Monterey County Schools are Not Logging On to See Notifications
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Monterey County is having a hard time getting schools to comply with new regulations regarding restrictions of pesticide sprays and pesticide notifications near schools.
“There’s a quarter mile buffer for certain types of applications,” said Bob Roach, acting Agricultural Commissioner for Monterey County.
When school’s in session, growers will comply with this buffer without any serious impact on their spray practices. Fumigants are already strictly controlled.
“We’re going to comply with everything, but the notification part is something that’s just been very difficult because the schools are not participating like they should be,” Roach said.
The growers must do an annual notification to the schools. In order to see that notification, the schools must log onto www.calschoolnotify.org, which the state has set up for that purpose, and then the notification will go directly from the grower to school administrator.
“What the school does with it is up to the school, but growers have prepared that notification on the Cal Ag ag permits web-based computer system for pesticide permits,” Roach explained. “That system does take all the restricted materials and adds them to a list, but you have to manually enter in your nonrestrictive materials and your spray adjuvants, which are included in this notification. They have to make a list of all the materials are going to use in the next year and they have to send that through to the www.calschoolnotify.org system so that schools can receive it.”
The Ag Business Program at Cal State Monterey Bay is very-tech oriented. California Ag Today recently spoke with Shyam Kamath, dean of the College of Business at CSU Monterey Bay, about what the program aims to teach its students.
“We’ve been in existence for about 23 years as a university. We were the university that went from swords to plowshares,” Kamath said. “We went from Fort Ord to becoming a university. Today, the university has two major pieces to it. One is a college of science, and its ag programs, and the second is a college of business with its ag business programs.”
Kamath said that the ag business programs have turned to ag tech programs.
“We need to forcus on perishable commodities, because that’s what this valley’s about,” he explained.
“We are also focused on precision ag, because that’s where the industry is going. So we have the school of computing and design, and the college of business together,” Kamath said. “We are looking at programs where we’ll power that. I have five people in business analytics, so that they understand what to do. Then I’ve got two ag professors who are there.”
“The third focus area is vertical ag and genomic ag. That’s an area where we’re trying to work with the college of science, and have people there to do that,” he said.
The fourth area, is supply chain, because this is an area where supply-chain is critical.
“Supply chain is key. Most ag programs look at production agriculture. We look at production, but also the supply chain, because this is a cold chain. Produce has to move fast and under cold temperatures. If that doesn’t work, then it will not get to a customer,” Kamath explained.
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director and Brian German, Associate Broadcaster
California ag leaders hoped that Governor Brown would see how the AB 1066 overtime bill would actually hurt farmworkers and veto it. Now that the Governor has signed it, the following ag leaders weigh in on AB 1066 consequences: Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau; Bryan Van Groningen, field manager for Van Groningen & Sons Farms; and Anthony Raimondo, a Fresno-based attorney who has been representing farmers and farm labor contractors for over 15 years, among them.
Norm Groot anticipated, “The end result of AB 1066 is a big move to mechanized harvesting, which probably means a change in some of the crops that we’re growing here simply because currently we can’t harvest lettuce or strawberries or some of the other vegetable crops by mechanized means. Lawmakers are forcing the hand of the growers to move into crops that are less labor intensive and thus, save the [labor] cost,” said Groot.
Groot noted the inaccurate AB 1066 assumption—that an increase in overtime hours and pay will result from its passage. “We will probably see their hours cut back to the eight hours a day and forty hours per week,” he explained, as stipulated in the law. “Growers will adjust their planning schedules to the amount of laborers that they think they have available for harvest. It’s not an automatic given that we’re going to see all these paychecks increase, simply because we’re putting overtime at more than eight hours a day or after forty hours a week,” Groot said.
Groot added that farmworkers are not in favor of losing 33% of their income at this point. “I think overall, the unions have been supportive of this particular change, but the unions do not represent the majority of the laborers or field workers at this point,” he said.
“I think if you were to ask the average field worker whether he wants to work ten hours a day and sixty hours a week, he would probably say yes. Field workers want that income. They know they work in a seasonal business; they have to earn their income when they can,” he explained.
