Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Healthy Soils Week 2023 — CDFA partners with State Legislature to host soil biodiversity briefing

(Bottom photo, L-R) CDFA Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs Rachael O’Brien; Dr. Eoin Brodie, Deputy Director of the Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab; Dr. Margaret Smither-Kopperl with USDA-NRCS; Dr. Daniel Rath, a soil scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Drew Cheney, Operations Manager with Machado Family Farms in Linden.

Culminating Healthy Soils Week 2023, a hearing on soil biodiversity was held today at the State Capitol in association with the Assembly Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

The hearing focused on CDFA’s recently released report: Soil Biodiversity in California Agriculture: Framework and Indicators for Soil Health Assessment.

CDFA Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs Rachael O’Brien moderated a panel of leading soil scientists delivering a presentation about soil biodiversity, soil health, and sustainable agricultural practices. The briefing was attended by nearly 30 legislative staff and set the stage for a discussion to share insights into innovative farming approaches focused on biodiversity and soil health.


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COP28 — an opportunity to learn and share in the ongoing drive to adapt to climate change

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

I am pleased to be part of the California delegation in Dubai this week at COP28, the United Nations conference on climate change. CDFA Deputy Secretary for Climate and Working Lands Virginia Jameson is traveling with me.

The nations of the world are working together to both adapt and try to keep the average global temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius–or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit–of pre-industrial levels, a goal set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. 

Our California colleagues attending the early part of this year’s conference were able to finalize and announce the expansion of a coalition of subnational governments committed to reducing methane. There are now a total of 15 signatories, including the US and California. Recently-added signatories are from Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Bolivia, Germany and Spain.

Another example of California’s leadership is an additional coalition–a new one–to enhance efforts to reduce methane emissions following a pledge by more than 100 countries and subnational governments at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

This year’s conference will also build upon a topic that began to surge to the international forefront last year — the essential nature of agriculture to ensure food and nutritional security, which is threatened by climate change. The challenges of water availability and water quality, and strategies to address them, are featured in a number of sessions.  

I welcome the opportunity to participate in panel discussions to share our experiences as well as learn from others. We’ll discuss the interconnectedness of healthy soils and biodiversity for resilient food systems, learn about a variety of efforts to simplify and harmonize soil carbon data, share California progress on reducing livestock methane emissions, talk about the importance of natural working lands in meeting climate goals and 30×30 biodiversity goals, and learn more about what nations are doing to reduce plastic waste streams. 

It is an honor to participate in COP28 and I look forward to sharing more about the highlights when I return early next week.

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Secretary Ross and US Chief Ag Negotiator tour Almond Conference

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and Doug McKalip, Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative, had an opportunity to meet with participants at this year’s annual Almond Conference, taking place in Sacramento at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center. The three-day event is significant for California’s almond growers, researchers, and industry professionals as they look to exchange knowledge and seek information about new technology.

“Ambassador McKalip and I were pleased to tour the main floor of the Almond Conference,” said Secretary Ross. “We had a chance to see some of the impressive innovations to improve almond production and efficiencies. I’m proud of the Almond Board’s aim to help educate growers on a range of subjects, and to help growers and handlers in their operations.”

The Almond Conference is expected to draw approximately 4000 attendees. In 2022, almonds were California’s fourth leading-valued commodity — $3.52 billion.

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Healthy Soils Week — a look at cover cropping and livestock grazing in regenerative viticulture

In coordination with Healthy Soils Week and World Soil Day, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) conducted an on-site event today at the LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyard in Acampo, San Joaquin County. Sponsored by CDFA’s Biologically Integrated Farming Systems Programs (BIFS) program, the event included expert perspectives on cover cropping and integrated livestock grazing in vineyards as part of a systems approach to land management.

Approximately 70 participants joined in the field tour, gaining a firsthand view of how animal grazing and cover crops are helping to provide important ecosystem services to sustain healthy soils practices at a vineyard.

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World Soil Day — Healthy Soils at root of farming success

It’s World Soil Day — an essential component of California’s annual Healthy Soils Week. In this video, we meet farmer Scott Park of Meridian, Sutter County, and we learn about the steps he follows for improved soil health in the production of corn, processing tomatoes and rice, among other crops. Park’s approach to nutrient management focuses entirely on keeping soil healthy, which increases water holding capacity and infiltration rates, increases soil fertility, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering carbon.

Watch the video in Spanish

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CDFA, Secretary Ross join announcement of methane reduction efforts with subnational governments at COP28

From a California Air Resources Board News Release

California officially kicked off a new international climate initiative that creates a partnership of subnational governments that are committed to reducing methane at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) hosted in Dubai.

The effort, which was initially announced in September during Climate Week, has expanded to 15 signatories, which include additions from Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Bolivia, Germany, Spain, and the United States.

