Young Dairy Owner Plans to Thrive in Future

Nevin Lemos Prefers Jersey Cows

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Nevin Lemos could be the youngest person to own a dairy in California. The 21–year-old owns Lemos Jerseys in Stanislaus County.

Lemos is a fourth-generation dairyman east of Modesto in the community of Lockwood. He grew up on his family’s dairy, and now he’s on his own. His family’s dairy is Lockwood III dairy, which is about five miles from his dairy.

“I’m 21 years old, and I decided to start my own. I wanted to expand the business, and get a little bigger so we can all stay in business, be competitive,” Lemos said.

“We have a plan someday to consolidate the two, and this was our way to grow.”

“It’s my baby here, my business, my passion here,” Lemos explained.

He thinks that it’s a good time to get into the dairy business.

“I’ve had some dairyman that I look up to, and they gave me some advice that even though the milk price is down, this is the best time to get started,” he said.

“That’s if you can … weather through some of the bad times because it’s a long-term investment. This is not a business that you get into for a short while, so if you can buy the cattle at a reasonable price and keep that input down, you’re in pretty good shape,” Lemos said.

His operation is 400 Jersey cow dairy with a double six-herringbone parlor.

“You know, my parents have the Holsteins. I’ve grown up around the Holsteins all my life. I showed Holsteins in 4-H growing up and love the Holstein breed but decided to go with the jerseys for a few reasons. One is they’re high in fat and protein components. I ship to Hilmar Cheese, so there’s good incentive there to get a premium off the fat and protein. Also with the reproduction, the Jerseys breed back so well.”

Lemos said he gets a 30% pregnancy rate.

A lot of the dairy cow feed is grown around the dairy operation.

“My landlord farms the 50 acres with the dairy. And I purchase the feed from them,” Lemos said. “Of course, that’s one of the significant inputs into the dairy. Feed is a bit of a high right now with exports. I put all my corn silage in Ag-Bags … to minimize my shrink, and that’s been going pretty well.

Lemos said in June, he can say he’s been going after it and his dairy for one year, and he knows he’s going to keep on going.

“I will most definitely keep going. Just getting started is the most challenging part, especially in a year like this year. I’m breaking even … if not slightly in the black. But I look forward to seeing what it does in years to come,” Lemos said.

Just building the herd and establishing it, Lemos is going to sit on some money for a little while before he starts to see it again.

Still, he said of operating his own dairy at 21 years old, “It’s the dream, my passion, it’s really what I love, and I would not have it any other way.”

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Higher Caution Will Be Required when Spraying Near Schools

New Regs on Pesticide Spraying Near Schools Begin Jan. 1

By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor

Starting Jan. 1, new regulations will prohibit pesticide spraying near schools and licensed child day-care facilities within a quarter mile Monday through Friday between the hours of 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM.

In addition, most dust and powder pesticide applications, such as sulfur, will also be prohibited during this time.

California Ag Today spoke with Milton O’Haire, Ag Commissioner for Stanislaus County, about these new regulations.

“With these new regulations and even with our permit conditions, growers have been restricted as far as spraying around schools,” O’Haire said. “It’s making it harder for growers to actually practice agriculture because their windows for applying crop protection has shrunk even more.”

Milton O’Haire

“Previously, a grower could actually start spraying at 5:00 p.m. if school’s out already, or if the school was on a half-day, an operator could start spraying in the afternoon. These new regulation will prohibit that,” O’Haire said.

“The new regulations are slightly different than what we’ve had in place for a number of years. Since 2010, we’ve had permit conditions on all of our restricted materials permits, which are more acute or toxic materials where there was already a one-quarter mile restriction around schools. And during that time, we really haven’t had any violations or any incidents, so the growers have been following that very well,” O’Haire explained.

The new regulations target all crop protection materials, both restricted or not.

Growers will have to be more diligent about their pesticide applications and continue to monitor the spray operation to prevent drift.

