Farmers: The Original Environmentalists

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8 Farmers: The Original Environmentalists 12 The Next Generation of Food Safety 16 MICROGRIDS: Shifting to More Reliable Energy 20 Concept Clean Energy Targets Solar Solutions

WESTERN GROWER & SHIPPER Published Since 1929

Volume XCI Number 2

To enhance the competitiveness and profitability of Western Growers members

Dave Puglia President

Western Growers davep@wga.com

Editor Tim Linden Champ Publishing 925.258.0892 tlinden@wga.com Contributors Cory Lunde 949.885.2264 clunde@wga.com

Stephanie Metzinger 949.885.2256 smetzinger@wga.com Chardae Heim 949.885.2279 cheim@wga.com Production Diane Mendez 949.885.2372 dmendez@wga.com Circulation Marketing 949.885.2248 marketing@wga.com Advertising Sales Dana Davis Tyger Marketing 302.750.4662 danadavis@epix.net

DEPARTMENTS 4 President’s Notes 6

California Member Profile Science & Technology

18 22 24 26

Legislator Profile

California Government Affairs Federal Government Affairs Western Growers Assurance Trust


30 Agriculture & the Law 37

Western Growers Connections


Contact Us

Western Grower & Shipper ISSN 0043-3799, Copyright © 2020 by the Western Grower & Shipper is published bi-monthly by Western Grower & Shipper Publishing Company, a division of Western Growers Service Corp., 15525 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine California 92618. Business and Editorial Offices: 15525 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine California 92618.Accounting and Circulation Offices:Western Grower & Shipper, 15525 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine California 92618. Call (949) 863-1000 to subscribe. Subscription is $18 per year. Foreign subscription is $36 per year. Single copies of recent issues, $1.50. Single copies of issues more than three months old, $2. Single copies ofYearbook issue $4. Periodicals postage is paid in Irvine, California and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Western Grower & Shipper , PO Box 2130, Newport Beach, California 92658.



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To Push California Forward, Pull Back from the Brink

Once again, the State of California has launched a legal assault against the federal government, this time over the latter’s modernization of the failed regulatory policies that have, since 2008, hobbled the state’s water storage and conveyance systems by basing diversion decisions in the Delta on static and scientifically-flawed rules. Those rules have failed the very fish species they were purportedly created to help while throttling back surface water deliveries to much of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

For years, actually going back to the final months of the Obama Administration, federal agencies have been reworking the “biological opinions” that set regulatory policy in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Their principle goal is actually surprisingly simple: Require real- time monitoring to account for changing data on fish locations and prevalence, and further to maximize water capture, storage and delivery in times of excessive precipitation and runoff. Behind the scenes, as the federal agencies reworked these rules, California officials were engaged alongside in exactly the spirit of partnership we all hope for, especially in water policy. During virtually the same period, two California governors—Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom—committed to an alternative approach that would set aside the harsh and impractical State Water Board proposal to force at least 40 percent of the flows of the San Joaquin River tributaries to flow unimpeded through the Delta and out to the sea. The “voluntary settlement agreement” process initiated by Brown and embraced emphatically by Newsom (his removal of Felicia Marcus as chair of the State Water Board was widely attributed to her resistance to this pathway) has signaled a new commitment by the state’s elected executive and his appointees to balance in water policy. So it is an understatement to say that many of us grimaced when, on February 20, one day after President Trump signed the new “Record of Decision” on the revised biological opinions, the Newsom Administration announced a lawsuit against the new policy. Everyone decries the seemingly endless California “water wars” that have dominated water policy for decades, and this latest flare-up might signal the opening of another major new front. Let’s hope not; usually, water users—especially in agriculture—don’t fare well in the aftermath. Call me a hopeless optimist, but here goes: I am not yet convinced that we are stuck in another losing phase of water conflict. In fact, I think we may be witnessing a new approach by Governor Newsom rejecting false binary choices that require siding with environmental groups or water users, irrespective of good science, economic consequences and social impacts. Before taking the oath of office, Governor-elect Newsom joined with Brown to urge the State Water Board to pursue voluntary settlement agreements in place of the draconian approach noted above. Environmental groups, like Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), loudly objected and warned Newsom to reverse course. Then Newsom dismissed Marcus from the State Water Board, in direct contravention

