Future farm bill hot topic of discussion on last day of Tulare World Ag Expo – from KFSN 30 Fresno

By Brian Johnson, KFSN

The third and final day of the 50th World Ag Expo was a wet one, but some found refuge in the theater of the Heritage Complex, site of an in depth discussion on the nation’s next farm bill. The presentation was hosted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“But we want to talk about the importance of nutrition and having access for all of our citizens to the healthy food that we grow. We want to talk about conservation, especially here in the Valley, the kinds of USDA programs have helped a lot with air quality and water quality issues,” said Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary.

Ross said the handful of listening sessions across the state are an opportunity to hear from farmers, ranchers, and consumers about what should be included in the next farm bill.

The current bill became effective in 2014 and expires next year.

Considering California’s long and punishing drought, Fresno County farmer Nikko Masumoto believes there should be a climate resilience title included in the next bill.

“Extreme weather conditions and the reality that those changes will and are already are disproportionately hurting rural communities, hurting communities of color, and hurting poorer communities.”

“Although many regulatory programs are the product of the farm bill, the farm bill can and should be used to ease regulation on ranchers,” said Jack Lavers, Glennville cattle rancher.

Richard Matoian is the Executive Director of American Pistachio Growers, which represents pistachio growers and processors in California and two other states.

For Thursday’s meeting, Matoian compiled a small list of their farm bill priorities, which included increasing funding for the market access program, which helps export American products and commodities around the world.

“Certainly a lot less than other nut commodities– we’d like to see that increased and we’re working towards that.”

There are two more farm bill sessions like the one at the Expo in Salinas and Los Angeles next week.

The CDFA will work with other state agencies, and eventually come up with a California position letter.

See the original post on KFSN’s site here.

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“California Thursdays” encourage school children to make healthier choices


Members of the Lodi Unified School District's nutrition services team at Delta Sierra Middle School in Stockton
Members of the Lodi Unified School District’s nutrition services team at Delta Sierra Middle School in Stockton

This month the Planting Seeds blog is featuring stories on food security, nutrition, and efforts to reduce food waste. CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork is committed to helping all Californians access healthy and nutritious California-grown food by connecting consumers, school districts, and others directly with California’s farmers and ranchers.

The “California Thursdays Network,” a statewide program that encourages and facilitates healthy choices for school lunches, is now working with 71 school districts and reaches more than 1.8 million students. It’s a collaboration between the districts and the Center for Ecoliteracy. The program works to improve food offerings by preparing meals using real ingredients sourced from California, including proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. These efforts are coordinated specifically on Thursdays, but they signify a commitment to this program every day during the school year.

On a recent Thursday in the Lodi Unified School District, CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork, a California Thursdays partner, joined undersecretary Jim Houston for an informational tour of the project, featuring its statewide “Collective Action Day.” School district students were served a hearty and fragrant Italian soup, Pasta e Fagioli. It was freshly prepared and made with California-grown food, including whole grain pasta and heirloom beans grown at a ranch farmed continuously since 1855 by a California family.

“It’s great to see the level of commitment everyone has taken to make California Thursdays a success,” said Undersecretary Houston. “There is a lot of hard work that goes into scratch cooking, but it is worth the time and effort.”

The California Thursdays project is making a wide-ranging impact that includes school district employees. “It is amazing to be able to trace your food to the source,” said Nick La Mattina  a regional supervisor for the Lodi Unified School District. “California has so much wonderful fresh food to offer. Why settle for something that was picked early?”

As for the school children, they enthusiastically devoured their soup and exited the festivities that day nourished, engaged, and excited about their next California Thursdays meal.

Thank you to the Center for Ecoliteracy for its assistance with this blog post. 


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Northern California fairs step-up in Lake Oroville crisis

Evacuees at the Glenn County Fairgrounds in Orland.

Evacuees at the Glenn County Fairgrounds in Orland.

When a fear of imminent disaster on February 12 led to mass evacuations in communities along the Feather River beneath Oroville Dam, tens of thousands of people were forced to clear out in a hurry, many with no place to go.

