Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Pistachios bring more than $5 billion in economic impact — from Western Farm Press

By Todd Fichette

Pistachios farmed in California, Arizona and New Mexico infused nearly $5.3 billion of combined economic activity across the region, according to a report commissioned by the American Pistachio Growers, a trade association representing the U.S. industry.

Nearly all this economic activity happened in California as most of the production happens there.

The study by Dennis Tootelian, principle of the Tootelian Company and emeritus professor of marketing at California State University, Sacramento, pulled together data from state and federal sources to illustrate the economic impacts of producing an edible nut with a history dating back to biblical times.

In a video of Tootelian produced for APG, he highlighted the vast growth in California production from 2016 to 2020. Bearing acreage during the four-year period increased 56%, or by 132,000 acres. Non-bearing acres (newly planted trees up to seven years old) increased by 41,500.

Growth in acreage, coupled with variety advancements and agronomic practices learned pushed U.S. pistachio production past the 1-billion-pound milestone for the first time with last season’s crop.

Read more on the Western Farm Press web site

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USDA investments in specialty crops and food security to bring millions to California

The USDA has announced the availability of more than $330 million to help agricultural producers and organizations in the food supply chain recover from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative launched in March, and it includes $169.9 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the availability of $75 million for Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). This funding will aid in developing new markets for U.S. agricultural products, expand the specialty crop food sector, and promote the purchase of fruits and vegetables by lower-income consumers.

California has been allocated a combined $55.3 million in Farm Bill and COVID-19 relief money. CDFA will continue with its regular process for the 2021 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program . Once a plan has been fully developed to select projects for COVID-19 relief grant funding, that information will be shared.

CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork is a current GusNIP recipient and will be eligible for additional funding under that program.

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Coming this Thursday — Secretary Ross to participate in “Farmers: Agents of Change in Greening Agriculture” event with Danish government and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Register for event here

Join FAO North America and the Embassy of Denmark in the USA to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing farmers in ushering in a green transition towards more sustainable agriculture and food production.

The foundations of our food systems are being undermined, at least in part, because of the impact of management practices and land-use changes associated with food and agriculture. We are witnessing immense and irreversible biodiversity loss around the world. This alarming trend, combined with rapidly advancing climate change, water scarcity, and the degradation of vital natural resources, underscores the urgent need to transition towards more sustainable agricultural practices.

There is growing consensus that greening agriculture will require new science, as well as new and improved management policies and practices. However, not enough attention is paid to farmers and their enormous capacity to serve as agents of change in leading the shift towards a greener agriculture. This webinar will explore how farmers can and must play a lead role in transforming agricultural practices, highlighting experiences from Denmark and the United States, as well as global perspectives.

Welcome
Vimlendra Sharan, Director, FAO North America

Keynote speakers
Søren Søndergaard, Chairman, Danish Agriculture and Food Council
Karen Ross, Secretary, Department of Food and Agriculture, California

Featured Speakers
Anders Nørgaard, Dairy producer and Vice-Chairman, Holstebro-Struer Landboforening
Derek Azevedo, Bowles Farming Company
Doug Keesling, Keesling Farms & XRG
Zitouni Ould-Dada, Deputy Director, Climate and Environment Division, FAO
Thomas Batchelor, Global VP of Bioagriculture, Novozymes North America
Martien Van Nieuwkoop, Global Director, Agriculture and Food, World Bank

Co-Moderators
Troels Mandel Vensild, Minister Counselor – Food, Ag & Fisheries, Embassy of Denmark
Thomas Pesek, FAO North America

Join the conversation using #GreeningAgriculture

Time – Apr 15, 2021 10:00 AM Eastern Time 

Register for event here

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Did You Know? CDFA Animal Health Branch investigates hundreds of animal disease incidents

Read the report here

Link to CDFA Animal Health web site

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CDFA’s Drought Resources web page a useful tool for farmers and ranchers

CDFA’s Drought Resources web page stands as a valuable tool for farmers and ranchers seeking information about drought assistance programs.

The page features links to the USDA’s Farm Services Agency and contact information for other USDA offices that could be of assistance to farmers and ranchers harmed by the drought.

Information will be added and updated as it becomes available.

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Can California organic farmers unlock the secrets of no-till farming? From Civil Eats

By Gosia Wozniacka

Excerpted

Last summer, veteran organic farmer Scott Park was bewildered when he surveyed his vast tomato, corn, and sunflower fields. Before planting the crops on 350 acres he had radically cut down on tilling the soil, planted cover crops twice, and let goats graze the land. And he was sure he’d see excellent yields.

The undisturbed soil was loaded with earthworms, but the crops grew sluggishly and didn’t produce enough fruit. Park lost almost half of his yields—and over half a million dollars.

