California farm production declines in 2015 – several factors cited

The USDA’s Economic Research Service  (ERS) has compiled and released preliminary agricultural production statistics for 2015 in California.  This first set of data indicates that production value fell by $9.5 billion, or more than eight percent compared to 2014, to a total of $47,071,513. California remains the leading agricultural state in the nation.

These numbers certainly reflect drought impacts in 2015, which led to the fallowing of 540,000 acres. But the data also reflects changes in currency exchange rates as well as global supply and demand, including a burgeoning milk supply and a slowdown in export demand. Dairy production value fell by more than $3 billion in 2015, and the value of nut production declined considerably across the board.

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. These were the state’s top-ten commodities in 2015:

  • Milk — $6.29 billion
  • Almonds — $5.33 billion
  • Grapes — $4.95 billion
  • Cattle, Calves — $3.39 billion
  • Lettuce – 2.25 billion
  • Strawberries — $1.86 billion
  • Tomatoes — $1.71 billion
  • Poultry/Eggs – $1.7 billion
  • Walnuts – $977 million
  • Hay — $ 945 million

California agricultural statistics derive primarily from the United States Department of Agriculture/National Agricultural Statistics Services (USDA/NASS) reports. The California Department of Food and Agriculture also publishes statistics related to California dairy production and, in cooperation with the University of California at Davis, statistics for California agricultural exports. For most timely research into California dairy statistics, please see our dairy pages under Division of Marketing Services. For county-level reporting please see the CDFA County Liaison site.

To reiterate, the ERS production figures for 2015 are preliminary numbers. It is customary for the USDA to revise these figures over a period of several months following the initial release.  Accordingly the figures on the report may change several times between now and early 2017.





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Drones help California farmers save every drop of water – from the Associated Press

Danny Royer, vice president of technology at Bowles Farming Co., prepares to pilot a drone over a tomato field near Los Banos, Calif. The farm hired Royer this year to oversee drones equipped with a state-of-the-art thermal camera. The drone can scan from a bird’s-eye view for cool, soggy patches where a gopher may have chewed through the buried drip irrigation line and caused a leak of water, a precious resource in drought-stricken California. On the farm’s 2,400-acre tomato crop alone, this year drones could detect enough leaks to save water needed to sustain more than 550 families of four for a year. (Scott Smith/Associated Press)

On Bowles Farming’s 2,400-acre tomato crop this year, drones could detect enough leaks to save water to sustain more than 550 families of four for a year. (Scott Smith/Associated Press)

By Scott Smith

A drone whirred to life in a cloud of dust, then shot hundreds of feet skyward for a bird’s-eye view of a vast tomato field in California’s Central Valley, the nation’s most productive farming region.

Equipped with a state-of-the-art thermal camera, the drone crisscrossed the field, scanning it for cool, soggy patches where a gopher may have chewed through the buried drip irrigation line and caused a leak.

In the drought-prone West, where every drop of water counts, California farmers are in a constant search for ways to efficiently use the increasingly scarce resource. Cannon Michael is putting drone technology to work on his fields at Bowles Farming Co. near Los Banos, 120 miles southeast of San Francisco.

About 2,100 companies and individuals have federal permission to fly drones for farming, according to the drone industry’s Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Federal regulators Monday relaxed the rules on small, commercial drones, a move that could spur even greater use of such aircraft on farms.

Michael is descended from Henry Miller, a renowned cattle rancher, farmer and Western landowner who helped transform semi-arid central California into fertile farmland 150 years ago by building irrigation canals, some still flowing today.

Six generations later, Michael farms a 17-square-mile portion of that same land, growing melons, carrots, onions, cotton and almonds, while carrying on in the same pioneering spirit as Miller.

“I’ve always been a big fan of technology,” said Michael, 44, mindful of how climate change is making water more precious. “I think it’s really the only way we’re going to stay in business.”

On his 2,400-acre tomato crop alone, Michael estimates that this year his leak-detecting drones could save enough water to sustain more than 550 families of four for a year.

California endured the driest four-year period on record before a relatively wet and snowy winter this year overflowed some reservoirs in the northern part of the state. Southern California, however, remains dry, and the statewide drought has not ended.

Beyond California, drones are becoming fixtures on farms in places such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and Latin America as they become more affordable and easier to use, said Ian Smith of DroneDeploy, a San Francisco-based industry leader in drone software development.

A farmer can order a commercial-grade drone online for $2,000 and receive it in the mail days later, he said. Its video camera is then paired up with a smartphone or computer tablet that is used to control the drone.

