There’s a new tool that could lead to a significant decrease in crime rates, starting in the Tulare County. The tool is called SmartWater, and Detective John Nicholson of the Tulare County Ag Crimes Unit said that the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department has begun using it to track stolen property.
Nicholson said that SmartWater comes from a company based out of England that has been around for about 20 years and decided to open up a branch in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Word came about the tool’s dramatic effect on crime rates, with double-digit reductions in the neighborhoods where it was used.
“The sheriff was excited about it and thought it could be something that would protect the local farmers and ranchers of Tulare County,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson said growers could get their own vial so that they can mark equipment with a mark that is made visible by a particular light only the sheriff’s department has access to, so the criminals do not know it is there.
Nicholson explained it as working similar to identifying people by DNA, as a sample is taken back to the lab so it can come back registered to the property owner.
“It’s a mineral-based tool that can not only stand up to the elements, but even if bleach is poured onto it, the SmartWater will remain there as evidence against criminals in court,” Nicholson said.
“If someone is caught with a tool, jewelry, firearm or anything—and even if the serial number is ground off—if the item was marked with SmartWater, it comes back registered to a victim who has had the item stolen. Then we can identify that item in court,” he said.
This should ultimately lead to an arrest or conviction due to possession of stolen property.
The SmartWater program is available for free at the Tulare County Sheriff’s department.
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UC Davis Engineers, Economists, Advisors gather at World Ag Expo
By Diane Nelson, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean’s office
UC Davis specialists in everything from grapes to livestock to irrigation management will join staff and students at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, February 13-15, to chat with farmers, prospective students, alumni and leaders throughout the agricultural industry.
More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the 51st annual event, where 1,500 exhibitors display cutting-edge agricultural technology and equipment over a massive 2.6 million square feet of show grounds.
“We’re thrilled to be taking part in this incredible agricultural exhibition and reconnecting with alumni from the Central Valley and beyond,” said Sue Ebeler, an associate dean for the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and professor of viticulture and enology. “Faculty will be in town and available to discuss current agricultural research and our Aggie Ambassadors can answer questions about our majors and campus life.”
The UC Davis team will be located in the World Ag Women’s Pavilion. In addition to Professor Ebeler, dean of undergraduate academic programs for the college, seven faculty experts will attend portions of the three-day event. They include:
Rachel Goodhue, professor and chair of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics,
Deanne Meyer, Cooperative Extension specialist in livestock waste management,
Samuel Sandoval Solis, associate Cooperative Extension specialist in water management,
Ali Pourreza, assistant Cooperative Extension specialist in agricultural mechanization and precision agriculture,
Matt Fidelibus, Cooperative Extension specialist in grape production
Anna Denicol, assistant professor and veterinarian who specializes in reproductive biology, and
Jeff Mitchell, Cooperative Extension specialist in conservation agriculture.
UC Davis is ranked number 1 in the nation for agriculture, plant sciences, animal science and agricultural economics. The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences enrolled more than 2,000 new students in the fall of 2017, many of them from California’s Central Valley. The college offers 29 majors—everything from agriculture to nutrition to global disease biology.
“Prospective students can learn about all our majors and the career paths they provide,” Ebeler said. “At the World Ag Expo, we get to meet with agricultural leaders from around the world, as well as so many passionate young people who will become tomorrow’s leaders.”
Diane Nelson, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean’s office, 530-752-1969, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue Ebeler, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean’s office, 530-752-7150, email@example.com
Temperance Flat is a Sure Way to Improve California’s Water Infrastructure
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Mario Santoyo is the Executive Director for the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority. He spoke to California Ag Today about Temperance Flat, a proposal supported by the Joint Powers of Authority composed of five counties: Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare and Kings County. In addition to those counties, there are representatives from the eastern side cities, (Orange Cove) and western side cities, (Avenal)
“We also have water agencies, such as the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors,” Santoyo said. “The JPA is also in the process of dealing with membership requests by Friant Water Authority and the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority.”
“You can see we’ve got a pretty elaborate team as far as the authority,” Santoyo said. “It was put together in order to pursue funding opportunities both by the state of California and the federal government to build revenue leading towards the construction of the Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir project, which will be located just north of Friant Dam on Millerton Lake, and actually would be built in Millerton Lake … expanding that reservoir.”