Bryan Van Groningen
“Our farmworkers, our employees, love to put in the extra hours because this is the time that they’re making wages. Our company is accustomed to paying overtime if that’s what it requires,” said Van Groningen, “and the majority of our workers are already satisfied with the existing compensation structure.”
But Van Groningen noted the problem lies in what is considered overtime. With a shorter workday, overtime compensation rates will kick in much earlier than in the past, which will end up being a tremendous cost to the employer. “That’s going to cause our farm to mechanize a little bit more to try to get through the harvest more bit quickly because [the cost] is going to become too big of a burden,” he said.
Growers want to help their employees as best they can, but Van Groningen predicts reduced hours may become a necessity. “It’s just smart business. We don’t want to cut hours, but if we’re forced to because our bottom line is starting to become an issue, that’s what we’ll have to seriously consider,” he said.
Anthony Raimondo foresaw the effects of AB 1066 could put California at a disadvantage in the global marketplace. “At the very least,” Raimondo said, “employers will be forced to evaluate where they can cut production costs.”
“The increased overtime in some industries is going to drive automation,” said Raimondo. “So you are going to lose jobs because now it’s worth it for people to do the research and development to have more automation, more machine-harvested crops and less labor.”
Raimondo also expects some employers to add more H-2A temporary agricultural guest workers to make sure hours stay low enough to prevent their costs from increasing. “In the end, this is really going to cost farmworkers in terms of their real wages and it creates a massive economic disadvantage for California’s agricultural industry,” he said.
Policies like AB 1066 become increasingly problematic as the global agricultural industry continues to become more competitive. “Increasingly, agriculture has become a global marketplace in which we compete against countries that do not maintain the same labor standards nor the same environmental standards that we maintain, so our agricultural industry continues to remain at an economic disadvantage with the rest of the world,” noted Raimondo.
Featured photo: Norm Groot, Monterey County Farm Bureau executive director
Ag Commissioner & Farmworker Advisory Committee Announce Historic Pesticide Initiative for Farmworker Safety
Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, Eric Lauritzen and the Farmworker Advisory Committee, formed with the assistance of the Center for Community Advocacy (CCA), announced an historic initiative TODAY aimed at providing additional pesticide protections for farmworker safety. The initiative launches a pilot program with leading growers to enhance worker notification through warning signs when pesticides are used in the fields.
“California has the toughest farm pesticide restrictions in the nation, and Monterey County already imposes local rules that further protect farmworkers,” said Lauritzen at TODAY’s press conference. “But we are going to do even more to communicate our commitment to safety in the fields.”
“We are excited about this initiative that adds an additional element of protection for farmworkers by providing the time and date when it is safe to reenter the fields that require posting,” said Lauritzen. “Farmworkers are the backbone of Monterey County’s $4.8 billion Ag industry, and they are entitled to the highest standard of pesticide safety.”
Intended to protect farmworkers, the initiate “has created a relationship between our office, the regulators and the farm worker community,” said Lauritzen. “And it’s really building trust and confidence with our office and the regulatory program there to protect farmworkers,” noted Lauritzen.
Additionally, every farmworker in Monterey County (approximately 50,000) will receive a business-card-sized information card (in Spanish) advising them to call the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office if they suspect violations of safety rules. The cards also advise employers that it is illegal to retaliate against farmworkers who seek the help of the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.
The information card reads:
If you have questions or complaints on pesticides, the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office will help.
The card includes phone numbers and advises workers that state law also protects them against retaliation if they report a pesticide problem.
Currently, regulations for posting pesticide warning signs do not require information indicating the date or time when it is safe for farmworkers to re-enter the fields. The pilot program will include the addition of one sign that will be prominently marked with a red flag and include the date and time that the law allows workers to safely reenter the field. Only the grower or his/her officially designated representative may remove the signs, after first showing the crew leader proof that the re-entry restrictions have expired.
