Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Welcome to Ag Day 2021!

Please join us today with social media posts using the hashtags below.

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President Biden, USDA Secretary Vilsack recognize March 23 as National Agriculture Day 2021


On National Agriculture Day, we recognize the unique and irreplaceable value that farmers, ranchers, foresters, farmworkers, and other agricultural stewards have contributed to our Nation’s past and present. America’s agriculture sector safeguards our Nation’s lands through sustainable management; ensures the health and safety of animals, plants, and people; provides a safe and abundant food supply; and facilitates opportunities for prosperity and economic development in rural America.  

Over the last year, workers and other leaders across the agriculture sector have stepped up to ensure a stable food supply in the face of incredible challenges prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmworkers, who have always been vital to our food system, continued to grow, harvest, and package food, often at great personal risk. Local farmers helped to meet their communities’ needs by selling food directly to consumers. Small meat processors increased their capacity as demand for their services skyrocketed. Restaurants found creative ways to bring food to members of their communities. Grocers and grocery workers also navigated new models, such as curbside pickup and online sales.  

These collective efforts helped get food to the millions of adults and children in America experiencing nutrition insecurity. Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; school meals; and others focused on eliminating nutrition insecurity play an integral role in making sure that every family has enough food on the table.  

As we overcome the pandemic and build back better, we will advance an agriculture sector that works for everyone. When I took office, I made a commitment alongside Vice President Kamala Harris to put racial equity at the forefront of our Administration’s priorities. For generations, Black, Indigenous, and other farmers of color have contributed to sustaining this Nation. They fed their communities, gave the country new food products, and nourished communities with rich food traditions. Yet for generations they have faced the harmful effects of systemic racism. On this National Agriculture Day, I remain determined to address racial inequity and create an equitable space for all to participate in the great American enterprise of agriculture.  

I also made a commitment to tackle the climate crisis. Farmers, ranchers, and foresters play a critical role in combating climate change. From sequestering carbon in the soil to producing renewable energy on farms, we will continue to innovate and create new revenue streams for farmers and ranchers while building a resilient agriculture sector.  

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 23, 2021, as National Agriculture Day. I call upon all Americans to join me in recognizing and reaffirming our commitment to and appreciation for our country’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, farmworkers, and those who work in the agriculture sector across the Nation.  

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-second day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.  


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Secretary Ross joins California students in recognition of Ag Week

The annual Ag Week is underway in California and the US, with Ag Day 21 occurring tomorrow. In recognition of the week, CDFA secretary Karen Ross joined the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom to virtually welcome more than 5,000 students to the organization’s Farm Day.

The photo above shows Secretary Ross speaking via video to students at Fairmont Elementary School in Fresno. Students there learn about soil science and engineering thanks to a two-acre school garden where they they help test soil pH, plant vegetables that do well in that type of soil, and build an irrigation system.

Please join CDFA in recognizing Ag Day tomorrow—the theme is “Celebrating Resilience”—by posting content on social media platforms with the following hashtags: #AgDay21 #CaAgDay2021 #CelebratingResilience

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Did You Know? CDFA’s Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program adapts during COVID to deliver produce boxes to seniors

Read the report here

Click on this link to learn more about the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program

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Northern California wine country trade groups help facilitate COVID vaccinations for farmworkers

Sonoma County farmworker Javier Contreras receives his first COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in Guerneville. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

From the North Bay Business Journal

A cooperative effort involving Sonoma County Winegrowers, Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma County Farm Bureau, local community health centers including the West County Health Center, the Sonoma Valley Health Center, the Alliance Medical Center, Alexander Valley Health Care, and the Sonoma County Medical Association has resulted in to get thousands of COVID-19 vaccination doses to agricultural and production workers throughout the region, the groups announced.

They stated that multiple vaccination sites are utilized through this collaboration in the county. The agricultural organizations coordinate weekly and, sometimes, daily with the community health centers to determine how many vaccines will be available that week and at what location. With that information, the agricultural organizations work with their ag and production partners to schedule appointments to ensure the greatest number of essential workers are vaccinated each day.

In addition to organizing the vaccine rollout for essential ag workers, the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation donated Apple iPad tablets and funding to each of the participating Community Health Centers to provide much needed technology for coordinating the logistics of vaccine program. The Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation also donated funding.

The Napa County Farm Bureau has partnered with St Helena Health Foundation in efforts to identify agricultural workers in Napa County for COVID vaccination.

Ag workers who are still in need of a COVID vaccine in Napa County can sign up using the St Helena Health Foundation Vaccine Interest Form at Employers will be contacted by the foundation as increased vaccine supplies are available.

Link to story on the North Bay Business Journal web site

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Celebrating Resilience – Join the Ag Day celebration (virtually) on March 23

Join California Women for Agriculture, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and CDFA in virtually celebrating Ag Day on March 23, 2021.

