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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Climate change: Bug-covered ‘bionic mushroom’ generates clean energy – from BBC News

A button mushroom coated in bugs and nanowires can produce electricity from light. (American Chemical Society)

By Matt McGrath, BBC

US researchers have successfully tested the rather whacky idea of producing electricity from a mushroom covered in bacteria.

The scientists used 3D printing to attach clusters of energy-producing bugs to the cap of a button mushroom.

The fungus provided the ideal environment to allow the cyanobacteria to generate a small amount of power.

The authors say their fossil-free “bionic mushroom” could have great potential.

As researchers the world over search for alternative energy sources, there has been a sharp rise in interest in cyanobacteria.

These organisms, widely found in the oceans and on land, are being investigated for their abilities to turn sunlight into electrical current.

One big problem is that they do not survive long enough on artificial surfaces to be able to deliver on their power potential.

That’s where the humble button mushroom comes in.

This fertile fungus is already home to many other forms of bacterial life, providing an attractive array of nutrients, moisture and temperature.

So the scientists from the Stevens Institute of Technology in the US developed a clever method of marrying the mushroom to the sparky bugs.

Appropriately enough, they came up with the idea while having lunch!

“One day my friends and I went to lunch together and we ordered some mushrooms,” said Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral researcher and author of the study.

“As we discussed them we realised they have a rich microbiota of their own, so we thought why not use the mushrooms as a support for the cynaobacteria. We thought let’s merge them and see what happens.”

Using a special bio-ink, the team printed the bacteria on the cap of the mushroom in a spiral pattern. They had previously used an electronic ink to embed graphene nano-ribbons on to the surface of the fungus to collect the current.

When they shone a light on this magical mushroom, it caused the cyanobacteria to generate a small amount of electricity.

Not quite a lightbulb moment but proof that the idea works. The researchers say that several mushrooms wired up together could light a small lamp.

“We are looking to connect all the mushrooms in series, in an array, and we are also looking to pack more bacteria together,” said Sudeep Joshi.

“These are the next steps, to optimise the bio-currents, to generate more electricity, to power a small LED.”

A big plus for the experiment was the fact that the bugs on the fungus lasted several days longer compared with cyanobacteria placed on other surfaces.

The researchers believe that the idea could have potential as a renewable energy source.

“Right now we are using cyanobacteria from the pond, but you can genetically engineer them and you can change their molecules to produce higher photo currents, via photosynthesis,” said Sudeep Joshi.

“It’s a new start; we call it engineered symbiosis. If we do more research in this we can really push this field forward to have some type of effective green technology.”

The leap from fossil fuel to fungus fuel may not be that far away.

The study has been published in the journal Nano Letters.

See the original article on the BBC News site here.

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CDFA at Latino Farmer Conference

CDFA programs are participating today at the 2018 Latino Farmer Conference in Santa Maria. It’s the fourth annual sustainable agriculture conference for Latino farmers, co-sponsored by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Center for Appropriate Technology. CDFA employees on-hand in Santa Maria include, from left, Nicole Crouch, Fertilizer Research and Education Program; Andrea Cano, State Organic Program; Leslie Fernandez, State Organic Program; and Rodrigo Chipres, Produce Safety Program.

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Videos with information about Virulent Newcastle Disease

CDFA and the USDA continue with their efforts to eradicate an outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease in Southern California – in Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. Here are some important reminders in English and Spanish.

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If you’re wasting food you’re making climate change worse – from USA Today

By Tia Nelson

Wasting food has been called the “world’s dumbest environmental problem.” Every year, the average family of four in the U.S. tosses roughly $2,000 in food; 30 to 40 percent of food produced in this country ends up discarded.

At dinner, our parents urged us to finish everything on our plates. Beyond the moral and economic reasons to do so, it turns out there’s a significant environmental one, too. When food winds up in landfills it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than the poster child of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, which primarily comes from fossil fuel use.

In fact, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States. Few people realize when they shove some grapes into the bottom drawer of their refrigerator and forget about them, they are contributing to climate change.

