MAY | JUNE 2019 WESTERN GROWER SHIPPER
Breaking the Stereotype: Women Who Are Defying the Odds in Agriculture
WESTERN GROWER SHIPPER MAY | JUNE 2019 WGA.COM
6 BREAKING THE STEREOTYPE Women Who Are Defying the Odds in Agriculture 12 WATER INFRASTRUCTURE Ag Industry Hopeful Congress Will Act 18 The Value of Diversity in Agriculture 22 RURAL CONNECTIVITY Federal Funding Promises Widespread Broadband Coverage 26 AGTOOLS Real-Time Data Tech Improves Bottom Line for Farmers
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DEPARTMENTS 4 President’s Notes 10 Director Profile 17 CA Government Affairs 25 Science & Technology 28 Legislator Profile 32 Agriculture & the Law 37 30
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39 Insurance Corner 40 Western Growers Connections 41 Contact Us 42 What’s Trending
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TOM NASSIF | PRESIDENT AND CEO, WESTERN GROWERS PRESIDENT’S NOTES
The Football Gag: Will Immigration Reform Get Done This Year? The “football gag” was a recurring joke featured in the comic strip, Peanuts . In the skit, Lucy van Pelt tells Charlie Brown that she will hold a football for him while he kicks it. After Charlie expresses some initial skepticism, Lucy always manages to persuade him to give it a try. Of course, every time Charlie approaches the football, Lucy pulls it away at the last second, causing him to fall flat on his back in pain. Lucy usually wraps up the gag by telling Charlie that he should not have trusted her.
While I doubt Charles Schulz was crafting a decades-long metaphor for immigration reform, many of us in agriculture may feel like Charlie Brown every time we hear talk of a legislative solution to our labor needs. Indeed, we have come close to passing immigration reform for agriculture several times in recent years—getting a bipartisan bill passed in the Senate in 2013 and working through a provocative push just last year—only to have the football pulled out from us again and again. Perhaps I’m more like Charlie Brown than I like to admit, because despite a history that would suggest otherwise, I have real hope this will be the year Lucy finally holds the football in place. So… I’m lining up to take another kick. In early April, I had the opportunity to testify before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. As part of a panel titled, “Securing the Future of American Agriculture,” I detailed the critical labor shortages facing the agriculture industry and laid out our two main priorities for immigration reform: a pathway to legalization for our current farmworkers and their immediate families that does not require a touchback, and a more flexible, efficient and market-based agricultural worker visa program to ensure a sufficient future flow of labor. So, what makes this year different? Why should we be optimistic about our chances in 2019, especially in light of a President and Congress gearing up for a raucous 2020 election in which neither side seemingly stands to benefit from compromise on immigration reform? To which I answer: Maybe this year is no different from the past. Maybe we are setting ourselves up for more disappointment. Maybe we should learn our lesson and refuse to believe Ms. van Pelt this time around. On the other hand, I am reminded of a quote from the rough-riding 26 th U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt (to paraphrase): “Nothing worth having comes easy.” Translated into American politics, no great political, economic or social injustice has ever been corrected without a protracted struggle, without some group of individuals relentlessly advocating for change— which takes time and, usually, several failed attempts. Consider the abolitionist movement, which can be traced back to our nation’s founding and the irresolvable question of how to treat the institution of slavery, and the slaves themselves, in the U.S. Constitution.
While the resulting “Three-Fifths Compromise” preserved the precarious balance between the North and South, the continued practice of slavery in the Southern states provided nearly a century of moral fodder for abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Lloyd Garrison. The aims of the abolitionist movement—an end to slavery and the securing of citizenship and voting rights for African- Americans—were not achieved until the Reconstruction Amendments following the Civil War. Though not involved quite as long as the abolitionists, I have been working on immigration reform since the beginning of my tenure at Western Growers in 2002. Seventeen years later, we are still looking for a way to reconcile the economic needs of agriculture with the political needs of our Congressional representatives. But, I am confident in our chances for success sooner rather than later. The political dynamics in Washington have shifted since the 2018 midterm elections. We are dealing with new players who do not seem interested in yanking the football away at the last moment. This necessarily means a bipartisan solution that addresses the concerns of the entire industry while also having a reasonable chance of garnering President Trump’s signature. This also necessarily means a different approach by agriculture. As I concluded in my congressional testimony, our industry has been unsuccessful in getting immigration reform because we’ve been divided—in our goals and in our needs. Only by pledging allegiance to the collective needs of agriculture can we dissuade others from seizing upon these internal divisions and proffering legislation that does not meet the needs of the whole. In other words, let’s heed the admonition of Benjamin Franklin to his fellow revolutionaries: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” In my remaining time at Western Growers, I pledge myself to achieving this unity among the disparate sectors of American agriculture, and to achieving a legislative compromise that meets the needs of the entire agriculture industry. At the end of the day, we are fighting to honor the American family farming legacy, and to secure the future of American agriculture. That is a cause worth yet another run at the football, even if I might wind up on my back again.
