Gilroy’s Glory – from the Growing California video series

The latest segment in the Growing California video series, a partnership with California Grown, is ‘Gilroy’s Glory.’

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Younger adults the main drivers in fresh food consumption – from The Produce News

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It turns out that Americans are eating their fruits and vegetables, and younger adults, including the Millennial generation, are the main drivers of the shift toward fresh foods and beverages, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The percent of all in-home eating occasions that include fresh foods, like fruit and vegetables, is almost back to levels seen 30 years ago.

Over the past decade, adults, ages 18 to 34, have increased their consumption of fresh food the most out of all age groups. The element of surprise with this consumption trend is that Millennials are in a life stage when people typically consume lower quantities of fresh items in favor of more time-saving and convenient options.

Millennials’ increased interest in fresh may be explained in part by their reactions to the Great Recession when it was in full grip, Darren Seifer, NPD’s food and beverage industry analyst, said in a press release. Younger adults were hit hardest by unemployment, and although this age group is considered the heaviest restaurant users, they pulled back the most from going out to restaurants. It seems these adults still wanted many of the properties that restaurants provided — among them, freshness with speed.

“As Millennials returned to their homes to source more of their meals, they spent a little more time in the kitchen to make dishes like eggs/omelets, pancakes, vegetables/legumes and rice,” Seifer said in the release. “This doesn’t mean they are becoming chefs or that they even enjoy spending time in the kitchen. In fact, Millennials account for more than their fair share of rice cooker sales, meaning they want fresh rice with their meals without having to hover over a saucepan for 30 minutes.”

The notion of convenience for the younger generations seems to be focused on freshness, while at the same time, getting out of the kitchen quickly, he said. In contrast, previous generations considered frozen options to be convenient.

Link to article

 

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Video showing drought-depleted reservoirs – from the California Department of Water Resources

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently released a silent video showing the depletion level of several Northern California reservoirs. DWR’s Daily Reservoir Storage Summary lists Folsom Lake at 31 percent of capacity, Lake Oroville at 34 percent, and Lake Shasta at 40 percent.

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A threat to residential citrus: Huanglongbing in Southern California – from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

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By Kurt Floren

If you enjoy fresh, homegrown citrus fruit from your yard or California-grown citrus from the market, now is the time to pay attention: a deadly plant disease has been found again in our midst.

Huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening disease, was confirmed in multiple citrus trees in San Gabriel earlier this month. This is the second time the disease has been identified in Los Angeles County. The first time, the disease was discovered in a single tree in Hacienda Heights in 2012. Since then, California Department of Food and Agriculture crews have been canvassing the area, inspecting trees, collecting plant samples and working to identify any additional diseased trees.

Why all the concern? HLB kills citrus trees, and there is no cure. It’s not harmful to humans, but could decimate the orange, lemon, lime, mandarin and other citrus trees dotting backyard landscapes around Los Angeles County. It’s estimated more than half of our residents have a citrus tree in their yard.

California, overall, has more residential citrus trees than the total found in our commercial citrus orchards — and those are a $2 billion economic driver for our state. There’s a good chance the fresh oranges and lemons you see at the markets were grown in Riverside, Ventura, the San Joaquin Valley and other California farming communities. There are more than 22,000 jobs tied to growing citrus fruit commercially. A lot is at stake.

While our farming neighbors have a tremendous financial concern about this disease, HLB’s implications go well beyond economic. If HLB takes hold in California before researchers find a cure, it would affect all of us. We’d have to rely on other states or countries to supply our citrus fruit. Fruit prices could significantly rise. We could all be forced to stop saying “support your local farmer” while shopping for citrus at farmers’ markets.

HLB must not be allowed to take hold. We need to take an aggressive approach to protecting the citrus trees we all know and love. It’s a battle that must be waged by farmers in citrus groves and fought by residents in personal yards.

The disease is spread locally by a pest called the Asian citrus psyllid as it feeds on citrus leaves and stems. It’s a small, aphid-like insect and is present throughout much of the region. One way residents can protect their trees from the disease is to make sure the pest isn’t flourishing on your tree. Talk to your local nursery or garden center about products that can protect against the Asian citrus psyllid. It’s the best line of defense.

Originally discovered in Asia, HLB has since spread globally through people moving plants from one area to another — an activity that must stop if we hope to keep fresh, homegrown citrus around for future generations. Bringing citrus into the area from other states or countries puts our local landscape at risk. Similarly, now that the disease is in our area, residents shouldn’t give homegrown fruit or any plant parts (cuttings, budwood, leaves or stems, seedlings, etc.) to friends or family.

