Retirement Reception Honors Ag Commissioners Les and Marilyn Wright

Les and Marilyn Wright To Retire and Relocate to Nebraska

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Nearly 100 people gathered at the Clovis Rodeo Hall to honor Les and Marilyn Wright, who have served faithfully as Ag Commissioners in Fresno and Tulare Counties, respectively. These two counties, along with Kern County, have consistently been among the nation’s top three agricultural counties.

Les Wright, who served as Fresno Ag Commissioner since August 2013, will officially retire in late January. Marilyn Wright (née Kinoshita), who served as Tulare Ag Commissioner since December 2009, will officially retire in late March.

Les and Marilyn Wright, soon to retire as Ag Commissioners

Together, they will relocate to the beautifully mountainous Sioux County, in the far northeastern part of Nebraska, where the population density is one person per square mile. This represents a return to Marilyn’s home state, where she grew up on a farm and studied agronomy at the University of Nebraska and Arkansas State University.

Highlights of Marilyn’s career include implementing an aggressive county-wide walnut theft ordinance and taking in more than 113,000 pounds of outdated pesticide products from Tulare County growers during her department’s Legacy Pesticide Disposal Event in 2018.

Les Wright was raised on a cattle ranch in northern California. Instantly, upon becoming Ag Commissioner Fresno County, he helped navigate county farmers through one of the worst droughts in state history.

Both Ag Commissioners have worked diligently to control populations of Asian Citrus Psyllids, which vector the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease in citrus. To date, no positive HLB trees in commercial citrus have been detected in the Valley’s billion-dollar citrus industry.

“It’s been a fun ride on most days over the years,” said Marilyn. “Some nights my brain was still working at 2 am, and I will not miss those days. I will also not miss the anti-pesticide crowd.”

“Yes it has been one heck of a ride,” said Les. “I’m grateful for the friends and colleagues that believed and fought the way we did for the ag industry in Fresno County. I have been fortunate these last few years, because my wife, Marilyn, was Ag Commissioner for Tulare County. We were able to travel to Washington D.C. and Sacramento together. It has been fun,” Les said

In honor of Les and Marilyn Wright’s service, funds are being raised to support the Fresno State Rodeo Team. Rodeoing is one of Les’ passions.

Rodeo has a long history at Fresno State; it is the University’s oldest club sport, with a rodeo held every year since 1949. A recent generous family foundation with local ties made a $250,000 gift to establish an endowment for the Fresno State Bulldoggers Rodeo Team and committed to match an additional $500,000 if that amount is raised by May 2019. If you are interested in supporting the team in honor of les and Marilyn Wright, please contact the Ag One Foundation at 559-278-4266 or visit www.fresnostate.edu/jcast/agonefoundation.

 

 

2017 Fresno County Crop Report Totals $7 Billion

Fresno County’s Ag Value Increases Significantly in 2017 Crop and Livestock Report

 

The Fresno County Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Crop and Livestock Report (Crop Report) was presented to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Overall, the 2017 agricultural production value in Fresno County totaled $7.028 billion, showing a 13.58 percent increase from 2016’s $6.18 billion.

“Once again, Fresno County farmers and ranchers have produced an agricultural bounty for the world,” stated Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner Les Wright. “While much of this food and fiber goes towards feeding and supplying our nation, the Fresno County Department of Agriculture also issued 18,604 phytosanitary certificates for 133 commodities destined for 97 countries around the globe in 2017.”

“This Crop Report is comprised of nearly 400 commodities, of which 73 crops exceed $1 million in value,” Commissioner Wright continued. “Crop values may vary year-to-year based on production, markets and weather conditions, but our farmers and ranchers, their employees and all those who support their efforts work tirelessly year-around to bring in the harvest.”

With the great diversity of crops in Fresno County and the many variables in agriculture, it’s a given that some crops will be up in value while others are down. Increases were seen in a majority of the Crop Report segments, including field crops, seed crops, fruit and nut crops, livestock and poultry, livestock and poultry products, apiary products and pollination services, and industrial crops. Decreases were seen in vegetables and nursery. Surface water supplies were significantly better in 2017, although many Westside federal water contractors received much of that good news too late to benefit them with additional annual plantings.

Fresno County’s Top 10 Crops in 2017 (Source: 2017 Fresno County Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report)

Too often, the Crop Report gets summarized down to just a single overall number, but it yields a significant amount of information, such as the ability to examine changes and trends in crop acreage and yields. Amounts in the report reflect the gross income values only (income before expenses) and not the net return to producers.

“The San Joaquin Valley is the food capital of the World, and Fresno County is the region’s heart,” said Fresno County Farm Bureau (FCFB) CEO Ryan Jacobsen. “Daily, millions of food servings unceremoniously originate within our backyard, the result of generations of families and agricultural infrastructure that has been built to furnish an unbelievably productive, wholesome and affordable food supply.”

“The annual Crop Reports are more than numbers,” Jacobsen continued. “They provide the industry, the public and policymakers, regardless of the overall number, the opportunity to salute local agriculture and give thanks for the food and fiber, jobs and economic benefits, agriculture provides Fresno County.”

One popular component of the report is the review of the county’s “Top 10 Crops” that offers a quick glimpse of the diversity of products grown here. In 2017, these crops accounted for three-fourths of the report’s value. Almonds continue to lead the way as Fresno County’s only billion-dollar crop in 2017, representing 17.4 percent of the total gross value of the Crop Report. Added to this year’s list was mandarins at number six. Dropping out of the “Top 10 Crops” was garlic.

This year’s Crop Report was a salute to the Fresno-Kings Cattlemen’s Association. The organization is one of 38 affiliates of the California Cattlemen’s Association, a non-profit trade association that represents ranchers and beef producers in legislative and regulatory affairs.

Fresno County Ag Value Down in 2015 Crop Report

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.

In the video above, Les Wright, the Fresno County Ag Commissioner, spoke about the implications of the drop.

Fresno County Agricultural Value Declines in 2015

Fresno County Agricultural Value Declines in 2015

Drought, Lower Commodity Prices and Production Issues Drive Report Down

The Fresno County Department of Agriculture’s 2015 Crop and Livestock Report was presented to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors TODAY.  Overall, agricultural production in Fresno County totaled $6.61 billion, showing a 6.55 percent decrease from 2014’s $7.04 billion.

“The strength of Fresno County’s agricultural industry is based upon the diversity of crops produced.  This year’s report covers nearly 400 commodities, of which, 62 exceed $1 million in value,” said Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Weights and Measures Les Wright“The lack of a reliable water supply continues to fallow productive land,” Wright continued.

Les Wright Fresno County Ag Commissioner
Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner
The annual crop report provides a chance to examine changes and trends in crop acreage and yields.  Amounts in the report reflect the gross income values only (income before expenses) and does not reflect net return to producers.

According to the released figures, an increase was seen in vegetable crops (4.95% = $59,025,000). Decreases occurred in field crops (41.99% = $134,995,000), seed crops (30.80% = $10,437,000), fruit and nut crops (6.6% = $229,551,000), nursery products (25.65% = $16,088,000), livestock and poultry (9.44% = $118,769,000), livestock and poultry products (31.38% = $199,769,000), apiary (2.39% = $1,735,000) and industrial crops (54.38% = $3,992,000). 

“Every day, millions throughout the world are eating food that originated in Fresno County,” said FCFB CEO Ryan Jacobsen. “The magnitude of this industry does not occur by happenstance. Generation upon generation of agricultural infrastructure has been built to feed an unbelievably productive, wholesome and affordable food supply.

Ryan Jacobsen
Ryan Jacobsen, CEO Fresno County Farm Bureau

“I continue to remind all—eaters; elected officials; local residents who benefit from a healthy, vibrant farm economy; and those whose jobs depend upon agriculture—that we must not take what we have for granted,” continued Jacobsen.  “By not addressing our challenges head-on, whether it be water supply reductions, labor issues, governmental red-tape, etc., we are allowing our economy, our food and our people to wilt away. The direction of the Valley’s agricultural industry explicitly determines the direction of the Valley as a whole.”

One popular component of the report is review of the county’s “Top 10 Crops,” which offers a quick glimpse of the diversity of products grown here. In 2015, these crops accounted for three-fourths of the report’s value.  Added to this year’s list were mandarins (9) and oranges (10).  Mandarin demand continues to push acreage upwards.  Dropping out of the Top 10 was pistachios and cotton.  Pistachio production was significantly reduced last year due to the “blanking” issue that left many shells without nuts, and cotton acreage continues to be depressed due to reduced water supplies and fallowed land.