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BREAKING THE STEREOTYPE Women Who Are Defying the Odds in Agriculture
By Stephanie Metzinger I n a society where stereotypes and myths are king, tales of heroines can often be overlooked. Social norms have long dictated how women are seen in the workplace, stymying the potential for significant progress in gender equality. These perceptions perpetuate phenomena such as the “gender gap” and “glass ceiling”—the invisible barrier to professional advancement of females— and undermine the success of women. Though gender-biased practices still exist in the job market, progress is slowly but surely being made. Even Hollywood is beginning to feature female superhero
leads like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. We are also beginning to see a similar shift in the historically male- dominated agriculture industry. “Though I’m hearing this less and less and it’s gradually going away, there have been many times where I go into meetings and people ask me if I’m someone’s wife or daughter,” said Jackie Vazquez, director of operations at Andrew & Williamson’s Sundance Berry Farm. Instead, Vazquez is breaking all of the traditional norms tied to agriculture. She did not grow up or marry into a farming family nor did she obtain a degree in agriculture. Rather, this
Salinas-native pursued a marketing degree in Chicago, and after a stint at Univision, stumbled onto a position as an assistant at Reiter Affiliated Companies. Through hard work, curiosity and excellent mentorship, Vazquez rose through the ranks and eventually graduated from filing paperwork and serving coffee to working on budgets and handling all organic compliance affairs for the company. Nine years later, she worked her way to up to director of partner operations. “I’m so thankful they took an interest in me even though I had a marketing
Loren Booth of Booth Ranches
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background and not ag,” said Vazquez. “The reason why I do what I do and love agriculture so much is because I had a great team at Reiter that showed me what agriculture really is and why people have such a passion for this industry.” Today, Vazquez leads the entire operations for Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce’s Watsonville district and is making waves throughout Monterey County as an advocate for social responsibility on the farm. She was part of the team that spearheaded a host of workplace initiatives that have significantly increased retention on the farm, especially among women fieldworkers. These programs include creating designated spaces in the field where new mothers can
safely and privately pump; partnering with United Way to provide the children of harvesters free school supplies; launching training programs where harvesters can learn new trades such as automotive and culinary; working with food banks to provide workers with a one-month supply of food; and creating a “Closet” where farmworkers can pick up donated home goods, clothing, furniture and more. “The slogan for our company is ‘Changing Lives, From Farm to Table.’ I didn’t want that to just be a saying we put on a box. I wanted it to be something where when I say it, I don’t feel cheesy about it because I know we are implementing initiatives that are at the forefront of changing lives,” she said.
WESTERN GROWERS OFFICERS – 2019
RON RATTO, Chairman RYAN TALLEY, Senior Vice Chair ALBERT KECK, Vice Chair CAROL CHANDLER, Treasurer VICTOR SMITH, Executive Secretary THOMAS A. NASSIF, President DIRECTORS – 2019 GEORGE J. ADAM Innovative Produce, Santa Maria, California ALEXANDRA ALLEN Main Street Produce, Santa Maria, CA KEVIN S. ANDREW Vanguard International, Bakersfield, California ROBERT K. BARKLEY Barkley Ag Enterprises LLP,Yuma, Arizona STEPHEN J. BARNARD Mission Produce, Inc., Oxnard, California BARDIN E. BENGARD Bengard Ranch, Salinas, California GEORGE BOSKOVICH III Boskovich Farms, Oxnard, California NEILL CALLIS Turlock Fruit Company,Turlock, California DON CAMERON Terranova Ranch, Helm, California EDWIN A. CAMP D. M. Camp & Sons, Bakersfield, California CAROL CHANDLER Chandler Farms LP, Selma, California LAWRENCEW. COX Coastline Family Farms, Salinas, California STEPHEN F. DANNA Danna Farms, Inc.,Yuba City, California JOHN C. D’ARRIGO D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California, Salinas, California THOMAS DEARDORFF II Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, California FRANZW. DE KLOTZ Richard Bagdasarian Inc., Mecca, California SAMUEL D. DUDA Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc., Salinas, California CATHERINE A. FANUCCHI Tri-Fanucchi Farms Inc., Bakersfield, California DAVID L. GILL Rio Farms, King City, California BRANDON A. GRIMM Grimmway Farms, Arvin, California JOHN JACKSON Beachside Produce, LLC, Nipomo, California A. G. KAWAMURA Orange County Produce, LLC, Irvine, California ALBERT KECK Hadley Date Gardens,Thermal, California FRED P. LOBUE, JR. LoBue Bros., Inc., Lindsay, California FRANK MACONACHY Ramsay Highlander, Inc., Gonzales, California JOHN S. MANFRE Frank Capurro and Son, Moss Landing, California STEPHEN MARTORI III Martori Farms, Scottsdale, Arizona HAROLD MCCLARTY HMC Farms, Kingsburg, California TOMMULHOLLAND Mulholland Citrus, Orange Cove, California ALEXANDERT. MULLER Pasquinelli Produce Co.,Yuma, Arizona DOMINIC J. MUZZI Muzzi Family Farms, LLC, Moss Landing, California MARK NICKERSON PrimeTime International, Coachella, California THOMAS M. NUNES The Nunes Company, Inc., Salinas, California STEPHEN F. PATRICIO Westside Produce, Firebaugh, California RON RATTO Ratto Bros. Inc., Modesto, California CRAIG A. READE Bonipak Produce, Inc., Santa Maria, California ERICT. REITER Reiter Affiliated Companies, Oxnard, CA JOSEPH A. RODRIGUEZ The Growers Company, Inc., Somerton, Arizona WILL ROUSSEAU Rousseau Farming Company,Tolleson, Arizona VICTOR SMITH JV Smith Companies,Yuma, Arizona KELLY STRICKLAND Five Crowns, Inc., Brawley, California RYANTALLEY Talley Farms, Arroyo Grande, California BRUCE C.TAYLOR Taylor Farms California, Salinas, California STUARTWOOLF Woolf Farming & Processing, Fresno, California ROBYRACEBURU Wonderful Orchards, Shafter, California
