Secretary Ross tours USDA “Food Safety Discovery Zone” mobile exhibit at the State Fair

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sent their “Food Safety Discovery Zone” mobile interactive exhibit to the California State Fair this year, marking the first time the decked-out vehicle has made the trip to the Golden State.

Secretary Ross (center) is joined in the Food Safety Discovery Zone truck by (from left) John Quiroz with CDFA’s Division of Fairs and Exhibitions, California Grain and Feed Association CEO Chris Zanobini, California Poultry Federation President Bill Mattos, FSIS Senior Public Affairs Specialist Luis Delgadillo, State Fair CEO Rick Pickering, and USDA intern Briana Burke.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross visited the exhibit this morning along with State Fair CEO Rick Pickering, California Poultry Federation President Bill Mattos, and California Grain and Feed Association CEO Chris Zanobini, all of whom worked behind the scenes with USDA and Cal Expo to include the truck in this year’s State Fair.

The $10,000 exhibit space fee for the USDA mobile unit to be located at the State Fair was paid for by a community education grant funded by the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society Alliance.

The vehicle is conveniently located near the fair’s main food promenade. It’s part game center, part classroom, part kitchen, and all cool. FSIS Senior Public Affairs Specialist Luis Delgadillo and intern Briana Burke are on-hand to lead their guests through the exhibit, which includes interactive games and activities to teach folks how to safely prepare and store food, what can cause foodborne illness, and how to reduce the risks.

The tour sparked a sidebar discussion about the possibility of having a mobile food safety exhibit like this one dedicated to California’s full calendar of fairs and other agricultural/food festivals… stay tuned!

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Secretary Ross attends State Fair Heritage Breakfast to honor agricultural pioneers

Representatives of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, honored this week for 100 years of service to agriculture.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joined the California State Fair and state agricultural leaders this week for the annual Ag Heritage Breakfast, a fair-sponsored event that recognizes the pioneers of California agriculture – Ag operations in business for 100 years or more.

The Ag Heritage tradition dates back to the 1940’s, beginning as a 100-year club and expanding its horizons as time passed.

“These farms, ranches and ag organizations were there at the beginning, helping to create the miracle of California agriculture we see today,” said Secretary Ross. “They’re also an essential part of our future as they’re committed to keeping their operations productive for generations to come. They have found the measures of resiliency and flexibility necessary for success, and they’re a shining example for all who have followed. ”

The following farming and ranching operations, and ag organizations were honored at the breakfast:

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Aguiar-Curry supports cap-and-trade extension – from the Davis Enterprise

Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, voted in favor of landmark legislation Monday to extend California’s cap-and-trade program. The package includes AB 398 by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella; AB 617 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens; and ACA 1 by Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley.

“Together, these bills will ensure that California continues to meet its ambitious climate change goals through extending and enhancing the cap-and-trade program, monitoring and reducing air pollution in our most vulnerable communities, and holding the Legislature accountable for its management and spending of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund revenue,” Aguiar-Curry said.

“When I came to the Capitol, I knew the most important vote I would take this year would be on cap-and-trade,” she said. “This program is a global model that shows how we can strike a balance between aggressive climate change goals and protecting and strengthening our economy.

“I’m proud to say that we negotiated a cap-and-trade deal that strikes this balance. It holds all regulated industries accountable to reduce emissions, while also ensuring our agricultural industries get the support they need to make those reductions.”

Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters

“For months I fought to bring the agricultural community and food processing industry to the table as participants in the discussion,” Aguiar-Curry added. “I’m proud to say that we negotiated a cap-and-trade deal that strikes this balance. It holds all regulated industries accountable to reduce emissions, while also ensuring our agricultural industries get the support they need to make those reductions.”

California law requires the state to meet aggressive climate change goals that slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The cap-and-trade program allows businesses to buy and sell greenhouse-gas emissions credits to meet a declining “cap” on the total amount allowed.

“Cap-and-trade done right can successfully reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and keep industries in California,” Aguiar-Curry said. “Done wrong, we push businesses, jobs and emissions out of state.

“Food processors in my district are especially vulnerable to these economic pressures. The package passed today represents a compromise between environmental leaders, industry stakeholders and policymakers to keep agricultural businesses in California, so they can continue being part of the solution to climate change.”

Although farming is not subject to cap-and-trade, environmentally friendly agricultural practices play a critical role in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions statewide, the Assemblywoman said.

“However, without state assistance from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, it is doubtful whether these cutting-edge agricultural leaders can continue to cover the costs of their efforts,” she added.

See the original article in the Davis Enterprise here.

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Fairs connect Californians to agriculture, community – Op-ed by Secretary Ross in Ag Alert

By Karen Ross

All over California, it’s “fair season.”