“Hook it up to a smartphone. Boom. Take off and you’re in business,” Smith said.

Many farmers, however, have yet to grasp the full potential beyond capturing video images of crops or using infrared cameras to spot color variations in the plants that can signal a problem.

Few have used technology and invested in it to the degree Michael has. This year he began using the thermal camera, which can cost up to $10,000 and can show moisture variations in soil. He also created a new management position at his company dedicated to overseeing drones.

Recently, Danny Royer, the new vice president of technology at Bowles, stood at the tailgate of his pickup studying live images transmitted to the screen of his tablet as a drone buzzed 300 feet overhead.

Rows of mature tomato plants appeared on the screen in glowing burnt orange, indicating warmer, drier areas, while dark patches of purple showed the cool moist soil hidden below the plants.

After taking the images back to his office to analyze them, he decided there were no leaks to repair, but the soil needed to be enriched in places to help the field grow evenly.

On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration eased the rules so that operators of commercial drones that weigh less than 55 pounds will no longer need to go through the long, expensive process of earning an airplane pilot’s license.

Instead, they will have to take a written test — but not an actual flying test at the controls of a plane — and will be issued a drone license for $150.

The rule change and emerging technology could make drones more attractive tools for farmers, said Brandon Stark, director of the University of California’s Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Safety, based at the Merced campus.

However, he said that until federal regulators clarify parts of the new rules, commercial drones must continue to fly below 400 feet, limiting their use on very large fields.

Stark is seeking what he calls the Holy Grail of drone use in agriculture — enabling them to directly diagnose what ails a tree, whether it’s deficiencies in water or nutrients, or a pest — without having to send a person into the field.

“We’re just getting started,” Stark said. “The research is really still in its infancy.”

Link to story

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Salinas Valley Farm employs new technologies, seeks to attract millennial workers – from the Salinas Californian


Taylor farms

Automated technology at Taylor Farms in the Salinas Valley

By Amy Wu

Israel Ramirez considers himself an anomaly, at least for now. At 21 he is one of the youngest farm workers in an industry that known for its aging workforce.

But as agriculture companies find ways to introduce new technologies, younger workers such as Ramirez are increasingly attracted to the work.

Field workers are critical to an industry that is a key economic driver in this region. In Salinas Valley the agriculture business is estimated at $9 billion, and includes produce giants Taylor Farms, Driscoll’s and Church Brothers.

Taylor Farms has an estimated 1,500 field workers – many of them contracted – and on any day 67 crews in the fields.

The average worker’s age is 48 with the majority ranging from 48 to 75, said Albert Garnica, Taylor Farms’ vice president harvest operations who supervises the fields.

Over the past decade the company like many in the industry has faced an ongoing labor shortage, caused by an aging workforce, a growing demand for salad and cut vegetables, a tighter regulatory environment when in California and the increased costs of doing business.

Industry players say the industry is often overshadowed by the attraction of working in industries such as tourism or construction.

“Mom and dad want their kids to do something better than what they did,” said Paul Muthart, a grower at Pasquinelli Produce Co. in Yuma, Arizona, which has been challenging with finding younger workers as their workforce ages. “Heck even changing beds in Vegas is better than working out in the heat and the mud…Again it comes down to the glamour of what we do.”

The shortage has been so severe that the industry has been bringing in workers on H2A visas, a temporary work visa for foreign farm workers. Garnica said roughly 40% of field workers in Salinas Valley are on H2A visas.

Muthart said 60% of their field workers are over 50 and a fifth of their work force is over 60. The company works hard to retain older workers in part because it is harder to find replacements, especially younger workers.

“I can confirm that our population is for sure aging and it’s a concern to us,” he said. “Frankly I don’t know what we will do to attract young people into the work we do.”  Muthart said he believes the challenge in recruiting goes beyond the money. At Pasquinelli, a 9,000 acre farm in Yuma that grows cauliflower and celery, workers are entitled to pension, healthcare and $2 more than Arizona’s $8.05 an hour minimum wage. He said negatives are the work is seasonal and often requires relocating.

New technologies, new generation
Taylor Farms’ response to the labor shortage has been to step up its harvesting technology. The goal is to reduce costs, increase efficiency and woo younger workers, said Chris Rotticci, Director of Automated Harvest Equipment at Taylor Farms.

About seven years ago Taylor began developing automated machine cutters, which Rotticci calls “ergonomically friendly machines.”