A number of Northern California fairs stepped-up at a moment’s notice to provide shelter for people and animals, including pets, horses and a few head of livestock. At the evacuation’s peak nearly seven-thousand people were housed at fairs in Chico, Grass Valley, Orland, Woodland, Colusa, Roseville, Auburn and Sacramento. Partnering with agencies like the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and local law enforcement, the fairs were able to provide a range of urgently needed services while people awaited the all-clear signal to head home.

There were plenty of examples of the resilience and generosity of the human spirit. At the Silver Dollar Fair in Chico, members of the Chico State University soccer team stopped by for a friendly work out with evacuees. At the Placer County Fair, a wedding was held. A dedicated crew of volunteers saw to it that an evacuated Olivehurst couple could get married as planned on Valentine’s Day.

The crisis at Lake Oroville is yet another example of how California’s network of fairs partners with local communities. The fairs are much more than a place to congregate and celebrate. They are bonafide public assets; essential institutions that serve Californians in many important ways.

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A Farm Bill for everyone

CDFA’s series of Farm Bill listening sessions continues this week in Tulare, with the next one scheduled on Thursday during the annual World Ag Expo. The final two meetings in this round are scheduled next week in Salinas and Los Angeles. In this video, CDFA shows how the Farm Bill’s benefits extend well beyond farming and ranching; how it is truly a Farm Bill for everyone.

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The facts about food product dating – from the USDA

Best byThis month the Planting Seeds blog is featuring stories on food security, nutrition, and efforts to reduce food waste. CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork is committed to helping all Californians access healthy and nutritious California-grown food by connecting consumers, school districts, and others directly with California’s farmers and ranchers.

The USDA estimates that 30 percent of the food supply is lost or wasted at the retail and consumer levels. One source is of this consumers or retailers throwing away wholesome food because of confusion about the meaning of dates displayed on the label.

What is Food Product Dating? 

Two types of product dating may be shown on a product label. “Open Dating” is a calendar date applied to a food product by the manufacturer or retailer. The calendar date provides consumers with information on the estimated period of time for which the product will be of best quality and to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale. “Closed Dating” is a code that consists of a series of letters and/or numbers applied by manufacturers to identify the date and time of production.

Does Federal Law Require Dating? 
Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by federal regulations. For meat, poultry, and egg products under the jurisdiction of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), dates may be voluntarily applied provided they are labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and in compliance with FSIS regulations1. To comply, a calendar date must express both the month and day of the month. In the case of shelf-stable and frozen products, the year must also be displayed. Additionally, immediately adjacent to the date must be a phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as “Best if Used By.”

Are Dates for Food Safety or Quality?
Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.

How do Manufacturers Determine Quality Dates?
Factors including the length of time and the temperature at which a food is held during distribution and offered for sale, the characteristics of the food, and the type of packaging will affect how long a product will be of optimum quality. Manufacturers and retailers will consider these factors when determining the date for which the product will be of best quality.

For example, sausage formulated with certain ingredients used to preserve the quality of the product or fresh beef packaged in a modified atmosphere packaging system that helps ensure that the product will stay fresh for as long as possible. These products will typically maintain product quality for a longer period of time because of how the products are formulated or packaged.

The quality of perishable products may deteriorate after the date passes, however, such products should still be safe if handled properly. Consumers must evaluate the quality of the product prior to its consumption to determine if the product shows signs of spoilage.

What Date-Labeling Phrases are Used?
There are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for open dating in the United States. As a result, there are a wide variety of phrases used on labels to describe quality dates.

Examples of commonly used phrases:

  • A “Best if Used By/Before” indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.

What Date-Labeling Phrase does FSIS Recommend?
USDA estimates food loss and waste at 30 percent of the food supply lost or wasted at the retail and consumer levels. One source of food waste arises from consumers or retailers throwing away wholesome food because of confusion about the meaning of dates displayed on the label. To reduce consumer confusion and wasted food, FSIS recommends that food manufacturers and retailers that apply product dating use a “Best if Used By” date. Research shows that this phrase conveys to consumers that the product will be of best quality if used by the calendar date shown. Foods not exhibiting signs of spoilage should be wholesome and may be sold, purchased, donated and consumed beyond the labeled “Best if Used By” date.

