UC ANR Horticulture Advisor Retires After 28 Years

John Kabashima wrapped up his horticultural career on July 1, after 28 years with University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Nursery professionals lauded the UC Cooperative Extension advisor’s service to the nursery and landscape industry and to homeowners in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

“He’s one of the few people who could translate science into business with a sense of candor and fact-based conversation,” said Robert Crudup, president of Calabasas-based Valley Crest Tree Company, of Kabashima.” John has long-term vision, which he used throughout his career to move the nursery industry forward.”

John Kabashima
John Kabashima, UC ANR

“He is smart about political science as well as plant science,” Crudup said. On a regular basis, Kabashima would warn growers about emerging issues that were likely to affect the nursery industry, such as regulations to control the spread of polyphagous shot hole borer, red imported fire ant and palm borer.

“He’s been very, very valuable,” said retired nurseryman Gary Hayakawa, noting that Kabashima not only contributed research on pest control and water issues for the nursery and landscape industries, but also persuaded people from UC campuses, the California Department Food and Agriculture and industry to work together. “Before he was involved in issues, the work was all separate. Industry didn’t have input,” Hayakawa said. “What John has done is to work with all three to form a coalition.”

Crudup, whose company has nursery operations in Los Angeles, Ventura, Alameda and San Joaquin counties, agreed.

“John’s biggest contribution was his work with the glassy-winged sharpshooter subcommittee,” said Crudup, who served on the subcommittee. “He brought a voice of reason that helped counterbalance emotional sides of the discussion.”

“His ability to act as the primary liaison between the nursery industry, CDFA, the UC, the county agricultural departments and the wine and grape industries was the primary reason this part of the GWSS (glassy-winged sharpshooter)  program was so successful and, more importantly has resulted in the continued viability of the California nursery industry in light of significant regulatory pressures,” said Bob Wynn, who was statewide coordinator of the CDFA Pierce’s Disease Control  Program and who  continues to oversee the program as senior advisor to Secretary Karen Ross.

“The CDFA, with advisement and counseling from John, developed what is known as the Approved Nursery Treatment Program, which allows nurseries in the infested areas of the state to ship by merely treating the plants with an approved treatment,” Wynn said.  “John was the primary author in the development of the nursery ‘Approved Treatment Best Management Practices’ document published in 2008. The use of this document has allowed the nursery industry to save millions of dollars in regulatory compliance costs over time.”

A native of Los Angeles, Kabashima says he started working in his family’s nursery business as soon as he was tall enough to water 1-gallon nursery plants.  “After killing thousands of plants, I was finally allowed to manage the family business from 1970 to 1976,” he quipped.

In 1976, his family sold the nursery and Kabashima enrolled at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. After he  earned a B.S. in agricultural biology from Cal Poly Pomona in 1979, he was hired by UC Riverside horticulture entomologist Pat Morishita as a lab technician. While working at UC Riverside, Kabashima earned a  master’s degree in pest management. He would later complete a Ph.D. in entomology at UC Riverside.

Kabashima earned his MBA at Pepperdine University in 1986 while managing the Ornamental Horticulture Division at Target Specialty Products. In 1987, the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources recruited him to become a UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

Over the years, he has studied the management of insects, diseases and weeds in horticulture production systems, biological control of exotic pests, and water-related problems in landscapes, golf courses, nurseries, municipalities and watersheds.

In 1998 Kabashima took over the fledgling UC Master Gardener Program in Orange County, which as of now has trained more than 300 UC Master Gardener volunteers to extend research-based information on gardening and horticulture to the public.

The UCCE environmental horticulture advisor has also served as director of UC Cooperative Extension in Orange County and interim director of the UC ANR South Coast Research and Extension Center.

In 1994, when Orange County filed for bankruptcy and the Board of Supervisors voted to discontinue funding and housing for the local UC Cooperative Extension, Kabashima worked with Gary Hayakawa to keep UCCE in the county.

“When Orange County cut Cooperative Extension’s budget, we found out that without extension you don’t have 4-H or Master Gardeners,” Hayakawa said. To preserve the UC Cooperative Extension programs, Hayakawa, who was an Orange County Fair Board member, helped Kabashima  secure office space in trailers on the fairgrounds. In 2014, the UCCE office moved from the fairgrounds to UC ANR South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine.

