CDFA scientist tapped to lead national fertilizer organization

CDFA supervising environmental scientist Nick Young (L) receives the ceremonial gavel as he takes over as president of the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO), an organization of fertilizer regulators and researchers from the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. At CDFA, Young oversees a staff that works with the fertilizer industry to achieve compliance with California laws and regulations. Congratulations, Nick!

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#CDFACentennial – Centennial Reflections video series with Baldo Villegas

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state agency in 2019. Throughout the year this blog will feature a number of items to commemorate this milestone. Today we continue with the Centennial Reflections video series, featuring CDFA employees remembering their histories, and the agency’s.

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California-sponsored climate adaptation policy adopted by national association of state Ag departments

Today, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) passed a new climate resiliency policy supporting voluntary, incentive-based climate smart agricultural programs on a national scale.

This amendment, sponsored by California and colleagues in Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington, will enable NASDA to engage at a federal level on priorities, programs and legislation that support the ongoing work of farmers and ranchers in using on-farm practices to reduce emissions, sequester carbon, and improve resiliency.

“Recognizing and supporting the voluntary actions of the nation’s farmers and ranchers to protect and enhance land, water and other natural resources is critical as we continue to address a changing climate,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “California is pleased to join and support NASDA in taking action at the federal level on Climate Smart Agriculture programs.” 

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Upcoming forum to discuss flood water as groundwater recharge

Projects that use floodwaters for recharging and storage of water into an aquifer play an important role in sustainable water management in California, and also provide many environmental benefits. Flood-MAR, which stands for Floodwater for Managed Aquifer Recharge, is a voluntary resource management strategy for using aquifer recharge on agricultural lands and working landscapes, such as refuges, floodplains and bypasses.

At the upcoming 2019 Flood-MAR Public Forum at California State Sacramento on October 28-29, 2019, attendees will learn more about Flood-MAR and its impact on water supply reliability, flood risk reduction, drought preparedness, ecosystem advancement and climate change adaptation, to name a few.

Attendees at the forum will explore innovative solutions, implementation considerations, priority actions, and best practices to develop a robust Flood-MAR network throughout the state.

CDFA supports the sharing of innovative technology for water management through its Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI) and works closely with the organizers with the Flood-MAR Forum.

Click here to register.

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Nutrition and sustainability increasingly linked – from Agri-Pulse

Op-ed by Kerry Tucker and Teresa Siles

Pressure to address sustainability and nutrition under a common framework is picking up steam as global stakeholders grapple with what it will take to sustainably produce enough food for healthy eating patterns given global population projections 30 years out.

This move toward sustainable nutrition emerged as a priority trend in the 2019 Food Foresight report amid calls for agriculture to improve production practices across an array of issues from water conservation and soil health, to farm labor conditions, treatment of livestock and GHG emissions. 

Critics claim the current food system needs an overhaul and although they are quick to acknowledge the lack of easy sustainable solutions, the shift to more plant-based foods and limiting animal-sourced foods are often cited as the low-hanging fruit to begin balancing nutrition and sustainability. 

“The old metaphor ‘you are what you eat,’ is on a new course of ‘you and your planet are what you eat,’ ”said Jeff Dlott, a long time Food Foresight panelist and president of SureHarvest, which helps food and agricultural partners define, measure and meet their sustainability goals. 

The questions around sustainability and nutrition are often different in countries like the U.S. than those posed on a global scale.  In the U.S., we tend to talk about sustainable nutrition from a perspective of affluence where questions center around whether consumers will pay for foods grown more sustainably. Often through a different lens, we then look at health, nutrition and the growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, related to unhealthy diets. At the same time, global hunger and undernutrition persist and there are high demands for foods rich in essential nutrients. 

Policymakers in countries around the world are formalizing dietary guidelines to include sustainability considerations. As a result, some in nutrition sciences are concerned about the nutritional risks of limiting nutrient-dense foods, like milk and dairy foods, from vulnerable populations who need them most. 

“Encouraging consumption of plant-based foods, lean animal-protein sources and nutrient-dense milk and dairy foods can help close the nutrient gap that exists with people all over the world,” says Carl Keen, nutrition professor at University of California, Davis and founding Food Foresight panelist. 

Thecorporate sector – with names like Nestle USA, Mars Inc and Danone North America to name a few – is doubling down on sustainability programs, often based on the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals. Industry groups also have sustainability at the top of their priorities list. The Almond Board of California, Dairy Cares, National Dairy Council, US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform are just a few examples.  Farmers and ranchers are also investing in best practices and tools like precision agriculture and evolving technologies to do more with less. 

In California, under the leadership of Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary, the Climate Smart Agriculture program is incentivizing the transformation of current production practices.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the critical role our natural lands, forests and farms and ranches can play in drawing down carbon while providing food, fiber and timber, and enhancing biodiversity and open space for recreation and tourism,” said Ross.

While substantial efforts are underway by many in agriculture to look holistically at both nutrition and sustainability, more work is yet to be done. The wise would do more than take note, they would take action. First and foremost, every grower, processor or producer of agriculture must understand the impact of their products on environmental, economic and social sustainability. From there, efforts should be taken to feed a growing population healthfully and without putting our natural resources at further risk and negatively impacting climate change and the environment. Innovative thinking, processes, technologies and multi-sector collaboration will be tools of the trade. Solutions lie with next-generation agricultural systems that align with people, planet, and society. The reward is great with impacts not only to companies, brands, customers and consumers, but to society at large, including a brighter, healthier and more sustainable future for all. 

Kerry Tucker is the founder of Food Foresight, a trends intelligence collaboration between Nuffer, Smith, Tucker and the California Institute of Agricultural Research at University of California, Davis. Teresa Siles is co-author of Food Foresight and managing director at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker Inc., a strategic planning and public relations firm headquartered in San Diego.

Link to article on Agri-Pulse web site

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Back to the future – California Farm Bureau looks back 50 years to review future predictions

A 1969 Massey-Ferguson tractor.

From Ag Alert

By Dave Kranz

To commemorate the California Farm Bureau Federation’s 50th anniversary, in 1969, the CFBF publication Farm Bureau Monthly set out on a bold project: predicting what agriculture would be like 50 years in the future.

The publication consulted experts from many sectors and aspects of agriculture, publishing more than two-dozen articles in five consecutive issues. Their predictions involved not just how farmers would farm, but how people would live their lives, buy food and communicate.

They may or may not have expected someone to dig out their forecasts 50 years later but here’s the thing: Many of their predictions turned out to be prescient.

Sure, there was some “Jetsons”-style speculation. A professor of family life predicted we’d be eating off of plastic dishes that after use would be placed in a machine that would clean, melt and remold new dishes; that closets would be outfitted with devices to clean clothes by sonic waves; and that giant hovercraft would carry passengers and freight.

But a representative of Safeway Stores predicted people would shop by video phone, with charges to the shopper’s credit card automatically deducted from the bank account. A University of California agricultural scientist accurately foresaw an upcoming era of instant communication.

When it came to predicting what 21st century farming would look like, many writers focused on the promise of computers and mechanization.

“Farming will be a miracle of mechanization, chemistry and management skills,” wrote Ralph Bunje of the California Canning Peach Association.

Other writers tempered their expectations of how machines would change agriculture.

An American Farm Bureau Federation policy specialist, Matt Triggs, believed new machinery and equipment would perform an increasing proportion of total work, “but for a long time, human labor, even at much higher than existing wage rates, will be cheaper and more satisfactory than machine operation for a few agricultural operations.”

A subtropical horticulturalist for the UC Extension Service, Robert G. Platt, said he expected citrus mechanization and automation to come with future plantings, but “whether complete mechanization of harvesting ever becomes a reality remains to be seen.”

Platt accurately foresaw an “inevitable” reduction in Southern California citrus acreage as the region urbanized, and other writers also warned of forces they expected to challenge agricultural production.

An extension economist at UC Riverside, William W. Wood Jr., said if 1969 land-use trends continued, there would be “virtually no prime land available for agricultural production 50 years hence.”

Competition for water would also intensify, according to AFBF natural resources director Clifford G. McIntire: “Agriculture must be vigilant or it will be outbid, outmaneuvered or out-legislated in the competition for present and future water resources.”

The peach association’s Bunje expected additional oversight: “Government will regulate the use of chemicals, water drainage and the environmental operation of farming. Farming will be governed by laws relating to natural resources.”

