Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Governor Newsom signs executive order to help tackle supply chain issues

Formalizes state agencies’ partnership with the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to address state, national and global supply chain challenges

Directs state agencies to develop longer-term proposals that support port operations and goods movement for consideration in the January 10 Governor’s Budget

Amid global disruptions to the goods movement supply chain, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed an executive order directing state agencies to identify additional ways to alleviate congestion at California ports. The executive order builds on earlier efforts this year by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) to ease supply chain issues by engaging the diverse network of stakeholders along the supply chain to discuss key challenges and identify short-term and long-term solutions. Record demand for imported goods combined with capacity issues across the entire supply chain have slowed distribution at ports on the California coast.

“California’s ports are critical to our local, state and national economies and the state is taking action to support goods movement in the face of global disruptions,” said Governor Newsom. “My administration will continue to work with federal, state, labor and industry partners on innovative solutions to tackle immediate challenges while also bringing our distribution processes into the 21st century.” 

Today’s executive order directs state agencies to continue coordinating with the Biden-Harris Administration Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to address state, national and global supply chain challenges. The executive order also directs the Department of Finance to work with state agencies to develop longer-term solutions that support port operations and goods movement for consideration in the January 10 Governor’s Budget, which may include port and transportation infrastructure improvements, electrification of the goods movement system from port to delivery, and workforce development.

Additionally, today’s executive order directs state agencies to identify state-owned properties and other locations that could be available to address short-term storage needs once goods are unloaded from ships; to identify priority freight routes to be considered for a temporary exemption to current gross vehicle limits to allow for trucks to carry additional goods; and to create workforce training and education programs. AB 639’s (Cervantes, 2020) implementation is also expedited through this executive order.

Earlier this year, GO-Biz launched the California Supply Chain Success Initiative, a partnership with the California State Transportation Agency, the Port of Long Beach, and the CSU Long Beach Center for International Trade and Transportation to engage the diverse network of stakeholders along the supply chain to discuss key challenges and identify creative solutions. This effort, which brought together federal, state and local leaders, is focused on both short-term and long-term steps to address port congestion, including implementing a new 24/7 environment across the supply chain, a move the state worked with the Biden-Harris Administration on, improving collaboration, and exploring policies to remove obstacles and improve the movement of goods.

A copy of the executive order signed today can be found here.

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Farm to School Month garden highlight — Luther Burbank High School’s BUG Program moves outdoors

The Burbank Urban Garden (BUG) at Sacramento’s Luther Burbank High School (left) now has an accompanying outdoor learning space (right).  

Luther Burbank High School (LBHS) in Sacramento welcomed students back to school this year with an updated outdoor learning space of chairs and desks beside its Burbank Urban Garden (BUG). Home to the LBHS Urban Agriculture Academy, BUG is a 1-acre, student-built farm on the high school campus.

The BUG program inspires and engages youth to pursue futures in sustainable agriculture, food, and natural resource management. The school’s Career Technical Education Program is embedded in the school day. It utilizes tools like an urban garden, internships, and portable kitchens to engage and empower LBHS students.

To learn more about the BUG program, follow it on Facebook ( or Instagram ( 

This school garden spotlight is part of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) celebration of October as National Farm to School Month. To learn more about school gardens, contact the CDFA Farm to School Program at

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Public comment period opens for Draft California Climate Adaptation Strategy

From a California Natural Resources Agency and Governor’s Office of Planning and Research news release

The climate crisis is here. In the last decade, Californians have endured severe droughts, historic wildfires and floods, rising seas, and record temperatures. Californians now see, feel, and breathe what scientists have been explaining for decades: greenhouse gas pollution is warming our planet and generating threats to life on earth.

The Newsom Administration is updating California’s Climate Adaptation Strategy this year, as required by the Legislature every three years. The 2021 update is designed to deliver a coordinated strategy that outlines the state’s key climate resilience priorities, includes specific and measurable outcomes, and serves as a framework for action across sectors and regions in California. We took a new approach to the 2021 Strategy, designing it to drive urgent, collective action and enable our communities, economy, and environment to continue to thrive in a changing climate. To learn more about this approach, including how we are using the 2021 update to close a critical gap on addressing extreme heat, read the press release and visit the Strategy Update webpage

We are excited to announce that a draft of the 2021 Climate Adaptation Strategy is available for public comment for 30 days, beginning October 18 through November 17. We will kick off this important phase of the Strategy update with a webinar on October 22 from 11am – 12pm to walk through the draft Strategy, followed by three public comment workshops and two tribal listening sessions (schedule tbd). Please join us for the webinar by registering at the link below! 

In June, we held 10 regional virtual workshops throughout the state to ensure the state’s Strategy reflects and reinforces regional priorities; draws connections among our collective efforts; and serves as a useful resource for all Californians. Background information, workshop summaries and input can now be accessed on the Strategy Update webpage
Comments and questions may be submitted by emailing the state’s coordination team (California Natural Resources Agency and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research) at, or by mail: California Natural Resources Agency, 715 P Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. The deadline to submit comments is November 17. 

Webinar — Friday, October 22, 11am-12pm | Register in advance | This webinar will provide an overview of the Administration’s draft Strategy and information on the forthcoming public workshops.  
Public Comment Workshops — TBD Week of October 25th, 4 – 6 PM | Updates & registration links will be posted on the strategy website

Tribal Listening Sessions TBD Week of November 1 | Updates & registration links will be posted on the strategy website

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Strengthening University of California-Mexico Ties to Further Research on Agricultural Topics

Left to right: Dr. Isabel Studer, Director of Alianza UCMX, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, Liliana Ferrer, Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross met recently with Dr. Isabel Studer, Director of Alianza University of California-Mexico, and Liliana Ferrer, Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento, to discuss cooperation on agricultural and climate related research topics, centered on the ongoing activities already taking place between the UC and researchers from Mexico and California.

Based at UC Riverside, Alianza UCMX was formed in 2019 and fosters strategic alliances between the UC system and counterparts in Mexico, including government, academia, and industry sectors. 

Dr. Studer has been engaging in meetings with California state officials, business leaders, and the UC academic community in looking ahead to the year 2030 in terms of the binational relationship between California and Mexico, including the agricultural sector.

“California is leading in all these areas of sustainability and climate change, and there are many opportunities in continuing to work and partner together on topics such as biodiversity, wildfires, adaptation to climate change, and the increase of temperatures,” said Dr. Studer.

Consul General Ferrer took a special moment to thank Secretary Ross for recognizing the importance of the agricultural workforce community, particularly during the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s important for me and our department to recognize the people that plant, harvest, and bring our food to consumers,” said Secretary Ross.

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Secretary Ross on California Farmer and Farmworker Month

October is California Farmer and Farmworker Month! California plays a big role in the nation’s food supply and economy—supporting 1.2 million jobs, producing over 400 crops and roughly 50 percent of U.S. produce overall. California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross urges people to support California’s farmers and farmworkers by choosing California grown products when shopping in stores or online.

“California Farmer and Farmworker Month is an important time to share our gratitude for the commitment of our agriculture community, which came together early in the pandemic to secure a safe, nutritious food supply,” said Secretary Ross. “Consumers can take great pride in the high quality of CA GROWN products and how they are grown, reflecting California values for farmworker protections, environmental stewardship, and knowing there is a place for all in California agriculture.”

Learn more about Farmer and Farmworker Month

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California organizations among USDA Equity in Agriculture grant recipients

From a USDA news release

The USDA has announced a trio of awards totaling nearly $25 million in grants and cooperative agreements intended to ensure broader access and participation in USDA programs and services for historically underserved farmers and ranchers. These efforts are the latest in a series of announcements building momentum around USDA’s historic commitment to root out generations of systemic racism, center equity in decision-making and policymaking, lower barriers to access, and ensure USDA programming is inclusive of all employees and all customers.

“Equity is a vital consideration in all we do at USDA,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

One set of awards announced includes $18.6 million in grants to provide training, outreach, and technical assistance to historically underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers in 21 states through USDA’s 2501 Program. Among the 29 grantee organizations (PDF, 175 KB), the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association in Salinas, California, will offer farm production and business training to historically underserved producers, a majority of whom are Mexican immigrant farmworkers and beginning farmers seeking career advancement or independent farm ownership. Kitchen Food Ventures Inc. of the Inland Empire also received funding for technical assistance and other assistance programs for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Learn more about the 2501 program.

Additionally, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is awarding $4.7 million to organizations for projects that will provide historically underserved producers with improved access and technical assistance as they apply for and make use of Farm Service Agency programs and services. USDA programs for which the projects will provide outreach and technical assistance include pandemic assistance programs, including the signup re-opening of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2). The projects funded will also ensure ample outreach to historically underserved producers for FSA’s farm programs. California grant recipients in this programs are California Farmlink and the CSU Fresno Foundation. Read the full FSA press release.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is funding $1.73 million for nine projects to improve the oversight capacity of the organic industry by supporting and expanding the pool of qualified inspectors, reviewers and other professionals who oversee organic production—now and in the future. The funded projects provide support across the human capital pipeline, from initial workforce development to creating resources for existing professionals. The initiative also supports the Biden-Harris Administration commitment to advancing equity, by removing barriers to access and building inclusive programs. Read the full AMS press release.