Kabashima belongs to many professional organizations including the Entomological Society of America, California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers, Nursery Growers Association, Western Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture, United Agribusiness League, and San Diego Flower and Plant Association. The scientist has served on numerous government and industry advisory committees.

Throughout his career, Kabashima’s achievements in education and research have been recognized by various organizations. To name a few, he received the 1987 Education and Research Award from the Orange County Chapter of the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC), 1993 CANERS Research Award from CANGC, 2002 Nursery Extension Agent Award from the American Nursery and Landscape Association, 2008 Western Extension Directors Award of Excellence, 2010 Entomological Society of America’s National IPM Team Award and the 2011 California Agriculture Pest Control Advisors Association Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture Award. In 2014, he and his friend Hayakawa were inducted into the Green Industry Hall of Fame.

Being a UCCE advisor has suited Kabashima. “I love learning new things, sharing that information with others, and using my skills to solve problems facing California, such as the ever-increasing arrivals of exotic and invasive pests,” he said. The avid photographer has been able to unite his avocation with his vocation. His photographs of insects have been used to illustrate textbooks, websites and news articles.

“Success in one’s field is often a combination of natural ability, informal and formal training and education, being mentored, and networking with collaborators and colleagues, all sprinkled with a little bit of luck and support from one’s family and friends,” Kabashima said.

In retirement, Kabashima plans to seek new culinary experiences with his wife Janet and daughter Misa, at  home and in their travels together. He has been granted emeritus status by UC ANR and he will continue his efforts to help UC Irvine save trees on its campus that are infested with polyphagous shot hole borer.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers and educators draw on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. Learn more at ucanr.edu.

BREAKING NEWS ON HUANGLONGBING CITRUS DISEASE

HUANGLONGBING CITRUS DISEASE DETECTED IN SAN GABRIEL AREA OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY
CDFA
Release #15-031

Sacramento, July 10, 2015 – The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have confirmed detection of huanglongbing (HLB) citrus disease, or citrus greening. The disease was detected in plant material taken from a kumquat tree in a residential neighborhood in the San Gabriel area of Los Angeles County.

This is the second time HLB has been detected in California. The first detection occurred in 2012 in a residential citrus tree in Hacienda Heights, about 15 miles from San Gabriel.

HLB is a bacterial disease that attacks the vascular system of plants. It does not pose a threat to humans or animals. The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) can spread the bacteria as the pest feeds on citrus trees and other plants. Once a tree is infected, there is no cure; it typically declines and dies within a few years.Residential Citrus Trees

“Citrus is a cherished part of our landscape and our shared history, as well as a major agricultural crop,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “CDFA is moving quickly to protect the state’s citrus. We have been planning and preparing for HLB detections with our growers and our colleagues at the federal and local levels since before the ACP was first detected here in 2008.”

A CDFA crew has removed and disposed of the infected tree and is preparing to conduct treatment of citrus trees for ACP infestation within 800 meters of the find site. By taking these steps, a critical reservoir of disease and its vectors will be removed, which is essential.

An intensive survey  of local citrus trees and psyllids is underway to determine if HLB exists anywhere else in the area. Planning has begun for a quarantine of the area to limit the spread of the disease by restricting the movement of citrus trees, citrus plant parts, green waste, and all citrus fruit except what is commercially cleaned and packed. As part of the

SAVE OUR CITRUS app is a free USDA iPhone to report and identify the four leading citrus diseases: citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. Report your symptoms, upload a photo and  citrus experts will respond.
SAVE OUR CITRUS app is a free USDA iPhone to report and identify the four leading citrus diseases: citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. Report your symptoms, upload a photo and citrus experts will respond.

quarantine, citrus and closely related plants at nurseries in the area will be placed on hold.

Residents of quarantine areas are urged not to remove or share citrus fruit, trees, clippings/grafts or related plant material. Citrus fruit may be harvested and consumed on-site.

CDFA, in partnership with the USDA, local agricultural commissioners and the citrus industry, continues to pursue a strategy of controlling the spread of ACPs while researchers work to find a cure for the disease.

HLB is known to be present in Mexico and in parts of the southern U.S. Florida first detected the pest in 1998, and the disease in 2005, and the two have now been detected in all 30 citrus-producing counties in that state. The University of Florida estimates that the disease causes an average loss of 7,513 jobs per year, and has cost growers $2.994 billion in lost revenue since HLB was first detected in that state in 2006.