The Subnational Methane Action Coalition creates collaboration with jurisdictions that oversee and regulate key sources of methane such as agriculture, energy and landfills to share goals and best practices in reducing the short-lived climate pollutant that accounts for almost 30% of current global warming and is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

“The science is clear that tackling methane emissions is one of the best investments we can make to fight climate change now and produce benefits in the near future to leave a better planet for generations to come,” said Liane Randolph, Chair of the California Air Resources Board. “California is ready to partner with governments across the world to implement actionable and effective solutions.”

“With leadership from our dairy families, California agriculture has been working to reduce methane emissions for a number of years. In addition, our efforts will require global solutions, bold ideas, and international partnerships to achieve the maximum reductions needed to accomplish our shared climate change goals,” said Karen Ross, California Secretary for the Department of Food and Agriculture.

California set a goal to reduce 40% of its methane emissions by 2030 compared to 2013 levels, and is leading the country with innovative solutions, including $100 million in funding to support a constellation of satellites that can monitor for large methane plumes. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) collaborate in the state’s international engagements on methane.

Since methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a short atmospheric lifespan, methane emissions reductions can reduce the effects of climate change in the short term, and are critical for putting the world on a path to limiting warming by 1.5°C.

Signatories of the Coalition include:

  • California (US)
  • Queretaro (Mexico)
  • Gauteng (South Africa)
  • Espirito Santo (Brazil)
  • Cross River State (Nigeria)
  • Yucatan (Mexico)
  • Delhi (India)
  • Colorado (US)
  • Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil)
  • Pernambuco (Brazil)
  • Baden-Württemberg (Germany)
  • British Columbia (Canada)
  • Santa Cruz (Bolivia)
  • Andalusia (Spain)
  • Gyeonggi (South Korea)

Other partners in the effort include the Climate Group, which convenes subnational governments for climate action through the Under2 Coalition, and the UC Berkeley Center for Law, Energy, and Environment, which will work with state agencies and Initiative members to create action plans, track progress, organize regular peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and share best practices.

Research shows that lowering methane emissions can prevent up to 0.3°C of warming by 2050. While over 150 countries have agreed to collectively reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030 through the Global Methane Pledge of 2021, meeting this target will require significant efforts from subnational jurisdictions.

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Secretary Ross kicks off Healthy Soils Week

Welcome to Healthy Soils Week 2023! We kick off the week with a video featuring CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. This year’s theme is “Common Ground: Soil Supports Us All!

Throughout the week, CDFA will join key stakeholders to highlight various trainings and events focused on soil health.

Please visit the CDFA’s Healthy Soils Week 2023 page for more information about each of the week’s events.

Some of the Highlights

  • Tuesday, December 5, 11:00 a.m. — the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) Climate Solution Webinar will provide information about technical assistance needs to support on-farm climate resilience and healthy soils practices as part of a series related to a new report: Climate Platform for California Agriculture.
  • Friday, December 8 — Sustainable Nutrient Management and Soil Health Field Day in Salinas. University of California Cooperative Extension (UCANR) is offering this event, which will highlight water and nitrogen-use efficiency, Ag Order 4.0 updates, remote irrigation monitoring, and soil carbon management with field sensors.
  • Friday, December 8 — 10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. — legislative briefing hosted by the Senate Natural Resources Committee and the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. The event will take place at the California State Capitol Building, Room 127 (First Floor), Sacramento, CA 95814. Legislative staff are invited to learn about the connection between soil biodiversity, soil health, and the practices CDFA and its stakeholder partners are promoting through the Healthy Soils Program. Please RSVP to Artemio Armenta by Thursday, December 7.

Visit the Healthy Soils Week 2023 webpage to learn more.

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Innovative collaborations boost soil health outreach — CDFA funding helps make it happen

Collaborative Project in Sacramento Valley increased outreach, regional cooperation

Note — CDFA will join partners from around California to observe Healthy Soils Week, Dec 4 – 8.

A drive-by field tour in 2021the drive-by part was necessitated by the pandemic

By Linda J. Forbes
Director of Strategic Communications, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

In 2020, agencies and experts in Colusa County came together for a project evaluating winter cover crops (planted in the fall and terminated in late winter or early spring) in annual crop rotations. This project had a large outreach component and various cover crops were planted each year to demonstrate how well they grew in the region.

During the three-year project, the team has significantly increased soil health outreach in the middle Sacramento Valley region and built a strong regional collaboration that continues for other projects. The research findings will be published upon completion of analysis.

Funded by CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program, the collaboration involved measuring changes in soil health between two cover crop treatments and a fallow control and led to innovation in outreach methods to make healthy soil practices more accessible.