Five years ago it introduced two automated romaine lettuce machines, which resembles a factory on a truck. The machine cuts lettuce with high-pressured water jets eliminating a need for machetes. The truck processes the lettuce, which is reviewed by inspection crew.

The upshot is that it reduces the crew and maintains productivity. One machine cuts 10,000 pounds of lettuce an hour.  Within the past year, the company also released an automated cabbage cutter and celery cutter.

Rotticci said a broccoli cutter and additional lettuce cutters are in the pipeline.

The strategy is working he said. Over the past three years Taylor has seen a growing number of younger workers in their 20s and 30s, specifically for its automated machine crews.

Rotticci said younger workers and technology have grown in tandem.

“They are perfectly aligned together…we want to create higher skilled and more ergonomically-centered jobs,” he said. “We can create a higher skilled job where higher wages are available, we are seeing that younger generation work in the fields,” said Rotticci. “The attraction of the automatic harvesters are targeting a better work environment…These are not the bending over back-breaking job.”

Ramirez said the pay and the automated machines are what drew him to the industry. Ramirez, whose uncle is Garnica, worked for Taylor for a year and now works as a contractor, including on Taylor’s automated romaine lettuce cutter.

“It’s hard work but good money,” said Ramirez, who splits his time between Salinas and Yuma where his wife and new baby live. Ramirez said while the base pay is $12.50 an hour, there are opportunities to receive overtime after a standard 10-hour shift. There are often pay increases and incentive bonuses too.

During a productive week, the weekly paycheck is $600 sometimes $800.
Ramirez said it can be an ideal summer job for college kids.

The automated machines make a positive difference, he said.

“Of course it is a good thing,” said Ramirez, including for older workers. “We do have some older people with us and some of them can’t lift anything heavy. They are just grabbing the lettuce from the back.”

The downside is that the shift, some starting as early as 2 a.m., can be exhausting. Other drawbacks are the work is seasonal and requires travel. Ramirez said he is considering moving his family to Salinas so they can be together.

Ramirez said: “One time I asked a supervisor who said they like younger people because they are the new generation … There’s a new generation that will keep the company going.”

Ramirez isn’t alone. Denise Garcia, 22, has been working in the industry for five years. The Salinas resident is a contract worker for Taylor Farms and is part of the automated romaine lettuce cutter inspection crew.

Garcia, who previously worked in retail, said she was attracted by the pay – a base rate of $12.50 an hour.

“It pays kind of good and the water jets (automated lettuce cutter) are much better,” she said. That said, a source at a Salinas-based agriculture company who did not want his name published to maintain privacy, said it was harder to retain younger workers.

The source said, “it is harder to keep the younger people they just don’t have the work ethic anymore,” and young people were less tolerant of physically “strenuous conditions.”

Rotticci said he sees the opposite.

“These new kids went through school system and are realizing working in fields can be a profitable lifestyle. They are looking at higher skilled jobs,” said Rotticci. “We are seeing that draw come back. I don’t want to say it is easier work but it is definitely a shift in skillset.”

That said, Rotticci said Taylor Farms values all of its workers and is just looking to retain good workers.

“People can work forever as long as they want to and are productive,” he said.

Link to story

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Grower takes new dust-reducing approach to almond harvest – from the Modesto Bee

By John Holland

Dust rises as machines harvest almonds up and down the Central Valley. Except on 10 acres southwest of Modesto, where a new method is getting a look.

Billy Lyons created a test plot that is not harvested the conventional way, with one machine shaking the nuts to the ground and another picking them up. The work is done by a modified olive harvester that strips the almonds from the branches and tosses them into a gondola without hitting the dirt.

“Very little dust — that’s the driver on this,” said Bob Curtis, director of agricultural affairs at the Almond Board of California. He was among the observers at a demonstration of the method Wednesday.

Lyons is part of the family that owns Mapes Ranch, a large expanse of cattle and diverse crops along Highway 132. His father is Bill Lyons Jr., former food and agriculture secretary for the state.

Billy Lyons planted the test plot with dwarf trees at high density so it would be suited to the olive harvester, which reaches into the canopy and knocks the crop off as it moves along.

Almonds are among the biggest crops in California, with $6.77 billion in gross income to growers in 2014. About a third of the volume is in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties.

Excessive dust from the August-October harvest can irritate sensitive people and even cause vehicle accidents. The problem is much reduced from decades past, thanks in part to Modesto-area equipment makers that have refined the shake-and-pickup method.