HLB has also been detected in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A total of 15 states or territories are under full or partial quarantine due to the detected presence of the Asian citrus psyllid: Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The ACP was first detected in California in 2008, and quarantines are now in place in 17 California counties. If Californians have questions about the ACP or HLB, they may call CDFA’s toll-free pest hotline at 1-800-491-1899 or visit:  http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/acp/.

National Agriculture Week is Here

Each year, more than one-million students learn about the importance of agriculture through the efforts of California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. This spring, Agriculture in the Classroom will partner with CDFA and the California Women for Agriculture to host California Ag Day 2015 as part of National Ag Week (March 15-21).

On March 18, the State Capitol will come alive with farm animals, educational displays, and entertainment all celebrating California’s great agricultural bounty during California Agriculture Day. The theme for the 2015 event is “California Agriculture: Breaking new Ground.” A focus will be the importance of soil health to our food supply and all of agriculture.

Ag Day is the agricultural community’s annual opportunity to educate and inspire the farmers and ranchers of tomorrow, showcase new technologies, and highlight the diversity of California agriculture.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross, along with 12 other industry leaders, are members of the National Agriculture Week host committee. The host committee helps plan and promote special events throughout the state.

“Please join me and other leaders in agriculture as we support the education of our next generation of consumers and voters,” said Secretary Ross. “National Agriculture Week gives us the opportunity to celebrate agriculture, an industry that provides a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply, a strong economy, and a world of job opportunities.”

An additional Ag Week event will be held on March 19 at the Sacramento Kings’ Experience Center in Sacramento, to recognize student winners of Ag in the Classroom’s Imagine this… Story Writing Contest. Student authors will attend and read their stories from the newly published Imagine this… books to the audience. A southern California event will be held aboard The Queen Mary on April 2.

Since 1986, The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, a non-profit organization, has worked to promote a greater awareness of agriculture’s role in our daily lives to California’s teachers and students. The Foundation delivers exciting, standards-based curriculum that builds students’ knowledge of the farmers and ranchers who produce the food, clothing, and shelter they use every day. Agriculture in the Classroom programs reach far beyond the classroom walls and into the lives of California’s students and their families.

RED PALM WEEVIL ERADICATED FROM LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Agricultural officials confirm eradication of Red Palm Weevil in the United States

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), working in coordination with California agricultural officials, TODAY declared the Red Palm Weevil eradicated from the Laguna Beach area of Orange County. The weevil was first detected by a local arborist in October 2010 in a Canary Island date palm tree in a residential area of Laguna Beach.

The Red Palm Weevil is considered to be one of the world’s most destructive pests of palms and an infestation typically results in the death of the tree. In an effort to make the local community aware of this invasive species, the USDA, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the Orange County Agricultural Commissioner teamed-up with specialists from the University of California, Riverside, and UC Cooperative Extension to work closely with residents, local community officials and arborists.

“This pest is a serious threat to our nursery growers and palm date farmers,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, “It endangers all of the decorative palms that are common in our landscape and part of the classic California image. A special thank you goes out to the local arborist who originally reported this pest. That gave us a valuable head-start.”

According to international standards, a three-year period free from any Red Palm Weevil detections is necessary to declare eradication. This standard was met as the last confirmed detection of RPW occurred on January 18, 2012.

The weevil is native to Southeast Asia and has spread throughout the Persian Gulf. It is found in parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands. Prior to the detection in Orange County, the closest confirmed infestation to the United States was in the Dutch Antilles.

Female Red Palm Weevils bore into a palm tree to form a hole into which they lay eggs. Each female may lay an average of 250 eggs, which take about three days to hatch. Larvae emerge and tunnel toward the interior of the tree, inhibiting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients upward to the crown. Early symptoms of weevil infestation are difficult to detect because the entry sites can be covered with offshoots and tree fibers. In heavily infested trees, fallen pupal cases and dead adult weevils may also be found around the base of the tree.

If residents suspect an infestation, they are encouraged to call the CDFA Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899 or contact their local county agricultural commissioner.

(Photo credit: UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research)

Agriculture Well-represented among GEELA Awards

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joined colleagues from across state government this week to honor recipients of the annual Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Awards  or GEELA Awards.

