CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and Ag Leaders meet with Governor Brown on Trade Tariffs

State Board President Don Cameron, left, next to Governor Brown and CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. Other meeting attendees included: Rob Yraceburu, Wonderful Orchards LLC; Carolyn Wasem, Jackson Family Wines; David Ahlem, Hilmar Cheese Company; Dan Sumner, UC Ag Issues Center; Mike Gallo, Joseph Gallo Farms; Aaron Lange, Lange Twins; Jonathan Hoff, Monte Vista Farming; Frank Muller, Muller Ranch; Rayne Thompson, Sunkist Growers and Fruit Growers Supply Company and Paul Wenger, Wenger Ranch.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and State Board of Food and Agriculture President Don Cameron joined a group of agricultural leaders yesterday to discuss trade issues and tariff impacts with California Governor Jerry Brown. California is the largest agricultural producer and exporter in the nation. Recent trade actions by China and other foreign governments to increase tariffs will have a large potential trade impact on the state’s farmers, ranchers and farmworkers.

Farm leaders and the governor discussed the need for a quick federal resolution on tariff and trade negotiations given the quickly approaching shipping season for a variety of California products.  California exports 100 percent of the nation’s table grapes and tree nuts, 91 percent of wine, 56 percent of citrus and more than 31 percent of the nation’s dairy products. Tariffs are not only impacting current shipments, but also food processing and canning with increased steel costs as well as other rising on-farm expenses.

California farmers and ranchers are seeking immediate resolution to the ongoing tariff and trade re-negotiations to keep exports growing and farmers farming. Every dollar of agricultural exports stimulate another $1.28 in business activity, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture. California exports more than $20 billion in agricultural products.

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State offering $57 million in grants to food processors to improve energy efficiency – from the Sacramento Business Journal

By Mark Anderson

The state of California is offering $57 million in grants to help the food processing industry cut emissions and energy use.

“This type of support not only helps the industry reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions, but it helps the industry remain competitive so jobs associated with food production remain in California,” said California Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller, in a news release.

Food processing is one of largest users of energy in California, according to the California Energy Commission. That use included 7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 500 million therms of natural gas in 2015. That scale of energy use is not surprising since agriculture is a $46 billion industry in California that generates $100 billion in related economic activity, according to the energy commission.

The grant program is the result of last year’s Assembly Bill 109, which created the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

“We have had a lot of interest from the industry,” said Cyrus Ghandi, energy analyst with the California Energy Commission. “We expect a good turnout.”

There are two tiers of grant money available: one for drop-in replacements and another for emerging technology. Applications are due Aug. 31.

Up to $33 million is available for tier-one grants for commercially available, energy-efficient equipment upgrades that are drop-in replacements or additions to existing equipment. The awards will range from $100,000 to $3 million, and require a minimum 35 percent match.

Up to $24 million is available in tier-two grants for emerging technologies not widely employed in California but proven elsewhere to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Those awards will range from $2 million to $8 million, and require at least a 15 percent match.

Link to Sacramento Business Journal

 

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How women helped save agriculture 100 years ago – from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

By Joe Blackstock

One of World War II’s civilian heroes was the iconic Rosie the Riveter, who represented the thousands of women building planes and ships during the war.

But Rosie’s “mother” shouldered a similar, mostly forgotten role during World War I, helping to save the products of the Inland Empire’s agricultural fields.

One hundred years ago this month, the region’s farms were threatened by the loss of men away fighting the war in Europe. Wartime restrictions also meant fewer foreign workers — mostly Mexicans, Japanese and residents of India — were available.

Coming to the rescue was the little-remembered Women’s Land Army, organized groups of volunteer women — many from local colleges — assembled to work in farms to keep the flow of food going for both military and civilian needs.

The concept grew from a program in Britain where virtually every man was in uniform, forcing women to work the fields and produce food. After the U.S. entered the war in 1917,  it was tried mostly in the East that summer and expanded to other regions the following year. In all, from 15,000 to 20,000 women — called “Farmerettes” — took part in 40 states, according to the National Women’s History Museum.

