Ag Day 2020 on March 18 at State Capitol

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FDA statement lifting romaine lettuce consumer advisory

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local partners, previously reported on December 12, 2019, that public health experts were tracking three separate outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce caused by three different strains of E. coli O157:H7. We also reported that, through the FDA’s traceback investigation, we were able to identify a common grower between each of these outbreaks in Salinas, California based on available supply chain information.

The FDA is providing an update on the status of the E. coli O157:H7 illnesses linked to romaine lettuce, along with recent findings based on our investigation of fields linked to a common grower, which was identified in our traceback. It should be noted that romaine from this grower does not explain all of the illnesses seen in these outbreaks.

Outbreaks declared over, consumer advisory lifted

The FDA is lifting the consumer advisory to avoid romaine lettuce from Salinas as the growing season for this region is over, and there is no longer a need for consumers to avoid it. There is also no need to avoid other produce products from Salinas.

The FDA and CDC have been tracking two multi-state romaine lettuce outbreaks. Federal health officials are declaring both multi-state romaine lettuce outbreaks over. One of the outbreaks sickened 167 people in 27 states. The other outbreak, linked to Fresh Express salad kits, sickened 10 people in five states.

There was also a third outbreak in Washington State that sickened 11 people. This outbreak has also been declared over.

The last reported illness onset date for all the outbreaks was December 21, 2019. Based on this information, it appears that our November 22, 2019 advisory to not eat romaine from Salinas played an important role in preventing illnesses and containing this outbreak because it prompted the removal of romaine lettuce from Salinas from the marketplace and warned consumers to throw away romaine from that growing region.

Common grower, multiple fields investigated

The FDA traceback investigation for these outbreaks required investigators to go through hundreds of supply chain records to find a commonality to a single grower with multiple fields. We were able to narrow this down further to at least 10 fields in the lower Salinas Valley.

Investigators from the FDA, CDC, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Department of Public Health, visited several of these fields and took a variety of samples from water, soil and compost. So far, sample results have come back negative for all of the three outbreak strains of E. coli O157:H7. However, we did find a strain of E. coli that is unrelated to any illnesses in a soil sample taken near a run-off point in a buffer zone between a field where product was harvested and where cattle are known to occasionally graze. This could be an important clue that will be further examined as our investigation continues. However, this clue does not explain the illnesses seen in these outbreaks.

Our investigation is ongoing, and we are doing everything possible to find the source or sources of contamination. The investigation into how this contamination occurred is important, so romaine growers can implement measures that will prevent future contamination and illnesses.

The FDA is planning to conduct an additional, in-depth, root-cause investigation. The investigation will further characterize how contamination might have occurred and will inform what preventive controls are needed to prevent future outbreaks. Once complete, we plan to issue a prompt report and share lessons learned, so that growers can implement best practices to protect consumers from contaminated produce.

Investigation will inform future prevention

As we mentioned in our last update, it is important to remember that millions of servings of fresh leafy greens are safely eaten every day by consumers, although the repeat nature of these outbreaks linked to leafy greens – and more specifically to romaine lettuce – remains a concern.

We are doing our part by continuing our sampling assignment to monitor for pathogens in romaine lettuce across the nation. Industry can and must do their part too. Everyone across the romaine supply chain must do everything possible to fully understand why and how these outbreaks keep happening and continue to aggressively implement preventive measures to further protect consumers.

Outbreaks illustrate need to stay focused on prevention

It’s critical that all stakeholders, including growers, processors, distributors and retailers, stay laser-focused on prevention to help bend the curve of foodborne illness. We understand the importance of food safety, and we know there’s a human face to every foodborne illness.

The FDA remains committed to doing everything we can to prevent outbreaks, working with fellow regulators and the food industry to identify and address causes and keep consumers aware of potential risks.

Rest assured that we are working hard every day to try to prevent foodborne illness. We also know that food safety is a shared responsibility. It involves food producers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers and certainly regulatory officials at the federal, state, local, territorial and tribal levels. That’s why we work directly with our partners on things such as training and inspections. We also work closely with industry, so they understand our requirements and are educated on the latest scientific standards and good agricultural practices. Working together, we have and will continue to advance food safety.

