We are seeing, not just in the U.S., but also in the Europe, South America and Asia, a lot of questions coming up around agriculture. As an agricultural input company, we think it’s our role to help understand this [phenomenon], first of all. We think it is very important for us to help activate—be it farmers or other folks in the industry—to come out and talk about agriculture, enter into dialogue with consumers and explain what we do.”

Commenting on some of the study’s most interesting revelations, Percy said, “It was interesting just asking the general question, ‘Do you believe that innovation in agriculture is actually important?’ And people came back, ‘Yes, we do believe that we need to innovate. We do see that there is a need to feed a growing population and that we need to help farmers farm more sustainably with better tools.’”

On the other hand, Percy explained that consumers drew the line, “when we quizzed them about the individual tools. People don’t necessarily like the idea of chemicals on the farm or GM technology in certain cases in certain parts of the world. So those are the types of discussions that we need to really go into.”

GMO Technology Can Help Prevent Starvation

First World Activists Dictate to Third World

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Needed GMO technology to help citizens in Third World countries is being thwarted by activist groups in First World countries who are anti-GMO, said Alison Van Eenennaam, a UCANR Cooperative Extension Specialist focused on Animal Genomics at UC Davis.

“If the African people choose to use this to develop better bananas, they should have the right to use that and not be dictated to by activist groups in the First World promoting fear around this technology,” she said.

GMO technology could greatly benefit those in the developing world, especially those who struggle with starvation on a daily basis.

“Most people have never seen starvation. People take food for granted, and when you see people that have problems in their agricultural production systems that are actually affecting the food security, you have to address those problems, whether they be drought or disease problems,” Van Eenennaam explained.

“And I’m all for using whatever technology that works best to address a problem. Maybe it’s conventional breeding or maybe its GMO, or gene editing. I don’t really care. I just want to use the best tool that is available. But it doesn’t make sense to take some tools off the table for no reason, and I think that’s what’s happening around the debate of genetic engineering,” she said.

And the use of GMO crops in a third world country has dramatically decreased the use of pesticides, which should be celebrated by activists.

“About 90 percent of the farmers growing GMO crops are on small acreage producers in the developing world, that are growing insect-protected Bt cotton. And the dramatic decrease of insecticide use resulting from that—well environmentalist should be singing this from the rooftops,” Van Eenennaam said.

“It’s incomprehensible to me that if your real intent is to decrease pesticide use in agriculture, to not appreciate what those Bt crops have done for global insecticide use is to be willfully ignorant of what the data shows,” Van Eenennaam said. “It’s just a win-win for everyone.”

Protecting California Ag Production

U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Focus on Ag Production in California

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Brad Greenway, Chairman of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, and Allison Garriga, Vice President of Strategy & Operations, recently spoke to us about some of the conflict going on in California between those who support modern agriculture in California ag and those who don’t.

“It’s hard to find anywhere on the planet that’s more important than California relative to not only food production, but of course the folks that are advocating against modern agriculture, against the technologies that we use on a farm today … a lot of it’s a lack of understanding. And there is that core food movement that’s in the Los Angeles and San Francisco area,” Greenway said.

“There’s some very, very strong voices out there that are opposed to the production that’s happening in the San Joaquin Valley, and we just have to find a way to continue to talk to those folks,” Greenway said.

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is promoting films in hopes of counteracting these anti-agricultural movements.”

“We’re promoting a film right now—it’s called Food Evolution–which explores the controversy surrounding GMOs. And it helps viewers understand the true story of science used in agriculture,” Greenway said.

The film is narrated by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the American astrophysicist and science communicator. Tyson closes the film by saying: “The good thing about science is that it is true, whether you believe it or not.”

“We need to do more and more, getting that out to more and more consumers across the country and especially the West Coast. Part of it is that we have to also find a way to put money behind some of those issues in social media,” Garriga said. “When we do see something that maybe has a viral capability that may take off on Facebook or Twitter, we’ve got to be ready to put a little money behind it. That’s what we have to do.”

“That’s what the people are doing against us. That’s what we have to do to counter some of this activity,” Garriga explained.

For more information on the Alliance:

Watch the Food Evolution trailer here.

Golden Rice Refusal Kills Millions

Source: Don Curlee, Hanford Sentinel

A University of California report has exposed the injustice that prohibits a genetically engineered additive to rice. Without it, the death of millions of children has occurred, notably in Africa and India.

The researcher opinion lays the blame for the international prohibition of producing golden rice through genetic engineering on powerful forces that hide behind environmentalism.

California, one of the world’s major rice producers, is ready to supply the vitamin enriched product, especially for export.