For a copy of the full crop report, contact FCFB at 559-237-0263 or info@fcfb.org. 
Fresno County Crops 2015
Fresno County Farm Bureau is the county’s largest agricultural advocacy and educational organization, representing members on water, labor, air quality, land use, and major agricultural related issues. Fresno County produces more than 400 commercial crops annually, totaling $6.61 billion in gross production value in 2015.  For Fresno County agricultural information, visit www.fcfb.org.

Westlands Water Allocation “Despicable”

Westlands Water Allocation “Despicable”

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Earlier TODAY, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) stunned the farming industry by announcing a  5% water allocation for most of the farmland to the Westlands Water District on the Westside in the Central San Joaquin Valley. This single digit water allocation to the comes during an El Niño year of wet weather, following four years of drought and restricted water deliveries to Westlands of 40% in 2012, 20% (2013), 0% (2014) and 0% again (2015).

Westlands Water District LogoLes Wright, agriculture commissioner for the Fresno County Department of Agriculture—ground zero for agricultural water cutbacks, said, “I can’t think of a word to describe how I am feeling about our federal water managers. It’s despicable what they’re doing to this Valley.”

“You have two major reservoirs in flood stage,” said Wright, “but they are refusing to turn the pumps on. It’s like they want to starve out the Valley, its farmers and communities. Agriculture is the major economic driver for the Valley communities, and they’re doing everything they can to drive the people out of this Valley.”

Established in 1902, the USBR, according to its website, is best known for the building of more than 600 dams and reservoirs, plus power plants and canals, constructed in 17 western states. These water projects led to homesteading and promoted the economic development of the West. 
Sign of drought Westlands Water District Turnout

The USBR website reads, “Today, we are the largest wholesaler of water in the country. We bring water to more than 31 million people, and provide one out of five Western farmers (140,000) with irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland that produce 60% of the nation’s vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts.”

Yet, some Western farmers have received a 0% water allocation for each of the past two years, and now may receive only 5% this year. Already, Westlands Water District reports over 200,000 acres of prime farmland in the district have already been fallowed.

Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO
Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO

“Reservoirs throughout the state have been filling,” said Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO, Ryan Jacobsen, in a statement TODAY. “However, the government’s restrictive interpretation has resulted in the permanent loss of 789,000 acre-feet of water,” said Jacobsen. “Since December 2015, more than 200 billion gallons of water have been forever lost to the ocean, with almost no water being allocated to agriculture.”

Commissioner Wright reflected, “President Obama and both California senators have been here in the Valley, on the ground. They have seen what we are doing. They recognize the crisis; yet they refuse to use their authorities to correct the situationin a year when we’re dumping millions of gallons of water to the ocean.”

Wright explained the federal government is sending fresh water to the ocean in excess of what is needed for the environment and the protected species. “They are just wasting the water,” he said, “and yet, we have the Governor telling us to cut back 25% to 35%. And all of that water we saved last summer and in the last year, they have more than doubled the waste.”

“Where is the governor on this issue?” Wright asked. “It is despicable what the government is doing to its people.”

2014 Fresno County Crop Report Sets Record Production

2014 Fresno County Crop Report Sets Record Production — $7 billion+

Les Wright, Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer submitted the following information to Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary, TODAY accompanied by the 2014 Fresno County Crop Report showing record production.

It is my pleasure to submit the 2014 Fresno County Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report. This report is produced in accordance with Sections 2272 and 2279 of the California Food and Agriculture Code, and summarizes the acreage, production, and value of Fresno County’s agricultural products. The figures contained herein represent gross returns to the producer, and do not reflect actual net profit.

Jacobson, Wright and Matoian
Photo, from left, Ryan Jacobson, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO, Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner and Richard Matoian, American Pistachio Growers Executive Director

This report is a testament to the resiliency and determination of the Fresno County agricultural industry. For the first time ever, the gross value of Fresno County agriculture exceeds seven billion dollars. Almonds remain the number one crop at a value of 1.3 billion dollars with grapes a close second at $905 million.

The total gross production value of Fresno County agricultural commodities in 2014 was $ 7,039,861,000, a 9.26 percent increase from the 2013 production value of $6,443,236,500.