Jackie Vazquez of Andrew &Williamson’s Sundance Berry Farm
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Vazquez is among the tribe of female farmers who are demonstrating that women are, in fact, critical agents of change in the fight against hunger. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, women make up more than 40 percent of the agricultural workforce in developing countries. In the United States alone, three million acres are farmed by women, generating $12.9 billion in agricultural sales annually. While only 14 percent of the nation’s farms are run by women, these powerful “farmHers” are making changes that are reverberating throughout the industry. For example, Loren Booth, president and owner, Booth Ranches, has grown her operation to become one of the largest and most innovative citrus farms in California’s Central Valley. “I graduated from the California Ag Leadership Program in ’98, and from there, my interest in ag really sparked so I went to work for my dad, who at the time farmed about 2,000 acres of citrus,” said Booth, who was also heavily involved in the family’s cattle operation. After graduating from the program, she started focusing on helping her father build the citrus operation. “My dad was an absentee owner and didn’t have one employee,” she said. “I just thought we could do a lot better job of farming. I try to treat our employees well; an organization is only as good as its employees. Their well-being is a primary focus.” In 2000, Booth took their entire farming operation in-house. The company dove into the packing business in 2003 when they bought their first packing house, and soon after, they brought their sales in-house. When her father passed away three years later, Booth bought out her five siblings and created what Booth Ranches is today—a fully-integrated company with farming, packing, shipping and marketing under one operation. Booth Ranches now farms 7,500 acres of citrus and markets under six labels. “One of my favorite things about my job is watching our employees get the wind under their wings and see them fly. Our young team has really upped our technology game, and it’s really cool to be part of the evolving world of how we farm and to learn how we can use technology to do more for our industry,” she said. Booth makes it a priority to be vocal in the community, trying to help
stakeholders understand the importance of agriculture and the need for resources such as water to sustain the world’s food supply. She currently chairs the Hills Valley Irrigation District Board, serves on the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, and is the lone female on the Friant Water Authority Board of Directors. She also previously sat on Western Growers Board of Directors and was the first woman to join the board of the Citrus Research Board. “Sometimes in meetings, I’m the only woman in the room. I just can’t believe it because there are so many capable women in ag,” she said. “The ag industry was dominated by a strong male influence, and I feel like over the years, the opportunities have increased for many woman to step up.” HMC Farms is a classic example of how more women are getting involved in the industry and creating a lasting footprint in agriculture. The farm is currently operated by members of the McClarty and Jensen families, half of whom are women. Chelsea McClarty- Ketelsen leads the marketing efforts, playing an integral role in helping propel her family’s farm to be a stone-fruit powerhouse. Sarah McClarty is the company’s CFO and is involved in all decisions regarding the company’s future path. Joan Jensen manages the company’s largest packing house while her daughter, Krista Carlson, is heavily involved in the accounting departments for both the packing and farming operations. The list of females in management roles does not stop with family members; key positions
held by women in the company include cold storage manager, packing house manager, fresh processing operations manager and director of food safety. All are impactful players in providing consumers with delicious nectarines, plums, peaches and grapes. Furthermore, approximately one year ago, HMC created a women’s professional development group which consists of all full time female employees throughout the organization. It was established to provide a sense of camaraderie internally as well as create a positive impact on the community through volunteer work. “It's incredible to see the growing number of woman becoming engaged in all areas of the ag industry,” said McClarty- Ketelsen. “As a woman, you have the unique opportunity to provide a different perspective to agriculture; whether it is through farming, marketing, or any other segment of the business. I think the balance of ideas and variety in thoughts is something everyone benefits from, male and female alike.” Despite the fact that most farms worldwide are still headed by men, the number of women who are leading the charge in transforming farming is growing. These heroines are breaking down the walls of social norms, shattering the glass ceiling and rising above the shards to pave a path for other women. In a time when agriculture is facing dire challenges including labor shortages, rising regulatory costs and foreign competition, women, now more than ever, play a critical role in the fight to provide our country and the world an abundant and affordable food supply.
