California Department of Food and Agriculture

Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA -

Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Invasive Species Summit kicks off at the Capitol

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross welcomed stakeholders to the Eureka Room at the State Capitol for yesterday’s opening session of the Invasive Species Summit, a two-day event aimed at refining the state’ s approach and responsiveness to invasive species ranging from fruit flies and other insect pests to weeds, plant and animal diseases and other threats to our agriculture and the environment. “We are a big, beautiful, special place, blessed with great weather and diverse geography, and that means a lot to our many visitors – including pests. Think of what that means to our ecosystem, our tourism, our recreation, in addition to agriculture,” Secretary Ross told attendees. “Having a strategic framework for the 21st century is especially important now because we are living climate change… we have to figure this out and understand this as a piece of the invasive species puzzle.”

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Proposed CDFA budget for 2018-2019 demonstrates steady course for agency and California

Governor Brown’s proposed budget of $488 million for the California Department of Food and Agriculture for 2018-2019 reflects his emphasis on steady growth while maintaining a sufficient rainy day fund. Some key CDFA proposals are as follows:

  1. Use of Antimicrobial Drugs on Livestock – The budget proposes $2.668 million to address the full implementation of SB-27, which introduces limits on antibiotic use in livestock and stewardship practices to reduce antimicrobial resistance; and it provides antimicrobial availability through licensed retail stores and/or new regulations.
  2. Citrus Pest Disease and Prevention – The budget would provide $5 million ($2.5 million General Fund and $2.5 million Ag Fund) to enhance Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing suppression activities.
  3. Bee Safe Program – $1.853 million is proposed to develop a program to promote and protect a safe and healthy food supply through the protection of bees, providing funds for local enforcement of existing laws that promote and protect California’s beekeeping industry.
  4. Safe and Affordable Drinking Water – CDFA would establish and collect a dairy and livestock safe drinking water fee and a fertilizer safe drinking water fee and transfer the funds collected to the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. The proposed amount for those activities at CDFA is $1.41 million, which would be advanced from the Fund to support the initial startup costs.
  5. Development of Pesticide Alternatives – The budget proposes $529,000 for CDFA’s Office of Pesticide Consultation and Analysis to support the scientific development and testing of alternatives for pesticides being considered for restriction in California. This includes biocontrol efforts.
  6. Pet Lover’s Specialized License Plates – This proposal would provide $440,000 (special fund) to implement the provisions of SB 673, to utilize funding from specialized license plates to award grants to qualifying spay and neuter facilities that offer low-cost or no-cost animal sterilization services.
  7. State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) and Healthy Soils Program – Bond funding (SB 5) would provide $27.4 million for two of CDFA’s climate smart agriculture programs – $17.8 million for ongoing SWEEP grants and $8.6 million in grants from the Healthy Soils Program.

The budget notes that $1.25 billion in Cap and Trade funding (which has been the funding source for CDFA’s climate smart agriculture programs) will be available for appropriation in 2018-19. The plan for these funds will be announced later in January as part of the Governor’s annual State of the State Address.

The entire proposed state budget may be found here.

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CDFA Welcomes Assistant Secretary Rachael O’Brien

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (right) congratulates newly appointed Assistant Secretary Rachael O’Brien, who comes to CDFA from the Agricultural Council of California, where she was manager of government affairs.

Secretary Ross presided over the swearing-in ceremony for Assistant Secretary O’Brien on January 9.

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What could Huanglongbing look like in your citrus? From Western FarmPress

HLB disease symptoms in lime: The asymmetrical yellowing of citrus leaves can be a good indication of Huanglongbing. Testing must be done to determine if the tree is diseased. Photo: California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program.

By Todd Fitchette

The proliferation of the fatal citrus disease called Huanglongbing (HLB) in urban neighborhoods across the Los Angeles Basin can be traced to the introduction of the Asian citrus psyllid into California about a decade ago. Since the invasive pest was first discovered near San Diego it has become widely established in southern California and has been found as far north as the Bay Area and Sacramento region.

Critical to commercial growers, the pest has been found in growing regions of Ventura, Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties.

These photos were provided by the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program and reveal visual symptoms of the disease. These symptoms are similar across other U.S. states. Each of them is of a citrus tree – lime, mandarin and orange – that tested positive for HLB. Those tests were conducted based in part on visual inspections of the trees and other warning signs regulators look for.

In the past couple years the disease manifested itself in urban neighborhoods from San Gabriel and Riverside to Anaheim. As of early January, more than 300 trees have tested positive for HLB. California law mandates that these trees be removed once they test positive. To date all of these trees have been in residential neighborhoods. None of them were reported in commercial groves.

Symptoms include a yellowing of leaves and, in advanced stages of HLB, bitter and misshapen fruit. Fruit on diseased trees does not ripen completely (fruit tends to remain green on the bottom while ripening or coloring on the top of the fruit), which is why HLB is also known as “citrus greening disease.”

It is important to distinguish HLB-like symptoms with potential nutrient deficiency in citrus trees. In the case of HLB, the yellowing on leaves will be asymmetrical, meaning the yellow blotching on one side of the midrib of the leaf won’t be matched by yellowing on the opposite side of the leaf.

Yellowing of tree leaves with nutrient deficiencies tends to be symmetrical.

It is important to note that the trees in these photos are all non-commercial, residential trees. This suggests that the trees may also be deficient in various nutrients as homeowners do not likely apply nutrients to them, or even water them correctly. Nevertheless, the asymmetrical yellowing is indicative of HLB and should be further investigated.

It is important with any such symptoms to consult an expert – a pest control advisor, Cooperative Extension advisor or state citrus inspector – to determine the next step if tree leaves are turning yellow. That by itself is not proof of the disease, but can be an indicator of disease or a nutrient deficiency. The only recognized diagnosis for HLB is what is commonly called the “PCR test.” Certain labs are authorized to do this test.

Growers outside of California should carefully consider their own state and local regulations when it comes to HLB and the insect that vectors the disease.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has an online resource for growers and residents to contact if they have questions. The USDA offers a similar online resource.

The original post and photo slideshow are available online here.

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Video – Climate Smart Ag in action at Giacomazzi Farms

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) investments in irrigation technology and other advancements through its State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) are explored in this video about Giacomazzi Farms.

Through the SWEEP program, CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation provides financial assistance in the form of grants to implement irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water on California farms.

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10 ways ideas about healthy eating have changed – from the Washington Post

By Ellie Krieger

Healthy isn’t what it used to be. I don’t mean that in the whiplash-inducing way all the clickbait headlines out there would have you think. Despite the seeming back and forth, there is remarkable consistency in core dietary advice. You could comfortably hang your resolution hat on two of the biggest: eat more vegetables and less added sugar.

But there have been exciting shifts in what it means to eat well, shaped both by modern culinary style and bona fide nutritional science. They’ve been building for years but now have a definite form. This is a change that is real, compelling and refreshing.

Healthy eating has emerged rebranded from a stodgy, finger-wagging “should” to a cool, on-trend “want to.” Harnessing the momentum of this fashionable, new healthy could re-energize your efforts to eat better in the new year and beyond, inspiring a way of eating that’s good for you with — yes, more vegetables and less sugar — but also a fresh, updated perspective, one that’s as hip and appealing as it is good for you. Here are 10 facets of what’s healthy now and how to make the most of them.

The new healthy is . . .

. . . a way of life

The notion of dieting, with its obsessive calorie counting, weighing and measuring is out, and “lifestyling,” with a focus on overall eating patterns and whole-life wellness, is in. Even longtime diet programs such as Weight Watchers have heeded the call with their new Freestyle program. Crash diets haven’t totally disappeared — they have just been renamed detoxes and cleanses, and I recommend avoiding them — but the overall shift to healthy as a way of life has arrived and is a welcome bandwagon worth jumping on.

. . . a vegetable celebration

In print, on Instagram feeds and in restaurants from fine to fast-casual, vegetables have graduated from a sidelined afterthought to center stage, and there are more compelling vegan and vegetarian options available than ever before. Vegetables are given luxe treatment with decadent-tasting but good-for-you sauces such as tahini or pesto and spun into comfort foods such as potato nachos, Buffalo cauliflower and zucchini noodles. There has never been a better time to be, or try to become, a vegetable lover.