The GEELA program is California’s highest environmental honor – recognizing individuals, organizations, and businesses that have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made notable, voluntary contributions in conserving California’s precious resources; protecting and enhancing our environment; building public-private partnerships; and strengthening the state’s economy.

Secretary Ross was pleased to present awards to Parducci Wine Cellars, for its efforts to conserve and reclaim water; to the Lodi Winegrape Commission, for its rules for sustainable winegrowing; and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, for the development of metrics for water, energy, and nitrogen use, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Parducci Wine Cellars, over the course of 14 years, has come up with unique and innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle water at their winery. By using the surrounding landscape and natural ecosystems, Parducci has transformed a polluted pond into a bird sanctuary and created other recreational and habitat uses from its wastewater facility. In addition, the winery now recycles and cleans 100 percent of its wastewater and reuses it for irrigation, resulting in a 1.5 million gallon per year decrease in water usage even as production doubled. Parducci’s Water Reclamation System is proof that ecosystems can be valuable tools in creating efficient, cost-effective methods for water conservation that have tangible long-term environmental and economic benefits.

In 2005, the Lodi Winegrape Commission started California’s original sustainable winegrowing certification program. For their efforts, they were awarded a GEELA in 2006. Since their first year the program has expanded and evolved, and has established a reputation as a model certification program. The program grew from over 1,500 certified acres in 2006 to nearly 27,000 acres in 2013 while continuing to promote practices that enhance biodiversity, water and air quality, and soil health. Growth in the certification program allows for growers throughout the state to recognize the program’s value as a tool for implementing and codifying their practices that meet the triple bottom line of environmentally friendly practices, socially responsible business management and economic viability for maintaining vineyards for future generations.

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) is a statewide sustainable winegrowing program introduced in 2002. CSWA was a recipient of a GEELA in 2004, and, after a major update to their program in 2006, they were also awarded a GEELA in 2010. They continued their trend of innovation after another update to their program in 2012, which includes online performance metrics for water, energy, nitrogen and greenhouse gas emissions, and a winery water guide for small wineries, in addition to new workshops and online tools focused on the results of a carbon footprint study on California wine. CSWA’s program has helped growers and vintners adopt sustainable practices that have improved efficiency and quality and conserved natural resources, reduced risks, and in some cases, reduced costs.

is administered by the California Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Natural Resources Agency; the Department of Food and Agriculture; the State Transportation Agency; the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and the Health and Human Services Agency.

CDFA AWARDS $5.8 MILLION TO ASSIST FARMERS WITH WATER EFFICIENCY AND ENHANCEMENT

Announced TODAY, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has awarded $5.8 million for 70 different projects in the second phase of a program to implement on-farm water irrigation systems with increased water efficiency and enhancement to reduce water and energy use, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

The funding for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) is part of emergency drought Legislation (SB 103) signed in early 2014 by Governor Brown – authorizing CDFA to distribute as much as $10 million for eligible projects, in cooperation with the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Board.

“These projects are essential to allow farmers to continue agricultural food production while at the same time providing ecosystem services that enhance the environment” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The result is the continuous improvement of our farming systems while at the same time providing multiple benefits, including water conservation and reduced GHG emissions.”

With this latest round of funding, a total of $9.1 million has been awarded for 155 different projects that have leveraged an additional $6.9 million in private cost-share dollars from grant recipients. The money comes from the state’s portion of Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds. The proceeds are deposited in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and appropriated to state agencies.

The funding will reduce GHG emissions through projects that include modifications to improve water efficiency like drip and microsprinkler systems; energy-efficient water pumps; soil moisture sensors; and irrigation scheduling programs that apply water based on crop needs.

This program is the first of its kind at CDFA and applies to its authority under the Environmental Farming Act of 1995, which states that the department should oversee an Environmental Farming Program to provide incentives to farmers whose practices promote the well-being of ecosystem and air quality.

More information on the SWEEP program can be found by visiting  www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/sweep.

UC Davis Launches Innovation Institute for Food and Health

Tackling Food Issues is Big Goal of the Innovation Institute

By Edward Ortiz

Sacramento Bee Reporter

The fate of the world’s food supply, the relationship of food to health, and the role of venture capital in farming were among a slate of issues tackled by noted national scientists and others during the official launch of the Innovation Institute for Food and Health at UC Davis on Wednesday.

