The ongoing international trade turmoil between the U.S. and other countries has prompted import tariffs on many U.S. agricultural commodities in important export markets, which could hurt U.S. farmers.
A new report released by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center estimates the higher tariffs could cost major U.S. fruit and nut industries $2.64 billion per year in exports to countries imposing the higher tariffs, and as much as $3.34 billion by reducing prices in alternative markets.
“One way to mitigate the impact of the tariff impacts would be to offer assistance to shift the products to completely new markets where these displaced commodities could be delivered without causing price declines,” said co-author Daniel A. Sumner, director of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center and UC Davis professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
When nuts and fruits are diverted back into the remaining markets for their crops, Sumner and co-author Tristan M. Hanon, a UC Davis graduate student researcher, expect farmers to lose revenue from lower prices.
The agricultural economists foresee major losses for many commodities caused by diverting the produce from high tariff countries to sell in the remaining markets.
Almonds alone could lose about $1.58 billion and pistachios could lose about $384 million, according to Sumner and Hanon.
The authors looked at the impact of tariffs on almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, apples, oranges, raisins, sour cherries, sweet cherries and table grapes. All 10 nuts and fruits are perennial crops, growing on trees or vines, so growers cannot easily change their production quantities or plant a different crop.
The U.S. exports 13 percent of its almonds, 14 percent of its pistachios and 22 percent of its pecans to countries imposing the new tariffs. China and Hong Kong are major export markets for U.S. fruits and nuts. In 2016 and 2017, China and Hong Kong spent over $500 million to buy 40 percent of all U.S. almond exports, and nearly $600 million for most of the exported pistachios. Some of the exports to Hong Kong are transshipped to other markets, but most of it stays in the China market.
The new tariffs apply to all ten crops that are exported to China. “We consider most of the exports to Hong Kong with China because we understand that most of the U.S. fruit and nut exports to Hong Kong are destined for China,” Sumner said.
To avoid paying tariffs, there are clues that Hong Kong's open market is the entry point for nuts ultimately shipped to China, in what Sumner calls “leakage.”
“The 7 million people in Hong Kong would have to eat 20 times the pistachios consumed by people in other countries if they aren't sending them on to China, the Philippines and other Asian countries,” Sumner said. “China turns its back on leakage, but those commodities may be vulnerable if China decides to crack down.”
After the Trump administration imposed tariffs on an additional $16 billion worth of Chinese goods, China announced duties on $16 billion of American goods. Another round of new tariffs has now been scheduled.
In India, Mexico and Turkey, new higher tariffs apply to selected fruit and nut products. India, which buys roughly half of all exported U.S. almonds, applies new tariffs to almonds, walnuts and apples. Turkey's new tariffs apply to almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. Mexico's tariffs target apples, for which the country paid about $250 million last year.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced up to $12 billion in federal aid to farmers to soften the impact of tariffs.
“The U.S. government could purchase the commodities that would have been exported,” Sumner said. “Of course, the produce must be diverted from remaining markets to new market channels to avoid driving down prices.”
The full report “Economic Impacts of Increased Tariffs that have Reduced Import Access for U.S. Fruit and Tree Nuts Exports to Important Markets,” along with details on data, sources and methods, can be downloaded for free at the UC Agricultural Issues Center website at http://aic.ucdavis.edu.
[This article was updated at 10 pm, Aug. 14, to update the dollar estimates in this sentence: "Almonds alone could lose about $1.58 billion and pistachios could lose about $384 million, according to Sumner and Hanon."]
Among the advanced teams, the University of Georgia, University of Florida and UC Davis finished second, third and fourth, respectively. Zhejiang University and Clemson University claimed those runner-up spots among the beginner teams. The beginners' race was especially tight, with the top two teams achieving perfect scores. CAU used speed to edged out Zhejiang, completing the required technical task one second faster than Zhejiang. Teams from Cal Poly (6th place) and UC Merced (7th place) also competed on the beginners board.