The five counties got together on this because they understand fully the importance of creating a more reliable water supply for the area. Santoyo said, “It was proven to be a problem when we had the five-year drought and the Valley had to exercise its groundwater pumping, which plummeted the groundwater levels so much that … it actually resulted in what is now the Groundwater Sustainability Law.”
“So there’s no question this project is greatly needed, and the irony is that this year, coming out of a five-year drought, we’ve got high runoff, and the Bureau of Reclamation had to make flood releases in order to not exceed the capacity at Friant Dam/Millerton Lake,” Santoyo explained. “We fully expect that they will have made up to 2.5 million acre feet of releases down the river to the ocean. Then if you stop and think about what that means, it basically you could roughly say it’s about two years’ worth of water supply for the eastern side of the Valley.”
“There are those who would argue that we would never fill up the Temperance Flat Reservoir,” Santoyo said. “Well, not only have we done it twice this year, we also have a history—a long history—of this … [being] the common scenario.”
When there is high runoff water, it doesn’t come in little bits, it comes in huge amounts. “I think we looked at the record, and 50% of the time that we have high runoff, we usually have to make flood releases in excess of one million acre feet, so that’s why the size that was determined for Temperance Flat was just a little bit over a million acre feet,” Santoyo said.
“Now having that, it’s actually 1.2 million acre feet that it adds to the system. When you add it to … the balance of what’s left with the original, we’re close to 1.8 million acre feet,” Santoyo said.
“It will triple the capacity of Millerton, ensuring that for the future, that [there is] a chance to maximize the available water supply for the cities, for the farms, and most importantly, to recharge the groundwater and put us back into a level that we’re stable and that residents, farmers and others can use that groundwater and not be restricted by the new groundwater sustainability laws,” said Santoyo, adding, “If we don’t solve that problem, the world is going to change dramatically for our farmers, number one, and it will have an immediate effect also on our cities.”
Santoyo describes the recharge opportunities. “What we’ll be doing is with Temperance Flat, we will be making timed releases to various water districts and entities that will have groundwater recharging basins, and they will be syncing it, but you need time,” he said.
“You need storage, and you need time to be able to move water from above ground to below ground. That’s just a physical necessity, and that’s part of the argument against those that argue, ‘Don’t build above, you only need below.’ Well, if you don’t have water above, you aren’t putting it below. It’s just as simple as that,” Santoyo explained.
Temperance Flat would be ideal for the state of California. “The Friant-Kern Canal is the longest of the two primary canals. The other one is the Madera Canal. The Madera moves it north to Chowchilla. The Friant moves it south to Bakersfield, so yeah, those are the primary conveyance systems for farmers and cities,” he said.
Recently a video that educates the public on the value of Temperance Flat, released on YouTube called Build Temperance Flat. We ask all who are active on social media to grab a link of the video and post it on Facebook and Twitter as well as other social media platforms.
Cris Carrigan Opens Dialogue With Growers about Nitrates in Water
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Over the last year, 19 Salinas Valley growers, and recently 26 citrus growers on the east side of Tulare County, each received a confidential letter from Christian Carrigan, director, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), Office of Enforcement. The letter constituted an invitation to a meeting to discuss the provision of uninterrupted replacement water to communities and individuals who rely on the region’s groundwater which contains too many nitrates.
Invitation recipients are growers who farm larger tracts of agricultural land in regions identified to have elevated nitrate-contaminated groundwater based on historical evidence. The ‘Harter Report,’ officially submitted to SWRCB in 2012 as, “Addressing Nitrate in California’s Drinking Water,” reinforced the nitrate problem.
The letter presented recipients with a choice: provide replacement potable water to disadvantaged communities with substandard drinking water or face a mandated Cleanup and Abatement Order that would require the development, installation, and ongoing operation of expensive reverse-osmosis water treatment systems or other fixes.
“We’re looking at ways to have a broader dialogue with the larger agricultural community,” Cris Carrigan explained. “I sent the confidential letter to a group of agricultural land owners in Tulare County and because I offered to maintain its confidentiality, I really don’t want to talk about the contents of it now.”
“I should be clear, this is an action by the Office of Enforcement at the State Water Board,” Carrigan said. “It is led by Jonathan Bishop, chief deputy director. I am a legal officer and he’s my client, the decision-maker at the Board.”
“We have not talked about this with the board members, Tom Howard, executive director, or Michael Laufer, chief counsel,” Carrigan clarified. “We have preserved their neutrality by not communicating with them about this action in case we need to do an adjudicatory proceeding. We did the same thing in Salinas.”