The UC report appears in the current issue of the university’s respected Update, a bi-monthly publication compiled by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Department.  The authors are Justus Wesseler, professor for Agriculture and Food Economics at Technical University, Munich; Scott Kaplan, research assistant at Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley, and David Zilberman, professor in the Agricultural and Research Economics department at UC Berkeley.

The GE process for folding vitamin A into rice, transforming it to golden rice, has been well understood since 2000, but efforts to gain approval have been opposed by powerful regulators, particularly in India and Bangladesh.

Both countries are known for the staggering incidence of disease, disabilities and lagging development resulting from a lack of vitamin A in the diets of their citizens.

The authors of the UC report point out that the creation of golden rice could have saved millions of lives and avoided blindness, vulnerability to childhood infections, anemia and poor growth in millions since the engineering process for adding the vitamin was discovered in 1999.

The researchers recall that the nearly worldwide objection to creating golden rice was led by Greenpeace.  It was perhaps the most notorious radical environmentalist group at the turn of the century, characterized by a series of risky, but widely reported escapades aimed at derailing broadly-accepted programs and activities that were in the news.

The movement’s objections were always based on what it perceived as dangers to the environment.

Dr. Patrick Moore, Chair and Spokesperson, “Allow Golden Rice Society”.

A 2012 Greenpeace publication states, “If introduced on a large scale, golden rice can exacerbate malnutrition and ultimately undermine food security.” Authors of the UC report elaborate by saying that Greenpeace fears that golden rice may accelerate the adoption in developing countries of other GE crops perceived by Greenpeace and others to be very dangerous.

The report also refers to the 180-degree turnabout by former Greenpeace leader and co-founder Patrick Moore, who now promotes a group called “Allow Golden Rice Society.” He has recognized that the poor have paid the majority of the price of the fight against GE technologies. Dr. Moore published a book in 2011 called, “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist”.

The UC report says that a large and growing body of literature indicates that GE varieties have produced a significant amount of real benefit throughout the world.

Publication of the report seems to be an invitation to everyday environmentalists, often fans of radicals and extremists like Greenpeace, to back off a bit and realize the harm and human suffering that have resulted from blocking the humanitarian approval of golden rice.

“Even though GE has been introduced in few crops, its impact on agricultural production is immense because it has increased productivity substantially,” the UC report states. “Furthermore, its impact on productivity has been higher in developing versus developed countries … (but) … its potential has not been realized.”

The UC paper suggests that policies regulating GE technologies need to be reassessed. Perhaps that reassessment needs to begin with a bunch of hangers-on environmentalists in your community and mine who haven’t yet determined that many environmentalist beliefs and policies have nothing to do with human welfare.

2014 Citrus Showcase on March 6th



The 2014 Citrus Showcase is March 6th at the Visalia Convention Center. There is no cost or registration required to attend. Breakfast and lunch tickets can be purchased by contacting California Citrus Mutual; reservations are required and tickets are expected to sell out fast.


The Citrus Showcase is the largest educational forum for California citrus growers, offering 6 separate breakout sessions focused on priority issues that are currently impacting the industry and industry tradeshow with over 100 exhibitors.


New this year is the first Annual Citrus Showcase Breakfast featuring keynote Speaker Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. In her talk, titled “Breakfast with Water” Marcus will discuss the biggest issues facing California farmers today – water supply and delivery.


As Chair of the Water Board, Marcus’ activities include oversight of Regional Water Board activity including directing nitrate regulation and clean drinking water initiatives as well as assisting the Administration in determining where the State’s limited water supply shall go.


“Water with Breakfast” is sponsored by Compac Equipment and Sorting, Rabobank, and Bank of the Sierra. The program will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Visalia Marriott, Sierra-Nevada Ballroom adjacent to the Visalia Convention Center.


The Luncheon will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the Visalia Convention Center Trade Show Exhibit Hall. The program will feature keynote speaker Cathy Enright, Executive Vice President of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) who will discuss the public backlash against Genetically Modified crops.


GMO research has been identified as a possible solution path for the U.S. citrus industry to defend itself against the ravages of the deadly citrus plant disease Huanglongbing. Activists have raised concern about GMO products, citing safety as a primary reason why GMO engineered food product should not be allowed into the market place. Their momentum has caused government, members of the scientific community, and some stakeholders to take a step back from the spotlight. Enright will discuss how members of her organization have begun to fight back.


Sponsors of the Citrus Showcase are: JKB Energy, Valent, Pace International, Farm Credit Associations, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta, Fruit Growers Supply, Southern California Edison, Yara, Sinclair, Deep Point Group, 2,4-D Taskforce and Duarte Nursery.