Don’t Pack a Pest: Traveler education program expands to include SFO

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross addresses news media today at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

At a news conference today inside San Francisco International Airport (SFO), officials announced the expansion of the successful “Don’t Pack a Pest” traveler awareness campaign into California.

“Don’t Pack a Pest” helps protect against invasive species introduction in the U.S. and the Caribbean with a simple message:  When You Travel, Declare Agricultural Items, Don’t Pack a Pest.

The program was launched at Miami International Airport several years ago. The ongoing outreach program is a cooperative effort between CDFA, the USDA, United States Customs and Border Protection, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, several Caribbean countries, California’s county agricultural commissioners, and San Francisco International Airport.

“Invasive species have the potential to devastate California’s agricultural industry and its natural resources,” said California Secretary of Agricultural Karen Ross.  “Keeping these invasive species outside of our borders is the most effective way to protect our state,  and the Don’t Pack a Pest campaign aims to help us do just that.”

For more on the project, visit the site.

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New approach would better serve fish and farmers – from Ag Alert

By Justin Frederickson

The remarkable success of the Butte Creek project highlighted in this issue represents a microcosm of what the new Resiliency Strategy envisions throughout the Sacramento Valley. And recent developments on the Tuolumne River, for example, suggest something similar is occurring in the San Joaquin Valley.

What brings this about? A whole range of factors comes into play. First, there was the drought, accompanied by historic low populations of winter-run salmon and delta smelt. Agricultural water contractors south of the delta and on the west side of the Sacramento Valley saw multiple years of zero or near-zero allocations. Even more-senior contractors were cut back more than anyone ever thought possible.

In the background, existing biological opinions about fish restoration are undergoing review. On the horizon are looming deadlines for formation of groundwater sustainability agencies, local groundwater sustainability plans, and eventual efforts to transition toward long-term groundwater sustainability.

In the Sacramento Valley, problems with winter-run salmon and related restrictions on summer cold-water releases from Shasta Lake constrained and complicated North Valley water deliveries, affecting summer delta operations like never before during the drought. Downstream, fish surveys for the delta smelt came up nearly empty.

Meanwhile, the State Water Resources Control Board released an environmental document proposing 30-to-50 percent “unimpaired flows” for the lower San Joaquin, Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. The board is driving at eventual, equivalent flow requirements on the Sacramento River and in the delta, too. As if all of that weren’t enough, ongoing water rights proceedings before the state water board and a decade of work on a proposed delta conveyance fix face critical, rapidly approaching decision points.

Against this complicated backdrop, efforts such as the Sacramento Valley Salmon Resiliency Strategy, a similar Delta Smelt Resiliency Strategy begun last year and comprehensive proposals by water districts on the lower San Joaquin tributaries are trying to create a path forward.

The basic sentiment is simple: Our year-to-year water situation is terrible, the fish situation is terrible, and both problems are only getting worse. What can we do differently?

As regulatory agencies commit and redirect so much water—and plan to commit and redirect even more—shouldn’t we be trying to reduce the impacts on people? And shouldn’t we want to maximize the chances that all of that water will at least do what it’s supposed to?

The regulators tell us all of that water is supposed to help the fish. But regulating farmers into oblivion doesn’t seem to be working so well for the fish, either. So, farmers want to do for fish much the same thing Sacramento Valley rice farmers did for waterfowl when they worked with conservationists and duck hunters to utilize innovative rice straw decomposition and other practices to transform the Pacific Flyway.

That’s what farmers naturally do so well: Find a solution, fix the problem, manage it and move on.

That represents a big improvement: Working through a mix of required and voluntary actions toward species recovery and resiliency, rather than just survival; focusing on watershed-, landscape- and process-based approaches, rather than isolated, single-species actions; recognizing the relationship between flow and non-flow variables; building conservation partnerships across traditional battle lines; incorporating robust, science-based biological objectives and adaptive management strategies that take account of all species life stages; integrating solutions from ecosystem improvements to flood protection to coordinated reservoir operations to water trading to base flow augmentation and groundwater recharge; and preserving and incorporating working landscapes as part of the overall solution—all are part of a new experiment.