“All the teams incorporated innovative solutions in their robot designs,” says ASABE member Alireza Pourreza, University of California Cooperative Extension agricultural mechanization specialist, who coordinated the 2018 event.
This year's challenge involved identification, sorting, and harvesting of apples. The robots were required to autonomously harvest “apples” on a field measuring 8 feet by 8 feet. The robots identified and selected eight mature apples (red ping-pong balls), removed and disposed of eight diseased or rotten apples (blue ping-pong balls) and left eight immature apples (green ping-pong balls) on the tree.
"China Agricultural University's Dream team presents one of the more prodigious designs in competition, covering two lanes at once and picking apples flawlessly," tweeted Michael Gutierrez, a University of Florida Extension water specialist, @IrriGatorUF https://twitter.com/IrriGatorUF/status/1024285164682264577.
“The increasing interest in the ASABE robotics competition every year reflects a global response to the need of automation and robotics in agriculture,” explains Pourreza, who is based at UC Davis. “We aim to motivate young agricultural engineers to engage more with robotics and acquire an early-career experience that will prepare them for the future of agriculture and smart farming.”
Fifteen university teams from the U.S., Canada and China competed in this year's contest. Sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, the ASABE Robotics Student Design Competition allows undergraduate and graduate students to develop skills in robotic systems, electronics and sensing technologies by simulating a robotics solution to a common agricultural process.
Founded in 1907, ASABE is an international scientific and educational organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agricultural, food and biological systems.
MORE INFORMATION: 2018 ASABE robotics competition website: https://www.asabe.org/Awards-Competitions/Student-Awards-Competitions-Scholarships/Robotics-Student-Design-Competition
Video of 2016 competition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1ymUiCr3Mc
Video of 2017 competition: https://vimeo.com/250379863
A new study on the costs and returns of a beef cattle operation has been released by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center. The estimated costs can help ranchers and land management agencies on California's Central Coast make business decisions.
“This cost study can be a valuable tool for someone who is thinking about going into the cattle business because it will help them think through the various categories of costs, and aid in developing a budget and business plan,” said Devii Rao, University of California Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.
Based on the typical costs of a 300-head cow-calf operation, the study estimates costs of an owner-operated beef cattle operation located on leased rangeland in the Central Coast region of California. The cost calculations in this study are based on economic principles that include all cash costs and uses the rental cost per animal unit month (AUM) as a cost of pasture.
“The study can also be used by a seasoned rancher,” said Rao, a co-author of the study. The first cost table has an empty column titled, “Your Costs.” This is probably one of the most useful pages for the experienced rancher. Producers can use this column to enter their own costs and compare them to the costs in the study. It will help them think about where they can make changes in their operation to reduce costs.”
The analysis is based upon a hypothetical cow-calf operation, where the cattle producer leases all rangeland. The “typical” ranch in the Central Coast is an owner-operated cow-calf operation using multiple private and public leases. The practices described represent production practices and materials considered typical of a well-managed ranch in the region.
Input and reviews for this study were provided by ranch operators, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates. A narrative describes the assumptions used to identify current costs for the cow-calf herd, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. A ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of average market prices. Other tables show the costs and revenue for production, monthly summary of costs and revenue, and the annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.
“This study will also be of value to land management agencies that lease their lands for cattle grazing,” she said. “Many agency staff are not familiar with the different aspects of cow/calf operations. For land management agency staff, the most useful portion of the study is likely to be the Operations Calendar, which summarizes the timeline for breeding, branding, vaccinating, calving, shipping, etc.”
“Sample Costs for Beef Cattle – Central Coast Region – 2018” can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available at the website.
For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Donald Stewart at the Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about beef cattle production in the Central Coast region, contact Rao at email@example.com.
Nineteen teams of college students from top universities in the U.S., Canada and China will compete to build robots to mechanize farm work at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting in Detroit.
