USDA confirms Virulent Newcastle Disease in Utah

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of virulent Newcastle disease in a small flock of backyard exhibition chickens in Utah County, Utah. This is the first case of virulent Newcastle disease in Utah. 

This case is believed to be connected to the current outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease in California, as three of the birds at the premises were recently moved to Utah from Los Angeles County, California.  Since May 2018, 299 cases of Newcastle disease have been confirmed in Southern California, primarily in backyard exhibition birds.

Virulent Newcastle disease is not a food safety concern.  No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat.  In very rare instances people working directly with sick birds can become infected. Symptoms are usually very mild, and limited to conjunctivitis and/or influenza-like symptoms. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment.  

APHIS is working with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to respond to the finding. Federal and State partners are also conducting additional surveillance and testing in the area.  

It is essential that all bird owners follow good biosecurity practices to help protect their birds from infectious diseases.  These include simple steps like washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering a poultry area; cleaning and disinfecting tires and equipment before moving them off the property; and isolating any birds returning from shows for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock.

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to their veterinarian or to State veterinary officials.  Additional information on biosecurity for all poultry flocks can be found at

Additional background

Virulent Newcastle disease is a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry. The disease is so virulent that many birds and poultry die without showing any clinical signs. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated poultry flocks. Virulent Newcastle disease can infect and cause death even in vaccinated poultry.

Clinical signs of virulent Newcastle disease include: sudden death and increased death loss in the flock; sneezing; gasping for air; nasal discharge; coughing; greenish, watery diarrhea; decreased activity; tremors; drooping wings; twisting of the head and neck; circling; complete stiffness; and swelling around the eyes and neck.  Images of some of these signs are available here.

Link to USDA announcement 

Link to CDFA Virulent Newcastle Disease page

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Introducing cartoon stickers to encourage children to eat their fruits and vegetables – from the Napa Valley Register

By Cynthia Sweeney

CALISTOGA — Contrary to what parents have been telling their children for eons, Linda York wants children to start playing with their food.

Their fruits and vegetables, anyway.

A former documentary filmmaker from San Diego, York lives in Calistoga and has two granddaughters who live in St. Helena.

She’s also the creator and CEO of a new product called StickyLickits, edible cartoon stickers that entice children to eat fruits and vegetables.

They feature some of Nickelodeon’s most popular animated characters including SpongeBob SquarePants and PAW Patrol, two of the most popular shows on the network.

“Sticky Lickits encourage kids to have fun with fruits and veggies, which is a way of creating a healthy new eating habit,” York said.

The colorful characters adhere to any kind of fruit or vegetable. They taste a little like vanilla, and dissolve quickly in the mouth,as this writer experienced.

While the cartoons are attractive to kids, parents like the idea that they are sugar-free, something York worked rigorously to ensure. And instead of animal gelatin, the colors are derived from real food like beets and carrots, not from food coloring.

As a documentary filmmaker, years ago York produced an exercise video for the National Institutes of Health’s largest study in the country on childhood obesity. She has also done research on childhood health and eating habits and found, “The number one concern parents have for their children is safety. Number two is nutrition,” she said.

York also cites a study done at the University of Bari Adio Moro in Italy that found that 5- and 6-year-olds choose healthy foods like kiwis, carrots and tomatoes over their usual name-brand snacks if the healthy items had a sticker featuring their favorite cartoon character.

To get the stickers into the hands of children, getting the A-team of cartoon characters for the stickers was crucial.

“I have witnessed complete meltdowns from children who can’t get products related to Paw Patrol,” York said.

York also plans to come out with more stickers with a Mr. Potato Head concept and animal faces, which have more appeal to girls.

York performed test-marketing on her own granddaughters and at children’s birthday parties.

The most frequent question she gets from parents is whether the edible stickers will encourage kids to eat regular stickers, but she hasn’t had any such reports. Once they’ve tried to eat a regular sticker that novelty will be over.

“There isn’t a child who hasn’t tried to eat a regular sticker. It doesn’t taste good,” she said.

York has spent the last year investing in licenses, logo, a website, and six weeks ago launched into distribution and sales.

“My goal is to have it in markets and charge for it, but also get it to the populations that need it the most,” she said.

Link to story

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Virulent Newcastle Disease update: State Veterinarian calls for cancellation of poultry exhibitions

A letter to California poultry exhibitors from State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones:

 Dear Poultry Exhibition Organizers and Managers:

Since May 2018, an outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease (VND) has had a devastating impact on backyard bird populations in four Southern California counties: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura. The virus has also been found in three commercial facilities in Riverside County. As a result, nearly 500,000 backyard and commercial birds have been euthanized.

