Food Tank’s Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Knowledge Gap

Food Tank’s 1st Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Gap in Agricultural Knowledge

Good Starting Point for Constructive Conversation

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Several hundred food activists attended the First Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento last week, hosted by Food Tank, in partnership with the Visit SacramentoCalifornia Farm-to-Fork Program, and University of California, DavisDanielle Nierenberg, co-founder and president of Food Tank noted having the event in Sacramento enabled West Coast agricultural experts to contribute to the discussion.

“We were really excited to feature California agriculture, because it’s such a huge part of the American economy,” said Nierenberg. “Californians are feeding the world, and we need to really highlight what these amazing producers are doing. When the Farm to Fork program of the Visitors Bureau reached out to us, we were thrilled to partner with such an amazing group of people, as well as UC Davis folks and the Center for Land-Based Learning,” she said.

Food Tank, an abbreviation of Food Think Tank, is a 501(c)3 non profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters that values education, inspiration and change.

According to their website:

Food Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day. We will offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems.

The organization begins with the premise, “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.”

Food Tank, Farm Tank SummitWith the goal of feeding the hungry world of nine billion people in a few years, “Food Tank highlights hope and success in agriculture. We feature innovative ideas that are already working on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories. These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up. And that is where we need you. We all need to work together to find solutions that nourish ourselves and protect the planet.”

Nierenberg clarified, “I don’t necessarily think we need to scale up food production; I think we need to scale out different innovations that are working. We’re wasting about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s enough to feed everyone who’s hungry today, so we don’t necessarily need to ramp up production. We need to have better distribution, and processing practices that can help get food to people who need it the most,” she said.

“We need the political will behind those things,” she continued, “to build the infrastructure necessary for farmers to have better processing facilities, to have better storage facilities, to have better roads—if we’re talking about the developing world. I don’t necessarily think that we need to invest in producing more calories; we need better calories. We need more nutrient-dense food, and we need less starchy staple crops,” she noted.


Editor’s Note: Activists overtook the stage during the event, and the conversation was notably challenging for panelists. In an effort to Cultivate Common Ground to link consumers with the farmers who grow their nutritious food—and vice versa—California Ag Today has chosen to share some interesting statements from presenters and attendees to illustrate, perhaps, where the discussion could begin:

Regarding farms and processing facilities, big is bad, and small is good.

Regarding food quality, organic produce is healthy and safe, while conventional produce is unsafe and full of pesticides.

One of many moderators from the Bay Area, Twilight Greenaway, managing editor of Civil Eats mistakenly introduced Oscar Villegas, Yolo County Supervisor, District 1, as being from Sacramento County. When Villegas corrected her, Greenaway said, “I’m showing my Central Valley and Bay Area eliteness.”

Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, noted that farmworkers are invisible in California agriculture. “There is racism in the fields. We need more worker unions and we need farmworkers to be paid much more than they are now and the farmworkers should be getting pensions from the farmer.”

Michael Dimock, president, Roots of Change, said to the audience, “You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. Keep working with your NGOs. They know policy. In turn, they can work with the legislators.”

“You need to be in the capital, pursuading the legislatures to support their bills. They want to be reelected, and if they don’t do what we ask them to do, they are scared.”

“In the meantime, we have to be nice to farmers because farmers are scared. We are putting a lot of pressure on them; They are in a vice. Our movement has supported bills AB 1066 – the overtime bill, minimum wage increases, organic farming legislation,  and workers’ rights.”

Kerryn Gerety, founder and CEO, Lazoka, referred to John Purcell, vegetables global R&D Lead, Hawaii business lead, vice president and distinguished fellow, Monsanto Company, and said, “There is an elephant in the room, the Monsanto rep. Monsanto has all the technology patents. We all want transparency and we need you to be more transparent.”

Continuing, “Why doesn’t Monsanto open-source some of your patents and release the intellectual property so others can take advantage of your teçhnology?”

Purcell answered, “We are an Ag company. Why would our company invest a million dollars on technology and let everyone have it? It is our investment and we need to have the opportunity for a return on that investment.

During a panel discussion of food companies including Blue Apron, Almond Board of California, and Bayer CropScience, that covered organics, Jennifer Maloney, food chain sustainability manager, Bayer CropScience, said, “We do support  the organic industry, because we have biological products that work in organic as well as conventional [farming].”

Maloney also talked about agricultural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology such as smart sprayers that spray only targeted areas.

Matt Wadiak, founder & COO, Blue Apron, responded, “It’s not about smart sprayers; it’s about biological systems in the field and trying to lean on them instead of spraying.”

Maloney replied, “Yes, that is exactly what IPM is.”

