Livestock Economics for Western Producers

Livestock Economics: What Attributes Bring Higher Prices?

 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

At the 100th Annual California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) & California CattleWomen’s (CCW) Convention last week in Sparks, Nevada, Tina Saitone, cooperative extension specialist, UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, described her research on rangeland and livestock economics. “Primarily, my focus has been on cattle — beef cattle to date — but I’ve also started some projects recently with sheep producers and the predator interactions they have specifically with coyotes. I am examining whether or not [producers] can use nonlethal depredation methods to mitigate those losses.”

“Right now, I have been concentrating on marketing characteristics of cattle,” she said. “I study those practices employed by producers, such as when they wean their cattle; how many vaccinations they have; whether they market [their cattle] as natural, grass-fed, or organic; and the impact that [these choices] have on their prices.”

Tina Saitone
Tina Saitone, cooperative extension specialist, UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Interestingly, Saitone and her colleagues have mainly been using satellite video auction data. “Western Video Market Auction actually held their auction this month here in Sparks, Nevada because they can do it at different locations all the time. So, we use that data to figure out cattle characteristics and then determine the marginal impact that each of those characteristics has on price,” said Saitone.

Characteristics such breed, frame score, flesh score, and weight, are definitely controls in Saitone’s research model because those are main drivers of price. “But what we want to do is figure out — holding all those things constant —if a producer raises their cattle natural, what kind of premium does that bring them? We’re really looking for that incremental difference.”

One might expect certain factors such as natural or organic, to deserve a higher price, but there always has to be a buyer. “Right now, when prices are low relative to 2014 and early 2015, ranchers do have some opportunities to get some higher prices in what we would call niche markets. Consumers are increasingly demanding a wider range of characteristics. They want grass-fed. They want organic. They want natural, no hormones. All of these are what we would call credence attributes. If you go to the grocery store and you taste a steak, you probably don’t know if it was raised natural.”

Accordingly, the industry has third-party certification to assure consumers that when they pay a higher price for that product they are actually getting those traits. “Farmers actually have the ability to fill some of those niche markets that consumers have created with their demand and possibly get higher prices than just selling into traditional commercial channels.”

The data that Saitone has been looking at from Western Video is focused on Western states, including California. Certainly, location places Western producers at a persistent disadvantage because the majority of the processing capacity is in the central part of the country, with Nebraska being the hub. Saitone said, “When you think about cattle being raised in California having to be transported all the way to Nebraska, some 1600 or 1700 miles, not only do you have the cost associated with that transportation, but you also have shrink; you have mortality.

California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA)

California CattleWomen

UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...

Support Agriculture By Being An ‘AgVocate’

Bayer CropScience Says Farmers Need to AgVocate with Consumers

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

The California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) recently held their 42nd Annual CAPCA Conference & Agri-Expo in Anaheim.  It was a sellout crowd at the Disneyland Convention Center, with about 1,600 registered participants and more than 160 different trade show vendors participating.  The theme of this year’s conference was “Feeding a Nation, Fighting the Fear,” with speakers covering a variety of topics related to public interest in agriculture. 

David Hollinrake, vice president of Agricultural Commercial Operations (ACO) Marketing with Bayer CropScience, talked about a program that Bayer CropScience sponsors called AgVocate.   “AgVocacy really is about engaging the farmer population so that they can represent modern agriculture to the consumer population that has a growing disconnect from what we do,” Hollinrake said. 

vice president of Agricultural Commercial Operations (ACO) Marketing with Bayer CropScience, AgVocacy
David Hollinrake, vice president of Agricultural Commercial Operations (ACO) Marketing with Bayer CropScience

There has been a growing disconnect between those who are involved with agriculture and the overall consumer base.  “With misinformation sometimes comes misconceptions and mistrust,” Hollinrake noted. 

One of the reasons for the divide between growers and consumers is that the number of people involved in agriculture has declined significantly over the past 50 years.  “When my grandfather grew up on the farm, some 40 percent of people were involved in production agriculture. Today, there’s only 1 percent of the population involved in agriculture,” Hollinrake said.

