California and Australia – a continuing partnership

Our visit to Australia was another step in furthering California’s commitment on climate smart agriculture. The trip not only allowed us the opportunity to meet with government officials and academia, but also to see on-farm adaptations related to water management in citrus, nut and grape production. 

Australia is a perfect climate analog for California. The landscape, temperature and farming operations of New South Wales are very similar to California and have related challenges. The efficient use of water in agriculture is an ongoing theme. When visiting Ferrero’s Rocher’s hazelnut operation for instance, we saw that the company has employed a number of different irrigation pumps, micro-irrigation systems, and plantings to help determine the best path forward for soil and climate conditions. Farming has always been about innovation and climate smart agriculture is part of that continuing legacy.

By going to Australia we encouraged cooperation between our delegation members and the people and organizations we visited. Fostering connections between farmers and farm associations is critical to expanding innovation and experiences as it relates to climate smart agriculture. CDFA will be working to further these ties through upcoming visits by Australian delegations and webinars connecting Australian and California farmers.

I would like to thank the great delegation we had with us in Australia and look forward to further collaboration on climate smart agriculture.

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Delegation participants (left to right): Amrith Gunasekara, CDFA Science Advisor; Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau Federation; Carlos Suarez, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Jan Hopmans, University of California, Davis; Dave Long, Hilltop Ranch/Merced Irrigation District; Emily Rooney, Agricultural Council of California; Eric Holst, Environmental Defense Fund/California State Board of Food and Agriculture; CDFA Secretary Karen Ross; Don Cameron, Terranova Ranch/CDFA Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel; Brooks Ohlson, Sacramento Regional Center for International Trade Development; Josh Eddy, CDFA; and Mike Darby, In-country Representative. 

 

 

 

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CDFA Career Fair scheduled for April 7

CareerFairFlyer2017

With an estimated 40 percent of all California state employees eligible to retire in the next five years, and nearly 50 percent here at CDFA, the agency recognizes a substantial need to recruit new employees and will hold its second annual career fair in Sacramento on April 7, 2017, from 9 am to 1 pm at 2800 Gateway Oaks Drive Sacramento, CA 95833.

Current and future job openings cover the full spectrum of programs at CDFA, including plant health; animal health; dairy food safety; weights and measures – including work in alternative fuels; information technology; marketing; climate smart agriculture; oversight programs for certified farmers markets and organic agriculture; and administration and other support functions.

The agency will need scientists and other subject matter experts as well as veterinarians, entomologists, chemists, technical specialists, analysts, and a full complement of support personnel.

So come on out and learn about career opportunities at CDFA!

2017 Career Fair Event Schedule

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Video – A look back at Ag Day

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Wines and climate adaptation – Climate Smart Agriculture Mission to Australia

CDFA science advisor Dr. Amrith Gunasekara at Casella Family  Brands winery in New South Wales.

CDFA science advisor Dr. Amrith Gunasekara (left) at Casella Family Brands winery in New South Wales.

New South Wales: Our trip to Australia included a trip near the village of of Yenda, for a tour with the irrigation, energy and wastewater management team for Casella Family Brands, the owners of Yellow Tail and Peter Lehmann wines, among other labels. Yellow Tail was launched in the USA in 2001 and quickly surpassed all initial projections to become one of the world’s most recognized wines.

The family-owned winery is a leader in adopting technology in the vineyards and its processing facility. All irrigation pumps are linked by radio and cellular phone for scheduling by computer. Soil moisture probes feed into the information system every 15 minutes along with a network of weather station data. The integrated data management system requires fewer pumping hours–a 25-30 percent savings of energy use- brings reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,  and it saves money! The computer system from Australia’s Right Energy Solutions was a capital investment with a fifteen-month payback!

This warehouse contains 15, million cases of Yellow Tail wines, about a months supply for customers around the world.

This warehouse contains 1.5 million cases of Yellow Tail wines, about a month’s supply for customers around the world.

Recycling is a key part of this company’s culture. Raw wastewater from the winery is recycled and reused, and rainwater is reclaimed. All cardboard, plastic, oak and glass are recycled. Pomace and other solid waste from the crush are used in the extensive composting yard for the vineyards.

The winery is on the same location where John Casella’s parents started their farming venture after leaving Sicily in 1957. The original winery – a tin shack- and the family home are still there. Another amazing story of a farm family that never gave up!

We traveled back to Canberra through countryside that is mostly grazing and grain production. The wide open spaces reminded me of western Nebraska but the rolling pastures definitely could have been Amador or Calaveras county!

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A sweet farewell – Climate Smart Agriculture Mission to Australia

Nutella

New South Wales: One of our last stops in Australia was so fun – Ferrero Rocher, the world’s third largest confectionary!! Claudio Cavallini, general manager of the company’s Australian agriculture program, welcomed us to the 2,000-hectare property -a former cattle ranch being converted to hazelnut plantings. In addition to its famous namesake chocolates, Nutella is one of the company’s products.

The company sources its hazelnuts from Turkey, Italy, Chile, Argentina, the U.S., Spain, South Africa and Serbia. Australia is the latest addition to its growing sites, which are selected for climate, chill hours, soils and access to water. Diversifying sourcing locations helps manage risk and ensure the best quality and freshest hazelnuts.