The center is a partnership between the university and Mars Inc., and signals a deepening of a 40-year relationship between the two.

The institute is destined to operate under the umbrella of UC Davis’ planned World Food Center, which the university has said it wants to establish in Sacramento, possibly in the downtown railyard.

Wednesday’s event at the Mondavi Center was the first held by the Innovation Institute, which will be funded with $40 million from Mars, the company best known as the maker of Snickers and M&Ms. UC Davis will contribute $20 million.

“This will be a research-based relationship, but there is another element to it. It will also be an innovation-based relationship,” said Harold Schmitz, chief science officer at Mars Inc.

In participating, Mars hopes to find a sustainable business model it can use in the long term for its food operations – especially its growing pet food operation.

For UC Davis, the Institute is being seen as a Silicon Valley-like center where startups and innovative research will be created within the food realm.

Mars will not be the only company involved in the center. Other companies, universities and entities will eventually be brought into the fold, said Linda P.B. Katehi, chancellor of UC Davis.

“A number of faculty have already started collaboration work with other companies, and we will invite them to participate,” Katehi said. She did not specify which companies are involved, or what research might be included.

The broad-based approach the institute seeks to take in tackling food issues was evident in the wide-ranging and powerhouse roster of speakers invited to the symposia.

One of those was molecular biologist and Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, who spoke about how education and genetics affect health. Blackburn won a Nobel prize in medicine in 2009 for her research into how chromosomes are protected by shoelace cap-like end pieces called telomeres.

Blackburn related a key study of 100,000 Californians that found those who did not finish high school had shorter telomeres, a phenomenon correlated with the onset of disease, like cancer.

Blackburn said that an innovation institute could allow such research to get into the hands of those who can use it for the public good.

“Communication is absolutely the key thing,” Blackburn said. “Scientists are skeptical of other areas of science. There’s a lot of mutual mistrust.”

Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, also attended. “I believe this is a watershed moment for food and health” she said. “At the end of the day, nutrition education is an important foundation for helping our youth learn lifelong habits and this is the kind of thing that should happen in this region.”

Climate change and its effect on food security was also a topic of discussion.

“We’re at a tipping point where we’ve seen warning signals. We can no longer plead ignorance, we’re no longer bystanders,” said Benjamin Santer, atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “So, I hope this new institute can do a better job of communicating the science of climate change.”

Oriental Fruit Fly Quarantine in Portion of Los Angeles County

A portion of Los Angeles County has been placed under quarantine for the oriental fruit fly (OFF) following the detection of nine adult OFF in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County near the City of Inglewood.

The quarantine zone in Los Angeles County measures 81 square miles, bordered on the north by Avalon Boulevard; on the south by E Victoria Street; on the west by S La Cienga Boulevard; and on the east by California Avenue.  A link to the quarantine map may be found here: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/offq.

To prevent the spread of fruit flies through homegrown fruits and vegetables, residents living in the fruit fly quarantine area are urged not to move any fruits or vegetables from their property.  Fruits and vegetables may be consumed or processed (i.e. juiced, frozen, cooked, or ground in the garbage disposal) at the property where they were picked.

To help prevent infestations, officials ask that residents do not bring or mail fresh fruit, vegetables, plants, or soil into California unless agricultural inspectors have cleared the shipment beforehand, as fruit flies and other pests can hide in a variety of produce.  It is important to cooperate with any quarantine restrictions and to allow authorized agricultural workers access to your property to inspect fruit and oriental fruit fly traps for signs of an infestation.

“Our system to detect invasive species like the oriental fruit fly is working well and according to design,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.  “The key is to respond quickly and take action before the pests can spread.”

Following the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), CDFA uses “male attractant” technique as the mainstay of its eradication effort for this pest.  This approach has successfully eliminated dozens of fruit fly infestations from California.  Trained workers squirt a small patch of fly attractant mixed with a very small dose of pesticide approximately 8-10 feet off the ground on street trees and similar surfaces; male fruit flies are attracted to the mixture and die after consuming it.

The male attractant treatment program is being carried out over several square miles surrounding the sites where the oriental fruit flies were trapped.  A map of the treatment area is available online at:  www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/ffmaps-peps.

