A portion of Sacramento and Yolo Counties have been placed under quarantine for the Oriental fruit fly following the detection of 15 flies in and around the southern part of the City of Sacramento near the Lemon Hill community.
The quarantine zone measure 123 square miles, generally bordered on the north by El Camino Avenue; on the south by Laguna Boulevard, on the west by the Sacramento River; and on the east by Bradshaw Road. A link to the quarantine map may be found here: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/off/regulation.html.
To prevent the spread of Oriental fruit flies through homegrown fruits and vegetables, residents living in the quarantine area are urged not to move those items from their property. However, they may be consumed or processed (i.e. juiced, frozen, cooked, or ground in the garbage disposal) on the property where they were grown, or disposed of by double-bagging and placing in the regular trash bin, not green waste.
Following the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), CDFA primarily uses the “male attractant” technique to eradicate this pest. Trained workers squirt a small patch of fly attractant mixed with a very small dose of pesticide approximately 10 feet off the ground on street trees and similar surfaces; male fruit flies are attracted to the mixture and perish after consuming it. This approach has successfully eliminated dozens of fruit fly infestations from California over the last several decades.
The Oriental fruit fly is known to target 230 different fruit, vegetable, and plant commodities. Damage occurs when the female fruit fly lays her eggs inside the fruit.
Small larvae generally enter the fruit at the stem end, although entry can be made anywhere on the fruit, particularly where two fruits touch. Larvae immediately bore to the center of the fruit and feedaround the pit. After reaching maturity, they exit from the fruit and pupate.
While fruit flies and other invasive species that threaten California’s crops and natural environment are sometimes detected in agricultural areas, the vast majority are found in urban and suburban communities.
The most common pathway for these pests to enter the state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers when they return from infested regions of the world or ship infested produce through the mail. Help protect California’s agricultural and natural resources; please Don’t Pack a Pest (www.dontpackapest.com) when traveling or mailing packages.
The Oriental fruit fly is widespread throughout much of the mainland of southern Asia and neighboring islands, including Sri Lanka and Taiwan, and it has invaded other areas, most notably Africa and Hawaii.
“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.
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.”
With 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 Groundto 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.
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.
“The impetus of our program,” said Christine McMorrow, director of development for Land-Based Learning, “is the need for more farmers as the current ones age out. According to the USDA, over 700,000 new farmers will be needed in the next 20 years to replace those who retire.
CFA teachers, farmers, academic faculty and staff, and agricultural, natural resource and business professionals, teach CFA students basic production agricultural practices; crop planning; soil science; pest management; organic agriculture; irrigation and water management; marketing; ecology and conservation; obtaining loans, insurance and permits; farm financials; human resource management; risk management; farm safety; regulatory compliance and problem-solving.
McMorrow stated, “These folks have been with us since February, following a rigorous application process. A lot of these folks either have land they have dreamed of farming but did not know how to put it into production. Some of them come from farming families, but they wanted to get involved in the family business on their own. They may have been in a different career and now want to do something new or different. Perhaps they haven’t studied agriculture or they have not seen much agriculture other than what their family does, so this is an opportunity for them to learn and to explore a new business idea.
“We only take people who are serious about production agriculture. This is not a program for somebody who thinks, ‘I’ve got an acre in my backyard and I really want to grow something.’ While that’s a cool thing to do, the academy is not for those people.”
“Our graduating farmers, who range in age from their late 20s to early 50s, each wrote a business plan and presented it to folks within the agriculture industry,” said McMorrow. “They also planted some of their own crops on a farm in Winters.
McMorrow elaborated, “These new farmers have been able to create their own networks, having made contact with more than 40 different folks within the agricultural industry throughout the time they spent with us. These networks include local farmers around Yolo County, Solano County, Sacramento County, and other regions, and will help our graduates realize their dreams.”
“This is the fifth class that has graduated,” explained McMorrow, “and mind you, these folks are doing lots of different things. Some of them already have their own land, some are going to work for someone who has land, some will work other farmers, and some will go into a food-related business.”
“Still others will stay and lease small plots of land from us,” McMorrow commented, “to start their own farming business. Beginning farmers face huge barriers to getting started, the biggest of which is access to land, capital and infrastructure. So, to get their farming businesses started, California Farm Academy alumni are eligible to lease land at sites in West Sacramento, Davis and Winters at a very low cost.”
Weedy Rice Crops Ups Again in Northern Calif. Rice Fields
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
In Northern California, rice growers typically prepare to start harvesting in mid-September, but some growers have endured a lot of weed pressure from weedy rice (Oryza), also known as red rice, according to Whitney Brim-DeForest, a UC Cooperative Extension Rice Farm Advisor in Sutter, Yuba, Placer, and Sacramento Counties who focuses particularly on weeds. Red rice is actually the same species as cultivated rice, but it produces far fewer grains per plant and is therefore considered a pest.
