CDFA joins partner agencies in seeking input on creating climate-resilient water system

News release from the California Natural Resources Agency

State agencies are asking Californians to help shape a roadmap for meeting future water needs and ensuring environmental and economic resilience through the 21st century.

The effort seeks to broaden California’s approach on water in the face of a range of existing challenges, including unsafe drinking water, major flood risks that threaten public safety, severely depleted groundwater aquifers, agricultural communities coping with uncertain water supplies and native fish populations threatened with extinction.

Input from the public will help the Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Food and Agriculture craft recommendations to Governor Gavin Newsom to fulfill his April 29 executive order calling for a suite of actions to build a climate-resilient water system and ensure healthy waterways.

The agencies want ideas for actions needed now to help California cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, year-round wildfires, species declines, aging infrastructure, contaminated water supplies and changing demands for water. The input will help determine priorities and identify complementary actions to ensure safe and dependable water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.

“Think about California’s diverse regions 30 years from now,” Cal EPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld said. “What can the state do now to best help people, the environment and the economy thrive even as California’s natural fluctuations grow more variable and extreme?”

Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot urged Californians to think broadly, given scientists’ expectations that the Sierra Nevada snowpack—source of much of the state’s water supplies—will shrink in coming decades as storms grow warmer. At the same time, sea levels are rising, and warmer average temperatures are affecting everything from soil moisture and wildfire risk to energy consumption and crop patterns.

“Water management is risk management, and our risks are changing,” said Crowfoot. “At the same time, our major water projects are aging, overdrawn aquifers must be brought into balance, and we’re struggling to restore native fish and wildlife populations. We’re counting on California’s water experts and the public to help us identify policies and projects that benefit all water users over time.” 

State officials will solicit input through the summer at regularly scheduled and special public meetings of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, California Water Commission, State Water Resources Control Board, and other state agencies. The state will work with universities, community organizations, water agencies and others to hold workshops and listening sessions around the state.

To see a calendar of events and learn how to provide input directly to the state agency team, please visit The agencies expect to submit recommendations to Governor Newsom later this year.

“California’s water history shows that the most durable solutions involve collaboration,” said Secretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross. “We’re one state with tremendous regional variety. We urge those of you who know your regions best to look ahead, think broadly, and consider what it will take to achieve regional resilience by 2050.”

Among the questions agency officials are considering:

  • How can the state help communities ensure safe, affordable drinking water?
  • What can the state do to better enable local and regional water districts to capture, store and move water?
  • What state actions can support ongoing water conservation?
  • How can the state better protect fish and wildlife and manage urban and agricultural water through the next drought?
  • What can the state do now to prepare for economic adjustments as communities fully implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in coming years?
  • Which state policies or laws no longer fit California’s water reality or public values?
  • What are the most troublesome gaps in state data that, if filled, would ease regional water management?
  • Are there proven technologies and forecasting tools that should be adopted across California to bolster the sustainability of water systems?
  • What models from other states and nations should California consider?

The agencies encourage groups to work together to submit shared recommendations to the state.

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Farmers, Ranchers, Regulators, Researchers Participate in “California Good Ag Neighbors: The Produce Safety – Livestock Interface Workshop”

Natalie Krout-Greenberg, director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Division of Inspection Services, welcomes participants to a collegial environment.

The California Good Ag Neighbors: The Produce-Livestock Interface Workshop series is bringing together farmers, ranchers, academia and state and federal regulators to share and learn about the most innovative tools, information and research available to prevent foodborne illness, while continuing to work together to promote and provide diverse and resilient California agriculture.

The first of two California Good Ag Neighbors workshops was held June 11 in Holtville, located in Southern California’s agriculturally vibrant Imperial Valley. The second workshop is today (June 13) in Stockton, in the fertile Central Valley. Click here to learn more about the workshops.

CDFA’s Produce Safety Program (PSP) worked with the UC Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) to produce the California Good Ag Neighbors workshops. “Educate Then Regulate” is a core value of PSP’s role to educate California produce farmers on how to comply with the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule, and then regulate farms to ensure they are in compliance.