Ferrero Rocher started as a family pasticceria in the Piedmont area of Italy. It is headquartered in Milan. I am impressed by its corporate commitment to responsible stewardship and its programs to foster healthy rural development in +regions where its products are sourced. The company has met its goal for sustainably-sourced palm oil and is on track to meet goals for sustainably-sourced chocolate.

Hazelnuts

A Ferrero Rocher hazelnut orchard in New South Wales

The farm we visited is designed not only as a production farm but also as a research, development and demonstration site to assist growers in bringing hazelnuts to the region. It includes a nursery and an amazing deployment of technology to improve water use efficiency and reduce energy use. Compost is used extensively to get the shrubs started. Sorghum and casuarina are planted every five rows for windbreaks.

After planting has been completed later this year, the next phase of the project will be a cracking and drying facility where the company plans to deploy an aggressive clean energy strategy. The high cost of energy has been mentioned as a driver for change in all of our meetings this week.

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Citrus Down Under – Climate Smart Agriculture Mission to Australia

Australian citrus farmer Frank Mercuri greeting the Climate Smart Agriculture delegation.

Australian citrus farmer Frank Mercuri greeting the Climate Smart Agriculture delegation.

New South Wales: Australian farmers grow some of the same specialty crops as we do in California, including citrus. Frank Mercuri, chairman of Pacific Fresh, hosted us for a tour of as citrus packing house and an orchard. Pacific Fresh is owned by 8 farmers and packs for another 22 growers. The co-op was established in 1997 and has quickly grown to the country’s fifth-largest. It is affiliated with Sunkist in California. Exports are critical to the Australian citrus industry. It ships 65 percent of its production overseas.

Frank told us Valencia prices are almost double this year –even for juice. This is in part due of the loss of Florida Valencia orchards to Huanglongbing, or citrus greening, the disease carried and spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. This is yet another example of how interconnected we are in the world of agriculture

In the middle of Vallerosa Orchard (named for the small Italian town where Frank’s parents were born) we had a great discussion about water, the water trading system of Australia, and how this area of New South Wales has thrived. Growers in this region had full water allocations even during the drought. Water use efficiency has increased in recent years, which has allowed growers to sell water on a short-term basis some years, making the water an asset on their balance sheets.

Here’s a member of our delegation, Emily Rooney, president of the Agricultural Council of California.

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Impressions of a vast, dry continent – Climate Smart Agriculture Mission to Australia

The New South Wales countryside

The New South Wales countryside

New South Wales: On this day we left Canberra at 7am and traveled south and west to what is known as “irrigation country.” The scenery reminds me of a drive from Sacramento to Ione (Amador County). Our stops included a visit with representatives of Coleambally Irrigation, a farmer-owned co-op. The district encompasses 491 irrigated farms producing rice, wheat, corn, cotton, barley, soy beans, canola, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. We received an on-the-ground look at water reforms, featuring a system that runs on solar power and includes broadband communications. Water orders can be met within 2 hours and there is precise regulation of flows, precise measurement, and automated water accounting.

We saw first-hand that farmers here have embraced solutions beyond water management. LandCare is a grass-roots conservation program that partners with landholders to plant trees, foster biodiversity, capture soil moisture, and protect waterways. The program connects students, families and retirees to natural resources through community events. Cost share funding for restoration projects comes through federal and state government grants.

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Representatives of LandCare provide an overview of their regional work with a map of New South Wales.

LandCare has expanded its focus to include community engagement events to address increasing mental health issues in rural farming communities. The social aspect of land stewardship is a critical component of healthy communities and shows the true value of resource management and restoration on the land.

As we continue our work in California to adapt to climate change and manage our way through a drought that, believe it or not, is still with us, there is much to learn in Australia. The country endured its own epic drought from 1995-2012 and has developed strategies for sustainability that are the reason for our visit.

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Photo highlights from #CalAgDay 2017

It wouldn't be Ag Day at the California Capitol without "Cool Cow" and our rodeo queens (from left): Brittney Phillips, Miss Rodeo California; Megan Ford, Miss California Rodeo Salinas; and Leandra Steenkamp, Miss Grand National Rodeo 2017.

It just wouldn’t be Ag Day at the California Capitol without “Cool Cow” and our rodeo queens (from left): Brittney Phillips, Miss Rodeo California; Megan Ford, Miss California Rodeo Salinas; and Leandra Steenkamp, Miss Grand National Rodeo 2017.

 

Special thanks to Bob Laliberte and Robbie Chessey for their help with the photography this year.

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Ag Day underway

Under cloudy bu dry skies, Ag Day 2017 is underway at the State Capitol. This year, SnapChat users may use this special filter to frame their Ag Day photos.  All social mdeia users are urged to use the #CalAgDay hashtag for their photos

Under cloudy but dry skies, Ag Day 2017 is underway at the State Capitol. SnapChat users attending the event may use this special filter to frame their Ag Day photos. All social media users are urged to use the #CalAgDay hashtag for their photos

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Ag Day today – rain or shine!

Ag Day is today! Join us at the west steps of the State Capitol from 11:30-1:30, rain or shine!

Ag Day is today! Join us at the west steps of the State Capitol from 11:30-1:30, rain or shine!

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