This announcement follows USDA’s recent call for nominations for an Equity Commission. The Equity Commission will advise the Secretary of Agriculture by identifying recommendations for how USDA can take steps to address programs, policies, systems, structures, and practices that contribute to barriers to inclusion or access, systemic discrimination, or exacerbate or perpetuate racial, economic, health and social disparities.

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Indigenous Peoples Day — CDFA recognizes sustainable urban farming practices rooted in native and indigenous traditions

Three Sisters Gardens is one of West Sacramento’s five urban farm sites and is located at 5th and C Streets. It is a 501(C)(3), nonprofit organization that brings youth and neighbors together to grow food. Led by Alfred Melbourne, Three Sisters Gardens incorporates sustainable, Native American farming practices, which are featured in this video for Indigenous Peoples Day.

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Governor Newsom appoints Christine Birdsong as CDFA Undersecretary

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross: “We are thrilled to welcome Christine Birdsong to the CDFA team, and I want to thank Governor Newsom for making this appointment. Christine’s leadership experience at the federal level as well as in the private sector is perfectly suited for the important work of CDFA and the many challenges and opportunities facing California agriculture.” 

News Release from Governor Newsom’s office: Christine Birdsong has been appointed Undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Birdsong has been Senior Vice President,  General Counsel  and Director of People and Culture for the Sun Valley Rice Company since 2016. She was General Counsel for the National Cotton Council of America from 2011 to 2016, Counsel for the Committee on Agriculture for the United States House of Representatives from 2005 to 2010, and Federal Government Affairs Leader for CropLife America from 2004 to 2005. Birdsong earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

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October 8 is National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day — find out why

Today, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) joins the nation in celebrating the seventh annual National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day, which marks the growth of the industry by raising awareness of the benefits fuel cell technologies and hydrogen energy provide in reducing emissions while driving economic growth.

National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day is observed on October 8 (10.08), in recognition of the atomic weight of hydrogen – 1.008. Hydrogen is already providing fuel, feedstock, and power to wide-ranging sectors of the U.S.

Since 2015, CDFA’s own Division of Measurement Standards has been testing and certifying hydrogen refueling stations for accuracy. 50 retail stations are open today, and to keep pace with continued growth, the Division maintains fuel quality laboratories in Sacramento and Anaheim.  Hydrogen must be very pure for proper vehicle operations, and the analysis detects impurities in the parts per billion.  So far, so good: 600 fuel samples show that hydrogen fuel sold in California is very high quality. Division staff have also facilitated and developed national and international hydrogen refueling and testing specifications.

Hydrogen energy and fuel cell technologies offer a clear pathway toward low- and no-carbon emissions economic growth while creating high-quality jobs and spurring advanced American manufacturing. As countries around the world increasingly look to hydrogen as a clean energy pathway, the U.S. is uniquely well-positioned to take a leadership role. By leveraging abundant resources and a robust industrial sector, the U.S. hydrogen industry can spur American energy innovation and promote economic competitiveness.

For more information on National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day, please visit

For more information on CDFA’s hydrogen related activities, please visit

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Farm to School Month — CDFA receives $60 million budget appropriation for grants

Happy Farm to School Month! Sanzuma (pictured) is a project in San Rafael that operates a school farm at San Pedro Elementary School and partners with area schools. The project received funding in the California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program to increase the number of fresh fruits and vegetables offered in school meals, promote nutrition awareness, and help educate students.

October is National Farm to School Month and CDFA joins thousands of schools, early care and education sites, farms, communities and organizations across the country in celebrating food education, school gardens, and lunch trays filled with healthy, local ingredients.

Adding to the spirit of celebration this year is a $60 million appropriation in the state budget to sustain and expand the California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program. This is part of a $127 million allocation for CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork, including $20 million for the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), $20 million for the Healthy Refrigeration Grant Program, $15 million to create a Farm to Community Food Hubs Program; and $12 million to create an Urban Agriculture Program.

“This investment positions CDFA to be a bigger part of the nutrition security solution in helping all Californians access and consume California-grown fruits and vegetables to foster healthy lifestyles and avoid chronic disease,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “It also demonstrates our statewide commitment to connecting community members and school districts directly with our Golden State’s farmers and ranchers, which will increase demand for their wholesome products.”

Please visit the CDFA California Farm to School Program website for information and resources about the incubator grant program, and the Office of Farm to Fork web site for more information about the other programs mentioned above.

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