The 2018 ASABE Student Robotics Challenge, being organized by Alireza Pourreza, University of California Cooperative Extension agricultural mechanization specialist, will be held on July 31.
“The labor availability for agriculture is decreasing while the need for more food is increasing to feed the growing world population,” said Pourreza, who is based in the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. “So agriculture should switch to technologies that are less labor-dependent, such as using more robots, to overcome this challenge.”
The ASABE Student Robotics Challenge provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills of robotics in agriculture.
“The goal of this event is to encourage young agricultural engineers to get involved in building robots for agricultural applications and to get experienced as the next generation of farmers,” Pourreza said.
The challenge will be to simulate the harvest and storage of apples, a crop commercially grown in several states. The students will design and operate robots that will autonomously harvest “apples” on field that measures 8 feet by 8 feet. The robots will harvest eight mature apples (red ping-pong balls), remove and dispose of eight diseased or rotten apples (blue ping-pong balls) and leave eight immature apples (green ping-pong balls) on the tree.
This year, the competitors are being divided into a beginner division and an advanced division.
California Polytechnic State University Green and Gold Mustangs
China Agricultural College China Ag, Beginners
McGill University We Are Groots
Purdue ABE Robotics
Texas A&M Texas A&M
University of California Merced Bobcats
University of Nebraska Lincoln HuskerBots 2
University of Nebraska Lincoln HuskerBots3
University of Wisconsin River Falls Falcon Robotics
Zhejiang University ZJU team 1
Zhejiang University ZJU team 2
Clemson University CARA
China Agricultural College Dream
McGill University Agrobots
University of Georgia UGA Engineers
University of California – Davis Ag-Botics
University of Florida RoboGators
University of Nebraska Lincoln HuskerBots 1
The competition will be held in Cobo Center Exhibit Hall, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit, Michigan. There will be three rounds throughout the day and each team will participate once in each round.
For more information, visit the 2018 ASABE robotics competition website: https://www.asabe.org/Awards-Competitions/Student-Awards-Competitions-Scholarships/Robotics-Student-Design-Competition.
Video of 2016 competition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1ymUiCr3Mc
Video of 2017 competition: https://vimeo.com/250379863
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
At the end of June, the distinguished careers of five UC Cooperative Extension advisors concluded when they retired. The new retirees are
- Mark Gaskell, UCCE small farms advisor for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties
- Gene Miyao, UCCE vegetable crops advisor for Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties
- Kim Rodrigues, director of the Hopland Research & Extension Center and UCCE forest advisor
- Blake Sanden, UCCE irrigation, soils and agronomy advisor in Kern County
- Steve Tjosvold, UCCE horticulture advisor for Santa Cruz and Monterey counties
Below are brief vignettes about each of the retirees.
UCCE small farms advisor Mark Gaskell retires
Gaskell, who began his career with the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources as an advisor for small farms and specialty crops in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties in 1995, retired July 1.
“If it wasn't for Mark Gaskell, I wouldn't have lasted three years,” said Tony Chavez, who grows 40 acres of blueberries, blackberries and some raspberries in Nipomo.
Blueberries weren't grown in California until Gaskell planted test plots of southern highbush blueberries in 1996 to give small-scale growers a new crop option. What was once a niche crop is now planted on over 7,000 acres in the state and California currently leads U.S. production of fresh blueberries.
Recently Gaskell's knowledge of coffee production has been in demand.
“Personally, I would not be where I am today professionally without Mark's guidance, support and friendship,” said Jay Ruskey, CEO and co-founder of Good Land Organics. “He brought me my first coffee plants in 2002.”
With Gaskell's research-based advice, the Goleta grower has produced premium coffee. His Caturra coffee made Coffee Review's Top 30 coffees in 2014 and in 2017 Daily Coffee News reported that Blue Bottle was selling the California-grown coffee for $18 per ounce.
