Now that a half-trillion-dollar Farm Bill has been passed by the U.S. Senate and is headed for the House of Representatives, Madeleine Brand interviewed Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, to get his take on the Senate action. The nearly six-minute interview aired on Southern California Public Radio's Madeleine Brand Show.
Sumner said the Senate's Farm Bill contains substantial changes in the dairy program, the biggest of which is removal of an ancient price support program. The program, in which the government would buy powdered milk, butter or cheese if prices fell below a certain level, has not been implemented in the last two decades.
A new program will probably provide more payments to farmers, but Sumner said the "strings attached" make the provisions unhealthy for the industry in the long run.
"In order to participate, you have to agree cut back your milk production whenever the prices are low by government standards," Sumner said. "What that means, the more efficient, more innovative farms that would like to be growing have to cut back."
He said he expects the House version of the Farm Bill to be "quite different" from the Senate version.
"The speaker and the leadership in the House have been more clear they want substantial budget cuts and, given the nature of the majority in the house, those are more likely to happen on the nutrition side," Sumner said.
The federal government has promised to expedite approval, the article said. Some of the natural enemies - collected in the Punjab, Pakistan - could be carrying the fight against ACP into Los Angeles yards by the end of the year.
Hoddle also said a citrus variety he observed being grown in the Punjab appears able to survive and produce fruit despite the presence of ACP and HLB.
Drought and rising temperatures will challenge California's farmers, experts say
By Suzanne Bohan, Contra Costa Times
In the past century, the state's winter lows have warmed by 2 degrees Fahrenheit, "a significant increase," Dan Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center, told a forum last week. Although that warming trend hasn't yet disrupted crops, it is accelerating, he said. "There's potential for complete crop failure, especially cherries, apricots and other stone fruit," said Louise Jackson, a UC Davis researcher. As an example, Sumner said that as winters heat up, peach growers in the warmer southern San Joaquin Valley may have to move northward, where it's cooler. With California's diversity of crops and different microclimates, the agricultural system has a natural resiliency, although Sumner said now is the time to begin researching ways to best cope with anticipated changes. "I think the risk is we don't take it seriously enough," Sumner said. "The lesson here is you have to have enough research and development to adapt and be flexible. And I don't think we're doing enough."
In the past century, the state's winter lows have warmed by 2 degrees Fahrenheit, "a significant increase," Dan Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center, told a forum last week.
Although that warming trend hasn't yet disrupted crops, it is accelerating, he said.
"There's potential for complete crop failure, especially cherries, apricots and other stone fruit," said Louise Jackson, a UC Davis researcher. As an example, Sumner said that as winters heat up, peach growers in the warmer southern San Joaquin Valley may have to move northward, where it's cooler.
With California's diversity of crops and different microclimates, the agricultural system has a natural resiliency, although Sumner said now is the time to begin researching ways to best cope with anticipated changes.
"I think the risk is we don't take it seriously enough," Sumner said. "The lesson here is you have to have enough research and development to adapt and be flexible. And I don't think we're doing enough."
Health hazards similar in San Joaquin, Coachella valleys
Marcel Honoré, The Desert Sun
A new study on the the environmental health risks across Central California describes conditions strikingly similar to those confronting many eastern Coachella Valley residents. More than 1 million people living in the sprawling San Joaquin Valley face serious health risks from toxic air, polluted water and other environmental factors, according to a University of California, Davis, report published earlier this month.
Food chain holds promise
Doug Ford, The (Vacaville) Reporter
The Solano and Yolo County Joint Economic Summit on agriculture, held at the University of California, Davis, Alumni Center, noted that the area boasts some of the best land and water resources in the world and is ideally located between the populous San Francisco Bay Area and the state capital, with an excellent transportation infrastructure connecting us with world markets. The local "food chain industry," the article said, contributes about 10 percent of the gross domestic product of the area, and its products added up to about $2.5 billion in 2009.
Bravo Lake garden keeps local youths out of trouble
David Castellon, Visalia Times-Delta
Manuel Jimenez and his wife, Olga, spent Black Friday at the Bravo Lake Botanical Garden — the 13-acre public garden and walking trail they helped create about eight years ago — along with a group of teenage boys who volunteered to help.
“The garden is not our goal,” said Jimenez, 61, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor. “Our goal is to grow kids. Our goal is to make something of them.”/span>/span>/span>
“If a Gravenstein apple could be sold for 10 times what a Red Delicious could, just as a Sonoma County grape can be sold for 10 times what a Fresno County grape is, you’d be set,” Sumner said. He said the decline of Gravenstein is part of an age-old cycle of crops going in and out of fashion. “You can say the culprit is wine grape growers, but I would say the culprit is wine drinkers,” Sumner said.