Virulent Newcastle disease is a highly contagious respiratory virus in poultry that is nearly always fatal. The only way to stop the spread of the virus and eradicate the disease is to euthanize infected birds, and all birds within highly infected areas.

The primary way in which the disease spreads is by seemingly healthy birds being moved. Clinical signs of virulent Newcastle disease include; sudden death and increased death loss in the flock; sneezing; gasping for air; nasal discharge; coughing; greenish, watery diarrhea; decreased activity; tremors; drooping wings; twisting of the head and neck;circling; complete stiffness; and swelling around the eyes and neck. For more information, please visit:

To support our disease containment and eradication efforts, the California State Veterinarian is recommending that all poultry exhibitions that include birds from high-risk counties (Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura) be cancelled. An exhibition is an assembly of birds (including but not limited to poultry) brought to the assembly location for purposes that include public display for any duration. For example, exhibitions include, but are not limited to: auctions, shows, swap meets, pet marts, fair exhibits, pigeon races, cock fights, pet stores, and petting zoos. Public zoos are not included in this definition.

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Secretary Ross meets with Algerian Minister of Agriculture and business delegation

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (center) with H.E Minister Abdelkader Bouazghi (right), Algerian Ambassador Madjid Bouguerra (left) and members of the business delegation.

Secretary Ross: “It was a very good visit about opportunities to cooperate and also to learn from one another. The discussion included the possibilities of future partnerships that would allow California to be a supporting team member on Algeria’s exciting development agenda to ensure food security – it was a lively discussion.”

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Grant funding available for renewable energy in agriculture

The California Energy Commission has released a grant funding opportunity for eligible renewable energy projects installed on agricultural operations. Awarded grants can range from $25,000 to $350,000. Applications will be accepted until March 5, 2019, at 5:00 p.m.

The application for the program formally known as the Renewable Energy for Agriculture Program (REAP)  may be accessed at The application materials include information about upcoming workshops being held in Sacramento, Fresno, and Imperial, CA. The first one is scheduled for January 24th in Sacramento.    

Additional information for REAP can be found at

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A look at weights and measures – from the Daily Republic

By Todd R. Hansen

NoteCDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards works closely with county sealers of weights and measures who, under the supervision and direction of the CDFA secretary, carry out the vast majority of weights and measures enforcement activities at the local level. Ensuring fair competition for industry and accurate value comparison for consumers are the primary functions of the county/state programs.

In the fall of 2014, the Solano County division of Weights and Measures received an unusual request from an area farming family interested in a Guinness Book of World Records legacy.

“The big corn maze (Cool Patch Pumpkins) . . . wanted to go for a Guinness record for the size of the corn maze,” said Doug Echelberger, the deputy sealer of Weights and Measures for Solano County. “So we went up there and measured the size of the field and certified the acreage.”

The maze, officially Oct. 3, 2014, was certified as 242,811 square meters – or about 60 acres – and remains the largest temporary maze on record.

Echelberger said very little of what he and his staff do on a regular basis is even remotely as unusual as that task, but there is little that they do that does not have a direct or indirect impact on the daily lives of Solano County residents.

“Most people don’t even know Weights and Measures exists, and most Americans believe when they buy a gallon of gas they get a gallon of gas, and if they buy a pound of meat, they get a pound of meat,” Echelberger said.

And in general terms, consumers do get what they pay for in large part because of what Echelberger and his staff do.

“I have about 700 businesses I visit each year,” Echelberger said.

“And I would say the biggest part of that is the gas pumps. We have 4,000 of them,” he said, adding there are 17,413 devices the staff checks – most of them annually.

And each device must be sealed as “correct,” which not only includes the accuracy of the device, but that it also meets all other design standards for that device.

The division of Weights and Measures falls under the umbrella of the Agriculture Commissioner’s Office, though its ag-related work represents  between 25 percent and 40 percent of what they do any given year. And his staff is shared with the ag commissioner’s side.

“The way it works is everyone is shared, so in Weights and Measures, I have five (staff members) and I get them two to three days a week,”Echelberger said.

The division has a $679,000 budget.

One ag-related job the office not long ago completed was the certification of the truck scales at the new Caymus bottling facility, not far from the ag commissioner’s Cordelia Road office.

Most of the work is in retail and wholesale.