“Industry-wide, there are many farmers who have benefited directly from working with Mark, but there are far more farmers who are currently benefiting today from the specific crops and farming systems he has introduced through his service as a University of California farm advisor,” Ruskey said. (Author: Pam Kan-Rice)
Gene Miyao, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops advisor, retiring after 38 years
Miyao had been exposed to UCCE farm advisors from a young age.
“My parents were small-scale farmers in Yolo County. We knew of the value of UCCE and the UC system,” Miyao said.
During his 38-year-career, Miyao has witnessed dramatic changes in production systems of processing tomatoes, a crop on which he focused much of his efforts. Growers went from using open-pollinated seed to hybrids and they changed from direct seeding to transplants. Tomato production has seen a major reduction in Phytophthora root rot, and a rapid spread of Fusarium wilt race 2.
Over the years, Miyao has conducted significant research, including work to better understand the benefits of cover crops, supplemental applications of potassium and phosphorous, and applying composted chicken manure in tomato production. He cooperated with a team of advisors to demonstrate the value of sulfur dust for powdery mildew control and the risk of spreading the disease fusarium wilt from infested stem pieces. Miyao was an author of the recent cost production study titled Cost of producing processing tomatoes in the Sacramento Valley and Northern Delta with sub-surface and surface drip irrigation.
In all Miyao wrote 69 peer reviewed articles. However, he said, the local newsletters, field meetings and field calls were always his priority in order to stay well connected to his local clientele.
In retirement, Miyao said he will complete some of his 2018 field projects. He's also planning to travel with his wife Donna to national parks and other destinations. And he is looking forward to fishing in the local waters. (Author: Jeannette Warnert)
Kim Rodrigues, Hopland Research and Extension Center Director, retires after 27-year career with UC ANR
When she became regional director for the 23 counties in the North Coast and Mountain Region in 1999 and relocated her family to Davis from Eureka, she recounted that “it was July, and they went from cool, coastal fog to the Valley heat and wondered about my sanity!”
She later became the executive director of Academic Personnel for ANR when the regions were restructured and ANR was centralized.
She returned to county-based academic work at HREC in the summer of 2014. Initially there as an interim assignment, Rodrigues fell in love with the place and the people and accepted the formal assignment at HREC in 2015. She notes that working at HREC has been “an excellent culmination to my career. Working with colleagues on relevant research, such as living with wildlife, integrates the many professional roles I have had throughout my career.”
Noted as a competent and trusted forester, she has served on the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (BOF) briefly and on the BOF Professional Forester's Examining Committee for several years.
Rodrigues is also known for her collaborative leadership and facilitation skills and led the public participation team, together with Drs. Maggi Kelly and Lynn Huntsinger, for the long-term research titled the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project. She is recognized as an excellent facilitator for large-scale and smaller scale public meetings designed to share science with diverse public interest groups, agencies and decision-makers, in order to seek new solutions for resolving ongoing conflicts over public trust resources, such as water, wildlife and more.
Her passion is working with diverse groups to address complex environmental conflicts to seek shared understanding and new agreements. “It is amazing how diverse input can help frame innovative solutions that individuals or small groups may not readily identify,” she said.
She plans to remain engaged in research and extension related to living with wildlife, cumulative watershed effects and managing conflicts of all types. She is also looking forward to spending more time with her husband, four children and grandchild.
Although sad to leave many aspects of her work at UC ANR, she said, “I remain deeply grateful to UC ANR for such a wonderful career, and I remain committed to support UC ANR to succeed in any way I can going forward. I have been fortunate to work with amazing colleagues and truly respect the work we do for the land grant mission.” (Author: Liz Sizensky)
Blake Sanden, UCCE irrigation, soils and agronomy advisor in Kern County
He helped growers with on-farm soil and water problems, organized and spoke at workshops across California and conducted applied field research projects focusing on irrigation, salinity/fertility management for all crops, and agronomic field crop production of alfalfa, dry beans and oil crops.