of the demands of NRDC and their allies. Perhaps most encouraging, Newsom then vetoed SB 1 (Atkins), a Trump Resistance bill that would roll back regulatory policies in water and other areas to the Obama Administration’s rules. Once again, NRDC and others fired rhetorical rockets at Newsom. What the Governor might make of all this is actually quite simple: For the most strident environmental activists, accommodating the state’s agriculture industry will never be acceptable, no matter how deep the concessions given by agriculture in the service of compromise. The goal posts will always be moved back, there will always be new threats/ harms/degradations to ecosystems and species to lay at the feet of the agriculture industry, always to be remedied by payment in water. In a February op-Ed in CalMatters, Newsom wrote, “Inaction, recalcitrance, and adherence to the status-quo puts our water future at risk.” Fair enough. As the Families Protecting the Valley coalition recently noted, the state’s water history over the last few decades has been defined by plenty of actions: A long list of statutory and regulatory actions to reduce surface water supplies to the San Joaquin Valley, for the purported benefit of the Delta ecosystem, beginning with the federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992. That law and a parade of actions since have redirected millions of acre feet per year away from farms and cities. And there has been too much recalcitrance and adherence to the status quo: Spurred on by environmental groups, the flawed and failed biological opinions were fiercely defended against any attempt at science-based revision. These actions have rolled over people and communities, and are now part of our water history. As he seeks to chart a smarter water future for California, Governor Newsom has an opportunity to truly break a cycle that starts with assertions of agricultural water profligacy and ecosystem harm, and ends with less water for farms, economic decline in rural regions and further social separation of the haves and have-nots of the Golden State. Another lawsuit against the Trump Administration doesn’t necessarily have to mean yet another round of adherence to that status-quo. The first step in breaking that cycle is to pull back from the brink of another decade of legal warfare that thwarts all water progress. That means saying “no” to those who have proven that they will never say “yes.” To weigh in on issues of importance to your business and the fresh produce industry, please contact Dave Puglia at davep@wga.com

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Alexandra Allen Principal Main Street Produce Santa Maria, CA

Member Since 1988 | Director Since 2019

Many Career High Points, But Life Brings Her Back to Ag Alexandra Allen grew up in Salinas and is now

investment banking world, eventually becoming a hedge fund manager working in both Los Angeles and D.C. Alexandra liked the work and liked Big City life but saw it more as an experience in her journey rather than the sum total of what she would do. It was serendipity that led to her current life and career. Through social media, Alexandra reconnected with her best friend from second grade in that old one-room Lagunitas School House. “She lived in Santa Maria and invited me for a visit. Lo and behold, I was introduced to Paul Allen.” That was 2009 and the couple were married two years later. During those two years, Alexandra knew that their future would be in Santa Maria rather than Los Angeles as it is virtually impossible to transfer a farming career to the urban environment. And she also had a yearning to return to the type of rural environment from which she came. “I’m a bloom where you plant it kind of person,” she quipped. But that didn’t make the move, nor the decision to change careers, easy. She knew that Santa Maria was not the epicenter of hedge fund work so that path was closed. “I could have tried going to work for a law firm or hung out my own shingle, but I really wasn’t interested in doing that,” Alexandra said. “But I also wasn’t interested in Paul making up a job for me or it being just a take-your-wife-to work thing.” They did get married. She did move to Santa Maria. And she did start working for the company. “It started out with me reviewing the employee handbook and it grew from there,” she said. While Alexandra does not believe she was the cause, the company has grown quite significantly since she came aboard. That, in turn, has greatly expanded her role and the work that her compliance counsel position needs to tackle.

married to a grower-shipper, Paul Allen, in Santa Maria. Those two end points suggest a life path much different than the one she took. In between Salinas and Santa Maria, Alexandra was a professional athlete, an attorney and a hedge fund manager, and she lived in Los Angeles, Washington D.C, and Bismarck, North Dakota. Today, she is the compliance offer for Main Street Produce and its growing operation, Freshway Farms. Alexandra’s journey did, in fact, begin in the Salinas Valley but not as a farm girl. “No, I wasn’t in agriculture, but I did develop an affinity for it.” And she has very fond memories of the area. In her early years, she attended school in the one-room Lagunitas School House. “It was built in 1897,” she said, noting that today it resides in a local museum. Alexandra was also introduced to horse riding and became quite good at barrel racing. In fact, she went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo not to pursue an agricultural degree, but because it had a rodeo program. She competed throughout high school and college. Upon graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in Communications, Alexandra joined the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and competed for more than a decade. She is quick to admit that it was not a lucrative career that paid the bills, but she called it more than a hobby. “It was a serious fun thing,” she noted, adding that there was prize money, just not a lot of it. It was during this period that she spent time calling North Dakota home. At age 35, she ended the barrel racing affiliation and headed back to California to pursue a law degree. “I moved to Santa Monica and went to UCLA Law School.” Upon graduation, she utilized her law degree in the

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has been under Paul’s stewardship that the company has grown and expanded exponentially. Under the banner of Freshway Farms, the Allens grow about 1,000 acres of vegetables and 400 acres of berries. They sell the output through Main Street Produce and continue to offer cooling services to many other growers. Alexandra is a person who likes to get involved and as such she has jumped with both feet into the produce industry. “It was a big learning curve as production agriculture is much different than my previous work,” she said. “But there are many legal and environmental issues that I deal with every day just as every other grower has to do.” She has been on the board of both her local grower-shipper association as well as with California Women for Agriculture. She is very excited about her new position on the Western Growers Board of Directors. “I’ve only been on the board a short time, but I love the tremendous passion that the board members have for this industry.” For fun, she has returned to the horse community as she and Paul now own a couple of draft horses. The Budweiser commercial features those type of horses, which is how Alexandra explains the breed to a novice. Like in the commercial, draft horses are comfortable doing hard work like pulling a plow or a beer wagon.