Lyons’ trees were planted three years ago at about 900 per acre, compared with about 120 in a conventional orchard. He said the smaller canopy allows for pruning by machine rather than hand tools, and the reduced root zone means less water and fertilizer.

“The whole idea is to try to cut costs,” Lyons said. He expects yields to be similar to those of almond orchards in general.

Growers also have to rent bee colonies for pollination each winter, but the test plot has an advantage here, too. The trees are self-fertile, meaning some of the pollen is transferred from the anther to the stigma within the same flower. Bees are still needed to move pollen from bloom to bloom, but at a lower number.

Zaiger Family Genetics of Modesto created the self-fertile variety, Independence. It was grown for the test plot by Dave Wilson Nursery of Hickman, using rootstock from Agromillora California Nursery in Butte County.

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New Hydrogen Fueling Station in Truckee – from KOLO-TV, Reno


Note – The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Division of Measurement Standards plays an important role in the ongoing development of hydrogen fueling stations by certifying hydrogen fuel meters; and regulating fuel quality, advertising and labeling in the consumer marketplace. The ribbon-cutting for a new fueling station in Truckee occurred on Saturday, August 27.

Forget fossil fuels and battery-powered cars; it’s all about hydrogen now. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to use the element to fill up your tank.

The new generation of cars requires no gas or battery.

“The hydrogen is exciting. It’s exciting to go totally green. It’s exciting to be clean environment,” said Karen Bonnett of Sacramento.

Until two months ago, Bonnett was pumping gas in her car, but she bought a Toyota Mirai and has no plans to go back.

“I feel dirty driving a gas car,” she said. “It’s really weird. You go in you put the key in, you star up the engine, you make all that noise. This one, you go in, push a button and go ‘is it on?'”

You can’t just fill up with any car; you need one that’s fuel celled-powered. Currently, Toyota, Hyundai and Mercedes Benz are the only companies that produce them, but Honda is set to release a model in this fall.

A full tank will cost you up to $70, but it will give you at least 300 miles. The price is predicted to drop once the demand for fuel-celled cars goes up.

“We see a path to get hydrogen as cheap or cheaper than gasoline in the next term actually in the next five years,” said Shane Stephens, True Zero founder.

When you get to the pump, the process is the same, but you just have to be a little more patient. It’s slower than pumping gas, but faster than charging a battery.

“Instead of charging the battery with electricity form the grid, you’re actually producing electricity from the inside of the car,” said Stephens.

The only emission that comes out is water.

“How awesome to be saving our environment,” said Bonnett.

The station in Truckee is the farthest east the company, True zero, has built in the United States. Currently there are 19 stations in California, but the company hopes to expand east and bring one to Reno in the next two years.

Link to story

Watch this CDFA video on the agency’s role in the development of hydrogen stations.


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USDA to purchase surplus cheese for food banks and needy families; will also extend assistance program for dairy producers


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced plans to purchase approximately 11 million pounds of cheese from private inventories to assist food banks and pantries across the nation, while reducing a cheese surplus that is at its highest level in 30 years. The purchase, valued at $20 million, will be provided to families in need across the country through USDA nutrition assistance programs, while assisting the stalled marketplace for dairy producers whose revenues have dropped 35 percent over the past two years.

“We understand that the nation’s dairy producers are experiencing challenges due to market conditions and that food banks continue to see strong demand for assistance,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This commodity purchase is part of a robust, comprehensive safety net that will help reduce a cheese surplus that is at a 30-year high while, at the same time, moving a high-protein food to the tables of those most in need. USDA will continue to look for ways within its authorities to tackle food insecurity and provide for added stability in the marketplace.”

USDA received requests from Congress, the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau and the National Milk Producers Federation to make an immediate dairy purchase. Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 authorizes USDA to utilize fiscal year 2016 funds to purchase surplus food to benefit food banks and families in need through its nutrition assistance programs.

USDA also announced that it will extend the deadline for dairy producers to enroll in the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy to Dec. 16, 2016, from the previous deadline of Sept. 30. This voluntary dairy safety net program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the producer. A USDA web tool, available, allows dairy producers to calculate levels of coverage available from MPP based on price projections.

On Aug. 4, USDA announced approximately $11.2 million in financial assistance to U.S. dairy producers enrolled in MPP-Dairy, the largest payment since the program began in 2014.

While USDA projects dairy prices to increase throughout the rest of the year, many factors including low world market prices, increased milk supplies and inventories, and slower demand have contributed to the sluggish marketplace for dairy producers.

USDA will continue to monitor market conditions in the coming months and evaluate additional actions, if necessary, later this fall.

Link to full news release

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‘Science Non-Fiction’ – News coverage of CDFA’s release of parasitic wasps in fight against Asian citrus psyllid

From KBAK and KBFX Eyewitness News, Bakersfield:


From Bakersfield Now:

Science Non Fiction: Parasitic Wasps Releases to Go After Psyllids 

By Christine Bedell

Thousands of tiny, parasitic wasps originating from Pakistan are being released in residential areas throughout Bakersfield in the latest effort to protect Kern citrus from the dangerous and stubbornly reappearing Asian citrus psyllid.

State and local agricultural officials began spreading the Tamarixia radiata around citrus trees in 23 locations Tuesday in an experiment that’s been performed in Southern California to combat the psyllid and an incurable, deadly plant disease it transmits, Huanglongbing.

Ag experts have seen an alarming increase in the number of Asian citrus psyllids in Kern County over the last year in both residential areas and packing houses, prompting them to take the new tack. Fortunately, they have not detected Huanglongbing in Kern, where citrus was the No. 4 crop in terms of value in 2014, worth $892.9 million.

“It’s been very successfully established in Southern California,” Victoria Hornbaker, citrus program manager for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said of the Tamarixia radiata release program. “We want to see if we can get some success in Kern County.”

The Tamarixia radiata is a natural predator of the Asian citrus psyllid but doesn’t harm other pests. Crews are releasing 200 to 600 of them per location, depending on the area’s psyllid risk. They’re likely to do releases monthly; it will take about a year to determine if the work is successful.

Partners in the endeavor include the Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards, California Department of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of California.

Huanglongbing was found in Hacienda Heights in 2012; there have since been 26 additional finds on residential trees in Los Angeles County. Infected trees die and must be removed.

The worry is that the Asian citrus psyllid could spread the disease to healthy trees throughout the state, including the Central Valley, where much of California’s commercial citrus is produced.

Backyard citrus growers are at risk, too, as there’s as much residential as commercial citrus growing in California. It’s estimated citrus is grown at 70 percent of residences in Bakersfield.

The spike in psyllid detection locally does not mean eradication efforts are failing, said Darin Heard, supervising agricultural biologist with the county ag department.

It’s just that the psyllid keeps getting transported to Kern from outside the area, he said. People unwittingly bring the pest here via citrus and/or uncleaned agricultural equipment.

Experts have also begun to detect nymph psyllids in Kern, meaning there’s breeding going on, Heard said.

Officials stressed Central Valley growers and residents have been very helpful in the psyllid fight and they appreciate it.

“A lot of eyes are out there looking for this bug,” Hornbaker said.

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2016 looks fruitful for California wineries after a hard year – from the San Francisco Chronicle


By Esther Mobley

California’s 2016 wine grape harvest is under way, and after a freakishly early and low-yielding 2015 vintage, things seem to be back to normal — sort of.

The bump in yields promises some financial relief for the wine industry, which can, with luck, pass that on to consumers. And while many wines from the 2015 vintage appear on a promising track, outcomes across California were variable; an excessively early harvest can often translate to fruit with less flavor complexity. This year, the grapes are getting a little more hang time.

“Qualitatively, we’re pretty happy,” said Hugh Davies, president and CEO of Schramsberg Vineyards. The Calistoga sparkling wine house, which first picked grapes on Aug. 3, is about one-quarter of the way through harvest.

In addition to being one of the earliest on record, last year’s vintage, which started in July, was also very compressed, with many winemakers forced to pick all of their fruit in a short window of time. This year, by contrast, “is a bit more evenly paced than some other years,” Davies said. “We’re walking through it, as opposed to running.” This is largely due to moderate daytime temperatures and cooler nights in California’s coastal regions.

Vintners are generally harvesting about a week later than last year. While 2016 is still on the early side of average — by about 10 to 15 days — the fact that it’s arriving a little later than 2015 is a relief. Extra time on the vine means prolonged development of flavors.
David Marquez dumps his bin of grapes into the transport crates during Hyde Vineyards’ overnight harvest. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

“You don’t want sugar to shoot up ahead of flavor ripening,” as was the case for many vineyards in 2015, said Bedrock Wine Co. owner Morgan Twain-Peterson. “We’re not going to see that as much this year.” Bedrock’s first pick was Zinfandel from Evangelho Vineyard in Contra Costa County, on Aug. 1.

In the Central Valley, California agriculture’s workhorse region, the slightly earlier-than-average timeline meant that harvest began in mid-July. (Hotter temperatures there typically ripen fruit ahead of coastal areas.) “We should wrap up Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc by the end of next week,” said Jen Wall, winemaker for Gallo-owned Barefoot Wine in Modesto. “Currently, we’re in the middle of a heat spike — our second in two weeks.”

On the whole, yields are slightly lighter than average, but still considerably higher than 2015’s extraordinarily short crop; last year, in some regions, like the far-west Sonoma Coast, vineyards reported over a 50 percent loss.

That’s certainly good news from a financial standpoint — and also may bode well for wine quality. “Clusters and berries are small,” said Jonathan Nagy, winemaker at Byron Winery in Santa Barbara, where the first Pinot Noir grapes came in on Aug. 17. “I always like that scenario. It usually means more intense flavors, structure and color.”

It’s a return to moderation after a vintage that was marked by extremes.

One hallmark of the 2016 growing season was winter rain, some succor after three hard years of drought. “It was a dry January and February, but then we got a significant amount of rain in late February and April,” said Jeff Mangahas, winemaker at Williams Selyem winery in the Russian River Valley. The drought still pushed an early bud-break, but the spring rains slowed down the ripening process.

“The plants were a lot happier this year,” said Mangahas, who started picking on Aug. 10. “From a vegetative-cycle perspective, it was a very good growing season.”

Still, as many Californians are aware, it will take a lot more sustained rainfall for the region to fully emerge out of the drought. “The rain we got this year was good for the vines, but it didn’t recharge our aquifers,” said Steve Ledson, owner of Ledson Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma Valley, who began harvesting Chardonnay on Aug. 14. “My personal opinion is that it’s going to take several more years.”

Elsewhere, the still-dry landscape had catastrophic consequences. For the second year in a row, Lake County was ravaged by wildfire. One winery in Lower Lake, Terrill Cellars, burned down. For others, the Clayton Fire threatened to disrupt the beginning of harvest. Six Sigma Ranch south of Lower Lake, for example, had to evacuate last weekend; the fire missed the property by less than 2 miles.

Smoke taint, which was a problem in 2008, does not seem likely; proximity to fire does not necessarily mean lingering smoke. “This year and last year, we had very little smoke on our property,” said Christian Ahlmann, Six Sigma’s vice president. “I don’t think the wine will have any trouble.”

Though it’s still early to call it, 2016’s potential is strong. “There’s going to be good concentration of flavors,” said Matt Stornetta, whose La Prenda Vineyard Management farms 1,000 acres of vine in Sonoma County.

Michael McNeill, director of winemaking at Sonoma Valley’s Hanzell Vineyards, agreed. The one possible challenge at Hanzell, said McNeill, is that the acidity is a little lower than expected, “so we’re going to have to balance that out with the ripeness level.”

It remains difficult to draw conclusions about weather patterns for future vintages, however. Who knows what’s “normal” anymore? Twain-Peterson points out that just a few years ago — 2009, 2010 and 2011, when there was plenty of cold and rain — we were talking about the pattern of late harvests. Chalk it up to California’s ever-unpredictable meteorology.

Link to story

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Video – A look back at mating disruption and the European Grapevine Moth

Last week CDFA announced the lifting of a long-running quarantine in California for the European Grapevine Moth, dating back to 2009. In the midst of the program, in 2012, CDFA produced a video featuring Napa County Agriculture Commissioner (then asst.) Greg Clark discussing the effectiveness of moth pheromone for mating disruption. It was a major part of the eradication program.

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Salinas Ag training program shares in USDA grant for new farmers and ranchers

The USDA has announced a new investment of $17.8 million for 37 projects to help educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers, including $600,000 for the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association, or ALBA, in Salinas. ALBA generates opportunities for farm workers and limited-resource, aspiring farmers to grow and sell crops from two organic farms in Monterey County. CDFA produced a video about ALBA as part of its award-winning Growing California series.

The USDA investment is made through the agency’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $126 million into projects targeting new and beginning farmers and ranchers through BFRDP.

With the average age of the American farmer exceeding 58 years, the USDA (and CDFA) recognizes the need to bring more people into agriculture. Over the course of the Obama Administration, USDA has engaged its resources to provide greater support to the farmers of the future by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; extending new conservation opportunities; offering appropriate risk management tools; and increasing outreach, education, and technical support.

Link to USDA news release


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