Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

CA Grown kicks off “California Happy Hour at Home” campaign at Raley’s

Four people standing in front of a colorful produce display at Raley's supermarket in the Sacramento area of California. Pictured from left: Raley’s Director of Produce Michael Schutt, CA Grown Executive Director Sher Watte Angulo; CDFA Secretary Karen Ross; and Raley’s President and CEO Keith Knopf. All are wearing masks (COVID).

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joined California Grown today for the unveiling of “California Happy Hour at Home,” an event at all Raley’s stores in California to promote California Grown products like wine, cheese, figs, grapes, pears and avocados. Pictured from left: Raley’s Director of Produce Michael Schutt, California Grown Executive Director Cherie Watte Angulo; CDFA Secretary Karen Ross; and Raley’s President and CEO Keith Knopf. #CAGROWN

Iconic blue California license plate with the letters "CA GROWN"

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Climate neutrality within reach for California dairy sector – from Feedstuffs

UC Davis researcher Dr. Frank Mitloehner and friend

Researchers from the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) are rethinking methane and showing that climate neutrality is within reach for the California dairy sector.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is 25-28 times stronger than carbon dioxide  — the primary greenhouse gas driving climate change in California — but how it influences actual warming is much different, according to a white paper released by UC-Davis professors Dr. Frank Mitloehner and Dr. Ermias Kebreab, along with Michael Boccadoro, executive director of Dairy Cares. The paper, “Methane, Cows & Climate Change: California’s Dairy’s Pathway to Climate Neutrality,” examines recent literature from leading climate scientists and its implications for the California dairy sector.

Methane is a climate pollutant that exists in the atmosphere for 12 years before it is broken down. This means, when a constant rate of methane is emitted for more than 12 years, one molecule, in effect, replaces a previously emitted molecule that has since been removed. In other words, methane isn’t accumulating in the atmosphere. Currently, the main accounting method used for measuring the climate impacts of greenhouse gases does not describe how individual gases such as methane warm — or cool — the climate over time. That oversight leads to a misinterpretation of methane’s role in warming the climate, while also ignoring possible solutions that could offset greenhouse gases from other sectors such as transportation.

“We have been looking at methane incorrectly when it comes to reducing warming,” said Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist for Cooperative Extension in the UC-Davis department of animal science and head of the Clarity & Leadership for Environmental Awareness & Research (CLEAR) Center. “While more potent than the most prevalent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, methane is a short-lived climate pollutant, staying in our atmosphere for about 12 years before it’s broken down and removed. On the other hand, carbon dioxide remains in our atmosphere for centuries, with new emissions accumulating on top of those previously emitted, making it the main driver of climate change.”

According to the white paper, which examined historic dairy production in that state, California dairy farms have already stabilized methane emissions, which is a critical step to achieving climate neutrality and global climate goals. The authors explain, that as dairies continue to achieve further methane emission reductions, then they can create negative warming, also referred to as “cooling.”

California is the fifth-largest economy in the world and is responsible for about 1% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. More than 80% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions come from fossil fuel uses, such as in the transportation (41%), industrial (23%) and power-generating (16%) sectors. Even though California is the largest agricultural producer in the U.S. — producing fruits, vegetables, nuts, livestock and other essential foods for much of the nation and the world — the agriculture sector’s greenhouse gas contribution is roughly 8% of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Of this, California’s largest-in-the-nation dairy sector accounts for 4% of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

To its credit, the state has established goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 as it works toward a goal of “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2045.

Given greater efficiencies, plus a decrease in the number of cows and total milk production in recent years, the amount of methane emitted by California dairies is less today than in 2008. Simply put, California dairy farms are adding less methane today than they did 12 years ago, meaning more methane is being broken down than is being emitted into the atmosphere.

California’s dairy farmers are making further progress in reducing the amount of methane emissions released into the environment by installing anaerobic digesters designed to capture methane or through other projects like compost pack barns and solid separators, which are designed to reduce methane production on farms. According to the California Department of Food & Agriculture, California dairies are implementing projects that will result in a 25% reduction in manure-related methane emissions versus 2013.

Continued progress in these areas will be necessary for the state’s dairy production sector to reach the point at which it is no longer adding to global warming, which is known as climate neutrality.

“Reducing methane emissions and achieving climate neutrality is no small undertaking,” said Kebreab, who holds the Sesnon Endowed Chair in Sustainable Animal Agriculture in the UC-Davis department of animal science. “California is among the most efficient producers of milk and dairy products, and its life-cycle carbon footprint (per gallon of milk produced) is among the lowest of any region in the world. Further reductions will be accelerated as dairy methane reduction projects are implemented and feed additives become widely available. For other dairy regions, a critical first step will be to achieve similar levels of production efficiency (more milk with fewer cows) to begin stabilizing methane emissions and work toward climate neutrality. The impact of such an accomplishment would have profound global climate effects.”

The white paper identifies methane as an important mitigation opportunity. It also follows research on notable differences among individual greenhouse gases and their impact on climate change by leading scientists at the Oxford Martin School and Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.

Link to story on Feedstuffs web site.

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Beneficial wasps released in Southern California to help reduce Asian Citrus Psyllid populations – from CBS-2 Los Angeles

Tamarixia radiata, a tiny stingless wasp utilized in the Asian citrus psyllid program

NoteCDFA releases approximately 100,000 stingless parasitic wasps each week in areas of California with high populations of the Asian Citrus Psyllid, an invasive species that spreads huanglongbing, or citrus greening, a disease that is fatal to citrus trees.

Thousands of tiny, parasitic wasps were released across Southern California (last) week – but officials say they are beneficial bugs that will reduce a pest spreading a disease that’s killing the region’s citrus trees.

Thousands of tiny, parasitic wasps were released across Southern California (last) week – but officials say they are beneficial bugs that will reduce a pest spreading a disease that’s killing the region’s citrus trees.

Trees with Huanglongbing, also known as HLB, have been found more than 2,000 residential citrus trees in northern Orange County cities, Long Beach, eastern Los Angeles County, and Riverside County, according to UC Riverside’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The disease has not been detected in Ventura County, but several Asian citrus psyllid, also known as ACP, have been collected there.

Officials say the wasps, which are a natural predator of ACP, were released periodically (last) week. Citrus tree owners were urged to place ant bait around citrus trees to reduce ants, which can interfere with beneficial insects like Tamaraxia, and protect harmful pests like the ACP.

See the story here: https://cbsloc.al/3bQ3H5T

Learn more about the Asian Citrus Psyllid and huanglongbing.

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Remembering environmentalist and farmer John Anderson

John Anderson.
Photo from the Davis Enterprise

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

I am saddened by the recent loss of John Anderson, DVM, farmer, scientist and environmentalist, who passed away on August 19, 2020. It seems quite fitting to pay tribute to him during this week of highlighting California’s amazing biodiversity. John was a leader in demonstrating the positive impact of hedgerows in enhancing biodiversity, which in turn provides many ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, pest regulation, pollinator habitats and sustainable agriculture.

John saw firsthand the value of hedgerows while working for three months in Kenya. He brought that knowledge back to California on his own Hedgerow Farms, showing the agricultural community that planting hedgerows of native plants and grasses benefited both wildlife and food production. The farm is still one of the most important growers of California native grass and wildflower seed in northern California.

A true steward of the land, John’s legacy lives on—and planting hedgerows is now one of the most popular practices in CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program, a Climate Smart Agriculture program administered by our Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation.

John’s obituary appeared in the Davis Enterprise on September 4, 2020.

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Governor Newsom’s ‘On The Record’ column – all Californians urged to get counted in Census by September 30

Governor Gavin Newsom has released his latest “On the Record” column encouraging Californians to get counted in the 2020 Census by September 30. The column is part of a media collaboration with California Black Media, Ethnic Media Services, ImpreMedia, Univision and LGBTQ outlets Bay Area Reporter and Los Angeles Blade to contribute original content from the Governor on important topics impacting Californians, including the state’s diverse communities. Any media outlet is welcome to pull the column from the Governor’s website to publish on their platforms.