But for the farmers to maintain this course, there must eventually be a result. As with all other water uses in arid California, water foregone or recommitted to the environment must be budgeted and precisely targeted for maximum effect. Incentives must line up. Regulatory and institutional structures must motivate the desired behaviors, and desired behaviors must be recognized, duly credited and rewarded.

Mutual benefits, market forces, mitigation and compensation must be part of the equation. Water rights priorities, water quality and third parties—including landowners and senior water rights holders—must be taken into account. And farmers must have certain assurances, a certain amount of peace and a basic ability to plan into the future to feel they have a fighting chance.

It’s a tall order to be sure—and particularly so in the rough-and-tumble world of California water. But if we’re going to preserve and protect the amazing food production system represented by California agriculture as we try to recover our natural and aquatic ecosystems, it’s going to take a whole new approach.

It’s been painful getting here, but we may be turning a corner. For the good of all, let’s hope it works.

Link to article 

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One of Silicon Valley’s last orchards continues family farming tradition – from the Mercury News

Apricot trees at Orange Heritage Park in Sunnyvale.
Photo by Gary Reyes, Bay Area News Group

By Gillian Brassil

SUNNYVALE — The summer heat brings folks out for fresh fruit, and Charlie Olson has been in the business for over 70 years, bringing Blenheim apricots to Sunnyvale residents since his family moved to California over a century ago.

The farming family tradition began in 1899 when Olson’s grandfather moved to California and started his farm on the land now leased by the family to the shopping center at the corner of Mathilda and El Camino. At age 13, Olson’s father dropped out of school to take over the family business. Olson took over the family business in 1977, three years before his father passed in 1980. He now tends to the 10 acres of apricot orchard owned by the City of Sunnyvale.

“Farming is what I know best; it’s in my blood,” Olson said. “It’s been a romance with me and the orchards and the people around me, it does something for your soul.”

The legacy continues as Olson, now 82, is still operating Orchard Heritage Park behind the Sunnyvale Community Center. Olson’s farm is one of the last of its kind in the Silicon Valley.

The apricot farm has 10 acres left of the original 43 by the Sunnyvale Community Center. According to Olson, there are about 80 trees per acre, meaning the farm has about 800 trees to prune, pick and take care of. There are three additional acres of cherry trees that Olson tends to by the Las Palmas Tennis Center. During season, Olson has between 20 and 25 workers helping. Out of season, Olson operates the farm with only one or two other partners.

The apricot season is during June and July. Olson said the original family tradition was to open the day after the Fourth of July, however, the heat makes the fruit ripen quicker. Now the season starts closer to the middle of June.

“The heat makes the apricots cook on the trees,” Olson explained. “We have to pick them right as they change color.”

Olson said that the market for dried apricots is narrow, especially for the Blenheim apricots that the orchard grows. Olson claims that Blenheim apricots are the sweetest and “best tasting” apricots, but are going extinct as they are the most tedious to care for — it costs around seven dollars to raise one pound of apricots.

As a result, most apricots in the United States are imported from the Middle East. Olson said less than 700 tons of apricots were grown in-state last year.

“Especially with families on budgets, you can get cheap dried apricots from Turkey at Costco in these big bags and we just can’t do that,” Olson said.

Olson said it takes about five pounds of fresh apricots to make one pound of dried apricots. He sun-dries his own apricots across from the barn where his office is.

On the other side of the community center, Olson’s co-worker for the past 25 years, Elisabeth Maurer, runs the fruit stand. There, farm hands sort the freshly picked and dried apricots as well as “Elisabeth’s Jams” made from the apricots and cherries grown in the orchard.

Maurer said the typical day runs from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with the stand open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. seven days per week. Maurer has between four and six hands to help sort the apricots which are picked and loaded into the tractor truck running from the orchard to the stand.

“We have to sort by soft, sunburnt, small, regular — sometimes we get a combination of small and sunburnt and we just make another pile that way,” said Yannah, a recent high school graduate who has been working on the orchard for the past three years.

Maurer said sorting is crucial to different tastes. For example, a sunburned apricot is generally sweeter with a crispy skin. These fruits are discounted as they do not save as long as the regular apricots. Regular apricots cost 15 dollars per five pounds.

