Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Secretary Ross meets with US Trade Representative’s chief agricultural negotiator

Secretary Ross at CDFA headquarters today with chief agricultural negotiator Doug McKalip, Office of the US Trade Representative.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross met today in Sacramento with the US Trade Representative’s chief agricultural negotiator, Doug McKalip. The discussion centered on international trade opportunities for California’s farmers and ranchers.

California is the nation’s leading agricultural exporter, with more than $22.5 billion in exports, representing approximately 10 percent of overall U.S. ag exports.

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Reminder — USDA hosting webinar tomorrow on LGBTQI+ mental health in agricultural communities

As part of Pride Month activities, the USDA is hosting a webinar tomorrow (June 6), LGBTQI+ Mental Health in Agricultural Communities. This session will focus on the experiences of LGBTQ+ identifying people in agricultural and farming communities across the country.

The webinar–occurring from 11 am to 12:30 pm PDT–will feature a special message from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as well as from agency partners at the National Young Farmers Coalition’s Cultivemos Program, the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center, and Not Our Farm.

Register here

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World Environment Day — Groundwater recharge a key practice as agriculture works to adapt to changing climate

The United Nations has declared today World Environment Day, and it’s an opportunity to revisit challenges brought by our changing climate and explore practices to maintain sustainability in the decades ahead.

In this video, Central Valley farmer and State Board of Food and Agriculture president Don Cameron shows us the work done on his Terranova Ranch to facilitate groundwater recharge.

The state of California is committed to increasing the potential capacity of groundwater recharge by 500,000 acre-feet, as outlined in Governor Newsom’s “Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future,” and is expediting groundwater recharge projects so that local agencies may take advantage of this year’s snowpack runoff.

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June is National Dairy Month — Secretary Ross joins announcement of partnership to increase dairy food donations to needy families

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joined representatives from the dairy industry, food banks and Raley’s yesterday to kickoff National Dairy Month by announcing a partnership to increase donations of dairy foods to needy families in California.

During the month of June, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) will match donations from Raley’s Food for Families Program for fluid milk for food banks.

Milk is the single food item most frequently sought by needy families.

“I am thrilled to be able to participate in something I’m so passionate about,” said Secretary Ross. “And that is seeing the food we produce being utilized to feed needy families. The state that grows the bounty is sharing the bounty, and that’s what our farm families do. I applaud our dairy farmers, our food banks, and Raley’s for committing to this very worthy program.”

In the photo, Secretary Ross participates in a milk toast with, from left, dairy farmer and CMAB member Maureen Lemos, Yolo Food Bank executive director Karen Baker, and Raley’s corporate director of public affairs Chelsea Minor.

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USDA Invites Input on Crop Insurance Coverage for Prevented Planting

From a USDA news release

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced public listening sessions and is soliciting public comments on possible changes to prevented planting crop insurance coverage.  USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) will hold in-person and virtual listening sessions from June through August, and written comments will be accepted until September 1.

Prevented planting coverage provides producers valuable protection in the event they are unable to plant an insured crop due to an insured cause of loss. When adverse weather prevents planting, a prevented planting payment is made to compensate for the producer’s pre-planting costs generally incurred in preparation for planting the crop.

In California, the in-person sessions are in Tulelake and Davis:

Tuesday, June 27, 2023
10 am to Noon
Modoc County Extension Office, Agriculture Conference Room
2816 Havlina Road, Tulelake, CA 96134

Wednesday, June 28, 2023
1 pm to 3 pm
USDA California State Office
430 G Street, Davis, CA 95616

The national virtual session (MS Teams) will be held June 8, from 11 am to 1 pm (PDT)
Meeting link: Click here to join the meeting
Meeting ID: 217 891 067 621
Passcode: 43YLNt
For audio only (call in): 314-530-5560
Passcode: 746 772 69#

The request for information on prevented planting requests input on topics to include:

  • Harvest Price Option – Feedback on whether to allow the prevented planting payment calculations to be based on the higher of projected price or harvest price under the revenue protection plan of insurance.
  • “1 in 4” Rule – Input on the challenges or experiences since the rule (to be eligible for a prevented planting coverage acreage must have been planted to a crop, insured, and harvested in at least 1 out of the previous 4 crop years) was implemented nationwide.
  • 10 percent additional coverage option – Input on if RMA should reinstate the option to buy-up prevented planting coverage by 10 percent.
  • Contract price – Whether prevented planting costs are higher for contracted crops and how prevented planting payments should be calculated for contract crops.
  • General – Willingness to pay additional premium for expanded prevented planting benefits, recommendations on other prevented planting limitations, etc.  

The request for information, which includes details for submitting feedback, is available in this Federal Register notice.

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CDFA Celebrates National Learn About Compost Day: Coming up May 29

National Learn About Compost Day is May 29, 2023 (which is also Memorial Day, so we’re sharing this in advance of the holiday weekend) and CDFA is celebrating with this video about the department’s work with Glenn County grower Mike Schager to add compost to his walnut orchard.

Thanks to Mike for his cooperation, and to Dana Yount, an environmental scientist specializing in compost and organic waste with CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation, for her work on this project.

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CDFA Announces $89 Million in Grants for Emergency Shelters, Infrastructure at California Fairgrounds

CDFA Deputy Secretary for Fairs Michael Flores (center) joined local Fair Board members and other community dignitaries for a press conference today, on opening day at Chico’s Silver Dollar Fair, to announce a slate of projects at Chico and eleven other fairgrounds sites around the state. The projects include new and expanded safe-shelter space, kitchen and sanitation facilities, showers and various other upgrades. The grants are part of the state’s Fairgrounds Resilience Centers Program.

The projects are designed to improve the facilities’ ability to protect and comfort people and families in times of need. The same improvements will also expand services and capabilities for many other events throughout the year, adding value to these community assets.

This program is a prime example of the value of California’s fairgrounds,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “These grants will provide more than 460,000 square feet of new space for emergency sheltering, and they will position fairgrounds to offer their communities additional resources during climate-related disasters or other emergency events. The enhanced fairgrounds will also provide a unique opportunity for their communities to engage in the use of the facilities for other services and activities throughout the entire year.”

The funding for the grants program was appropriated as part of the 2021-2022 California general fund budget. The resilience centers will enhance emergency preparedness capabilities, particularly in response to climate change. Funding will be used for infrastructure that supports emergency evacuation and shelter of people, pets and livestock, and it will also fund facilities and tools to improve how responders can use these sites as base camps during emergency events.

The projects and sites that have been selected were also evaluated to consider their potential to provide spaces that the community can use outside of contingency times. The grants will equip facilities and provide spaces that can be used year-round to offer services and activities geared to strengthen local communities through civic, social, educational, and economic development programming. Business incubation centers, satellite college campus facilities, and telemedicine centers are among the viable concepts. 

A complete list of the grants is available here.

CDFA’s press release with additional information is available here.

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USDA: $500 Million Available for Improved Regional Conservation Partnership Program to Better Support Partners, Producers

The Biden-Harris Administration has announced the availability of $500 million in funding to advance partner-driven solutions to conservation on agricultural land through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP leverages a voluntary approach to conservation that expands the reach of conservation efforts and climate-smart agriculture through public-private partnerships. Increased funding for fiscal year 2023 is made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, and this year’s funding opportunity reflects a concerted effort to streamline and simplify the program. Program improvements will enable USDA to efficiently implement the $4.95 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding for the program while improving the experience for partners, agricultural producers, and employees.

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program leverages the collective power and resources of public-private partnerships to deliver meaningful results for agriculture and conservation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Thanks to the additional resources unlocked by the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as the improvements being made to the program, more farmers, ranchers, and foresters than ever before will be able to access and deploy conservation and climate-smart practices that will combat the climate crisis, enhance water and soil quality, protect vulnerable wildlife habitat, and more.”

This announcement is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which is growing the American economy from the bottom up and middle-out – from rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure to driving over $435 billion in private sector manufacturing and clean energy investments in the United States, to creating good paying jobs and building a clean-energy economy that will combat climate change and make our communities more resilient. The Inflation Reduction Act represents the single largest investment in climate and clean energy solutions in American history and it includes $19.5 billion for NRCS programs over five years.

RCPP Improvement Effort

The improvements included in this year’s RCPP funding opportunity are part of an ongoing effort to streamline NRCS conservation programs and efficiently implement the Inflation Reduction Act. The RCPP improvement effort identified problems and central issues associated with the program and is working to develop meaningful and actionable improvements.

Based on partner listening sessions and employee and partner surveys, NRCS identified seven key focus areas for improvement, each with a dedicated team working to address identified issues and provide recommendations:

  1. Simplifying and Reducing the Number of Agreements
  2. Reducing Lengthy RCPP Easement Transactions
  3. Improving the RCPP Portal
  4. Consistent Guidance and Training for Employees and Partners
  5. Simplifying the Technical Assistance Structure
  6. Improving the Conservation Desktop
  7. Simplifying the Partner Reimbursement Process

For more information about RCPP and a list of frequently asked questions, visit the NRCS website.

Earlier this month, NRCS also announced improvements to the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to improve efficiency and effectiveness in conservation easements. In addition, NRCS recently called for input on its targeted water quality initiatives.

Notice of Funding Opportunity

The application period is now open for RCPP Classic and RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA). RCPP Classic projects are implemented using NRCS contracts and easements with producers, landowners and communities, in collaboration with project partners. Through RCPP AFA, the lead partner must work directly with agricultural producers to support the development of new conservation structures and approaches that would not otherwise be available under RCPP Classic.

Today’s RCPP Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) showcases a number of program improvements including the increase of project funding ceilings, the simplification of financial assistance and technical assistance structures, a stronger emphasis on locally led conservation, and easement deed flexibilities.

Up to $500 million will be available through the RCPP for fiscal year 2023, of which up to $50 million will prioritize AFAs with Indian Tribes.

Projects selected under this NOFO may be awarded funding through either the Inflation Reduction Act or Farm Bill 2018. Applications for RCPP climate-related projects will receive priority consideration for Inflation Reduction Act funding. The 2023 RCPP priorities are climate-smart agriculture, urban agriculture and projects and, as a Justice40 covered program, projects that serve underserved farmers and ranchers.

NRCS will accept applications now through Aug. 18, 2023 via the RCPP portal. Please note that to request access to the portal, you must have a level 2 verified eAuthentication account with USDA. This can be obtained by following the instructions on the USDA eAuthentication page.

Webinar for Interested Applicants

NRCS encourages interested applicants to participate in upcoming webinars that will provide general information about this funding announcement. The webinars will take place on May 24 and June 7, from 2-3:30 p.m. ET. Join via this links posted on the RCPP How to Apply website. Additional webinars may be announced as needed.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit

See the original release on the USDA site here.

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CDFA Programs Promote Resilience During Water Awareness Month 

It’s May, and that means it’s Water Awareness Month. The weather whiplash Californians have experienced over the past few months underscores the importance of our water systems. 

While the recent wet weather has eased drought impacts on California, CDFA remains focused on continuing to provide water-saving programs and practices to help future-proof the state’s water supply. 

Since 2014, CDFA’s State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program (SWEEP) has made grant awards to more than 1,100 projects, covering more than 168,000 acres.  

Just recently SWEEP unveiled its Block Grant Pilot Program. This pilot program is developed to advance California’s commitment to building more resilient water supplies amid the state’s extreme wet and dry weather swings. It will also test whether block grantees can accelerate the disbursement of funds and better coordinate community needs for technical assistance. 

The SWEEP Block Grant Pilot Program will make available up to $40 million for the block grants. 

Awarded organizations will work with farmers and ranchers to provide technical assistance and install on-farm projects in their area. Organizations wishing to apply for the block grant pilot program have until June 19, 2023. 

“Water conservation is a shared priority throughout California, but each region of California is unique in its water supply challenges and solutions,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “We hope the SWEEP Block Grant can provide an opportunity for regional strategies to be supported” 

To date, SWEEP has awarded more than $123 million, with more than $70 million in matching funds. CDFA received $50 million in 2021. Of that, $10.8 million was awarded to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, while $4.5 million was invested in projects that benefit priority populations. 

Additionally, CDFA’s Water Efficiency Technical Assistance (WETA) Program is also currently accepting applications through June 6, 2023. With a total of funding up to $15 million, entities can receive a maximum of $500,000.  

These funds will be used to: 

·         Provide on-farm technical assistance to evaluate irrigation efficiency, provide diagnostics, and report to growers 

·         Coordinate pump-efficient testing for farmers 

·         Provide water use efficiency training as well as nutrient management practices and technology 

For more information about these exciting opportunities, be sure to visit the Block Grant Pilot website at: 

And the WETA website can be found at: 

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Taking action to protect endangered California Condors from Avian Influenza

CDFA is working with federal partners to allow vaccination of the endangered birds under emergency provisions

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Animal Health and Food Safety Services division is engaged in a cooperative effort to protect endangered California Condors from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) after federal authorities confirmed the disease as the cause of death of several of the birds.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has approved the emergency use of HPAI vaccine in an attempt to prevent additional deaths of these birds, and CDFA’s State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones is responsible for approving the use of the vaccine in California.

“These magnificent birds are a California icon,” said Dr. Jones. “Because they are critically endangered and their population is relatively small and closely tracked, we are in a position to move quickly and selectively to approve this emergency use of a vaccine.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) approached partner agencies about vaccination after a California condor was found dead in late March and then confirmed positive for HPAI at APHIS’ National Veterinary Services Laboratories. Since then, at least 13 condors have died and were confirmed to have HPAI, and two others are in recovery at a rehabilitation center.

The authorized vaccine is a killed, inactivated product conditionally licensed by APHIS’ Center for Veterinary Biologics in 2016. Since the vaccine has not previously been tested against this strain of the virus in these species, the first step in the vaccination program is a pilot safety study in North American vultures, a similar species, to investigate if there are any adverse effects before giving the vaccine to the endangered condors. This trial is funded by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and will be carried out with the surrogate vultures in North Carolina beginning in May 2023.

APHIS grants emergency use approvals, which exempt products from one or more regulatory requirements normally applied to licensed vaccines, to prevent, control, or eradicate animal diseases in connection with an official USDA program and/or an emergency animal disease situation. CDFA’s State Veterinarian has the regulatory authority to approve emergency use of these licensed vaccines within California.

APHIS and CDFA approved this emergency vaccination of the condors because these birds are critically endangered, closely monitored, and their population is very small which allows close monitoring of the vaccine to ensure it is administered only to the approved population. Vultures and California condors are wild birds, not poultry as defined by the World Organization of Animal Health (WOAH), and officials do not expect their vaccination to result in impacts to poultry trade.

This emergency use approval is limited to the endangered California condors. USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists continue to research vaccine options that could protect U.S. poultry from HPAI, should vaccination be necessary for additional birds in the United States. Currently, biosecurity measures remain the best, most effective tool for mitigating the virus in commercial flocks, and improved biosecurity measures by the commercial industry have vastly reduced the number of detections compared to previous outbreaks. For example, in March 2022, there were a total of 51 commercial poultry HPAI detections in the US. In March 2023, there were 7 commercial poultry detections, a decrease of 85% from the previous year. In April 2023, there were just two commercial cases of HPAI, compared to 106 cases in April 2022. More information about APHIS’ efforts to work with industry as well as state and other federal partners to manage the outbreak can be found here.

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