Average cost of Thanksgiving dinner moves lower for third straight year – from the American Farm Bureau Federation

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 33rd annual survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $48.90, or less than $5.00 per person. This is a 22-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.12.

“Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010,” said AFBF Chief Economist Dr. John Newton.

The featured food on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – cost slightly less than last year, coming in at $21.71 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.36 per pound, down 3 percent from last year. The survey results show that retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2014.

“Thanks to an ample supply, turkey remains affordable for consumers, which helps keep the overall cost of the dinner reasonably priced as well,” Newton said.

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey were a gallon of milk, $2.92; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.39; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.47; and a dozen rolls, $2.25.

Several items saw modest price increases this year including cranberries, pumpkin pie mix and stuffing. A 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries was $2.65; a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.33; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing was $2.87; two nine-inch pie shells came in at $2.47 and a 1-pound veggie tray was $.75. A group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) was also up slightly, to $3.01. There was no change in price for a half-pint of whipping cream at $2.08.

Link to full story


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CDFA employees donate nearly 1,700 pounds of turkey to needy families

Employees at CDFA’s Sacramento-area offices ushered-in the holiday season yesterday by donating 1,700 pounds of turkey to the Sacramento Food Bank. The donations are part of the annual California State Employees Food Drive.


CDFA’s Michelle Lehn (L) helped coordinate the agency’s contributions along with volunteers from the Sacramento Food Bank.

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FDA issues draft guidance for Produce Safety Rule

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued updated draft guidance for industry with respect to “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.”  The purpose of the guidance, or guidelines, is to help produce farms understand what they must do to comply with the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

This means that the FDA is getting closer to requiring full compliance with the rule, and that corresponding inspections through the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Produce Safety Program are getting closer to reality.

A series of public hearings about this information is being held around the country in the coming months, including one in California. That meeting is scheduled for November 29, 2018 from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm at the Doubletree Suites by Hilton, at the Anaheim Resort Convention Center, 2085 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, CA 92802. More information about the meeting and registration information is available here.  An option to participate via webcast is available.

Additionally, people may  submit written comments about the draft guidelines. They can be sent to the FDA no later than April 22, 2019. Information on how to submit comments can be found here.

The guidelines provide a broad range of recommendations on how to meet the requirements of the rule. The FDA has provided an “At-a-Glance” overview of key points in each of the nine chapters:

Chapter 1: General Provisions

Chapter 2: Personnel Qualifications and Training

Chapter 3: Health and Hygiene

Chapter 4: Biological Soil Amendments of Animal Origin and Human Waste

Chapter 5: Domesticated and Wild Animals

Chapter 6: Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding Activities

Chapter 7:  Equipment, Tools, Buildings and Sanitation

Chapter 8: Records

Chapter 9: Variances

In the coming months, CDFA’s Produce Safety Program plans to provide additional information to assist California produce farms in understanding what is expected of them. The law is in effect now and official inspections will begin in 2019.

For updates on the implementation of the Produce Safety Rule in California please click here.

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Draft industrial hemp regulations ready for review

CDFA has issued draft regulations for industrial hemp cultivation in California and is accepting public comments through December 24.

After comments are considered CDFA will move to finalize the regulations and anticipates that county agricultural commissioners will begin accepting applications and issuing the first licenses for commercial production in 2019.

Currently industrial hemp production is permitted in California only in association with established agricultural research institutions.

Link to draft Industrial Hemp Cultivation regulations

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CDFA and USDA join cotton industry to celebrate Pink Bollworm eradication – from Western Farm Press

Cotton growers and government partners recently got together to recognize the eradication of the Pink Bollworm. From left, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association Chairman Tom Gaffney; Ted Sheely, Cotton Pest Control Board Chairman; Roger Isom, CCGGA president and CEO; Earl Williams, past CCGGA president and CEO; USDA Undersecretary Gregory Ibach; Nick Condos, CDFA Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services director; and, Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator for USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine.

By Todd Fichette

For the second time in several years eradication of a vicious agricultural pest was achieved in the United States (and California) as the cotton industry hails elimination of the pink bollworm, a destructive pest that threatened to wipe out the U.S. cotton industry.

This is particularly noteworthy for California as officials successfully eradicated the European grapevine moth two years ago after it was found for the first time in the United States in a Napa Valley vineyard.