County fairs are serving up the best that California has to offer and, in our capital city, the California State Fair is in the midst of its Golden Anniversary season at Sacramento’s Cal Expo—the 50th year the fair has been housed there! A half-century of corn dogs, fried foods of all shapes and sizes, and dazzling neon midways. But the State Fair’s value to its community and to the state of California goes much deeper than that, and its complete history is much, much longer.

The State Fair began in 1854 in San Francisco, and was a showcase for agriculture: fruits, vegetables, flowers, grains and livestock. That tradition carries on today and is an anchor at the State Fair as well as many local fairs throughout California.

Livestock competitions are outstanding opportunities for young people; The Farm at the State Fair features a host of crops; the annual wine competition and tasting pavilion showcase California’s world-class vintages; and the State Fair honors its own heritage by celebrating farmers, ranchers and agricultural groups with 100 years of history behind them. Farming and ranching still drive California’s growth and development, and our fairs take pride in highlighting that each and every year.

The fairs are great venues for Californians to demonstrate their skills in a variety of pursuits. A tour of the many exhibits shows impressive talent in art, photography and design, as well as more traditional agrarian pursuits such as canning and baking. It’s inspiring to see that many of those competitive entries come from our young people.

All of California’s fairs serve as community gathering points. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to them annually, and not just for fair runs. They attend concerts, trade shows and sales events. Cal Expo hosts the Global Winter Wonderland during the holiday season, Sacramento Republic FC during pro soccer season, and a year-round monument to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in New York City. California’s fairs believe in service to their communities, and they are committed to the idea that the fair run is just the beginning.

Our fairs also serve as critical emergency shelters. They have housed the homeless during the cold winter months, stood by as cooling centers during periods of extreme heat, and stepped in time and time again to serve as shelters for people and animals in times of natural disaster, as well as command posts for emergency responders working to overcome those disasters.

Just recently, as a devastating wildfire burned near Oroville, the fairgrounds in Chico opened its gates and prepared to work with other emergency organizations to provide a range of services to evacuees. There was also a fire camp set up on the grounds at the Siskiyou Golden Fair in Yreka, and they housed animals at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds  in Angels Camp due to local fires, as well.

A heartwarming example of these disaster-response efforts came earlier this year, when a Northern California couple forced to evacuate due to the threat of collapse at the Oroville Dam went ahead with their planned wedding at their emergency shelter, the Placer County fairgrounds. A squadron of volunteers came together to arrange for a tuxedo and dress, food and drink, and even a limo and wedding night lodging. At the San Diego County Fair, there is an annual event, “My Big Fair Wedding Day,” featuring couples getting hitched at the fair’s annual garden show.

As fairs move into the future, they will continue to look for ways to fully integrate in their communities in a year-round fashion. It’s important to remember they are bona fide public assets and essential institutions that serve Californians in many significant ways.

Link to Ag Alert

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State’s first water market for groundwater and agriculture – from the Ventura County Star


Machinery being utilized in Ventura County to create California’s first water market for groundwater. From the Ventura County Star.

By Tyler Hersko

Ventura County farmers can now buy and sell groundwater on a formal market.

The market, the first of its kind in California, experts say will improve the economic value of farming and boost conservation efforts throughout the region.

The Fox Canyon Water Market and Advanced Metering Pilot was created this year in response to legal and environmental concerns that posed ongoing issues for agriculture businesses, especially during the recent drought when water supplies were tightened for farmers and cities.

Laws and regulations limit farmers’ groundwater extraction and usage, which could create problems of waste and inflexibility for those with an excess water supply.

Conversely, farmers with an insufficient water supply previously lacked a formal system that would allow them to purchase groundwater from other agricultural businesses.

The Fox Canyon project allows farmers with too much groundwater to sell the excess to those who need more.

On one hand, this can allow farmers to make money, as water is a valuable commodity essential to farm work. In addition to its financial impact, the water market can also serve as an important conservation tool for county farms, according to the program’s creators. When water becomes scarcer, its market price will rise, which will presumably increase incentives to conserve.

To complicate the issue, California regulations such as overlying rights indirectly encourage farmers to use their land’s water supply, lest other nearby farmers use it, which creators of the Fox Canyon project say promotes a “use it or lose it” mentality.

As further regulations and restrictions on groundwater extraction are likely to impact the county in the near future, creating a system to manage groundwater was important, said Matthew Fienup, executive director of the California Lutheran University Center for Economic Research and Forecasting (CERF).

Fienup cited regulations such as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a collection of bills that aims to strengthen local and regional oversight of groundwater conservation, as something that farmers would need to adapt to keep thriving. While such acts are designed to combat poor groundwater management and prevent environmental damage, he stressed they necessitate the creation of a water market to help farmers handle increased legal restrictions.

