California lands more than $5 million in USDA grants for citrus greening research


The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced four grants totaling more than $13.6 million to combat a scourge on the nation’s citrus industry, citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB). UC Riverside will receive $5,112,000 of that funding for a program to design and identify bactericides that can cure or suppress HLB.

“The economic impact of citrus greening disease is measured in the billions,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA investments in research are critical measures to help the citrus industry survive and thrive, and to encourage growers to replant with confidence.”

HLB is currently the most devastating citrus disease worldwide. It was first detected in Florida in 2005 and has since affected all of Florida’s citrus-producing areas leading to a 75 percent decline in Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry. HLB has also been detected in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas, as well as three residential communities in Southern California. Fifteen U.S. States or territories, including California, are under full or partial quarantine due to the presence of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), a vector for HLB.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $400 million to address citrus greening, including more than $57 million through the Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program since 2014.  Other projects in the current grant award include:

  • Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, $4,274,523
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $2,476,099
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Athens, Georgia, $1,821,197

More information on these projects is available on the NIFA website.

Information on efforts to control the Asian citrus psyllid and stop HLB in California is available on CDFA’s web site and the California Citrus Threat web site.


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State Water Project increases allocation to 60 percent – from Capital Press

Lake Oroville this year.

Lake Oroville this year.

By Tim Hearden

Amid what’s shaping up to be one of California’s wettest winters on record, the State Water Project on Jan. 18 upped its anticipated deliveries to at least 60 percent of requested supplies.

The boost from 45 percent is the Department of Water Resources’ second allocation increase in less than a month, and it comes as many of its gauges in the Central Valley have recorded twice the normal rainfall for this time of year.

Still, department spokesman Doug Carlson said it’s too soon to know whether the project’s 29 contracting agencies will get their full allocations for the first time since 2006.

“We still have a ways to go,” he said. “The winter could turn off the spigot as quickly as it turned on. We’ll just have to continue to monitor and assess whether this is a good, wet year.”

It has been so far, he said. In fact, precipitation totals at more than a dozen California Data Exchange Center stations from the northern Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin Valley are trending higher than at this point in 1982-83, the state’s wettest year on record.

“That just jumps off the page at you,” Carlson said.

The latest allocation increase follows the DWR’s announcement on Dec. 21 it would deliver at least 45 percent of requested deliveries, up from its 20 percent initial allocation in late November.

Under the current allocation, SWP contractors would receive more than 2.5 million acre-feet of the 4.17 million acre-feet they collectively sought. An acre-foot is enough water to supply two typical households for a year.

Reservoirs have risen to the point that water officials have had to make releases to make room for more storms and spring runoff, raising levels of the Sacramento River and other rivers to near their banks.

As of Jan. 18, Lake Oroville, the SWP’s principal reservoir, was holding 79 percent of its capacity and 125 percent of its historical average for the date. Shasta Lake, the federal Central Valley Project’s largest reservoir, was at 80 percent of capacity and 123 percent of normal for the date.

California’s snow water content statewide was 151 percent of normal on Jan. 18 and 183 percent of normal in the southern Sierra, according to the DWR.

The latest allocation means that contractors will likely get at least as much water as they did last season, when a 60 percent final allocation was given. Contractors received 65 percent in 2012 and 80 percent in 2011.

Water officials say a 100 percent allocation is difficult to achieve even in wet years because of Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta pumping restrictions to protect imperiled fish.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation typically makes its first allocation of CVP water in mid-February, though last season’s was on April 1.

Link to article

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Valley farmers aim to provide bees with appetizers, dessert to go with main meal – from the Modesto Bee


By John Holland

About a month from now, billions of bees will get to work pollinating nearly 1 million acres of California almonds.

On a small part of that acreage, growers are providing other flowers for the bees to dine on before and after the almond bloom. They hope to strengthen the insects against disease and other challenges that have reduced their numbers in recent years.

An orchard east of Livingston provided a glimpse Tuesday of how it works – in this case with yellow mustard and daikon radish sown in the fall. They provide nectar and pollen at a time of year when it is not available on most of the nation’s farmland and wild areas.

“It sustains the bees and boosts their health in myriad ways,” said Billy Synk, who runs a program that offers free seeds to almond growers. They can plant them between the tree rows, at orchard edges and at other spots without reducing their nut yield, he said.