They measure weight, volume, mass, length, speed, quantity, distance and mileage, as well as watt hours.

A bigger share of time and effort is focused on vehicle fuels with the advent of electrical and hydrogen vehicles, and what is expected to be a boon in compressed gas engines to replace diesel engines – particularly in the trucking industry.

There are 39 hydrogen stations in the state, with directives to reach 200 in the next decade.

Gasoline and other vehicle lubricants, by the way, are the only products in which Weights and Measures are also concerned with quality testing. That is because of a 1931 law, so the state laboratories are charged with making sure the octane levels and other promised properties are as designed.

It is just one of a host of labs at the state office, located in a remote area of Sacramento.

It includes an environmentally controlled precision weighing rooms, scales which are so sensitive they can pick up earthquakes from as far away as Alaska and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

The temperature in the rooms are regulated because the air above the scale can affect the balance. One scale is designed to handle objects of 1 gram or lighter.

Of course, the division also checks scales that measure in tons.

Also in the precision room are the state’s kilogram weights, from which all other weights derive. They in turn were measured against the national kilograms located at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The institute is under the control of the Department of Commerce.

The national kilograms were, in turn, measured against those kept in Paris, France, point zero in the weights and measures industry.

Solano County must take all of its testing equipment, except those two or three devices that cannot move, to the state to be re-certified every four years.

An 1836 quote by President John Q. Adams hangs on the wall at the state Division of Weights and Measures, expounding the need for a standardized system of weights and measures.

More than four decades earlier, President George Washington had called for a uniform system of currency and weights and measures, referring to it as an “object of great importance.”

But it was not until President Andrew Johnson signed the Metric Act of 1866 that a national standard was officially adopted in the U.S. It is a system that has been at the center of American commerce ever since.

“It really is a fundamental infrastructure in civilization,” Tony Gruneisen, a state meteorologist with the Division of Weights and Measures, said prior to a tour of the laboratories.

And the responsibilities must evolve with the times.

When on-demand transportation services, such as Uber, came on the scene a decade or so ago, traditional taxi firms turned to the state Division of Weights and Measures with a significant concern.

After all, taxi meters were periodically subject to inspection – so how were these in-the-cloud, app-based companies going to be regulated?

Kristin Macey, director of the state Division of Measurement Standards, admits it created a new set of problems for an agency that had been calibrating mechanical and scaled systems for a century or more.

In the end, it would take legal threats and an actual lawsuit for the state to gain access to the proprietary information necessary to make sure customers of the services were being protected.

“It was a very interesting time. But in the end, we did access the (technology) . . . which are as accurate as the taxi cab meters,” Macey said.

Echelberger said his office does get consumer complaints that are investigated. The goal is to work with the parties involved to correct any violations that are found.

If that cooperation does not come, the division does have the regulatory muscle to force resolution, and outside whatever fines may be included, the business cost can be significant.

“And most of the violations I do are from gas stations. We have a number of small independents that can be lax and we need to get their attention,” Echelberger said.

But Weights and Measures does not only protect the consumer; it also protects business as well. Faulty scales, after all, can work against the companies, which may be providing more goods than those for which the companies are being paid.

A recent investigation at the state level saved a company hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, because their scales were faulty.

Link to story

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Save the Date! Ag Day set for March 20

Link to Ag Day Web page

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CDFA budget highlights for 2019-2020

Governor Newsom unveiled the 2019-2020 budget today at the California Secretary of State’s auditorium.   

California governor Gavin Newsom submitted his 2019-20 “California for All” budget proposal to the Legislature today – a fiscal blueprint that builds a strong financial foundation by investing an unprecedented $13.6 billion in budget resiliency and paying down unfunded pension liabilities

The total proposed state budget is $209 billion. For CDFA, the budget would be $565.9 million.  Here are the highlights:

Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Resources – This proposal requests $2.5 million and 65 positions to build a dedicated Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Division within CDFA to enhance Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and Huanglongbing (HLB) detection, suppression, and eradication activities throughout the state. HLB is the most devastating of all citrus diseases. A dedicated Citrus Division will allow CDFA to better handle the sudden and unexpected increase in HLB detections in 2017 and 2018, and the establishment of ACP in citrus growing regions. This will help preserve California’s $3.4 billion citrus industry and protect California’s economy.

Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation –  A request for $18 million for the implementation of conservation management techniques to improve soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on California’s farmlands and ranchlands through CDFA’s Healthy Soils grant program.

Also, $25 million is proposed for for the reduction of methane through CDFA’s Dairy Digester and Alternative Manure Management grant programs.  

