Ag Leadership training – CDFA employee among recent graduates

Dr. Barzin Moradi, Branch Chief for CDFA’s Center for Analytical Chemistry (back row-6th from right), was one of the graduating members this month of the Class of 48, California Agriculture Leadership Foundation, an organization committed to leadership training and extensive learning experiences. The foundation supports the longest continuously-operating leadership training experience of its kind in the United States. Other Ag Leadership graduates at CDFA include Secretary Karen Ross, who completed her course work many years ago in Nebraska, and Undersecretary Jenny Lester-Moffitt. Congratulations, Barzin!

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#CDFACentennial – Border Protection Stations then and now

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state agency in 2019. Throughout the year this blog will feature a number of items to commemorate this milestone.  

A photo of CDFA’s Border Protection station at Hornbrook, near the Oregon border north of Yreka, in 1930. A sign posted on the left indicates that inspectors were on the lookout for the Mediterranean fruit fly.

CDFA operates 16 Border Protection Stations today as a first line of defense against invasive species posing a risk to California’s food supply and environment, as described in this piece from the Growing California video series.

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Secretary Ross talks public policy with Coro Fellows at State Capitol

Secretary Ross (center) with Coro Fellows Program participants at the State Capitol.

Young and emerging leaders participating in the Coro Fellows Program are in Sacramento this week to learn what they can, both personally and professionally, about a wide range of public policy areas, including agriculture and its important role in California.

A dozen fellows met with California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross at the State Capitol yesterday afternoon for a discussion that ranged from labor and mechanization on farms to climate change, marketing, broadband and cannabis. Today, they continue their exploration of public policy by shadowing legislators.

The Coro Fellows Program develops leaders to work and lead across different sectors by equipping them with knowledge, skills, and networks to accelerate positive change. The fellowship is a nine-month program, with fellows participating in a series of full-time public affairs projects.

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CDFA among participants at World Ag Expo this week

The 2019 World Ag Expo is scheduled for this week in Tulare (today-Thursday), and several divisions at CDFA will be participating.

The California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program will staff a booth to provide information about the Asian citrus psyllid, huanglongbing and other issues important to the citrus industry.

The CDFA citrus/environmental farming booth.

CDFA collaborates with citrus growers on the program. Additionally, this booth will also provide information CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming Initiatives, which offers grant programs like SWEEP (water efficiency), DDRDP (dairy digesters), AMMP (alternative manure management), and the Healthy Soils Program. This booth can be found at Pavilion A&B, #1514.

CDFA employees staffing the Inspection Services information booth.

CDFA’s Inspection Services division will staff another booth to provide information about certified farmers’ markets, the State Organic Program, the Food Safety and Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule, and and feed and fertilizer regulations. This booth is in Building C, #3801.

This will be the 52nd annual World Ag Expo. There will be more than 1,500 exhibitors displaying cutting-edge agricultural technology and equipment across 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space.

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Video – Protecting flocks from Virulent Newcastle Disease

As CDFA and the USDA continue with their efforts to eradicate Virulent Newcastle Disease, here is a video (in English and Spanish) featuring CDFA veterinarian Dr. Ricardo Gaitan and Southern California bird owner Luis Aldana talking about ways to prevent spread of the disease and protect flocks.

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Big potential changes ahead in land ownership and farm operators – from AgriPulse

By Ed Maixner and Sara Wyant

Dig into U.S. farmland tenure to see what’s happening and what’s likely for the future, and Carson Futch’s 87-year-old dad, Alvin, is very typical.

Carson, a real estate agent specializing in farmland for Lakeland-based Saunders Real Estate in central and south Florida, says his dad was a fifth-generation farmer with no family members who wanted to farm, so he put his land into a family corporation and has rented it out for decades to another large farmland manager for growing strawberries.­

It often happens, he says: “Farmers have invested in their land and in their operation all these years, so their land is where they will get their retirement money.”

Other likely trends for the years ahead:

  • Across the next decade or two, expect the average ages of farmland owners to continue edging up.
  • In fact, like the elder Futch, many are assigning their land in wills, family corporations or trusts and then just keeping it through their retirement years, avoiding the severe tax consequences of selling or gifting it while alive.
  • Farmers will continue to be the most typical buyers of agricultural land, but their dominance will slip.
  • Non-farmers will own more and more of the land – especially the rented acreage.
  • Expect, as well, a continued swing, especially by mid-size and big farm operators, toward renting more acreage and owning less.
  • There’ll be more women owners and operators, too, even while there are fewer farm operators overall.
  • Food companies are demanding more traceability and sustainability – often without paying for the extra costs of doing so. That can make it harder for smaller and mid-size operations to maintain profitability without scaling up and making investments in new technology.