School teacher Mary Coontz of Pomona was one of the first to become a Farmerette. Coontz, “a sturdy athletic, young lady,” noted the Los Angeles Times of July 3, 1918, enlisted as a truck or tractor driver for the summer but also worked in the fields near San Bernardino.

The article called her a real patriot — “She says the soldier boys need home backing, and that she can do her bit by helping with farm work, as well as by carrying a gun.”

There was no shortage of work. Twenty Occidental College students were assigned to work in the fruit orchards in Lake Elsinore on July 2, 1918, while others were sent to the Hemet area. Six came to ranches in Ontario with more expected in a few days, reported that day’s San Bernardino Sun.

In September, manager James Wolstencroft of the Walnut Fruit Growers Exchange received 10 “Land Army” women, with a matron in charge, from Los Angeles. They worked with the walnut crop in packing houses, reported the Times of Sept. 15.

The biggest impact locally came at a camp set up early in July at Cucamonga Elementary School on Archibald Avenue in Cucamonga. As many as 77 women — many from Los Angeles Normal School (the future UCLA) — were housed there. They worked during summer break packing apricots and peaches at the Golden State Canning Co., and later went nearby to pick grapes.

The women wore “khaki uniforms, combination skirts and trousers with leggings and heavy shoes. Khaki hats adorned their heads,” noted the Ontario Daily Report of July 6.

Women’s Land Army rules required an eight-hour work day “and demanded that farmers pay women the same wages as male laborers,” noted the National Women’s History Museum.

The young women caused quite a stir in Cucamonga’s otherwise quiet agricultural area. Their camp quickly became a magnet for every young man with a car.

“Archibald Avenue, near the Santa Fe spot in Cucamonga, is trembling under unaccustomed traffic,” wrote the Daily Report on July 16. “Storms of autos from Ontario, Upland and Cucamonga are burning the pavement out East Tenth Street and East A Street headed for the mecca of the Farmerettes.”

The Farmerettes had a strict 9:30 p.m. weeknight curfew which was extended to midnight on Saturdays. They were invited to “jitney dances” and other activities in Upland, usually under the watchful eye of chaperones. Some were allowed to go unaccompanied but only in groups of at least three.

“It is said the girls of Ontario and Upland are protesting because the boys all dance with the Farmerettes,” joked the Daily Report.

The young women on July 13 put on a musical show for all of Cucamonga, with a variety of instrumental solos and songs, followed, of course, by many being escorted to dances in the area.

In the latter part of 1918 — just weeks before war’s end — there was still a need for women to pick dates in Indio and grapes at Delano. Four offices were set up in San Bernardino, Ontario, Redlands and Barstow where women could sign up to work, reported the Sun on Sept. 15.

The Women’s Land Army operated through the following year but was disbanded in 1920.

Of course, just because so many women were doing hard work didn’t mean there wasn’t still a bit of sexism around, even among themselves.

An item in the Los Angeles Times of May 17, 1918, about the Women’s Land Army reported a remarkable observation about the work habits of blondes:

“Blonde women hold their own with brunettes when it comes to willingness to undertake farm work is the discovery by Mrs. M.D. Carr, chairman of the Pasadena Branch of the Women’s Land Army.”

Equality ruled, at least in the Women’s Land Army.

Link to story

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USDA makes nearly $2 billion available for farmers and ranchers affected by wildfires and hurricanes

The USDA has announced that agricultural producers affected by hurricanes and wildfires in 2017 now may apply for assistance to help recover and rebuild their farming operations. Sign-ups began July 16, 2018 and will continue through November 16, 2018.

“Hurricanes and wildfires caused billions of dollars in losses to America’s farmers last year. Our objective is to get relief funds into the hands of eligible producers as quickly as possible,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We are making immediate, initial payments of up to 50 percent of the calculated assistance so producers can pay their bills.”