“We thought we were going to cut a fat hog,” said Park, whose farm lies 50 miles northwest of Sacramento in California’s Central Valley. “But the combination of no-till and grazing kicked me in the teeth.”

Though surprising, the result was part of a critical experiment that Park plans to replicate again—this time, on a smaller plot on his 1,700-acre farm: Because there’s more at stake than his own profit.

Park, who has been farming for 48 years and is well-known for his soil health practices, is one of a small group of innovative organic vegetable producers working with the University of California Cooperative Extension, Cal State Chico’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture and California State University, Fresno to decipher how to farm with little or no tillage—and without chemicals. Similar research is also taking place at U.C. Santa Cruz.

Two growing seasons into the California experiment, Park and other farmers have faced an array of challenges. Some have been economically painful, while others have led to promising results. And yet, if the farmers can get past the hurdles presenting themselves in these early years, their efforts could catalyze a massive shift to reduced tillage—and a new understanding of soil health—in the organic industry in California and nationwide. And because no-till is held up as a central tenent of regenerative agriculture, it could also be seen as a boon for farmers hoping to take part in the carbon markets the Biden administration has put forward in response to climate change.

“When soil transitions to a no-till system, yield reduction is usually a temporary thing,” said Cynthia Daley, a professor at Chico State who is involved in the project. “These farmers see the benefit of going into no-till, but they are trying to find a way to get there that doesn’t result in a negative economic impact in the long run. Their dedication is incredible.”

Read more on the Civil Eats web site

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CDFA teams up with partners to introduce California Pollinator Coalition

Bees in a hive

A broad array of organizations from across California’s agricultural and environmental landscape today announced a working coalition to address their shared commitment to the health of wild and managed pollinators.

The Coalition is focusing on increasing the value working lands provide to our environment, to benefit biodiversity and farmers alike. The California Pollinator Coalition, convened by Pollinator Partnership, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Almond Board of California, includes more than twenty organizations–representing the large majority of California’s crop and range land–pledging to increase habitat for pollinators on working lands.

Together, the goal is to increase collaboration between agriculture and conservation groups for the benefit of biodiversity and food production. The result will be on-the-ground improvements, technical guidance, funded research, documentation of relevant case studies, and tracked progress toward increasing healthier pollinator habitats.

Achieving this bee friendly goal is laden with benefits for farmers and the environment in California, increasing biodiversity and sequestering more carbon in the soil.

The Coalition also hopes its success will serve as a model for even more collaboration among interests who have not always been aligned, but who are willing to come together in partnership to confront common challenges.

“What we are doing in California is acknowledging the urgency to address the critical issue of protecting all pollinators, including native and managed species,” said Laurie Davies Adams, President and CEO of Pollinator Partnership. “Agriculture and conservation must work together to achieve this goal, especially when we will be facing many of the same issues –increasing temperatures, erratic and unpredictable weather, fires, drought, soil depletion, and more. The outcome will not be a tidy report that sits on a shelf, but rather a metric of acres, projects, and species added to the landscape while agriculture continues to profitably feed the nation.”

The collective land represented by coalition members will provide the critical mass to address habitat on an unprecedented scale, for the benefit of beneficial insects, such as bees, butterflies, beetles, wasps, moths and more. California is home to more than 1,600 native bees and hundreds of other species of pollinating insects. Globally, pollinators provide service to more than 180,000 different plant species, more than 1,200 crops, and are responsible for producing an estimated one out of every three bites of food. They sustain our ecosystems and support natural resources, all while adding $217 billion to the global economy each year.

But pollinator populations are declining and often suffer from the same challenges as California’s agriculture. The Coalition will work together on a variety of fronts to support pollinators:

•Preparing farmer-friendly guidance to buildand maintainpollinator habitat on farms and ranches

•Promoting voluntary, incentive-based habitat establishment projects and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices

*Conducting research and disseminating relevant science

•Monitoring outcomes (adoption rates and effectiveness of practices)

“Collaborative action can mitigate risks to California’s pollinators, and that’s exactly why this coalition has come together,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of California Department of Food and Agriculture. “We need urgent action, yet the first step in the process is building trust that encourages, enables, and enhances the result. The California Pollinator Coalition is a big step forward in a journey of grower and conservation groups voluntarily demonstrating leadership.”

“This will not be an easy or quick fix,” said Josette Lewis, Chief Scientific Officer of the Almond Board of California. “It will require a robust and sustained effort, but we are determined to be part of the solution. Almond growers and many other farmers depend on pollinators to produce a crop and pollinators depend on us to provide safe habitat. Working lands can and should be part of the solution.”

