Ag leaders on-hand as Governor Brown signs landmark groundwater legislation

At the Sept. 16 signing ceremony for California's landmark groundwater legislation, Governor Brown is joined by (from left) State Board of Food and Agriculture President Craig McNamara, Board Member and Driscoll's Chairman Miles Reiter, Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, and Senate President Pro Tempore-elect Kevin DeLeón.

At the Sept. 16 signing ceremony for California’s landmark groundwater legislation, Governor Brown is joined by (from left) State Board of Food and Agriculture President Craig McNamara, Board Member and Driscoll’s Chairman Miles Reiter, Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, and Senate President Pro Tempore-elect Kevin DeLeón.

Signing message from Governor Brown

To Members of the California Legislature:

I am signing AB 1739, SB 1168 and SB 1319, which taken collectively establish a new structure for managing the State’s groundwater.

These bills accomplish a number of goals described in the California Water Action Plan, a five-year plan to sustainably manage our water resources. When combined with other elements outlined in the plan — conservation, water recycling, expanded storage, safe drinking water, wetlands and watershed restoration — and the passage of Proposition 1, we can take giant strides to secure California’s water future.

A central feature of these bills is the recognition that groundwater management in California is best accomplished locally. Local agencies will now have the power to assess the conditions of their local groundwater basins and take the necessary steps to bring those basins in a state of chronic long-term overdraft into balance.

The State’s primary role is to provide guidance and technical support on how to plan for a more sustainable future and to step in on an interim basis when, but only when, local agencies fail to exercise their responsibilities as set forth in this legislation.

My administration will work closely with all affected groups to ensure that the statute is fairly implemented. Further, I will submit for legislative consideration during the next session a proposal to streamline judicial adjudications of groundwater rights.

Link to signing message

Link to news release

Posted in Climate Change, Drought, Environment, State Board of Food and Agriculture | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Climate change’s impact on restaurants – from the Sacramento Bee

Chef and restaurateur Patrick Mulvaney

Chef and restaurateur Patrick Mulvaney

By Patrick Mulvaney, chef and restaurateur

When I read about climate change, I learn about rising sea levels and shrinking polar ice caps – problems for 100 years in the future. But when I talk to my friends and customers about climate change, the focus is on what is happening today. It seems little things are already adding up.

As a chef, I have always believed that the completed dish will only be as good as the ingredients used. The bounty of the 12-month growing season is the main reason we decided to open our restaurant here in Sacramento. Because of our close relationships with local farmers, our “supply chain” is basically a truck and the farmer’s market. We can see how the drought has affected their crops.

Three years of drought have taken a toll on the ranchers and farmers we depend on. Lack of rain to refill the state’s reservoirs has reduced water levels to historic lows. Some water allocations have been cut entirely, and most farmers have been forced to scale back on planting. Forty-five percent of rice land went unplanted this year; farmers were forced to sell off cattle this spring. Researchers at UC Davis estimate that drought will prevent farmers from planting nearly 430,000 acres and cost the state $2.2 billion.

This isn’t just a Sacramento problem; it will affect the whole country. California grows nearly half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, including 70 percent of the lettuce, 76 percent of the avocados, 90 percent of the grapes and virtually all of the almonds. Unfavorable conditions in California mean higher prices for restaurants across the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said produce prices could increase 5 to 6 percent this year. Even though beef prices are at historically high levels, the drought has raised the prices of feed even higher, forcing ranchers to sell the majority of their herds. A few years ago, the U.S. had 102 million head of cattle. That number is now under 88 million and dropping. It’s the smallest herd since 1951, so prices keep rising.

In addition to drought, climate change is causing other kinds of severe weather swings. Last winter was unusually brutal in the Midwest, causing an almost complete failure of the cherry crop and raising doubts about harvests for the rest of the tree fruits this summer.

In some ways, we are lucky at my restaurant; our daily-changing menus have allowed us to respond to climate disruptions. And while we continue to serve the best of what’s coming out of the nearby land, some items have become harder to find at a reasonable price. During the past year, restaurants have changed their menus to reflect higher meat prices, sudden collapses in citrus yields and the lack of products as farmers are forced to let their land lie fallow.

I worry that extreme weather, like California’s drought, may become the new normal. Our agricultural partners face the greatest risks. Many businesses will experience climate change through limited supply and poor supply-chain quality.

There’s something we can do about this. California has long been a national leader on clean-energy policies. Gov. Jerry Brown is supportive of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations that will reduce carbon pollution. He said, “Clean-energy policies are already working in California, generating billions of dollars in energy savings and more than a million jobs. Bold, sustained action will be required at every level, and this is a major step forward.”

Now is the time to continue California’s clean-energy leadership tradition by implementing changes that encourage business leaders to use resources more efficiently. This will help prevent more extreme weather events and make our economy more resilient.

Patrick Mulvaney is the chef and proprietor at Mulvaney’s B&L restaurant in Sacramento.

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Millennials set characteristic spending patterns for food – From The Atlantic

lead

Just how different are millennials?

So far, quite. Millennials (adults born in the 80s and 90s) are spending money differently than previous generations, preferring to throw cash at new experiences and adventures and to reward socially responsible companies that they can connect with and that they deem authentic. It’s easiest to see this change in the food industry, where millennials are helping to disrupt the landscape of casual restaurants and boosting the earnings of chains such as Chipotle or Panera.

As 2013 research from the Boston Consulting Group found, millennials anticipated spending the greatest amount of money in the coming year on fresh fruits, organic food, and natural products. Less favorable, in their minds, was the idea of spending on luxury goods, soda, applications, and handbags.

If there is one industry that millennials particularly dislike, it’s big banks. A three-year research study of more than 10,000 millennials found that a good handful of the least-liked brands were big financial institutions such as Bank of America and Citigroup, leading the authors to name the financial industry as one of the greatest areas for potential disruption by millennials. Community banks are trying to capitalize on this distrust by beefing up their technology offerings, social media, mobile banking, and customer service in an effort to attract more millennial customers.

The housing market is still pretty slow, weighing on the economic recovery. A big factor behind that sluggish recovery is the fact that first-time homebuyers (many of them young people) are staying out of the market, thanks to tight mortgage-lending standards, lots of career instability, and high levels of student debt. Heck, forget buying a house; many millennials in their late 20s and early 30s are still living with their parents.



Following the Great Recession, the millennial generation has suffered from high levels of both career instability and unemployment. Even in July 2014, roughly five years after the recession officially ended, millennials between the ages of 20 and 24 still suffered from an unemployment rate above 10 percent.

 



So where does this leave us? Around the country, various advocates, academics, businesses, and millennials themselves are carving out solutions to help the generation get on track financially. National Journal and The Atlantic‘s Next Economy project will spend this month exploring some of the best solutions and talking to people who spend their time figuring out how to help this generation succeed.

Link to story

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Parcel inspection dog on TV for actions to help protect citrus

KMAX-31, Sacramento.

KCRA-3, Sacramento. Note – There is a brief glitch in the video at the 35-second mark.

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California gets $22 million from USDA for conservation programs – News Release

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will benefit from USDA conservation funding.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will benefit from USDA conservation funding.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that $328 million in conservation funding (more than $22 million to California) is being invested to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation. The USDA initiative will benefit wildlife and promote outdoor recreation and related sectors of the economy.

“Conservation easements help farmers and ranchers protect valuable agricultural lands from development, restore lands that are best suited for grazing, and return wetlands to their natural conditions,” Vilsack said. “These easements are making a dramatic and positive impact for our food supply, rural communities and species habitat.”

The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which was created in the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical wetlands and encourage producers to keep lands in farming and ranching. Approximately 380 projects nationwide were selected to protect and restore 32,000 acres of prime farmland, 45,000 acres of grasslands and 52,000 acres of wetlands. A summary of ACEP funding provided to each state can be found online.

In addition to protecting cropland and critical habitats, conservation strengthens outdoor recreation and helps boost the economy. According to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, annual United States conservation spending totals $38.8 billion, but it produces $93.2 billion of economic output throughout the economy – 2.4 times more than what is put in. This output takes the form of more than 660,500 jobs, $41.6 billion in income and a $59.7 billion contribution to national Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

Through ACEP, private or tribal landowners and eligible conservation partners working with landowners can request assistance from USDA to protect and enhance agricultural land through an agricultural or wetland easement.

These easements deliver many long-term benefits. For example, this year’s projects will:

  • Improve water quality and wetland storage capacity in the California Bay Delta region;
  • Reduce flooding along the Mississippi and Red rivers;
  • Provide and protect habitat for threatened, endangered and at-risk species including sage grouse, bog turtles, Florida panthers, Louisiana black bear, and whooping cranes to recover populations and reduce regulatory burdens; and
  • Protect prime agricultural land under high risk of development in urban areas to help secure the nation’s food supply and jobs in the agricultural sector.

ACEP consolidates three former Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) easement programs – Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Grasslands Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program – into two components. One component protects farmlands and grasslands, and the other protects and restores agricultural wetlands.