A New Era of Smarter Food Safety

While we will always place emphasis on prevention, being able to promptly respond to an outbreak when it occurs is a critical part of our food safety mission.

As public health agencies have gotten better at detecting foodborne illnesses, our ability to trace back to the source of contaminated foods that may have caused the illnesses has lagged, due in part to the lack of modernized food traceability capabilities.

As part of the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative, we plan to use advances in technology to improve our ability to track and trace products through the supply chain. We’ll be launching a New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint in early 2020 that will outline how we will advance our work in this area. This blueprint will help consumers get information more quickly, enabling people to better protect themselves and their families.

We look forward to continuing our work with growers, processors, distributors and retailers in our shared efforts to protect consumers, and we will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available.

More information on FDA food safety web site

More information on CDC site

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Fitbits for cows? From the Weatherford (TX) Democrat

A dairy cow at pasture.

By Madelyn Edwards

Researchers at Tarleton State University’s Southwest Regional Dairy Center in Stephenville are using devices similar to Fitbits to track the health habits of dairy cows.

The researchers are saying that tracking a cow’s eating, sleeping and movement helps them take better care of the animals, according to a press release from the Texas A&M University System. The devices track how long cows eat, how long they lay down and how many steps they take, while another wearable device monitors how much milk each cow gives. 

“We have two Fitbits on every cow,” Southwest Regional Dairy Center Director Barbara Jones said in the press release. “They help us to monitor their health, and to keep them content. And that matters to us because we truly do care about cows, as all producers do.”

The data can warn producers that a cow may be sick before the cow starts showing symptoms. The devices also free up time for the dairy producer, who can tend to other business instead of monitoring their herd visually, according to the press release.

Parker County Ag Extension Agent Jay Kingston said the wearable devices could have multiple benefits for dairy cows and farmers.

“Being able to track the health status of each and every cow with actual data and not just the ‘eye test’ will go a long way in identifying health issues earlier and provide more immediate care,” Kingston said. “This, in turn, will help lower costs for medical care and increase the production time for the cow. In my experiences, farmers and ranchers take animal health and care very seriously. This is another tool they can use to do that better.”

Former dairy farmer Tuck Densmore, who is also in charge of the dairy show division at the Parker County livestock show, said a dairy cow’s health can depend on its environment. Dairy cows are healthier when they can get more time to walk around and eat fresh grass.

“Some [dairies] have the environment where cows never leave the lot,” Densmore said. “They go in the milk barn and they go back to a lot and they stand in a lot all day. Some dairies have it to where their cows, when they’re not being milked, go out into a pasture and actually go eat grass.”

Dairy farmers usually determine a cow’s health by looking at it, Densmore said. To keep cows healthy, their environment needs to be clean, and quality feed needs be provided. Sickness in dairy cows can affect the milk if the cow has a fever.

About 10% of dairy farmers use wearable technology now, but as labor costs rise, more dairy producers are expected to take the technological leap, Jones said.

“The research we do here helps to make sure the cows stay content and happy,” Jones said. “That not only benefits the animal, it makes life easier for the producer, and allows them to make better decisions on the farm.”

Cost of the technology may stand in the way of farmers using it, Kingston said, but farmers may use it more once they see a return on their investment. So far, Kingston said he hasn’t heard of the devices being used in Parker County.

“Production and animal care practices have advanced so much over the years,” Kingston said. “I don’t see why dairy farmers won’t start using this technology if it can improve their management practices on the farm.”

Milk production can already be tracked, but there has never been a device to track the health of cows, Densmore said. He isn’t sure a device to track the movements of a cow would be useful.

“The whole point is milk production, and however many steps a cow takes a day, does that affect the amount of milk it makes? No,” Densmore said. “That is all affected by their breeding and the nutrition that they’re given each day. I guess it could have a small advantage. If you’re tracking it, you want them to be healthy and if they’re not getting enough steps a day, that’s probably not as healthy as the ones who are.”