Seminar today on Asian citrus psyllid
Jan Sears, The Press-Enterprise
The Citrus Research Board and University of California Cooperative Extension will present a free seminar Friday morning (Sept. 2) on the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that can carry a disease that poses a serious threat to Southern California's citrus industry.The free seminar will be from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Ayres Hotel in Redlands, 1015 W. Colton Ave. Topics will include treatment strategies, and an update on psyllid populations in Southern California.
UC Davis study finds federal program has significant effect on wine market
Obscure federal program has significant effect on wine market
Central Valley Business Times
The University of California Agricultural Issues Center released an economic study which finds that use of the federal drawback program expanded rapidly over the past decade, resulting in significant movement in bulk wine supply and prices for California winegrapes. “I applaud UC Davis for their thorough analysis of the drawback program,” said Kim Ledbetter Bronson, chair of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG). “The drawback program is obscure and complicated, but the study makes clear the program has a significant impact on our industry.”
Devastating tree-killing pathogen traced to California
International Business Times
A new study by UC Berkeley and Italian researchers may have solved a decades-long mystery behind the source of a tree-killing fungus that affected six of the world's seven continents. Genetic sleuthing by an international team of researchers has fingered California as the source of the pathogen, Seiridium cardinale, which is the cause of cypress canker disease and has killed as much as 95 percent of native trees in the cypress family, including junipers and some cedars. “The fungus was likely introduced from California either in the South of France or in Central Italy 60 to 80 years ago, and that introduction resulted in a global pandemic that has devastated the region’s iconic Italian cypress trees,” Matteo Garbelotto, adjunct associate professor and UC Cooperative Extension specialist in ecosystem sciences at UC Berkeley,
The “locavore diet” originally focused on supporting small farms and protecting the environment, says the blog Triple Pundit, however, large grocery store chains and big box discount stores are now writing their own definitions of “local.”
Their definitions include:
- Grown and sold in the same state - Walmart
- Grown within an eight-hour drive of the store - Safeway
- Grown within one day’s drive - Whole Foods
- Produced either in that state or that region of the US - Krogers
- Grown in regions as broad as four or five states - Supervalu (Albertsons, Lucky)
The Triple Pundit post, written by Lesley Lammers, was prompted by an article in the Wall Street Journal published earlier this month. The WSJ withholds most of its content for subscribers only. But Triple Pundit, quoting the Journal, said such loose definitions have sparked criticism from small farmers and organic-food advocates that the chains are just capitalizing on the latest food trend, rather than making real changes in their procurement practices.
Lammers suggests usage of the term “local” may be a passing marketing phrase for the retail food industry that may soon be supplanted with “seasonal.” However, with consumers shopping for tomatoes even in the dark days of winter, even the term “seasonal” raises questions.
Director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis, Daniel Sumner, told the Wall Street Journal, “I really don’t think Wal-Mart is going to tell customers, ‘This is not in season, you have to eat cabbage and turnips for the next three months.’ ”
The American Enterprise Institute got a great deal of media coverage this week after releasing the organization’s recommendations and detailed background information relating to the reauthorization of the U.S. Farm Bill in 2012.
The institute says that farms and farm households have no more need for federal programs that subsidize incomes and risk-protection strategies than any other businesses or households. Eliminating inefficient and outdated agricultural subsidies in the Farm Bill could save U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion over the next decade while having little impact on the country’s food supply or its farmers’ viability.
The AEI statements were packaged under a headline describing American farm subsidies as an “American Boondoggle.” One of the articles, titled Picking on the Poor: How US Agricultural Policy Hurts the Developing World, was written by the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center Dan Sumner.
“In many ways, U.S. agricultural policy is harmful to the global poor. Farm-commodity and related subsidies reduce world prices, especially when prices are already low,” Sumner wrote. “A typical small cotton farm in Africa would have gained more than $100 per year if U.S. programs had not depressed cotton prices.”
This isn’t the first time the American Enterprise Institute has called for farm subsidy cuts, said an article in the Billings Gazette, but with a tight U.S. budget and the number of U.S. citizens with farming-related jobs down to one in 50, AEI officials said they believe they have a good chance of influencing cuts to the 2012 Farm Bill.
Other publications that picked up the story included: