California Department of Water Resources launches new digital tool that may help growers restore groundwater

SACRAMENTO — The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced the public release of its new data visualization tool, the California Land Use Viewer. The tool allows Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), growers and the public to easily access both statewide and existing county land use data sets collected over the last 30 years.

For California’s farmers and ranchers, the tool provides a clearer picture of California’s diverse agricultural tapestry. With over 400 commodities grown across the state, the viewer allows agricultural communities to see what is growing in their own backyards.

Growers might also use DWR’s land use viewer in tandem with University of California (UC) Davis’s Soil Agricultural Groundwater Banking Index, or SAGBI, SAGBI serves as a resource for growers to determine the suitability of groundwater recharge on agricultural land.

Already being implemented on several farms across the state, groundwater banking uses excess surface water to flood fields and replenish groundwater reserves. Researchers at UC Davis suggest this technique can restore Californian’s impacted aquifers without harming crops. Terra Nova Ranch in Fresno, CA, for example, has been actively working with state university and government partners to implement groundwater recharge. The operation estimates by using groundwater banking they can recharge up to 1,000 acre feet of floodwater per day.

Coupled with vital information provided by  both DWR’s land use viewer and SAGBI, growers will be bettered positioned to see if they can adopt groundwater recharge practices on their own operations.

To learn more about the tool, please visit:

Posted in Drought | Leave a comment

Fire emergency: scenes from a fairgrounds evacuation center – from the Los Angeles Times

Will Gross (center), who lost his home in a fire two years ago and found shelter and assistance at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga, returned yesterday as a volunteer. Picture by Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times

Note – A total  of 13 fairgrounds–in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Sutter,  Marin, Sutter, Nevada Orange and Kern counties–are serving as emergency shelters during this fire emergency.  

By Paige St. John

Two years ago, during the Valley fire, the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga, Calif., was the scene of a tent city of evacuees, along with massage therapists, puppet artists, drum circles and food catered by the best of Napa Valley.

On Monday, smoke from the nearby Tubbs fire left the same evacuation shelter all but deserted. But it didn’t stop determined volunteers from showing up to give what they could.

Among them was Will Gross of Cobb.

“I lost my house in the Valley fire. These guys helped me out, so I thought I’d help them,” Gross said as he scooped watermelon and cantaloupe into a fruit salad in the shelter’s kitchen.

He worked beside two professional cooks – Ed Burke, the food service director for Calistoga joint unified schools, and Andy Wild, special events director for the fabled Culinary Institute of America, which has an academy near Napa.


A late-afternoon shift in the wind (Monday) sent smoke from the nearby Tubbs fire into Calistoga, driving out many who sought shelter there at the Napa County Fairgrounds.

Fairground employee Monica Garibay, who manned the shelter registration desk, ran out of a carton of face-masks donated by a local medical facility.

But she said the generators were working and fairgrounds staff plan to serve dinner at 6 p.m. to anyone whose need for shelter outstripped with her desire for fresh air.

“We are ready! “ said Garibay, a nearly empty community room behind her. Somewhere in the dark of the room, a kitten mewled. Outside, shuttle bus drivers stood ready to take unknown passengers someplace else.

The afternoon sun weakly pierced the gray blanket of smoke, a blood red disk.

Link to Los Angeles Times Northern California fire coverage


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A refresher on free air and water at service stations – from “Honk,” in the Orange County Register

Note – CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards regulates fuel dispensing accuracy and signage at California service stations and also oversees the free air and water law.   

By James Radcliffe

Q. Mr. Honk: I am pretty sure California passed a law requiring gas stations to provide air for free. This was to reduce emissions as vehicles get better gas mileage with properly inflated tires. You might want to inform your readers of that. Thanks.

– Nick Berger, Westminster

A. Nick is banking off of a short mention by Honk last week about a nifty air dispenser for tires at some gas stations and, yes, he is correct about the law.