Link to article in the Weatherford Democrat

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Farming support for Governor Newsom’s proposed 2020-2021 budget

The California Farm Bureau Federation and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) have both expressed support for Governor Newsom’s proposed 2020-2021 budget.

Farm Bureau president Jamie Johansson: “The governor’s budget reinforces his commitment to rural California. In his inaugural address last year, Governor Newsom promised not to leave rural California behind, and he reiterated that commitment in a meeting with our Board of Directors last summer. The proposals contained in his draft budget reflect his concerns for the future of farmers, ranchers and the rural areas they support.

“Farm Bureau will work with the administration and the Legislature to assure that programs addressing the needs of farmers, ranchers and rural California receive the budget investments required to enhance the quality of life and economy throughout the state.”

Read the statement on the Farm Bureau web page.

CAFF executive director Paul Towers: “CAFF applauds Governor Newsom’s investments in the state’s family farmers as well as their communities. The Governor’s proposal reflects bold investments in farm-based solutions to climate change. It will create new economic opportunities for family farmers and deliver more healthy food to all California schoolchildren.

“The Governor’s proposed investments in the state’s school nutrition programs and farm-to-school efforts, including funding for the Office of Farm to Fork, grants for schools and an interagency working group, are a critical first step in ensuring all California kids have access to nutritious, sustainable and locally-grown California food. We look forward to working with First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Secretary Karen Ross to flesh out the details of this exciting initiative.

“CAFF also applauds the Governor’s recommitment to building healthy soils and promoting sustainable pest management. We are encouraged by continued funding of the Healthy Soils Program, one of the state’s landmark programs to encourage climate smart farming, and to accelerate the transition to sustainable pest management solutions. We will work with the Governor and the Legislature to ensure continued support for successful programs to improve irrigation efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy waste and see promise in the proposed Climate Catalyst Fund, a green revolving loan fund, to help producers meet some of these challenges.

“Finally, we are pleased to see reinvestments in the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, an important on-the-ground partner and technical assistance provider for small and historically underserved farmers.”

Read the statement on the CAFF web site

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Governor Newsom proposes more than $70 million for healthy school meals in 2020-2021 budget – News Release from the Center for Ecoliteracy

School students getting lunch from a cafeteria salad bar.

Note – As part of Governor Newsom’s proposal, CDFA would receive $10 million in 2020-21, and $1.5 million in 2021-22 and ongoing, to establish a grant program for qualifying school districts participating in a farm-to-school incubator pilot project.

Students across the state may soon be able to enjoy more fresh, nutritious food in school meals, thanks to a new budget proposal introduced today by Governor Gavin Newsom in his 2020-21 preliminary budget. This budget proposal, if signed into law, would provide at least $70 million in funding—a 40 percent increase—to strengthen food service programs’ efforts to improve the quality of school meals. This will support efforts to purchase and serve more freshly prepared, locally grown food, and fuel farm-to-school and sustainability initiatives.

“We know these funds will help children across the state gain access to more locally-sourced, healthy, freshly prepared school meals, give school food service staff the tools to succeed, and bolster local California economies through purchasing from local growers and farmers,” says Kat Taylor, Founder of TomKat Foundation and a key partner in the movement to overhaul California Food for California Kids. “We look forward to continuing work with the Governor’s Office, First Partner Siebel Newsom, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Ross, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Thurmond, legislative leadership, and the dozens of allies to advance this shared vision.”

A diverse coalition of organizations, including the Center for Ecoliteracy, NextGen California, California School Employees Association, and The Office of Kat Taylor — as well as leaders from dozens of organizations in agriculture, education, and public health — have been working tirelessly to make the case for a targeted investment in school nutrition. Their efforts build upon the foundational work and ongoing leadership of CDFA Secretary Ross and State Superintendent Thurmond.

Ben Valdepeña, president of the California School Employees Association, a strong supporter of the investment, said, “Our members who work as cooks, servers, clerks and delivery drivers see first-hand the positive impact providing a nutritious meal can have on students. Without food, students cannot learn, and good nutrition enables students to meet their education and physical potential. We are pleased Governor Newsom has made healthy food service programs a priority.”

The executive director of NextGen California, Arnold Sowell Jr., applauded the announcement. “Investing in programs aimed at improving the health and well-being of students across our state is critically important. Many of our students face food insecurity and hunger, relying on school meals as a stable source of nourishment. This effort is a bold step forward. We look forward to continuing to partner with our stakeholder community to ensure that all California kids can thrive.”

“This proposed investment is a huge victory for California kids and a well-earned accomplishment for those who have worked toward a better school food system,” says Adam Kesselman, executive director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that is dedicated to education for sustainable living in K-12 schools. “We hope the Governor and the California legislature will include these funds in the final state budget for many years to come.”

Link to news release at the Center for Ecoliteracy web site.

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Statement by Don Cameron, President of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture on the Governor’s Proposed Budget

As a farmer, the investments by Governor Newsom in the proposed budget to our rural communities, the food and agricultural sector and for climate resilience is a strong step forward for a “California for All.” This is especially true for our great Central Valley – where a Fresno-Merced Innovation Corridor will advance not only food innovation but do so by furthering high quality jobs in some of our most disadvantaged communities impacted by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

I’m especially proud of the commitment that the Governor is providing to CDFA’s ongoing Climate Smart Agricultural Programs – water use efficiency, healthy soils and methane reduction – while also assisting in the retrofit of diesel farm equipment (FARMER).   I’m also excited about the potential of the Climate Catalyst Revolving Loan Fund to help in advancing food manufacturing innovations and establishing dairy digesters across the state.  These actions further innovation and deployment of new technologies and practices that assist in producing the food we all enjoy.

The $10 million for staffing and grants through the CDFA Farm to Fork Office combined with the $70 million Prop 98 General Fund to increase funding for school nutrition and provide training for school food service workers will promote healthier and more nutritious meals based on CA Grown food.  It’s a win for farmers, local communities and most importantly our children.

Lastly, the commitment to infrastructure is greatly appreciated and long overdue – especially the need to expand broadband to rural areas, provide safe drinking water and to support our local fairgrounds as community resilience centers in response to wildfires and floods.  Investment in the Water Resilience Portfolio and our community infrastructure is essential and most welcomed.

The Governor’s Proposed Budget is good for agriculture, good for rural communities and is truly representative of a “California for All.”

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CDFA budget highlights for 2020-2021

Governor Newsom today introducing his 2020-2021 state budget.

California governor Gavin Newsom submitted his 2020-21 budget proposal to the Legislature today – a spending plan that maintains structural balance, builds reserves, and reduces liabilities.

For CDFA, the budget would be $600.4 million. Here are some of the key elements:

Farm to School Baseline Funding: This proposal requests $10 million in 2020-21, and $1.5 million in 2021-22 and ongoing, to establish six positions to provide baseline and expansion support to the Office of Farm to Fork’s (CDFA-F2F) California Farm to School Network. This request includes $8,496,000 to be made available for grants to qualifying school districts participating in a farm-to-school incubator pilot. This request will allow CDFA-F2F to create a roadmap for transformational change in the school food system that supports California farmers, expands food access, and helps achieve the state vision of a California for All.

Fresno-Merced Innovation Corridor: This proposal requests $33 million in 2020-21 to develop a Fresno-Merced Food Innovation Corridor Grant Program to stimulate research and development, commercialization, and innovation to advance sustainable agricultural production and processing and support high quality jobs in the San Joaquin Valley. CDFA will partner with local education institutions, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, and regional partners to prioritize and implement investments for this initiative, leveraging philanthropic and private support.

State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP): This proposal requests $20 million in 2020-21 to award, administer, and monitor SWEEP grants with a focus on depleted groundwater basins.

Methane Reduction: This proposal requests $20 million in 2020-21 for the Dairy Digester Research Program and Alternative Manure Management Program. 