Learn to detect the disease in your tree. HLB-infected tree leaves begin to yellow in a blotchy or asymmetrical pattern. Trees begin producing bitter, hard and misshapen fruit. Fruit begins to fall off the tree before it ripens. After a few years, that tree is dead. It’s important to note that diseased trees need to be removed, roots and all. This is a critical step to protect other trees nearby from contracting the disease.

Visit CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org to see photos of HLB symptoms. Look for signs of the disease each month. If you think you’ve spotted the disease, call the County Agricultural Commissioner’s office or the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline at 800-491-1899.

This is the biggest threat ever to face our ability to grow citrus fruit in our backyards. Those of us in agriculture take the threat seriously and will take every possible action to combat this threat, but the responsibility to protect California citrus trees falls to all of us.

Kurt Floren is the agricultural commissioner of Los Angeles County.

Link to story

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USDA broadens crop insurance options for fruit and nut producers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the expansion of crop insurance to provide additional options for fruit and nut producers. The Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) and the Actual Production History (APH) Yield Exclusion are now available to cover fresh fruit and nuts in select counties beginning with the 2016 crop year.

SCO will now be available in select counties for almonds, apples, blueberries, grapes, peaches, potatoes, prunes, safflower, tomatoes, and walnuts for the 2016 crop year. Grapefruit, lemons, mandarins/tangerines, oranges, and tangelos will be eligible for coverage beginning with the 2017 crop year. This is in addition to the alfalfa seed, canola, cultivated wild rice, dry peas, forage production, grass seed, mint, oats, onions, and rye that were recently made available for 2016 as well. Currently, SCO covers corn, cotton, cottonseed, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, spring barley, spring wheat, and winter wheat in selected counties.

SCO is an area-based policy endorsement that can be purchased to supplement an underlying crop insurance policy. It covers a portion of losses not covered by the same crop’s underlying policy. USDA’s Risk Management Agency, which administers the federal crop insurance program, has posted information on the expanded program, including where SCO is available by crop and county. Visit www.rma.usda.gov/news/currentissues/sco/index.html to learn more.

Producers of apples, blueberries, grapes, peaches, potatoes, prunes, safflower, tomatoes, and walnuts in select counties will have the option to elect the APH Yield Exclusion for the 2016 crop year. Producers of grapefruit, lemons, mandarins/tangerines, oranges, and tangelos will have the option to elect the APH Yield Exclusion for the 2017 crop year. Alfalfa seed, cultivated wild rice, dry peas, forage production, oats, onions, rye and winter wheat are also eligible in certain counties beginning with the 2016 crop year. These are in addition to barley, canola, corn, cotton, grain sorghum, peanuts, popcorn, rice, soybeans, sunflowers and spring wheat, which were offered beginning in the 2015 crop year.

The APH Yield Exclusion allows farmers, with qualifying crops in eligible counties, to exclude low yields in exceptionally bad years (such as a year in which a natural disaster or other extreme weather occurs) from their production history when calculating yields used to establish their crop insurance coverage. Crop years are eligible when the average per planted acreage yield for the county was at least 50 percent below the simple average for the previous 10 consecutive crop years. It will allow eligible producers to receive a higher approved yield on their insurance policies through the federal crop insurance program.

Producers also have access to new online tools designed to help them determine the options that work best for their operations. The Crop Insurance Decision Tool and the SCO/APH Yield Exclusion mapping tool, available online, provide farmers with information on APH Yield Exclusion and SCO eligible crops, crop years, and counties where they may elect the programs. This user-friendly resource can help producers quickly explore and understand available coverage options. Users will get general estimates to help them make purchasing decisions. Producers should consult their crop insurance agent for detailed information, sales closing dates and an actual premium quote.

A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers and online at the Risk Management Agency’s agent locator. Growers can use the agency’s cost estimator to get a premium amount estimate of their insurance needs online. Visit the Risk Management Agency at www.rma.usda.gov/news/currentissues/aphye/index.html to learn more about SCO and APH Yield Exclusion.

APH Yield Exclusion and SCO are made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing, and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Link to news release

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USDA announces conservation incentives for working grass, range and pasture lands

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The USDA has announced that beginning Sept. 1, farmers and ranchers can apply for financial assistance to help conserve working grasslands, rangeland and pastureland while maintaining the areas as livestock grazing lands.