. . . not afraid of fat

Counting fat grams has gone the way of the Walkman. There is just no need for it. There is now a body of evidence that fats — especially those from whole foods such as nuts, seeds, avocado and fish and healthy oils — are good for our nutritional well-being, benefiting our heart health, blood sugar and weight, to name a few. Just ignore the rampant butter-is-back headlines. Even if saturated fat is not the demon it was once thought to be, it is still healthier to replace animal fat with that from plants. Hello, avocado toast.

. . . protein powerful

Protein is practically synonymous with healthy today, a trend that’s inspiring a more balanced plate than that of the bagel-for-breakfast days of yore. Along with the movement toward plant-based foods, this new way of eating has led to a rediscovery of powerfully nutritious beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, as chefs and home cooks interpret them with modern culinary prowess. Take advantage of all that but avoid getting ensnared in the more-is-better mentality and falling prey to marketing tactics that leverage grams of protein for health points. Include some protein at each meal or snack but remember: Protein-fortified cookies are still cookies.

. . . sweetened smartly

Refined sugar has never been billed as healthy per se, but there is a greater awareness and more scientific evidence than ever of its detrimental health effects. The food community and marketplace have stepped up with exciting savory options where there were once only sweet, such as with energy bars and yogurt flavors. There has also been a tasty, healthier shift to using fiber- and nutrient-rich whole foods such as dried and fresh fruit as sweeteners in baked goods, smoothies and bars. Still, it’s okay to have a little added sugar in your life, but the American Heart Association recommends keeping it to six teaspoons a day for women and nine for men.

. . . sustainable

The scientists on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee included considerations of sustainability and environmental impact in their recommendations to the Department of Agriculture, but although that issue didn’t make the final guidelines, it has steadily gained traction with the public. More and more people understand that their individual health is integrally linked with the health of our planet, and they are taking steps to eat greener by eating more plant-based meals, choosing sustainable fish, poultry and meats, and reducing waste.

. . . ingredient focused

Healthy today means looking beyond the grams and percentages on the nutrition facts label to the ingredients in a product. People want to know what’s in the food they are buying and how it was produced. Demand for simpler ingredient lists have compelled many manufacturers to remove artificial colors and flavors and other additives that didn’t need to be there in the first place.

. . . good for your gut

The relatively recent discovery of the microbiome has transformed the way we look at health. We now know that the good bacteria in our guts are key not only to digestive health but to overall wellness, and the foods that support the microbiome are hotter than ever with ancient, probiotic-rich fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and kefir making a modern comeback. There are more exciting varieties of these “living” foods available in the regular supermarket than ever before.

. . . rich in heritage

Beyond probiotics, looking back to move forward applies more broadly to today’s approach to healthy eating. Nutrition experts, chefs and the public alike are recognizing that there is more than one path to eating well, and there is wisdom in the global variety of traditional food ways. As we tap into that we are rediscovering heirloom and wild fruits and vegetables, heritage grains such as farro and sorghum, and patterns of eating that nourished our ancestors for generations.

. . . creatively plated

Healthy today breaks the old-fashioned mold of the divided plate and instead is built up in layers, arranged in bowls, piled into jars or whirred into a to-go cup. It’s packed with produce, compellingly colorful and has a freestyle sensibility. And, of course, to get traction in this Instagram-ready world, it’s ready for a close-up.

Link to story




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Video: CDFA helps California’s Hmong farmers conserve water and reduce emissions

California farmers Fong Tchieng and Vang C. Thao have a lot in common. They both have farming operations in the Central Valley. They both belong to the state’s vibrant – and growing – Hmong farming community. And most importantly, they have both partnered with state agencies to save water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Funded through California’s Cap-and-Trade Program and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, or SWEEP, has helped both these growers conserve water and reduce emissions by installing water and energy saving technologies.

Both Mr. Tchieng and Mr. Thao have used SWEEP dollars to invest in technologies like energy efficient pumps, drip irrigation systems and flow meters. According to the growers, these investments have helped them save water and reduce energy costs.