Link to news release

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Drought-related training program offered by California Labor Agency and CA Community Colleges – News Release

The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA), the Employment Training Panel (ETP), and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office signed an agreement to provide job training to workers and employers in California locales hit hardest by the drought.

LWDA Secretary David Lanier said, “This new partnership reflects the administration’s continuing commitment to provide additional resources to severely affected communities in vital agricultural areas.”

According to California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris, “This agreement will give men and women in the San Joaquin Valley who have been negatively impacted by the drought the chance to pursue training at community colleges in other fields to help them get back on their feet.”

Under an interagency agreement, the Chancellor’s Office will use $1 million to develop and implement this program, which will run from Sept. 15, 2014 through June 30, 2016. The ETP will work closely with the Chancellor’s Office to ensure that the funds are coordinated with other state workforce initiatives as well as the efforts of local service providers. Classes will begin in the fall of 2014.

Funding for the program was made available through drought-aid legislation, which was passed with urgency by the State Legislature and signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Chancellor’s Office and the Yosemite Community College District will coordinate the project, market the new training opportunities, and ensure that these opportunities are well known throughout the region. Outreach will be conducted in both English and Spanish. The District will consult and coordinate efforts with local service providers that have had extensive interaction with farm worker communities.

Participating colleges are in the San Joaquin Valley, the region most severely impacted by the drought, and include:
• Fresno City College;
• Reedley College;
• Modesto Junior College;
• Merced College;
• West Hills College; and
• College of the Sequoias.

The project will provide 12 training programs, each about 250 hours in duration, at no cost to participants, who must be local residents. Students will receive instruction pertaining to the following topics and occupations:
• Irrigation systems;
• Evaluations specialists and designers;
• Logistics technicians;
• Electrical maintenance technicians;
• Water treatment operators;
• Forklift and warehouse technicians;
• Food safety technicians;
• Qualified pesticide applicators; and
• Manufacturing production technologists.

Graduates of these training programs will receive industry-recognized certificates and may be supplemented with basic skills and English as a Second Language training components.

Link to news release

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Governor Brown Issues Proclamation Declaring Admission Day

SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued a proclamation declaring September 9, 2014, as Admission Day in the State of California.

The text of the proclamation is below:

PROCLAMATION

Soon after the outbreak of war in 1846, United States forces invaded the Mexican province of Alta California. Seven months later, on January 13, 1847, representatives of both countries signed the Treaty of Cahuenga in the San Fernando Valley, ending the fighting. For three years thereafter, California remained under American martial law. During this period, our population exploded following the discovery of gold, giving impetus to the demand that California be admitted to the Union. In 1849, leaders from around the future state met in Monterey to draft the first constitution, which was approved on November 13 of that year by a vote of 12,064 to 811. Peter Burnett was elected governor, and in January, 1850, the State Legislature began its first two-year session.

As our lawmakers went about establishing the basic institutions of state governance, the United States Congress argued about whether to admit California to the Union as a slave or free state or as two separate states, one slave and one free. The issue was resolved by the famous Compromise of 1850, and on September 9th of that year California was admitted to the Union as the 31st state.

The observance of Admission Day was once prominent in the civic life of our state and nation. On September 9, 1924, by order of President Coolidge, the Bear Flag flew over the White House in honor of California’s admission to the Union. In 1976, I vetoed a measure to remove the observance of Admission Day as a state holiday, writing: “For 125 years California has celebrated its admission into the Union on September 9th. To change now comes a bit late in our history and hardly seems in keeping with the Bicentennial Spirit.” In 1984, however, Governor Deukmejian signed legislation eliminating our traditional observance of Admission Day on September 9th in favor of a “personal” holiday—convenient to some but in no way respectful of our storied founding.

California’s early history is too often neglected in schools and among our citizens. For that reason, I call upon Californians to pause and celebrate Admission Day this year by reflecting on how it was that California became the 31st state.

NOW THEREFORE I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim September 9th, 2014, as “Admission Day.”

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 8th day of September 2014.

___________________________________
EDMUND G. BROWN JR.
Governor of California

ATTEST:

__________________________________
DEBRA BOWEN
Secretary of State

Link to item on Governor Brown’s web site

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9/11 Memorial Plaza at California State Fairgrounds to open for September 11 anniversary

9-11-memorial

In observance of the September 11 attack of the World Trade Center in 2001, the 9/11 Memorial Plaza at the California State Fairgrounds at Cal Expo will open to the general public on September 11, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. The memorial honors the victims lost 13 years ago.