The column coincides with the statewide week of action urging all Californians to participate in the 2020 Census following the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to end its counting efforts on September 30, a month earlier than originally planned.

“It’s our mission to include every community in the Census count, including ones who have previously been left out due to language and cultural barriers, fear or misinformation,” wrote the Governor in his column. “We’ve made historic investments in ensuring every single person living in California – especially those in hard-to-count communities – is counted. That includes working with non-profit organizations and ethnic media partners to ensure we reach every Californian in the language they speak.” 

California made significant investments in a statewide outreach and communication campaign focusing on the hardest-to-count residents, including Native Americans, immigrants, non-English speakers, diverse communities and children. Working in partnership with local governments, tribal governments, community-based organizations and media, the state is funding efforts that will complement work being done nationally by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Every Californian can respond to the Census online at my2020census.gov and by phone by calling the numbers available here. Paper forms received in the mail can also be filled out and mailed back.   The “On the Record with Gavin Newsom” column will be translated into at least six languages and published online or in print in over 50 participating media outlets.

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CDFA environmental farming program saves water and energy

Fresno County fruit grower Balvinder Purewall points to his variable frequency drive, which saves on energy use when irrigating. His solar array in the background produces energy for use on his farm.
 

Recent heat waves have caused California’s energy grid to take a beating, which forced the California Independent System Operator, the entity that operates the state’s power grid, to institute rolling blackouts.

How do California’s farmers and ranchers deal with energy uncertainty during times like this, when the intense heat demands an increase in irrigation? For many years, they have been working to improve both energy and water efficiency of their irrigation systems. And since 2014, CDFA’s State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) has been an important resource for California farmers, providing financial support for long-term efficiency improvements with a focus on greenhouse gas reductions.

“For many years, SWEEP has been funding grants that help California farmers and ranchers save water and reduce greenhouse gases through reduced energy consumption,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The proactive, hard work of these farmers really shines when the state deals with challenges like the recent heat waves. Our farmers’ and ranchers’ contributions provide us with food security plus a host of other benefits seen through SWEEP efforts, which are invaluable to the state, especially now.”   

Some SWEEP grant recipients, for example, have installed energy efficient technologies such as efficient pumping systems coupled with variable frequency drives to reduce energy demands of irrigation. Other grant recipients have also installed solar and other forms of renewable energy, resulting in less imported energy and thus reducing the strain on the grid. Energy-saving practices like these also result in reduced greenhouse gas production. 

Central Coast citrus and avocado grower Daryn Miller received a SWEEP grant, which helped provide two small solar arrays, one for each irrigation pump, to offset his farm’s GHG production use and save water. The project also included installation of soil moisture and weather sensing technologies that help the farmer make data-driven choices on when and for how long to irrigate his crops.

“The objective overall was mostly to cut down our energy,” said Miller, “to really see how much water we were using … to get a good idea of where we’re at on a total amount of water and a total amount of electricity, and to essentially create our own little electric grid.”

Fresno County fruit grower Balvinder Purewal received a SWEEP grant to enhance his 37-acre farm’s irrigation system with a high-efficiency pump, soil moisture sensors, double-line drip system and 25-kilowatt solar array. “The SWEEP program is going to help us save on both water from the ground level and save energy,” he said. This energy savings results in statewide GHG savings by reducing the energy grids reliance of other forms of energy production. 

In 2019 alone, SWEEP supported 122 projects with an estimated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equal to 3,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. This is equivalent to supporting the electricity needs for nearly 550 homes for one year, based on federal EPA equivalency factors. SWEEP utilizes similar incentive strategies to the United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Environmental Quality Incentives Program (NRCS:EQIP).