The initiative is part of the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally funded program that for 30 years has assisted agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.  CRP has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road.

The CRP-Grasslands initiative will provide participants who establish long-term, resource-conserving covers with annual rental payments up to 75 percent of the grazing value of the land. Cost-share assistance also is available for up to 50 percent of the covers and other practices, such as cross fencing to support rotational grazing or improving pasture cover to benefit pollinators or other wildlife. Participants may still conduct common grazing practices, produce hay, mow, or harvest for seed production, conduct fire rehabilitation, and construct firebreaks and fences.

With the publication of the CRP regulation, the Farm Service Agency will accept applications on an ongoing basis beginning Sept. 1, 2015, with those applications scored against published ranking criteria, and approved based on the competiveness of the offer. The ranking period will occur at least once per year and be announced at least 30 days prior to its start. The end of the first ranking period will be Nov. 20, 2015.

The USDA also plans to announce state-by-state allotments for the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE). Through SAFE, also a CRP initiative, up to 400,000 acres of additional agricultural land across 37 states will be eligible for wildlife habitat restoration funding. The additional acres are part of an earlier CRP wildlife habitat announcement. Currently, more than 1 million acres, representing 98 projects, are enrolled in SAFE.

To learn more about participating in CRP-Grasslands or SAFE, visit www.usda.gov/crp or consult with the local Farm Service Agency county office. To locate a nearby Farm Service Agency office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

Link to news release

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CDFA teams up with UC Davis in new program for graduate students

 

UC Davis graduate student and CDFA ELIPPS intern Kelly Gravuer.

UC Davis graduate student and CDFA ELIPPS intern Kelly Gravuer.

What does the top-rated agricultural university in the world and CDFA have in common? In addition to working on key issues involving food and agriculture, they each make their home in the same region of California; and they offer unique opportunities for students, including future Ag leaders, to learn about real-life policy issues while making a meaningful contribution through public service.

To enhance these opportunities, UC Davis has designed the Emerging Leaders in Policy and Public Service program (ELIPPS) for graduate students interested in public policy. The program encourages students to explore career paths in the public sector – including an internship at any one of a number of government agencies, including CDFA.

Kelly Gravuer is an ELIPPS graduate student–a PhD candidate in Ecosystem and Landscape Ecology–who recently started an internship at CDFA. While here, Kelly will see firsthand the types of issues the agriculture industry is dealing with right now—for example, the drought–and will be able to offer her own ideas and insights. She is working with CDFA’s newly-established Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation to evaluate water-saving initiatives, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and soil health measures. At the conclusion of the internship, Kelly will be in a better position to more clearly assess her career plan and understand government’s potential to be a part of it.

Graduate students have a lot to offer. They are researchers, problem solvers and critical thinkers. They instill in us a sense of hope and optimism for a bright and a prosperous future. We want these students to lend their perspectives to state and federal policy makers as they enact and carry out policy on many complex issues.

That can work out well for agriculture. California leads the nation in food production and crop diversity, thanks to the resiliency and innovation of farmers in our state; CDFA protects and promotes agricultural commodities through its varied programs; and over the decades, UC Davis has played a pivotal role through cutting-edge research. The ELIPPS program strengthens a partnership that is already highly productive and beneficial to people across the nation and around the world.

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California agriculture embracing the ‘Internet of Things’

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A familiar refrain in agriculture these days is that we must achieve and sustain the capacity to feed a growing global population that is expected to reach nine billion people by 2050.  How will we do that? The answers are many and varied, as are the farmers and ranchers who must find them. Our world will need to grow about 100 percent more food – no small challenge. What if 70 percent of that growth could be realized not by seeds and soils, but through the use of technology?

The bulk of that innovation and adaptation will take place on the farm. CDFA is already moving to support this transition to what is known as the “Internet of Things.” CDFA is leveraging social, mobile, analytics, cloud technologies and other advancements to drive change.

How can a Farmer use the “Internet of Things?”

The Internet of Things isn’t just some buzzword or catch-all phrase. It is particular type of technology, and includes just about anything that uses an internet connection to help it do something new or better. You might have heard about web-enabled refrigerators that will tell you when you’re out of milk or if that the mayo has reached its “use by” date. In the agricultural sector, that same kind of technology can turn a sprinkler into a sensor-driven device that responds to the needs of soil and plants in real time, rather than waiting for a human to turn a spigot. Now, think of all the machines and devices that farmers use every day to prepare fields, plant seeds, prune, water, fertilize, protect, harvest, pack, process and transport our food. What if each of those tools could collect data, learn from it, pass it on to the next device, and then report all of that back to the farmer? That’s where all of this is headed.