Brim-DeForest said weedy rice is common in the Southeast, but not in California. “We’ve been pretty lucky in California in that we actually don’t have a big problem with it,” she said. “It’s a big problem down in the southern U.S. and they have been dealing with it in for a long time; but we have had it crop up. I think the last time was in 2006, and we managed to deal with it. It somehow popped up again in the last couple of years, so we’re dealing with it again.”
How weedy rice reached California is apparently a mystery. “We don’t really know the source of it, to be honest,” said Brim-DeForest. “We’re investigating that through research, hopefully starting this fall,” she said.
Brim-DeForest said growers have few choices to control weedy rice. “Growers that have it will either have to rogue¹ it out, pull it out by hand or sacrifice that field and spray it with Roundup,” she said, “which would kill the rice as well. And, if the rice grower doesn’t know he has weedy rice in the field, it could hurt him later at the rice mill,” explained Brim-DeForest.
“Once harvested, the rice goes to the mill. If a certain amount of red rice bran (the outer layer surrounding the rice grain) is discovered, the mill will not accept it and could reject the entire load,” she said.
¹rogue (verb) to remove inferior or unwanted plants
Above-Average California Rain Affects Larry Hunn’s Crops
by Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor
For fourth-generation farmer Larry Hunn of Hunn & Merwin & Merwin, Inc., based out of Clarksburg, Calif., the price of alfalfa is low this year due to water damage from late rains. Nevertheless, cannery tomatoes, cucumbers, safflower and wheat are looking pretty hopeful.
Mold from rainfall is a big issue in growing alfalfa; it not only reduces the quality of the perennial grass, but it reduces the nutritional value as well. Dairy farmers won’t buy it. “It has really depressed our alfalfa prices.” said Hunn.
On the bright side, rainfall has been beneficial for Hunn’s above-average winter wheat and safflower crops this year. “We had nice rainfall spread out through the whole winter,” he said. “It didn’t come all at one time and flood us out, so that was good.”
Hunn’s hard red winter wheat is drying down in the field, and will be harvested mid-June and sent mainly to flour mills for bread making. The safflower is still growing and looking healthy on a few hundred acres—acres that have been in his family for four generations—and won’t “come off” until late August or September.
Beginning in South Sacramento on 47th Avenue, Larry Hunn’s great-grandfather started farming in the late 1800s, and his grandfather moved to the Delta in the early 1920s, where they’ve been farming ever since. Hunn & Merwin & Merwin Inc. now operates on close to 3,000 acres in Yolo and Sacramento Counties.
Hunn’s other crops have already been contracted with a buyer. “All the cannery tomatoes are in the ground growing, and they look pretty good. We’re in the process of planting cucumbers, that’s just a continuous until the first of August,” mentioned Hunn.
The only disadvantage are the cool breezes from snow atop the Sierra Mountain range that is keeping temperatures low on the cucumbers and tomatoes. Hunn remarked, “I wish it would warm up a little bit. We’re only in the mid-seventies, low eighties, and it would be nice to be up in the mid-eighties or low nineties.”
Overall it’s been a decent year for the veteran Clarksburg grower.
(Featured photo: Alfalfa on edge of field of Larry Hunn, Hunn & Merwin & Merwin, California Ag Today)
California Cattle Industry Supports TPP Trade Proposal
By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor
Justin Oldfield, California Cattlemen’s Association’s vice president of government relations and a cattleman in Sacramento County, expressed support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the December roundtable in Sacramento at which U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse presented.
Oldfield anticipates TPP would boost demand for U.S. farm and food products among nearly 500 million consumers in 11 countries. “TPP is largely supported not only by California’s beef industry, but across the country, largely because members of TPP represent some of the largest export markets for U.S. beef.”
“Consumers in those markets love U.S. beef,” said Oldfield, “Unfortunately, we do have some pretty high tariff rates in TPP-member countries.” Oldfield explained the U.S. has recently been at a competitive disadvantage with Australia in supplying beef to Japan. Australia, which also depends on its beef exports, has a lower tariff right now with the Japanese.
“A good percentage of that [Japanese] market has been taken away from us by the Australians,” Oldfield said. “With TPP in place, it will put us right back on a level playing field with the Australians and a reduction in tariffs in the long-term. We hope to recapture some of that market share back once TPP is done,” said Oldfield.
Oldfield hopes Congress moves quickly on TPP to make it eligible for a vote, “so that we can get back to sending high quality beef to the Pacific Rim. Every day that Congress sits on [TPP] will cost beef producers money here, and not just in California, but across the United States in terms of our market access to Japan,” he said.