How quickly will changes come?

For generations the turnover in ownership of America’s farm and ranch land has been slow and usually steady, and some experts say that pace won’t likely change much in the near future.

“I don’t anticipate a faster pace of turnover. I think it’ll be a continuation of the trend we’ve seen the last several decades,” says Timothy Fevold, president of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

Futch agrees. Despite the state’s repeated beatings, including hurricane havoc in fields and orchards and its awful greening disease disaster in citrus groves, “farmland is still going to be in demand,” he says, and values will continue to ratchet up, as they have been, in “coastal areas, where there is a lot of pressure for development.”

Besides, he says, “we have too good of a climate (for farmland to not be in demand),” and he says buyers continue to have endless reasons to invest in farmland there, including solar farms lately. Thus, he says, “I don’t see any drastic change” in the numbers of land sales.

Yet, the landscape for farm owners and operators could be changing faster than many have anticipated, says Brett Sciotto, CEO of Aimpoint Research, a global marketing research firm that has done extensive work analyzing current agricultural trends and identifying the “Farmer of the Future.” He’s identified six trends that could speed up structural changes in agriculture – putting a lot of pressure on farmers and traditional ag institutions.

Though the pace may be undetermined, you should look for at least 370 million acres of agricultural lands to change hands in the 48 contiguous states at least once in the 10 to 20 years ending in 2034.

Read more here, including a list of six trends expected shape the future of US agriculture.

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Public invited to visit San Joaquin Valley soil health demonstration site in Five Points

UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist Jeff Mitchell is issuing a standing invitation to the public to visit the site of an ongoing conservation agriculture research project and see for themselves the results of long-term soil-building practices.

UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist Jeff Mitchell is issuing a standing invitation to the public to visit the site of an ongoing conservation agriculture research project and see for themselves the results of long-term soil-building practices.

“Every Friday morning from 9 o’clock till noon, beginning in February and going through June, I invite folks to come to the project site to see up close and personal just what soil health means,” Mitchell said.

The project, funded by the National Research Initiative, compares plots that have been managed for more than 20 years in an annual rotation of cotton, processing tomatoes and more recently sorghum, garbanzos, and melons, under four different treatments: no-tilled plus cover crops, no-tilled with no cover crops, conventionally tilled with cover crops and conventionally tilled without cover crops.

“What we’ve got at this site is a very long-term example of exactly what implementation of a small set of soil care, or soil health, principles really means for soil function and management,” he said.

Mitchell says that the study site in Five Points is a valuable resource for the people of California because of its dedicated adherence to principles that are widely touted to improve production efficiencies, reduce emissions, cycle nutrients more tightly, and reduce inputs over time.

“I recently heard about the value of publicly showcasing long-term sites such as the one we’ve got in Five Points. It’s being done in several other places, including the Dakotas and in Europe,” Mitchell said. “It just seems to make sense to open up our field more widely to folks who might be interested in seeing the remarkable changes we’ve seen and monitored for a long time.”

According to Mitchell, the NRI Project field is already “the most visited research field in the state,” but with this new invitation, he is hoping to have an even broader and wider impact. “We’ve got a simply amazing resource here and I want folks to see it,” he says. The study has also been selected as one of the monitoring sites of the North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements that has been initiated by the Soil Health Institute of Morrisville, NC.

More than 30 peer-reviewed scientific articles have been published based on work done in this study field.

The NRI Project is located at the University of California’s West Side Research and Extension Center, 17353 W. Oakland Ave., in Five Points.

“I promise to be out there every Friday morning from Feb. 15 through June 26,” he said.

See the original post on UC ANR’s site here.

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A new era in ag as record number of women hold top state jobs – from Politico

By Liz Crampton

A record number of women now lead state agriculture departments across the country, a leadership wave that reflects the industry’s growing gender diversity.

A total of 13 women have either been elected or appointed to head state agriculture departments, surpassing the prior record of ten women holding top ag offices, according to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. And that number could increase, as the top state agriculture position remains open in five states, NASDA officials said.

“As we broaden the diversity of our members, we broaden our perspectives and our ability to lead on ag policy,” said Barbara Glenn, chief executive officer of NASDA.

Having more women in leadership positions in state agriculture could mean governments will be more likely to consider emerging issues such as programs to expand opportunities for the next generation of farmers in rural communities, she said.

“I think it’s just a sign of the times,” Glenn added. “To me, change is an opportunity for advancement — and it’s a good thing. Agriculture needs to embrace change, and NASDA is working toward that as well.”

This year, seven women have taken office leading state agriculture operations in Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, Hawaii, South Dakota and Maine. In California and Idaho female commissioners were reappointed for additional terms. And female ag leaders continue to serve existing terms in Missouri, Oregon, Utah and Virginia.

The trend mirrors the gender shift on Capitol Hill. The 116th Congress features the largest number of female elected officials in history — 106 in the House and 25 in the Senate.

The new crop of women state agriculture leaders is also a bipartisan one. Of the seven new women, three were appointed in states controlled by a Republican: Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Some of the new women are the first to hold the top agriculture office in their state — and they’re looking to inspire other women to pursue careers in agriculture.

“To me, I’m not in this position because I’m a woman,” said Kate Greenberg, the first woman to lead state agriculture operations in Colorado. “It’s not a gender thing for me. At the same time, I want women to feel welcome in agriculture, I want it to be a place for everyone to feel welcome. I think anybody who’s got the drive and passion and commitment to work should have a place in our agriculture communities.”

Greenberg, 31, formerly western program director for the National Young Farmers Coalition, was appointed by Colorado’s new Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat and former member of Congress. She told POLITICO she got the job after Polis sought applicants for the post and she threw her name in for consideration.

Colorado is one of several Western states hit hard by persistent drought, and consistent access to water is one of the most pressing issues facing the state’s farmers and ranchers. Greenberg said water policy will be a top priority. So, too, will be finding ways for agriculture to help find a solution on climate change, potentially through a state-level soil-health initiative.

Freshman agriculture commissioners are just a few weeks into the job. Many are spending their time finalizing staff hires, traveling around the state to meet producers and mapping a course for what they want to accomplish.

Implementation of the new farm bill, H.R. 2 (115), is a vital responsibility of state agriculture leaders this year. The 35-day government shutdown brought many of the federal Agriculture Department’s processes to a standstill and delayed its efforts to carry out necessary changes to farm bill programs, a holdup that also affects state-level operations.

And as no clear plan has emerged on Capitol Hill to fund the government beyond Feb. 15, state government leaders could once again be forced to grapple with the trickle-down effects of another government shutdown.

Some of the new female ag commissioners, like Greenberg, have cited addressing climate change as a critical task, and said they plan to expand soil-health initiatives that aim to reduce carbon output and fight erosion. After a series of severe storms, droughts and wildfires have cut into agricultural production in several states in recent years, and the industry is facing increased pressure to consider approaches to help counter the effects of a changing climate.

For new Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, expanding farmers’ access to the growing hemp and medical marijuana markets are top priorities. Fried, 41, the first woman elected to run the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, campaigned on a cannabis-friendly platform.

On the campaign trail, she promised to create a director of cannabis position that would oversee initiatives such as implementation of rules governing use of cannabis edibles and development of a medical marijuana patient portal within the state agriculture department.

Fried said she is proud to set an example for young women and girls. In an interview with POLITICO, she recalled a recent watermelon association meeting where a young woman was selected to be the annual “watermelon queen” and represent the industry. Fried said the watermelon queen, and other women in attendance, told her they feel like they share a connection with her as a representative of Florida agriculture.

“We’re breaking down glass ceilings for them, giving them opportunities to not just work the farm but step up in trade associations, step up in leadership,” Fried said.

Karen Ross was recently reappointed to her third term as secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. She first took office in 2011. Ross said that during her tenure she’s seen a rise in women in leadership positions at all levels of agriculture, a marked difference compared to when she first began working in California agriculture decades ago.

Ross was previously president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers and vice president of the Agricultural Council of California.

“I have a seen a pretty significant transformation, just within the advocacy and association leadership roles, of women increasing by large numbers,” Ross said. “Oftentimes, I am in a meeting with a number of ag representatives on a current issue and at least half the table will be women.”

Original article on Politico Pro Agriculture (link for subscribers) here.

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CDFA Secretary Ross in D.C.: “Great conversation with USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue about California Ag issues”

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross is in Washington, D.C. this week, meeting today with USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue and other officials. Secretary Ross reported on her Twitter feed, “Great conversation with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue about CALIFORNIA ag issues. It has been a while since I worked in this office!”

Prior to her appointment as CDFA Secretary, she served as Chief of Staff to Perdue’s predecessor, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross meets with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue
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#CDFACentennial – In the Beginning

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state agency in 2019. Throughout the year this blog will feature a number of items to commemorate this milestone, including these photographs from the beginning. 

Governor William D. Stephens signed the bill creating the California Department of Agriculture on May 16, 1919.
The Department’s first director was G.H. Hecke. He served until 1931.
One of the first “Monthly Bulletins,” which were produced by the Department for decades.
An early staff roster.
An early budget book showing general fund expenditures of $278,091.45 in the Department’s first year of existence.

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