Our theme this year is “Celebrating Resilience” in recognition of Ag’s enduring ability to adapt to change, especially considering the events of the last year.

Rather than the usual festivities on the west steps of the State Capitol, this year’s event will occur through social media postings from Ag Day partners and all others who wish to participate.

CDFA will post a wide-ranging Zoom conversation between CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and young Ag leaders.

Taking part is easy – please consider any content that aligns with our theme or is supportive of Ag in general, and post it with the hashtags #CaAgDay2021, #AgDay21, and #CelebratingResilience.

We hope to see you on March 23!

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As drought alarms sound, is California prepared? From CalMatters

Dry fields and bare trees stand at Panoche Road, looking west, on Wednesday February 5, 2014, near San Joaquin, CA.

By Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Water Policy Center; and Catlin Chappelle, associate director of the PPIC Water Policy Center

We’re facing another very dry year, which follows one of the driest on record for Northern California and one of the hottest on record statewide. 

The 2012-16 drought caused unprecedented stress to California’s ecosystems and pushed many native species to the brink of extinction, disrupting water management throughout the state. 

Are we ready to manage our freshwater ecosystems through another drought?

After the last drought, the Public Policy Institute of California reviewed environmental management during the crisis. Despite notable efforts to avoid harm, we found that managers were unprepared for the impacts of an extended drought, which led to ad hoc decision-making and actions that were difficult, controversial and in some cases too late. Some examples include: 

  • The failure to properly manage cold water reserves in Shasta Reservoir, leading to the near-complete loss of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon eggs and juveniles in two consecutive years.
  • Controversial, last-minute mandatory reductions in water use on tributaries to the Russian River, intended to save endangered coho salmon and steelhead trapped in drying streams.
  • Emergency releases of water from Trinity Reservoir to save migrating salmon in the lower Klamath River.
  • Contentious negotiations with landowners on tributaries to the Sacramento River to preserve flows for spring-run Chinook salmon.
  • Numerous waivers of environmental standards for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and construction of barriers to reduce salinity in water for farms and cities.
  • Breakdowns in communication and cooperation between operators of the federal Central Valley Project and state regulatory agencies.

Two key lessons emerged from that drought: better preparation can mitigate drought impacts to the environment; and cooperation and communication leads to better outcomes.  

Many state and federal agencies need to respond to environmental drought, but two state agencies must lead the way. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is responsible for planning and implementing actions to protect native freshwater species. The State Water Board has authority over water rights permits and sets flow and water quality standards. 

The governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio, finalized last June, calls for these two agencies to “develop strategies to protect communities and fish and wildlife in the event of drought lasting at least six years.”

Although these strategies have not been developed yet, the board reviewed the last drought and made recommendations for reform, and the Natural Resources Agency just released a comprehensive review of major state actions during the drought. If we are at the beginning of an extended drought, these agencies will again need to respond as it unfolds. 

Here are some priorities they can tackle now to get ready:

  • Improve data to better identify where problems are occurring – for example, by installing sufficient flow and water quality monitoring stations in known trouble spots. (Department of Fish and Wildlife)  
  • Rapidly identify flows needed on crucial rivers and streams to reduce drought impacts on species and habitat. Most rivers and streams in California have no flow standards, which are used to protect the environment. This will facilitate negotiations with water users to curtail use in critical areas. (Department of Fish and Wildlife, and State Water Board)
  • Based on the previous drought, identify water rights that are likely to be curtailed and notify water right holders as soon as possible. (Department of Fish and Wildlife, and State Water Board) 
  • Hire staff to help enforce water rights permits in crucial watersheds to protect river flows from illegal diversions. (Department of Fish and Wildlife)  
  • Work with the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project to develop a coordinated drought preparation and response effort, and ensure it is closely monitored. (Department of Fish and Wildlife, and State Water Board)  
  • Anticipate numerous requests for waivers of environmental standards to maintain water supplies for farms and cities.  Coordinate actions to avoid undue harm to rivers and wetlands. (State Water Board)  

Perhaps the single most important thing both agencies can do is communicate – in advance – what their actions are likely to be during a drought emergency.  

These agencies can’t do it on their own. They need cooperation from other state and federal agencies as well as the water user community.  And they need the resources to do the job. Without more funding and staffing these perennially resource-limited agencies will have a tough road ahead. 

Ultimately, the state also needs a long-range plan for protecting freshwater ecosystems from droughts and a changing climate. This is likely to require a change in philosophy and a shift toward a new approach – one that is more focused on ecosystem health than endangered species and adaptive to changing conditions.  

If the coming spring and summer are like last year – or much of the past two decades – a drought emergency will be upon us shortly, leaving little time and resources to respond.  Now is the time to act with urgency to get ahead of this problem.  