Additional payments will be issued, if funds remain available, later in the year.

The program, known as the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP) was authorized by Congress earlier this year by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

Eligible crops, trees, bushes, or vines, located in a county declared in a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or Secretarial Disaster Designation as a primary county are eligible for assistance if the producer suffered a loss as a result of a 2017 hurricane.

Also, losses located in a county not designated as a primary county may be eligible if the producer provides documentation showing that the loss was due to a hurricane or wildfire in 2017. Eligibility will be determined by Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees.

Agricultural production losses due to conditions caused by last year’s wildfires and hurricanes, including excessive rain, high winds, flooding, mudslides, fire, and heavy smoke, could qualify for assistance through the program. Typically, 2017 WHIP is only designed to provide assistance for production losses, however, if quality was taken into consideration under the insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) policy, where production was further adjusted, the adjusted production will be used in calculating assistance under this program.

Eligible crops include those for which federal crop insurance or NAP coverage is available, excluding crops intended for grazing. A list of crops covered by crop insurance is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Actuarial Information Browser at webapp.rma.usda.gov/apps/actuarialinformationbrowser.

Eligibility will be determined for each producer based on the size of the loss and the level of insurance coverage elected by the producer. A WHIP factor will be determined for each crop based on the producer’s coverage level. Producers who elected higher coverage levels will receive a higher WHIP factor.

Link to full USDA news release

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Video – Bird enthusiast explains critical importance of Virulent Newcastle Disease eradication program in Southern California (in English and Spanish)

Please click here for more information about Virulent Newcastle Disease.

Please click here for more information about Virulent Newcastle Disease.

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Applications now open for 2019 Nuffield International Farming Scholarships

Nuffield International Farming Scholars is pleased to announce that applications for 2019 scholarships are now open, and farmers and agricultural professionals are strongly encouraged to apply.

Prospective Nuffield Scholars are men and women in agriculture with a desire to explore the global industry and find new best practices and insight they can bring back home with them. Scholars are typically between the ages of 25 and 45 with direct engagement in the agriculture industry. Applications for the 2019 program are due by 30 September 2018.

Available scholarships:

  1. Supported by TIAA-CREF Global Agriculture – open to farmers and agribusiness professionals from USA, Brazil and Chile. The applicant must nominate to study one of the following topics:
    • Disruption to conventional farming systems from new technology.
    • Models for institutional investors capital to provide opportunities for young and family farmers.
    • Mixed farming systems and their relevance in sustainable farming systems in the future.
    • Natural capital / valuing natural capital and its intrinsic contribution to land values.
    • Quality standards and certification as a reference of sustainability and their importance to farmers and landowners.
    • How to maintain and Improve Soil Health
    • Sustainable Water Use Practices (Irrigation).
  2. Supported by Nufarm – open to a Brazilian farmer or agricultural professional.
  3. Supported by Grupo Bom Futuro* – open to Brazilian farmers and agribusiness professionals with a focus on biological solutions.
  4. Supported by Cooperfibra Cooperative* – open for a Brazilian farmer and agribusiness professional directly involved in Cooperfibra, or someone able to directly add long-term value to the cooperative.
  5. Supported by a group of Brazilian companies* – open to Brazilian farmers and agribusiness professionals.
  6. Supported by Iowa Corn, Iowa Pork, National Pork and Iowa Farm Bureau* – open to Iowa farmers and agribusiness professionals.
  7. Supported by a US company – open to USA farmers and agribusiness professionals to study labor efficiency in permanent planting primary production .
  8. Supported by a Delaware coalition of farmers, the agricultural industry and farm organizations* – open for a Delaware farmer or agricultural professional to study one of the following topics:
    • Advances in broiler production.
    • Production and profit improvement in grain and soybean production.
    • Synergies for agriculture/environment intersection.
  9. Supported by a US Organic Coalition* – open to organic farmers and agribusiness professionals in the USA.
  10. Supported by a coalition of agricultural industry and farm organizations in the country of Georgia* – open to a Georgian farmer or agricultural professional.
  11. Supported by an Armenian coalition of agricultural industry and farm organizations* – open to an Armenian farmer or agricultural professional.

