Secretary Ross talks groundwater with Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)

Water is flowing from a large pipe into an irrigation canal. The focus is on the water coming out of the pipe. There is wheat crop and trees in the back ground and they are blurred.

“Groundwater: Act Locally, Think Sustainably”

By Lori Pottinger

The complex challenges that the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act aims to resolve don’t lend themselves to quick fixes. With the deadline for the first major step—forming “groundwater sustainability agencies” in affected basins—coming up in June, we asked Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, about progress to date.

PPIC: How are California communities doing in implementing the law so far?

Karen Ross: I’ve been very impressed with how implementation is progressing. Clearly, people realize it’s time to address groundwater sustainability, and they are working together at the local level because they prefer that to state action. This is a big undertaking because to address groundwater covers areas like land use and economic development for cities and counties. So the progress made on establishing the governance structure is just the first step. The next step is the hard part: putting together plans that will bring basins back into water balance. That will require very difficult decisions about how the resource is allocated and managed.

The state is supporting this process in a number of ways. Our colleagues at the Department of Water Resources (DWR) have a huge role to play in supporting the process by establishing guidance for governance structures and the criteria for what constitutes a sustainable groundwater plan. The state is backing that up with facilitation and financial support. For example, DWR awarded $6.7 million in grants last year to 21 counties for groundwater planning projects, and just last month the Department of Food and Agriculture and DWR announced a joint $6 million water efficiency grant program for agricultural water suppliers and farmers.

Link to full article

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The merits of measurement – National Weights and Measures Week

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Among the celebrations occurring in March each year are Girl Scout Week, National Cheerleading Week, and National Button Week.  Here at the Department of Food and Agriculture we celebrate Ag Day (March 22,2017 ), and our Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) joins its cohorts around the nation to celebrate National Weights and Measures Week (March 1-7).

The national system of weights and measures is essential in the regulation of commerce  – legal requirements that protect consumers every time they go shopping.  For example, accurate grocery scales and gas pumps, shelf-pricing that matches prices charged at the register, and fuel quality that matches the octane rating when a motorist buys gasoline.

There’s serious money at stake if the weights and measures are off, even by a little.  Take fuel for example.  In 2015, 15.1 billion gallons of gasoline and 4.2 billion gallons of diesel were sold in California, according to the State Board of Equalization.  That’s roughly 53 million gallons of fuel sold every single day!  If the average price of fuel is $2.75/gallon, and the dispensers are off either way by just half a percent (0.5% is the legal limit for meter error), this would cost $2.6 billion annually.  Note:  An inaccurate meter or scale can go in either direction, so the desire for accuracy (and cost savings) is just as important to the retailer as it is the consumer.

There are many different types of commercial weighing and measuring devices, and in a state the size of California, that adds up to over 1.5 million commercial scales and meters.  For this reason, county sealers and their staff perform the bulk of inspections under DMS’ guidance.

This year, Weights and Measures Week is extra special for California.  DMS director Kristin Macey is the 2017 chair of the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM).  NCWM is the professional association responsible for developing the official weights and measures standards in the U.S., which are then adopted into law by the states.  NCWM partners with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The NIST Office of Weights and Measures ensures traceability of state weights and measures standards to the International System of Units (SI), which promotes the uniform application of weights and measures laws around the world.

Watch these videos about CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards:

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Farm to Family: meeting a goal, still working to meet the need – Op-ed in the Salinas Californian

Fort Bragg FB - Unloading Salvage Truck 009

Note – This has also appeared in the Visalia Times-Delta and the Tulare Advance-Register newspapers. 

By Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary; Craig McNamara, President of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture; and Sue Sigler, Executive Director, California Association of Food Banks

Nearly seven years ago, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture set an ambitious goal – work with the state’s farmers and ranchers to double contributions of fresh foods to food banks; from 100 million pounds to 200 million pounds annually.

Today we are proud to announce we have exceeded that goal. More than 214 million pounds were donated in 2016 through the California Association of Food Banks’ Farm to Family program as well as through direct donations to local food banks.