Farmers and ranchers would also need to adapt to new marketing realities, wrote UC agricultural economist G. Alvin Carpenter: “Farmers, as well as their marketing agencies, must either act to shape the future, or they must defensively react as they rebound from crisis to crisis.”

The livestock business in 1969 faced a variety of problems, UC Extension animal scientist J.T. Elings wrote: land prices, taxes, diseases and imports, plus “imitation milk and ice cream, soybean hamburger, plastics instead of leather, synthetic fibers instead of wool.”

“Whether the animal industry survives will depend on its ability to change—to adapt,” Elings wrote.

That adaptation would depend on versatile, well-educated farmers and ranchers, according to J.J. Miller of the Agricultural Producers Labor Committee.

“By 2000 the farmer will have developed the talents of a Renaissance man of many parts to succeed in the agricultural arena,” Miller wrote. “More than a smattering of knowledge in the fields of finance, chemistry, horticulture, meteorology, business management, psychology, engineering, to name a few, will have to be at his command.”

CFBF leaders also wrote about the future of the Farm Bureau organization—we’ll share their thoughts in a subsequent edition of Ag Alert®—and UC Vice President J.B. Kendrick Jr. said Farm Bureau should take pride in how agriculture had advanced during its first 50 years.

“When this organization celebrates its centennial anniversary,” Kendrick wrote, “I am certain that the accomplishments of the second half of the century will be even more exciting, more unbelievable, and more satisfying to mankind.”

Link to story on Ag Alert website

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Video: CDFA takes part in California Biodiversity Day, September 7

The Golden State celebrates “California Biodiversity Day” on September 7, 2019. Home to the most diverse species and ecosystems in the U.S., California celebrates by encouraging actions to protect the natural variety that is part of the state’s enduring allure.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s mission to protect and promote agriculture includes an array of facilities and professionals whose job is to protect our state’s environment and habitat by identifying, collecting, cataloguing and researching both native Californian species and invasive plants, pests and other organisms that could pose a threat to our ecosystems. This video provides a quick look at some of these vital activities that take place at our CDFA Plant Pest Diagnostics Center in the Sacramento area.

Please join CDFA and our partners at the California Natural Resources Agency in celebrating California Biodiversity Day on September 7, 2019. Check out this California Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage for more details on activities that you can take part in. 

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Video: Secretary Ross invites you to celebrate California Biodiversity Day on September 7

California’s tremendously varied natural and working lands make our state one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Please join CDFA and our partners at the California Natural Resources Agency in celebrating California Biodiversity Day on September 7, 2019. This annual event promotes the state’s exceptional biodiversity and encourages actions to protect it.

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New detections of West Nile Virus in California horses – prevention tips from CDFA

Horses in a meadow.

A total of seven California horses have tested positive in recent weeks for West Nile Virus, with six of the cases in the Central Valley and one in Riverside County. Two of the horses were euthanized due to the severity of their symptoms.

Horse owners are reminded to have their animals vaccinated to make sure they are maximizing protection against the disease. And once vaccinations occur, horse owners should be checking regularly with their veterinarians to make sure they stay current.

Californians can also do their part to prevent the disease by managing mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus. Here are some tips:

  • Draining unnecessary standing water found in wheelbarrows, tires, etc.
  • Cleaning water containers at least weekly (i.e., bird baths, plant saucers)
  • Scheduling pasture irrigation to minimize standing water
  • Keeping swimming pools optimally chlorinated and draining water from pool covers
  • Stocking of water tanks with fish that consume mosquito larvae (Contact local mosquito control for assistance) or use mosquito “dunk” available at hardware stores.

It’s important to remember that mosquitoes become infected with the virus when they feed on infected birds. Mosquitoes then spread the virus to horses.  Horses are a dead-end host and do not spread the virus to other horses or humans. For more information on West Nile Virus, please visit this link.

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CDFA connecting foreign buyers and California companies

CDFA, in cooperation with the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA), hosted business delegations from the Middle East and South Korea this week to meet with California agricultural suppliers. More than 40 companies participated in meetings in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco as part of overall activities, leading to more than 350 individual business meetings. California is the nation’s largest agricultural exporter, valued at more than $20 billion. Inbound delegations allow companies the opportunity to meet with qualified foreign buyers to expand business connections and export opportunities. CDFA works to protect and promote California’s agricultural sector. For more information on upcoming events, please visit WUSATA (

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