Sarah McClarty and Chelsea McClarty-Ketelsen of HMC Farms
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CALIFORNIA DIRECTOR PROFILE
Kelly Strickland Vice President of Operations Five Crowns Marketing Brawley, CA
Director Since 2018 | Member Since 1985
Injury Dooms Baseball Dream; Marriage Leads to Produce Career
By Tim Linden G rowing up in San Jose, CA, Kelly Strickland was quite the baseball player. He was heavily recruited out of high school as a pitcher and continued his planned path to the Major Leagues at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. His selection of a course of study—business administration—ultimately proved more important in his career path than the baseball diamond he thought would lead him to post-college employment. “It is funny that I chose business administration as a major and that is the role I am filling at Five Crowns,” he said. He noted that he is part of four members of the second generation of the family operation currently in management positions. The other three slots are filled by Danny, Tyler and Billy Colace, sons of founders Joe and Bill Colace. Those three second generation Colace men are involved in sales (Danny and Tyler) and plant operations (Billy). “I am on the operations side,” said Kelly. “That was the missing piece. They didn’t have someone to step into that role and so I was the family member for that position and it does fit well with my undergraduate work.” Strickland readily admits that when he picked that major, he didn’t expect to use it. Speaking of his baseball ambitions, he said, “when I was a freshman all my eggs
were in that basket. I picked Business Administration because it was a general business degree.” After his freshman year, Strickland hurt his elbow, had reconstructive tendon surgery (“Tommy John” operation) and missed two years of action. “That derailed my baseball plans,” he said. But he soon pivoted in another direction. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he began studying theology and envisioned a career in ministry. In fact, he was a youth minister in Orange County working toward that career when he reassessed his chosen profession. He had met Kristin Colace in college and was planning to marry her. But the fact was that his ministerial position didn’t pay very much. “I quit that, moved back home and went to work with my dad,” he said. His father was a framing contractor and young Kelly did that work long enough to earn enough money to buy an engagement ring. He and Kristin did get married and began their married life in San Diego, as Kelly took a position in commercial real estate. He stayed in that industry for about six years, and then in 2011, launched a solar development company. The family connection gave the company its first major project, which was a solar installation at the Five Crown’s facility in Brawley. “In the process, I worked
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partnership with Tracy, CA-based GloriAnn Farms and its line of packaged sweet corn. Strickland said the move is an affirmation of the company’s belief that California still offers lots of opportunity for an agricultural firm. He said the company currently has sales north of $200 million and is in the throes of succession planning. The two founders are in their 60s, committed to continued growth and proactively making sure the company stands the test of time through the second generation and beyond. The second generation is populated with the four members previously mentioned directly employed by the firm and three others involved as suppliers in one way or another. The third generation of the family tree is headed by Kelly and Kristin’s nine-year-old son, Jack. Kate, 7, and Grace, 2, round out the family unit. Proud dad said Jack is a lefty and is showing athletic ability. He said the family is very much looking forward to the move to Ripon and immersing themselves in the community just as they did in Brawley. In fact, Kelly was an elder in the local church until he recently resigned because of his pending move to the San Joaquin Valley. In his spare time, he likes to golf, coach his kids in their sports and enjoy wine with Kristin. “We are looking forward to being closer to wine country,” he quipped. Kelly first got involved with Western Growers as a member of the fourth Future Volunteer Leaders Class, which completed its term at the 2018 Annual Meeting. That was the same meeting in which Kelly became a member of the Western Growers Board of Directors as the elected representative from the Brawley district, replacing Jack Vessey who stepped down after several terms on the board.
