CDFA partnership with California Association of Resource Conservation Districts

From the Association’s monthly partner spotlight

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has been an essential partner and supporter of the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) and Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs). CDFA is a key funder and regulator for many conservation-in-agriculture programs. Since 1919, the CDFA has been overseeing food safety, protecting agriculture from invasive species, and promoting the agricultural industry for the state.

The CDFA and RCDs are natural partners when working to support California producers. The CDFA can approach conservation goals from a statewide perspective through the CARCD network, and RCDs are able to connect with communities and provide technical assistance on a local level.

One example of this strength is the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). SWEEP provides rebates to farmers to help them implement irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water on California agricultural operations. RCDs partner with CDFA on programs like SWEEP to educate farmers about the SWEEP funding opportunity, create a water conservation plan, provide verification, and provide irrigation evaluations pre- and/or post implementation.

The CARCD team is grateful for the continued support of CDFA’s Secretary, Karen Ross, who said about SWEEP, “Our partnership with RCDs is so important to this program, and the work we’re doing is critical as we all come together to adapt to the realities of climate change. Thank you, RCDs and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts for collaborating with us.”

Along with SWEEP, CDFA has a suite of programs funding climate smart agriculture. Their Healthy Soils Program and Alternative Manure Management Program help California agricultural producers reduce emissions, sequester carbon, and be a part of the solution to climate change.

CDFA is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Happy centennial!

Link to CARCD web site

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Nitrogen management advice for fruits, nuts and other crops – From California Ag Today

Note CDFA’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) has provided funding, guidance and consultation to this nitrogen management project since 2013. It’s part of the joint Nitrogen Management Training Program with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources department (UC ANR), the California Association of Pest Control Advisers’ Certified Crop Adviser Program, and the Regional Water Boards.

By Pam Kan Rice, UC ANR

California growers can download a new series of publications summarizing efficient nitrogen management practices from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. The publications are designed to assist growers in complying with state regulations for tracking and reporting nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops, in an effort to prevent nitrogen from leaching into groundwater.

The science-based publications are associated with a series of trainings for growers and Certified Crop Advisers to develop efficient nitrogen management practices, an effort coordinated by UC ANR’s California Institute for Water Resources.

“Our role is to provide farmers, agricultural consultants and policymakers the best science possible for making decisions on managing and protecting California groundwater,” said Doug Parker, director of the water institute.

The free publications—created from training materials, lessons learned from the training sessions and from additional UC research—can be downloaded at

Developed in 2014, the training program has been offered at 11 different locations around the state, most recently in Fresno. More than 1,000 Certified Crop Advisers have taken the training.

The nitrogen management training curriculum was developed by a group of UC ANR faculty, specialists and advisors. The first day focuses on the nitrogen cycle in crop production systems, nitrogen sources, irrigation and nitrogen management, and nitrogen budgeting. The second morning covers annual and permanent crops and nitrogen planning practices.

For more information on nitrogen management training materials, visit

Link to article

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NRCS invites proposals for 2019 Conservation Innovation Grants

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California is now accepting proposals for its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Up to $500,000 is available for one- to three-year grants. The maximum award amount for any project will not exceed $75,000 in fiscal year 2019. Proposals are due by June 10, 2019.

CIG is a voluntary program to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies in conjunction with agricultural production. The proposed projects should augment existing NRCS technical tools (planning, assessment and/or delivery) to better facilitate conservation on farms and ranches.

“These grants present an outstanding opportunity for us as an Agency to find the intersection between cutting-edge, innovative thinkers and on-the-ground conservation doers,” said Tom Hedt, Assistant State Conservationist for NRCS in California. “It’s a chance for us to explore the sweet spot between the visionary and the doable.”

CIG projects are expected to lead to the transfer of conservation technologies, management systems, and innovative approaches (such as market-based systems) to agricultural producers, into NRCS technical manuals and guides, or to the private sector. CIG generally funds pilot projects, field demonstrations, and on-farm conservation research.