As we take a moment to congratulate agriculture for its commitment to this cause, we must also recognize that we’re far from finished. The fact remains that more than 2 million children in California live in food insecure households. All told, one in eight Californians struggles with hunger – roughly 5.4 million people.

The problem is immense, and the fact that it occurs in a state with such an enormous bounty of food makes it even more glaring. In an unacceptable twist of irony, many of these families live in rural areas, work in farming, and help produce our food.

Many live in low-income communities that have become “food deserts” with no grocery stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Those families may turn to convenience or fast foods that are cheaper but may lead to diet-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

The Farm to Family Program helps to transform lives not only by providing fresh food but also by improving nutrition by delivering vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy, eggs and meat.

More than 100 growers contribute in excess of 50 varieties of produce to Farm to Family. Farm products are distributed each year to the California Association of Food Bank’s 40-plus member food banks and their networks of 6,000 schools, churches, senior centers, soup kitchens and other community venues. And with many of our food banks providing nutrition education together with cooking demonstrations and recipe cards, food bank clients are learning practical ways to bring fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets.

So as we say thank you for exceeding this goal, we also want to urge our farmers and ranchers to keep it up. There are many valued organizations working in tandem with the California Association of Food Banks to bring healthy and nutritious California food to people in need. They include Ag Against Hunger, the California Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers, Hidden Harvest, and CA GROWN. There are many, many opportunities to get involved, and these groups are more than willing to help make it happen.

The California Association of Food Banks has incentives in place to make donations a little easier, helping to offset “picking and pack-out” cost associated with labor and cold storage for fresh fruits and vegetables, in recognition that donating farm products not only involves the value of the food item, but the associated cost of harvesting, packing and storing. A picking and pack out fee, combined with a state tax credit for donations of fresh produce and the federal donation deduction, means that donating food can also make good business sense for farmers.

Well done, California agriculture! Now let’s shoot for 300 million pounds this year.

Link to Op-ed

 

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Secretary Ross on climate change and agriculture’s partnership with CalCAN

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross receives the Climate and Agriculture Leadership Award from Dave Runsten of CalCAN.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross receives the Climate and Agriculture Leadership Award from Dave Runsten of CalCAN.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross received the “Climate and Agriculture Leadership Award” yesterday from CalCAN,  the California Climate and Action Network. Secretary Ross was recognized for a commitment throughout her career to climate adaptation practices, including a series of environmental farming programs at CDFA. After the award ceremony Secretary Ross took a moment to discuss the critical importance of the partnership between agriculture and CalCAN.

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Growing California video series – “Salad Bar Superstar”

This month the Planting Seeds blog is featuring stories on food security, nutrition, and efforts to reduce food waste. CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork is committed to helping all Californians access healthy and nutritious California-grown food by connecting consumers, school districts, and others directly with California’s farmers and ranchers. This is an encore presentation of a video from CDFA’s “Growing California” series about healthy school cafeteria offerings in the Riverside Unified School District.

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Future food security may be in jeopardy – from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations

Logo FAO

Mankind’s future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate, warns a new FAO report.

Though very real and significant progress in reducing global hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years, “expanding food production and economic growth have often come at a heavy cost to the natural environment,” says The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges.

“Almost one half of the forests that once covered the Earth are now gone. Groundwater sources are being depleted rapidly. Biodiversity has been deeply eroded,” the report notes.

As a result, “planetary boundaries may well be surpassed, if current trends continue,” cautions FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his introduction to the report.

By 2050 humanity’s ranks will likely have grown to nearly 10 billion people. In a scenario with moderate economic growth, this population increase will push up global demand for agricultural products by a projected 50 percent over present levels, intensifying pressures on already-strained natural resources.

At the same time, greater numbers of people will be eating fewer cereals and larger amounts of meat, fruits, vegetables and processed food — a result of an ongoing global dietary transition that will further add to those pressures, driving more deforestation, land degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Alongside these trends, the planet’s changing climate will throw up additional hurdles. “Climate change will affect every aspect of food production,” the report says. These include greater variability of precipitation and increases in the frequency of droughts and floods.