quite closely with Bill and Joe and they ended up offering me a position with the company.” It was the vice president of operations job he holds today. Kelly and Krsitin gave it careful consideration and with their first two children in tow moved to Brawley in 2012. “We did have to talk about it and carefully consider it,” Kelly said. “It was quite a change to go from San Diego to Brawley. Kristin grew up in Brawley and she didn’t envision moving back here again. But it is a phenomenal company and family and we decided to make the move. It was a great move. I love Brawley. I love the small town and it’s a phenomenal community.” It could have been smooth sailing ahead, but the story took another unexpected turn. “After moving back here, I was diagnosed with genetic heart disease. At the age of 32, I had an 11-hour, open- heart operation to repair the aortic valve. And then, two years later, I had a second procedure on the tri-cusped valve. I feel great now but it does cause you to stop and re-evaluate your life.” That re-evaluation led Kelly to understand that he is right where he should be. In fact, while he calls the genetic disorder random, he is a great believer that everything happens for a reason and is not random at all. Presently, he believes his business background and education created a skill set that is a perfect fit for the family firm that he married into. And he is excited about the growth and changes that have occurred at Five Crowns over the past decade, and what the future holds. Strickland joined the firm in 2012 and he said the growth has been tremendous since then—and the most aggressive in the firm’s more than three decade history. “We have added watermelon, berry and asparagus programs, opened a new cooler facility here in Brawley and are building a new 170,000 square foot processing facility
in Tracy. And we’ve opened up a logistics operation.” As he was being interviewed for this story, the Stricklands were getting ready to embark on another new adventure. “In July, we are moving to Ripon (in the San Joaquin Valley) and I am going to run the new Tracy facility along with my current duties.” That facility will also have an office for Five Crowns’ Northern California team. “We will have 20-22 people in the office up here and it will be used as a distribution facility as well as for our watermelon packing operation.”
Five Crowns already
has a collaborative
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WATER INFRASTRUCTURE Ag Industry Hopeful Congress Will Act
By Tim Linden W ater infrastructure is a lot like the weather— everyone talks about it but nothing is ever done about it. Consider that the vast majority of water projects serving California were in the planning stage 80 to 90 years ago and were built in 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. Since then, there have been virtually no massive public projects and only a few smaller, privately- funded ones. The initial projects were planned for a California population that was expected to hit about 16 million people in 1960 and 20 million a decade later. Since the last major project was built, the population has more than doubled and is currently increasing at about 1 percent per year, which means more than 50 million people in the state by 2040. Will there be enough water for both people and agriculture? The short answer is no, but a survey of a number of well- informed observers are “cautiously optimistic” that the path toward mitigation may begin to take shape in Congress this year after years of neglect. In fact, “terribly neglectful” is the phrase Jason Phillips, CEO of the Friant Water Authority, ascribed to the past two generations of leaders regarding their action concerning California’s water needs. The “Greatest Generation” has received lots of credit for the forward-thinking visionaries who fought a World War and then came back home to fund and build America’s future. Highways in disrepair, crumbling bridges, sinking canals and insufficient water storage are the result of a half century of alternative priorities. But there just may be light at the end of the tunnel. Dennis Nuxoll, Western Growers vice president of federal government affairs, said there is a lot of discussion going on in the nation’s capital presently about both water issues and infrastructure. He said these discussions are creating “momentum” that just might result in a “water package” becoming part of the road and bridges infrastructure legislation currently given a fighting chance to succeed in this Congress. There has been bi-partisan support for an infrastructure bill since President Donald Trump came to office more than two years ago. For a variety of reasons, the administration moved infrastructure legislation to the back burner of its priority list. Since the new Congress convened in January, it has once again surfaced as at least one major area where the deeply- divided government might agree. In the meantime, Nuxoll indicated that Congress is not quite as dysfunctional as it appears. In fact, Congress has, on a bi-partisan basis, been working on a “Drought Contingency Plan”