Farmers, ranchers, regulators and researchers attend California Good Ag Neighbors: The Produce-Livestock Interface Workshop at the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville on June 12.
In one break-out session, participants discuss best practices in maintaining vibrant and healthy California agriculture.
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Almond Festival! Flavor, fun and innovation on the State Capitol’s west steps

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joined almond farmers and industry representatives on the West Steps of the State Capitol this afternoon for the 2019 Almond Festival. The event drew legislators and staff members and showcased the industry’s efforts on innovation and sustainability, from reducing waste and dust to supporting the health of pollinators and extending the uses of co-products such as hulls and shells. Booths also offered samples and information about the ever-growing array of almond products, from cookies and snacks to ice cream, almond beverages, and almond candies. The “Exact E7000” harvester in the background, designed to minimize dust, was featured as an example of the industry’s innovative efforts to reduce environmental impacts.
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State Board of Food and Ag member honored as ‘Produce Man of the Year’ – from the Packer

California State Board of Food and Agriculture member Jeff Huckaby (R) with The Packer’s editor-in-chief, Tom Karst.

By Ashley Nickle

Jeff Huckaby, president of Bakersfield, Calif.-based Grimmway Farms (and member of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture), received The Packer’s Produce Man of the Year award June 10 at the United Fresh Produce Association conference and expo.

“Jeff is just a tremendous choice for the Packer award this year,” said United Fresh president Tom Stenzel. “He’s been such a leader in our industry. He’s a quiet leader. Not a lot of people outside the company or his customers know him … I’ve been able to work with Jeff on our board of directors, and very thoughtful, he brings an industry perspective to issues, but he’s always looking ahead, and that’s something that I think is great for the Packer to honor,” Stenzel said.

The Packer’s editor-in-chief Tom Karst presented the award to Huckaby and shared in his address the following comment from a buyer who works with Grimmway. The company is known for its carrots but also markets more than 50,000 acres of organic vegetables under the Cal-Organic brand.

“What I like and respect about Jeff is he backs up what he says he will do,” the buyer said. “Everything we get from Grimmway is top quality or he will not send it. In our initial meetings when we were expanding organics we talked about if it’s not right don’t send it.

“He will be the first one to call and say it’s not right and this is how long it will take before it is right,” the buyer said. “I wish every vendor partner would be like Jeff.”

Laura Batcha, CEO and president of the Organic Trade Association, praised Huckaby’s work developing programs with major retailers and described him as a visionary and ambassador for organic.

“He is a generous and informed educator of organic, speaking at conferences like ours throughout the year, conducting hundreds of farm tours for produce buyers, college deans and government officials – including the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture – to educate them on large-scale organic farming.

“He gives his time to supporting trade associations, sits on advisory boards representing organic, and regularly lends his voice and his influence to supporting organic and environmentally sustainable issues,” Batcha said.

U.S. agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue also offered an endorsement of Huckaby.

“Jeff Huckaby is a true leader helping American agriculture feed the world,” Perdue said. “I appreciate his invaluable insights and assistance and admire Grimmway Farms for its dedication to provide good value, consistent quality and dependable service to fulfill customers’ needs.

“I’ve had a chance to visit multiple Grimmway facilities and I know it’s a company with good moral values – they truly are salt-of-the-earth people,” Perdue said. “All of us at USDA admire Jeff’s storied career and hard work to become the number one organic producer in the country. Congratulations Jeff, on being named Produce Man of the Year. I cannot think of anyone more deserving than yourself.”

Huckaby is a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, the United Fresh board of directors and the College of Agriculture Advisory Council at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

“It’s interesting the fact that he’s built such a relationship with the USDA secretary,” Stenzel said. “I don’t remember in any of the past awards where the secretary of agriculture actually sends in a note and says I want to help honor Jeff, so that was a great sign, I think, of his ability to represent our industry on a national level.”

