Organic grower summit will emphasize that technology not just for ‘Big Ag’

From Morning Ag Clips

The expanding use of technology by organic growers, regardless of the size of their operation, will be the topic of an educational session at the upcoming Organic Grower Summit. “Technology Is Not Just For Big Ag” will focus on making new technologies accessible for organic growers through a variety of business models aimed at making operations more efficient and sustainable.

The Organic Grower Summit, slated for December 12-13, in Monterey, CA will feature a series of intensive and educational sessions focused on organic growing. “Technology Is Not Just For Big Ag” will explain technology advances including asset sharing, robotics and one of the most talked about information systems, blockchain. Panelists for the session will discuss the issues associated with bringing technology to smaller organic growers and how the industry can work together to help these technologies take root and scale.

Panelists for the session include:

Brian Dawson, co-founder, CEO, Harvestport
Raja Ramachandran, co-founder, CEO,
Diane Wu, co-Founder and CEO, Trace Genomics
The session will be moderated by Hank Giclas, senior vice president, Western Growers

“Blockchain technology and secure data will enable organic growers to better engage with the consumers and environment to facilitate a more transparent and truth based system, opening new business opportunities for farmers and food value chain stakeholders,” shared panelist Raja Ramachandran, CEO and co-Founder, Ripe.IO.

The Organic Grower Summit, a joint production between California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and Organic Produce Network (OPN), brings together organic growers, producers and processors for two days of education, information and networking opportunities with organic production supply chain and service providers.

Link to rest of story

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CDFA hosts informational webpage on wildfire recovery resources for farmers and ranchers

Please click on the image to go to the webpage.

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California Fairgrounds support November Wildfire efforts – serving as evacuation centers, animal shelters and fire camps

Entrance to the Yuba-Sutter Fair evacuation center.

California’s network of fairs are fulfilling a crucial role as evacuation centers for people and animals and as a staging area for fire crews. The following fairgrounds have operations occurring as part of overall response efforts.

Butte County Fair (Gridley, CA) – currently serving as an evacuation center and animal shelter. Approximately 300 individuals and 700 animals currently in residence. North Valley Animal Disaster Group is facilitating the animal shelter operation and has a directory of online images for lost animals to reconnect pets with their families.

Silver Dollar Fair (Chico, CA) – approximately 6,500 emergency personnel on site, serving as a fire camp and staging ground.

Yuba-Sutter Fair (Yuba City, CA) – currently serving as an evacuation center and animal shelter. More than 140 individuals and 60 animals currently in residence.

Ventura County Fair (Ventura, CA) – current serving as an animal shelter with more than 75 animals (primarily horses) in residence.

Glenn County Fair (Orland, CA) – current serving as a evacuation center and animal shelter. Approximately 70 individuals and 30 animals currently in residence.

For further information and assistance resources for the November Wildfires – California Wildfires Statewide Recovery Resources



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From the Sand County Foundation:

Lundberg Family Farms has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 California Leopold Conservation Award®.

Sand County Foundation, the nation’s leading voice for private conservation, created the Leopold Conservation Award to inspire American landowners by recognizing exceptional farmers, ranchers and foresters. The prestigious award, named in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is given in 14 states.

The award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, Sustainable Conservation, and California Farm Bureau Federation. Lundberg Family Farms of Butte County will receive a $10,000 award and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in San Diego on December 5.

Lundberg Family Farms has a long commitment to sustainable farming methods that produce well-known rice products while improving and protecting the environment for generations to come. Started in 1937, the farm is a multi-generation organic rice farm and innovative rice products processor.

“We are honored to receive the Leopold Conservation Award in recognition of the environmental practices we have applied on our farms for over 80 years,” said Bryce Lundberg. “Our grandparents instilled a deep respect for the land in our parents. Our family has been deeply influenced to maintain and expand upon that rich tradition.”