Healthy Soils Initiative: This proposal would provide $18 million annually for healthy soils projects for five years, beginning in ’20-’21.

Environmental Farming Incentive Program – A $200 million bond project that would provide grants for projects including healthy soils, on-farm water efficiency, nutrient management, habitat restoration, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and other conservation practices on farms and ranches that assist with climate and water resilience.

Cannabis: The budget proposal includes a significant change in the regulatory structure for cannabis. The Administration plans to consolidate the three licensing entities–CDFA, the Department of Public Health and the Bureau of Cannabis Control–into a single Department of Cannabis Control by July 2021. The Administration will submit more details on this proposal in Spring 2020.

Food Waste Recovery: $188,000 for CDFA to help minimize the waste of edible food for humans and animals; aid in meeting the state’s waste reduction goals; research and implement methods for diverting organic waste from landfills; and develop organic waste processing and recycling infrastructure.

Agricultural and Rural Economic Advisor: This proposal requests $199,000 in ongoing funding to support the activities necessary to develop and implement strategies for improving California’s rural, agriculturally based economies. This will enable CDFA to collect data and information that allows informed policy discussions on strategies and or initiatives that will enhance rural economies through innovation, technology, education, and workforce training.

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CDFA, DPR to hear public input on replacing Chlorpyrifos

In an ongoing effort help Californians transition away from the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will hold three roundtable discussions this month across the state.

Last year DPR announced that virtually all agricultural use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in California will end by December 31, 2020. In order to support the transition to safer, more sustainable alternatives, DPR and CDFA have convened a work group to identify, evaluate, and recommend alternative pest management solutions. The roundtable style discussion sessions are an opportunity to gather public input on their work to date.

DPR and CDFA also plan to award $2 million in grants to support the development of safe, more sustainable alternatives to chlorpyrifos.  

DPR is soliciting research ideas and is currently accepting grant concepts that advance alternatives to chlorpyrifos with the goal of developing and fostering integrated pest management practices (IPM).  You can find more details here. The initial concepts are due by February 7th.

CDFA will award approximately $1 million in grants to expand outreach about innovative biologically integrated farming systems that reduce chemical insecticide inputs. Crops that have used chlorpyrifos will be a priority.

The public can provide input to the Work Group about alternatives to chlorpyrifos via email at alternatives@cdpr.ca.gov.

The agenda for the public roundtable discussions can be found here.

The discussions will be held follows:

Fresno, CA
January 14, 2020
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm (Spanish, Mixteco Baja and Hmong interpreters available).
Mosqueda Community Center (Reading and Beyond)
4670 E. Butler Avenue
Fresno, CA 93702

Sacramento, CA
January 16, 2020
1:30 pm – 3:30 pm (Spanish interpreters available).
Joe Serna Jr. CalEPA Headquarters Building
Byron Sher Auditorium
1001 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Oxnard, CA
January 21, 2020
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm (Spanish and Mixteco Alta interpreters available).
South Oxnard Senior Center
200 E. Bard Road
Oxnard, CA 93033

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2019 in Review: Promoting and Marketing California’s Agricultural Bounty

Infographic with details about CDFA's California Grown marketing program and the new California Cattle Council implemented in 2019
Infographic with details about CDFA's dairy-related Quota Administrative Program, licensing activities of the Market Enforcement Branch, and projects at the Network of California Fairs
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Governor Newsom calls on CDFA and fairgrounds in executive order on homelessness

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order today to address the homeless crisis. “The State of California is treating homelessness as a real emergency – because it is one,” said Governor Newsom. “Californians are demanding that all levels of government – federal, state and local – do more to get people off the streets and into services – whether that’s housing, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, or all of the above.”

CDFA, in consultation with the Department of General Services; the Department of Housing and Community Development; the Department of Social Services; and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, has been directed to conduct an initial assessment of fairgrounds near jurisdictions where a shelter crisis is in effect, and for those fairgrounds, determine the population capacity and space that would currently be available to local partners on a short-term emergency basis to provide shelter for individuals who are homeless.

The full executive order may be read at this link.

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