that establishes protocols for the seven western states served by the Colorado River if Lake Mead and Lake Powell dip to specific low levels of capacity. Nuxoll said this action, which includes full engagement of 14 U.S. senators representing both parties, has combined with other water issues to create the momentum in the water arena. Sensing an opportunity to capitalize on this rare congressional collaboration, more than 100 organizations representing western agriculture and water interests recently sent a letter to both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate urging the legislative bodies “to use any infrastructure package to help address severe hydrological conditions in the West.” The letter identifies the broad needs of the West in several areas including water conservation, water storage and forest management, as well as help in creating “flexibility under existing environmental laws and regulations…” Nuxoll expressed optimism that an infrastructure bill including water could get passed and signed into law this year. Several western water experts also expressed varying degrees of optimism and also weighed in on the severity of the water issues facing the western states, and what the best solutions might be to address water shortage issues. Scott Petersen, water policy director for the San Luis & Delta- Mendota Water Authority said he was “cautiously optimistic,” noting that he might be “more hopeful than optimistic” that legislation would be considered and passed. He did allow that there appears to be more consensus about the need to invest in water infrastructure now than in many years. “There is widespread recognition that there is a need,” he said, noting that it has been 16 years since the Metropolitan Water District finished the Diamond Valley Reservoir in Southern California, the last major water storage facility constructed in the Golden State. “California’s water system is absolutely at a breaking point.” He said the California legislation passed in 2014 to address groundwater overdraft—the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act—could result in the fallowing of as much as 500,000 to one million acres of land in the San Joaquin Valley if additional surface supplies of water are not accessed. He said this will have a “devastating impact” on the economy in the affected areas, and that concept appears to have widespread acceptance, citing a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California. Petersen said there has been “encouraging dialogue” among
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many stakeholders, including between traditional foes such as business leaders and environmental activists to attempt to minimize the local impacts of potential land fallowing. Local stakeholders must develop sustainability plans by 2020 and implement them over the next several years to achieve groundwater sustainability by 2040. The timetable is helping to fuel these discussions and Petersen is hopeful that rational minds will prevail and action will occur before the point of no return. He listed several different major projects on expanding existing or constructing new water storage reservoirs and improving water conveyance infrastructure that could help the effort, including the enlarging of San Luis Reservoir, the raising of Shasta Dam, constructing Pacheco Reservoir, expanding Los Vaqueros Reservoir and updating flood control manuals and operations criteria of several others, including New Melones, Oroville, Folsom, and Friant. He added that there are also state and local projects that can be part of the solution, including expanding partnerships between wildlife refuges and agricultural water districts like those served by the Authority and increasing local groundwater storage. Phillips of the Friant Water Authority also seemingly subscribes to the theory that something will get done because it has to. He said the devastating economic impact to California if roughly a third of the irrigated land in the southern San Joaquin Valley has to be fallowed is unfathomable. “It will be an absolute train wreck,” he said, if action is not taken very soon. Some land has already been fallowed and he said beginning next year there will have to be permanent fallowing if additional water sources aren’t developed to recharge the overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley. Phillips is also optimistic that action will occur largely because it seems so logical to him…and he can point to specific projects that can help mitigate the problem. Solving the problem, he said, requires a multi-thronged approach, including the development of new storage capacity (Temperance Flats and Sites), expanding others (Shasta Dam) and, just as importantly, greatly increasing the conveyance capacity in the state. For example, he said the Friant-Kern Canal is designed to deliver one million acre feet (AF) of water annually to 15,000 farms
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through a 152-mile, gravity-powered system. The overdrafting issue has caused land subsistence and created 25 to 30 miles of canal that are 12 feet below where it was when built. To rebuild that portion of the canal so it once again can flow at full capacity is about a $300 million fix. Phillips said that would result in an additional 200,000 acre-feet of water, which is about 8 percent of the estimated 2.5 million AF shortfall that the state annually has. Phillips is optimistic that any federal water infrastructure bill would include funding for this project because it makes economic sense. As a point of reference, he said enlarging Shasta Dam (another necessity in his view) is estimated to cost about $1.3 billion and will yield additional storage of about 80,000 AF of water. Phillips believes the critical element of solving California’s water problem is a more robust conveyance system. He noted that during this year’s especially wet winter 10 million acre feet of usable water went out to the ocean because the conveyance capacity did not exist to deliver it to recharging basins nor was their sufficient capacity to store it. He noted that in a majority of years, California