“We feel a profound responsibility to enhance our environmental stewardship in all that we do, whether in farming operations, where we have substantially expanded our organic farming practices in the third generation, to building wildlife habitat, including a 100-acre-plus riparian forest along the Feather River, to increasing our use of renewable energy, with nearly two megawatts of on-site production, to achieving Platinum Status with the U.S. Zero Waste Council at our primary production site,” Lundberg said.

When Albert and Frances Lundberg moved from Nebraska to California’s fertile Sacramento Valley to grow rice in 1937, they did not forget the short-sighted farming techniques and poor soil management they saw along the way. They impressed upon their four sons the importance of respecting the delicate balance of nature and promoting soil health with crop rotations and cover cropping.

As a result, they began to grow rice in an unconventional way. By the 1960s, the Lundberg brothers saw the need to become their own processor, and sell their rice directly to consumers. Today, the third and fourth generations of Lundbergs embrace the family’s conservation heritage of using agricultural practices to protect soil, air, and water.

The family has pioneered stewardship practices such as flooding fields rather than burning them to break down rice straw after harvest. Since the 1960s, the Lundbergs have found this practice builds soil organic matter while improving air quality. By working with university researchers, they have helped inform fellow growers of this practice, particularly after the burning of rice straw was limited by law.

Not burning the rice straw and planting cover crops also provides habitat for millions of migrating waterfowl to rest, feed and rear their young each winter.

Since the 1980s, the Lundbergs have rescued duck eggs ahead of the rice harvest. In partnership with wildlife conservation groups, the eggs are collected, the ducklings are raised in hatcheries, banded with California Department of Fish and Game tags, and released back into safe habitats. These efforts have saved more than 30,000 ducks.

The Lundbergs’ work to encourage water conservation, rotate crops, grow cover crops, and use natural methods for pest control, have made them a leader in organic rice production and wildlife-friendly farming. These techniques are shared with others through farm tours.

“The Lundberg family is an absolute standout for its 50-plus years of truly pioneering stewardship for the benefit of people and the environment,” said Ashley Boren, Executive Director of Sustainable Conservation, which has co-sponsored the award since its inception in California. “They’ve led the way in so many areas. From pioneering organic rice production in the U.S., to boosting clean air by flooding instead of burning fields after harvest, to establishing an egg-rescue-and-release program that’s saved tens of thousands of migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway. The list goes on and on.”

“The California Farm Bureau Federation is proud to partner with Sand County Foundation and Sustainable Conservation in recognizing farmers and ranchers who make conservation a key focus of their business plan, with the annual selection of the Leopold Conservation Award recipient,” stated Jamie Johansson, President.

“This year’s California recipient, Lundberg Family Farms, has made conservation of the natural resources on their land a way of life, ensuring that future generations will enjoy the same vibrant ecosystems that they inherited from their parents and grandparents,” Johansson added. “As the most productive agricultural state in the nation, California farmers have shown their ability to protect the environment, while producing a cornucopia of food and farm products that not only create sustainable economic stimulus, but help feed the rest of our nation and world. We are proud that so many California agriculturalists share Aldo Leopold’s pragmatic vision for conservation and farming and ranching.”

Among the many outstanding landowners nominated for the award were two finalists. Rominger Brothers Farm, a diversified farm and ranch in Yolo County that has made significant habitat improvements. Sweet Haven Dairy in Fresno County is a pioneer in irrigation water management and conservation tillage.

The 2017 recipient was C. Jeff Thomson, Thomson International, Inc. a Kern County grower of fruits and vegetables with many wetland conservation achievements.

The Leopold Conservation Award in California is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from American Ag Credit, The Nature Conservancy, Farm Credit West, The Harvey L. & Maud S. Sorensen Foundation, and California LCA Recipient alumni.

For more information on the award, visit

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Dutch agricultural counsel visits CDFA

Secretary Ross with Dutch Agricultural Counselor Marianne Vaes.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Marianne Vaes, Agricultural Counselor for the embassy of the Netherlands in Washington DC. Counselor Vaes was here with her advisor Caroline Feitel to build upon our close relationship with the Netherlands.