Blake has a bachelor's degree in International agricultural development and agronomy and master's degree in irrigation and drainage from UC Davis and 35 years of experience in California production ag, international ag development and extension.
Significant projects of his include: development of salt tolerance thresholds for high production California pistachios in the San Joaquin Valley, soil moisture monitoring techniques and irrigation efficiency assessment on 12,000 acres in Kern County and deficit irrigation in early citrus navel oranges.
Over the last eight years, Sanden has fulfilled a vision that started nearly 30 years ago. Through collaboration with nearly 50 University of California researchers, farm advisors, extension specialists, the Wonderful Farming Company and almond industry representatives, he played a crucial role in documenting the increased level of water and fertilizer use necessary for optimal almond yield – increasing the statewide average yield by more than 50 percent.
But some of his greatest joys and heart-felt satisfaction lay in development work in Africa – 3 years of missionary service in the 1980s developing vegetable gardens in Zambia and month-long training/consulting trips working with farmers and extension agents in Uganda, Ethiopia and central Asia.
When asked what he'll miss the most about his career, he said the interaction with the growers, most notably “seeing the ‘ah-ha' light up in a grower's eyes when he finally grasps the solution.”
He remembered a particular time in May of 2004 when a sugarbeet grower called him seeking his advice on whether or not to irrigate his 380 acres of beets one last time before harvesting. That was the way he had always done it. So Sanden went out and spent a couple of hours using his hand probe to check the moisture of the fields down to a three-foot depth.
“I ask, ‘Ken, when did you last probe this field?'” Sanden recalled.
‘“Oh, I really didn't check it this year?' he says.”
“Do you really need to irrigate or is this enough water to get through harvest?” noting that he already had enough moisture.
“I guess it's enough, but that's why I asked you out here. It wouldn't hurt to put on the irrigation would it? I'd feel better. Of course we did get the digger stuck a couple times last year because the field was too wet.”
“Too much water does hurt beets because you will reduce sugar percentage and can get rot and lose tonnage,” Sanden replied.
“OK, it makes me a bit nervous but you say I have at least four inches of water stored in the soil that the beets can get at.”
That year Ken was the top sugar producer in Kern County and got the Silver Beet Knife for highest percentage of sugar, Blake recalled.
“With that two hours worth of field scouting he probably made an extra $300,000 in the saved irrigation and increased sugar,” Blake said. (Author: Tyler Ash)
Steve Tjosvold, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor, 38 years
“I interned for two advisors and then separately filled in for the programs of two advisors that went on sabbatical leave,” Tjosvold said. “I use that experience, knowledge, contacts and friendships to this day.”
Tjosvold was named the environmental horticulture advisor in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties in 1983.
Tjosvold's early career focused on the management of nursery and landscape plant diseases and insect problems, as well as methods to improve water use and postharvest handling in nursery crops. In addition, Tjosvold helped establish the use of scouting in ornamental production by working with other farm advisors to document effectiveness statewide. Later, his research and outreach on sudden oak death and light brown apple moth helped growers understand the pests and take action to reduce their impact on production systems and the environment.
Tjosvold wrote or contributed to 94 peer-reviewed publications and 234 industry publications. He served as editor/co-editor of UCNFA (UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance) News.
During his career, Tjosvold received three distinguished service awards for outstanding teamwork (1997, 2004, and 2006) and one for outstanding extension (2004). He received the 2008 Western Extension Directors' Award of Excellence for a farm water quality planning project. In 2012 he received the outstanding research award from the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers, and in 2015 he was honored with the Award of Excellence from the Western Extension Directors Association for a team effort that addresses Sudden Oak Death.
In retirement, Tjosvold plans to start a UCNFA blog to help replace the loss of the UCNFA newsletter due to retirements. He will also be available locally for focused educational projects and consultation. Tjosvold, an avid fly fisherman, said he will spend the first month of his retirement camping and fly fishing in Montana. (Author: Jeannette Warnert)