Osvaldo Cisneros, a lettuce worker and member of the Farmworker Advisory Committee, feels that the change is very important. “Some farmworkers have been showing up for work and have been told by their mayordomos (supervisors) to re-enter fields even though warning signs are still up,” said Cisneros. “They have to depend on the word of the mayordomos even though they have no way to verify what they are told. This change will allow farmworkers, themselves, to tell when it is safe to enter fields.”
The posting and information card initiatives were developed in cooperation with the Farmworker Advisory Committee, a group formed jointly by Lauritzen and the non-profit Center for Community Advocacy. “Many farmworkers are unaware of their right to a safe working environment,” said CCA Executive Director Juan Uranga. “That’s why it is important to provide farmworkers with the information they need to both protect themselves and also gain access to the agencies, like the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, that exist to protect them.”
A second member of the Farmworker Advisory Committee, Maria Elena Andrade, added: “It is important for our community to know that the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office exists to serve us, as well as the other parts of the agricultural industry. We are trying to create that message through the Farmworker Advisory Committee, even as we work with the Ag Commissioner and his staff to improve safety for farmworkers.”
Growers involved with the initiative include Sea Mist Farms, Tanimura & Antle, Bayview Farms, Scheid Vineyards and Costa Family Farms. Lauritzen recognized these leading growers for their, support, innovation and dedication in their effort to provide additional protections for farmworkers.
Lauritzen briefed officials at the state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) on the pilot warning sign program and the information card campaign. DPR Director Brian Leahy praised the Monterey County initiative. “We all know that farmworkers are the most vulnerable population in terms of potential exposure to pesticides,” said Leahy. “When we protect farmworkers more effectively, we also enhance protection for the environment and the community at large. This initiative represents an important step forward for farmworker safety, and it underscores California’s leadership in environmental protection.”
ASIAN CITRUS PSYLLID (ACP) QUARANTINES IN MERCED AND MONTEREY COUNTIES
Quarantines are now in place in both Merced and Monterey Counties due to recent Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) detections. One ACP was detected near the City of Merced in Merced County and two ACP in one trap within the City of Salinas in Monterey County.
The quarantine zone in Merced County measures 123 square miles, bordered on the north by Kenney Avenue; on the south by W Dickenson Ferry Road; on the west by Shaffer Road; and on the east by
E Yosemite Avenue. Monterey County’s quarantine measures 111 square miles and is bordered on the north by Pesante Road; on the south by the Salinas River; on the west by Castroville Road; and on the east by Gabilan Creek. The quarantine maps for both Merced and Monterey Counties are available online at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/acp-maps. Please check this link for future quarantine expansions in these counties, should they occur. Quarantines in new counties will be announced separately.
The quarantine prohibits the movement of citrus and curry leaf tree nursery stock, including all plant parts except fruit, out of the quarantine area and requires that all citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems prior to moving out of the quarantine area. An exception may be made for nursery stock and budwood grown in USDA-approved structures which are designed to keep ACP and other insects out. Residents with backyard citrus trees in the quarantine area are asked not to transport or send citrus fruit or leaves, potted citrus trees, or curry leaves from the quarantine area.
ACP county-wide quarantines are now in place in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura Counties, with portions of Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus counties also under quarantine.
The ACP is an invasive species of grave concern because it can carry the disease huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. All citrus and closely related species, such as curry leaf trees, are susceptible hosts for both the insect and disease. There is no cure for HLB and once a tree becomes infected, the diseased tree will decline in health and produce bitter, misshaped fruit until it dies. In California, HLB has only been detected on residential properties in Los Angeles County. This plant disease does not affect human health.
Residents in the area who think they may have seen ACP or symptoms of HLB on their trees are urged to call CDFA’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899 or your local agricultural commissioner’s office (Merced County (209) 385-7431; Monterey County (831) 759-7325). For more information on the ACP and HLB, please visit: www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/acp.
Monterey County 2015 Crop Report Shows Ag Value Up 7.75 Percent
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Monterey County Ag Commissioner Eric Lauritzen announced TODAY the production value by farmers in Monterey County for 2015 is $4.84 billion, an increase of 7.75% or $348 million over the previous year. According to the the 2015 Monterey County Crop Report released TODAY, the Monterey is again the fourth highest Ag producing county in California, following Tulare, Kern, and Fresno Counties.