Despite the hard work, Maurer said the effort is worth it.

“It really is a labor of love,” Maurer said. “Our goal is to make people happy — and we do.”

Farm stand shoppers said they enjoyed the freshness of the apricots and the fact that the fruit was all local.

“Can’t get fresh fruit like this elsewhere,” said one local shopper, John Lou.

Although Olson and Maurer both love the orchard, Olson says his family farming line probably ends with him. His daughter runs the family apricot and cherry stand that started operating in the 50s, C.J. Olson Cherries, on El Camino and Mathilda. Olson said that the family farming tradition would probably end after this generation.

“People don’t get into it nowadays — it’s hard,” Olson said. “Farm families get up and farm because it is your job, it is what you know. Times change and I’m 82; the line stops here.”

Link to article


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Pollinator Week focuses on essential nature of the “B’s”

June 19-25 is “Pollinator Week,” a time to spotlight the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week was originally created by Congress 10 years ago and has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by the “B’s:” birds, butterflies, bees, bats and beetles.

CDFA highlighted concerns with declining bee populations in its Growing California video series. Here is “Blossom Buddies,” parts one and two.


Link to the Pollinator Partnership web site

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Secretary Ross honors California’s 2017 “Best of Show” winners for commercial wine, beer, cheese and olive oil

On the north steps of the California capitol this morning, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joined representatives of the 2017 California State Fair to celebrate with the winners of the annual Commercial Beer, Wine, Cheese, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil competitions. Commercial Beer set a new record with 1,488 entries, making it the third largest beer competition in the country. Commercial Wine continued its legacy as the country’s oldest and most prestigious wine competition.

California’s “Best of Show” winners for 2017:

Flatland Brewery Elk Grove – Commercial Beer Best of Show

Loma Brewery Los Gatos – Commercial Beer Brewery of the Year

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company Point Reyes Station – Cheese Best of Show

Pennyroyal Farm Boonville – Cheese, Other Milk Type Best of Show

Bondolio Davis – Extra Virgin Olive Oil Best of Show

Calivirgin Lodi – Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil Best of Show

Imagery Estate Winery Sonoma County – Wine Best of Show, Red

Rendez-vous Winery Clarksburg – Wine Best of Show, White

Sutter Home Family Vineyards Napa – Wine Best of Show, Sparkling & Best Value Wine

Gifft BY KATHIE LEE GIFFORD Monterey County – Wine Best of Show, Pink

Navarro Vineyards Anderson Valley – Wine Best of Show, Dessert

Imagery Estate Winery Glen Ellen – Golden State Winery of the Year

Some of this year’s wine medalists will be featured at the California State Fair in the Save Mart Wine Garden for visitors to enjoy. Winners of the Commercial Beer Competition have been invited to pour their award-winning beer at the Best of California Brewfest on Saturday, July 22. Free cheese and olive oil samples can also be found throughout the Fair.

The California State Fair is July 14-30.

Complete lists of winners in each category are available online:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition Results

Commercial Wine Competition Results

Commercial Cheese Competition Results

Commercial Beer Competition Results




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New diagnostic kit for detection of foot-and-mouth disease a valuable tool – from Morning Ag Clips

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced the licensing of a rapid-response (three-hour) Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) diagnostic kit by the USDA.  Developed by a large research consortium of federal agencies, academia and animal health industry scientists, this is the first licensed FMD diagnostic kit that can be manufactured on the U.S. mainland, critical for a rapid response in the event of a FMD outbreak.

This diagnostic kit provides animal health first-responders with an important tool to mitigate the potentially catastrophic economic and animal welfare impacts of a FMD outbreak. This high-performance test can be used for cattle, swine, and sheep, and will be commercialized and sold by Veterinary Medical Research and Development, Inc., a U.S. manufacturer of veterinary diagnostics.

“This assay will be a pivotal tool for U.S. emergency preparedness and response and for ensuring the resiliency of U.S. animal agriculture, a critical infrastructure” said DHS Under Secretary (Acting) William N. Bryan. “Successfully bringing this test to market exemplifies the type of public-private partnerships that are necessary to support U.S. agriculture and global FMD control and eradication programs.”