Safety After Date Passes
With an exception of infant formula (described below), if the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident. Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.

Can Food be Donated After the Date Passes?
Yes. The quality of perishable products may deteriorate after the date passes but the products should still be wholesome if not exhibiting signs of spoilage. Food banks, other charitable organizations, and consumers should evaluate the quality of the product prior to its distribution and consumption to determine whether there are noticeable changes in wholesomeness (Food Donation Safety Tips).


Link to USDA web page

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Bureau of Medical Cannabis accepting applications for Cannabis Advisory Committee

The Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (BMCR) today announced that it is now accepting applications for the Cannabis Advisory Committee to advise the bureau on matters relating to both medical and adult recreational use of cannabis.

The committee will advise BMCR and the other licensing authorities – the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Department of Public Health – on the development of regulations that protect public health and safety while ensuring a regulated market that helps reduce the illicit market for cannabis. In addition, starting January 1, 2019, the committee will also publish an annual public report describing its activities the previous year, including any recommendations it makes to the state licensing authorities.

Committee members are selected by and serve at the pleasure of the Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs. The committee will consist of representatives from diverse backgrounds, including the cannabis industry, labor, state and local agencies, public health experts, representatives from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control with expertise in regulating intoxicating substances for adult use, individuals with expertise in the medicinal properties of cannabis and representatives from communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policy, among others.

Members will not be paid but will be reimbursed for any necessary travel for approved advisory committee meetings.

Individuals interested in serving on the committee can access the application online at http://www.bmcr.ca.gov/about_us/documents/commitee_application.pdf

For additional information about BMCR, or to subscribe to email alerts to hear about updates as they become available, please visit our website – http://www.bmcr.ca.gov/.


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Robot bees may help with pollination – from the Los Angeles Times

The robot bee being developed in Japan looks nothing like a bee, but scientists hope it can pollinate like the real thing.

The robot bee being developed in Japan looks nothing like a bee, but scientists hope it can pollinate like the real thing.

By Amina Khan

One day, gardeners might not just hear the buzz of bees among their flowers, but the whirr of robots, too. Scientists in Japan say they’ve managed to turn an unassuming drone into a remote-controlled pollinator by attaching horsehairs coated with a special, sticky gel to its underbelly.

The system, described in the journal Chem, is nowhere near ready to be sent to agricultural fields, but it could help pave the way to developing automated pollination techniques at a time when bee colonies are suffering precipitous declines.

In flowering plants, sex often involves a threesome. Flowers looking to get the pollen from their male parts into another bloom’s female parts need an envoy to carry it from one to the other. Those third players are animals known as pollinators — a diverse group of critters that includes bees, butterflies, birds and bats, among others.

Animal pollinators are needed for the reproduction of 90% of flowering plants and one third of human food crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Chief among those are bees — but many bee populations in the United States have been in steep decline in recent decades, likely due to a combination of factors, including agricultural chemicals, invasive species and climate change. Just last month, the rusty patched bumblebee became the first wild bee in the United States to be listed as an endangered species.

Thus, the decline of bees isn’t just worrisome because it could disrupt ecosystems, but also because it could disrupt agriculture and the economy. People have been trying to come up with replacement techniques, the study authors say, but none of them are especially effective yet — and some might do more harm than good.

“One pollination technique requires the physical transfer of pollen with an artist’s brush or cotton swab from male to female flowers,” the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, this requires much time and effort. Another approach uses a spray machine, such as a gun barrel and pneumatic ejector. However, this machine pollination has a low pollination success rate because it is likely to cause severe denaturing of pollens and flower pistils as a result of strong mechanical contact as the pollens bursts out of the machine.”

Scientists have thought about using drones, but they haven’t figured out how to make free-flying robot insects that can rely on their own power source without being attached to a wire.

“It’s very tough work,” said senior author Eijiro Miyako, a chemist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.

Miyako’s particular contribution to the field involves a gel, one he’d considered a mistake 10 years before. The scientist had been attempting to make fluids that could be used to conduct electricity, and one attempt left him with a gel that was as sticky as hair wax. Clearly this wouldn’t do, and so Miyako stuck it in a storage cabinet in an uncapped bottle. When it was rediscovered a decade later, it looked exactly the same – the gel hadn’t dried up or degraded at all.