Link to article on CalMatters web site

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Report on the 2012-2016 California Drought

Cover of drought report to the legislature

Excerpts from the Executive Summary

California’s drought between Water Years 2012 and 2016 was one of the most severe in state history. A string of five dry winters left some rural communities without water, interrupted surface water deliveries to some farmers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys for two consecutive
years, disrupted thousands of farming jobs, pushed some fish populations toward extinction, and created conditions that fueled some of the most catastrophic wildfires in state history.

The State response included actions not taken since the short but intense drought of 1976–1977. For example, water right administrators curtailed thousands of diversions on the mainstem Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers in order to protect fish and wildlife and senior water
right holders.

Distinctive features of this drought included an unprecedented State response to drinking water problems associated with small water systems and private wells, mandatory state-imposed urban water use reduction,
recognition of the cumulative impacts of vast land subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley, massive tree mortality in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, and greatly increased wildfire activity and harmful algal blooms.

The drought revealed some strengths in the State’s largely decentralized systems for managing water. Large urban water districts that had previously invested to diversify their supply sources and build new storage
handled the drought without major disruption, and Californians responded heartily to the Governor’s call for a reduction in water use of at least 25 percent.

But 2012–2016 showed serious problems, too. Water deliveries by the State’s two largest water projects fell to unprecedentedly low levels. Growers turned to groundwater to make up the difference, and heavy pumping triggered record declines in groundwater levels. This accelerated land subsidence in parts of the San Joaquin Valley that in turn continued to damage water supply and flood risk management infrastructure.

State leaders enacted several major legislative and regulatory changes during or after the 2012–2016 drought. These changes:

>require local agencies to bring overdrafted groundwater basins into sustainable conditions by 2042;
» establish new standards for indoor, outdoor, and industrial use of water;
» fund solutions for disadvantaged communities lacking access to safe drinking water;
» increase the frequency of water use reporting;
» give the State authority to order failing public water systems to consolidate with better-run systems; and
» tighten landscape efficiency standards for new developments.

Link to the full report from the California Natural Resources Agency

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CDFA launches new boards and commissions index webpage

CDFA has a new webpage with an index of CDFA boards and commissions along with standardized information about each group, including length of term, number of board members, types of board members required by legislation, and contact information for prospective members.  

This new page was created to provide easily accessible information about all of CDFA’s boards and commissions for members of the public, including farmers, ranchers and any other agriculture stakeholder groups.

CDFA’s boards and commissions guide policies, regulations and information for California’s agriculture commodity groups and other activities. This index site will help improve access and communication for all California farmers and ranchers, providing a better understanding of these groups as well as information on how to participate and what is required as a new member. It is a step towards ensuring that all California’s farmers and ranchers’ voices are included in policies and decisions that affect their agricultural businesses.

CDFA’s Farmer Equity Report recommended that in order to increase participation for historically underserved groups of farmers and ranchers, there was a need to expand the Boards and Commissions site to include basic and standardized information about each decision-making group, along with a point of contact, so that prospective new board members might be prompted to apply for an open position based on what they read.

A survey conducted for the equity report found that more than 70 percent of current members of boards and commissions heard about their positions by word of mouth or through an industry meeting.  We hope this page will become central point of information for members and prospective members.

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Farmers share concerns about Ag climate policy with Senate committee – from AgriPulse

By Philip Brasher

Farmers warned the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday that ag climate policy can’t leave out producers who have already adopted conservation practices or producers in regions with limited prospects for earning soil carbon credits.

The top Republican on the committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, also made clear that he isn’t sold yet on ag carbon markets, which are a major feature of the policy being pursued by the Biden administration and the committee’s Chair, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Boozman also expressed concern that House Democrats are talking about using the budget reconciliation process to pass a climate bill without needing GOP votes, similar to what was done with the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday.

“Budget reconciliation has unfortunately become a partisan process that does not take into consideration the views of the minority at all,” Boozman said.

“Climate change poses many complexities for the agriculture sector, and input from the Republican members of this committee should be taken into consideration.”

The Ag committee membership is split 50-50 along party lines.

Members of major farm organizations and a producer representing the Environmental Defense Fund all agreed that farmers could benefit from implementing climate-friendly practices, but several of the producers raised concerns about potential disparities.

One of the major issues is what to do about so-called “early adopters,” farmers who have already been using no-till, cover crops and other practices that sequester carbon in the soil and may not qualify for credits that don’t reward farmers for their existing practices but only for future improvements.

“Right now everybody wants new carbon. Very few companies right now seem willing to pay for any sort of past performance, and there are huge risks with that model,” said Cori Wittman Stitt, an adviser to the Environmental Defense Fund who has a diversified crop and cattle operation in Idaho.

coalition that includes major farm organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives as well as EDF has recommended the federal government make one-time payments to farmers for practices they are already using. 

Clay Pope, a no-till wheat grower in Oklahoma representing NFU, told the committee  “there are thousands of producers who have worked for years to improve their land. It would be a horrible mistake not to provide opportunities for these pioneer farmers.”

Link to story on AgriPulse web site

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