“This is a big upgrade compared to what we had,” said Kong Thao, who helps his father run their 34 acre farm in Fresno, CA. “With the water system that we have now, we’re finally at a point where we can relax a little and be able to do this for many years to come.”

Like other growers, California Hmong farmers have also struggled with the prolonged effects of the State’s historic drought. According to a 2016 survey conducted by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), 52 separate operations said the drought had affected their farm.  The survey also found that 22 percent of growers said their wells had dried up, and 51 percent reported a decreased water flow.

But unlike larger growers, many Hmong farmers do not always have the resources or necessary information to get help. To help bridge this gap, CDFA has partnered with UCCE to assist farmers in the SWEEP application process.

“California’s Hmong community plays an integral role in this state’s agricultural bounty,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “We need to continue working with our partners to make sure that SWEEP dollars are available for all those who qualify, regardless of their size or resources.”

Since its inception in 2014, SWEEP has extended funding to 587 projects, totaling more than $62 million.  To learn more about SWEEP, please visit:  You can also click here to see more videos on additional SWEEP awardees.


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Another beautiful weekend for California Grown at Tournament of Roses

CDFA secretary Karen Ross participated in the Tournament of Roses at the annual certification of floats and other parade vehicles as California Grown. The certification is for vehicles containing at least 85 percent California flowers. In this photo Secretary Ross joins a Melitta Kauppinen, a Cal Poly engineering student who was part of the university’s Rose Float team. The secretary was once Melitta’s Sunday School teacher at a Sacramento church. 

The Cal Poly float “Dreams Take Flight,” a collaborative student-led effort from the Pomona and San Luis Obispo campuses,won the Past Presidents Award for innovation in the use of floral and non-floral elements.

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“Holiday Farmers Market” helps kids practice food literacy over holiday break

CDFA Deputy Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt recently joined CDFA’s Farm to Fork staff at St. Hope Public School 7 in the Sacramento area to help distribute donated produce to students and families in low-income areas.

In partnership with Trinity Fresh, the Food Literacy Center hosted this “Holiday Farmers Market” at three elementary schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District Dec. 19-21.

With the distribution of 7,500 pieces of fresh produce, this program provided students and their families with 5 servings per day for 5 days to satisfy the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

CDFA Deputy Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt with students from St. Hope Public School 7.


CDFA Deputy Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt helps students choose fruits and vegetables.







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Remembering Christmases on the Farm

Remembering Christmas on the family farm in Nebraska

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

As Christmas approaches this year, I’ve been on the road quite a bit and I’ve spoken with a lot of farmers and their families. On the drive back from Monterey, and before that from Napa and Sonoma, and up and down the Central Valley, I’ve seen the lights strung along fence lines, and the festive decorations at our wineries and dairies and so many other kinds of farms and ranches and agricultural operations.

I find myself getting a bit nostalgic this year, remembering Christmases on my own family’s farm in western Nebraska. How the snow and the solitude and the silence were such a part of the season. How family was always at the center of it. How there was still work to do – no presents were opened on Christmas morning until the cattle were fed!  Even when everything was weighted by a chill, we would take the time to simply be with one another during the holidays, sharing stories, laughing, enjoying good food – lots of it – and letting the laughter seal our memories of things truly worth remembering about each other, about all that binds us together the rest of the year.

Surrounded by wide open spaces on the family farm in Nebraska

There is something special about Christmas on a farm, and it warms my heart to know that so many of the people I work with, both here at CDFA and in the larger agricultural community, are experiencing it as part of their family’s celebration this season.  This farm girl is the luckiest person in the world to get to do what I am so passionate about for people and issues. Though I work in an office most days now, I remember Christmas on the farm, surrounded by the land (these pictures show the wide open spaces of my childhood) and immersed in all the potential that the land gives us. It makes me proud to work for farmers, for ranchers, for Californians who appreciate what this industry does, what it means. And, I am especially grateful for the fantastic people who work at CDFA.  They are dedicated true public servants!

So Merry Christmas to you. And especially for those of you spending the season on the farm, enjoy your family and all that is so special about this wonderful place, California,  that agriculture calls home.




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