Food & Farm News

Volume 22, No. 3Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wildfires scorch rural land
Rural landscapes around California continue to suffer, as wildfires affect many parts of the state. Cattle ranchers in the area of the Detwiler fire in Mariposa County moved quickly to protect livestock, and said they had lost feed and fencing to the flames. Winegrape growers near the Alamo fire on the Central Coast say their grapes appear to have come through that fire without suffering from smoke damage.

Farmers list NAFTA goals
As the Trump administration outlines its objectives in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, farmers and ranchers say they want to be sure NAFTA continues to expand agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico. The American Farm Bureau says the agreement has benefited U.S. farmers. Among its priorities for a modernized NAFTA, Farm Bureau seeks improvements on exports of fruits, vegetables, wine, dairy products and other farm goods.

Study predicts increased U.S. meat consumption
More production of red meat and poultry will likely lead to greater consumption, according to projections from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA predicts increased consumption of pork, beef, chicken and turkey in the coming year. The forecast says U.S. production of each of those meats will rise in 2018, and that imports will add to the available supply. The report predicts lamb supplies will decline slightly.

Agricultural Heritage Club to expand
Longevity in agricultural production and representation will be recognized during an event at the California State Fair Wednesday. The fair will induct 21 farms, ranches and agricultural businesses into the California Agricultural Heritage Club, which recognizes 100 or more years of continuous operation. The new Heritage Club members will include eight county Farm Bureaus from around the state.

Volume 22, No. 2Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fresh peaches see rising demand
Demand for California-grown fresh peaches has increased this year. Farmers say that’s in part because they have a better crop than peach growers in other parts of the country, where weather problems hurt yields. A preseason crop forecast projected California production of fresh, freestone peaches would grow about 13 percent this season. Production of canning-variety peaches is also expected to rise.

UC tests avocado production in San Joaquin Valley
Nearly all California avocados come from regions near the Southern California coast, but University of California specialists are testing varieties that could thrive in the San Joaquin Valley. Test plantings are underway in three places. Finding avocados that produce well in interior locations would allow avocado marketers to extend the season for California-grown fruit.

Farmers express concern on electric-rate proposals
Proposed changes in time-of-use electric rates could pose challenges for California farmers. Utilities have asked to revise their peak and off-peak times, when electricity prices rise or fall. Farmers and their representatives say changes could disrupt irrigation schedules and other agricultural operations. Three hearings will be held in July and August on a Pacific Gas & Electric Company rate proposal.

Heat wave could affect butter production
Butter production could eventually be affected by the June California heat wave: That’s the conclusion of an American Farm Bureau market analysis. Cows typically produce less milk—and less milkfat—during hot weather. The analysis says that could ultimately affect the amount of butter produced in California, which accounts for about 30 percent of the nation’s production. But it’s unknown whether any impact would be noticeable at the grocery store.

Volume 22, No. 1Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sierra snowmelt appears to have peaked
Even though there’s plenty of snow in the Sierra and plenty of warm weather ahead, state officials say they believe the annual snowmelt has peaked, and should now decline. Central Valley farmers and other landowners have coped with flooding that resulted from the record-setting June heat wave. A state flood-operations specialist says the June heat caused snowmelt runoff to peak, and that any future peaks should be smaller.

Vegetable harvest recovers
After a slow start caused by late-season rain that delayed planting, Salinas Valley vegetable farmers say the 2017 growing season has recovered. Prices rose this spring for lettuce, broccoli, spinach and other vegetables, but have now settled back to levels similar to a year ago. To improve efficiency and maintain their production for the long term, Salinas Valley farmers say they’re employing automated planting machines and other new technology.

Fruit, vegetable consumption improves
Americans continue to eat more fruits and vegetables, though consumption remains below what the government recommends in its dietary guidelines. A U.S. Agriculture Department report compared food trends from 1970 and 2014. It found that fruit and vegetable consumption has increased during that period. But Americans eat only about two-thirds of the recommended amount of vegetables, and less than half the recommended fruit.

State’s field-crop acreage increases
Slightly more field-crop acreage has been planted in California this year, according to government estimates. A new report shows field-crop acreage up about 2 percent in California, though acreage declined slightly nationwide. The report estimates California farmers have planted more corn, cotton, barley, sunflowers and potatoes this year, but they decreased acreage of rice, wheat and oats.