Increases were seen in:

  • vegetable crops (0.47% = $5,599,000)
  • fruit and nut crops (13.16%= $422,664,000)
  • nursery products (46.89%= $20,022,000)
  • livestock and poultry (31.48% = $301,144,000)
  • livestock and poultry products (22.09% = $116,299,000
  • apiary (17.39% = $10,738,000)
  • industrial crops (107.05% = $3,795,500).

Decreases in:

  • field crops (-36.20%= -$149,822,000)
  • seed crops (-14.67%= -$5,823,000).

I would like to express my appreciation to the many producers, processors, and agencies, both private and public, who supported our efforts in producing this report. I would also like to thank all my staff, especially Fred Rinder, Scotti Walker, Angel Gibson, Vera Scott-Slater, and Billy Hopper. Without their hard work and valuable input this report would not be possible.

Pistachios, featured on the cover of the 2014 Fresno County Crop Report, were Fresno County’s seventh top crop last year, with a value of nearly $380 million dollars.

The top nut—and crop, for that matter—was almonds, followed by grapes, poultry, milk, cattle and calves, tomatoes, pistachios, garlic, peaches and cotton.

Also included in the report was this quote from President John F. Kennedy:

Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.

Fresno County 2014 Crop Report May Fall Further than 2013

Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright Concerned About Regaining #1 County Status

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Associate Editor

Recently, California Ag Today spoke with Les Wright, Ag Commissioner of Fresno County on how that county is traditionally the highest rated in statewide, and nationwide, in agricultural output of many specialty crops, but water restrictions have bumped the county down a few rungs.

“Fresno County, since 1954, has been the number one agriculture producing county in the world, with two exceptions. The most recent exception was in 2013, documented in our last crop report, when the water shortage was a West Side-only issue,” said Wright.

That year, the East Side received a nearly 50 percent allotment from the Friant Water Authority of the federal Central Valley Project. In 2014 there was a zero allocation for both an East-side and a West-side issue.”

“I’m not sure how 2014 will wash out, but other dynamics are also playing into it. Nut crops are very valuable, and they have high yields, and our Southern neighbors are planting a lot of nuts.”

But Wright said that things are different in surrounding counties. “They don’t have the diversity that Fresno County has. I’m very optimistic that once we get our water allotments back, we’ll be number one again. But until that occurs, I’m not sure where we are going to end up.”

Kern County Ag Ranks Second in State, Fresno Drops to Third

Ruben J. Arroyo, Kern County Agricultural Commissioner reported the 2013 gross value of all agricultural commodities produced in the county was $6,769,855,590, according to the 2013 Kern County Agricultural Crop Report, representing an increase (6%) from the revised 2012 crop value ($6,352,061,100). Thus, Kern County ag ranks second in state, with Tulare ahead, and Fresno behind.

Kern County’s top five commodities for 2013 were Grapes, Almonds, Milk, Citrus and Cattle & Calves, which make up more than $4.6 Billion (68%) of the Total Value; with the top twenty commodities making up more than 94% of the Total Value. The 2013 Kern County Crop Report can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards website: www.kernag.com

Tulare County reported gross annual production in 2013 at $7.8 Billion, Fresno County, $6.4 Billion, and Monterey County, $4.38 Billion.

As predicted by many, including CaliforniaAgToday on July 15, 2014, Fresno County, long-time top ag county in the state—and in the nation—now ranks third in the state and has regressed in ag growth since 2011.

Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner, attributes much of the decrease to the water shortage, particularly exacerbated by a large part of the West Side being dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries that have been curtailed by pumping restrictions due to the Endangered Species Act.

Fresno County Crop Value Drops to $6.43 Billion

For the first time in history, Fresno County has two $1 billion crops, and for the first time in 11 years, grapes are not the #1 crop. Now almonds are the top crop produced in Fresno County with a value of $1.1 billion, with grapes coming in second at $1.03 billion. However, despite these highlights, Fresno County crop value in 2013  was $6.436 billion in gross production—a decrease of 2.28 percent of 2012.

Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright
Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright

As it stands now, Fresno County loses it’s #1 position as top agricultural county in the nation, dropping behind Tulare County, which recently announced a $7.8 billion 2013 crop year. It could get worse when Kern County releases their report in August.