To reach zero hunger, we need to step up our efforts

The core question raised is whether, looking ahead, the world’s agriculture and food systems are capable of sustainably meeting the needs of a burgeoning global population.

The short answer? Yes, the planet’s food systems are capable of producing enough food to do so, and in a sustainable way, but unlocking that potential — and ensuring that all of humanity benefits — will require “major transformations.”

Without a push to invest in and retool food systems, far too many people will still be hungry in 2030 — the year by which the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda has targeted the eradication of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, the report warns.

“Without additional efforts to promote pro-poor development, reduce inequalities and protect vulnerable people, more than 600 million people would still be undernourished in 2030,” it says. In fact, the current rate of progress would not even be enough to eradicate hunger by 2050.

Where will our food come from?

Given the limited scope for expanding agriculture’s use of more land and water resources, the production increases needed to meet rising food demand will have to come mainly from improvements in productivity and resource-use efficiency.

However there are worrying signs that yield growth is levelling off for major crops. Since the 1990s, average increases in the yields of maize, rice, and wheat at the global level generally run just over 1 percent per annum, the report notes.

To tackle these and the other challenges outlined in the report, “business-as-usual” is not an option, The Future of Food and Agriculture argues.

“Major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if we are to meet the multiple challenges before us and realize the full potential of food and agriculture to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet,” it says.

“High-input, resource-intensive farming systems, which have caused massive deforestation, water scarcities, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, cannot deliver sustainable food and agricultural production,” adds the report.

More with less

The core challenge is to produce more with less, while preserving and enhancing the livelihoods of small-scale and family farmers, and ensuring access to food by the most vulnerable. For this, a twin-track approach is needed which combines investment in social protection, to immediately tackle undernourishment, and pro-poor investments in productive activities —  especially agriculture and in rural economies — to sustainably increase income-earning opportunities of the poor.

The world will need to shift to more sustainable food systems which make more efficient use of land, water and other inputs and sharply reduce their use of fossil fuels, leading to a drastic cut of agricultural green-house gas emissions, greater conservation of biodiversity, and a reduction of waste. This will necessitate more investment in agriculture and agrifood systems, as well as greater spending on research and development, the report says, to promote innovation, support sustainable production increases, and find better ways to cope with issues like water scarcity and climate change.

Along with boosting production and resilience, equally critical will be creating food supply chains that better connect farmers in low- and middle-income countries to urban markets — along with measures which ensure access for consumers to nutritious and safe food at affordable prices, such as such as pricing policies and social protection programs.

Link to news release

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Secretary Ross to be honored by California Climate and Agriculture Network for work on climate change

calcan

CDFA secretary Karen Ross will be honored by the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) at its summit meeting scheduled for February 28 at UC Davis. Secretary Ross has been chosen for a Climate and Agriculture Leadership Award for her commitment to meet the challenges brought by climate change during her six years at the helm of CDFA, through her service as chief of staff at the USDA, and during her time in previous posts at the California Association of Winegrape Growers and the Agricultural Council of California.

In a news release CalCAN lauded Secretary Ross for setting a priority to address climate mitigation and adaptation in California agriculture, and for overseeing the implementation of the state’s climate-smart agriculture programs.

“I’d like to thank CalCAN for its commitment to smart, climate-friendly agriculture policies and practices,” said Secretary Ross. “Climate change is the major challenge of our time with huge implications for the sustainability of agriculture and its capacity to meet the food security needs of the world’s population.”

The Climate and Agriculture Leadership Awards will take place as part of the 5th California Climate Change and Agriculture Summit. More information about the conference can be found here.

Link to CDFA’s climate-smart agriculture programs. 

 

 

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Fighting a citrus killer – from the University of California

citrus damage

By Sean Nealon

A team of scientists, led by a group at the University of California, Riverside, has received a five-year, $5.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fight a disease that is devastating the citrus industry.

The team will design and identify bactericides–chemicals that kill bacteria–to target Huanglongbing, a bacterial plant disease decimating citrus trees worldwide. They also will focus on better understanding the pathways those bactericides travel inside citrus trees.