Volume 21, No. 50Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Heat wave impacts will take time to assess
It will be weeks, if not months, before California farmers can fully assess the impacts of the recent heat wave that hit many parts of the state. Harvest time will tell the story for most crops. Growers of processing tomatoes, for example, anticipate possible reduced yields. One farm advisor noted a positive outcome of the extreme temperatures: It could help tomato-plant breeders refine their efforts to develop heat-tolerant varieties.

Sweet-corn harvest accelerates to meet holiday demand
If you plan on enjoying corn on the cob this Fourth of July, California farmers have you covered. Sweet-corn harvest is going full speed, as retailers promote it ahead of the holiday. Some growers see sales volume quadruple during this time. Sweet corn is mostly harvested by hand and often at night when temperatures are lower. Once out of the field, the ears are kept cool so the kernels stay sweet and tender.

Food-price survey shows cookout cost drops slightly
Your Fourth of July cookout will cost less this year, according to an informal survey. The American Farm Bureau Federation checked the cost of hot dogs, cheeseburgers, pork spare ribs, potato salad, chocolate milk, watermelon and other cookout favorites, and found prices overall had dropped slightly from a year ago. Farm Bureau attributes the reduction mostly to lower on-farm prices for meat and dairy products.

Report labels California’s rural roads as deficient, dangerous
California’s rural roads rank among the worst in the U.S., according to a national report. The report finds California the third-worst in the nation for the condition of rural roads—and that the rate of traffic fatalities on rural roads is the nation’s second-highest. California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger called for making transportation-system upgrades a priority, saying “the whole nation depends on rural California for food and farm products.”

Volume 21, No. 49Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Farmers monitor effects of heat wave
Record high temperatures will have implications for California farms, but the full impact won’t be known until after the heat wave breaks. Farmers implement heat-safety protocols to protect themselves and their employees on hot days. Growers of grapes, walnuts, tomatoes and other crops say they’re monitoring their crops carefully for signs of sunburn or stress. Farmers provide crops with additional irrigation to help them withstand the heat.

Livestock, poultry owners protect their animals
To keep livestock and poultry as comfortable as possible during heat waves, farmers and ranchers provide shade, cooling mist, well-ventilated barns and plenty of fresh water. Dairy farmers say cows tend to produce less milk during hot days, even when under shade and misters. Poultry producers say they adjust their birds’ diet during the summer but the birds still eat less, meaning they take longer to reach market weight.

Walnuts, other foods may help in appetite control
Eating foods such as walnuts, salmon and canola oil may help people control their appetites, according to new research. Walnuts, salmon, tuna and other foods feature polyunsaturated fats. The study indicated that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats may change appetite hormones, so people feel fuller for longer. The California Walnut Commission helped pay for the study.

Program certifies farms that help pollinators
A new nationwide program will certify farmers whose growing methods benefit bees. Known as “Bee Better Certified,” the program judges the amount and quality of bee habitat farms create, and their use of pollinator-friendly pest-management strategies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a grant for a pilot program in Oregon, and used the occasion of National Pollinator Week to announce the program’s nationwide availability.

Volume 21, No. 48Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Spring weather affects blueberry harvest
The cool, rainy spring complicated the California blueberry harvest. Farmers say spring weather delayed harvest by up to 10 days, causing California blueberries to be short on the market at a time of high demand. But reduced crops in other states helped California farmers win markets. Blueberry production in the state has grown the past decade, and marketers say demand for the California-grown crop continues to expand.

Cherry harvest increases
Volumes of California-grown cherries on the market have shown a sharp increase this year, according to a government estimate. The report says California cherry farmers expected “the best crop in recent years” after several seasons of drought and low yields. The estimate pegged the California crop at 99,000 tons, up 65 percent from last year. Washington leads the nation in cherry production, and also expects a larger crop.

Grants benefit farm-to-school programs
Ten California-based farm-to-school programs will benefit from grants awarded this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Oakland Unified School District says it will use its grant to “dramatically increase” the amount of local food served in school meals. Other districts will start “farm to school action plans.” A Fresno-based project will hold fruit-and-vegetable taste-testing events for schoolchildren.

Report notes ‘supply gap’ in organic produce
Demand for organic produce has been expanding faster than production, leading to a “supply gap” analysts believe could continue for several years. A report from the agricultural lender CoBank says it takes three to five years for farmers to transition crops to organic status. That can lead to a lag in fulfilling new demand for organic crops. The report says food companies and retailers have increased imports of organic produce to meet demand.

Volume 21, No. 47Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Researchers hone drone use on farms
As they learn more about how unmanned aircraft can be used on farms, researchers also work to make drones more practical for gathering and analyzing agricultural data. A University of California farm advisor says, for example, drones can help farmers tell if trees suffer from water stress, but software needs to be perfected to make data easier to interpret. Several California universities are working on agricultural drone projects.

Flood damage in California orchards still being tallied
The extent of flood damage to Northern California orchards may not be known for months—perhaps years. Farm advisors are still finding signs of waterlogging in orchards affected by levee seepage and a collapsed riverbank. One orchard near Elk Grove, flooded in February, didn’t drain until early May; the farmer lost a third of his walnut trees.

Wet winter contributes to larger bean crop
More garbanzos, limas and other beans should be coming from California fields this year. Farmers have increased their bean acreage by 10 percent, compared to a year ago. The state’s wet winter receives part of the credit. Beans can be planted later in the spring than other crops, so farmers whose ground was too muddy to plant corn or other crops have substituted beans instead.

Prune crop rallies after lackluster year
Fans of prunes—also known as dried plums—can anticipate plentiful supplies. California farmers grow nearly all the nation’s crop, and a government forecast of 105,000 tons for this year’s harvest is more than double the 51,000 tons produced last year. Farmers report favorable growing conditions, resulting in more, and bigger, fruit.

Volume 21, No. 46Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Olive growers say crop could be large
An official estimate remains a couple months away, but Northern California farmers and canners say they’re optimistic about the table-olive crop. Olive trees bloomed during May, and growers report the potential for a large crop. The California Olive Committee estimates table olives will be produced on 27,000 acres in the state. Olives grown for oil now cover about 38,000 acres, according to the California Olive Oil Council.

Farmers play catch-up on crop planting
Lingering effects of California’s wet winter can be seen in a government crop report issued Tuesday. Wet fields delayed crop planting. The report says less than three-quarters of the California cotton crop has been planted, whereas planting would be nearly finished by now in a typical year. California rice farmers have nearly caught up on their planting, according to the report, but emergence of the planted rice remains slower than average.

Projects aim to enhance plant health
California-based projects to improve crop production have received a boost through grants announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Projects at California universities include enhancing the vitamin A content of wheat; developing lettuce varieties that resist plant diseases; and studying how soil health helps plants cope with drought and heat waves. In all, seven California projects qualified for the grant funding.

Funds benefit biomass energy plans
With a goal of reducing hazardous fuels from national and private forests, the U.S. Forest Service says it will provide matching funds to aid use of wood as an energy source and building material. Among seven California projects to benefit from the funds is one to develop a biomass heating system for schools in Quincy. Another project would create a plant to turn wood into electricity at a former sawmill site in Yuba County.

Volume 21, No. 45Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Budget proposal reduces farm and food spending
Discussions of federal spending on food and agricultural initiatives has opened, with the release of the Trump administration budget proposal. The plan proposes a $228 billion reduction in federal farm and nutrition spending over 10 years. The American Farm Bureau Federation expressed concern about the proposal, and said it will ask Congress to maintain programs that are vital to farmers and rural communities.

Pest increases following wet winter
The wet winter in California has helped a pest establish a greater foothold in coastal berry fields. A University of California farm advisor says he’s seen an “uptick” in light brown apple moth damage. Rainy weather prevented farmers from entering their fields to treat against the moth, and the pest took advantage. Discoveries of the light brown apple moth make it more difficult for berry farmers to ship their crops to other states and nations.

Seaweed-based gel may improve ant control
Using a biodegradable gel based on seaweed, researchers say they may have found a new way to control ants. Experts at the University of California, Riverside, say the ant bait appears effective at controlling invasive Argentine ants. The researchers have tested the ant bait for home use, and say it may have advantages compared to current ant-control methods. The bait will be tested at commercial citrus farms this summer.

Cotton crop will be larger
A brighter outlook for both crop prices and water supply leads California farmers to plant more cotton. In some cases, farmers have planted cotton on land where they had grown tomatoes, because prices for tomatoes have declined. A survey by a cotton growers’ organization estimates farmers will plant more than 250,000 acres of cotton in California this year, up about 15 percent from a year ago.