Carrigan noted that his office does not want this to go into an adjudicatory proceeding. “We are really set up, primarily, to try and resolve this in a mutually acceptable and cooperative way. We think there are ways to do that. We’ve learned a lot from engaging with the agricultural community in Salinas. Now we hope to apply those lessons and learn some new things in Tulare County.”
Carrigan commented that he is having the right kind of dialogue with farmers. “We’re talking about the right kinds of things. Again, I understand that nitrogen means food, food means jobs. We need to have a scientifically defensible way to bring back [water] resource restoration, so that our aquifers can become clean again.”
“In the meantime, we have to prevent people from being poisoned by bad water. That is what this is all about,” Carrigan said.
Tulare County’s top ten crops [crop value] in 2015 were:
Cattle & Calves
Oranges- Navels & Valencias
Almonds Meats & Hulls
Tangerines – Fresh
Corn – Grain & Silage
Silage – Small Grain
Kinoshita explained, “Dairy is our number one industry here. Our milk production was off a little bit. We have fewer dairies in business now because of the low milk prices. Anytime your fresh market milk is off, that’s going to affect our overall value. A good 2/3 of that billion-dollar decrease came from the dairy industry. The price was low the entire year, as opposed to the year before.”
Thus far, the reported 2015 county crop reports in the Central Valley are down this year. “Fresno County, for instance, was down 6.5% off its record $7 billion in 2014,” Kinoshita said.
“It has a lot to do with low water deliveries in Fresno and Tulare Counties,” she continued. “The smaller the water deliveries, the more efficient those growers have to be with that water. Anytime you’re pumping water out of the ground, it’s terribly expensive,” she noted.
“Some of our growers have had to decide, ‘All right, I’ve got this much water; I’m going to keep those blocks alive and I’m going to push an older block that isn’t producing as well.’ The returns aren’t as good as some of the newer plantings,” said Kinoshita.
Despite all of that, Kinoshita said agriculture does sit at the head of the table in Tulare County. “Yes, and we need a successful Ag industry to thrive here,” she said.
Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, noted the crop report demonstrates the strength of the agricultural industry. “I think every year when this crop report comes out, it is always a testament to the resiliency of this industry. This industry takes hard knocks, gets knocked down, then steps right back up to the plate and keeps swinging,” Blattler said. “The agricultural sector has a lot of outside challenges that impact the number that we see reported every year.”
Blattler acknowledged the crop value numbers do not reflect net revenue for growers. “It’s always really important for our listeners to know that the crop value is a gross revenue number. When our Ag Commissioner steps to the microphone and speaks to our Board of Supervisors about this report each year, she’s reflecting values that are attributed to all of the gross revenue, and it’s not only the field value,” Blattler said.
“That gross number reported each year also represents our packing houses, our milk processing facilities—the creameries, the butter plants—the packing sheds, all those other parts of our industry that [create] value in our industry,” said Blattler.
Blattler noted up or down, it’s all about the resiliency of farmers. “The industry has its years that are really blockbuster and it has its years when it falls back and we see a reduction acreage. We see reductions in surface water deliveries. The drought is still certainly playing a significant role in the numbers we’re seeing,” she explained.
With regard to surface water, Tulare County is in a bit of a unique position. “As an Eastside county, some of our water deliveries are not as subject to the situation that the Westside is in. In the same sense, we have some significant cutbacks that have been attributed to the San Joaquin River’s restoration and the biological opinions in the Delta—all have had an impact on the Central San Joaquin Valley [water] deliveries regardless of whether you’re Eastside or Westside.
“Also, as the exchange contractors either take greater deliveries of water or give up water, that also impacts the amount available to Eastside growers here in Tulare County,” she said.
In summary, 2015 Tulare Crop Report covers more than 120 different commodities, 45 of which have a gross value in excess of $1 million. Although individual commodities may experience difficulties from year to year, Tulare County continues to produce high quality crops that provide food and fiber to more than 90 countries worldwide.
“This is a major event, a significant milestone in terms of the process to get Temperance Flat Dam built.” Santoyo said. “In essence, it is a partnership between the new joint powers of authority and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and, more specifically, their study team who worked on the technical studies and the feasibility reports for Temperance Flat.”
Merced, Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties are joining forces with leaders of cities, Tribes, and other agencies to begin this significant move towards building the Temperance Flat Dam. “Working together, we are going to put the application together and submit it to the California Water Commission for their consideration for funding through Proposition 1, Chapter 8,” Santoyo said. “It’s a solid statement that needs a signature.”
“It’s a memorandum of understanding between the Bureau of Reclamation and the joint powers of authority,” he said, “that defines the scope of work. In essence, it’s full cooperation between their technical people and our joint powers of authority. Our people are tailoring the application to the state to optimize funding. Keep in mind, we’re talking big dollars here; we are not talking a million or a hundred million; we are talking a billion.”
Temperance Flat Dam would create nearly 1.3M acre-feet of new water storage, according to the SJWIA, 2.5 times the current capacity of Millerton Lake, and would be a part of the Federal Central Valley Project.
“Chapter 8, which is the storage chapter in Prop 1, has $2.7 billion in it,” Santoyo explained. “Projects that are submitted for funding are limited to up to 50% of the capital costs of their project. If we were to take Temperance Flat, for instance, that’s going to cost somewhere around $2.8 billion. The maximum you could ask from the state is $1.4 billion, but we don’t expect that because there is a lot of competition. There’s not enough dollars to go around. We’re hoping to shoot for somewhere around $1 billion.”
“I see [the July 1 event] as being historic,” Santoyo reflected, “because it is one of the most critical things to happen—to be able to build Temperance Flat, as well as a good opportunity to be at a place where history’s being made.”
For more information, contact Mario Santoyo at 559-779-7595.
Featured image: Mario Santoyo, executive director of the San Joaquin Water Infrastructure Authority (SJWIA)
More Asian Citrus Psyllids Found in Tulare County, 10 ACPs near Juice Plant
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor, and Laurie Greene, Editor
Announced Today, more Asian Citrus Psyllids (ACP) were found recently in several Tulare County traps, two of which were adjacent to an orange juice plant near Tipton.
“There were a few [ACPs] on sticky traps on a residential tree, one in a commercial grove, and even more concerning, four on one and six on a second sticky card near the juice plant,” said Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County ag commissioner.” ACP is known to vector Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, a disease that is fatal for citrus trees.
“The juice plant ACP finds could have come from southern California trees, most likely from Ventura, Orange, Riverside, and Imperial Counties, that were stripped of crop and did not go through a shed,” said Kinoshita, referring to a necessary cleaning protocol. “It’s very frustrating because there’s a certain protocol in shipping citrus but not everybody follows it.”
“When citrus is field-run [from the field to the packing shed],” continued Kinoshita, “the fruit should be separated from stems and leaves—which may harbor ACPs—then cleaned and manipulated over rollers before being packed for shipping or transported in bulk by truck to the juice plant.”
“So it’s a real concern finding ACPs at the Tipton juice plant,” Kinoshita explained, “because it is isolated from our citrus belt and they are the first ACPs found near a plant. It means that the psyllids possibly hitchhiked to the plant in Tipton, which is right along Highway 99. Even if the fruit had been cleaned, the psyllids, which are strong fliers, could have ended up in the cab of the truck and transported to Tulare County,” noted Kinoshita.
Kinoshita noted protection spray protocols are now in motion. “We’ve got two active programs, residential treatments in unison with our orchard treatments, and those are all managed by a treatment coordinator who works with our treatment groups. These are smaller groups of growers, so their treatments are hopefully done within a 2-week period to cover an area and try to control this pest.”
“The Number One citrus county in California doesn’t need ACP,” said Kinoshita, “and heaven forbid they come in while infected with HLB disease! Already about 20 trees have tested positive for the fatal HLB—all in southern California, starting with Hacienda Heights in April 2012, with more found in and around San Gabriel residential areas, last year in July and this year in February.”
Kinoshita advocated for everyone to stay vigilant and keep educating—not only the citizens of the state, but these transporters too. “They need to be more careful,” said Kinoshita. “All equipment that moves though the citrus groves must be cleaned before moving into another grove. It’s going to take everyone’s cooperation.”
“There is so much capability for [ACP] hitchhiking into this County where we are ground zero for potential problems—for the sheer number of packing sheds, orange groves and juice plants. So it’s a pretty difficult situation, but fortunately we’ve got a system that is in place; we just have to keep at it and not let our guard down,” she said.
The UC Cooperative Extension Program has served Tulare County since 1918 and continues to meet the ever-changing needs of the community. UC Cooperative Extension, Tulare County is preparing to welcome their new citrus farm advisor, Greg Douhan, on March 1, 2016. Douhan, who noted his excitement for the opportunity, will be taking the reins from the recently retired Neil O’Connell who gave over 34 years of faithful service advising Tulare County citrus growers.