“Crop values vary from year to year based on production, market and weather conditions,” said Lauritzen. “As often the case, there was much fluctuation in the 2015 values, with 22 commodities down and 29 commodities increasing in value.
Notable results include:
head values increased 12% on better pricing.
Head lettuce showed a decline of 2% with fewer acres planted but higher prices.
Spring mix and salad products also declined in overall value.
Strawberry values increased by 21% on increased acreage and higher production.
Cauliflower and celery each saw values increase by approximately 25%. Celery showed a decrease in production with stronger pricing and cauliflower posted increases in both production and pricing.
Winegrapes declined 25% in 2015, after above-average production in previous years. This followed the statewide trend, with lower production and slightly higher prices.
Despite reduced acreage related to the drought, the value of nursery products increased by 11% on stronger pricing for many products.
“It is always important to note that the figures provided here are gross values and do not represent or reflect net profit or loss experienced by individual growers or by the industry as a whole,” Lauritzen clarified. “The numbers are big and only tell part of the story. It’s really about diversity and the ability to withstand changes, whether it is commodity change or Mother Nature,” said Lauritzen.
“Growers do not have control over increased input costs such as fuel, fertilizers and packaging, or drought and labor shortage conditions,” Lauritzen explained, “nor can they significantly affect market prices. The fact that the gross value of agriculture increased reflects positively on the diversity and strength of our agriculture industry and its ability to respond to the many challenges,” he noted.
“The mainstays in Monterey County are the cool season vegetables,” said Lauritzen. “County growers are able modify planting programs even within the same year depending on market strengths or changes in consumer needs. When the cable food shows or restaurants decide to feature certain vegetable there is suddenly increase demand so Monterey County growers are often flexible in their planting schedules to meet demand.
“The Salinas Valley floor is very tight on acreage and available land planted out on the bench lands,” he said. “And growers are being asked to produce more with the same amount or even less ground and we are seeing that it increases prices,” he noted.
“Each year we like to highlight a component of the industry in our report,” Lauritzen elaborated, “and this year we chose Certified Farmers Markets. We include a short piece on some of the people who produce and sell their own products directly to consumers at the 14 markets in Monterey County and elsewhere,” he said. “This important segment of our industry lets consumers meet farmers face-to-face and to become more directly connected with the food they eat.”
“Monterey County is proud to produce the crops that are healthy for the nation,” Lauritzen said, “and if consumer demand really matched what we need for a healthy diet, there would not be enough vegetables produced. We produce the food that consumers need to eat and it’s not just an economic driver for our region, but for the health of our nation,” he added.
“This 2015 Crop Report is our yearly opportunity to recognize the growers, shippers, ranchers, and other businesses ancillary to and supportive of agriculture, which is the largest driver of Monterey County’s economy,” Lauritzen summarized. “Special recognition for the production of the report goes to Christina McGinnis, Graham Hunting, Shayla Neufeld, and all of the staff who assisted in compiling this information and improving the quality of the report.”
In the second part of our series with Steve Koike, plant pathology farm advisor for UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cooperative Extension in Monterey County,the focus is on the critically needed research on resistant cultivars. Koike, whohas focused his research since 1989 primarily on the understanding of disease systems and the investigation of new methods of disease control, said, “The role or the need for resistant cultivars is tremendous.”
“Some good case studies of resistant cultivar research address soil-born problems on lettuce,” Koike explained. “For example, Fusarium wilt and Verticillium wilt on lettuce could be managed lightly; but in order to overcome those diseases, resistant lettuce varieties need to be in place.”
“First discovered in 1995 on the Central Coast,” said Koike, “Verticillium wilt has the potential to infect and damage numerous different crops. And although Fusarium wilt was typically unseen in the San Joaquin Valley, it has recently begun to appear on the Central Coast.”
Continued improvement of management techniques upon discovering initial disease symptoms is necessary, according to Koike. “Symptoms of the disease usually appear on the lower leaves of plants, around the edges, and the areas between the veins can turn a yellowish-brown.”
