The Impact of Regulations For Farmers

Regulations Affect California Farmers in a Big Way

By Tim Hammerich, with The Ag Information Network of The West

Most Californians will tell you they enjoy the local and diverse amounts of produce available in this state. High labor costs and other heavy regulations are encouraging some farmers to shift more focus on crops that are less labor intensive.

“So with a minimum wage going up, with the overtime rules ratcheting down, we’re kind of caught in a vice,” said Cannon Michael, President of Bowles Farming Co and the 6th generation of his family to farm the land near Los Banos.  “And to put one wage across an entire state where you really have different costs of living in different counties, it’s pretty drastic differences, really makes it difficult,” he added.

“And then when you couple that with the fact that the Federal minimum wage is much lower in a lot of other producing areas of the country that compete with us, don’t have even close to what the minimum wage that we have,” said Michael. “And they don’t have the overtime because they have the federal exemption for overtime.”

And then so not only that, but you look outside of the U S and there’s  Mexico and some of our close competitors there, which have no regulatory standards. “They do not have the standards that push up our fuel prices, chemical costs, really every single input that we have is a higher cost here.”

We are always looking for the right mix of crops that we can grow, that deliver the highest value while again, just not stretching our folks too hard, and too far. “Because it is hard as you diversify into a lot of different things, it gets to be challenging,” he said.

Even though the regulatory pressure is there, Michael said he is very committed to making it work, but the regulatory environment is certainly a challenge.

One Company, Big Mission – That’s Gowan

Keeping More Crop Protection Tools Available at Gowan

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
Cindy Smith with Gowan

With regulations on resistant management products getting increasingly strict, it is important that farmers keep all of their tools in their toolbox. That is where Gowan, a family-owned crop protection company, comes in. Cindy Smith, agricultural relations director, has a proven track record of dedication to the business.

“When you work for a small family-owned business like Gowan, you have the opportunity to do many things,” said Smith, who has been involved in various positions from regulatory to commercial. She is now focused on policy, and how it not only impacts growers but ultimately consumers.

Since its beginnings in Arizona and California, the company has grown internationally to form partnerships with Japanese companies. Despite their exponential growth, their services remain grounded.

“Our focus is niche fit, so it’s specialty crops and it’s niche fits in big agriculture,” Smith explained.

California agriculture is critical to their business, and the team is dedicated to upholding California’s status as an elite producer of agricultural goods—despite the threat of overregulation.

Maintaining Food Safety – LGMA Part 3

Understanding the Farming Operation

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today met recently with Jon Kimble, and among other topics, he reported on food safety in the state of California. Kimble is the operations business development manager at Safe Food Alliance.

Jon Kimble, Safe Food Allicance

Safety is a big concern for those who work in the agricultural community. Kimble spoke on how it is important that farmers assess those on their property.

“If you see somebody getting out, and getting into your fields, certainly you want to talk to them and make sure they are not going to impact the safety of your products, because that is your financial future.”

Operations such as U-Pick, people out in the fields, or people part of an activity raise concern. Risks may be managed in terms of providing hand washing, communication, putting up signs, and making sure they understand that they can impact the safety of others when they’re out in the field.

“It really comes down to just practical due diligence, activities, recommendations that come right out of the good agriculture practices that has been developed over the past few decades,” Kimble said.

Kimble also spoke to California Ag Today about the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA). This puts standards and measures in place to protect the safety of the crops.

“That is a great example of voluntary activity rising up from within the industry to control risks and control hazards,” he said.

The industry has established the best practices, which have led to a world class food safety program through the LGMA.

“The first compliance dates are coming up in January, and I think a lot of growers do not realize how soon their compliance dates are hitting,” Kimble said.

IR-4 on Process and Trends of Biopesticides

Michael Braverman manages biopesticides for Rutgers University’s IR-4 Project in Princeton, New Jersey. The IR- 4 Project helps with research to get these safe and effective pest management products registered for use in specialty crops, the cornerstone of California agriculture.

“We have two main objectives,” said Braverman. “We have an efficacy grant program, where we fund researchers all across the United States to conduct field or greenhouse trials involving biopesticides to see how they can fit into real-world production systems. The other part of our program is a regulatory assistance program.  Biopesticides, like any crop protection products on the market, require EPA registration.  We work with university researchers who may have discovered a new organism, a plant extract or whatever it may be, and we help guide them through the EPA registration process,” said Braverman.

“There is certainly a trend towards use of biopesticides,” Braverman observed. “If you notice, major manufacturers—all the biggest companies—are now investing in research or purchasing smaller companies that are involved in the biopesticide market. So it’s really expanding very rapidly,” said Braverman.