California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones concurs: “This will be a CRITICAL tool in that it will allow us to focus more directly on diseased animals; and it could reduce the size of a quarantined area, reduce the number of animals that would be euthanized, and better enable us to use vaccination as a control strategy,” she said.

The FMD virus is highly contagious in cloven-hoofed animals, including: cattle, pigs, small ruminants. Globally, FMD has a significant impact on livestock trade economics, and extensive regulatory programs exist in the U.S. to facilitate identification of, response to, and control of the disease. With one in nine Americans employed in the agriculture or allied industries, the effects of an FMD outbreak in the U.S. would be devastating ­– estimated at nearly $200 billion in lost revenue over 10 years across affected industries.

Link to Morning Ag Clips

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Farmers’ Markets – from the Growing California video series

As Farmers Markets are flourishing throughout California this summer, here’s an encore presentation from the Growing California video series.

Find a Certified Farmers market near you.

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California/Australia climate smart agriculture webinar today

Although California and Australia are in opposite hemispheres, our climates – and the associated challenges — are profoundly similar. As California continues to lead the nation in agricultural production, we must look to our international partners to find innovative ways to produce high quality foods while also practicing water conservation.

Join the conversation as farmers, research scientists and government representatives from Australia and California discuss irrigation water management and technologies for use in specialty crop production.

California & Australia Climate Smart Agriculture Webinar   June 19, 2017 · 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. (PST)

Australia is one the world’s leaders in irrigation efficiency and water management innovation. From 1997 to 2009, Australia faced the worst drought in the country’s history. However, through a series of policy innovations, Australia was successful in reducing water use and developing adaptive on-farm solutions for a changing climate.

California is working in collaboration with international partners to foster knowledge-sharing partnerships to address climate change impacts on agriculture. This webinar is the fifth in a series of international discussions focusing on climate smart agriculture.

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Sacramento’s Summer Food Program Kicks-Off with Tootsie

(left to right) Tammy Anderson-Wise, Dairy Council of California, Karen Ross, Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Sandip Kaur, Director of Nutrition Services, California Department of Education , Jay Lowden, CEO YMCA of Superior California, Sacramento, Michelle Drake, Elk Grove Unified School District Food Service Director and Coco the cow from New Hope Dairy in Halt, representing Dairy Council Of CA’s Mobile Dairy Classroom.

During the school year, more than 16.9 million children receive free and reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, only 2.3 million, or about 12 percent, of these young people have access to free meals over the summer break.

This summer, the YMCA of Superior California, in partnership with the Walmart Foundation, will provide more than 500 free lunches a day to youth at partner locations throughout the community, through their Summer Food Program.

At the kick-off event yesterday in Sacramento, Dairy Council of California had the opportunity to showcases their Mobile Dairy Classroom, with Tootsie – the star of the show.

Tootsie (four week old calf) meeting the kids.

Further information on statewide Summer Meal Programs from the California Department of Education.




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Secretary Ross visits with CDFA’s Executive Leadership Program

Today, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and Deputy Secretary Kevin Masuhara had opportunity to visit with current class of the department’s Executive Leadership Program.

“What a pleasure to join Deputy Secretary Kevin Masuhara to address this year’s CDFA Executive Leadership class. I am so proud of our CDFA team and their commitment to the department’s mission and to serving agriculture and the consumers who depend upon it!!

This class graduates next month. They are terrific!” – Secretary Karen Ross

CDFA’s current class includes: Trish Beam; John Martin; Mandy Patterson – (Administrative Services); Crystal D’Souza – (Executive Office); Rachel Andrade; Austin Borgman; Dr. Alyssa Louie; Virginia Townley – (Animal Health and Food Safety Services); Colleen Murphy; Jason Chan; Paul Martinez; Shaun Winterton; Adam Holmes – (Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services); Patrina Brennan – (Pierce’s Disease); Dinesh Chand; Stan Murikami; Scott Renteria; Danielle Chapman; Samantha Moran; Evelyn Ndiaye – (Inspection Services); Christine Bernardo; David DaSilva; Dave Dillabo; David Wilcox – (Marketing Services); and John Larkin – (Measurement Standards).


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