After visiting the Netherlands in 2015 as part of our first Climate Smart Agriculture mission to study climate analogues, we continue to collaborate closely with on climate change, including several information-exchange webinars on potential agricultural management practices that could be used to adapt to a changing climate.

Counselor Vaes has experienced a changing climate firsthand with drought conditions in the Netherlands. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge on agriculture systems that are facing many of the same challenges we face here in California.

In addition to Counselor Vaes, our recent meeting included representatives from the Dutch Consulate in San Francisco, the University of California VINE (Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship); and CDFA’s State Veterinarian, Science Advisor, and contributing scientists at our agency. The discussion centered on several topics, including antimicrobial animal use and resistance efforts, agricultural technologies, and the soon to be held World AgriFoodTech 2018 Conference in the Netherlands, which will focus on technological innovations and recent agricultural policies in general, including the recently-introduced Circular Agriculture Policy in the Netherlands.

It was a pleasure meeting with Counselor Vaes and we look forward to continuing to work together on important issues that impact agricultural production, so that we may continue to produce food to feed an ever-growing global population.

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Average cost of Thanksgiving dinner moves lower for third straight year – from the American Farm Bureau Federation

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 33rd annual survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $48.90, or less than $5.00 per person. This is a 22-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.12.

“Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010,” said AFBF Chief Economist Dr. John Newton.

The featured food on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – cost slightly less than last year, coming in at $21.71 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.36 per pound, down 3 percent from last year. The survey results show that retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2014.

“Thanks to an ample supply, turkey remains affordable for consumers, which helps keep the overall cost of the dinner reasonably priced as well,” Newton said.

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey were a gallon of milk, $2.92; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.39; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.47; and a dozen rolls, $2.25.

Several items saw modest price increases this year including cranberries, pumpkin pie mix and stuffing. A 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries was $2.65; a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.33; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing was $2.87; two nine-inch pie shells came in at $2.47 and a 1-pound veggie tray was $.75. A group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) was also up slightly, to $3.01. There was no change in price for a half-pint of whipping cream at $2.08.

Link to full story


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CDFA employees donate nearly 1,700 pounds of turkey to needy families

Employees at CDFA’s Sacramento-area offices ushered-in the holiday season yesterday by donating 1,700 pounds of turkey to the Sacramento Food Bank. The donations are part of the annual California State Employees Food Drive.


CDFA’s Michelle Lehn (L) helped coordinate the agency’s contributions along with volunteers from the Sacramento Food Bank.

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FDA issues draft guidance for Produce Safety Rule

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued updated draft guidance for industry with respect to “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.”  The purpose of the guidance, or guidelines, is to help produce farms understand what they must do to comply with the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

This means that the FDA is getting closer to requiring full compliance with the rule, and that corresponding inspections through the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Produce Safety Program are getting closer to reality.

A series of public hearings about this information is being held around the country in the coming months, including one in California. That meeting is scheduled for November 29, 2018 from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm at the Doubletree Suites by Hilton, at the Anaheim Resort Convention Center, 2085 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, CA 92802. More information about the meeting and registration information is available here.  An option to participate via webcast is available.

Additionally, people may  submit written comments about the draft guidelines. They can be sent to the FDA no later than April 22, 2019. Information on how to submit comments can be found here.

The guidelines provide a broad range of recommendations on how to meet the requirements of the rule. The FDA has provided an “At-a-Glance” overview of key points in each of the nine chapters:

Chapter 1: General Provisions

Chapter 2: Personnel Qualifications and Training

Chapter 3: Health and Hygiene

Chapter 4: Biological Soil Amendments of Animal Origin and Human Waste

Chapter 5: Domesticated and Wild Animals

Chapter 6: Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding Activities

Chapter 7:  Equipment, Tools, Buildings and Sanitation

Chapter 8: Records

Chapter 9: Variances

In the coming months, CDFA’s Produce Safety Program plans to provide additional information to assist California produce farms in understanding what is expected of them. The law is in effect now and official inspections will begin in 2019.

For updates on the implementation of the Produce Safety Rule in California please click here.