“Farm Bureau supports voluntary, farmer-friendly efforts to improve habitat for native pollinators, and we have long advocated improved research on pollinator health,” said Jamie Johansson, President of the California Farm Bureau. “We will work with the coalition for the benefit of native pollinators and managed bees, and to assure stability for the domestic bee business.”

“Climate change will affect the wildlife of California and the way we grow food in many ways,” said Dan Kaiser, director of conservation at Environmental Defense Fund. “The best chance for biodiversity and farms to thrive is to rebuild the natural infrastructure that supports pollinators, soil health and water resilience throughout the Central Valley. This coalition will promote robust research and guidance to support a more resilient and biodiverse agricultural landscape.”

While just beginning its work, the Coalition is catalyzing new collaborations and continuing to recruit partners who understand the urgency and share the common goal of supporting both the health of pollinators and agriculture. Current California Pollinator Coalition membership includes:

  • Agricultural Council of California
  • Almond Alliance of California
  • Almond Board of California
  • California Alfalfa and Forage Association
  • California Association of Pest Control Advisers
  • California Association of Resource Conservation Districts
  • California Cattlemen’s Association
  • California Citrus Mutual
  • California Department of Food and Agriculture
  • California Farm Bureau Federation
  • California State Beekeepers Association
  • California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Monarch Joint Venture
  • Monarch Watch
  • Pollinator Partnership
  • Project Apis m.
  • University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service of California
  • Western Growers
  • Dr. Neal Williams, University of California, Davis

About the California Pollinator Coalition — The California Pollinator Coalition, convened by Pollinator Partnership, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Almond Board of California, is made up of a diverse group of agricultural and environmental organizations with the shared goal of providing enhanced habitat for pollinators. The Coalition and its members have pledged to increase habitat for pollinators on working lands. Additionally, the group plans to promote research and track its progress toward healthy and abundant habitats.

•USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service of California•Western Growers•Dr. Neal Williams, University of California, Davis

•Conducting researchand disseminating relevant science•Monitoring outcomes (adoption rates and effectiveness of practices)“Collaborative action can mitigate risks to California’s pollinators, and that’s exactly why this coalition has come together,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of California Department of Food and Agriculture. “We need urgent action, yet the first step in the process is building trust that encourages, enables, and enhances the result. The California Pollinator Coalition is a big step forward in a journey of grower and conservation groups voluntarily demonstrating leadership.” “This will not be an easy or quick fix,” said Josette Lewis, Chief Scientific Officer of the Almond Board of California. “It will require a robust and sustained effort, but we are determined to be part of the solution. Almond growers and many other farmers depend on pollinators to producea crop and pollinators depend on us to provide safe habitat. Working lands can and should be part of the solution.” “Farm Bureau supports voluntary, farmer-friendly efforts to improve habitat for native pollinators, and we have long advocated improved research on pollinator health,” said Jamie Johansson, President of the California Farm Bureau. “We will work with the coalition for the benefit of native pollinators and managed bees, and to assure stability for the domestic bee business.”“Climate changewill affect the wildlife of California and the way we grow food in many ways,” said Dan Kaiser, director of conservation at Environmental Defense Fund. “The best chance for biodiversity and farms to thrive is to rebuild the natural infrastructure that supports pollinators, soil health and water resilience throughout the Central Valley. This coalition will promote robust research and guidance to support a more resilient and biodiverse agricultural landscape.”While just beginning its work, the Coalition iscatalyzing new collaborations and continuing to recruit partners who understand the urgency and share the common goal of supporting both the health of pollinators and agriculture. Current California Pollinator Coalition membership includes: •AgriculturalCouncil of California•Almond Allianceof California•Almond Board of California•California Alfalfa and Forage Association•California Association of Pest Control Advisers•California Association of Resource Conservation Districts•California Cattlemen’s Association•California Citrus Mutual•California Department of Food and Agriculture•California Farm Bureau Federation•California State Beekeepers Association•California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance•Environmental Defense Fund•Monarch Joint Venture•Monarch Watch•Pollinator Partnership•Project Apis m.•University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources•USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service of California•Western Growers•Dr. Neal Williams, University of California, DavisAbout the California Pollinator CoalitionThe California Pollinator Coalition, convened by Pollinator Partnership, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Almond Board of California, is made up of a diverse group of agricultural and environmental organizations with the shared goal of providing enhanced habitat for pollinators. The Coalition and its members have pledged to increase habitat for pollinators on working lands. Additionally, the group plans to promote research and track its progress toward healthy and abundant habitats.

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A shared responsibility – CDFA calls for Industry Participation to Help Solve Recurring Food Safety Incidents

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a constituent update today—FDA Takes Two Important Steps to Advance the Safety of Leafy Greens—farmers, researchers and regulators are urged to collaborate on many fronts to understand and prevent foodborne outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections in the United States with a confirmed or suspected link to leafy greens.

The FDA’s Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan outlines a number of progressive food safety initiatives. California partners are working with the FDA on several efforts within this action plan – outlined in a California Initiatives Roadmap – to address knowledge gaps, engage in prevention measures, and conduct response activities. One research study the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is helping coordinate in this effort is a California Longitudinal Study (CALS), led by the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the UC Davis Western Center for Food Safety, and an industry advisory group.

CALS is a multi-year study that is seeking farmers and ranchers along California’s Central Coast to allow researchers to collect and examine samples from the environment — including adjacent land, well and surface waters, and soil inputs that include compost, dust and animal fecal samples. This longitudinal approach serves as a model to offer an adaptive research strategy, perform research on a large geographic area to better understand underlying causes of contamination in the production environment, and provide a scientific basis for preventive recommendations.

To encourage participation in the CALS study, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross released a letter to industry partners, saying: “Food safety is a shared responsibility. I appreciate those who have been leaders for their industry – early adopters who have come forward and are working to find solutions to a recurring problem by collaborating with the nation’s best scientists. It shows a commitment to food safety and California agriculture. However, greater participation is needed and therefore I request your engagement so we can move swiftly, with intention, to help ensure California’s essential food safety standards are known, implemented, and met. … I respectfully ask that you engage in the CALS project in a way that works for you and your operation.”

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USDA announces reopening of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) announces FSA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) signup is reopened as of April 5, 2021, as part of the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. Farmers and ranchers will have at least 60 days to apply or make modifications to existing CFAP 2 applications.

FSA also announces the availability of $2 million to establish partnerships with organizations to provide outreach and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The funding was made possible by USDA’s new Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, an effort to distribute resources more broadly and to put greater emphasis on outreach to small and socially disadvantaged producers impacted by the pandemic.

Reopening of CFAP 2
CFAP 2 provides financial assistance that gives producers the ability to absorb increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible commodities include specialty crops, livestock, dairy, row crops, aquaculture, floriculture and nursery crops. The initial CFAP 2 signup ended on Dec. 11, 2020, but USDA is reopening sign-up for CFAP 2 for at least 60 days beginning today. Visit farmers.gov/cfap for details on all eligible commodities, producer eligibility, payment limitations and structure and additional program resources.

Producers have multiple options to apply for CFAP 2, including through an online application portal and by working directly with the FSA office at their local USDA Service Center. Customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP 2 application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages with the team at the FSA county office.

Additional CFAP Actions

USDA will also finalize routine decisions and minor formula adjustments on applications and begin processing payments for certain applications filed as part of the CFAP Additional Assistance. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, enacted December 2020 requires FSA to make certain payments to producers according to a mandated formula.

Cooperative Agreements
The cooperative agreements will support participation in programs offered by FSA, including those that are part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. Interested organizations must submit proposals by May 5, 2021.

Outreach and technical assistance cooperative agreements support projects that:

  • Increase access and participation of socially disadvantaged applicants in FSA programs and services.
  • Improve technical assistance for socially disadvantaged applicants related to county committees focused on urban agriculture as well as FSA programs, including loan, disaster assistance, conservation and safety-net programs.

FSA will prioritize review of proposals that support outreach on CFAP 2. To ensure effective outreach during the signup period for CFAP 2, these applications will be reviewed immediately following the submission deadline for prioritized approval and project initiation. 

This funding opportunity is available to non-profits having a 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service (other than institutions of higher education), Federally recognized Native American tribal governments, Native American tribal organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments), and public and state-controlled institutions of higher education, including 1890 land grant institutions and 1994 tribal land-grant colleges and universities.

Awards will range from $20,000 to $99,999 for a duration between six months and one year. Applications focusing primarily on CFAP 2 will be expedited.  For other proposals, FSA anticipates announcing or notifying successful and unsuccessful applicants by June 20, 2021 and expects to have Federal awards in place by September 1, 2021.

For more information, view the cooperative agreement opportunity on grants.gov (No. USDA-FSA-MULTI-21-NOFO0001104) or visit fsa.usda.gov/cooperativeagreements.


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Reducing food waste through recovery and upcycling

Did you know that “food recovery” means preventing waste by recovering as much wholesome food as possible for people in need?

Did you know that “food upcycling” is the re-use of food or food byproducts to create new ways of feeding people and animals while minimizing food waste?

Both of these concepts are presented in this video on the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Food Recovery website.

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