The Almond Board of California, based in Modesto, hosted the demonstration at Jean Okuye’s farm along Olive Avenue. She has 19 of the farm’s roughly 6,000 acres enrolled so far in the Seeds for Bees program.

Almonds are second only to milk for gross income among the state’s farm products. About two-thirds of the nation’s commercial bee colonies are trucked to the Central Valley each year to do the essential task of moving pollen among the blossoms.

Beekeepers expect to lose some of their colonies each winter, but the losses have grown for reasons that are still being studied. They could include disease, parasites, pesticides, the stress from trucking, or poor nutrition when drought reduces flowering plants.

Seeds for Bees this year provided several types of mustard and clover, along with the lana type of vetch. They flower from January, when almond trees are bare, through the end of nut pollination in late March.

The bees gain weight and immunity from disease thanks to the extra food, said Synk, director of pollination programs for Project Apis m. It is named for Apis mellifera, the scientific term for the European honeybee, the species at issue.

The plants add organic matter that improves soil fertility and water retention, Synk said, and they can be mown well in advance of the nut harvest. Almond growers like to minimize the debris that could get picked up with the crop shaken from the trees.

The additional food sources do not appear to keep bees from fully pollinating the trees, said Bob Curtis, director of agricultural affairs at the Almond Board. He added that some beekeepers have discounts for program participants because it reduces the need to feed sugar and other winter supplements to the colonies.

For more information, go to

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USDA offers grants to help local food sector

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has announced the availability of $27 million in grants to fund innovative projects designed to strengthen market opportunities for local and regional food producers and businesses. 
“These grants will continue USDA’s support for the local food sector as an important strategy for keeping wealth in rural communities,” said AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer.  “Entrepreneurs around the country are creating jobs and new economic opportunities in response to growing consumer demand for local food.  AMS is excited to partner with local food stakeholders to strengthen local economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for their communities.”
AMS has announced the request for applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, which includes Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) grants, and theFederal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP).  These programs and other resources across USDA are helping to revitalize rural America by supporting local and regional food stakeholders.
The FMPP provides funds for direct farmer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism.  Over the past 10 years, the FMPP has awarded more than 870 grants totaling over $58 million.  The successful results of these investments are summarized in the Farmers Market Promotion Program 2016 Report. (Add link). The LFPP supports projects focused on intermediary supply chain activities for local food businesses. LFPP was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase funding for marketing activities such as aggregation, processing, storage, and distribution of local foods.
The FSMIP provides about $1 million in matching funds to state departments of agriculture, state colleges and universities, and other appropriate state agencies. Funds will support research projects to address challenges and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.
AMS will host a webinar for potential FMPP and LFPP grant applicants on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and a teleconference for potential FSMIP grant applicants on Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  For more information about FSMIP, FMPP and LFPP, visit:  The website also contains a link to a grants decision tree, “What AMS Grant is Right for ME?”, to help applicants determine which AMS grant fits their project best. 
The grant applications for FSMIP, FMPP and LFPP must be submitted electronically through  by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, March 27, 2017. 
AMS will also host a webinar to introduce potential applicants to Grants.govon Wednesday, February 8, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  Applicants are urged to start the registration process as soon as possible to ensure that they meet the deadline and encouraged to submit their applications well in advance of the posted due date.  Any grant application submitted after the due date will not be considered unless the applicant provides documentation of an extenuating circumstance that prevented their timely submission of the grant application, read more on AMS Late and Non-Responsive Application Policy
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CDFA: Regulating egg safety and quality

The Planting Seeds blog is featuring stories this month relating to animal health issues and the activities of CDFA’s Division of Animal Health and Food Safety Services.

The Egg Safety and Quality Management Program at CDFA regulates shell eggs and egg products produced, shipped, or sold in California. The mission of the program is to ensure that eggs sold in California are of known quality, origin, grade, and size; have been properly handled, labeled, transported, refrigerated; and are wholesome and safe to eat.

The program also enforces regulatory standards for preventing salmonella enteriditis in eggs, and for providing a minimum floor space standard for egg-laying hens.