Link to article

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Considering food systems of the future – from Morning Ag Clips

The food systems of the future must deliver healthy and quality food for all whilst preserving the environment, FAO (Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations) Director-General José Graziano da Silva said as he called for a transformation of food systems to improve people’s diets.

Graziano da Silva spoke at the opening of the international symposium The Future of Food (10-11 June) in Rome, which brings together academics, researchers, policymakers, representatives from civil society and the private sector, parliamentarians and government agencies.

“We need to change our focus from producing more food to producing more healthy food,” the FAO chief said.

In fact, hunger is no longer the only major nutrition problem facing humanity.

Currently over 2 billion adults aged 18 or more are overweight, of which more than 670 million are obese. Moreover, the increase in the prevalence of obesity between 2000 and 2016 has been faster than that of overweight at all age levels. Also, nearly 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies.

Projections estimate that the number of obese people in the world will very soon overtake the number of people suffering from hunger, which currently accounts for about 820 million.

There are several underlying factors driving the global pandemic of obesity and micronutrient deficiency, such as rapid urbanization.

One of the main drivers is the high consumption of ultra-processed food, which is mainly based on artificial ingredients. It contains high levels of saturated fats, refined sugars, salt and chemical additives.

Improving people’s diets

The FAO Director-General put forward four measures that could improve people’s diets.

Firstly, countries should put in place public policies and laws with proper incentives that protect healthy diets and encourage the private sector to produce healthier food.

Examples include taxes on unhealthy food products; easier-to-understand and more comprehensive food labels; and restrictions on advertising of food, particularly for children.

Secondly, governments should promote the consumption of local and fresh food by creating local circuits of food production and consumption. This means improving access to and promotion of local, fresh food.

Thirdly, international trade agreements must be designed to influence food systems in a positive way as ultra-processed food tend to fare better in international trade.

“Unfortunately, not all food that is considered safe is healthy. Trade must enable ways to bring healthy food to the table,” said Graziano da Silva.

“Fourthly, the transformation of food systems starts with healthy soils, healthy seeds, and sustainable agricultural practices. The whole food system needs to be readdressed,” said Graziano da Silva.

Graziano da Silva also highlighted the need for growing food in ways that preserve the environment.

He noted that the agricultural model that resulted from the Green Revolution is no longer sustainable as high-input and resource-intensive farming systems have increased food production, but at a high cost to the environment, generating deforestation, water scarcity, soil depletion, and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

FAO’s Director-General also lauded the role of academia in the transformation required for our food systems.

“We benefit from your work, and we need your guidance on what to do in the future,” he said.

Link to Morning Ag Clips

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#CDFACentennial – Centennial Reflections video series with Nirmal Saini

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state agency in 2019. Throughout the year this blog will feature a number of items to commemorate this milestone. Today we continue with the Centennial Reflections video series, featuring CDFA employees remembering their histories, and the agency’s.

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Farm to school produce in Southern California – from the San Diego Union Tribune

Work underway at the Encinitas Union School District’s Farm Lab
Photo from the San Diego Union Tribune

By Caron Golden

On Saturday, June 8, chefs, farmers and community members will gather at Encinitas’ Farm Lab for its first “Green Feast.” It’s to be a celebratory meal to raise funds for this unique agricultural laboratory that educates local kids in science centered around nutrition and the environment.

The Farm Lab is a project of the Encinitas Unified School District in collaboration with The Ecology Center, which is based in San Juan Capistrano. Located across the street from the San Diego Botanical Garden and the Leichtag Foundation’s Coastal Roots Farm — with whom they partner, along with the local YMCA, the San Diego Heritage Museum and Seacrest Village as part of the Encinitas Environmental Education Cluster (known as the E3 Cluster).

The Farm Lab serves the district’s 5,400 kindergarten-through-sixth-grade students on its 10-acre campus. It’s filled with all kinds of enrichments to motivate children to expand their minds and get their hands dirty while doing it.