“Much of the decrease can be attributed to the shortage of water,” said Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner. “The impacts of drought began to show on our 2012 crop report with decrease of 2.29 percent from 2011. Producers are feeling the affects of the water shortage more in 2014 than in the previous two yeas.”

Water shortages in Fresno County with a large part of the West Side dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries have meant the annual crop report’s gross value of production has dropped three years in a row.

Details of the 2013 report include an increase of fresh vegetable production in 2013 by 3.8 percent in value led by garlic and fresh market tomatoes, while livestock and poultry decreased in value by more than 16 percent.

Field crops, representing barley, wheat, corn silage, cotton an alfalfa declined nearly 42 percent, while fruit and nut crops increased more than 8 percent.

Wright noted that Fresno County growers exported nearly 26,000 shipments to 99 different countries. “This tells us that we are still feeding the world,” said Wright.

“Once we get water back, we are going to see our ag economy rebound,” said Wright. “Just give the farmers water and they will do the rest.”

 

 

 

 

COTTON GROWERS URGED TO COMPLETE PLOWDOWN

Fresno County Ag Commissioner Urges Cotton Growers To Complete Plowdown 

 
Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer Les Wright TODAY urged all cotton growers to complete their plowdown activities as soon as possible to maintenance a host-free period for pink bollworm. For the 2013 growing season, there were no native pink bollworm moths captured in Fresno County for 62,215 acres of cotton.
Cotton Plowdown Requirements:
Plowdown Dates for this growing season are:
December 20, 2013 – South Of Shields Avenue
December 31, 2013 – North Of Shields Avenue
Stalks must be shredded by a power-driven shredder that will effectively reduce stalks to a particle size, permitting burial and rapid decomposition.
Following shredding, tillage must be completed in such a manner that all stubs are loose from the soil around the roots and will prevent re-growth.
At this point, there are two options for cotton growers:
Conventional plowdown is done by discing all roots, plant stubs, shredded debris and trash remaining from harvesting or clean-up operations and soils around roots to the point that they are turned over and thoroughly mixed with surface soil. This method of plowdown is required in sections where pinkie has been found last growing season or this season until September 1, 2013.
Reduced tillage does NOT require the incorporation of all roots, plant stubs, shredded debris and trash remaining from harvesting or clean-up operations. If growers choose this option, they must submit a notification 10 days prior to tillage of their intention to reduce tillage on their acreage eligible for the program. Call the Department to find out which sections are not eligible for this program if you are not sure.
Once plowdown is completed by either method, any volunteer cotton must be destroyed that may appear during the host-free period, even if it is on ground that was not planted to cotton this season. If re-growth does occur during the host-free period in 2014, the grower/landowner will be cited for a violation of cotton plowdown regulations. Be sure to check fallow fields for isolated plants growing in the field and in easement areas.
Do your part to keep pinkie out of the San Joaquin Valley and finish your plowdown early to avoid the following penalties for noncompliance:
Violation Of Plowdown Date – Base fine of $500 + $5 per acre not in compliance
Repeat/Subsequent Violations – Base fine of $1,000 + $10 per acre not in compliance
In California, pink bollworm overwinters as a late stage larva in trash, at the base of cotton stalks, in soil cracks, and rarely in seeds in the unopened boll. Conventional plowdown, when done properly, kills pink bollworms in these overwintering sites. Conventional plowdown and March planting dates are designed to disrupt the life cycle of pink bollworm. It is not known whether reduced tillage practices give pink bollworm a foothold for next season. Fields using reduced tillage will be scrutinized during the host free period and next trapping season.
The late planting dates for cotton create the opportunity for “suicide emergences.” If pink bollworm emerges before the plants have begun to square, the female will lay her eggs on sheltered parts of the plant, but the larvae will die. Cotton planted too early or re-growth cotton will provide feeding and egg laying sites for pinkie.
Questions concerning proper plowdown procedure may be directed to any district office locations listed below:
Fresno                  600-7510     8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Firebaugh             600-7322     1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
Huron                   600-7325     1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
Kerman                600-7326     1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
Reedley                600-7329     1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
Sanger                  600-7331     1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
Selma                   600-7327     1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
The Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner’s offices will be closed on December 25, 2013 and January 1, 2014.