“Defeating an invasive bug doesn’t happen often, and when we do achieve success we need to celebrate this,” said Nick Condos, director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Plant Health and Pest Prevention Program.

Roger Isom, president and chief executive officer of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association called eradication of the pink bollworm “historic” saying this was an effort “52 years in the making.”

“Today we look at the pink bollworm in the rearview mirror,” Isom said. “It’s a story of industry foresight and cooperation and a story of how a government agency can work with industry and be successful.”

Noteworthy in this effort was the way it was achieved. The industry achieved eradication by relying upon integrated pest management tactics that included the use of pheromones and sterile insects. Pesticides were not the primary means of control. Mandatory plow-down practices that were enforced by regulation and the introduction of Bt cotton by seed companies also aided in the effort.

“This is a very significant event for the cotton industry,” said USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Gregory Ibach at a celebration hosted at West Haven Cotton Ginning Company near Lemoore, Calif.

Ted Sheely, chairman of the California Cotton Pest Control Board, likewise praised efforts to eradicate the pest with practices that did not rely primarily on common insecticides.

“We started with mandatory host-free periods, which included the plow-down dates,” Sheely said. “Then the program started using pheromones to keep the moths from being able to find their mates.”

This continued in the early 1970s with the release of sterile moths to prevent egg laying by wild moths. In 1994 Sheely said that California cotton growers invested in a state-of-the-art facility in Phoenix, Ariz. where pink bollworm moths were irradiated to sterilize them. These moths – upwards of 31 million per day at the peak of the program – were released by the USDA in a successful effort to eliminate the pest.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service coordinated this program, Isom said. Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator for USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine, said APHIS also maintained the quarantines and performed areal applications of sterile moths.

“There are two things that stand out to me, El-Lissy said. “The vision and unwavering dedication of growers themselves to this program and the strong collaboration between government and industry. This was one of the most unique programs in the world because we did not use pesticides.”

All this gained traction after 2000 with the introduction of Bt cotton, which contains a protein that is toxic only to moth larvae, Sheely said. “The widespread planting of Bt cotton created an opportunity to wipe out pink bollworm (PBW) when combined with other techniques already in use,” he said.

Prior to establishment of the state PBW program, state inspectors trapped about 400,000 fertile moths per year in southern California and by 2007 that number was over 410,000 fertile moths. The following year this number fell 96 percent to about 16,000. The last moths trapped in California were caught in 2011 and none were caught since then in the Golden State. Trap counts in the West and in northern Mexico fell to zero by 2013.

Condos said traps and mandatory plow-down periods will still be employed to assure the pest remains eradicated.

Link to story


Watch this CDFA video about eradication of the Pink Bollworm.

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Climate change: Bug-covered ‘bionic mushroom’ generates clean energy – from BBC News

A button mushroom coated in bugs and nanowires can produce electricity from light. (American Chemical Society)

By Matt McGrath, BBC

US researchers have successfully tested the rather whacky idea of producing electricity from a mushroom covered in bacteria.

The scientists used 3D printing to attach clusters of energy-producing bugs to the cap of a button mushroom.

The fungus provided the ideal environment to allow the cyanobacteria to generate a small amount of power.

The authors say their fossil-free “bionic mushroom” could have great potential.

As researchers the world over search for alternative energy sources, there has been a sharp rise in interest in cyanobacteria.

These organisms, widely found in the oceans and on land, are being investigated for their abilities to turn sunlight into electrical current.

One big problem is that they do not survive long enough on artificial surfaces to be able to deliver on their power potential.

That’s where the humble button mushroom comes in.

This fertile fungus is already home to many other forms of bacterial life, providing an attractive array of nutrients, moisture and temperature.

So the scientists from the Stevens Institute of Technology in the US developed a clever method of marrying the mushroom to the sparky bugs.

Appropriately enough, they came up with the idea while having lunch!

“One day my friends and I went to lunch together and we ordered some mushrooms,” said Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral researcher and author of the study.

“As we discussed them we realised they have a rich microbiota of their own, so we thought why not use the mushrooms as a support for the cynaobacteria. We thought let’s merge them and see what happens.”

Using a special bio-ink, the team printed the bacteria on the cap of the mushroom in a spiral pattern. They had previously used an electronic ink to embed graphene nano-ribbons on to the surface of the fungus to collect the current.

When they shone a light on this magical mushroom, it caused the cyanobacteria to generate a small amount of electricity.