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Draft industrial hemp regulations ready for review

CDFA has issued draft regulations for industrial hemp cultivation in California and is accepting public comments through December 24.

After comments are considered CDFA will move to finalize the regulations and anticipates that county agricultural commissioners will begin accepting applications and issuing the first licenses for commercial production in 2019.

Currently industrial hemp production is permitted in California only in association with established agricultural research institutions.

Link to draft Industrial Hemp Cultivation regulations

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CDFA and USDA join cotton industry to celebrate Pink Bollworm eradication – from Western Farm Press

Cotton growers and government partners recently got together to recognize the eradication of the Pink Bollworm. From left, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association Chairman Tom Gaffney; Ted Sheely, Cotton Pest Control Board Chairman; Roger Isom, CCGGA president and CEO; Earl Williams, past CCGGA president and CEO; USDA Undersecretary Gregory Ibach; Nick Condos, CDFA Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services director; and, Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator for USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine.

By Todd Fichette

For the second time in several years eradication of a vicious agricultural pest was achieved in the United States (and California) as the cotton industry hails elimination of the pink bollworm, a destructive pest that threatened to wipe out the U.S. cotton industry.

This is particularly noteworthy for California as officials successfully eradicated the European grapevine moth two years ago after it was found for the first time in the United States in a Napa Valley vineyard.

“Defeating an invasive bug doesn’t happen often, and when we do achieve success we need to celebrate this,” said Nick Condos, director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Plant Health and Pest Prevention Program.

Roger Isom, president and chief executive officer of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association called eradication of the pink bollworm “historic” saying this was an effort “52 years in the making.”

“Today we look at the pink bollworm in the rearview mirror,” Isom said. “It’s a story of industry foresight and cooperation and a story of how a government agency can work with industry and be successful.”

Noteworthy in this effort was the way it was achieved. The industry achieved eradication by relying upon integrated pest management tactics that included the use of pheromones and sterile insects. Pesticides were not the primary means of control. Mandatory plow-down practices that were enforced by regulation and the introduction of Bt cotton by seed companies also aided in the effort.

“This is a very significant event for the cotton industry,” said USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Gregory Ibach at a celebration hosted at West Haven Cotton Ginning Company near Lemoore, Calif.

Ted Sheely, chairman of the California Cotton Pest Control Board, likewise praised efforts to eradicate the pest with practices that did not rely primarily on common insecticides.

“We started with mandatory host-free periods, which included the plow-down dates,” Sheely said. “Then the program started using pheromones to keep the moths from being able to find their mates.”

This continued in the early 1970s with the release of sterile moths to prevent egg laying by wild moths. In 1994 Sheely said that California cotton growers invested in a state-of-the-art facility in Phoenix, Ariz. where pink bollworm moths were irradiated to sterilize them. These moths – upwards of 31 million per day at the peak of the program – were released by the USDA in a successful effort to eliminate the pest.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service coordinated this program, Isom said. Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator for USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine, said APHIS also maintained the quarantines and performed areal applications of sterile moths.

“There are two things that stand out to me, El-Lissy said. “The vision and unwavering dedication of growers themselves to this program and the strong collaboration between government and industry. This was one of the most unique programs in the world because we did not use pesticides.”

All this gained traction after 2000 with the introduction of Bt cotton, which contains a protein that is toxic only to moth larvae, Sheely said. “The widespread planting of Bt cotton created an opportunity to wipe out pink bollworm (PBW) when combined with other techniques already in use,” he said.

Prior to establishment of the state PBW program, state inspectors trapped about 400,000 fertile moths per year in southern California and by 2007 that number was over 410,000 fertile moths. The following year this number fell 96 percent to about 16,000. The last moths trapped in California were caught in 2011 and none were caught since then in the Golden State. Trap counts in the West and in northern Mexico fell to zero by 2013.

Condos said traps and mandatory plow-down periods will still be employed to assure the pest remains eradicated.

Link to story


Watch this CDFA video about eradication of the Pink Bollworm.

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