Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month

In U.S., One-Third of all Available Food Goes Uneaten Through Loss or Waste. 

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) kick off Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month by calling for greater collaboration with public, private, and nonprofit partners as well as state and local officials to educate and engage consumers and stakeholders throughout the supply chain on the need to reduce food loss and waste.

In the U.S., more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Food is the single largest type of waste in our daily trash. In recent years, great strides have been made to highlight and mitigate food loss and waste, but the work has just begun. When food is tossed aside, so too are opportunities for economic growth, healthier communities, and environmental prosperity—but that can change through partnership, leadership, and action. Further elevating the importance of this issue, the recent announcement follows a Presidential Message from President Trump acknowledging the month of April as Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month and encouraging public action and participation from all sectors.

“Reducing food waste and redirecting excess food to people, animals, or energy production provide immediate benefits to public health and the environment. I am proud to join President Trump and my federal partners in recognizing April as Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said. “We are working closely with our federal partners and stakeholders across the nation to reduce the amount of food going to landfills and maximize the value of our food resources.”

“USDA alone cannot end food waste, it will require partners from across the supply chain working together on innovative solutions and consumer education. We need to feed our hungry world, and by reducing food waste, we can more wisely use the resources we have. I am pleased President Trump identified this issue as one of importance, and I look forward to USDA’s continued work with our agency partners at EPA and FDA to change behavior in the long term on food waste,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said.

“With 1 in 6 people getting a foodborne illness every year in the U.S. and up to 40 percent of food left uneaten, it’s understandable why food safety and food waste are major societal concerns,” FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas said. “The FDA is working to strengthen its collaboration and coordination with the EPA and USDA to strategically align our federal efforts between the two issues to better educate Americans on how to reduce food waste and how it can be done safely.”

As part of the month’s observances, on April 9, EPA will host a live-streamed event with USDA and FDA. Additional joint agency actions will be announced at the event regarding the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. At the event, a panel of food waste stakeholders will share how state and local communities can join the federal government in reducing food waste and loss.

USDA, EPA, and FDA invite public and private partners to participate in Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month through the following:

  • Join the conversation: Share your efforts with the #NoWastedFood hashtag in your social media posts throughout the month.
  • Educate your community: Learn about USDA, EPA, and FDA programs and resources to reduce food loss and waste.
  • Be a U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion: Join other corporate and business leaders who have made a public commitment to reducing food loss and waste in their U.S. operations by 50 percent by the year 2030.

The Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative is a collaborative effort among USDA, EPA, and FDA to reduce food loss and waste through combined and agency-specific action. Individually and collectively, these agencies contribute to the initiative, encourage long-term reductions, and work toward the goal of reducing food loss and waste in the United States. These actions include research, community investments, education and outreach, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, tool development, technical assistance, event participation, and policy discussion.

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Bill Lyons is New Agricultural Liaison

Lyons Has Been An Ambassador for California Ag

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Bill Lyons of Modesto has been appointed the Agricultural Liaison by Gavin Newsom, governor of California. Lyons has been the chief executive officer of Lyons Investment Management LLC since 1976. He previously served as the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 1999 to 2004.

Lyons was selected as the Western Regional Finalist for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. He won the 2010 Conservationist of the Year Award and received the United States Department of Agriculture National Environmentalist Award. He has an extensive background in agriculture and water policy. He will be working with the governor’s office on a multitude of projects.

“I have been appointed to be the governor’s Ag Liaison to work with agriculture, senior staff and the governor on a multitude of different policy issues and opportunities,” he said.

The governor has shown some interest in the San Joaquin Valley.

“As everyone has noticed, the governor is committed to the Central Valley,” Lyons said.

The governor is interested in clean drinking water, the success of agriculture, and affordable housing.

Lyons’s family has worked in the valley for over 90 years.

“We started out as a cattle operation and have transformed into a more diversified farming operation with almonds, walnuts, grapes, and diversity of row crops,” he said. “We’ve been here since 1923.”

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Strawberry Commission Oversees Valuable Crop

Strawberries in California

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Strawberries are California’s sixth most valuable crop which makes strawberry research a valuable tool for California farmers.  Mercy Olmsted is senior manager of production research and education at the California Strawberry Commission. Growers in the California Strawberry Commission have invested over $28 million into research. These include areas such as diseases, insects, and weeds—all in an effort to help solve production challenges and boost economic gains.

“We are a commission that’s funded by the growers, and so we do research that meets their research priorities,” Olmsted said.

So far, $13 million has been invested in research to explore alternatives to methyl bromide. The commission says that strawberry farmers continue to invest in researching fumigant alternatives.

“We also work with researchers. We have a robust grant program, and we work with those researchers in order to assist them in their field trials,” Olmsted explained.

Some of their researchers are in house, and others are from the USDA and university researchers.

“We develop training programs for our growers because we work for the growers. We can contact them as often as we need to, and we are able to see how things and research priorities might change in the industry,” Olmsted said. “There are a number of facilities and a board that helps direct research priorities and any necessary changes.”

For more information on strawberry research being done by the California Strawberry Commission visit calstrawberry.com.