Not quite a lightbulb moment but proof that the idea works. The researchers say that several mushrooms wired up together could light a small lamp.

“We are looking to connect all the mushrooms in series, in an array, and we are also looking to pack more bacteria together,” said Sudeep Joshi.

“These are the next steps, to optimise the bio-currents, to generate more electricity, to power a small LED.”

A big plus for the experiment was the fact that the bugs on the fungus lasted several days longer compared with cyanobacteria placed on other surfaces.

The researchers believe that the idea could have potential as a renewable energy source.

“Right now we are using cyanobacteria from the pond, but you can genetically engineer them and you can change their molecules to produce higher photo currents, via photosynthesis,” said Sudeep Joshi.

“It’s a new start; we call it engineered symbiosis. If we do more research in this we can really push this field forward to have some type of effective green technology.”

The leap from fossil fuel to fungus fuel may not be that far away.

The study has been published in the journal Nano Letters.

See the original article on the BBC News site here.

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CDFA at Latino Farmer Conference

CDFA programs are participating today at the 2018 Latino Farmer Conference in Santa Maria. It’s the fourth annual sustainable agriculture conference for Latino farmers, co-sponsored by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Center for Appropriate Technology. CDFA employees on-hand in Santa Maria include, from left, Nicole Crouch, Fertilizer Research and Education Program; Andrea Cano, State Organic Program; Leslie Fernandez, State Organic Program; and Rodrigo Chipres, Produce Safety Program.

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Videos with information about Virulent Newcastle Disease

CDFA and the USDA continue with their efforts to eradicate an outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease in Southern California – in Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. Here are some important reminders in English and Spanish.

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If you’re wasting food you’re making climate change worse – from USA Today

By Tia Nelson

Wasting food has been called the “world’s dumbest environmental problem.” Every year, the average family of four in the U.S. tosses roughly $2,000 in food; 30 to 40 percent of food produced in this country ends up discarded.

At dinner, our parents urged us to finish everything on our plates. Beyond the moral and economic reasons to do so, it turns out there’s a significant environmental one, too. When food winds up in landfills it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than the poster child of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, which primarily comes from fossil fuel use.

In fact, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States. Few people realize when they shove some grapes into the bottom drawer of their refrigerator and forget about them, they are contributing to climate change.

We throw out way too much edible food 

Throwing out food at home is only part of the problem. As the Natural Resources Defense Council noted in a report last year, “We leave entire fields unharvested, reject produce solely for cosmetic reasons, throw out anything past or even close to its ‘use by’ date, inundate restaurant patrons with massive portions, and let absurd amounts of food rot in the back of our fridges.”

A recent report by the Boston Consulting Group put the dollar figure of wasted food worldwide at $1.2 trillion a year.

When we toss food, we’re not just wasting money; we’re also squandering the energy used to grow crops and raise cattle, as well as the energy required to ship, refrigerate and package food.

It’s time for people, restaurants, supermarkets and farms to consider this cost to the environment when they over-order or carelessly discard edible food. The federal government has recognized the need to address this problem; in 2015 the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency set a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. It’s doable, and we all have a role to play.

In May, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue hosted a food waste roundtable in Washington. “Our nation’s agricultural abundance should be used to nourish those in need, not fill the trash,” Perdue said. “So many people work on food waste issues in their own spheres, but it’s time to change the culture and adopt a holistic approach to get everyone working together and sharing ideas.”

Overseas, some governments are taking more aggressive actions to stem food waste. France, for example, bans grocery stores from tossing edible food. South Korea prohibits food waste from landfills, and requires people to separate food waste from their regular trash.

While those mandates might prove politically unpalatable in this country, some states are taking more modest steps, such as restricting how much food waste can be sent to landfills, and we should encourage those laudable efforts. But real progress will come when people and businesses step up to solve this problem. And many already are doing so.

There are smaller steps we can take together

Food Waste Reduction Alliance — a collaborative effort of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association — is working to standardize the confusing panoply of labels that consumers use as cues to determine if food is still safe to eat.

There are also organizations like Food CowboyRescuing Leftover Cuisine and Meal Connect, which bring technology to food donations — allowing farms, grocery stores and restaurants to donate their excess food to food banks. Some supermarket chains are also taking steps to sync unused food to groups feeding the needy. Trader Joe’s has Donations Coordinators at its stores, who work to bring unsold food to nonprofit organizations.