Volume 21, No. 44Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Local groundwater agencies form
With an important deadline coming in a few weeks, counties, irrigation districts, farmers and other entities are finalizing agreements to form locally controlled groundwater sustainability agencies. The agencies will guide groundwater management in basins classified by the state as medium to high priority, under terms of a 2014 California law. Local agencies have until June 30 to notify the state of their formation.

Meat supplies should increase this year
Just in time for the traditional start of the outdoor grilling season, government forecasters said they expect larger supplies of most meats this year. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report predicted beef and pork supplies would rise nearly 3 percent, with production of chicken and turkey up nearly 2 percent. Veal and lamb prove the exceptions to the trend, with supplies of each expected to be down slightly.

Dairy groups launch new promotion
To promote the full range of dairy foods available to Americans, dairy associations have launched a campaign called “Undeniably Dairy.” The multimedia campaign will include both online and broadcast videos, digital marketing and on-farm events. The campaign will discuss nutritional and environmental topics. For instance, it says dairy farmers have reduced the amount of water used for milk production by nearly two-thirds.

More new snacks contain nuts
Trends in snack products bode well for almond growers, according to marketing analysis tracked by the Almond Board of California. The analysis shows that nuts account for a rising share of new snack products. More than 30 percent of the snack products that debuted last year contained nuts. The report credits the increase to greater availability of nuts, new research on their health attributes, and better ability to add flavorings to nuts.

Volume 21, No. 43Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Flower sales peak for Mother’s Day
With Mother’s Day coming Sunday, California flower growers and shippers are hopping. For many, Mother’s Day marks the busiest floral holiday of the year. Growers say they’re shipping lilies, tulips, ranunculus, irises and foliage for spring bouquets. California produces more than three-quarters of domestically grown flowers. But imports have taken a large share of the U.S. market, so California growers urge buyers to seek out domestic blooms.

Cherry harvest accelerates
A good start to their fast-moving harvest encourages California cherry growers. Cherries appear to have avoided serious problems from rainy spring weather, and farmers report a good-sized, high-quality crop. Harvest has been accelerating in the southern and central San Joaquin Valley and will soon move into northern districts. The California Cherry Board says it expects the state’s overall crop to be larger. California cherry harvest will continue until mid-June.

Shelters in river provide salmon habitat
Work has ended in what’s considered a first-of-its-kind project to benefit chinook salmon in the Sacramento River. A Northern California farm partnered with state and federal agencies to place 25 salmon shelters in the river near Redding. Made of tree trunks and root wads bolted to boulders, the shelters allow juvenile salmon to avoid predators and fast-moving water. Experts will evaluate the shelters’ effectiveness in helping salmon in the river.

Report tracks trade in organic foods
International competition for organic food markets is “likely to increase considerably,” according to an updated assessment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report says demand for organic foods continues to grow in both the United States and other nations. Canada and Mexico accepted most exports of U.S.-grown organic foods last year, and apples, grapes and lettuce were the nation’s top organic exports.

Volume 21, No. 42Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rice farmers try to make up for lost time
Warmer, drier weather in the Sacramento Valley will help rice farmers work to catch up on planting their crops. Throughout April, soggy fields slowed preparations for rice planting. That will make May a busy month, as farmers say they want to have rice planted by June 1. More than a half-million acres of rice will be planted in California, according to government estimates. Despite the early struggles, rice farmers say they remain optimistic their season will turn out fine.

Citrus farmers protest import decision
A decision on lemon imports from Argentina worries California citrus farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized rules this week allowing lemons from northwestern Argentina to enter the United States. Groups representing California citrus farmers say the decision “will open the floodgates to pests and diseases.” The groups say the bacterium that causes a fatal citrus disease has been present in Argentina since 2012.

Vegetable availability increases
Have you been eating your vegetables? The amount of fresh vegetables available to the average American rose slightly in 2016, according to new figures from the federal government. Fresh-vegetable availability increased 1 percent to about 188 pounds per person, with potatoes, lettuce and tomatoes the top three types. About three-quarters of the vegetables consumed in the U.S. were grown domestically.

Wine shipments set records
Shipments of California wine have increased for a fourth straight year. The Wine Institute says shipments set records last year, in both domestic and export markets. The institute’s report says population trends helped propel domestic wine sales, as more members of the millennial generation reached drinking age. In export sales, the European Union represented the top foreign market for California wine.


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