Elementary school students learn about critters at CDFA lab

A group of eight and nine year-olds from Sacramento's Merryhill visted CDFA's Meadowview laboratory complex this week to learn about the agency's work to protect the state from invasive species.

A group of eight and nine year-olds from Sacramento’s Merryhill School visited CDFA’s Plant Pest Diagnostics Center this week to learn about the agency’s work to protect the state from invasive species.

Several students had an opportunity to meet a nematode, up close and personal.

Several students had an opportunity to meet an invasive species, up close and personal.

The students all received this coloring book to commemorate their visit.

The students all received this coloring book to commemorate their visit.

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Apple Hill – the season is upon us

With the first day of Fall arriving this week, Californians are again starting to turn their attention to El Dorado County’s Apple Hill, which is now in the midst of its 2016 production season. From CDFA’s award-winning Growing California video series, here’s an encore presentation on Apple Hill’s draw as a tourism destination.


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CDFA participates in American Heart Association Heart Walk

CDFA employees gathered at the State Capitol today for the American Heart Associations's Heart Walk. A total of 140 Department employees participated, raising $2.814 for heart health.

CDFA employees gathered at the State Capitol today for the American Heart Associations’s Heart Walk. A total of 140 Department employees participated, raising $2,814 for heart health.


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CDFA joins partnership to study nitrate leaching from irrigated agriculture in Central Valley – from the Fresno Bee

Photo by Diana Baldrica, Fresno Bee

Photo by Diana Baldrica, Fresno Bee

By Robert Rodriguez

The Kings River Water Quality Coalition along with several other South Valley water quality coalitions received a $2 million grant from the federal government to address nitrate leaching from irrigated agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will be used to launch a program to quantify and minimize the nitrate leaching from farming operations in the southern San Joaquin Valley, including portions of Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties.

The funding that came from the USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grant program will be implemented over 1.8 million acres of irrigated agriculture from Fresno to Kern counties. The goal of the program is to increase the use of conservation practices to protect water quality.

The project includes several partners, including the University of California Cooperative Extension, California State University and California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“This project provides support to growers in their efforts to continue to improve their operational efficiency while addressing groundwater quality objectives recently established for irrigated agriculture,” said Casey Creamer, coordinator of the Kings River Water Quality Coalition, which is administering the grant program in partnership with the six other water quality coalitions.

The coalitions partnering in the grant include the Buena Vista Coalition, Cawelo Water District Coalition, Kaweah Basin Water Quality Association, Kern River Watershed Coalition Authority, Kings River Water Quality Coalition, Tule Basin Water Quality Coalition and Westside Water Quality Coalition.

Link to story

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UCLA researchers warn that centuries of drought could return to California – from the San Francisco Chronicle


By Bill Disbrow

We may someday have to stop calling our drought a temporary phenomenon and just label it the new normal. Climate change could lock the state into a dry pattern lasting centuries or even a millennia if history repeats itself, according to a new study out of UCLA.

Researchers correlated findings from Sierra Nevada soil samples and found that energy changes from natural occurrences like a shift in the Earth’s orbit or sun spots may have triggered prolonged dry weather in California. In the Nature.com journal Scientific Reports, the team argues that current radiative forcing – energy change  brought on by greenhouse gas emissions – may create a similar prolonged dry pattern in the Golden State.

“Radiative forcing in the past appears to have had catastrophic effects in extending droughts,” UCLA professor Glen MacDonald said in a university publication. “When you have arid periods that persist for 60 years, as we did in the 12th century, or for millennia, as we did from 6,000 to 1,000 B.C., that’s not really a ‘drought.’ That aridity is the new normal.”

From 6,000 to 1,000 B.C., the core sample indicates a 5,000-year dry period in California that had been suggested by previous research. That period was linked to a slight change in Earth’s orbit that resulted in increased solar energy in the Northern Hemisphere and creating La Niña conditions.

MacDonald’s team correlated historic radiative forcing with increased water temperatures in our oceans, likely creating more La Niña and El Niño weather patterns during previous dry spells. If greenhouse gasses persist, MacDonald warns that we could see more of these boom-or-bust winters, potentially bringing a significant change to California’s ecosystems.