Through the Nuffield Internatonal program, agriculturalists can connect with other Scholars from the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, South Africa, USA and other invited nations.

Nuffield Scholars connect with industry leaders traveling with them in 2019, as well as a global network of more than 1,700 Scholars around the world.

Link for more information

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Annual Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program underway: improving nutrition, health for seniors

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/sfmnp

California’s certified farmers’ markets are great places to give your diet a nutrition boost. CDFA’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program helps low-income seniors accomplish just that. It’s a 100 percent federally-funded program that provides check booklets that low-income seniors may use to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables along with specialty items such as fresh-cut herbs and honey. The program began in May and runs through the end of November.

The program is a continuing partnership with 31 Area Agencies on Aging, and together we will distribute approximately 42,000 check booklets this year. Each booklet is valued at $20. On average, the statewide redemption rate has been 92 percent. That’s good news for vendors at the markets, but the real payoff is improved nutrition and health for low-income seniors.

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Insect invaders and global trade – from Growing Produce

Insect invaders in California – Asian Citrus Psyllids.

By David Eddy

EXCERPTED

As Japan rebuilt its economy in the decades following World War II, it shipped goods to U.S. consumers who loved the low prices. In more recent decades, China has taken Japan’s role as the low-cost shipper to the U.S. The way Hannah Burrack sees it, it just makes sense we have all these invasive pests from Asia.

“We get our bugs from where we get our stuff, and if we continue to do that, we will continue to get greater numbers of pests,” she says. “That’s basically the bottom line.”

Burrack, an Entomology Professor and Extension Specialist at North Carolina State University, is not alone in her assessment. On the other side of the country, Mark Hoddle notes it’s not just the shipments of goods that are bringing in pests. An Extension Specialist in Biological Control at the University of California, Riverside, he points out that 61 million people use the Los Angeles International Airport each year, with international flights to 58 countries.

We think it’s all boiling down to travel, especially tourism and trade,” he says. “There are lots of opportunities for those pests to come in.”

Though Hoddle, too, says he sees more pests coming in with cargo than on suitcases. Modern technology, one of the drivers of our global economy, is certainly having an effect.

“In the old days, ships would take three months to go halfway around the world — the pests might starve,” he says. “These boats are much faster and stop at more places; that’s why it’s happening.”

And make no mistake, it is happening. Hoddle says until 1989, six new arthropods entered the U.S. per year through California alone. That figure went up to an average of nine per year between 1990 and 2010, a 50% increase. According to the Entomological Society of America, invasive species are responsible for up to 50% of the crop losses in California, a state that produces half the nation’s fruit and nut crops.

As for the nation as a whole, the society estimates the U.S. is adding about 11 new exotic species each year, with about seven of those being important pests. Overall, it estimates that invasive species — including both insects and weeds — cost the U.S. more than $122 billion per year.

Four of these invasive insects from Asia have garnered a lot of attention, both because they are relatively new to the U.S., and because they have the potential to do a lot of destruction. We talked to entomologists around the country to gain better insight on these pests: spotted wing drosophila (SWD), brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), and the newest member, spotted lanternfly (SLF).

Asian Citrus Psyllid
Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) has wreaked havoc on the Florida citrus industry, where it landed 20 years ago just north of the port of Miami. Hurricanes have since spread ACP throughout the state, along with the incurable disease it carries, Huanglongbing (HLB).

ACP spread to Texas in 2001 and arrived in California’s San Diego County in 2008. In the decade since, the $2 billion California citrus industry has spent millions to find ways to defeat the pest and limit HLB. For now, they are winning, but how long that will last is anyone’s guess.