“They have to be on top of the pests so they catch them very quickly, because if you have a pest infestation where before you might have been able to go out and start spraying the next day, you may not be able to do that,” O’Haire said.

“If you’re near a K-12 school, and it’s Monday for instance, now you’re going to have to wait for a window to open or come in at nighttime to actually spray,” he explained. “It is going to affect those growers that have crops near schools, and we have more than 200 growers that are going to be affected in our county.”

Previous drafts of these new regulations required parents to be notified anytime a grower would be spraying pesticides near K-12 schools or licensed daycare centers.

“There was a modification of that. What has changed in the draft regulations: now the grower must notify the school annually with a list of what would be applied during the year,” O’Haire said.

If a material is to be used that was not on the list, then the school must be notified 48 hours before application. The material must be added to the list at the school as well as notifying the Ag Commissioner.

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Recycled Water Project for Water Stability, Part 1

North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program: A New Water Source for Valley Farmers

Part One of a Five-Part Series

By Brian German, Associate Editor

Anthea Hansen, general manager of the Patterson, Calif.-based Del Puerto Water District, described the exciting work to bring more water stability in the form of recycled water to multiple Central Valley cities—in our five-part series on the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program (NVRRWP)

“After six and a half years of effort,” Hansen said, “we have fully completed all of our environmental documentation, and most of the permitting is in hand.” Recently, the partners have interviewed and selected the preferred firm to construct the Modesto component of the project, so that process is underway.”

cropped-cropped-SLDMWA200x200Logo101714NVRRWP is a collaborative partnership that includes the cities of Modesto, Turlock and Ceres along with the Del Puerto Water District and Stanislaus County to solve the region’s water supply and reliability problemsThe program will provide a new source of water for agricultural customers in the Del Puerto Water District (DPWD), whose supplies have been severely impacted by drought and by environmental restrictions on pumping water from the Delta. Hansen noted the collaboration was the largest obstacle they were able to overcome.

“One of the biggest things that happened recently, a day we were all looking forward to,” noted Hansen, “is when the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) executed the record of decision for our project, a document that supports not only the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation but also the signing of a long-term contract. It will allow us to convey and store the recycled water in federal facilities,” she said, “and it will also support the sharing of a portion of the water with the wildlife refugees south of the Delta. That was a big milestone for our project.”

The cities of Turlock and Modesto will provide treated, recycled water to the Del Puerto Water District through a direct pipeline into the Delta-Mendota Canal. The district will then distribute that water to the agricultural customers within its service area.

After so many years already invested in the project, Hansen is excited the plan is coming together. “We worked lockstep with Reclamation for over three years,” Hansen said, “and we did some very extensive and thorough analysis. We had a great team and a good working relationship, and it looks like we are nearing the end of assembling all of the different pieces of this very complicated puzzle.”

_______________________

Resources:

Del Puerto Water District

North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program Map

Recycled Water Uses Allowed in California 

The Citizen’s Guide to the National Environmental Policy Act

San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Member Agencies Map

_______________________

See also, “Recycled Wastewater Could Help Growers in Del Puerto Water District, June 9, 2015.

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ILRP Changes Target All Calif. Farmers

Proposed Changes to Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) Could Impact Farmers Statewide

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

Kings River Water Quality Coalition LogoThe recently proposed changes to the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP), open for public comment until Wednesday, May 18, could significantly impact farmers, according to Casey Creamer, coordinator for the Kings River Water Quality Coalition“The proposed modifications concern the east San Joaquin Region, within Madera, Merced and Stanislaus Counties,” Creamer said. “That’s the scope of it.”

According to the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) website, ILRP “regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands. This is done by issuing waste discharge requirements (WDRs) or conditional waivers of WDRs (Orders) to growers.” Discharges include irrigation runoff, flows from tile drains and storm water runoff, which can transport “pollutants including pesticides, sediment, nutrients, salts (including selenium and boron), pathogens, and heavy metals, from cultivated fields into surface waters. Orders contain conditions requiring water quality monitoring of receiving waters and corrective actions when impairments are found.”