Then there’s “ugly food” — produce that looks weird or misshapen but is identical in taste and quality to properly proportioned fruits and vegetables. Companies like The Misfits sell imperfect-looking produce at a discount. As the company says, “Crooked cucumbers, misshapen tomatoes or not-so-red Red Peppers are just as delicious and nutritious as ‘the other guys’ – and less expensive!”

If we could take these solutions and scale them, the food we’d save could feed millions of hungry people, conserve resources, and make a big dent in one of the biggest sources of climate change.

It won’t take a rocket scientist to solve this dumb problem. We can do it ourselves.

Tia Nelson, managing director for climate at the Outrider Foundation, is former director of the Global Climate Change Initiative at The Nature Conservancy and former executive secretary to the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. 

Link to story


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New California law puts teeth into bee registration requirement – from Western Farm Press

By Todd Fichette

California agricultural commissioners now have the regulatory “teeth” they sought to enforce bee registration each year – something they long complained was needed to protect the pollinators.

Pest control advisors at the recent annual meeting of the California Association of Pest Control Advisors (CAPCA) were the first to publicly hear about the 18-month effort to force compliance of a law long-ignored, according to Ruthann Anderson, CAPCA chief executive officer.

Dubbed “Bee Where,” the new program gives agricultural commissioners the authority to seek civil penalties of not more than $500 per day a beekeeper is in violation of the law. While previous law required beekeepers to register their bees with county agricultural departments, it was effectively unenforceable, said Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner Ruben Arroyo. The new law that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019 makes it unlawful to maintain an unregistered apiary.

Funding for the program came from the California Department of Food and Agriculture and California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association (CACASA) promoted the program in collaboration with CAPCA. Arroyo is the current CACASA president.

The website http://bewherecalifornia.com was set up to help growers, PCAs and beekeepers understand the program.

The goal is to help county commissioners know where bees are located and who owns them, so they can be notified 48 hours before chemical spray treatments are applied to crops near where bees are located.

Assembly Bill 2468 by Dr. Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, passed the legislative process with no industry opposition, Anderson said.

Arroyo and Anderson promoted the program to over 1,000 PCAs at the association’s recent annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Part of the effort there was to highlight ongoing efforts to protect pollinators, which has gained steam in recent years as beekeepers continue to seek answers into higher rates of winter mortality and bee deaths.

While certain classes of pesticides and chemical tank mixes have been blamed for bee deaths, Anderson sees the program as a good first-step to begin collecting data that might help close in on the true cause of bee mortalities.

Beekeepers will be required to pay an annual $10 registration fee beginning in 2020.

How it works

The legislation requires anyone who moves bees into the state or otherwise comes in to possession of an apiary to register the name of the owner, the number of hives and the location those colonies will be moved to within 30 days of arrival. Moreover, relocation of hives within the state will now require a phone call to the destination county agricultural commissioner within 72 hours of first movement. The same applies to hives moved within a single county.

Bee owners must also be on record, either directly or through their designated representatives. This includes name and address of the appropriate party. Hives must also be marked with identifying information.

The program will use the latest computer technology to map bee colony locations. The intent is to have locations linked through Agrian, so when a PCA writes a recommendation through the program, an instant flag will go up if beekeepers are registered within a mile of the planned application site. Arroyo says details of this are still being worked out, but early indications suggest that PCAs will be given various crop protection alternatives if bees are nearby.

“It will come up with a list of suggested softer chemicals to use, but we’re still working with Agrian on this,” Arroyo said.

If there are bees registered within a mile of the planned application site, contact information on the owner of the bees will be provided. Beekeepers can register various means of contact, including phone, email and fax, Anderson said. Beekeepers will be given 48-hour notice prior to spray activities near their hives.

The program is also hoped to have a smart phone app available, so growers, beekeepers and regulatory agencies can search for and tag bee hive locations. County inspectors can then verify these locations to determine if hives are registered and act on those that are not registered.

Anderson says pilot launch of the program will begin with the 2019 almond bloom. A second phase starts a year later with feedback from various stakeholders and expansion of the technology to eventually include reporting of unmarked and unregistered bee hives and information to aid investigations into bee kills.

NOTE –  CDFA continues to work on bee-related issues with a pilot project in North Dakota to inspect bees in other states for the presence of invasive species before they’re shipped to California. This would reduce the amount of time hives would spend at Border Protection Stations.       

Link to story


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