In 2019 NRCS California is prioritizing proposals that improve the “technical toolbox” to address the following on-farm resource concerns: soil health, water quality and quantity; plant quality; air quality; forestland health; wildlife; energy conservation; and waste recycling- resource conservation. Applicants are encouraged to explore the full program announcement to better match their proposals to these needs. Please see

Funds will be awarded through a statewide competitive grants process and in 2019 will not include a pre-proposal process. Eligible applicants include state and local government, nongovernment organizations, Tribal governments, eligible private business and individuals. Applicants may contact Erik Beardsley at for more information.

Applications must be received by 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on June 10, 2019. Applications must be submitted electronically through In addition, a PDF of the complete application must be emailed to Both submissions must be received by the submission due date. Below is a link to the national CIG webpage project search tool, where limited information on past California projects can be found.

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#CDFACentennial – Centennial Reflection video series with AG Kawamura

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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Cannabis regulatory agencies opening office in Eureka

A new north coast regional office for California’s cannabis regulatory agencies will open on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. The new office is located at 930 Sixth Street in Eureka, CA and will be open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

For the first time, CDFA staff will have an office presence in the Eureka-area for assistance with the processing of cultivation licenses.

“The opening of this larger office allows us to provide greater service to our applicants and licensees in the North Coast Region,” said Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control . “One of the important benefits of this office is that the public can come to one location and have access to staff from four state agencies involved in the commercial cannabis licensing process.”

The office will be shared by CDFA, the Bureau, the California Department of Public Health, and the State Water Resources Control Board. Members of the public may pay their fees, submit license applications, and have questions answered in person at this location.

Link to CalCannabis web site

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Census of US Agriculture released – California snapshot

Announcement from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service

The USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) has announced the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture with new information about U.S farms and ranches and those who operate them, including first-time data about on-farm decision making, down to the county level.

“The Census shows new data that can be compared to previous censuses for insights into agricultural trends and changes down to the county level,” said NASS Pacific Region Director Gary R. Keough. “We are pleased to share first-time data on topics such as military status and on-farm decision making. To make it easier to delve into the data, we made the results available in many online formats including a new data query interface, as well as traditional data tables.”

The 2017 Census of Agriculture data show the following facts about California agriculture:

  • Top commodities were: fruits and nuts with $17.5 billion in farmgate value, vegetables with $8.2 billion, milk with $6.5 billion, cattle and calves with $3.1 billion, and horticulture with $2.9 billion.
  • Fresno, Kern, Merced, Monterey, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Tulare counties lead all U.S. counties in sales.
  • Total farm production expenses for California totaled $37.8 billion, up $2.3 billion from 2012.
  • The average age of the California farmer is 59.2, up from 57.9 in 2012.
  • Military veterans account for 10 percent of California farmers.
  • At 14,552 farms, California is the top state using renewable energy producing systems in agriculture. Solar is the most common renewable energy producing system on farms and ranches in the Golden State.

Results are available in many online formats including video presentations, a new data query interface, maps, and traditional data tables. To address questions about the 2017 Census of Agriculture data, @USDA_NASS will host a live Twitter “Ask the Census Experts” #StatChat on Friday, April 12 at 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. ET. All Census of Agriculture information is available at

The Census tells the story of American agriculture and is an important part of our history. First conducted in 1840 in conjunction with the decennial Census, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. After 1920, the Census happened every four to five years. By 1982, it was regularly conducted once every five years. Today, NASS sends questionnaires to nearly 3 million potential U.S. farms and ranches. Nearly 25 percent of those who responded did so online. Conducted since 1997 by USDA NASS – the federal statistical agency responsible for producing official data about U.S. agriculture – it remains the only source of comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation and is invaluable for planning the future.