winter produces less water than the state needs but in about four years out of 15, an excess is produced and there needs to be a way to capture it. He said this spring and summer, more water will be lost to sea as the tremendous snowpack will melt and will again overwhelm the conveyance and storage capacity. Friant and others have developed a San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint addressing what needs to be done to make up the 2.5 million AF shortfall. Phillips said it is a reasonable plan with both short term solutions that can capture one million AF over the next five years, as well as the development of longer term projects that will come on line over the next 15-20 years. He believes it is doable and is optimistic it will get done. He even believes the funding is realistic. Besides the potential, and need, for federal funds, Phillips said there are non-contract water users that are willing to pay to create additional water sources as long as they get access to that water. He said the key is to get these areas organized so that they can establish coalitions or districts to fund these projects. Brent Walthall, assistant general manager for the Kern County Water Authority (KCWA), also has somewhat
of an optimistic view that some action will occur this year where none has happened in many years. But he directed his attention to California’s Delta and the need to create a through-Delta conveyance system. KCWA, and the many water districts it serves, count on the water produced in the northern half of the state, and Walthall said this is year 13 in the discussions to start the through-Delta project. “I do expect a decision before the end of 2019,” he said. Former Governor Jerry Brown advocated a two-tunnel project while new Governor Gavin Newsom favors a one- tunnel approach. Walthall said that while more water could be delivered with the two tunnels, the one-tunnel proposal has the advantage of higher probability of being approved, and it will certainly be completed ...this spring and summer, more water will be lost to sea as the tremendous snowpack will melt and will again overwhelm the conveyance and storage capacity. more quickly, though he would not hazard a guess as to the completion date. He said regulators are currently determining how much of the research and environmental reports completed for the two-tunnel project translate to the smaller option. Walthall said, just like the Friant-Kern Canal, the California Aqueduct also needs significant repairs to make it more efficient. He said it is a big project and it will require that users be the source of funding. Frankly, he said some KCWA water districts will be able to fund the project and be able to use the additional water created while for others, the increased cost just won’t pencil out. Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance, headquartered in Klamath Falls, OR, had a broader view of
the infrastructure debate as he represents growers in all 17 western states. Like the others, he does believe that there is reason for optimism that water infrastructure projects will be included in the broader infrastructure legislation if it succeeds. However, he believes the window for success is relatively short because of the already-started campaigning to become president in 2020. A plethora of Democrats are in the race and President Trump has already begun his re-election bid. “If it doesn’t get done (passing of infrastructure legislation) by the August (2019) recess, I don’t think it will happen,” he predicted, noting that neither party will want to give the other a victory as 2020 approaches. But unlike the others, Keppen does not see decades of inaction on the water front. While it is true there have been no big dams built in decades, he said there have been several bills passed on the federal level showing that Congress does have an appetite to address water issues. He said Water Resource Development Acts were passed in both 2016 and 2018 that did include provisions for flood control for both the Klamath Basin and Missouri River. And he said a very important change was legislated in 2018 to the criteria the Army Corp of Engineers can use when approving flood control projects. He said more weight can be given in rural areas and this has opened up funding sources for projects benefiting agriculture. He also noted that there are some smaller projects that are in the works in various western regions including the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming and the Northwest. Keppen said the latest Farm Bill also contains provisions in the conservation area that allows farms more leeway on their own land and the ability to apply for federal dollars to help cover the cost of private projects. In light of the difficulty in passing sweeping bills, Keppen said these incremental advances are important and extremely relevant to the ag community. He agreed with WG’s Nuxoll that the dialogue that ensued while working with 14 U.S. senators on the Drought Contingency Plan has created momentum that could morph into action. “I do think there is an opportunity,” Keppen said. “There is a lot more work to be done, but I do think it is a possibility that we can come together on this.”
16 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com MAY | JUNE 2019
GAIL DELIHANT | DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS
California Needs Clean and Affordable Drinking Water
The concept of having safe and affordable drinking water may seem simple, considering all the advanced technology we have available today. However, nothing is simple when it comes to water in California.