There’s an educational DREAMS campus (which stands for design, research, engineering, art, math and science) with six classrooms, including a space for a kitchen and audio-video work, as well as a 1-acre hands-on educational garden, 4 acres of fields that grow crops for “farm-to-school” EUSD school lunches, and a 3/4-acre community garden. A decked-out “eco bus” is parked by the fields. Three educators are on site.

The campus only broke ground in April 2018, so trees — avocado, lemon, peaches, plums, oranges, apples and more — are just being planted. Eventually there will be more than 200 fruit trees and fields brimming with crops. In conjunction with The Ecology Center, 19,000 pounds of produce was grown last year for the schools for pizza sauce, salads and other dishes. In Encinitas, farm manager Carter Wallace has been hard at work tilling soil that for years had been a dumping ground for nearby construction. Hard and lacking in nutrients, much of the farmland has been sown with rye, daikon, fava beans and vetch as cover crops. Wallace calls it a “nitrogen fixer.” And the plants don’t go unused. The Ecology Center is working with Rye Works to harvest the rye. The daikon produces tasty “daikon capers,” or pods that can be enjoyed by the students. And, of course, fava beans make for a nice edible harvest.

While those cover crops do their work, Wallace has been planting tomatoes in the north section of the farm and will soon be putting in peppers, lettuce and cucumbers. There will also be a couple of chicken coops. Wallace and Jonathan Zaidman of The Ecology Center collaborate with EUSD’s central kitchen chef to determine what’s grown.

The Farm Lab was the idea of Encinitas resident Mim Michelove, CEO and President of Healthy Day Partners. The site had been donated to EUSD as part of a mitigation deal for constructing the Encinitas Ranch housing development. It needed to be turned into a school campus or it would start accruing annual penalty fees to the state. The school district didn’t need another school, so they came up with a creative idea for a campus that would preserve some of Encinitas’ remaining open land and still be an educational site for its students.

Using Healthy Day’s 1-acre educational farm at Ocean Knoll as a model, EUSD asked Michelove to come up with a plan for the site that would scale up the successful concepts at Ocean Knoll. But bringing it to life required a director and budget — especially if it was to be eligible for outside funding.

In July 2015, the school board appointed Michelove as its founding director and gave her a $50,000 initial budget to build and redesign the campus, create the farm, bring in community partners and funding partners, coordinate large volunteer workdays, oversee the lease with the community garden and the neighborhood relationships, as well as help to rethink the educational programming, facility and the fields. She started communicating with The Ecology Center with the idea of eventually bringing them in as a partner.

“I took on the challenge, and added a community food forest and communications role,” Michelove said. “I had a clear vision from the start, to build a more inviting campus where all students would feel valued, to convey environmental messaging in everything the students used and saw, to grow as much healthy food as possible for all EUSD kids, to have the programming use the outdoors as an experiential teacher, and to have the programming, at least in part, reflect the environmental and nutritional values being used in our farming practices.”

Superintendent Tim Baird named the education campus DREAMS. Children from every grade level come and take on projects aligned with Next Generation Science Standards. On a recent visit, fourth-graders were working on a from-scratch miniature wind turbine project. Julie Burton, Coordinator of Innovation and Farm Lab Development for the EUSD, who has been running the campus since Michelove stepped down last year to return to her business, explained that second-graders are learning about the relationship between pollinators and sustainability of food sources. Sixth-graders have a longer-term competition with Jimbo’s to make organic vinaigrette, and also learn packaging, logo, branding and label creation as part of the project, along with integrating a range of subjects, including math, nutrition, drought and even desalination.

For Burton the various components of the campus are teaching students — and the surrounding community — “how to minimize their footprint, how to live a more sustainable life, and reuse, reduce and repurpose.”

In fact, including the community in the Farm Lab is a top priority for Burton and the EUSD. There’s the community garden and a Community Food Forest that stretches along Quail Gardens Road. And The Ecology Lab hosts regular community events at the Farm Lab campus, with weekly volunteer days and a Community Dinner Series.