“In a century or so, we might see a retreat of forest lands, and an expansion of sagebrush, grasslands and deserts,” MacDonald said in the UCLA release. “We would expect temperatures to get higher, and rainfall and snowfall would decrease. Fire activity could increase, and lakes would get shallower, with some becoming marshy or drying up.”

MacDonald stressed that his study can’t be used to predict the future, but it does offer cause for concern.

Link to article


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#Farm2Fan video series – Kingsburg Family-Farmed Blueberries

California Grown and Visit California are teaming up to produce the #Farm2Fan video series, profiling farms throughout California and fans of those farms who stop by for a visit.

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CDFA collaborates on draft ‘Vibrant Communities and Landscapes’ plan to help meet climate change goals


Note – CDFA is a collaborative partner in an effort to meet a mid-term greenhouse gas reduction reduction target for California of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. CDFA is joining with the following agencies: Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, California Natural Resources Agency, California State Transportation Agency, California Health and Human Services Agency, California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Strategic Growth Council, and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.

Land use decisions, including development patterns, land conservation and protection, and land management practices, play a critical role in the State’s future and achievement of its long-term community health, environmental, and economic goals. This vision, and set of actions included to realize it, is the result of a collaborative dialogue and a shared desire to better consider land use in State climate change programs and other initiatives that support the State’s long-term environmental goals.


As the State works toward its 2030 and 2050 climate change goals, its land base, including natural, working, and developed areas, is recognized as foundational and integral to the State’s climate policy, economy, and quality of life. As such, the State plays a meaningful and impactful role in shaping the future communities and landscapes of California. Because of the pivotal role of land use in the State’s environmental, economic, health, and related policies, California is taking action to grow in a manner that assures:

• Development and conservation investments and decisions focus on building social equity and supporting thriving and healthy communities with improved access to and supply of affordable housing, transportation alternatives, open space and outdoor recreational opportunities, affordable healthy foods, living-wage jobs, social support, and economic and educational opportunities;

• The land base, including natural, working, and developed areas, is a foundational element of the State’s strategy to meet GHG emission reduction targets. This importance is further recognized in other land, energy, and climate change policy documents and decisions, including State, local, and regional planning and investments;

• Land is protected, managed, and developed in a manner that maximizes resilient carbon storage, food security, and other ecological, economic, and health objectives. Natural and working lands are used to build resilience in natural, built, and social systems, and provide buffers against changing climate conditions that will allow for flexible adaptation pathways;

• New development and infrastructure are built primarily in locations with existing infrastructure, services, and amenities (i.e., previously-developed locations), rather than greenfield locations; and

• The value of ecosystem services conferred by natural systems are accounted for and included in State, local, and regional planning and investment decisions, resulting in protection of these services and California’s globally significant biodiversity.

This document was developed with the recognition that land use decisions are inherently difficult decisions that require consideration of many conflicts and tradeoffs, and balancing the needs of many constituencies, including disadvantaged communities, businesses, local agencies, developers, and landowners.

This document is not intended to reconcile these issues or to remove them from the domain of local governments. Rather, this document is intended to consider land use in the context of the California’s climate change policy and how the State can support actions, at all levels of government, to facilitate development and conservation patterns that help to achieve the State’s climate goals.

Public comments are welcome and may be directed to ca.50m@opr.ca.gov

Link to draft report

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Wine Month in California – two videos

Governor Brown has proclained September as ‘Wine Month’ in California. In connection with that CDFA offers two encore presentations from the Growing California video series: “Wine Connections,” an overview of wine tasting; and “Love on the Vine,” the story of Ceja Vineyards, a family winery with humble beginnings.

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USDA Offers $5 million in Farm to School Grants to Increase Local Foods in Schools

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that up to $5 million in grant funds is available to help schools create or strengthen farm to school programs this school year. Administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, these annual, competitive grants will help further USDA efforts to increase locally sourced foods in America’s school meals.

Farm to school programs help form healthy habits and support local economies.  The local foods offered through farm to school programs help school meal programs fulfill the updated school nutrition standards with appealing and diverse offerings.  According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, schools with robust farm to school programs report reductions in food waste, higher school meal participation rates, and increased willingness of the students to try new foods, notably fruits and vegetables.  In addition, in school year 2013-2014 alone, schools purchased more than $789 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers.

