Future food security may be in jeopardy – from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations

Logo FAO

Mankind’s future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate, warns a new FAO report.

Though very real and significant progress in reducing global hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years, “expanding food production and economic growth have often come at a heavy cost to the natural environment,” says The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges.

“Almost one half of the forests that once covered the Earth are now gone. Groundwater sources are being depleted rapidly. Biodiversity has been deeply eroded,” the report notes.

As a result, “planetary boundaries may well be surpassed, if current trends continue,” cautions FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his introduction to the report.

By 2050 humanity’s ranks will likely have grown to nearly 10 billion people. In a scenario with moderate economic growth, this population increase will push up global demand for agricultural products by a projected 50 percent over present levels, intensifying pressures on already-strained natural resources.

At the same time, greater numbers of people will be eating fewer cereals and larger amounts of meat, fruits, vegetables and processed food — a result of an ongoing global dietary transition that will further add to those pressures, driving more deforestation, land degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Alongside these trends, the planet’s changing climate will throw up additional hurdles. “Climate change will affect every aspect of food production,” the report says. These include greater variability of precipitation and increases in the frequency of droughts and floods.

To reach zero hunger, we need to step up our efforts

The core question raised is whether, looking ahead, the world’s agriculture and food systems are capable of sustainably meeting the needs of a burgeoning global population.

The short answer? Yes, the planet’s food systems are capable of producing enough food to do so, and in a sustainable way, but unlocking that potential — and ensuring that all of humanity benefits — will require “major transformations.”

Without a push to invest in and retool food systems, far too many people will still be hungry in 2030 — the year by which the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda has targeted the eradication of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, the report warns.

“Without additional efforts to promote pro-poor development, reduce inequalities and protect vulnerable people, more than 600 million people would still be undernourished in 2030,” it says. In fact, the current rate of progress would not even be enough to eradicate hunger by 2050.

Where will our food come from?

Given the limited scope for expanding agriculture’s use of more land and water resources, the production increases needed to meet rising food demand will have to come mainly from improvements in productivity and resource-use efficiency.

However there are worrying signs that yield growth is levelling off for major crops. Since the 1990s, average increases in the yields of maize, rice, and wheat at the global level generally run just over 1 percent per annum, the report notes.

To tackle these and the other challenges outlined in the report, “business-as-usual” is not an option, The Future of Food and Agriculture argues.

“Major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if we are to meet the multiple challenges before us and realize the full potential of food and agriculture to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet,” it says.

“High-input, resource-intensive farming systems, which have caused massive deforestation, water scarcities, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, cannot deliver sustainable food and agricultural production,” adds the report.

More with less

The core challenge is to produce more with less, while preserving and enhancing the livelihoods of small-scale and family farmers, and ensuring access to food by the most vulnerable. For this, a twin-track approach is needed which combines investment in social protection, to immediately tackle undernourishment, and pro-poor investments in productive activities —  especially agriculture and in rural economies — to sustainably increase income-earning opportunities of the poor.

The world will need to shift to more sustainable food systems which make more efficient use of land, water and other inputs and sharply reduce their use of fossil fuels, leading to a drastic cut of agricultural green-house gas emissions, greater conservation of biodiversity, and a reduction of waste. This will necessitate more investment in agriculture and agrifood systems, as well as greater spending on research and development, the report says, to promote innovation, support sustainable production increases, and find better ways to cope with issues like water scarcity and climate change.

Along with boosting production and resilience, equally critical will be creating food supply chains that better connect farmers in low- and middle-income countries to urban markets — along with measures which ensure access for consumers to nutritious and safe food at affordable prices, such as such as pricing policies and social protection programs.

Link to news release

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Secretary Ross to be honored by California Climate and Agriculture Network for work on climate change


CDFA secretary Karen Ross will be honored by the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) at its summit meeting scheduled for February 28 at UC Davis. Secretary Ross has been chosen for a Climate and Agriculture Leadership Award for her commitment to meet the challenges brought by climate change during her six years at the helm of CDFA, through her service as chief of staff at the USDA, and during her time in previous posts at the California Association of Winegrape Growers and the Agricultural Council of California.

In a news release CalCAN lauded Secretary Ross for setting a priority to address climate mitigation and adaptation in California agriculture, and for overseeing the implementation of the state’s climate-smart agriculture programs.

“I’d like to thank CalCAN for its commitment to smart, climate-friendly agriculture policies and practices,” said Secretary Ross. “Climate change is the major challenge of our time with huge implications for the sustainability of agriculture and its capacity to meet the food security needs of the world’s population.”