It’s important to bridge that gap by giving consumers a better understanding of what agriculture is really about.  “Our role with AgVocacy is to enable the farmers to take an active role in describing the benefits of modern Ag and really dispelling a lot of the myths that exist in agriculture,” Hollinrake said.

Bayer-Cropscience-agvocate-amplify-your-voice-hero“One of the other topics that we spoke about was the difference between conventional agriculture and organic agriculture,” Hollinrake noted.  The growth in organic farms has created an atmosphere of misunderstanding; with consumers erroneously believing that traditionally grown produce is somehow less safe.  Without being involved in agriculture, it’s understandable for people to have misconceptions about how the industry works.  However, these types of beliefs solidify the need for the AgVocate program.

Hollinrake thinks meeting the dietary needs of a growing population will require both organic and traditional farming. “If we’re going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, it’s going to take all forms of agriculture. To me, it’s not an ‘either/or’ – it’s a ‘yes/and’ conversation,” Hollinrake said.

Sparked Cultural Interest in Gardening and Locally Grown Produce

Locally Grown Food Inspires Consumers to Learn More, Garden at Home 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Cultural changes in eating habits are sparking an added interest in locally grown produce. Scott Steinmaus, professor in the Biological Sciences Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO), outlined the surge in local produce purchasing and how it is igniting consumer interest in growing their own gardens.

“The food craze is a real big movement right now,” Steinmaus stated, “especially with urban folks. Some of the biggest scenes are the foodie craze—that farm-to-table idea of buying locally, organically-produced food.”

Scott Steinmaus, professor of Biological Sciences Department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Scott Steinmaus, professor of Biological Sciences Department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Continuing, “And the cooking shows are out of control-popular, right? Where does the food come from? It comes from here; this is what it’s all about,” he said, with pride.

The growing trends are also reinvigorating students to become more involved, according to Steinmaus. “Students are asking where their food comes from,” he commented, “and who the farmers are that produce such healthy fruits and vegetables. That is an exciting part of our discipline as well—this foodie craze, and I think our students want to become a part of that,” he reflected.

The push for local produce is also inspring more people to grow their own home gardens. “When they garden, they get it,” Steinmaus explained. “And as soon as people get their hands dirty and as soon as they produce their first tomato; there’s nothing more empowering than producing your own food,” he said, “even if it’s a little bit.”

With this renewed interest in home gardening, Steinmaus observed, many are discovering their preconceived notions of farming were not quite accurate. “We’re working with the American Horticultural Society, putting together the videos that show people farming isn’t what you might think it is; it is actually completely different.” Steinmaus said.

“Farming involves a lot more than a green thumb,” he elaborated. “It requires the understanding of growing cycles and identifying various deficiencies. It utilizes very high technology. It is producing food; there is nothing more empowering than putting food on your kitchen table that you grew in your garden, or was grown by a farmer you know just down the street, and you know his [or her] name,” said Steinmaus.

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...

Dirty Dozen…Really?

Dirty Dozen Does Disservice

 

Following the April 12, 2016 release of the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) annual Dirty Dozen list, Teresa Thorne, a spokesperson with the Watsonville-based Alliance For Food and Farming, a non-profit organization which exists to deliver credible information to consumers about the safety of fruits and vegetables, conversed with California Ag Today’s Patrick Cavanaugh, farm news director and deputy editor,

California Ag Today: Let’s talk a little about the Dirty Dozen list that the EWG just published for 2016.

DPR on Food Safety
DPR on Food Safety

Thorne: They’ve been doing this for 20 years now, and it is concerning to us because they’re putting out misinformation about the safety of conventionally grown produce. We know that the products on this list are among the most popular among families, especially children. EWG targets them, and their efforts really scare moms and consumers away from conventionally grown. It makes no sense to us; I mean, both organic and conventionally grown are very safe. We should all be consuming more every day for better health. That’s really the message for consumers. This list—all it does is serve to confuse people.