We throw out way too much edible food 

Throwing out food at home is only part of the problem. As the Natural Resources Defense Council noted in a report last year, “We leave entire fields unharvested, reject produce solely for cosmetic reasons, throw out anything past or even close to its ‘use by’ date, inundate restaurant patrons with massive portions, and let absurd amounts of food rot in the back of our fridges.”

A recent report by the Boston Consulting Group put the dollar figure of wasted food worldwide at $1.2 trillion a year.

When we toss food, we’re not just wasting money; we’re also squandering the energy used to grow crops and raise cattle, as well as the energy required to ship, refrigerate and package food.

It’s time for people, restaurants, supermarkets and farms to consider this cost to the environment when they over-order or carelessly discard edible food. The federal government has recognized the need to address this problem; in 2015 the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency set a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. It’s doable, and we all have a role to play.

In May, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue hosted a food waste roundtable in Washington. “Our nation’s agricultural abundance should be used to nourish those in need, not fill the trash,” Perdue said. “So many people work on food waste issues in their own spheres, but it’s time to change the culture and adopt a holistic approach to get everyone working together and sharing ideas.”

Overseas, some governments are taking more aggressive actions to stem food waste. France, for example, bans grocery stores from tossing edible food. South Korea prohibits food waste from landfills, and requires people to separate food waste from their regular trash.

While those mandates might prove politically unpalatable in this country, some states are taking more modest steps, such as restricting how much food waste can be sent to landfills, and we should encourage those laudable efforts. But real progress will come when people and businesses step up to solve this problem. And many already are doing so.

There are smaller steps we can take together

Food Waste Reduction Alliance — a collaborative effort of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association — is working to standardize the confusing panoply of labels that consumers use as cues to determine if food is still safe to eat.

There are also organizations like Food CowboyRescuing Leftover Cuisine and Meal Connect, which bring technology to food donations — allowing farms, grocery stores and restaurants to donate their excess food to food banks. Some supermarket chains are also taking steps to sync unused food to groups feeding the needy. Trader Joe’s has Donations Coordinators at its stores, who work to bring unsold food to nonprofit organizations.

Then there’s “ugly food” — produce that looks weird or misshapen but is identical in taste and quality to properly proportioned fruits and vegetables. Companies like The Misfits sell imperfect-looking produce at a discount. As the company says, “Crooked cucumbers, misshapen tomatoes or not-so-red Red Peppers are just as delicious and nutritious as ‘the other guys’ – and less expensive!”

If we could take these solutions and scale them, the food we’d save could feed millions of hungry people, conserve resources, and make a big dent in one of the biggest sources of climate change.

It won’t take a rocket scientist to solve this dumb problem. We can do it ourselves.

Tia Nelson, managing director for climate at the Outrider Foundation, is former director of the Global Climate Change Initiative at The Nature Conservancy and former executive secretary to the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. 

Link to story


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New California law puts teeth into bee registration requirement – from Western Farm Press

By Todd Fichette

California agricultural commissioners now have the regulatory “teeth” they sought to enforce bee registration each year – something they long complained was needed to protect the pollinators.

Pest control advisors at the recent annual meeting of the California Association of Pest Control Advisors (CAPCA) were the first to publicly hear about the 18-month effort to force compliance of a law long-ignored, according to Ruthann Anderson, CAPCA chief executive officer.

Dubbed “Bee Where,” the new program gives agricultural commissioners the authority to seek civil penalties of not more than $500 per day a beekeeper is in violation of the law. While previous law required beekeepers to register their bees with county agricultural departments, it was effectively unenforceable, said Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner Ruben Arroyo. The new law that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019 makes it unlawful to maintain an unregistered apiary.

Funding for the program came from the California Department of Food and Agriculture and California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association (CACASA) promoted the program in collaboration with CAPCA. Arroyo is the current CACASA president.

The website http://bewherecalifornia.com was set up to help growers, PCAs and beekeepers understand the program.

The goal is to help county commissioners know where bees are located and who owns them, so they can be notified 48 hours before chemical spray treatments are applied to crops near where bees are located.

Assembly Bill 2468 by Dr. Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, passed the legislative process with no industry opposition, Anderson said.