“The reality is that Ventura County is looking at significant cuts to groundwater extraction in the years ahead largely as a result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” Fienup said. “The really important question is: What tools do we have in order to give water users flexibility and to maintain the viability of ag in the county? Water trading is one of the most promising tools.”

Fienup worked with approximately 50 local farmers, city representatives and environmental experts to create the market, which officially launched on the Oxnard Plain earlier this year. The market, managed by CERF, has been awarded a $1.9 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to expand the project in late 2017. Although similar markets exist in areas such as Australia, the Fox Canyon pilot is the first of its kind in California.

The water market has potential to both sustain local agriculture and improve its economic value, said Terry Farms owner and CLU professor Edgar Terry, one of the project’s creators. Terry looked at the water market from a practical perspective and said that as water is a crucial commodity for farmers, the county would benefit from a formal system to trade it.

“Given that we have constraints on how much water we can use as a grower, what if I have excess water and my neighbor needs to buy a certain amount of water?” Terry said. “There was no system in the county to do that, which didn’t make sense. Water is an asset (and) I’ve always believed that assets are more efficient when they can be traded in a robust market.”

Terry noted that his own Santa Paula-based Terry Farms was the kind of agriculture business that would benefit from the project, as greater access to water would improve his ability to farm.

“I want to be able to have the flexibility to go to the marketplace and be able to acquire the water that I may not be able to have but somebody else has so I can finish the crops I’m growing,” Terry said. “That’s how I make my living: I grow crops and this area is not conducive to growing dryland wheat. That’s what the marketplace will allow small growers to do.”

While the system is designed to facilitate access to groundwater, it can also help farms that would otherwise lack the resources to stay in business, Fienup said. He added that though the initial positive impacts of the water market were clear, the program is still in its early stages and would likely prosper further down the road due to potential future drought and additional legal restrictions on groundwater usage.

The water market also has a physical element in the form of an advanced, automatic metering program that is designed provide real-time monitoring of groundwater pumping to project participants. The program, developed by Ranch Systems LLC, aims to help farmers further track their pumping

Agriculture experts such as John Krist, CEO of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, agree the market could be an economic booster with strong potential for conservation. Without access to groundwater, swaths of farmland would need to be taken out of commission, and programs that could prevent farm closures are essential to the county, Krist said.

“We will have another drought and having (the water market) in place will be even more imperative than it is now,” Krist said. “Anything that can maintain the economic viability of the ag industry contributes to the stability and vitality of the county. You don’t want to see 50,000 acres out of production.”

In the long term, the market’s creators hope to extend the program beyond local farming and believe that the Fox Canyon water market can serve as a model for the state. Currently, the pilot program is limited to farmers near Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura, though its creators aim to eventually expand it to the rest of the county. Terry also said that Ventura County’s cities could also find value in the program in the future, and referred to the water market’s end goal as having farmers trading water with cities and vice versa.

As the water market is still in its infancy, project leaders are unsure when such expansions could occur, but noted that funds from the $1.9 million United States Department of Agriculture grant would greatly assist its eventual growth. Work on the water market has also been bolstered by a $70,000 grant secured by the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County for the project. The Morgan Family Foundation, California Stewardship Network funded the $70,000 grant.

The Nature Conservancy, a Virginia-based environmental organization, will administer the grant and work with CERF staff to permanently establish the water market later in the year.

Link to story

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Cap and Trade funds ag innovation programs at CDFA

California’s Cap and Trade Program has been in the news a lot lately as elected officials consider its future. To further that discussion, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) provides the following summary of activities that are supported by the California Climate Investment Program with funds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund:

State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP)

In 2016-17, the Department was awarded $7.5 million in Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds to provide financial assistance in the form of grants to implement irrigation systems that reduce GHGs and save water on California agricultural operations. Now in its fourth year, this program has funded a total of 577 projects totaling $57.5 million. As of July 3rd CDFA has announced this year’s 58 award recipients and look forward to projects breaking ground soon.

Healthy Soils Program (HSP)

2017 will mark the first year of incentives available for the Healthy Soils Program. The goal is to build soil carbon and reduce agricultural GHG emissions. This will include funding to support specific management practices and demonstration projects. In 2016-17, the Department was awarded $7.5 million and anticipates a formal Request for Grant Applications to be released by the end of this month. The Department has also partnered with the Strategic Growth Council to offer funding to non-profit organizations, California’s Resource Conservation Districts and California academic institutions to provide technical assistance to potential applicants applying for the Healthy Soils Program. Applications are accepted until the July 20th deadline.

Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP)

The Department’s Dairy Digester Research and Development Program provides financial assistance for the installation of dairy digesters in California, which will result in reduced GHG emissions. In 2016-17, the Department received $50 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (AB 1613 Section 13. Item 8570-101-3228) for methane emissions reductions from dairy and livestock operations. This will be the second round of incentives for dairy digester installations or retrofits (the Department awarded $12 million for 6 projects in 2015). The Department plans to allocate $29-36 million from the total $50 million appropriation as incentives to support digester projects on California dairy operations. With the June 28th closure of the deadline for grant applications, the Department has received 36 applications totaling $75.7 million. The Department anticipates announcing awards after technical review in September of this year.

Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP)

Milk and dairy products are important protein and nutrient food sources for human health. California leads the nation in milk production and California dairies are some of the most efficient and innovative in the world. One tradeoff is the production of methane, a GHG and a short-lived climate pollutant, from livestock manure. Management practices exist for reducing methane emissions from animal manure through non-digester methodologies.. The Alternative Manure Management Program is currently being developed and implemented by the Department to support non-digester dairy methane reduction practices. In 2016-17, the Department received $50 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (AB 1613 Section 13. Item 8570-101-3228) for methane emissions reductions from dairy and livestock operations The Department will allocate $9-16 million from the total $50 million appropriation as incentives to support project development to support the AMMP objective. The Department’s application is currently available for public comment and a final request for applications is expected to be released in August.

To learn more about the Department’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation, which houses these programs, please visit; and to learn more about California’s Climate Strategy, visit


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Farm-to-School: getting nutritious food to the students who need it most

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Office of Farm to Fork was created with a mandate to increase access to healthier, California grown foods by supporting sales to school programs. The office has focused considerable effort on the Farm to School movement.

In addition to assisting in the creation of a model multi-school-district buying collaborative, the Office of Farm to Fork has paved the way for school districts to connect with California farmers and procure fresh wholesome food. The principal accomplishment under this mandate is the California Farmer Marketplace.

The Farm to School effort enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.

The average school district spends 15% of their budget on local products. School districts in California are focusing their purchases from local producers on the following types
of food:

  • 80% fruits
  • 76% vegetables
  • 54% milk
  • 20% meat or poultry

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Farmworker literacy program and graduates lauded at Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation luncheon – from the Napa Valley Register

Recent literacy program graduates are honored with certificates of their achievement.

By Henry Lutz

A decade ago, Silvia Ortiz was unemployed and desperate for work. But with scant grasp of English and unable to speak it, she remembers having to ask her then 6-year-old son: “How can I tell the winemaker that I am looking for a job?”

Recounting her plight on Thursday before more than 100 grape growers, farmworkers and donors at the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation’s yearly appreciation luncheon, Ortiz spoke in English of her frustration after landing a job with Lewis Cellars and having to show interns during her second harvest how tasks were done instead of telling them, as her English still lagged.

That frustration held, “Until one day Josh (Widaman), the winemaker, asked me if I wanted to attend one of the English classes,” she said.

Offered through the Farmworker Foundation’s English Literacy Program, the classes began in 2013. In April, the program graduated 70 students, its latest and largest class. Ortiz, now in her 10th year at Lewis Cellars, was among them.

Those graduates were lauded during Thursday’s event at Solage Calistoga, along with the top finishers of the Napa County Pruning Contest held earlier this year. Ortiz and fellow honorees received certificates of recognition provided by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, state Sen. Bill Dodd and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson.

The literacy program and pruning contest are among the efforts of the Farmworker Foundation and the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, which the foundation sprang from in 2011. Other programs include a two-week intensive math course, various workshops, leadership training and a series on “Navigating the American School System”.

The foundation’s origins can be traced to chairman Arnulfo Solorio’s “dream and wish for education for all farmworkers in the Napa Valley.”

Speaking Thursday, Solorio thanked donors and queried other employers: “Who does not want to hire a well-trained employee who speaks English, knows how to calibrate a tractor or sprayer, knows general viticulture and has potential to be a great leader?”

To date, Solorio said, the group has provided more than 1,300 hours of training and benefited more than 12,000 farmworkers and their families.

“The Napa Valley is well-known and famous for its 100-point wines, and part of this dream is to make 100-point farmworkers,” he said.

“We are being given this big opportunity and we shouldn’t be thinking twice about it,” Ortiz said in her remarks. “We have to take advantage of this opportunity because every time someone asks us why we come to the United States, we say because we want a better life for our family. If we continue with our education, our kids will want to follow our steps.”

Link to story

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CDFA Border Stations partner with CalFire for important fire safety reminders

Twelve CDFA Border Inspection stations, including this one at Smith River on US-101, are promoting fire safety this month in partnership with CalFire. The message One Less Spark, One Less Fire is used to try to minimize risk along road corridors where vehicles may pull over or drag chains on dry grass.

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Fairs executive Stephen Chambers honored for 30 years of service to industry

CDFA secretary Karen Ross and State Board of Food and Agriculture president Craig McNamara congratulate Western Fairs Association executive director Stephen Chambers (center) today on his retirement following 30 years of service to the fairs industry.

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