The industry has been successful so far because it has been aggressive in going after ACP in the San Joaquin Valley, where most of the state’s commercial citrus groves are found. Another factor in their favor is ACP prefers the warm, uniform Southern California climate to the San Joaquin Valley (SJV), which is more extreme.

Hoddle, the specialist in biological control at UC Riverside, takes full advantage of the warmer, more moderate climate. He has made several trips to places like Pakistan in search of such parasitoids as Tamarixia radiata, a wasp.

Hoddle says he and his team just finished studying three years of data, and while ACP is continuing to spread, it’s been slowed in part because of biocontrols. They think the parasitic wasps have cut the population by 70% in Southern California backyards.

“We can’t say definitively it has led to the slower rate of the psyllid, but there are fewer of them around, so it stands to reason,” he says. “There still haven’t been any blow-ups in commercial citrus, and that’s the idea. We’re buying the growers’ time by fighting this battle in these urban areas.”

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
BMSB (Halyomorpha halys) is perhaps the most familiar of the four because it is so pervasive. Since initially landing in Pennsylvania, it’s now found in 44 states, “everywhere but the plains and deserts,” says Jim Walgenbach, a North Carolina State University Extension Entomologist who is Director of a USDA project, Management of BMSB on U.S. Specialty Crops.

It’s an intensive national effort, with a team of more than 50 researchers from around the country. With the catchy website, StopBMSB.org, they have a national monitoring program to find where BMSB is established and where it’s expanding, as well as modeling populations to find the greatest risks to specialty crops.

Researchers have traps set in 300 locations, “from New York to Georgia, California to Washington, and almost everything in between,” Walgenbach says.

They intensify efforts wherever they are needed. Last year, for the first time, BMSB went after northern Utah tree fruits, and this year the big concern is California tree nuts. In fact, just recently, BMSB has been targeting almonds. In the near future, they plan to set additional traps in Michigan.

Researchers are now focused on a biological control program, which they believe is critical, Walgenbach says. It revolves around the samurai wasp, which attacks BMSB eggs. It’s a native of Asia, where it causes a high degree of mortality. In the U.S., it was first picked up in 2014 in Maryland.

Walgenbach says the parasite represents the greatest potential to reduce populations. Most of the natural enemies of our native stinkbugs are poorly adapted to BMSB and won’t be nearly as much help as the samurai wasp.

“We don’t expect it to wipe them out,” he says. “But instead of a serious large invasion, populations will be reduced and only occasionally reach pest status and require supplemental control.”

Spotted Lanternfly
Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) is by far the newest of the four to the U.S., having been discovered in 2014. Like BMSB, it was initially found in Pennsylvania.

Why both in Pennsylvania? One explanation put forth by Penn State Tree Fruit Research Entomologist David Biddinger is both were found somewhat near Philadelphia, the busiest port on the Eastern Seaboard.

Since then there have been detections in several nearby states, which doesn’t surprise Sven-Erik Spichiger, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Entomology Program Manager.

“It is such a good hitchhiker,” Spichiger says, echoing what others have said. “There’s a great possibility there are populations that haven’t been found.”

SLF is unique. It is from a group of insects that are tropical and aren’t economic pests. Out of 900 fulgoroid species, also known as lanternflies — most closely related to leafhoppers in the U.S. — SLF is the only economic pest. No fulgoroids are found naturally in Pennsylvania.

Spotted Wing Drosophila
SWD has become enemy No. 1 in many of the nation’s small fruits, including cherries and berries. But in some places the pest is more difficult to battle than others. In the arid West it is still very much a threat, but generally easier to deal with than in areas of the East and Midwest where rain can wash away pesticide sprays.

In Michigan, tart cherries represent an even bigger problem than sweet cherries, says Michigan State University’s Nikki Rothwell. With such tight margins, pesticide sprays are tough to afford. Rothwell, who serves as Coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, says tart cherry growers have one thing going for them: SWD doesn’t get active until temperatures get warm.

“If growers can harvest before they hit, fine,” she says. “But if harvest goes long because of a big crop, we see SWD populations grow exponentially.”

“They seem to like the dense canopy, lots of shade, high humidity, but still nice and warm,” she says. “Pressure was really heavy in those blocks with 15-year-old trees that hadn’t been pruned in years.”

Link to full article

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How California’s farm labor shortage made friends of old rivals – from the Los Angeles Times

Farm workers boarding buses in Monterey County.
From Associated Press

By Geoffrey Mohan

D’Arrigo Bros. and the United Farm Workers once took more than 25 years to reach a contract, and for many years afterward they communicated mostly through court filings and job actions.

 

But the top leafy green grower in California’s Salinas Valley and the national union founded by Cesar Chavez just inked a three-year contract amid fanfare and pledges of a new era of cooperation.

 

The deal came after the aging patriarchs on both sides — family scion and company President John D’Arrigo and longtime UFW President Arturo Rodriguez — engaged in months of personal diplomacy this year, each seeking to relieve the economic pressures that threaten their viability, including a shrinking farm labor force.

 

“Arturo and I, you know, we’re getting too old to fight,” said D’Arrigo, 60, whose grandfather co-founded the company in 1927. “There’s always been a lot of propaganda, and a lot of things said — some of them true and some of them not true. All of that is in the past. We shook hands and we’re moving on.”

 

The newfound comity, however, springs as much from economic exhaustion as from each leaders’ respective reckonings with longevity. The UFW will boost its income from membership dues and the number of paid subscribers to its state-subsidized health insurance program.

 

The UFW also further burnishes its reputation after several bruising battles to keep workers from voting it out of farms, and a costly legal judgment it has been forced to pay its own organizers.

 

“We both came to agreement that it was much better for us to collaborate and work together, that we could accomplish far more than both of us spending so much money on attorneys and legal issues — and in the end nobody really gains,” said Rodriguez, 69.

 

 

For D’Arrigo Bros., the deal could help stem millions of dollars in losses from crops that have been plowed under because of a persistent shortage of workers, who are growing older and not being replaced by new immigrants.

The contract also gives D’Arrigo some shelter from the state’s new rules on overtime pay, which exempt farmworkers covered by collective bargaining agreements.

 

With about 38,000 acres under cultivation in the Salinas and Imperial valleys, D’Arrigo is trying to fortify its permanent workforce and rely less on seasonal contract labor, including foreign workers recruited under the agricultural guest worker program known as H-2A.

 

“Up here all of us are competing for the same worker,” D’Arrigo said of the Salinas Valley. “We’re not solving the problem at all. People are moving around going from company to company but we’re still short.”

 

D’Arrigo is not alone. Growers have been offering sharply higher wages, while some offer subsidized housing, contributions to 401(k) savings plans and similar perks unheard of in the days of Chavez, who was jailed in Salinas during the often-violent lettuce boycotts of the 1970s.

 

Wages for crop production in California increased 13% from 2010 to 2015, twice as fast as average pay in the state, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

Labor contractors involved in high-value crops such as wine grapes are essentially four years ahead of the state’s minimum-wage law, offering $14 per hour, which won’t be required until 2022.

 

California’s growers also have recruited record numbers of foreign workers on seasonal H-2A visas — more than 14,000 last year alone, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

Temporary foreign workers have long been anathema to the UFW. Chavez famously fought to end the bracero program that brought millions of Mexican temporary laborers north in the decades after World War II, depressing wages for the largely immigrant workforce already north of the border.

 

For all the fanfare that came with last week’s signing, the hourly wage increases in the contract are relatively modest: $13.35 next year (retroactive to last April), rising to $14.40 by the third and final year.

 

Rodriguez said the union placed a higher priority on getting D’Arrigo to pay for family coverage through the UFW’s Robert F. Kennedy Farm Workers Medical Plan, a cost Rodriguez estimated at more than $600 per worker.