Link to story

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#CDFACentennial – Centennial Reflections video series with Richard Rominger

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state agency in 2019. Throughout the year this blog will feature a number of items to commemorate this milestone. Today we continue with the Centennial Reflections video series, featuring CDFA employees remembering their histories, and the agency’s.

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Drones to replace fireworks at California State Fair

From a California State Fair news release

Drone light shows will replace fireworks at the California State Fair, July 12-28, 2019.

Drones along with swarm technology will be utilized to light up the night skies around Cal Expo to choreographed music, creating stunning visuals and patterns that will provide entertainment to fairgoers. The drone light shows will replace the traditional fireworks show and takes place at the Miller Lite Racetrack Grandstand. The visuals created by the drones can be seen as far as two football fields away.

“Our team is working diligently to bring new and exciting forms of entertainment to the California State Fair,” said Rick Pickering, Cal Expo General Manager and CEO. “For over 165 years, the State Fair has been a place to showcase innovation. We’re pleased to partner with Dish to bring this technology to the California State Fair to entertain families in a more inclusive way.”

Drone light shows are considered to be more environmentally safe, and inclusive to families and those who have sensitivities to loud explosions created by traditional fireworks. Pickering noted that in 2015 the California State Fair received national notoriety when it created the Inaugural United States Drone Racing Championship, leading to advancements in drone technology and dimensional goggles.

The drone light show will be available every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night throughout the duration of the California State Fair, July 12-28, and is open to those who have purchased a general admission ticket.

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Not just a bunch of hot air – methane reduction projects making significant difference in combating climate change

The dairy digester at Open Sky Ranch in Fresno County.

By CDFA Undersecretary Jenny Lester Moffitt

California dairy and livestock operations play a significant role in mitigating and preventing climate change and are doing their part to champion sustainable practices.

In 2016, SB 1383 (Lara) established a statewide goal of reducing methane reductions by 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030. This includes methane reductions in California’s dairy and livestock sector.

With funding from California Climate Investments, California farmers and ranchers have achieved annual manure methane reductions of 1.41 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalence (MMTCO2e) – about 12 percent of the 2013 level. This is important progress toward meeting the 40 percent target and is the result of hard work, innovation, and a commitment to sustainable practices.

The state of California has awarded $144 million dollars from the Climate Change Investment fund for dairy methane projects, marking a significant public/private partnership with California dairy and livestock operations and demonstrating what is possible when government agencies and businesses work together on solutions that benefit the environment.

To date, 64 dairy digester projects have received $114 million dollars in grant funding, which has been matched by developers and dairy families with an additional $199 million dollars. These 64 digester projects are responsible for the reduction of 1.28 MMTCO2e, annually.

An alternative manure management project in Hanford. This is a manure vacuum trailer that scrapes manure that can be diverted for composting.

In addition, $30 million dollars has been awarded to 56 alternative manure management projects, leading to an annual reduction of 131,049 metric tons of CO2 equivalent, annually.

These programs are each addressing water quality, air quality, and dairy herd size – and they have engaged stakeholders in important community outreach. Dairy digester projects must double-line ponds for water quality, minimize emission of air pollutants by meeting best available control technology, and identify actions to address community concerns.

To reduce methane reductions, it’s clear that we need all available strategies. We need dairy digesters and alternative manure management practices to combat climate change. These methane reduction projects show the importance of addressing greenhouse gas emissions and developing practices that generate renewable energy and compost to foster healthy soils – all of which are essential strategies in addressing climate change.

Most importantly, we need the continued innovation and leadership of California ranchers and farmers.

Over the past four years I’ve had the opportunity to travel the state to see this innovation and leadership in action, and to visit many of the dairy digester and alternative manure management projects that have received funding. With each visit and each conversation, I am continually reminded that California farmers and ranchers are committed to doing their part to address climate change.

To read CDFA’s Annual Report on Digester Projects, click here.

To read the recommendations from the SB 1383 Dairy and Livestock Working Group, click here

To read more about the state’s Healthy Soils Initiative led by CDFA, click here.

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