At 9:00 a.m., the Sacramento Young Marines will present colors at the Memorial, which is located inside the main gate near the Expo Center buildings. Admission and parking are free.

Central to the exhibit is a beautiful fountain including a granite ball inscribed with all of the names of the September 11 victims. There are also replicas of the World Trade Center buildings and memorials to American Airlines Flight 77–which crashed into the Pentagon–and United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

Construction of the Cal Expo memorial began a year after the attack, when Cal Expo board member Larry Davis personally acquired and donated 125,000 pounds of wreckage from the World Trade Center. A massive I-beam extracted from Ground Zero was among the debris. Davis personally arranged for the wreckage to be shipped via rail to California. Through private donations to the California State Fair Memorial Plaza Foundation, the exhibit has been expanded to include additional elements.

Link to news release

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Growing California video series – Water Wise

The latest segment of the Growing California video series, a partnership with California Grown, is “Water Wise.”

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From the Bakersfield Californian: Paramount’s Lynda Resnick leads Lost Hills transformation

From the Bakersfield Californian

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer

The Californian

By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
At present there are about 20 people participating in English classes at the new Lost Hills community center. The plan is to go out into the community and knock on doors on a Saturday to inform the Lost Hills residents about the class.

Ruben Garcia remembers life in the western Kern County town of Lost Hills 30 years ago when there were few street lights, little to do and most roads were dusty or, depending on the season, muddy.

But after hearing of Paramount Farms’ recent improvements to the town, the retired county parks worker decided to swing through on his way from the coast to his Delano home.

He could hardly believe what he saw: sidewalks and gutters, landscaping, a first-class soccer field, and two community centers bustling with sports and educational programming.

The changes in Lost Hills, widely praised by local officials and credited with lowering the community’s crime rate, have been directed by Lynda Resnick, co-owner of Paramount’s corporate parent and a longtime philanthropist in the Los Angeles area.

Since turning her attention to Kern County about five years ago, Resnick has brought the force of her substantial corporate resources to bear on Lost Hills. To date, she has invested about $15 million in an effort to create, as she put it, a “game-changer.”

“Although we’ve made good contributions to Los Angeles, really, it’s the Central Valley that needs us the most,” she said.

She dismisses any suggestion the improvements will increase her company’s influence over its employees’ lives. If anything, she said, it will empower the community like never before.

“Rather than being a company town,” she said, “it’s really about being an engaged neighbor.”

Nor is she ready to withdraw her focus. Resnick plans next year to partner with a local nonprofit and county, state and federal agencies on the construction of low-income housing in the rural, mostly Hispanic town of about 2,400 people. She also intends to start a microloan program to help residents launch their own businesses.

Garcia was almost taken aback by what Lost Hills has become.

“It was really nothing (in the 1980s), you know? There used to be a lot of drunks here. Now it’s like Disneyland,” he said. “I think it’s great. I like it. It’s good for the community.”

Kern County politicians herald Paramount’s work in Lost Hills not only for the results but the approach. They say the company has carried out the improvements with the efficiency that only a large, private company with access to its own engineers and construction crews can.

From one perspective, Paramount is investing in its people and, in a sense, its own future. With nearly 2,000 employees in farming and processing operations in Lost Hills, it is almost certainly the town’s largest employer, and one of the surrounding area’s biggest landowners, with 100,000 acres in western Kern.

Paramount could have done the work in any one of several Central Valley communities where it has operations. A company representative said it chose to focus on the unincorporated community of Lost Hills over Avenal, Delano, McFarland and Wasco largely because of its size — Lost Hills measures a little more than five square miles west of Interstate 5 along Highway 46 — and the big impact its efforts could have in such a small town.

Residents say the changes have made a profound difference. Some spoke glowingly of Resnick and her commitment to improving the lives of their children, which the company says was the top concern expressed by local participants in a Paramount survey to identify community needs.

“She has totally turned around the community for the better,” said mother-of-four Maria Gamino, a purchasing coordinator at Paramount Farms in Lost Hills. “She builds stuff and she sees we use it, so she builds more.”

PHASED IMPROVEMENTS

Paramount’s infrastructure improvements started, modestly enough, with $75,000 worth of lighting and other work on a basketball court at the park near the center of town in March 2011.

Soon the work was expanded to the nearby community center, which had been partly boarded up and was not widely used. At a total cost of $2 million, Paramount regraded the park, refurbished the building’s kitchen and bathrooms, installed exercise stations, put up lights for the soccer field and built a water spray park.

Next came the wider community. Between late 2011 and fall 2012, the company spent an estimated $8 million on a host of neighborhood infrastructure projects, from storm drains and trees to pedestrian walkways and bus stop shelters. The company even doubled the width of residential streets to 40 feet.