California Ag Today: It’s all a big scare tactic to try to get everybody to think that only organic food is safe, right?

fruits&veggies more matters logo
Fruits & Veggies – More Matters

Thorne: We strongly believe that organic food is very safe, but we maintain the same for conventional. And it’s interesting also too, because in a recent study that really focused on Manhattan, the researchers found—and we did blog about this—that organic was not as available as they had previously thought. So, what happens to the mom who wants to buy strawberries for her child’s lunch, but only conventional strawberries are available? Now she’s scared because of what EWG has stated in really inflammatory language this year—over the top. Now what is she supposed to do? Her store doesn’t carry organic strawberries. Availability is very much an issue, as well accessibility and affordability. Conventionally grown still is the most accessible and affordable [produce]. So, to scare people away from that really does a disservice to consumers.

California Ag Today: Yes, and food safety experts from the USDA and California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agree that any small risk from the trace [below legal thresholds set by the EPA] levels of pesticides found in fresh produce should not keep you from the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. DPR tracks food for pesticide residues, and they find 99 percent of all the fruits and vegetables grown in California—whether they’re organic or conventional—are safe to eat and we should be eating more of them.

Thorne: Absolutely, and that’s what’s also interesting; EWG—and we’ve called them on this in the past and they still have not changed—does not link, in their report, directly to USDA studies. They state over and over that they base their results on this USDA Agricultural Marketing pesticide data program (USDA PDP), but they don’t link to it. In what world do you not link to a study that, you basically state, you base your entire Dirty Dozen list upon? We find that quite odd.

We think the reason they don’t link is this simple: People will see that the USDA clearly states that residues do not pose a food safety concern. And that is in direct contrast to what [the EWG is] saying.

California Ag Today: Of course, if we wash the fruits and vegetables we eat, it helps. We should always wash produce to get the dirt off and talk about food safety in our own kitchens.

SafeFruitsandVeggies logoThorne: That’s right. Conventional and organic alike, wash them before you eat them. It’s a healthful habit that everybody should follow for various reasons. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearly states that you can reduce or eliminate any residues that may be present on fruits and vegetables, simply by washing.

California Ag Today: One last question, Teresa. You’ve been terrific. The EWG has been losing some strength in their message over the years because the media is getting sharper and better at challenging the contradictions in their reports. We’ve got the Alliance for Food and Farming’s new SafeFruitsAndVeggies website now, and you guys are reaching out to the media, saying “Let’s be reasonable; let’s look at this from a scientific point of view, not an emotional point of view.” Do you want to comment on that? While they’re not being picked up as much anymore, they keep trying, now with strawberries at the top of the list, right?Strawberries1

Thorne: Yes, we think they’re using the tactic of putting another kid-popular fruit to re-spark interest. In fact, we predicted it in a blog a few weeks ago, in which we said interest from the media is declining because more reporters and bloggers are actually reading the USDA PDP report, seeing what it says. So, we actually predicted in our blog that they would do something like this. Our number one prediction was they would have a new number one on their list, and it would, of course, be a kid-popular fruit.

So, it will be interesting to see. We’re still early on in the process to see if they have had any success with that, but we believe that that was a tactic [EWG] tried to employ to revive very lagging media coverage on this list. They used to enjoy widespread media coverage back in the day.

__________________________

Resources:

Setting Tolerances for Pesticide Residues in FoodsUnited States EPA

Pesticide info: What You Should Know About Pesticides, “Pesticides and Food: How We Test for Safety,” California Department of Pesticide Regulation

The Pesticide Data Program: Helping Monitor the Safety of America’s Food SupplyUSDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

Pesticide Residue Calculator, Alliance for Food and Farming

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...

Heat Streak and Leafy Greens

Frank Ratto on Heat Streak and Leafy Greens

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

 

With a high spike in temperatures in the Central Valley, growers of leafy green vegetables are concerned about the quality of their products. Frank Ratto, vice president of marketing for Ratto Bros., a diversified century-old vegetable operation based in Stanislaus County, said that although the heat streak can cause internal burns in leafy green vegetables, he is confident that, with proper management, their leafy greens will be all right.

“The summer leafy green vegetable supply is always pretty good,” Ratto said, “so prices are very stable going into the fall. But, two or three days of a heat wave like the one we’re having right now can cause tremendous damage and escalate the price of our products. That may happen and we could be a victim or we could be a beneficiary.”