Link to Census

Link to CDFA agricultural statistics page

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California Final Grape Crush Report

From the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service

The 2018 crush totaled 4,506,583 tons, up 6.2 percent from the 2017 crush of 4,241,945 tons. Red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of all grapes crushed, at 2,447,930 tons, up 8.8 percent from 2017. The 2018 white wine variety crush totaled 1,833,755 tons, up 3.8 percent from 2017. Tons crushed of raisin type varieties totaled 82,508, down 12.5 percent from 2017, and tons crushed of table type varieties totaled 142,391, up 8.0 percent from 2017.

The 2018 average price of all varieties was $831.63, up 6.8 percent from 2017. Average prices for the 2018 crop by type were as follows: red wine grapes, $1,019.03, up 5.5 percent from 2017; white wine grapes, $634.84, up 8.0 percent from 2017; raisin grapes, $299.48, up 18.4 percent; and table grapes, $192.01, up 7.6 percent.

Leading Grape Varieties and Districts

In 2018, Chardonnay continued to account for the largest percentage of the total crush volume with 15.8 percent. Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for the second leading percentage of crush with 15.1 percent. Thompson Seedless, the leading raisin grape variety crushed for 2018, was only 1.5 percent of the total crush.

District 13, (Madera, Fresno, Alpine, Mono, Inyo Counties; and Kings and Tulare Counties north of Nevada Avenue (Avenue 192)), had the largest share of the State’s crush, at 1,370,068 tons. The average price per ton in District 13 was $318.38.

Grapes produced in District 4 (Napa County) received the highest average price of $5,571.44 per ton, up 6.6 percent from 2017. District 3 (Sonoma and Marin counties) received the second highest return of $2,817.92, up 0.3 percent from 2017. The 2018 Chardonnay price of $970.76 was up 5.1 percent from 2017, and the Cabernet Sauvignon price of $1,683.25 was up 8.3 percent from 2017. The 2018 average price for Zinfandel was $600.21, up 1.5 percent from 2017, while the Pinot Noir average price was down 0.9 percent from 2017 at $1,674.62 per ton.

The entire Grape Crush Report is available online in both PDF and spreadsheet format at

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We should discuss soil as much as coal – From gatesnotes

By Bill Gates

I’m done with cow farts.

I’ve written about them several times over the last six months, and I bring them up in polite conversation more than I should. In my defense, I have a legitimate reason: cows, with their burps and farts, are a good example of something that contributes to climate change but isn’t related to generating electricity.

Most discussions about fighting climate change focus on electricity and the need for renewable energy. De-carbonizing the way we generate electricity would be a huge step, but it won’t be enough if we don’t reach zero net emissions from every sector of the economy within 50 years (and make a serious dent in the next ten). That includes the agriculture, forestry, and land use sector, which is responsible for 24 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions—just one percentage point less than electricity.

Gassy cattle are a memorable and significant example of emissions—but they’re not the only major contributor to agriculture, forestry, and land use’s slice of the emissions pie. We’re just as well-off picking on soil.

Here’s a mind-blowing fact: there’s more carbon in soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined. That’s not a big deal when left to its own devices. But when soil gets disturbed—like it does when you convert a forest into cropland—all that stored carbon gets released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. That’s one reason why deforestation alone is responsible for 11 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. (Another reason is that forests and grasslands are natural carbon sinks. Clearing them reduces the planet’s capacity to remove carbon dioxide from the air.)

The microbes in soil can also create greenhouse gases when they come into contact with fertilizer. Synthetic fertilizers revolutionized how we feed the world, but they release a powerful greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide when broken down by those microbes. Natural fertilizers like manure aren’t any better, because they release greenhouse gases as they decompose.

So how do we fight climate change caused by agriculture? We can’t simply get rid of soil—or stop growing crops, using fertilizer, and raising livestock. There are some changes that societies can make—people in level 1 and 2 countries will eat more meat as they move up the income ladder, so people in level 3 and 4 countries could consume less to compensate, for example—but at the end of the day, people need to eat.