Keith Knopf, COO, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, commented on the organic question, “the way we see organic versus inorganic—that is not the discussion for us. What’s more important to us is, is it the candy bar or the apple?”


This two-day event featured more than 35 speakers from the food and agriculture field, interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees. This was the second in a series of three 2016 Summits, following the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit that completely sold out and drew in more than 30,100 livestream viewers. The third Summit will be held in Chicago on November 16, 2016.

CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND: Almond Board on Assessment Increase

Almond Board’s Response on Assessment Increase

 

Editor’s note: We thank Mike Mason for his contribution to California Ag Today’s CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND, in response to the letter submitted by John Harris.

By Mike Mason, chairman of the Board of Directors, Almond Board of California

 

Over the history of this [almond] marketing order, assessments have risen and fallen to meet changing business conditions. This increase was voted on by the Board of Directors after much input from growers and handlers.  After the vote, the industry had an opportunity to weigh in again during a USDA-administered comment period.  They will get another chance during a second comment period.

Only after growers have had all of these opportunities to voice their opinions will the USDA make a final decision on the assessment.

The Almond Board of Directors welcomes your feedback and is available to discuss any questions you may have about the critical investments and justification for this assessment increase.

Below you will see a memo I sent to the industry, dated April 14 2016.  It covers why and how the assessment is needed and will be used.

Sincerely,

Mike Mason                                                                                                               


Mike Mason is a first generation almond farmer and partner of Supreme Almonds of California, a family owned and operated almond handling operation in Shafter. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Almond Board of California.


CA Almond Board Header

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To: Almond Handlers and Growers

From: Mike Mason, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and

Kent Stenderup, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors

Re: Almond Board of California FY 16/17 Budget and Assessment Increase

Date: April 14, 2016

On April 12, the Board of Directors met to review the program and budget recommendations coming forward as a result of the extensive strategic planning efforts which have taken place over the past year.

The Board unanimously agreed to recommend a budget for FY 16/17 with an increase of the assessment from 3 cents per pound to 4 cents for a three year period. The increase is limited to three years due to the expectation that almond production will increase significantly during that time period thereby providing additional funding. This decision was made after extensive dialog among Board members as well as outreach between Board members and Handlers and Growers in the almond community.

There are three principal reasons the Board determined an assessment increase was needed. They are:

  1. 30% increase in production anticipated by 2020. This estimated 600 million pound increase needs to be planned for now, to invest in global demand prior to the production hitting the market.

This substantial volume increase is nearly as much as our largest market currently consumes, and is more than the consumption of our four largest export markets combined. This will require doing more of what has been working, as well as implementing innovative new marketing programs.

  1. Strain on agricultural resources has never been higher. Almonds are currently California’s highest value agricultural crop and soon will be its largest acreage crop. With this leadership comes responsibility. Additional investment will allow us to take a leadership role by investing in and accelerating research which will enable us to address concerns, such as:
    • our changing water supply and quality system,
    • air quality as it relates to harvesting, pesticide and energy use,
    • bee health, which is critical to our success
  2. Transformation of the consumer landscape. The environment in which we are growing and marketing almonds is quickly changing. Consumers are more interested in where and how their food is made. In response to this, the industry needs to take a leading role in the world of sustainable farming, as we have done for so long in the world of nutrition, by transparent communications regarding our meaningful and measured sustainable improvements.

To plan for and address these challenges, your Board of Directors has worked across the Environmental, Production Research, Almond Quality, Technical and Regulatory, and Global Market Development Committees to develop a plan of action. This plan is a two pronged approach including investment in research, via the Accelerated Innovation Management or AIM program (launched at our annual conference), and global marketing:

  • AIM Program: Expand and Accelerate sustainability and production research in 9 areas:
  1. Irrigation and nutrient management
  2. Orchard and rootstock development
  3. Harvesting innovations
  4. Pest management tool development
  5. Pollination research and management practices
  6. Bio-mass and by-product innovation
  7. Food safety leadership
  8. Soil health research
  9. Energy Innovation
  • Global Marketing: Expand our programs to address production growth & changing consumer needs by:
  1. Accelerating programs and results in current markets
  2. Considering additional markets for investment
  3. Increasing communication transparency and trust
  4. Ensuring confidence in our sustainability efforts

Your Board of Directors welcomes your feedback and is available to discuss questions you may have about the critical investments and justification for this assessment increase. The assessment increase will be reviewed by the USDA and an opportunity for public comment will be provided before any change is implemented.

 

1150 Ninth St., Ste. 1500  *  Modesto, CA  95354  USA

T: +1.209.549.8262  *  F: +1.209.549.8267


To read the original post to which the Almond Board is responding, go to: CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND: Almond Growers on Assessment Increase, by John Harris.


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