Anyone engaged in the production, sale, or handling of shell eggs or egg products in California must register with the program. CDFA personnel inspect shell eggs and egg products at production, packing, distribution, and retail facilities.


  • LABELING: Consumer-grade packages or containers of eggs must state all of the following: name, address, zip code, quantity, the words “keep refrigerated,” and either the USDA plant of origin code number, the USDA Shell Egg Surveillance number, (if applicable) or California state handler code, sell-by date, *CA SEFS Compliant, *size, *grade, Julian date of pack (the consecutive day of the year that the eggs were packed, in Julian date format. Example – The Julian date for January 1 is 001, the Julian date for December 31 is 365).*Must be printed in font ź inch or larger
  • QUALITY: All shell eggs shall be graded and sized. The established grades of eggs are: AA, A, and B. The established sizes of eggs are: pee-wee, small, medium, large, extra large, and jumbo.
  • REFRIGERATION: Shell eggs must be maintained at a temperature of 45° Fahrenheit or less.
  • DEFECTS: Shell eggs for human consumption must not exceed the tolerances for defects such as checks, leakers, dirty eggs, inedible or loss eggs.


  • Q: How is the Program funded?
    • A: The program is funded by assessments collected from registered egg handlers. The current assessment fee is .125 (twelve and a half cents) per 30-dozen case of eggs sold.
  • Q: Do out-of-state companies that ship eggs into California have to register with CDFA?
    • A: Yes. Anyone who sells eggs by any means in California must register and pay the assessment fee.
  • Q: What happens to eggs that do not pass state inspection?
    • A: Eggs that do not pass inspection are held OFF-SALE by the State or County Enforcement Officer, and they are not released for sale until they are brought into compliance by the responsible party and reinspected and released by an authorized state or county official. Eggs that cannot be brought into compliance are destroyed or sold to breaking plants under certain conditions. Breaking plants receive shell eggs for processing into liquid egg product.
  • Q: Where are eggs inspected?
    • A: Eggs are inspected at production plants, wholesale warehouses, retail facilities and farmer’s markets.
  • Q: What factors determine the “grade” and size of an egg?
    • A: The grade of a shell egg is determined by the size of the internal air-cell. As an egg ages, the liquid contents evaporate through its pores. The larger the air-cell is, the lower the grade of the egg. The outside appearance also factors into the grade of an egg. Eggs with moderate staining (but not adhering dirt) can be sold as grade “B.” All other grades require a clean, unblemished shell appearance. Dirty eggs cannot be sold to consumers. The size of an egg is determined by its weight, in grams. A small egg must weight 40.16 grams or more, a jumbo egg must weigh 68.51 grams or more.
  • Q: Can Non-SEFS breaking stock be brought into the state for breaking, provided that it is clearly marked as breaking stock and not be used for shell egg purposes?
    • A: Yes. There does need to be a process in place that identifies the lot as “breaking product.” Shipping manifests, storage records, sales records, etc., will be inspected/audited to assure that the “breaking product” was indeed used for that purpose.

Link to Egg Quality and Management Home Page


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As rain soaks California, farmers test ways to store water underground – from NPR


By Dan Charles

Six years ago, Don Cameron, the general manager of Terranova Ranch, southwest of Fresno, Calif., (and California State Board of Food and Agriculture member) did something that seemed kind of crazy.

He went out to a nearby river, which was running high because of recent rains, and he opened an irrigation gate. Water rushed down a canal and flooded hundreds of acres of vineyards — even though it was wintertime. The vineyards were quiet. Nothing was growing.

“We started in February, and we flooded grapes continuously, for the most part, until May,” Cameron says.

Cameron was doing this because for years, he and his neighbors have been digging wells and pumping water out of the ground to irrigate their crops. That groundwater supply has been running low. “I became really concerned about it,” Cameron says.

So his idea was pretty simple: Flood his fields and let gravity do the rest. Water would seep into the ground all the way to the aquifer.

The idea worked. Over four months, Cameron was able to flood his fields with a large amount of water — equivalent to water three feet deep across 1,000 acres. It all went into the ground, and it didn’t harm his grapes.

“This is going to be the future for California,” Cameron says. “If we don’t store the water during flood periods, we’re not going to make it through the droughts.”