That’s why the goal with agriculture is not to reduce the amount created, but to reduce emissions per product. I’m involved with a group called Breakthrough Energy Ventures that is backing a number of creative solutions to tackle the problem. Because every country and every culture approaches food production differently, there are a lot of different ways to do that. Here are some of the ones I find most interesting:

  • Microscopic nitrogen factories that replace fertilizer: What if we could fertilize plants without releasing so much harmful nitrous oxide into the air? BEV is invested in a company called Pivot Biothat has genetically modified microbes to provide plants with the nitrogen they need without the excess greenhouse gases that synthetic alternatives produce.
  • Longer roots that store more carbon: Kernza has developed a new strain of wheat with longer and denser roots, so it can absorb more carbon dioxide from soil. Since traditional wheat is an annual plant and only lasts for one growing season, it has short and relatively fragile roots. Kernza’s seeds produce a perennial wheat with roots that are twice as long as traditional wheat. Plus, its hardier structure creates higher yields for farmers—which in turn leads to less water use, greater climate resiliency, and healthier soils.
  • Lab-grown palm oil brewed from microbes: Palm oil has earned its bad environmental reputation: the destruction of Borneo’s forests to build new palm oil plantations resulted in the largest single-year increase in emissions in over two hundred years. But it’s a fixture of modern society, found in everything from food to shampoo. C16 Biosciences has created an alternative to natural palm oil by using fermentation to brew a synthetic version.
  • An invisible barrier that helps food stay fresh longer: Approximately one-third of all food produced gets lost or wasted every year. That’s bad for people who don’t have enough to eat, bad for farmers, and bad for the environment. Two companies—Apeel and Cambridge Crops—are working on protective skins that keep food fresh longer. The coating is invisible and doesn’t affect the taste at all.
  • Collective crop storage: Not all innovations are technological: Babban Gona is a novel business model in Nigeria that helps farmers hold onto their crops longer. Many Nigerian farmers don’t have facilities to store their crops. They can only move their products right after harvest when the market is flooded with goods, so they sell for a rock-bottom price, or sometimes not at all (Nigeria loses 50 to 60 percent of its food before it even gets to the consumers). Babban Gona farmers go in together to purchase a grain silo. This means they can wait to sell their crops at a more advantageous time—reducing emissions from waste and increasing income at the same time.

There will never be one silver bullet that stops climate change—but I’m hopeful that these innovations and others will chip away at agricultural emissions enough to prevent the worst from happening. (Unfortunately, farmers in places like sub-Saharan Africa are already experiencing the effects of climate change, so we also have to help them adapt).

I wish agricultural innovation got as much attention as the impact on climate change from electricity, because its success is just as critical to stopping climate change. Future changes in income and population may come close to doubling the current environmental impacts of the food system. I believe creative, scalable solutions to this challenge are out there, and now is the time to invest in their R&D.

Link to blog post

Link to CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program

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Beginning farmer and rancher program accepting applications for education grants for 2019 and 2020

Announcement from the USDA

The USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) provides grants to organizations for education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers or ranchers. Ensuring there will be a “new generation” of beginning farmers and ranchers — regardless of age or production choice — is especially important to the continuation of agricultural production in the United States. 

Applications are now being accepted for 2019 and 2020. Learn more here:–currently

Eligibility: Applications may only be submitted by a collaborative state, tribal, local, or regionally-based network or partnership of qualified public and/or private entities. These collaborations may include the following entities: State Cooperative Extension Services; Federal, State, municipal or tribal agencies: community based organizations (CBOS); non-governmental organizations (NGOS); junior and four-year colleges and universities or foundations maintained by a college or university; and private for-profit organizations.

Match: There is a 25 percent match under this program. The match can be waived with adequate justification for applicants serving underserved areas or populations.

Link to the BFRDP Funding Opportunity Webpage

Link to the BFRDP Webpage

Coming Soon: Applicants/Stakeholder Webinar:

Date: Tuesday April 16, 2019;  From 2:00 pm – 4 pm Eastern Time

Join by Zoom:

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#CDFACentennial – Centennial Reflections video series with Bob Wynn

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100thanniversary 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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