While ILRP currently targets only the east San Joaquin region, Creamer said, “It’s a precedent-setting deal, so everything in there is going to affect not only the entire Central Valley, but the Central Coast and the Imperial Valley—that may not have near the issues or the current regulatory programs that we have here in the Central Valley. So, its very important statewide.”

Creamer emphasized, “Farmers need to know that this is not a minor issue; this is a big issue that affects their livelihoods and their ability to operate. They need to get involved. They need to communicate with their other growers, communicate with their associations, get involved and have their voices heard.”

__________________

The State Water Board is hosting a public workshop on the proposed order on Tuesday, May 17, in Fresno—one day prior to the closing of the ILRP public comment period. The workshop will be held at 9:00 a.m. in the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, Central Region, 1990 E. Gettysburg Avenue, Fresno.

The SWRCB is also soliciting written comments on the proposed order. Written comments must be received by 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Please indicate in the subject line, “Comments to A-2239(a)-(c).” Electronic submission of written comments is encouraged. Written comments must be addressed to:

Ms. Jeanine Townsend

Clerk to the BoardSWRCB-logo-water-boards

State Water Resources Control Board

1001 I Street, 24th Floor [95814]

P.O. Box 100

Sacramento, CA 95812-0100

(tel) 916-341-5600

(fax) 916-341-5620

(email) commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov

  __________________

The Kings River Water Quality Coalition is a non-profit joint powers agency established by the irrigation districts in the Kings River service area. It is governed by a board of directors of landowners from each of the districts. Staffing of the Coalition is administered through an agreement with the Kings River Conservation District located in Fresno. The Coalition was formed in 2009 in order to allow growers within the region a cost-effective avenue to comply with the regulations developed by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Coalition conducts regional monitoring and reporting and assists members in compliance with regulations. The Coalition is not a regulatory agency. Enforcement of the ILRP is handled by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

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UPDATE! Expanded ACP Quarantine

UPDATE! Expanded ACP Quarantine in Stanislaus and Merced Counties

Two ACPs Found in City of Turlock

Stanislaus County has been placed under quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) following the detection of two ACPs within the City of Turlock.  The expanded ACP quarantine also includes a portion of northern Merced County along its border with Stanislaus County.  The quarantine zone measures 101 square miles, bordered on the north by East Service Road; on the south by August Avenue; on the west by Blaker Road; and on the east by North Hickman Road.  The quarantine map for Stanislaus and Merced is available online at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/acp-maps.

The quarantine prohibits the movement of citrus and curry leaf tree nursery stock, including all plant parts except fruit, out of the quarantine area and requires that all citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems prior to moving out of the quarantine area.  An exception may be made for nursery stock and budwood grown in USDA-approved structures which are designed to keep ACP and other insects out.  Residents with backyard citrus trees in the quarantine area are asked not to transport or send citrus fruit or leaves, potted citrus trees, or curry leaves from the quarantine area.

ACP county-wide quarantines are now in place in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura Counties, with portions of Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Madera, Merced, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus counties also under quarantine.

The ACP is an invasive species of grave concern because it can carry the disease huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening.  All citrus and closely related species, such as curry leaf trees, are susceptible hosts for both the insect and disease.  There is no cure once the tree becomes infected; the diseased tree will decline in health and produce bitter, misshaped fruit until it dies.  In California, HLB has only been detected in 2012 and 2015 on residential properties in Los Angeles County.  This plant disease does not affect human health.

Residents in the area who think they may have seen ACP or symptoms of HLB on their trees are urged to call CDFA’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899 or your local agricultural commissioner’s office (Stanislaus County (209) 525-4730; Merced County (209) 385-7431).  For more information on the ACP and HLB, please visit: www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/acp.

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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.”