Helen Dahlke, a groundwater hydrologist at the University of California, Davis, is working with a half-dozen farmers who are ready to flood their fields this year. “We have test sites set up on almonds, pistachios and alfalfa, just to test how those crops tolerate water that we put on in the winter,” she says.

There are two big reasons for these experiments.

The first is simply that California’s aquifers are depleted. It got really bad during the recent drought, when farmers couldn’t get much water from the state’s surface reservoirs. They pumped so much groundwater that many wells ran dry. The water table in some areas dropped by 10, 20, or even 100 feet. Aquifers are especially depleted in the southern part of California’s Central Valley, south of Fresno. Flooding fields could help the aquifers recover.

The second reason to put water underground is climate change.

California has always counted on snow, piling up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, to act as a giant water reservoir. Water is released gradually as the snow melts.

But because of a warming climate, California now is getting less snow in winter, and more rain. The trend is expected to intensify. But heavy rain isn’t as useful because it quickly outstrips the capacity of the state’s reservoirs and just runs into the ocean. Meanwhile, the state gets very little rain during the summer, when crops need water.

“We really have to find new ways of storing and capturing rainfall in the winter, when it’s available,” says Dahlke.

There’s no better place to store water than underground. Over the years, California’s farmers have extracted twice as much water from the state’s aquifers as the total storage capacity of the state’s dams and man-made lakes. In theory, farmers could replace that water.

Peter Gleick, a water expert and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, says that after winter storms, there is enough water available to recharge those groundwater aquifers.

The hard part, he says, will be getting the state’s farmers and irrigation managers to go along with the plan. Because it will require flooding hundreds of thousands — and possibly millions — of acres.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we can do this,” he says. But it’s going to require a different way of thinking. It’s going to require a lot of farmers and owners of ag land to be willing to flood land when the water’s available.”

And Gleick says, even if this large-scale flooding can be accomplished, it won’t be enough, by itself, to protect groundwater supplies. It will have to be accompanied by strict limits on how much water farmers can pump from aquifers. Groundwater — which until recently was almost completely unregulated — will have to be managed so that water is there when farmers really need it, when the rains don’t fall.

Link to article

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California is the Primary Driver of Growth in US Organic Farming

This infographic was originally published as part of the “CDFA By the Numbers” report in 2016. More information about CDFA’s State Organic Program is available here.

SOP infographic


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Secretary Ross welcomes Soil Health Summit to CDFA

A joint Soil Health Summit hosted by CDFA and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is underway today at CDFA headquarters. A webcast of the meeting may be accessed here, and the agenda may be viewed here. CDFA Secretary Karen Ross made opening remarks this morning.

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Update and progress on California Water Action Plan

water action plan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A new report from several California agencies tracks the significant progress made in 2016 toward achievement of the California Water Action Plan – progress that builds the reliability and resiliency of our water resources.

The report released today highlights the achievements of 2016, the third year that state agencies have been coordinating efforts under the Water Action Plan.  First released by the administration of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in January 2014, the Water Action Plan is a five-year framework with 10 overarching goals designed to bring sustainability to California’s water resources and restoration to its most important ecosystems.

The plan’s major goals include making conservation a way of life, increasing regional self-reliance in water supplies, managing and preparing for dry periods, and providing safe water for all communities.  The plan is the foundation for expenditures under Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond passed overwhelmingly by California voters in November 2014.

The 2016 summary of accomplishments was prepared by the California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“We built momentum in 2016 that we intend to maintain in 2017 and beyond,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird.  “United by the Water Action Plan goals and enabled by the Proposition 1 funds, we are making investments that will pay off for generations to come.”

California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said, ““This plan is critically important beyond the year-to-year fluctuations we experience in precipitation. Looking ahead, we know that we must work together to make every drop of water count in California.”

“The drought has highlighted the challenges California faces under climate change,” said CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez. “The Water Action Plan serves as an invaluable guide to ensure that our short-term responses to the drought are also being translated into actions that make our water system more sustainable and resilient over the long term.”