Arroyo and Anderson promoted the program to over 1,000 PCAs at the association’s recent annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Part of the effort there was to highlight ongoing efforts to protect pollinators, which has gained steam in recent years as beekeepers continue to seek answers into higher rates of winter mortality and bee deaths.

While certain classes of pesticides and chemical tank mixes have been blamed for bee deaths, Anderson sees the program as a good first-step to begin collecting data that might help close in on the true cause of bee mortalities.

Beekeepers will be required to pay an annual $10 registration fee beginning in 2020.

How it works

The legislation requires anyone who moves bees into the state or otherwise comes in to possession of an apiary to register the name of the owner, the number of hives and the location those colonies will be moved to within 30 days of arrival. Moreover, relocation of hives within the state will now require a phone call to the destination county agricultural commissioner within 72 hours of first movement. The same applies to hives moved within a single county.

Bee owners must also be on record, either directly or through their designated representatives. This includes name and address of the appropriate party. Hives must also be marked with identifying information.

The program will use the latest computer technology to map bee colony locations. The intent is to have locations linked through Agrian, so when a PCA writes a recommendation through the program, an instant flag will go up if beekeepers are registered within a mile of the planned application site. Arroyo says details of this are still being worked out, but early indications suggest that PCAs will be given various crop protection alternatives if bees are nearby.

“It will come up with a list of suggested softer chemicals to use, but we’re still working with Agrian on this,” Arroyo said.

If there are bees registered within a mile of the planned application site, contact information on the owner of the bees will be provided. Beekeepers can register various means of contact, including phone, email and fax, Anderson said. Beekeepers will be given 48-hour notice prior to spray activities near their hives.

The program is also hoped to have a smart phone app available, so growers, beekeepers and regulatory agencies can search for and tag bee hive locations. County inspectors can then verify these locations to determine if hives are registered and act on those that are not registered.

Anderson says pilot launch of the program will begin with the 2019 almond bloom. A second phase starts a year later with feedback from various stakeholders and expansion of the technology to eventually include reporting of unmarked and unregistered bee hives and information to aid investigations into bee kills.

NOTE –  CDFA continues to work on bee-related issues with a pilot project in North Dakota to inspect bees in other states for the presence of invasive species before they’re shipped to California. This would reduce the amount of time hives would spend at Border Protection Stations.       

Link to story


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Video: CDFA and Secretary Ross featured in PBS program “Valley’s Gold”

The PBS program “Valley’s Gold” recently welcomed CDFA Secretary Karen Ross to discuss the agency’s many roles in facilitating farming and ranching, as well as its positive impacts on the daily lives of Californians. She is followed in the program by one of the leaders in agricultural advocacy in California, George Soares; California Farm Bureau Federation president Jamie Johansson; and California Agricultural Leadership Foundation president Barry Bedwell.

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Cow power – Truck at Northern California dairy utilizes convenient fuel source

CDFA deputy secretary Rachael O’Brien, with California Resources Agency undersecretary Thomas Gibson (L) and dairy farmer Albert Straus, recently visited Straus’ farm in Marin County. Straus is the founder/CEO of Straus Family Creamery, which utilizes an electric farm truck powered by cow manure (pictured).

The truck, which was put into service last year, relies on methane as it travels the 500-acre dairy farm with animal feed. The Straus dairy cows actually power the truck that feeds them. This is one type of environmentally sustainable project that aligns with the work of  CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation as it distributes grant funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as part of California Climate Investments. Note – This project was solely implemented by the Straus family and was not funded by CDFA.



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Scientists push for a crash program to scrub carbon from air – from the New York Times

Photo from the New York Times

By Brad Plumer

With time running out to avoid dangerous global warming, the nation’s leading scientific body  urged the federal government to begin a research program focused on developing technologies that can remove vast quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in order to help slow climate change.

The 369-page report, written by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, underscores an important shift. For decades, experts said that nations could prevent large temperature increases mainly by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and moving to cleaner sources like solar, wind and nuclear power.

But at this point, nations have delayed so long in cutting their carbon dioxide emissions that even a breakneck shift toward clean energy would most likely not be enough. According to a landmark scientific report issued by the United Nations this month, taking out a big chunk of the carbon dioxide already loaded into the atmosphere may be necessary to avoid significant further warming, even though researchers haven’t yet figured out how to do so economically, or at sufficient scale.