“Strawberries currently have three really important disease pressures state-wide: Verticillium wilt, Macrophomina (charcoal rot) and Fusarium wilt,” Koike commented. “Even the fumigation tools we have are not cleaning them up 100 percent, so we have problems.”
“We will continue to have problems,” Koike elaborated, “until there are truly resistant strawberry varieties to those pathogens. Plant breeders understand that IPM management of these diseases is so dependent on developing resistant varieties,” he said, “but we’re not there yet. We do not yet have truly resistant lettuce or strawberry varieties out in the field,” Koike said.
Koike and his fellow researchers discovered a new race of the downey mildew pathogen in spinach that has been designated race 16. While there are some varieties that are supposedly resistant to race 16, Koike noted that there is still more research to be done.
To read the first part of our series on Downey Mildew, click here.
Koike, whose research focuses primarily on understanding disease systems, identifying new diseases and examining new methods of disease control, said growers “don’t like to see new diseases come out of our work. The main concern, downey mildew, continues to be challenging for both lettuce and spinach growers.”
“We started in the early spring with heavy mildew on both lettuce and spinach crops,” explained Koike, “and it’s remained pretty heavy on lettuce throughout the spring and early summer here. Spinach downey mildew goes up and down, which is not unusual.” he said. “We had some heavy mildew weeks for spinach growers, then we didn’t hear anything, then we heard that it had died down, and then ten days ago there was another surge. It’s one of those things that is hard to predict because it is variable.”
Since starting his farm advising position in 1989, Koike has been involved in educational programs and applied research in vegetable, fruit and ornamental crop diseases. Because downey mildew can overwinter in perennial crops, its continued occurrence is not too surprising.
“Earlier this year, Jim Correll, my cooperator at University of Arkansas, other leaders in the industry and I finally did confirm race 16, a new biotype of downey mildew. A few years ago, it was only race 12; it is moving target,” he noted.
“Although we have confirmed Race 16 on spinach, we are a little concerned because there are reports of disease on some race 16-resistant varieties.” Koike said.
Featured image: Downey Mildew (Source: UCANR Cooperative Extension, Tehama County)
Drone Technology Useful for Calif. Ranchers and Growers
by Laurie Greene, Editor
Fifth-generation Parkfield rancher in southern Monterey County and 2016 Vice President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Kevin Kester, was introduced to the viability of potentially beneficial uses of owning and using a drone on his ranch for agricultural purposes.
As owner and operator of Bear Valley Ranch & Vineyards, the family’s cattle and winegrape operations, Kester anticipated the biggest benefits of drone ownership would be the capability to check on cattle and ensure their safety from a bird’s eye view, and to determine water levels in reservoirs—a task that in the past could be completed only on foot or by vehicle. Cattle safety is especially important for ranchers, according to Kester, as the cattle industry has been experiencing stagnation in production.
Kester said having a drone would also helpful for security issues. He wants to detect human intrusion on his land, a problem that he experienced recently. “There have been some hunter-related trespass issues and people coming onto the ranch,” he said. “We’ve actually had cattle and horses shot.”
Kester, who is also a member of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and the Central Coast Vineyard Team, will purchase a commercial drone package and believes this modern technology will give not only cattlemen, but growers in California, a new way of assessing safety, production and maintenance.
An Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) has been found in Monterey County, thus expanding the ACP Quarantine in the state. This is breaking news as the ACP vectors or has the ability to carry a fatal citrus bacterial disease known as Huanlongbing (HLB) or citrus greening.
“It was in a residential area of northeast Salinas,” said Bob Roach, assistant ag commissioner for Monterey County, “and it’s not really unexpected because, with the exception of Santa Cruz County, we are surrounded by other counties where ACP have been identified on the sticky traps.”
This ACP find was in a residential yard, just north of Salinas. “The most likely cause,” said Roach commented, “When you find it in a residential area, the likely source of the introduction is when people move plants around” from other regions where the psyllid is present.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will begin the trapping next week,” Roach explained. “They flood the area with traps and then take care of the treatments.” CDFA will coordinate spray programs within 800 meters from the find. “They’re all set up for that,” said Roach.