Late autumn and early winter storms that moved through the state have spurred greener pastures, improving grazing conditions on California rangelands, but ranchers say more rainfall is needed for them to begin rebuilding their herds.
“As far as grass growth, this is as good of a feed year as we’ve ever had this early in the season,” said Placer County cattle rancher Joe Fischer. “This early grass growth and early root establishment will really set us up to have a phenomenal feed year come spring if these rains continue.”
But he said he also prepared for additional drought by reducing the herd he manages by 20 percent last winter and leaving more residual feed on the ground in order to promote better grass growth this season.
Mild temperatures have also aided grass growth, Fischer said, but they don’t bode well for a healthy snowpack—sensors measure the Sierra Nevada snowpack at about half of average—and that will affect water supply for this summer where he has irrigated pasture. In addition, many springs are not yet flowing the way they should be, he added, noting that a lack of drinking water on one ranch prevented him from placing any cattle there in early fall, even though it had plenty of residual dry feed.
“I’m still fearful that we aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to drought in California,” he said.
Despite his fears, Fischer said he’s “hopeful and optimistic that this is going to turn around for us” and that California ranchers will move toward reestablishing their herds, though their cattle numbers will remain conservative at first.
With last month’s deluge, Mariposa County rancher Clarence Borba said it appears he can start retaining some of his cattle, after being forced to cut his herd in half and to buy feed when there was nothing left to graze. Because he leases his ground, which receives no irrigation, Borba said his costs soared when he had to buy feed and pay rent on the land even when no grasses were growing.
“There were times when I didn’t know if we were going to make it through,” he said.
Borba said while he’s trying to build back his herd, he’s doing it slowly.
“Things are looking a lot brighter now than they were a few months ago, but our profit margin is pretty narrow, so you can’t make too many mistakes and spend too much money,” he said.
San Joaquin County rancher Diana Connolly said she sold about a quarter of her herd early last year and didn’t keep any replacement heifers, due to a lack of feed. Like many cattle ranchers around the state, she has had to buy plenty of hay during the last three years. Whether she will keep any replacements this year will depend on how the rest of the rainy season goes, she said, as she doesn’t have to make that decision until May, when she weans her calves.
Though she has filled her barns with hay, Connolly said if more rain does not come this season to improve pastures, “it won’t make any difference how much feed you have right now.” She recalled how the lack of precipitation last winter left ranchers scrambling, even though the fall began with some good moisture.
“The rains are good, but I think the whole cattle industry is still feeling the effects of the three-year drought,” she said.
One lesson that Sacramento County rancher Jim Vietheer said he has learned from the drought is to start buying crop insurance, with this year being the first time he’s signed up for it. He noted that federal disaster aid has allowed him to buy extra hay. Strong cattle prices have also allowed him to cull his herd more heavily than he normally would, so that he could reduce impact on his pastures.
He said even though recent rains “have helped our situation amazingly,” he fears it will be short-lived if the state does not continue to get more, periodic rainfall. For this reason, Vietheer said he’s going to remain conservative on his stocking rate on some of this leased properties, “in case it becomes another bad year.”
“I’m a lot happier, but you don’t want to count your chickens before they hatch,” he said.
For San Diego County rancher Jim Davis, his region has not gotten “significant amounts of rain” and it has “come very gently, with little runoff,” he said, but he also noted that “conditions are very much improved over what they were a month ago.”
He said his cattle will be on supplemental feed for another month and a half, but that is typical for this time of year. Being three hours away from the Imperial Valley, Davis said buying feed has not been a problem, and while the price of hay “is never low enough,” at least there’s an adequate supply.
But for now, he said he will try to maintain his herd at the current level.
“I’d like to see another year of good moisture before we start rebuilding,” he added.
Riverside County rancher Bud Wellman said his herd size has not bounced back because a fire two years ago destroyed much of his summer range, which is on forestland, and the U.S. Forest Service so far has not allowed grazing to resume.
“Right now is when the cattle would do the most good,” Wellman said, adding that cattle grazing would restore the forest ground so that water could penetrate it rather than causing floods.
What has helped him, he said, is that the Girl Scouts of Orange County has allowed his herd to graze its campgrounds for weed abatement and fire prevention.
While his summer range in the mountains has improved with the recent storms, Wellman said where he’s hurting is on his winter range, south of Palm Springs. He has not been able to place his cattle there because many of the springs and creeks cattle use for drinking water are still dry, and what rainfall the region received has not been enough to get them flowing.
“The water situation on the desert side is still very critical,” he said. “If we could get those streams and springs back, we’d be in good shape.”