Scientists tell us that extreme heat days and extreme heat waves are becoming more common in California due to climate change, and reports developed by CDFA in collaboration with several partners and engagement with the farmer community, further highlight the same concerns. With compounding impacts of climate change and other stressors on our environment and natural resources, SWEEP and other CDFA Climate Smart Agriculture programs are helping build a more resilient ‘California For All.’

Watch what these and other farmers and ranchers have to say about SWEEP and CDFA Climate Smart Agriculture programs on our Climate Smart YouTube playlist at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLxjMt4BmzMYasCKoAUewX0Vy2yk1LWNd_.

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$50 billion in cash receipts for California farmers and ranchers in 2019

In 2019, California’s farms and ranches received more than $50 billion in cash receipts for their output. This represents a slight increase over reported cash receipts for 2018.

California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. California is the leading US state for cash farm receipts, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agricultural value. The top producing commodities for 2019 include:

  • Dairy Products, Milk — $7.34 billion
  • Almonds — $6.09 billion
  • Grapes — $5.41 billion
  • Cattle and Calves — $3.06 billion
  • Strawberries — $2.22 billion
  • Pistachios — $1.94 billion
  • Lettuce — $1.82 billion
  • Walnuts — $1.29 billion
  • Floriculture — $1.22 billion
  • Tomatoes — $1.17 billion

Note: The full report for the 2019 crop year, including agricultural exports, will be released in late 2020. For most recent agricultural statistics, please use the links on the right side of this page to query the USDA Economic Research Service data as well as the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. For detailed county-level data please follow the links on the right or visit the CDFA County Liaison pages.

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Biodiversity Day next week – a video with Secretary Ross

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CDFA Senior Farmers Market Program helping to keep seniors fed – from the California Association of Food Banks

As Californians, we’re lucky to live in a state that grows an abundance and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables – more than 300 different crops! Many of us are fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of this seasonal bounty by visiting our local farmers’ markets. Thankfully, there are programs that make it easier for everyone to access fresh fruits and veggies straight from the markets – including low-income older adults.  

Each year, from May through September, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides checks redeemable for fresh produce to low-income seniors at distribution points throughout the state. Administered nationally by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services Agency, in California the program is operated by the Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), in partnership with 31 of California’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAA).  

As the program normally operates, the AAA’s distribute voucher booklets to various distribution sites in their counties between May and September each year. These voucher booklets include $20 checks for low-income seniors to purchase fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs from authorized farmers at certified farmers’ markets. Farmers then redeem the checks for cash.  

The SFMNP voucher booklets are made available on a first-come, first-served basis – meaning that seniors must show up at local distribution points to claim them, and often wait in lines to receive them. Under normal circumstances, this may be inconvenient, but for most, not prohibitive.  

In March, the closure of many of the distribution points for the checks, uncertainty around farmers’ market operations throughout the state, and the strict stay-at-home recommendations for seniors as a high-risk group pitched this beneficial program into uncertainty – at a time when supporting the nutritional needs of older adults has become more crucial than ever.  

CDFA’s top priority in food assistance, like CAFB’s, has been ensuring food security for those in need. SFMNP managers at CDFA knew they would have to get creative to work out a way of getting that produce from farmers’ fields to seniors in need while following social distance guidelines.  

In April, the SFMNP team reached out to Steve Linkhart, who runs CAFB’s Farm to Family program, to brainstorm a solution that could leverage CAFB’s member network and run logistics at scale. With a group of stakeholders and advisors that included Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), California Farm Bureau Federation, CA Department of Social Services, and CAFB member food banks who operate senior food programs (CSFP), a new program model was born to meet this moment.  

In this year’s pandemic version of the SFMNP, we issued an RFP and farmers submitted bids for picking, packing, and shipping boxes to seven food banks and partner agencies across the state, from San Diego up to Humboldt. Each box is just like a CSA box any of us might be getting, with a variety of foods adding up to about a week’s worth of fresh produce to complement the proteins, grains, and other staples seniors receive through food banks and their partners. Food banks are serving as the critical link, receiving and in some cases further distributing the boxes to direct distribution points where seniors will pick up the produce alongside their boxes of shelf-stable groceries. Throughout August and September, seven food banks will receive a total of 20,328 boxes to distribute.  

CAFB is proud to have supported this show of partnership and creative problem-solving. We salute the perseverance and ingenuity of CDFA staff, the operational wizardry and flexibility of our member food banks, the resilience of California farmers, and all involved who worked to ensure that this vital program would rise above the pandemic.  

Link to CAFB web site

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USDA offers disaster assistance to farmers and ranchers impacted by wildfires

A wildfire burns near vineyards in Healdsburg.
Photo from the Associated Press via SF Gate

USDA News Release

California agricultural operations have been significantly impacted by the wildfires, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has technical and financial assistance available to help farmers and livestock producers recover. As agricultural producers move into recovery mode and assess damages, they should contact their local USDA Service Center to report losses and learn more about program options available to assist in their recovery from crop, land, infrastructure and livestock losses and damages.

“California agricultural producers are vital to the state’s economy, and FSA stands ready to assist in their recovery from these wildfires,” said Connie Conway, state executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in California. “Once you are able to safely evaluate the impact on your operation, be sure to contact your local FSA office to timely report all damages and losses.”

USDA encourages farmers and livestock producers to contact the FSA county office at the local USDA Service Center to learn which documents should be provided to help the local office expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts and pictures of damages or losses.

Depending on the operation, FSA offers a number of disaster assistance programs to help offset eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity ProgramEmergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish ProgramEmergency Conservation ProgramEmergency Forest Restoration ProgramNoninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and Tree Assistance Program.

Additionally, producers located in counties with a primary or contiguous disaster designation may be eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also offers programs to help in the recovery process. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)’s Catastrophic Fire Recovery practice provides resource protection for areas burned by catastrophic fires. Benefits include preventing soil erosion protection, minimizing spread of noxious and invasive plants, protecting water quality and restoring livestock infrastructure necessary for grazing management.

Producers with Federal crop insurance coverage should contact their crop insurance agent for assistance. Producers should report crop damage to their agent within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days.

“We can’t predict when natural disasters will occur, but crop insurance can provide a safety net for California farmers and livestock producers when disaster strikes,” said Jeffrey Yasui, director of RMA’s Regional Office that covers California. “Our Approved Insurance Providers, loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained when it comes to disaster recovery and are ready to assist impacted producers.

Assistance for Communities

Additional NRCS programs include the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program, which provides assistance to local government sponsors with the cost of addressing watershed impairments or hazards such as debris removal and streambank stabilization. Eligible sponsors include cities, counties, towns, conservation districts or any federally recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization. When a watershed impairment occurs due to a natural disaster event, the district conservationist serves as the local facilitator for EWP activities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the lead federal agency for Presidentially declared natural disasters. All NRCS emergency work is coordinated with FEMA or its designee. Sponsors must submit a formal request (via mail or email) to the state conservationist for assistance within 60 days of the natural disaster occurrence or 60 days from the date when access to the sites become available. For more information, please contact Greg Norris, EWP program manager, at greg.norris@usda.gov or (530) 792-5609.

“EWP provides immediate assistance to communities to mitigate potential hazards to life and property resulting from the fires,” said Carlos Suarez, state conservationist for the NRCS in California. “We can work with a local sponsor to help a damaged watershed channel water and reduce erosion so that lives and property are protected while preventing further devastation in the community.

In addition to EWP, Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) is another valuable service that NRCS can provide following a wildfire. NRCS technical assistance can help fire victims with planning cost-effective post fire restoration practices. 

More Information

Producers and landowners can use the online Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, answering five questions to identify USDA programs that will help meet disaster recovery needs.

For more information on all USDA disaster assistance programs, visit farmers.gov/recover, or contact your local USDA Service Center, which can be found at farmers.gov/service-center-locator. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, please contact your crop insurance agent.

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