Roger Isom: Probable Electric Rate Hikes Raise Concern for Ag

California Agriculture Concerned Over PG&E Increases, Overtime Rules

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

Water, labor, and air quality issues in California keep growers’ plates full of challenges, but with probable PG&E rate increases in the future, it seems they can’t catch a break. Roger Isom, President and CEO of the Western Agriculture Processors Association and California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, is among those wondering how the industry is going to compete.

“We’ve been paying for a lot of those safety upgrades. What happened? I mean, we’ve got to let the investigation take place, but to saddle rate payers with that amount of money, we just can’t do it,” Isom said of the threat of rate increases.

Roger Isom, president and CEO, Western Processors Association
Roger Isom, president and CEO, Western Processors Association (source: LinkedIn)

At the same time, the industry is still battling the effects of the Brown administration’s ruling on overtime.

“There are farm workers in 45 states that could work 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and never trigger overtime. We have to compete with that, and that’s just unacceptable,” Isom said.

Isom is optimistic about new appointments in California administration, though.

“You’ve got Jared Blumenfeld, who’s the new CalEPA Secretary. He was actually extremely helpful over there when we were working on incentives for replacing pumps and tractors,” Isom explained.

Isom also gave credits to Wade Crowfoot, who was on the previous administration and helped with port shutdowns.

“He’s going to hit up resources, which obviously with the water situation is a very critical agency for us. Seeing somebody over there that could be helpful is important,” he said.

New FFA State Stars Honored

Halley Lauchland Wins FFA Star State Degree in Agriscience Award

By Charmayne Hefley, Assistant Editor

During the opening session of the 88th California Future Farmers of America (FFA) State Convention in Fresno last Saturday night, four California FFA members were honored with the top Star Awards during an onstage ceremony. As reported by the California FFA Association in a press release, each of them excelled in one of four areas:

Andrea Thomas from the Colusa FFA chapter was named the California Star Farmer state winner in recognition of proven leadership skills for an aspiring young farmer. Thomas raises and maintains hogs, cattle and hay.

Halley Lauchland, 2016 FFA Star State Degree in Agribusiness Award winner
Halley Lauchland, 2016 FFA Star State Degree in Agriscience Award winner (Photo Credit: California FFA)

Nitin Gupta from the Tulare FFA chapter was named the California Star in Agribusiness state winner, the highest achievement for a person pursuing a career in agribusiness. Gupta started the business Simple Sand three years ago in which he collects, markets and distributes sand from his family’s ranch to local businesses.

Paul Barcellos, also from the Tulare FFA chapter, was named the California Star in Agricultural Placement state winner, the highest recognition in the state for a young person excelling in job placement in the agricultural industry. Barcellos works alongside his dad at Cain Trucking as a Foreman in the Composting and Air Pollution Control Operations in recycling agriculture products and preventing air pollution.

Halley Lauchland, a high school junior from the Lodi FFA chapter received the 2016 FFA Star State Degree in Agriscience Award, the highest achievement for a person pursuing a career in agriscience.

“My project was cane pruning for the control of Eutypa Dieback in winegrapes,” A fifth-generation winegrape grower, Lauchland told CalAgToday, “The disease is commonly found in cabernet franc finds.”

Lauchland conducted her research in part to help her family’s 18-year-old vines with the Eutypa Dieback disease,  which she defined as “a fungal spore that enters the vine through pruning wounds. This will eventually kill the vine, causing the farmer to have to replant, which costs a lot of money and isn’t efficient.”

Lauchland tested cane pruning versus the commonly-used method of spur pruning to keep the disease at bay. “We tested two rows and found [cane pruning] was a more efficient way to do it, and it was going to save us more money in the long-run.” Spotting her research catching on in local vineyards, Lauchland said  “It seems people are going to the cane prune.”

Lauchland’s research was published in the Lodi District Grape Growers Association Update last year as, “Lodi High School Student to Compete in State FFA Agriscience Fair with Eutypa Dieback Research Project.” Lauchland stated, “That helped put out the word, what this [method] does and how it helps farmers.”

Overjoyed to have been selected to win the Star in Agriscience award, Lauchland said, “Words can’t really describe how I feel right now.”

The California Future Farmers of America (FFA) State Convention was sponsored by PG&E and the J.G. Boswell Foundation, as a special project of the California FFA Foundation.