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CA Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger: We Need to Fix Disconnect

This Tuesday, We Urge Yes Vote on Proposition One

By Patrick Cavanaugh

“There is a big misconception between California urban areas and farmers,” said Paul Wenger, a Stanislaus County walnut farmer and President of the California Farm Bureau Federation in Sacramento. “The urban population really doesn’t realize what we do on our farms and ranches. They think we misuse water, they think that we are polluting the environment, and yet they are very happy to go to the store and have reasonably-priced food. This is a major disconnect,” said Wenger.

Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau Federation President
Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau Federation President

Wenger noted that all agricultural associations must get the word out about what agriculture does to provide nutritious food for all.  “But the best thing is to be more politically active and assert ourselves in the affairs of Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,” he noted.

“While most urban consumers think that farmers waste water, the truth is that farmers have doubled their production with the same amount of water that we have used each year in the last 40 years,” emphasized Wenger. “In fact, many farmers are providing nutritious food using far less water than they had just 10 years ago,” said Wenger. “And this is a problem, because everyone thinks farmers can continue conserving water,” Wenger said.

“We have heard from The Pacific Institute that if we would just use more conservation irrigation and low-flush toilets, we would have ample water for the foreseeable future, but nothing could be further than the truth,” Wenger said.

“With 38 million people in the state and California farmers growing for an increasing world population, we need more water,” noted Wenger.

Wenger urged all Californians to vote YES on Proposition 1, which will set the stage for increased water storage in heavy rain and snow years, which will allow for extra supplies during lean years.

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Farm Beat: Farmers can sell near and far

Source: John Holland; The Modesto Bee

At one event next month, food producers can learn about exporting to China, South Korea and Southeast Asia. At another, they can learn about selling to school cafeterias close to home.

A Sept. 10 trade show, A Taste of California, will bring Asian food buyers to Fresno to see what the state has to offer in the way of fruits, vegetables and other goods. The Ceres Chamber of Commerce is a partner in the event and invites producers in Stanislaus County to take part.

On Sept. 19, the third annual Northern California Farm to School Conference will take place at the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center. It will deal with how to get local food onto schoolkids’ plates, along with educational activities related to farming.

The close timing of the events highlights the dual nature of food production in the San Joaquin Valley.

On the one hand, growers and processors serve local markets. This was by necessity in the days before trucking and refrigeration. Now it’s by choice for people who like to eat truly fresh food and to support nearby farmers.

On the other hand, exports play a key role in keeping Valley agriculture thriving. The majority of our almonds and walnuts go to other nations. Industries that mostly sell domestically – dairy, wine, canned tomatoes and others – count on foreign sales to boost their income.

Last week, Stanislaus County reported that its gross farm income hit a record $3.66 billion in 2013. Most of it was from U.S. buyers, but the report also touched on exports. A total of 133 commodities were shipped to 102 countries. Dollar figures were not broken out, but it’s safe to say that plenty of foreign money entered the local economy and sustained many jobs.

The Fresno show offers ways to boost the trade even more. The tickets are pricey, at $250 or $500, but they could be worthwhile if food producers score new markets abroad.

“We are so excited to be a part of this international event,” said Renee Ledbetter, president of the Ceres chamber, in a news release. “We recognize this as a great opportunity not only to help promote Ceres producers and exporters, but to promote food and ag businesses throughout Stanislaus County.”

The organizers said the Asian buyers want to see a variety of products, including dried fruits and nuts, processed produce items, frozen foods, confections, beverages, spices, sauces, jams, breads, grains and pastas.

The delegation will go to similar events next month in Oakland and Los Angeles. They are put on by the California Centers for International Trade Development in collaboration with the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

The farm-to-school event also could open new markets for farmers and processors in the Valley. It is part of one movement that seeks to make school meals healthier and another that aims to connect consumers with farmers and reduce hauling costs.

And there’s an extra treat on the agenda that day – a cooking contest modeled on the “Iron Chef” television show.

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