And we’ll have to do it fast. To meet the climate goals laid out under the Paris Agreement, humanity may have to start removing around 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year by midcentury, in addition to reducing industrial emissions, said Stephen W. Pacala, a Princeton climate scientist who led the panel. That’s nearly as much carbon as all the world’s forests and soils currently absorb each year.

“Midcentury is not very far away,” Dr. Pacala said. “To develop the technologies and scale up to 10 billion tons a year is a frightful endeavor, something that would really require a lot of activity. So the time would have to be now.”

The panel’s members conceded that the Trump administration may not find the climate change argument all that compelling, since the president has disavowed the Paris Agreement. But, Dr. Pacala said, it’s quite likely that other countries will be interested in carbon removal. The United States could take a leading role in developing technologies that could one day be worth many billions of dollars.

Right now, there are plenty of ideas for carbon removal kicking around. Countries could plant more trees that pull carbon dioxide out of the air and lock it in their wood. Farmers could adopt techniques, such as no-till agriculture, that would keep more carbon trapped in the soil. A few companies are building “direct air capture” plants that use chemical agents to scrub trace amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, allowing them to sell the gas to industrial customers or bury it underground.

But, the National Academies panel warned, many of these methods are still unproven or face serious limitations. There’s only so much land available to plant new trees. Scientists are still unsure how much carbon can realistically be stored in agricultural soils. And direct air capture plants are still too expensive for mass deployment.

In theory, it might be possible to collect wood or other plant matter that has absorbed carbon dioxide from the air, burn it in biomass power plants for energy and then capture the carbon released from combustion and bury it deep underground, creating, in essence, a power plant that has negative emissions. While no such facilities are operating commercially today, the technology to build them exists.

But one potential problem with this approach, the National Academies panel said, is that the land required to grow biomass for these power plants could run into conflicts with the need for farmland for food. The panel estimated that this method might one day be able to remove 3 to 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year, but possibly much less, depending on land constraints.

That’s a far cry from the 10 to 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide we may need to pull out of the air by the end of the century in order to limit overall global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the recent United Nations report. That figure assumes nations manage to decarbonize their energy and industrial systems almost entirely by 2050.

If nations fail to hold global warming below that 1.5 degree level, the United Nations report warned, tens of millions more people could be exposed to life-threatening heat waves and water shortages, and the world’s coral reefs could disappear almost entirely.

The National Academies panel recommended a dual strategy. The United States could set up programs to start testing and deploying carbon removal methods that look ready to go, such as negative emissions biomass plants, new forest management techniques or carbon farming programs.

At the same time, federal agencies would need to fund research into early-stage carbon removal techniques, to explore whether they may one day be ready for widespread use.

For instance, scientists have long known that certain minerals, like peridotite, can bind with carbon dioxide in the air and essentially convert the gas into solid rock. Researchers in Oman have been exploring the potential to use the country’s vast mineral deposits for carbon removal, but there are still major questions about whether this can be done feasibly on a large scale.

In its report, the panel laid out a detailed research agenda that could ultimately cost billions of dollars. But given that carbon removal could “solve a substantial fraction of the climate problem,” the report said, those costs are modest. For comparison, the federal government spent $22 billion on renewable energy research between 1978 and 2013.

Outside experts hailed the report as a sign that carbon removal is finally becoming central to the discussions around how to tackle climate change.

“We’re moving from the early stage of ‘what is carbon removal?’ to figuring out what specific steps can be taken to get these solutions at scale,” said Noah Deich, executive director of the group Carbon180, which recently began an effort to bring researchers and companies together to help bring carbon removal technologies to the marketplace.

The National Academies panel did, however, warn of one potential drawback of carbon removal research. It could create a “moral hazard,” in which governments may feel less urgency to cut their own emissions if they think that giant carbon-scrubbing machines will soon save the day.

To that end, the panel stressed that carbon removal, if developed, could only be a part of a larger global warming strategy. “Reducing emissions,” the report noted, “is vital to addressing the climate problem.”

Link to story

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