Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

CAGROWN acknowledges 75 years of Cal Poly Universities’ student-built floats in Rose Parade!

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, center-front, holding a Cal Poly celebratory banner along with Cal Poly Pomona president Soraya Coley (left of secretary) and Joe Shea, deputy cabinet secretary for Governor Gavin Newsom. At the far right is Mike Mellano of Mellano & Company, a family of flower growers, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo president Jeffrey Armstrong (mobile device users may have to open photo). They are joined by students who designed and built the Cal Poly Universities float.

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

This was an especially notable year for the Cal Poly Universities at the Rose Parade — the 75th anniversary of their first float entry!

It is always a treat to be a part of the festivities in Pasadena leading up to the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.  In the past, this was a tradition started by CA GROWN and the CA Cut Flower Commission to include California Grown certification of floats displaying at least 85 percent of flowers, greens and other organic ag materials grown in the Golden State. While challenges brought by COVID and supply chain interruptions caused a pause in that process, two floats sponsored this year by the Tournament of Roses, representing the schools participating in the Rose Bowl football game, were certified CAGROWN.

All the floats are beautiful!  What makes Cal Poly’s annual entry distinctive is that it’s the only one student-designed and built on two different campuses, and it’s the perfect example of Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” approach, which is core to the curriculum inside and outside of the classroom. This year’s float, “Shock and Roll: Powering the Musical Current,” featured floral products plus a creative use of agricultural products such as citrus, pomegranates, rice, onion seed, carrots, lentils, mushrooms, cabbage, corn and eggplant.

The float won the Crown City Innovator Award for the most outstanding use of imagination, innovation and technology, including the use of pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical systems to power the float’s elements.

Congratulations to Cal Poly on such a richly deserved achievement! And a big thank you to California Grown and the Tournament of Roses leadership for developing and maintaining such a meaningful connection to the Rose Parade.

Cal Poly’s award-winning float

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CDFA hosts South Korean students interested In animal blood banks

A multidisciplinary group of students from South Korea recently traveled to California to learn more about animal blood banks, meeting with CDFA veterinarians (pictured: Dr. Sean Brady) to discuss current animal blood banking rules and regulations as well as methods being used to promote community blood banking. CDFA has released an animal blood banking guidance resource and has begun registering animal blood and blood component products from community blood banks.

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Dedicated public servants bid farewell to CDFA

Five distinguished CDFA leaders are set to retire this month, with each having served a pivotal role in steering the agency through many years of committed public service. “As they embark on a new chapter, I applaud and thank them for all their tremendous support and hard work,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “They have served Californians with dedication, leadership, and mentorship.”

Kristin Macey

Kristin Macey with Secretary Ross

Kristin Macey joined CDFA in 2007, first serving as a branch chief in the Division of Measurement Standards (DMS), then becoming the agency’s County/State Liaison before being named Director of DMS in 2010. Her work has directly contributed to the development of uniform measurement standards, which serve as the basis for laws and regulations currently adopted by every state in the US.

Rob Peterson

Rob Peterson with Secretary Ross

Rob Peterson has served the State of California since 2014. He joined CDFA in 2016 and will retire this year as Agency Chief Information Officer. Rob has been responsible for guiding and helping mentor CDFA’s enterprise IT programs, along with managing the agency’s large and complex IT operation.

Clark Cooney

Clark Cooney with Secretary Ross

Clark Cooney joined CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) as the Enforcement Branch Chief in 2015, overseeing areas that include device regulation, automotive products and weighmasters. He has served the public promoting marketplace equity through the weights and measures profession for more than 37 years.

Kim Quan

Kim Quan with Secretary Ross

Kim Quan joined CDFA’s Inspection Services Division in 1990 as an office assistant. In 2006, she joined the agency’s Departmental Services/Telecommunications Unit as a Telecommunications Systems Analyst. She concluded her state career as a Telecommunications Systems Manager (Specialist) with the Office of Information Technology Services.

Lucy Valenton

Lucy Valenton has concluded a 43-year career at CDFA. Her entire time as a state employee was spent here. During her time with the Department she worked in Marketing Services, the Executive Office, and the Legal Office. For many years she was the sole support staff in the Legal Office and provided indispensable support to the legal team.

Lucy Valenton with Secretary Ross

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CDFA joins State Employee Food Drive effort by volunteering at food bank

CDFA staff and leadership join the California State Employees Food Drive effort by volunteering at the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services this holiday season. In three hours, the CDFA team packed 802 boxes with more than 10,000 pounds of food items for the food bank’s No Student Left Hungry program. CDFA encourages all state agencies and members of the public to visit to find a food bank in your county to make a donation or volunteer your time this holiday season.
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Visiting CDFA staff for the holidays to share stories, say “thanks”

By Karen Ross, Secretary
California Department of Food and Agriculture

Secretary Ross wishes CDFA’s Center for Analytical Chemistry staff a safe and happy holiday season. More photos below!

One thing I’ve learned in more than a decade as California Agriculture Secretary is that the work we do at CDFA is personal. So many tasks in the modern workplace focus on computer screens and mobile devices – but at CDFA, the core of our work is still person-to-person and often done in the field, or in a lab, a packing house, a border station, or even on the doorstep of a farmer or a resident whose farm or home is part of one of our programs. Many of our expert employees physically touch the plants, produce, animals, and even the insects and microscopic organisms that are central to our work: protecting and promoting agriculture. It takes people, with knowledge, experience and creativity to get it all done.

Our Executive Team tries to visit fields offices, labs and border stations as we travel to different parts of the state for meetings and events. And, at the end of each year, I love to visit our employees at several Sacramento-area worksites during the holidays. It is a good time to share some holiday camaraderie and more importantly a chance to let our stellar employees know how much I appreciate what they do every day, all year long. The talent and the professionalism of our employees continually impresses me. Over and over again, our CDFA staff rises to the challenge, never more evident than in emergency responses like large-scale invasive pest eradications; animal disease outbreaks; food safety incidents; or, natural disasters that require all hands on deck! 

To all CDFA employees throughout every corner of the state, THANK YOU for what you do!  I am so fortunate to work with you.  I wish you all the very best this holiday season and look forward to continuing our work together in 2024 for California’s agricultural community and the great state of California!

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Santa’s Reindeer Given Clearance for Visit to California

California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones has granted a 24-hour permit for nine reindeer scheduled to visit California on the evening of December 24 and in the early morning hours of December 25.

The application was filed with Animal Health Branch staff by a rotund, jolly man with a red suit, white beard, and a pocketful of candy canes. The signature on the application reads, “K. Kringle.”

“Although Santa’s reindeer are special and very magical, we are grateful that every year he ensures they meet and exceed our animal health requirements to come into the State because he really cares about protecting the health of our farm animals and wildlife,” said Dr. Jones.

The permit was granted with two conditions: the nine reindeer listed,  Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph, may not fraternize with other reindeer in the State of California, and the sleigh must be checked before entering California to ensure no agricultural pests are hitching a ride. “Mr. Kringle’s veterinarian has assured us that the reindeer are healthy and fit again this year. They are ready for a busy night,” said Dr. Jones.  “We are excited to welcome them into our State where they are sure to find plenty of yummy fresh vegetables to renew their energy,” 

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross thanked Department staff for their hard work, recognizing their commitment to maintaining animal health and safe and abundant California-grown food to share with all our visitors this holiday season. “We are delighted to issue this permit to Mr. Kringle,” said Secretary Ross. “We wish him safe travels and plenty of California milk and cookies as he and his reindeer deliver presents to the children of our state.”

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Message to residents in fruit fly quarantine zones — please help by enjoying homegrown fruits and vegetables with friends and family at home

As the holiday season continues, CDFA is asking for help from Californians in fruit fly quarantine zones — rather than moving homegrown fruits and vegetables from their property, please enjoy the produce with friends and family at home.

There are presently fruit fly quarantines in seven California counties: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Sacramento. More information may be found on CDFA’s fruit fly information page.

Additionally, Californians are urged to “Don’t Pack a Pest” this holiday season and every season. That means don’t bring fruits and vegetables back with you when you travel, and don’t have items shipped unless they’re inspected according to international protocols for reducing invasive species risk.

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USDA invests more than $100 million in fruit fly eradication efforts

Taken from a USDA news release

The Mediterranean Fruit Fly, one of a series of invasive fruit flies that threaten California’s environment and food production.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is using emergency funding to respond to threats associated with growing outbreaks of exotic fruit flies in California.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack approved the transfer of $213.3 million from the Commodity Credit Corporation to APHIS to directly support emergency response efforts domestically and internationally to protect fruit, vegetable and livestock industries and producers — $103.5 million of that funding will be provided for invasive fruit fly programs. The rest will be used to combat New World Screwworm detections in areas of Panama and other areas that are critical to preventing the pest from spreading back into North America.   

“Increasing our response efforts to exotic fruit fly and New World screwworm outbreaks is critical to minimizing their potential impact on our nation’s agriculture and trade,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “This funding will enable us to swiftly prevent both populations’ further spread before they become established and harder to eradicate.”

Exotic fruit flies are among the most destructive fruit and vegetable pests in the world.  APHIS will use this funding to address known outbreaks of fruit flies in California and increase preventive activities in other susceptible areas in the United States. APHIS will also use the funding to address the increasing numbers of fruit fly incursions in areas of Guatemala and Mexico, where APHIS and cooperators maintain a buffer against northward spread of the Mediterranean fruit fly.

“We greatly appreciate our long and productive partnership with the USDA,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “We have had a very difficult year with invasive fruit flies in California, and this investment puts us in a stronger position to eradicate infestations as quickly as possible while evaluating commerce pathways and other factors to better understand why detections have increased.”


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Secretary Ross looks back at COP28

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

Secretary Ross at COP28 sessions in Dubai and at bottom right, with CDFA Deputy Secretary for Climate and Working Lands Virginia Jameson

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend COP28 –the UN’s annual conference on climate change — last week in Dubai.

It was my third COP, and I noticed that the conversations with our partners on collaboration seemed deeper and more meaningful this time around, like we are building on previous steps. We do have a shared sense of urgency to address climate change. 

The continued leadership by the State of California in partnership with dairy families to reduce livestock methane emissions was a focus of three different panel discussions for me, and I was pleased to be able to discuss our progress. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), methane emissions from livestock must fall 25 percent by 2030 (compared to 2020) to stay on course for the Paris Climate Agreement goal to limit global warming this century to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, reducing livestock methane emissions is a challenge for some of our international partners, which is understandable when you consider how many millions of people are dependent upon livestock for their families‘ nutritional needs and livelihoods.  Pasture-based grazing and herdsmen in arid regions utilize land where poor soils do not support crop production. These nations feel they are being asked to choose between food security and their local economies, or livestock methane reductions. The entire discussion underscores the critical need for investment to support farmers and ranchers in making transitions in their practices. 

Another key topic in Dubai was a need for investment in healthy soils, and an increase in the number of entities engaged in efforts to scale up soil health practices for climate mitigation as well as long-term productivity, food security and other co-benefits like biodiversity, water holding capacity, drought resiliency, and nutrient cycling. People are excited about the possibilities!  A big topic for discussion was some promising, potentially low-cost and easy to use tools for measuring and monitoring progress in healthy soils development.  

One key advancement in the ongoing international effort is the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM), a joint initiative by the United States and the United Arab Emirates seeking to address climate change and global hunger by uniting participants to significantly increase support for climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation. There is significant buy-in from other partners — pledges of $17 billion are now at-hand following an additional $8 billion in commitments in Dubai, from both government and non-government parties.

Agriculture has always been a building block for emerging economies and is vital for life. It is fundamental to attaining the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 2:  “End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.”  But agriculture also helps attain a number of other development goals, including ending poverty; ensuring healthy lives and well-being; ensuring sustainable water management; taking action to combat climate change; promoting sustainable land use; and the protection of biodiversity.   

It is an honor and a privilege to represent the great state of California, which is well-known for its high-quality, vibrant food production. And it’s gratifying to hear the respect and admiration so many have for our state’s public policies and investments in addressing climate change, with significant incentive funding in climate-smart agriculture.

Most of all, it is humbling to hear the challenges of other countries, sub-national governments, and non-government parties as they work to address climate change, poverty and hunger. It is a reminder of how fragile our world is and how the only way forward is to work together and never give up. 

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National Poinsettia Day — California leads nation in production

Today is National Poinsettia Day! As shown in the accompanying graphic, California leads the nation in poinsettia production.

There’s a grower in the Central Valley that supplies tens of thousands of poinsettias each year. CDFA visited Duarte Nursery in Hughson, Stanislaus County to learn more about the operation.

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