Both of these items would be funded by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. 

Biodiversity Initiative –This proposal requests $4.22 million and eight positions to initiate planning and coordination of the workload associated with the “California Biodiversity Initiative – a Road Map for Protecting the State’s Natural Heritage.” This proposal also requests funding to restart CDFA’s noxious weed management program.

The goals of this proposal include establishing the California Biodiversity Initiative working group to be co-chaired by the Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Secretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture; accelerating and streamlining prevention,detection, and management of invasive species and pests; expanding seed and germplasm banking as a hedge against permanent loss of native plant biodiversity; and establishing a soil carbon map of California.

Industrial Hemp –A request for six positions for development, enforcement, and administration of the Industrial Hemp Program. CDFA anticipates registrations to begin in Spring 2019 with approximately 300 registrants and enforcement activities in all 58 counties in the first year, and 1,000 registrations by FY 2020-21. 

Turlock Animal Health and Food Safety Lab –  This proposes $3.946 million for the Performance Criteria Phase of the design-build project to build a new full-service California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS) facility in the northern San Joaquin Valley to replace the existing, obsolete CAHFS Turlock laboratory. The new work site will be multifunctional, serving as a regional incident command post for emergency animal disease and food safety outbreaks, directly benefiting animal agriculture through rapid detection and disease eradication response.

CDFA’s major revenue sources (in millions):

Agriculture Fund (AF)   179.4 
Federal Fund   107.7 
General Fund (GF)   116.2 
Cannabis Control Fund    43.7 
Reimbursements    37.5 
CA Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access Fund    8.1
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund    43  
Other Funds[1]   26.4   
General Fund, Capital Outlay   3.9  

[1] Other funds include: Motor Vehicle Account, California Agricultural Export Promotion Account, Fair and Exposition Account, Drainage Management Subaccount, Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund, Pierces Disease Management Account, Antiterrorism Fund, Specialized License Plate Fund, Cost of Implementation Account, and Prevention of Animal Homelessness and Cruelty Fund.

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Governor Newsom reappoints Karen Ross as CDFA Secretary

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

News release from the office of California Governor Gavin Newsom:

Karen Ross of Sacramento has been reappointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the state cabinet-level department established in 1919 to promote and protect a safe, healthy food supply, local and global agricultural trade, and environmental stewardship.

Ross successfully served as CDFA Secretary under Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. for 8 years. She has unmatched leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and here in California.

Prior to joining CDFA, Ross was chief of staff to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009. Prior to that appointment, she served as President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers from 1996 to 2009,and as Vice-President of the Agricultural Council of California from 1989 to 1996.

Before moving to California, Secretary Ross served as Director of Government Relations for the Nebraska Rural Electric Association and as Field Representative for U.S.Senator Edward Zorinsky. Ross grew up as a 4-H kid on a farm in Western Nebraska. She and her husband, Barry, own 800 acres of the family farm where her younger brother, a fourth-generation farmer, grows dryland wheat, feed grains, and cattle. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a graduate of the Nebraska Ag Leadership Program. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $209,943. Ross is a Democrat. 

Secretary Ross: “I am humbled and honored to be able to serve our new governor, Gavin Newsom, and work with the great team he is putting together. And I am thrilled to be able to continue to serve California agriculture and work with the outstanding employees at the California Department of Food and Agriculture.”  

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New app connects beekeepers and growers

From Morning Ag Clips

Pollination Network, a mobile app that helps local farmers and growers find bees and beekeepers, launched this week in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The app helps beekeepers to find jobs with nearby growers, and it allows growers to post public listings and hire beekeepers within the app.

“It’s become more and more difficult for growers to find bees over the years,” said Brandon Bouye, owner and founder of the app. “But it’s been just as hard for beekeepers to keep their hives growing and their businesses afloat. We wanted to change that.”

When beekeepers download the app, they will have access to a map featuring job listings from growers across the country who need bees. They can filter by location, expected price rate, and quality of bees, and apply for jobs straight from the app.

Growers will be able to post listings from their smartphones, customizing each job listing to their specific needs. Then, employees at the Pollination Network headquarters will manage the listings and notify growers when a suitable beekeeper is found.

“Strengthening the grower-beekeeper relationship doesn’t just improve a tiny corner of the economy,” Bouye said. “It protects the environment, and it puts food on the table for people across the country.”

The Pollination Network app can be downloaded for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play. For more detailed information, visit

Link to Morning Ag Clips

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