The Farm to School Grant Program was authorized in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. To date, USDA has funded 300 projects in all 50 states, DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Since its inception in FY2013, more than $20 million has been awarded through the Farm to School Grant Program. This year, awards ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 will be distributed in four different grant categories: Planning, Implementation, Support Service, and Training.

Applications are due on grants.gov by December 8, 2016.  On Thursday, September 29, at 1:00 p.m. EST, USDA will host a webinar to review the RFA and assist eligible entities in preparing proposals. Visit the grants homepage for more information and to register for the webinar.

Link to news release

Link to CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork

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State Releases Vision for Healthy Soils Initiative


NoteGovernor Brown today signed  AB 1613, which directs $900 million in cap-and-trade investments, including $7.5 million for CDFA’s State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) and $7.5 million for CDFA’s Healthy Soils Incentive Program, which is one of many actions identified in the Healthy Soils Initiative

California’s Climate Future and Soils

California’s Healthy Soils Initiative is a collaboration of state agencies and departments, led by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to promote the development of healthy soils on California’s farm and ranch lands. Innovative farm and ranch management practices contribute to building adequate soil organic matter that can increase carbon sequestration and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The Healthy Soils Initiative is a key part of California’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing carbon sequestration in and on natural and working lands. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s Executive Order B-30-15 (April 2015), codified by SB 32 in September 2016, established a new interim statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction target at 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The Executive Order points to carbon sequestration in California’s forests and farmlands as one way to help meet that goal. The Brown administration also recognized the importance of soil health in the Governor’s 2015-16 proposed budget by highlighting that “as the leading agricultural state in the nation, it is important for California’s soils to be sustainable and resilient to climate change.”

In building soil health, California can also make use of wasted resources bound for the landfill. Currently, some 12 million tons of compostable or mulchable organic waste is sent to California landfills annually, where it generates methane and other public health threats that must be managed or mitigated. The Healthy Soils Initiative presents an opportunity to return those organic materials back to the soil, where they can serve as a resource for California’s critical agricultural economy.

Health of agricultural soil relates to its ability to build and retain adequate soil organic matter via the activity of plants and soil organisms. Adequate soil organic matter ensures the soil’s continued capacity to function as a vital living ecosystem with multiple benefits that sustains and produces food for plants, animals, and humans. These benefits include:

  • Improve plant health and yields – soil organic matter contains important nutrients that support plant growth, biodiversity and yields.
  • Increase water infiltration and retention – healthy soil reduces runoff and has the ability to hold up to 20 times its weight in water; it assists flood management.
  • Sequester and reduce greenhouse gases – carbon stored in soil has the potential to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
  • Reduce sediment erosion and dust – healthy soil resists erosion and improves dust control.
  • Improve water and air quality – practices to improve soil health can reduce emissions of criteria pollutants and affect the persistence and biodegradability of pesticides in soil and water.
  • Improve biological diversity and wildlife habitat – at least a quarter of the world’s biodiversity lives in the soil; activities to improve soil health on farms and ranches can also promote plant and animal biodiversity and provide wildlife habitat benefits.

Actions for the Healthy Soils Initiative

State agencies, departments and boards met and agreed to a set of five primary actions for the Healthy Soils Initiative:

1. Protect and restore soil organic matter in California’s soils.
2. Identify sustainable and integrated financing opportunities to facilitate healthy soils.
3. Provide for research, education and technical support to facilitate healthy soils.
4. Increase governmental efficiencies to enhance soil health on public and private lands.
5. Promote interagency coordination and collaboration to support soils and related state goals.

California’s farmers and ranchers play a critical role in by managing soils in a way that sequesters carbon and reduces greenhouse gases.

By setting clear goals, incentivizing voluntary on-farm management practices, funding necessary research and demonstration projects and working to promote interagency collaboration and increase governmental efficiencies, the Healthy Soils Initiative can play an important role in meeting California’s 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target.

Link to complete Health Soils Initiative vision statement

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