Paramount ended up improving 3.8 miles of streets, building 7.2 miles of sidewalk, extending 220 driveways and installing 6.9 miles of curbs and gutters. It planted 730 trees, put up 16 stop signs, erected 38 LED street lights and built 1,400 feet of 60-foot-wide pedestrian walkways.

“It was unprecedented,” said Kern County traffic engineer Patricia Ebel, who helped review and approve the company’s plans. She said Paramount kept everything up to code requirements and paid for it all.

“I’m not sure how it would’ve been done if the Resnicks (Lynda and her husband Stewart) had not come through with this.”

With the street improvements finished, Paramount returned its focus to the park, building a state-of-the-art soccer field surrounded by an all-weather track. It also constructed a second community center that, with interior space of 3,200 square feet, was almost 50 percent bigger than the original center, which since its refurbishment had been fully booked with various events. Total cost for that phase of work: $5 million.

Bob Lerude, Kern County’s parks director, said he has never seen a private entity do anything approaching the improvements the company has made to what is now named Lost Hills Paramount Park.

He said Paramount did the work at a third of what it would have cost the county, and it did it quicker, too.

LOWER CRIME RATE

Another benefit he cited is the noticeable decrease in vandalism at the park.

“We’ve got families that have taken back the park, and you can see why,” he said.

In fact, data provided by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office show crime is down across the community.

Since the start of 2010, the number of reportable crimes in Lost Hills has fallen by a third, the agency reported. It said community-generated calls for service are down by a sixth over the same period.

Paramount plans to begin construction early next year on its biggest phase of improvements, an $18 million effort to build 21 three-bedroom rental homes and 60 apartments with two or three bedrooms each.

Because it will utilize a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the company said tenants will get rent discounts ranging from 30 percent to 70 percent. Built on land donated by Paramount, the residences are to be ready in 2016.

At the same time, the company hopes to roll out the microloan program for small businesses. It hinted at a new restaurant to be funded by a loan from Paramount, but otherwise it declined to share details about the initiative.

SHIFTING PHILANTHROPIC FOCUS

Lynda Resnick explained her involvement with Lost Hills as a departure from the philanthropy she and her husband have become known for in Los Angeles.

The couple own and operate a global enterprise employing more than 7,000 people and generating nearly $4 billion a year in revenue, much of it from nuts, citrus and pomegranates grown and processed in Kern County. They have made major contributions to UCLA’s Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital and the L.A. County Museum of Art’s Lynda and Stewart Resnick Pavilion.

Lynda said she realized a few years ago it was not enough to write checks to organizations the couple believed in. But rather than provide what she thought would help Lost Hills, she ordered a door-to-door survey asking residents what they felt was most needed.

“I came with my eyes from Los Angeles, but when I really took the time to listen and get into the minds and the hopes of the people there, I realized that the one thing that they cared about more than anything else was the future of their children,” she said in a phone interview.

That led her and her team at Paramount to focus on the park, where the company now supports fitness classes, ballet lessons, English-as-a-second-language classes, adults, children’s sports leagues and more.

To her, the work in Lost Hills is about helping a community that, too often, has lacked a voice in its own affairs.

“All I want to do is to help people help themselves,” she said. “Help them to fish, as they say.”

Kern’s elected officials including state Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) and Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) say Paramount is to be commended for tangibly improving the lives of its employees.

Former Kern County Supervisor Ray Watson, who represented the Lost Hills area for 10 years, said he remains “thrilled” with the Resnicks’ work at the park and elsewhere in the community.

Agreeing the improvements are responsible for lowering the community’s crime rate, he said he wishes other companies, particularly in the county’s oil and gas industry, would make similar commitments in Kern’s rural areas.

“I’m not sure that all of them can contribute the way that Paramount has, but I think business has some duty to the community.”

Lost Hills homemaker Jessica Ballesteros, the mother of five children between the ages of 18 months and 15, said the town’s park used to be a “horrible” place and unsafe for children.

But now, she said, her older kids are so involved with activities there — art and cooking classes, for example, and sports camps — they “don’t want to leave. That’s the problem.”

She credits Lynda Resnick above all for improving the community’s lot.

“I think she’s our guardian angel here in town,” Ballesteros said. “She’s done everything for our children, and she’s still trying to do more.”

See this article and additional photos on the Bakersfield Californian site: http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/local/x110585255/Paramounts-Lynda-Resnick-leads-Lost-Hills-transformation

Posted in Community-based Food System, Farm Labor | 1 Comment