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Table Grape Shipments Soar

California Table Grape Industry Continues Record-Breaking Shipping Season

News Release

California table grape growers shipped more than 27.7 million boxes into the worldwide marketplace from October 13 to November 30, the highest amount ever for the time period, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The previous seven-week shipment record during the same time period was set in 2013. Earlier this season, the five-week shipping record for the time period between September 8 through October 12 was broken.

The three-month period of September 1 to November 30 set another record with over 55 million boxes of grapes shipped—an all-time high, according to USDA, beating the previous record set in 2013 for this time period.

According to Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, an aggressive fall and winter promotion program continues, with shipments expected to continue through the end of January.

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USDA Purchases More Than $10 Million in California Table Grapes

Food Banks, Other Food Programs to Get Grapes as Part of Tariff Mitigation Program

New Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently completed a purchase of more than 450,000 boxes of California table grapes as part of its tariff mitigation program.

California table grapes were included in the USDA Food Purchasing Program for the first time as part of the mitigation program because of the 53 percent tariff imposed on U.S. grapes by China.CA Table Grapes

According to the most recent USDA data, shipments of California grapes to China are down 42.2 percent in volume and 41.2 percent in value in 2018 compared to 2017.

“The 2018 season has been a tough one for table grape growers,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. “The tariffs on table grapes have been painful, but the real harm has been caused by the fact that tariffs on multiple competing commodities, such as cherries, stone fruits, and apples, caused more fruit of all kinds to be sold in the domestic market. The USDA purchasing program comes at a good time for table grape growers and is appreciated.”

Table grape suppliers interested in participating in the food purchasing program had to go through a rigorous process to become a USDA vendor and then if approved, submit bids in a competitive process. Multiple Valley companies were awarded the opportunity to supply California grapes to customers across the country.

The grapes will be distributed to food banks and other food programs around the country, starting in December.

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Mexican Fruit Fly Quarantine in Portion of Los Angeles County

Three Flies Detected in Long Beach

CDFA News Release

A portion of Los Angeles County, including the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, has been placed under quarantine for the Mexican fruit fly following the detection of three flies, including two mated females, within the City of Long Beach. Mated females are significant because they indicate a breeding population that increases the risk of spread of this pest. CDFA is working collaboratively on this project with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.

The quarantine area measures 79 square miles, bordered on the north by CA-91; on the south by the Pacific Ocean; on the west by I-110; and on the east by Palo Verde Avenue. A link to the quarantine map may be found here: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/mexfly/regulation.html.

Sterile male Mexican fruit flies will be released in the area as part of the eradication effort. The release rate will be approximately 325,000 sterile males per square mile per week in an area up to 50 square miles around the infestation.  Sterile male flies mate with fertile female flies in the natural environment but produce no offspring. The Mexican fruit fly population decreases as the wild flies reach the end of their natural life span with no offspring to replace them, ultimately resulting in the eradication of the pest.  In addition, properties within 200 meters of detection sites are being treated with an organic formulation of Spinosad, which originates from naturally-occurring bacteria, in order to remove any mated female fruit flies and reduce the density of the population. Finally, fruit removal will occur within 100 meters of properties with larval detections and/or mated female detections.

The quarantine affects any growers, wholesalers, and retailers of susceptible fruit in the area as well as nurseries that grow and sell Mexican fruit fly host plants. Those businesses are all required to take steps to protect against the spread of the pest. At the Long Beach/Los Angeles ports, exports as well as imports may be impacted depending on specific circumstances. The quarantine will also affect local residents growing host commodities on their property. Movement of those commodities is not permitted. Residents are urged to consume homegrown produce on site. These actions protect against the spread of the infestation to nearby regions, where it could affect California’s food supply as well as backyard gardens and landscapes.

The Mexican fruit fly can infest more than 50 types of fruits and vegetables. For more information on this pest, please see a pest profile at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/MexFly.  Residents who believe their fruits and vegetables may be infested with fruit fly larvae are encouraged to call the state’s toll-free Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

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 invasive species to enter our state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers as they return from infested regions of the world.  To help protect California’s agriculture and natural resources, CDFA urges travelers to follow the Don’t Pack a Pest program guidelines (www.dontpackapest.com).

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Almond Export Diversification Helps During Tariff War

Overseas Markets are Vast for Almond Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Diversification is a strength, Richard Waycott, president of the Almond Board of California, told California Ag Today recently. The Almond Board of California is a nonprofit organization that administers a grower enacted federal marketing order under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When it comes to any losses due to a tariff war in China, the almonds can be redirected to other countries.

“It’s fortunate to be as diversified as we are. Always a strength of this industry is the diversification of our overseas markets,” Waycott said. “I think whatever volume we ultimately do lose—if we do lose volume to China—can be redirected and absorbed by other markets.”

The USDA has opened up a direct payment program to the almond industry if growers were to lose any money in a tariff war.

As those programs were announced, by far the largest piece of the pie, $6 billion, initially was directed to the soybean and corn growers and livestock, while the specialty crops were completely left out of it.