Today, software can already analyze soil, climate, and weather data to predict or estimate yields. Data from CDFA’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) through the FREP Database, and guidance from the joint FREP/UC Davis Fertilization Guidelines for Major Crops in California are enabling farmers to jump into this realm with data in-hand to help them maximize efficiency with fertilizer use.

Another example of the FREP-UC Davis collaborative effort is a software program called CropManage, an online, database-driven tool that assists lettuce growers and farm managers in determining water and nitrogen fertilizer applications on a field-by-field basis. The software automates steps required to calculate water and nitrogen needs. The application also helps growers track schedules and applications on multiple fields and allows users from the same farming operations to view and share data.

Benefits Beyond the Farmer’s Fence

What if our consumers are sensors, too? From the Food Network to the farmers’ market, consumers crave information about the food they eat. CDFA is embracing this opportunity by inviting Californians to help farmers keep an eye out for invasive species.  The mobile app is called “Report a Pest” and it enables people to take photos of a suspected invasive insect or plant and send them to CDFA for evaluation. The app includes an option for GPS coordinates of the find, just in case a rapid response is necessary. With funding from the federal Farm Bill, CDFA’s Divisions of Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services and Information Technology Services worked together to develop the app.

These are just a few of the ways CDFA and its partners in research, academia and other organizations are working to help farmers and ranchers take advantage of the powerful information becoming available to them through the Internet of (agricultural) Things.

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El Nino likely coming, but will it make a difference? From the Sacramento Bee

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

By Phillip Reese

The El Niño weather pattern often brings deluges to California, quickly dropping inches of rain in what climatologists liken to turning on a fire hose.

Except when it doesn’t. Except when it brings no extra rain.

El Niño is a hot topic today among water agency managers, farmers and others sick of California’s historic drought. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced El Niño is strengthening, that it will almost certainly continue through next winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and that it will probably last into early spring 2016.

So which El Niño will show up? Will it be the El Niño of 1982-83 that doubled rainfall in Northern California? Or the El Niño in 1976-77 that corresponded with one of the worst droughts in recent memory? Will we see another strong El Niño like the one that hit in 1997-98, dropping about 32 inches of rain on Sacramento? Or will it be the strong El Niño of 1987-88, which brought just 15 inches of rain.

“Unfortunately, even a strong El Niño doesn’t correlate to a particular outcome for California,” state climatologist Michael Anderson said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee this week. “There really is no way to lean on this.”

El Niño occurs when water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean rise by at least half a degree Celsius above normal for three consecutive months. This warming of the vast Pacific typically alters weather patterns throughout the Western Hemisphere. In the United States, the Northwest usually gets drier and the Southwest wetter. Sacramento and Central California, however, sit between these phenomena, so El Niño effects here can go either way.

During weak or moderate El Niño events, in which Pacific water temperatures rise by a modest amount, it’s hard to find a consistent rain pattern in Sacramento, according to a Bee review of data back to 1950. The average precipitation in those years was 18 inches – about normal for the city – and ranged from 7 inches to 31 inches.

Stronger El Niño years – when ocean temperatures rise by a significant amount – are more encouraging. During those years, rainfall in Sacramento averaged 24 inches, roughly 130 percent of normal. Six of the nine strong El Niño years that have occurred since 1950 resulted in more than 25 inches of rain in Sacramento.

“A weak El Niño is not the same animal as a Godzilla El Niño,” said William Patzert, an oceanographer and climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

El Niños of all stripes are more correlated with higher rainfall in Southern California. That would be nice, several climatologists said, but the rivers of Northern California and the snowpack on top of the Sierra typically provide most of the surface water used throughout the state.

“It seems to take a fairly strong El Niño to increase precipitation in the northern part of the state – and that’s where we need the water,” said Kelly Redmond, deputy director and regional climatologist for the federal government’s Western Regional Climate Center in Reno.

El Niño tends to have its greatest effects in the western United States when the temperature pattern is strong between June and November, Redmond said. Models for that time period this year vary, but, on average, they predict water in the Pacific will settle at 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher than normal – a very strong El Niño.

The strongest El Niño years were in 1982-83 and 1997-98, with Pacific temperatures peaking at slightly more than 2 degrees higher than normal. During those years, it rained a shocking 37 and 32 inches in Sacramento.

“I think the odds have been slowly rising that it could be a strong one,” Redmond said. “Whether it is among the (largest), time will tell. That’s not out of the question.”

But there are complications. Chief among them is the feared presence of a blob of warm water in the far northeastern Pacific. This warm water and a corresponding “ridiculously resilient ridge” of high pressure has bedeviled forecasters during the drought, pushing rain and snow away from California. Climatologists aren’t sure if the blob will disappear in the face of a strong El Niño or, if not, how the two weather patterns will interact with each other.

“The blob is still there, this blocking ridge,” Patzert said. “Here is the battle: The battle of El Niño and the blob. The blob would tend to keep the Pacific Northwest and Northern California dry.”

One less-than-ideal scenario, Patzert said, would be if El Niño dumped a ton of rain on Southern California while leaving Northern California dry. The result: Southern California would slog through mudslides and flash floods while Northern California remained parched – and most everyone wound up short of water again during summer 2016.

“If you look at its past history, (El Niño) has never been billed as a drought buster,” Patzert said. “Its always been billed as a wrecking ball. It comes at you fast and furious. You are always doing damage control.”

Even if California sees an above average amount of rainfall this winter, it wouldn’t necessarily pull the state out of drought. It’s rained so little for so long that it would take a few sustained years of rainfall to set things right, several climatologists said.

“A wet year would definitely ameliorate some conditions,” Anderson said. It would especially help replenish the state’s reservoirs, he said. But, he added, “groundwater recovery is a much slower process. It takes more sustained wet years to see that turnaround.”

Patzert said El Niño weather patterns are often followed by La Niña weather patterns, and La Niña is correlated with dry years in California. The state has seen mostly dry years interspersed with a few wet periods for much of the past 15 years, he said.

“It was dry, it was wet,” he said. “We thought we were out of it, then we were back in it. It’s like the Godfather: I think I’m out and they keep pulling me back in.”

Despite the uncertainties, climatologists are still keeping a close watch on El Niño. They uniformly say that it’s our best chance of beating the drought, now in its fourth year. Several climatologists are more optimistic today than at other points during the drought.

“El Niño is the great wet hope,” Patzert said. “We are really on our knees about ready to go to our bellies with this drought.”

 

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Water-saving tips offered at California State Fair – from Capital Press

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By Tim Hearden

SACRAMENTO — Water-saving tips to weather the drought are key features at this year’s California State Fair, which runs through July 26.

The state Department of Water Resources’ award-winning “Californians Don’t Waste — Save Water in Your Home” exhibit in the Counties Building offers hands-on demonstrations of ways to conserve water in kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms.

The agency also has an outdoor booth at the fair’s farm at which experts such as landscape specialist Julie Saare-Edmonds give tips on landscape irrigation efficiency.

“We’re pleased by the turnout at the State Fair and the interest fairgoers show in our exhibits,” DWR spokeswoman Elizabeth Scott said in an email. “We’re also finding that the drought seems to be on everybody’s mind. Not only are folks interested in hearing from us about new ways to conserve, but they want to share with us what they’ve been doing at home to save water. That’s encouraging.”

The 162nd state exposition opened on a cool morning July 10 with the theme, “The Best is Back.” The Golden State’s abundance of crops and farm animals always take center stage at the fair, as its 32-year-old farm is one of the most popular destinations for attendees.

The farm’s attractions include a daily farmers’ market, an outdoor kitchen grill, an aquaculture exhibit, an insect pavilion and talks by the University of California’s Master Gardeners. A local supermarket chain also sponsors a “passport” program in which families can learn about crops and healthy eating while they visit the farm and eat a snack at the end.

Nearby, the fair’s livestock building and adjacent shaded stalls feature some 4,500 entries during the course of the festival, as livestock exhibits are shown in shifts. Entrants compete in youth and open divisions.

The DWR’s water-saving tips come as urban areas are under a state mandate to reduce their water use by at least 25 percent from 2013 levels, with some areas facing targets of up to 36 percent. Farms statewide have had their surface water allocations drastically reduced or shut off completely.

The department’s outdoor exhibit includes a low-water garden maintained with a water-efficient irrigation system. The exhibit offers drought-tolerant plant ideas and tips for conserving water with compost and mulch, according to a news release.

Link to story

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