For more than four years, Western Growers staff has been cultivating relationships with environmental justice organizations to forge pathways that would ultimately protect growers from onerous drinking water replacement orders issued by the State Water Board Office of Enforcement (OOE). Odd as it may seem, adversity does make strange bedfellows. At the end of the legislative session last year, the agriculture, environmental and business communities, as well as a whole host of other stakeholders including the Water Foundation, worked tirelessly to convince two-thirds of both houses to vote for Senator Bill Monning’s drinking water bill – SB 623. We could just about taste victory, but ultimately the bill stalled without a vote. Fierce opposition to the municipal water tax portion of the bill from the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) played a significant role in halting progress. Fearing a replay of the fallout of the gasoline tax increase earlier in the session, which culminated in the recall of a Democratic state senator in Southern California, Speaker Anthony Rendon decided not to push members of his caucus to vote for another tax in an election year. Even Republicans from agricultural areas whose constituents were currently feeling the sting from the OOE were unwilling to support the bill—with the exception of now-former Senator Andy Vidak (Tulare). ACWA’s alternative to the water tax? Establish a dedicated trust fund, infused by the general fund. While ACWA supported the imposition of fertilizer fees to fund nitrate contamination in ag areas, the association worried about the precedent of establishing a first-ever state charge on municipal water connections. “With the state’s record budget surplus, the timing is perfect for the state to establish and fund the Safe Drinking Water Trust,” said Cindy Tuck of ACWA. Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) carried their bill last year, which also failed to pass, and is attempting it again this year. When Gavin Newsom was newly elected governor, he publicly declared that access to clean affordable drinking water was a priority. During his first State of the State address, he said “We have a big state with diverse water needs. Cities that
need clean water to drink, farms that need irrigation to keep feeding the world, fragile ecosystems that must be protected… “Just this morning, more than a million Californians woke up without clean water to bathe in or drink. Some schools have shut down drinking fountains due to contamination. Some poorer communities, like those I visited recently in Stanislaus County, are paying more for undrinkable water than Beverly Hills pays for its pristine water. “This is a moral disgrace and a medical emergency… Solving this crisis demands sustained funding. It demands political will.” There are now several vehicles to address this issue. To show his strong support, Governor Newsom proposed a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Trailer Bill, which is essentially SB 623 from last year. With backing from the Speaker, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) introduced AB 217. Garcia’s legislation includes a monthly $0.50 water tax, fertilizer fees, $250,000 from the general fund for 5 years going into a trust account, and a promise to add enforcement protection language later. Both of these bills will require a two- thirds vote of the Legislature. Additionally, Senate President Pro tem Toni Atkins has voiced concern about passing a water tax. As we understand it, she wants to see a majority vote for general fund money going to safe drinking water needs each year. Her proposal would not include new fertilizer fees, municipal water connection fees, or enforcement protection for farmers in compliance with state and regional water quality mandates. Although everyone agrees that clean drinking water should be addressed this year, there is no certainty that the Legislature will muster the will to act. Conventional wisdom tells us that new governors elected by wide margins usually get what they want in their honeymoon year, especially when that governor is of the same party as the majority in the Legislature. Governor Newsom has made this a top priority and has aligned himself with the approach advocated by the agricultural-environmental justice coalition. It’s time to get this done.
MAY | JUNE 2019
Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com
The Value of Diversity in Agriculture
By Chardae Heim D iversity in leadership is often a key asset to any company or industry, and while agriculture may lag others in diversity at the top, the industry is poised to make great strides and more closely reflect the demographics of the world it feeds. Just as a farmer understands the value of diversifying his or her crops, the industry as a whole is benefitting from efforts to include women and minorities in positions of management and ownership. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, while the total number of male farmers actually declined from the 2012 data, the number of female producers jumped nearly 27 percent, from 970,000 to 1.23 million. Women now represent 36 percent of all U.S. farmers, and the total market value of agricultural products sold by farms with women producers was $148 billion in 2017. Just as we are seeing more women in agriculture, the industry is also seeing an uptick in minority representation. While the total number of U.S. producers rose by 6.9 percent between 2012 and 2017, the total number of minority farmers—including Hispanic, American Indian, African American and Asian—increased by 9.6
George Washington Carver, who developed his own crop rotation method, which increased the soil’s productive capacity. Another notable minority agriculturalist is biochemist Dr. Evangelina Villegas, who dedicated her research to improving the nutritional content of maize. Along with her research partner, she developed quality protein maize, which increased the digestible protein in corn, improving the nutritional standing of millions of underfed people around the world. To encourage diversity in agriculture, and to help women and minorities overcome the barriers to entry, numerous non- profit organizations and government programs have emerged, including the National Society for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS). In 1986, a group of agriculture and natural resources students and faculty from Michigan State University and Pennsylvania State University created MANRRS to provide underserved and under-resourced individuals in the industry a reliable network of like-minded professionals. Still in operation today, MANRRS provides their members with valuable resources,
percent during the same time span. The total market value represented by these minority farmers was $35 billion in 2017, up nearly 29 percent from 2012. Though significant progress has been made in enhancing diversity in agriculture, minorities are still underrepresented in farming. Of the 3.4 million farmers nationwide, just 240,000—or roughly 7 percent—are minorities, a ratio that has remained relatively flat in recent years. These persistently-low numbers beg the question: Do minorities face barriers to entry that make careers in agriculture inaccessible? It is significant to note that minorities have contributed to many of agriculture’s most utilized inventions and practices, such as Henry Blair, who patented the corn planter, and
18 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com MAY | JUNE 2019
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