Given the heat wave, Ratto said Napa cabbage growers, in particular, are facing some difficulties. “Napa cabbage does not like heat,” he said, “because it will suffer from a lot of internal burns. Many coastal growers are having issues with it, so demand is tight and supplies are very low.”Ratto Bros Logo

Regarding vegetable prices, Ratto said that the price of cilantro was as high as $50 per box for the last three weeks, “but now it’s coming down to the $25 zone. Mexico had some supply issues, but it looks like they’re catching up, and supplies are improving, and the price is going down.”

Other leafy greens such as leaf lettuces, according to Ratto, are in good supply and quality right now.

Ratto said Ratto Bros. has expanded their organic products to include red and La Cinato kale; red, green, and rainbow Swiss chard; leaks; and collard and mustard greens,” among others.

“We’re trying to expand our organic offerings as more people look for organics in the store,” Ratto continued. “As growers, we know that both conventional and organics are healthy and nutritious—and we don’t really see a difference—but we give the consumer what they want. As long as everybody gets healthy, nutritious food, that’s all we care about.”

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...

USDA Approves Apples Genetically Engineered to Resist Browning

Source: Food Safety News 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to approve new types of apples that have been genetically engineered not to brown as quickly after being cut.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., the company that developed the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden varieties is currently engaging in a voluntary food safety assessment consultation with the Food and Drug Administration regarding the varieties.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said it made the decision to deregulate the apples and allow them to be commercially planted after assessments showed that “the GE apples are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agriculture and other plants in the United States” and that “deregulation is not likely to have a significant impact on the human environment.”

Over time, Arctic apples will age, turn brown and rot like any other fruit, but they’ve been genetically engineered to produce less of the substance that causes browning. When the apples are sliced or bruised, the fruit’s flesh retains its original color longer instead of turning brown.

Consumer groups opposed to genetically modified foods have indicated their disapproval of USDA’s decision.

“The USDA has neglected to look at the full range of risks from these apples,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “In its environmental assessment, the USDA glossed over the possibility of unintentional effects associated with the technology used to engineer these apples, potential economic impacts on the U.S. and international apple market, effects of potential contamination for non-GMO and organic apple growers and the impact of the non-browning gene silencing which also can weaken plant defenses and plant health.”

“Pre-sliced apples are a frequently recalled food product,” noted the Center for Food Safety. “Once the whole fruit is sliced, it has an increased risk of exposure to pathogens. Since browning is a sign that apples are no longer fresh, ‘masking’ this natural signal could lead people to consume contaminated apples.”

APHIS said that of the many comments it received on its draft analyses of Arctic apples, some addressed safety concerns and how Arctic apple production might impact exports of U.S. apples abroad. The agency pointed out that under its regulations and the Plant Protection Act, it can’t base its final decision on these factors, but only on the analysis of plant pest risk to agriculture or other plants in the U.S.

If there is enough consumer demand for Arctic apples, it would be several years before producers could grow the fruit. If the apples turn up in grocery stores, they’ll be recognizable by their name, but there are concerns that if the fruit is cut up and used in other foods, consumers won’t necessarily know that the apples were genetically engineered.

The Environmental Working Groups said that the approval of Arctic apples “underscores the need for a transparent and consistent national labeling standard.”

USDA’s announcement came the day after Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) reintroduced legislation to label genetically engineered food.

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...

West Sacramento Urban Farm

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

West Sacramento has its first urban farm in the Broderick neighborhood of West Sacramento: 5th & C St. Farm. What was once a vacant city lot is now a 2/3 acre farm growing over 50 varieties of vegetables, melons, flowers and herbs. Most of what is grown is almost never sold in stores. These crops are planted specifically for their flavor, picked when the produce is ripe and delivered the day of harvest.

Diversity, companion planting, crop rotation, lunar cycle planting, compost, and working with nature are the central values held by 5th & C St. Farms. All goods are grown naturally using 100% organic compost. The farm never uses any chemical fertilizers, insecticides or sprays. Sustainability, selling locally and providing people with nutrient dense, delicious food is what drives this farm.

Visitors and guests interested in seeing small scale agriculture thriving in the midst of a busy city are welcome to visit the farm. 5th & C St Farms is living proof that small scale farmers can make a difference in the local food system.

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...