Some of the 2016 achievements described in the California Water Action Plan Implementation Report – 2016 Summary of Accomplishments include:

  • The investment of hundreds of millions of dollars of Proposition 1 funds in local projects that recycle water, improve farm irrigation water efficiency, capture stormwater, and otherwise stretch and safeguard supplies.  These state bond dollars will leverage additional hundreds of millions of dollars of federal and local investment.
  • Launch of dozens of habitat restoration projects around the state, including the largest tidal wetlands restoration project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
  • Support for the implementation of Klamath dam removal through bond funding and amendments to a key multi-party agreement.
  • Creation of a five-agency framework for moving California beyond emergency, one-size-fits-all drought restrictions on water to permanent water-use efficiency standards in a way that accounts for local conditions and demographics.
  • Implementation of regulations to carry out the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, with counties, cities, and local water districts beginning to form the new agencies that will bring groundwater pumping and recharge into balance.
  • Launch of a public process to update the water quality standards and flow requirements in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to balance the needs of fish, farms, and cities.  The State Water Resources Control Board began hearings this year to update 20-year-old Delta water quality standards.

For more information about the California Water Action Plan, visit

Link to news release on California Resources Agency web page.

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Governor Brown proposes 2017-2018 state budget

SACRAMENTO—Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today proposed a balanced state budget that eliminates a projected $2 billion deficit and bolsters the state’s Rainy Day Fund while continuing to invest in education, health care expansion and other core programs.

In a letter to the Legislature, the Governor explained that while this year’s budget “protects our most important achievements,” it is also “the most difficult that we have faced since 2012” and “uncertainty about the future makes acting responsibly now even more important.”

Significant details of the Governor’s 2017-18 State Budget include:

Keeping the Budget Balanced

The budget proposes $3.2 billion in solutions to ensure a balanced budget. By tempering spending growth rather than cutting existing program levels, these actions minimize the negative effects on Californians. The solutions include adjusting Proposition 98 spending, recapturing unspent allocations from 2016 and constraining some projected spending growth. In total, General Fund spending remains flat compared to 2016-17.

Bolstering State Reserves

Proposition 2 establishes a constitutional goal of having 10 percent of tax revenues in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. With a $1.15 billion deposit in the budget, the Rainy Day Fund will total $7.9 billion by the end of 2017-18, 63 percent of the constitutional target. While a full Rainy Day Fund might not eliminate the need for further spending reductions in case of a recession or major federal policy changes, saving now would allow the state to soften the magnitude and length of necessary cuts.

Increasing Education Funding

K-14 funding is expected to grow to $73.5 billion in 2017-18, up 55 percent – or $26.2 billion – from 2011-12. For K-12 schools, funding levels will increase by about $3,900 per student in 2017-18, over 2011-12 levels. This reinvestment provides the opportunity to correct historical inequities in school district funding with continued implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula.

Continuing Health Care Expansion

Under the optional expansion provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, the budget increases enrollment of this Medi-Cal population to 4.1 million Californians, with the state’s General Fund share of cost increasing from $888 million to nearly $1.6 billion.

Counteracting Poverty

California has an extensive safety net for the state’s residents who live in poverty. Since 2012, the General Fund has invested about $18 billion annually to help those in poverty. The budget continues to fund:

  • The rising state minimum wage, which is scheduled to increase to $11 per hour in 2018 and $15 per hour over time.
  • California’s Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • The first cost-of-living adjustment for Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment recipients since 2005.
  • The repeal of the maximum family grant rule in CalWORKs, which denied aid to children who were born while their parents were receiving aid.
  • Increases in child care and early education provider rates and children served totaling $837 million.

Strengthening Transportation Infrastructure

Annual maintenance and repairs of California’s highways, roads and bridges are billions of dollars more than can be funded annually within existing revenues. The budget reflects the Governor’s transportation package, first proposed in September 2015, which would provide $4.2 billion annually to improve the maintenance of highways and local roads, expand public transit and strengthen critical trade routes.

Combating Climate Change

The state has appropriated $3.4 billion in cap-and-trade auction proceeds to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with funding prioritized in disadvantaged communities. With volatility in recent auctions due in part to uncertainty about the program’s post-2020 future, the Administration proposes two-thirds urgency legislation to confirm the program’s continued authority beyond 2020. Assuming approval, the budget proposes $2.2 billion in expenditures from auction proceeds, with a continued emphasis on low-income and disadvantaged communities.

The full summary of the Governor’s budget proposal can be found at

Link to Governor Brown’s website. 


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