If you didn’t buy petrol at the station, well, start tossing coins into the ol’ machine. Otherwise, you can head inside the gas shack and say you fueled up and need some air or water – for free.

Gas stations must provide free air, water and the use of a tire gauge to those who purchased fuel under a California law passed in 1999, said Steve Lyle, a state spokesman. Legislators wanted to ensure vehicles roll along safely.

Operators can flip a switch or give you tokens or coins.

The state’s Division of Measurement Standards can cite violators with a $250 fine. To make a complaint, go to the state agency’s online site and type “air” into the search bar to find the form.

Link to “Honk.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Farm2Fan video – Kiwifruit

From California Grown’s “Farm2Fan” video series.


Posted in Agricultural Marketing | Leave a comment

CDFA helps nail down lumber standards – from the National Institute of Standards and Technology


Before you line up at the cash register in a building-materials store, you might want to ask yourself: Is that 8-foot, 2×4 board you’re about to buy actually 8 feet long and really 1.5 inches thick by 3.5 inches wide?*

State and local inspectors are responsible for ensuring compliance, but they have no agreed-upon set of testing procedures for softwood lumber, such as pine. It’s not as easy as it might seem. For example, moisture content can make a large difference in a board’s dimensions, as can density, species, and even grain orientation. In the absence of specified guidelines, it’s hard to evaluate errors or compare findings, and impossible to cite a recognized measurement standard when, for example, someone lodges a complaint about incorrectly sized lumber.

That’s why the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Office of Weights and Measures, in cooperation with the industry-based American Lumber Standards Committee and CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards, has developed a detailed set of proposed softwood testing procedures for submission to the National Conference on Weights and Measures, which sets the consensus standards for all states to use.

The current version gives specific practical specifications for nearly all aspects of softwood inspection, including the kinds of calipers (for thickness and width) and steel tape (for length), the minimum quality and method of deployment for wood moisture meters, dimensional correction factors for moisture content (e.g., 1% shrinkage for each 4% change in moisture content) in different species, and many other factors.

For lumber inspectors, that ought to nail it down.

**Reference: Making Sure that Lumber Measures Up

Note – Establishing standards and verifying the dimensions of lumber is one of the many ways the Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards protects consumers and competing retailers who operate on very tight profit margins.

The Division works closely with county sealers of weights and measures who, under the supervision and direction of the Secretary of Food and Agriculture, carry out the vast majority of weights and measures enforcement activities at the local level. 

Link to article

Posted in Measurement Standards, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

State Agencies to Host Groundwater Recharge Forum on November 8th in Sacramento

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), in collaboration with California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and other state entities, are hosting a Public Forum on Managed Groundwater Recharge to Support Sustainable Water Management. This all-day event will be held at the Sacramento Convention Center on November 8th 2017 and bring together a variety of speakers to address recharge opportunities and issues.

Registration Information

Groundwater recharge is an important topic for California as the state continues to recover from an historic drought that caused increased reliance on groundwater basins – resulting in overdraft, failed private domestic wells and impacts to environmental quality.

In June 2017, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture sent a letter to CDFA Secretary Karen Ross encouraging the convening of a forum to, “inform long term state policies related to ground water recharge.” California’s farm and ranching communities are important partners in helping to implement recharge efforts, but many barriers in federal/state policy as well as infrastructure challenges limit wide scale recharge opportunities.

This forum will bring together water authorities, agricultural organizations, regulators and other stakeholders to address groundwater recharge opportunities and associated policies.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

122 tons of food – California Ag comes through during Farm to Food Bank Month

Celebrating Farm to Food Bank – from left, Mark Lowry, Director, Orange County Food Bank; CDFA Secretary Karen Ross; Sue Sigler, Executive Director, California Association of Food Banks; Nicole Suydam, Executive Director, Second Harvest of Orange County; and AG Kawamura, former CDFA Secretary and Co-owner of Orange County Produce.