“Workers felt like: We can go to a doctor and blow an increase in one visit,” Rodriguez said. “So they felt it was more important to place value on the family medical plan and the vision and dental plan.”

 

The plan, which covers an estimated 13,000 workers, receives a $3-million annual subsidy from the state, in part to bring its claim limits into compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act — a deal the UFW pushed in Sacramento, arguing it would prevent the greater costs of serving workers under Medi-Cal.

 

That funding, aimed at giving the UFW time to build up the trust fund’s reserves, is secure through 2021, according to the bill, which was sponsored by the UFW and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015. That year, the RFK plan reported nearly $29 million in revenue, according to the most recent IRS filings.

 

Other unions complain that the subsidy gives the UFW an unfair advantage in competing for workers.

 

Several recent victories by the UFW have been at the expense of other unions. Two years ago, it replaced the International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at a Foster Farms plant in Livingston in Merced County, and it outcompeted the United Food and Commercial Workers at nurseries in Ventura County the same year.

 

“We’d love to have that $3 million,” said Pete Maturino, director of the agricultural division of the United Food and Commercial Worker Union’s California and Arizona local, which represents about 180 shipping and processing workers at D’Arrigo.

 

Mechanical harvester operators earn $14.17 under a contract the union signed more than a year ago — a wage comparable to the UFW contract, Maturino said.

 

“The only thing not comparable is the medical plan,” he added.

Maturino noted that workers have been engaging in wildcat job actions over the last several years, winning increases of as much as $2 an hour at a handful of the region’s top produce plants.

 

Last year, Teamster-represented workers called an unauthorized strike at Taylor Farms’ Salinas plant and gained a raise of $1.50 an hour. Similar actions spread to other major growers, Maturino said.

 

“Employers are starting to battle each other for the labor force,” he said. “Sooner or later in the next few years we’ll be at $15 an hour.”

 

Philip Martin, an economist at UC Davis, said he doubts the D’Arrigo contract will have much of an effect on strategies at other produce companies. “The race in the lettuce fields is between machines and migrant H-2As,” he said.

 

The UFW has no specific plans to bolster its organizing efforts, but will focus on gaining a contract for about 500 workers at Premiere Raspberries on the Central Coast, and will work to consolidate its gains in already unionized fields, Rodriguez said.

 

 

“Our first priority this year is to be sure we do the work necessary to really develop this collaborative relationship with John D’Arrigo and set a real example of what can be done in the ag industry,” Rodriguez said.

 

Both men said they are in near-constant contact with each other since first sitting down in Los Angeles in December.

 

“He and I since then have already talked 30 times by phone — it’s been that often,” D’Arrigo said.

 

“Lots of people talk a good game and they say nice things in order to get things resolved and you never really know how serious they are,” said Rodriguez. “I have to say in this case, John was dead serious from the get-go.”

 

Meanwhile, D’Arrigo’s father, Andy, 94, whose boyhood face graces the company’s Andy Boy produce label, has endorsed the new relationship, John D’Arrigo said.

 

The elder D’Arrigo led the company when it was among the targets of an economically crippling nationwide lettuce boycott marked by arrests, brawls and the bombing of a UFW office.

 

“He said, ‘You know what, if you can make a contract that you can live with, and that he can live with, go for it.’ ” D’Arrigo said. “He’s so happy, because he had all those years of fighting. That’s back when it got pretty violent.”

Link to story

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Outreach at churches key component of Virulent Newcastle Disease eradication project

CDFA veterinarian Dr. Ricardo Gaitan speaking to the congregation at a Catholic church in the Inland Empire region of Southern California. Outreach at churches has been a key element in the push to share information about Virulent Newcastle Disease with bird owners in the area. The disease has been detected at 38 residential properties so far – 36 in San Bernardino County, one in Riverside County, and one in Los Angeles County. For more information please visit this link. 

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