Promoting soil health during a pandemic was a major challenge for the project team, comprising Sarah Light, UC Cooperative Extension agronomy farm advisor; Liz Harper, executive director of the Colusa County Resource Conservation District; Davis Ranch; Richter Ag; and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

Unable to conduct in-person field days or workshops, Light and Harper created a YouTube channel called “The Soil Health Connection” and produced 29 episodes in English and five in Spanish. These episodes featured soil health experts from around the state. In addition, field demonstrations were recorded including soil sampling demonstrations, a cover crop field tour, and soil health field assessments following NRCS protocols.

“The collaboration was effective not only in sharing information on how to manage cover crops, but also allowed us to continue to extend knowledge and do outreach during COVID, when regular in-person programming was not available,” Light said.

Interviewees included researchers, farmers, ranchers, industry representatives, technical assistance providers and natural resource conservation agency representatives. The YouTube channel has over 200 subscribers and won the 2021 Conservation Education Award from the California-Nevada Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

NRCS collaborated on six of the episodes and featured them in their statewide Soil Health newsletter. Participants included Resource Soil Scientist Jacqueline Vega-Pérez, Regional Soil Health Specialist Kabir Zahangir, California Plant Material Director Margaret Smither-Kopperl, Colusa County Soil Conservationist Brandi Murphy, California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez, and USDA Research Soil Scientist Claire Phillips.

Other innovations included hosting a virtual field day with continuing education credits and two drive-by, in-person field tours. The project itself was innovative in terms of conducting virtual and in-person outreach in Colusa County.

“We were one of the first in the region to organize virtual soil health events and because of our strong project team were able to quickly pivot to comply with state and local regulations during the pandemic,” Light said.

Read more here

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Secretary Ross gives thanks for food, agriculture, and the people who make it possible

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

It is the season to reflect on the year, gather around the table, and give thanks!  As someone who feels truly blessed to work with people I respect and admire, I feel thankful every day to be part of food and agriculture. 

It is my passion and my purpose to travel the state and share with all Californians what I see first-hand as the amazing miracle of California agriculture! The farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, and all others who play an integral role in our food supply are a testament to hard work, innovation, resiliency, and optimism every day regardless of the challenges.  That includes every one of our dedicated and talented CDFA staff members who are so passionate about our mission to ensure safe, nutritious, high-quality food and agricultural products — produced with the highest environmental and labor standards.

For many of California’s nearly forty million residents it is easy to take for granted what goes into the food on our table, but it’s important to remember that nutritional security is not assured.  In a world of harsher and more frequent extreme weather events, producing food with access for all is threatened by climate change.  I am grateful for the investment Governor Newsom and the Legislature have made in climate smart ag programs to support adaptation and the ability of farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be part of the climate change solution by sequestering carbon.   

At the other end of the food chain, Governor Newsom, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and the Legislature have made significant investments in Farm-to-School programs to support small and mid-sized, historically-underserved farmers and ranchers with local school procurement. It is a holistic investment that is combined with nutrition education and experiential learning to inspire healthy lifelong habits in students and their families, to help them avoid chronic diseases and fully achieve their potential. 

As young people learn about exciting agricultural technology and innovations that enhance our ability to produce food with care—for the environment as well as the people who make it possible–I know they will see what I do: California agriculture is about growing opportunity!  It’s a chance to be involved in a career -– a calling, really -– to produce food and ag products for healthy lives, healthy communities, and a healthy environment. How thankful I am for all the people who make our California agricultural bounty possible! 

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Cost of Thanksgiving dinner down slightly from 2022

From the American Farm Bureau Federation

Gathering around the table for a Thanksgiving dinner won’t take as much of a toll on your pocketbook this year compared to 2022, but the meal still reflects historically high costs. The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 38th annual survey provides a snapshot of the average cost of this year’s classic holiday feast for 10, which is $61.17 or less than $6.20 per person.

This is a 4.5% decrease from last year’s record-high average of $64.05, but a Thanksgiving meal is still 25% higher than it was in 2019, which highlights the impact high supply costs and inflation have had on food prices since before the pandemic.

The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – helped bring down the overall cost of dinner. The average price for a 16-pound turkey is $27.35. That is $1.71 per pound, down 5.6% from last year.

Farm Bureau “volunteer shoppers” checked prices Nov. 1-6, before most grocery store chains began featuring whole frozen turkeys at sharply lower prices. According to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service data, the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys declined further during the second week of November. Consumers who have not yet purchased a turkey may find additional savings in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

“Traditionally, the turkey is the most expensive item on the Thanksgiving dinner table,” said AFBF Senior Economist Veronica Nigh. “Turkey prices have fallen thanks to a sharp reduction in cases of avian influenza, which have allowed production to increase in time for the holiday.”

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

Read more

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