California agriculture joined together in September to raise donations for the state’s annual Farm to Food Bank Month. More than 245-thousand pounds of food–in excess of 122 tons–were donated to the California Association of Food Bank’s Farm to Family Program for needy families in Southern California – from holiday turkeys to olive oil and rice; and tens of thousands of pounds of fresh produce.

CDFA secretary Karen Ross gathered last week in Orange County with leaders in the food bank sector to honor that commitment and to remind farmers and ranchers that the need is year-round, and therefore donations can be, as well.

California Ag has shown strong support for the Farm to Family Program statewide, increasing contributions to 214 million pounds–more than 100,000 tons–in 2016

However, hunger continues to be a substantial problem in California. More than two-million children in our state live in food-insecure households. All told, one in eight Californians struggles with hunger – roughly 5.4 million people. The fact that this occurs in a state with such an enormous bounty of food makes the problem even more glaring.

The generosity of California agriculture during Farm to Food Bank Month is very much appreciated, and it will be a lifeline for a number of needy Southern California families, but it’s clear there is still a great deal of work to do.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A message from Secretary Ross – CDFA, colleagues thank Undersecretary Jim Houston for his service to agriculture community

At a gathering of friends, family and colleagues, Secretary Ross expressed her appreciation for Undersecretary Jim Houston’s service.

CDFA staff members joined with colleagues from partner agencies and the agriculture community to say a fond “farewell” to Undersecretary Jim Houston on Thursday (9-28) at CDFA Headquarters. We wished him well as he and his family look forward to the opportunities and challenges that await.

Simply put, California is a better state because of his service. Jim impressed all of us from the start, with his first appointment in 2011 as deputy secretary and his early leadership of our legislative office. When I asked him to accept the position of undersecretary in 2015, it wasn’t just his problem-solving skills and his political acumen that made him the right choice; Jim’s intelligence and his gift for strategic thinking are fully matched by his love of agriculture and his enthusiasm for public service.

Jim has been a great asset to the Brown Administration, and I consider myself fortunate to have worked with him these past six and a half years. I will forever treasure his friendship.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How To Cool Your Cow: Researchers Test New Methods To Protect Cows From Heat – from Capital Public Radio

By Sally Schilling

Dairy cattle cool off from the summer heat at the Dairy Teaching and Research Facility at UC Davis. (Paul Fortunato / UC Davis)

During California heat waves, dairy farms use a lot water and energy to keep their cows cool. UC Davis researchers are trying out new techniques that use less resources.

Over in the UC Davis dairy barn, scientists try to find a cooling method that’s just as effective as spraying the cows with sprinklers and using fans.

Theresa Pistochini with the Western Cooling Efficiency Center says the traditional method uses 11,000 gallons of water per cow per year.

She says heat stress in cows also affects milk production, and spraying the cows can cause health problems. She says that’s costing farmers nationwide $800 million a year.

Instead, her team tried placing a pad under the cows’ bedding that has chilled water running through it. They also designed a swamp cooler that blasts air over areas where the cows eat and lie down.

Researchers stand over heat exchange mats, which are part of a project at the UC Davis Dairy Teaching and Research Facility focused on cooling cows more efficiently. (Paul Fortunato / UC Davis)

The group says these new methods reduce water by up to 86 percent and electricity up to 38 percent.

The data still need to be analyzed, but Pistochini says at first look, the new techiques appear to be working.

See the original post on the Capital Public Radio site here.


Posted in Dairy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CDFA teams-up with California Conservation Corps on Mediterranean fruit fly project in LA

An ongoing Mediterranean fruit fly quarantine in the Sun Valley section of Los Angeles is requiring fruit removal in the central zone of infestation, an area with more than 1,200 properties. CDFA has turned to the California Conservation Corps (CCC) for assistance with this task. Approximately 50 CCC members are going door-to-door in the search for host fruit trees and are expected to wrap-up their work this week. This video shot last year shows a similar operation as it unfolded during another Medfly eradication project in nearby Panorama City.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment