By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross
I was pleased to visit Riverside County earlier this week to learn more about two major efforts to protect California agriculture.
The day started with a visit to the joint CDFA/USDA virulent Newcastle disease (VND) incident command center. Nearly 300 employees representing both agencies are doing yeoman’s work to protect commercial and non-commercial poultry, and working with local communities to ensure bio-security to prevent the spread of VND. I was grateful for the opportunity to thank them for their efforts, and I also enjoyed meeting CHP officers who are assisting in the program. We really appreciate their presence. It’s important to note that there hasn’t been a new detection of VND since June 4th, so fingers are crossed that we’re nearing the end of this project.
Following that I went to the Citrus State Historical Park, where three generations of the John Gless family farm the trees and operate a farm stand. The modern-day commercial citrus industry was born in Riverside County in 1873 when Eliza Tibetts planted two small trees of the Washington navel orange. Protecting the county’s commercial groves from huanglongbing, a disease spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, is a federal/state/local/industry partnership.
The highest value crop in Riverside County today is nursery stock. I had the pleasure of visiting two very impressive nursery operations, Village Nursery and Altman Plants. The capital investment, innovation, and customer-focused passion of these two companies is a hallmark of California agriculture. I loved seeing every aspect of these impressive operations. But it was especially fun to observe robots named Tom, Jerry, Batman and Robin as they moved potted plants to precise locations, reducing the strain on human backs!!
I want to thank Riverside County agricultural commissioner Ruben Arroyo for hosting me. Our ag commissioners are tremendous resources for the state and their local communities. Ruben just finished a term as president of the ag commissioners and sealers association, CACASA. I enjoyed the day with him and his great staff.