Huanglongbing, which has devastated citrus trees in Asia and South America, was detected in Florida in 2005 and has since led to a 75 percent decline in the Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry. Fifteen U.S. States or territories, including California, are under full or partial quarantine due to the presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect which feeds on citrus trees and – in doing so –  transmits Huanglongbing, which has been detected in three residential communities in Southern California but not in commercial citrus.

Past research has identified the bacterium (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus or CLas) associated with Huanglongbing that is killing citrus trees. But, it has proved difficult to deliver bactericides to the phloem, the part of the citrus tree where the harmful bacteria resides.

The UC Riverside team will analyze phloem transit routes that bactericides take when introduced through common application methods, such as trunk injection or leaf or root applications.

They also will continue to develop a new delivery system for use in field citrus trees. The delivery system targets the branches and petioles, which are the stalk that join a leaf to a stem. The idea is based on previous work that indicates that this is an effective and efficient way to tap into and introduce material into phloem tissue, a tissue that is hard to access.

The researchers will undertake an extension and outreach program for citrus growers and non-commercial citrus growers (homeowners and hobbyists), and they will perform an economic cost-benefit analysis for adoption of these treatments in the commercial citrus industry.

Link to full blog post

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382 tons of food – state employees meet, exceed goal in 2016/17 food drive

food_drive_poster

This month the Planting Seeds blog is featuring stories on food security, nutrition, and efforts to reduce food waste. CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork is committed to helping all Californians access healthy and nutritious California-grown food by connecting consumers, school districts, and others directly with California’s farmers and ranchers.

Final totals from the 2016/17 California State Employees Food Drive indicate that an ambitious goal of 750,000 pounds of food was not only met, but exceeded by more than 14-thousand pounds, for a total of 764,038 pounds of food donated for needy families! That’s 382 tons of food, enough for more 636,000 meals!

CDFA and its Office of Farm to Fork coordinated the food drive from late September to early February, along with their partners at the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and 108 different assistance agencies statewide. While much of the donated food was distributed through Sacramento, more than 100,000 pounds of food were donated to food banks and pantries outside the capital-area, eventually ending up on the tables of needy families throughout the state.

“I am impressed each year with the level of compassion and commitment that employees display when they donate to the food drive,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, chair of the food drive. “Food brings people together, in particular during the holidays, when families and friends gather around the table. This program is so important in helping to make that happen for families that may need a little boost.”

The need in California is substantial. According to the California Association of Food Banks, 5.4 million Californians contend with food insecurity,  which is defined as the occasional or constant lack of access to the food one needs for a healthy, active life. More than two-million of those people are children. That need is what motivates California state employees to commit to this effort each and every year.

CDFA's Addison Ford (center) at the food drive wrap-up party with employees of the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services

CDFA’s Addison Ford (center) at the food drive wrap-up party with employees of the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services

Each year the Food Drive holds a wrap-up party with awards to highlight steps agencies have taken to make the drive a success. The Board of Equalization received an award for the greatest weight-volume of donations, totaling 166,689 pounds of food. Two new award categories have been added – for most creative fundraiser and for the biggest increase in donations from the previous year. CalEPA took home the award in the first category with its “Dream It, Build It, Give It” competition among employees building structures out of donated food.  The Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta Conservancy was honored for having the largest year-over-year increase, upping donations from 18 pounds to 912 pounds.

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Farm Bill listening sessions this week in Los Angeles and Salinas

CDFA’s series of listening sessions for input on priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill will conclude this week with meetings in Salinas on Wednesday, February 22 and Los Angeles on Thursday, February 23rd.

The Salinas listening session will be from 4:30-6:30 pm at the Monterey County Farm Bureau, 1140 Abbott Street, Suite C. Salinas, CA 93901. The Los Angeles meeting will be from 1-3 pm at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, 400 West Washington Blvd., Aspen Hall-Room 101, Los Angeles, CA 90015.

Following the listening sessions the next step in the Farm Bill process will be to develop recommendations that will be shared with California’s Congressional delegation and the leadership of the Senate and House agriculture committees.

Here’s another look at CDFA’s video about the Farm Bill, “A Farm Bill for Everyone.”

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