“We got together with the Almond Alliance of California and some of our industry members made a very concerted effort while there was still time to do so before the rules around these programs and those that got to participate were set in stone and were able to convince the powers that be … to open up to the direct payment program to almonds, and the sweet cherry industry did the same,” Waycott explained

Waycott also commented on the epic frost that hit almonds this past spring. And he is not sure of the impact on the crop.

“We realized that we don’t understand the impact of frost on almonds all that well because we saw one side of the street there was quite a bit of damage, while on the other side there was no damage. So I think there’s mother nature at work here that, you know, we don’t necessarily completely understand,” Waycott said.

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$102.7 Million Available to Help Expand Specialty Crops

USDA Funding Program to Help Support Local Projects

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Specialty crop growers in California may be able to use part of the $102.7 million available to support local projects and to help expand markets for specialty crops.

“Every state has agricultural priorities that contribute to the well-being of farm families, consumers and the economic health of rural America,” said Under Secretary Greg Ibach in a recent press release. “These programs target resources to the state, local and regional level where the people who understand the issues best can find solutions that help everyone.”

Resources to be apportioned include:
  • $72.15 million is directed to state departments of agriculture in 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to support farmers growing specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. States use the grant to fund research, agricultural extension activities and programs to increase demand for agricultural goods of value to farmers in the state or territory.
  • $13.35 million is directed to 49 projects supporting direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agri-tourism through the Farmers Market Promotion Program.
  • $13.45 million is directed to 44 projects to support the development and expansion of local and regional food businesses to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets through the Local Food Promotion Program.
  • $1.1 million is awarded for nine projects through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.

For more information about these programs, visit www.ams.usda.gov

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More Cooperation Regarding Citrus Health and HLB Disease

Citrus Health Response Program Discussed at UC Riverside

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

California Ag Today recently interviewed Joel Nelsen, president and CEO of the California Citrus Mutual. He spoke on his recent trip to UC Riverside about the Citrus Health Response Program. While speaking with USDA, they discussed the game plans that will be used to battle Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, which is vectored by an invasive insect called Asian Citrus Psyllid.

“We got into it, which I thought was an interesting discussion. What would growers do if in fact HLB was discovered in a grower’s orchard and what would the be obligated to do,” Nelsen said.

“And what came out of that discussion is that we are going to work with the USDA. We’re going to develop a war game scenario. We’re going to bring people into a room and start talking about it, just to see what the reactions were, and we’re going to challenge these individuals to do what needs to be done,” Nelsen explained. “We’re just going to have to figure out how best to address the industry and areas like this.”

Nelsen said that they discussed whether or not there was enough being done in that partnership with the homeowner. “We came to the conclusion that no, quite frankly the industry has been carrying that ball and that USDA and CDFA can do a little bit more in their role as government”

Tree removal and beneficial insects were also discussed.

“We talked about the continued trees being removed, and everybody was satisfied about that. We talked about whether or not beneficial insects can help in this situation. Surprisingly, the answer was pretty much no,” Nelsen explained. “Beneficial releases may help in an urban environment to a small extent, but from a commercial standpoint, it doesn’t help. So there were a lot of discussions, some debate, and most of all, some camaraderie that was developed as far as going forward.”

Nearly 400 trees in front and back yards of homes have been destroyed due to testing positive to HLB disease.

“They’re all in a clearly defined geographical area in Southern California,” Nelsen said. “So what we have is a lot of backyard adventures that bring in rootstock that unfortunately was diseased, and as a result of that, those individuals are the ones that are seeing problems associated with their own trees.”

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Farmers Encouraged to Fill Out Ag Census

2017 Ag Census Under Way

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Scot Rumburg, the Nevada State Statistician for the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. He stressed the importance of the 2017 Ag Census, which has recently been mailed out to anyone who makes a $1,000 or more from any agricultural enterprise.

“USDA has mailed four million copies of the census that will cover what we suspect is about three million farms. We have an over coverage of about one million trying to find everybody, trying to turn over every rock,” Rumburg said.

The Ag Census is conducted once every five years. The census is based off of any ag commodity, from bees and honey to crops, fruit and nuts to livestock of any type. If you produce or have the potential to produce $1,000, the statistic service wants to hear from you. There are people out there planting permanent plantings that are not up and running yet, but they are still considered.

The census is one of the only ways that the USDA can collect data.

“We have to try and get agriculture across the entire U.S. We do a lot of surveys between the five-year census,” Rumburg explained. “This is the only census where we go out and find every agricultural operator in the U.S., and it provides numbers and data that we cannot get on a regular survey.”

“There are people that want many different kinds of data to provide a near complete picture of what is going on in agriculture at nearly every level. The census is all- encompassing,” he said.

Many of the paper censuses arriving to farmers will direct them to an online digital census, by using a code that is given with the census. Operators are encouraged to use the online version.

The 2017 Ag Census is a reflection on 2017; it is not a future forecast. The census asks age, ethnicity, veteran status and many other items that give more information on American farms and farmers.

All farmers and those related to farms, including beekeeping operations, are encouraged to complete the census.

“Money for conservation programs and many other areas to be distributed at the national level is based on this data. It’s important for every operation to get the funding at, a minimum, the state level. All information is private and will not be disclosed to anyone,” Rumburg said.

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