The Climate and Agriculture Leadership Awards will take place as part of the 5th California Climate Change and Agriculture Summit. More information about the conference can be found here.

Link to CDFA’s climate-smart agriculture programs. 



Posted in Animal health, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fighting a citrus killer – from the University of California

citrus damage

By Sean Nealon

A team of scientists, led by a group at the University of California, Riverside, has received a five-year, $5.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fight a disease that is devastating the citrus industry.

The team will design and identify bactericides–chemicals that kill bacteria–to target Huanglongbing, a bacterial plant disease decimating citrus trees worldwide. They also will focus on better understanding the pathways those bactericides travel inside citrus trees.

Huanglongbing, which has devastated citrus trees in Asia and South America, was detected in Florida in 2005 and has since led to a 75 percent decline in the Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry. Fifteen U.S. States or territories, including California, are under full or partial quarantine due to the presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect which feeds on citrus trees and – in doing so –  transmits Huanglongbing, which has been detected in three residential communities in Southern California but not in commercial citrus.

Past research has identified the bacterium (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus or CLas) associated with Huanglongbing that is killing citrus trees. But, it has proved difficult to deliver bactericides to the phloem, the part of the citrus tree where the harmful bacteria resides.

The UC Riverside team will analyze phloem transit routes that bactericides take when introduced through common application methods, such as trunk injection or leaf or root applications.

They also will continue to develop a new delivery system for use in field citrus trees. The delivery system targets the branches and petioles, which are the stalk that join a leaf to a stem. The idea is based on previous work that indicates that this is an effective and efficient way to tap into and introduce material into phloem tissue, a tissue that is hard to access.

The researchers will undertake an extension and outreach program for citrus growers and non-commercial citrus growers (homeowners and hobbyists), and they will perform an economic cost-benefit analysis for adoption of these treatments in the commercial citrus industry.

Link to full blog post

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

382 tons of food – state employees meet, exceed goal in 2016/17 food drive


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.

Final totals from the 2016/17 California State Employees Food Drive indicate that an ambitious goal of 750,000 pounds of food was not only met, but exceeded by more than 14-thousand pounds, for a total of 764,038 pounds of food donated for needy families! That’s 382 tons of food, enough for more 636,000 meals!

CDFA and its Office of Farm to Fork coordinated the food drive from late September to early February, along with their partners at the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and 108 different assistance agencies statewide. While much of the donated food was distributed through Sacramento, more than 100,000 pounds of food were donated to food banks and pantries outside the capital-area, eventually ending up on the tables of needy families throughout the state.

“I am impressed each year with the level of compassion and commitment that employees display when they donate to the food drive,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, chair of the food drive. “Food brings people together, in particular during the holidays, when families and friends gather around the table. This program is so important in helping to make that happen for families that may need a little boost.”

The need in California is substantial. According to the California Association of Food Banks, 5.4 million Californians contend with food insecurity,  which is defined as the occasional or constant lack of access to the food one needs for a healthy, active life. More than two-million of those people are children. That need is what motivates California state employees to commit to this effort each and every year.

CDFA's Addison Ford (center) at the food drive wrap-up party with employees of the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services

CDFA’s Addison Ford (center) at the food drive wrap-up party with employees of the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services

Each year the Food Drive holds a wrap-up party with awards to highlight steps agencies have taken to make the drive a success. The Board of Equalization received an award for the greatest weight-volume of donations, totaling 166,689 pounds of food. Two new award categories have been added – for most creative fundraiser and for the biggest increase in donations from the previous year. CalEPA took home the award in the first category with its “Dream It, Build It, Give It” competition among employees building structures out of donated food.  The Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta Conservancy was honored for having the largest year-over-year increase, upping donations from 18 pounds to 912 pounds.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Farm Bill listening sessions this week in Los Angeles and Salinas

CDFA’s series of listening sessions for input on priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill will conclude this week with meetings in Salinas on Wednesday, February 22 and Los Angeles on Thursday, February 23rd.

The Salinas listening session will be from 4:30-6:30 pm at the Monterey County Farm Bureau, 1140 Abbott Street, Suite C. Salinas, CA 93901. The Los Angeles meeting will be from 1-3 pm at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, 400 West Washington Blvd., Aspen Hall-Room 101, Los Angeles, CA 90015.

Following the listening sessions the next step in the Farm Bill process will be to develop recommendations that will be shared with California’s Congressional delegation and the leadership of the Senate and House agriculture committees.

Here’s another look at CDFA’s video about the Farm Bill, “A Farm Bill for Everyone.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Farm Bill | Leave a comment

“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. 


Posted in Agricultural Education, Food Access, Nutrition | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment