A New Voice at CDFA for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

A photograph of CDFA Secretary Karen Ross with the department's new Farm Equity Advisor Thea Rittenhouse. The two are standing in Capitol Park with the dome in the background.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (right) welcomes the department’s new Farm Equity Advisor Thea Rittenhouse.

From Karen Ross:  It has been fun to welcome Farm Equity Advisor Thea Rittenhouse to the CDFA team this week!  Diversity is the strength of California agriculture.  It is made up of multi-generational families and first-generation beginning farmers and ranchers of every size and ethnic background growing almost 400 different crops.  We want to be sure every person engaged in farming and ranching knows about CDFA programs and that our operations reflect the full spectrum of California agriculture.  With her experiences in farming and teaching with a focus on underserved communities, Thea is just the person to lead this new CDFA endeavor.

From Thea Rittenhouse:  I am thrilled to be joining CDFA as the Farm Equity Advisor, and to be the person to spearhead the implementation of the 2017 Farm Equity Act.  The Farm Equity Act ensures that CDFA includes socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in the development, adoption and implementation of programs and policies.

As a female farmer here in California for the past six years, I understand the challenges that socially disadvantaged farmers face as well as the opportunities and resources that exist to help them.

In addition to running a farm business, I have also dedicated much of my career to working with underserved and socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and farmworkers in California.  My experiences providing technical assistance, teaching workshops, and organizing conferences for underserved farmers has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the many different people who are involved in agriculture in California. I am most excited to be able to combine these experiences and my firsthand knowledge of farming to implement effective programs and policies that increase access to resources for all farmers in California and ensure that socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers’ voices are included and represented in policies and programs.  I look forward to establishing stronger connections between the farming community and CDFA and ensuring positive and long-lasting effective programs that serve all farmers in California.

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CDFA IT staff shares Best of California award for work on cannabis program

CDFA’s project director for the CalCannabis IT project, Chris Cox, accepting the agency’s shared Best of California award for IT work on the cannabis project.

The Center for Digital Government held its annual Best of California Awards ceremony yesterday as part of the California Digital Government Summit in Sacramento.  CDFA was recognized as one of four departments for Best IT Collaboration Among Organizations for its work on the Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). The other recipients were: California Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Cannabis Control (DCA/BCC), the Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Department of Technology (CDT).

The IT projects to implement the multiple solutions necessary to comply with MAUCRSA required extensive collaboration between CDFA, DCA/BCC, and DPH in order to share licensing data, and to utilize a single solution developed by CDFA to track and trace cannabis products from plants to points of sale. CDT assisted the collaboration effort by facilitating meetings and helping to mitigate barriers so that solutions could be implemented within a 12-month period.

Receiving the award on behalf of CDFA was the CalCannabis IT Project Director Chris Cox. It was presented to him by the State Chief Information Officer, Amy Tong.



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CDFA welcomes Thea Rittenhouse as Farm Equity Advisor

CDFA’s first-ever Farm Equity Advisor, Thea Rittenhouse (R), along with Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (center) and legislative staff member Kimberly Kollwitz. Rittenhouse fills a position created by the Farmer Equity Act, a bill authored by Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry that supports socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in California. The Act will ensure that CDFA includes socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in the development, adoption and implementation of programs and policies.

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Citrus Dogs – Can specially trained pooches sniff out Huanglongbing? From the Fresno Bee

By Robert Rodriguez

They’ve been used to detect drugs, bombs and bugs.

Now a team of specially trained dogs will put their wet noses to work in California, sniffing out a fatal citrus disease with the potential to cripple the state’s $3.4 billion citrus industry.

The crew of 19 canines and their trainers have spent months getting ready for what many hope is an important step toward preventing the disease, known as huanglongbing, or HLB, from invading the state’s commercial citrus groves.

Farmers, scientists and industry leaders don’t want what happened in Florida to happen here.

The tree-killing disease has ravaged Florida’s once mighty citrus industry, costing growers more than $2.9 billion and forcing the destruction of hundreds of thousands of trees. Spread by a tiny insect called the Asian citrus psyllid, scientists have yet to discover a cure for the disease.

In California, HLB is present in more than 800 backyard citrus trees in Southern California. But, luckily for growers, it has failed to hitchhike its way north to the San Joaquin Valley, the heart of the state’s citrus industry. And that’s exactly how citrus industry officials want it.

Gary Schulz, president of the Citrus Research Board in Visalia, is heavily involved in bringing the U.S. Department of Agriculture dogs to California. Schulz is helping to craft a plan for where the dogs will begin their detection work.

“The USDA has invested millions of dollars in detector dogs and they have proven to be a credible diagnostic tool for early detection and screening trees,” Schulz said.

Read more here

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Ag production data for 2017 show value increase in California

The USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) has released its first production data summaries for 2017 in California, with a total for the year of $50.13 billion, an increase of $3.7 billion from 2016, or six percent. The ERS also provided an upward revision its production figure for 2016, changing it from $46.04 billion to $47.4 billion. Please note that the 2017 figure is subject to revision, as well.

California remains the leading agricultural state in the nation, with about 13 percent of total US production. California leads the country in dairy production and many other commodities, and it provides roughly half of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Here are the Top-10 California commodities for 2017:

  1. Dairy products, Milk – $6.56 billion
  2. Grapes – $5.79 billion
  3. Almonds – $5.6 billion
  4. Strawberries – $3.1 billion
  5. Cattle and Calves – $2.63 billion
  6. Lettuce – $2.41 billion
  7. Walnuts – $1.59 billion
  8. Tomatoes – $1.05 billion
  9. Pistachios – $1.01 billion
  10. Broilers (Chickens) – $939 million

More in-depth production data will be provided by the ERS in the weeks and months to come, and California Ag export statistics as well as California counties reports will be completed in a collaborative effort between CDFA, the USDA and the University of California at Davis.

Link to CDFA’s Statistics page

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The Netherlands joins California and France in Global Soil Health Challenge

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (L) today in San Francisco with the Netherlands Minister for the Environment, Stientje van Veldhoven, as part of the Global Climate Action Summit, which concludes today. The Netherlands signed the Global Soil Health Challenge – joining California and France in scaling-up action on climate smart agricultural practices.

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Climate Smart Agriculture – Alternative Manure Management Program

The Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap and Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment.

The AMMP is one of a number of projects up for discussion at this week’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions on California dairy farms and livestock operations by using manure management practices that are alternatives to dairy digesters (i.e. non-digester projects).

When livestock manure decomposes in wet conditions, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 72 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Changing manure management practices so that manure is handled in a dry form can help significantly reduce methane emissions.

The reductions achieved contribute to the state’s overall climate pollutant strategy under Senate Bill 1383, which aims to reduce California’s methane emissions to 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.

Earlier this month CDFA awarded $21.6 million in grant funding to 40 alternative manure management projects across the state.



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California and France Announce Soil Health Commitment at the Global Climate Action Summit

California and France announce the Global Soil Health Challenge (from left): Paul Luu, 4 per 1000 Initiative; CDFA Secretary Karen Ross; Murielle Trouillet, France’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food; CDFA Undersecretary Jenny Lester Moffitt

Today, at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, the government of California announced the launch of a Global Soil Health Challenge in partnership with France.

The challenge calls on governments across the world – both national and sub-national – to include programs that restore soil health under their national plans to meet their targets under the Paris Agreement.

Currently, only 8 governments include programs on soil health in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Yet boosting soil carbon is relatively easy, through low-tech sustainable agricultural practices. These measures not only help fight climate change, but increase biodiversity and food security too.

California has invested over $700 million to date in climate solutions for agriculture, which include the on-farm strategies for soil carbon sequestration. The state has specifically committed $22.5 million in climate investments for soil health ­– the first climate commitment for soils in the US. The funds come from the state’s cap-and-trade carbon pricing program and voter-approved bond money.

The announcement follows the launch of a new digital hub from the 4 per 1000 Initiative, backed by the governments of France, Germany and Spain. If carbon was increased in soils by just 0.4% per year, the reduction in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would correspond to all annual man-made greenhouse gas emissions – hence the name of the 4 per 1000 Initiative.

The platform will enable international collaboration between scientists, farmers and financiers on an ongoing basis in efforts to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by capturing more carbon in the planet’s soils.

Stephane Travert, France’s Minister for Agriculture and Food, said: “To be efficient and to lead to a true transition towards more sustainable agriculture, many actors have to be mobilised alongside the farmers. The 4 per 1000 Initiative will thus contribute to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. It will allow farmers to live well from their work, and contribute to food security.”

Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture said: “Improving soil health is a powerful climate solution. By removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in our soils, we nourish the soil for healthy food production and increase water holding capacity to be drought tolerant and ensure food security. That’s the same whether you’re in California, France or any country in the world.  As signatories to the Global Soil Health Challenge, we commit to apply these approaches and encourage other governments to join us in a soil health revolution to fight climate change.”

About the 4 per 1000 Initiative
The 4 per 1000 Initiative aims to encourage stakeholders to transition towards a productive, highly resilient agriculture, based on the appropriate management of agricultural soils in food security and climate action. Supported by solid science, the initiative invites all partners to implement practical actions on soil carbon storage. The initiative’s Secretariat is hosted by the CGIAR System Organization, an international organization based in Montpellier.

About the Global Soil Health Challenge
Announced by California and France at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, the Global Soil Health Challenge calls on national and sub-national governments to include ambitious programs of action on soil health in their Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2020 and in sub-national climate initiatives as part of broader climate action plans. The signatories agree to promote the development of healthy soils within their respected geographies and report back on their progress at the 2019 UN Climate Summit in New York. The Global Soil Health Challenge is part of a suite of climate smart agriculture practices aimed to strengthen efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and sequester carbon on natural and working lands, including agriculture.


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Climate Smart Agriculture – SWEEP saves water, reduces greenhouse gas emissions

One of the Climate Smart Agriculture programs operated by CDFA and up for discussion at this week’s Global Climate Action Summit is the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). This program is one of several at CDFA supported by California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

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Scaling Up Climate Smart Agriculture: a “California Conversation” brings leaders, innovators together

Tuesday night’s “California Conversation” in Sonoma County brought together no fewer than four California Agriculture Secretaries (from left): Karen Ross, A.G. Kawamura, Ann Veneman and Richard Rominger. A powerhouse panel at the event also included Don Cameron and Kat Taylor. “California agriculture has a long history of inspirational and innovative leaders, as last night’s event confirmed,” said Secretary Ross. “Thanks to my colleagues – who have continued their leadership at the national and international levels – for always keeping a special place in their hearts for California.”


The Global Climate Action Summit is September 12-14 in San Francisco.

The affiliated Scaling Up Climate Smart Agriculture Event in Sonoma County is connecting climate stakeholders including farmers and ranchers, multinational corporations, foreign governments and non-governmental organizations to further the role of agriculture in climate discussions.

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