“I was so surprised, because it still had a very high viscosity,” Miyako said.

The chemist noticed that when dropped, the gel absorbed an impressive amount of dust from the floor. Miyako realized this material could be very useful for picking up pollen grains. He took ants, slathered the ionic gel on some of them and let both the gelled and ungelled insects wander through a box of tulips. Those ants with the gel were far more likely to end up with a dusting of pollen than those that were free of the sticky substance.

The next step was to see if this worked with mechanical movers, as well. He and his colleagues chose a four-propeller drone whose retail value was $100, and attached horsehairs to its smooth surface to mimic a bee’s fuzzy body. They coated those horsehairs in the gel, and then maneuvered the drones over Japanese lilies, where they would pick up the pollen from one flower and then deposit the pollen at another bloom, thus fertilizing it.

The scientists looked at the hairs under a scanning electron microscope and counted up the pollen grains attached to the surface. They found that the robots whose horsehairs had been coated with the gel had on the order of 10 times more pollen than those hairs that had not been coated with the gel.

“A certain amount of practice with remote control of the artificial pollinator is necessary,” the study authors noted.

Miyako does not think such drones would replace bees altogether, but could simply help bees with their pollinating duties.

“In combination is the best way,” he said.

There’s a lot of work to be done before that’s a reality, however. Small drones will need to become more maneuverable and energy efficient, as well as smarter, he said — with better GPS and artificial intelligence, programmed to travel in highly effective search-and-pollinate patterns.

Link to story

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Video with Secretary Ross – Farm Bill is for everyone

CDFA is in the midst of a series of Farm Bill listening sessions to discuss California’s priorities in advance of next year’s consideration of a new Farm Bill. The first sessions occurred this week in Modesto and Chico, with the final three on February 16 in Tulare, February 22 in Salinas, and February 23 in Los Angeles. In this video following last night’s meeting, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross discussed how the Farm Bill truly impacts every Californian.

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California exports finished 2016 on a high note but dropped slightly from previous year – the California Trade Report

Almonds are California leading agricultural export.

Almonds are California’s leading agricultural export.


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California’s commitment to reducing food waste

wasted food

This month the Planting Seeds blog is featuring stories on food security, nutrition, and efforts to reduce food waste. CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork is committed to helping all Californians access healthy and nutritious California-grown food by connecting consumers, school districts, and others directly with California’s farmers and ranchers. This story is about CalRecycle’s program to enlist Californians in limiting food waste.  

Californians throw away nearly 6 million tons of food scraps or food waste each year. This represents about 18 percent of all the material that goes to landfills. In order for California to reach its goal of 75% source reduction, recycling and composting, food waste must be addressed.

California’s Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling law requires businesses to recycle their organic waste. The links below provide more information on food waste management as well as examples of how various business groups and public entities are managing food waste.

Everyone has a role in saving resources and wasting less food. Creative food rescue projects like the UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign work to save healthy fruits and vegetables from becoming waste. Rather than throwing away excess food, find ways to manage it more thoughtfully, such as working with groups to ensure that it goes to disadvantaged people, and composting for soil restoration. To further educate the public about food waste, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council have initiated a food waste reduction campaign known as Savethefood.com. Their web site offers a complete media kit with posters, videos, social media postings, and more.

CalRecycle conducted two workshops in support of a proposed Food Waste Prevention and Rescue grant program; follow the progress of that program.

CalRecycle has been working to reduce food waste since at least 2002, when its predecessor agency conducted a Food Diversion Summit.


Information for restaurants on managing food scraps.


Information for households on managing food scraps.


Information for colleges/universities and K-12 on managing food scraps.

US EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy

Ranks food donations to feed hungry people as a top priority to help reduce wasted food.

Stadiums/Special Events

Information for stadiums, fairs, festivals, and catered events on managing food scraps.

Health Care Industry

Information for the health care industry on managing food scraps.

Grocery Stores

Information for grocery stores on donating edible food to disadvantaged communities.

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