Douhan shared that his relatives inspired him to focus his career in agriculture. “I had an uncle who was an almond grower when I was a kid. And my grandfather was an avid horticulturalist; he used to graft different trees and I always found that fascinating.”
“As I got older, I decided I was interested in plants, so I went to Humboldt State University. I also got interested in fungi, so I decided to fuse my interests in fungi and in plants and go into plant pathology,” Douhan said.
“I earned my Master’s and Ph.D. at Washington State University, and then completed a post-doc assignment at UC Davis for 3-4 years. I moved to UC Riverside for about 6 years. Now I am here in Tulare County!”
Cooperative Extension advisors serve as conduits of information from various UC campuses. Subject matter specialists, along with local research centers, collaborate with local advisors to identify and solve local problems through research and educational programs. The mission of the program is to serve California through the creation, development and application of knowledge, in agriculture, natural and human resources. Farm advisors then apply this knowledge to improve our agriculture and food systems along with our natural resources and environment.
“I’ve been working for the UC system basically since I was a post-doc,” Douhan said, “so it has been for many years. I think Cooperative Extension was the best system for working with both the growers and everybody else to better California agriculture,” Douhan said. “This was just an incredible opportunity. I was doing science and looking for another career move, and this was a perfect opportunity to have a next chapter in doing something different.”
California farmers are stepping up to supply fresh fruits, vegetables and meat products to the state’s network of food banks as part of the Farm to Family program. Jim Bates, chief financial officer of Fowler Packing in Fresno County, said “It’s a program we’ve been supporting for 20 years, starting with donations of peaches, plums and nectarines.”
“Unfortunately, 20 to 50 percent of the product we grow doesn’t make it to the marketplace,” Bates explained, “sometimes because of a very small cosmetic blemish. Bates says farmers like him really want to take advantage of these unmarketable crops and help the working poor in the Valley. “We don’t want to dump this product; we definitely want to donate it. So, we have developed contacts with the food banks and found ways to transport our products in cardboard bins, plastic bins—whatever they can take—and get it to them.”
Bates noted that Fowler Packing, which farms and ships tree fruit, including mandarins, and table grapes, is doing well, and the company would like to pay it back. “We have made big investments over the years; we’ve retooled our packing house, our mandarin and table grape operations are doing well, and we’ve had good times. We want to give back to the local community that has been so good in supporting us year in and year out.”
Andy Souza, president and CEO of the Community Food Bank in Fresno, noted the dramatically increased produce and meat donations from farming companies, “from almost 19 million pounds a year to almost 40 million pounds in the last three years. And yet, in our service area, we are only meeting about two-thirds of the need. We serve all five counties from the southern end of Kern County, including Tulare, Kings, and Fresno Counties, all the way to Madera County, and the need just continues to grow. We have seen the drought; we have seen the effect of changing commodities; and the impact on farm labor is a very natural part of an economy.”
Souza said Community Food Bank’s connection with those in need is critically important. “It is not just doubling the amount of pounds,” he elaborated, “it is the fact that for so many of the families we serve, we are the only source of fresh produce for them. And the result of not getting fresh produce is what we have seen in each of our five counties: childhood obesity rates over 40 percent.”
“It is rewarding for us to be the vehicle that actually touches the lives that these farming families are supporting. Without their support and donations, it would be an empty warehouse. We, in turn, provide the connection to our families in need. Our staff knows, on a very personal basis, the opportunity to hand fresh food, fresh produce, to families knowing it will be on their tables that evening,” Souza noted.
Souza said quite candidly, he has learned over the last five years, all he has to do is ask the farming industry for help. “The farming community, the ranching community—agriculture in general—is very giving if we ask. We have also learned you don’t ask the packing shed in August. By the time August rolls around, first, they are just incredibly busy; and secondly, they made those decisions in February. So we are learning and looking to the industry for great support and great help. We have been able to make an incredible partnership with the agricultural community here in the Valley.”
Souza said cash donations from companies and from the general public also help immensely because “the ability we have to stretch financial donations is incredible. For every dollar that is donated, we can provide seven meals for a family. If folks would love to come alongside us, we can be reached at communityfoodbank.net. There is a “Donate Now” button there, and we would love the opportunity for folks to partner with us. Right now we have just over 8,000 partners each year and we would love to see that number grow to 10-, 12- or even 15,000.”