On or near properties where fruit flies have been detected, additional measures include removal of host fruits and vegetables, fruit cutting to detect any fly larvae that may be present, and treatment of host trees and plants with the organic-approved material spinosad.

The oriental fruit fly is known to target over 230 different fruit, vegetable, and plant commodities.  Damage occurs when the female fruit fly lays her eggs inside the fruit.  The eggs hatch into maggots and tunnel through the flesh of the fruit, making it unfit for consumption.

While fruit flies and other invasive species threaten California’s crops, the vast majority of them are detected in urban and suburban areas.  The most common pathway for these pests to enter the state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers as they return from infested regions around the world or from packages of home grown produce sent to California.  The oriental fruit fly is widespread throughout much of the mainland of Southern Asia and neighboring islands including Sri Lanka and Taiwan.  It is also found in Hawaii.

Residents with questions about the project may call the department’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

More than just a job to do

The following was written by CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

Our general counsel here at CDFA, Michele Dias, came into my office last Friday with an excitable look on her face. I think most people in positions of organizational leadership would agree that when your lawyer does that, it may not be a good thing … Thankfully, this time was different.

Michele was proudly carrying her newly minted, California agriculture-themed license plate proclaiming her to be “MAD4AG”, matching her initials (middle name Ann). She had ordered it online from the DMV as part of a great program we’ve worked on in recent years that generates funding for agricultural education. Aside from the welcome bit of levity in an otherwise busy Friday, this moment gave me pause to reflect on the remarkable workforce that makes this department run.

It isn’t unusual for someone to have a personalized license plate related to their work, especially when they sincerely enjoy the job as much as Michele does. Part of the reason is a very real connection to agriculture that makes this more than a job. Michele grew up on a small, family-run dairy in Turlock and, as any farm kid can tell you, there is no education quite like the one you get on a farm. From biology to math to engine repair, I’m betting on the kid with the dirty boots.

Fortunately, CDFA has quite a few folks who share that upbringing and awareness. We have livestock inspectors who, when their work day is done, trade in the pickup for a saddle as they start their second job as cattle ranchers. We have administrators and field staff who take a detour on the way home to check their walnut grove, walk a few rows of vegetables, or move sprinkler pipes to the other side of the alfalfa field. We have PhDs, technicians and support staff who grew up on the farm and now volunteer their time in support of worthy causes like water conservation and habitat restoration on ag lands. We have scientists who take the time to talk to local elementary school students about farms and food, passing on their own experience to the next generation.

Of course, CDFA also has many staff members who did not have ag experience before joining this organization. Whether they are new or long-term employees, the common thread is that they develop a passion for our mission to protect agriculture, from the farms and families we work with every day to the food supply that they produce and provide.

More than 17,000 California agriculture-themed license plates are already on the road in California, and that says a lot about this community’s support for agricultural education. The program is currently accepting proposals for grant projects to promote ag education and leadership activities for students at the K-12, post-secondary and adult education levels. As more and more of our neighbors have less and less direct exposure to farming, this investment in agricultural literacy is an important step toward helping all of our citizens become informed consumers and voters who understand what goes into producing our food.

There is something special about agriculture, and it’s important to remember that it’s something we all share: If you go back even a handful of generations on just about anyone’s family tree, you’ll find a farmer. I am proud to say you’ll find quite a few of them working for you here at CDFA as well.

Secretary Ross Signs Landmark Trade Agreement

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross signed a cooperative trade agreement with officials from the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) in Mexico City. This agreement is a follow-up to the Governor’s Trade Mission that occurred earlier this year.

The trade agreement includes a number of trade priorities that address such diverse issues as cross-border trade delays, technical dialogue related to beef and organic trade, agricultural cooperative extension outreach, and climate change collaboration.

SAGARPA Mexico

“Mexico is a vital partner for California agriculture,” said Secretary Ross. “Further collaboration between our countries will enhance the opportunities within the agricultural sector for farmers and ranchers in both of our nations.”

The agreement follows months of dialogue between CDFA and SAGARPA that culminated in a meeting between Secretary Ross and Secretary Enrique Martinez at the Produce Marketing Association trade show in Anaheim at the end of October.

California is the largest agricultural producer and exporter in the nation, with more than $18 billion in food and agricultural exports. Mexico is California’s fifth largest export destination valued at $888 million. Over the last ten years, agricultural exports to Mexico have increased three-fold.