RYAN TALLEY, Chairman ALBERT KECK, Senior Vice Chair STUART WOOLF, Vice Chair CAROL CHANDLER, Treasurer VICTOR SMITH, Executive Secretary DAVE PUGLIA, President DIRECTORS – 2020 GEORGE J. ADAM Innovative Produce, Santa Maria, California ALEXANDRA ALLEN Main Street Produce, Santa Maria, California 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, California 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

Main Street Produce was founded by Paul’s father, Alton Allen, in 1976, after he first served as a tractor salesman. Alton grew up in Blythe and married his wife there, before her family intervened and facilitated a move to the Central Coast with the tractor salesman job. Alton sold tractors but eventually wanted to get in the driver’s seat. He rented five acres and found four others to sharecrop the land with him. The group built a cooler and called it Main Street Produce. Over the first couple of decades, Alton ran the operation growing his own crops on rented land and offering cooling service for other growers. Son Paul joined the operation and eventually took control when Alton died too soon in 2003. Alexandra said that it

Alexandra, Rick, and Roy



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Farmers: The Original Environmentalists

By Cory Lunde I t is a like a sub-plot out of the Netflix television series, Stranger Things , which follows the residents of Hawkins as they battle supernatural forces from the Upside Down, an alternate dimension linked together in a hive mind controlled by the Mind Flayer. In a stranger-than-fiction, real-life drama that is playing out across the country, farmers have inexplicably been cast as Demogorgans, the humanoid predators sent by the Mind Flayer as part of the superorganism’s quest to invade and destroy the Earth. With increasing intention and intensity, farmers are being vilified by many—including those in the environmental, scientific and policymaking communities—as enemies of our planet, as indiscriminate polluters and wasters of our air, soil and water resources. However, for anyone who has ever walked a field with a multi-generational family farmer and seen the pride that comes from knowing they are leaving a healthier environment to their children, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is: Farmers are the original environmentalists. Farmers have been dedicated land stewards, protecting our open spaces and passing productive ground from one generation to the next, since before the environment was a cause. Farmers take very seriously their responsibility to preserve the natural resources that have been entrusted to their care. From a purely financial perspective, farmers have an incentive to preserve and improve the soil, water and air that both sustains and increases their livelihood. Businesses that fail to protect their investments do not remain in business long. But the story is much deeper than profit and loss statements. Simply put: It is in their DNA. Thomas Jefferson recognized this fact, once characterizing farmers as the “chosen people of God… whose breasts He has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.” In other words, Jefferson understood that there is a particular ethos ingrained in farmers—based on a shared work ethic, a collective commitment to right conduct and an unyielding sense of stewardship—that, if widely adopted, would ensure the long- term prosperity and happiness of the American people. While survey after survey confirms that public support for farmers remains resolute, the early confidence expressed by Jefferson seems to have eroded among today’s policymakers. In California, and elsewhere in the U.S., countless legislative and regulatory actions have been taken to limit the freedom of farmers to operate, ranging from reductions in water deliveries to onerous air and water quality mandates to the elimination of crop protection tools. Perhaps our policymakers would have a different perspective if they spent some time on an actual family farm, if they got to

Cannon Michael, Bowles Farming Company

Don Cameron, Terranova Ranch

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The D'Arrigo solar farm meets 87% of the electrical needs of their cooling and loading facility.

know any one of the thousands of family farmers in California, Arizona, Colorado or New Mexico [or any other state] dedicated to maintaining a sustainable balance between feeding our country and preserving our natural resources. Perhaps our policymakers would have a different perspective if they ever had a chance to meet the late Marvin Meyers, who passed away in November 2019. One of California’s biggest almond growers, Meyers was widely recognized for his visionary approach to environmental stewardship, which culminated in the development of the Meyers Water Bank and Wildlife Project near the town of Mendota. Part working ranch, part groundwater storage facility, part wildlife habitat, the project is also a living laboratory for students to learn about the importance of water to agriculture and the role conservation plays in preserving the future of agriculture. In 2007, Meyers received California’s top environmental leadership award

for his commitment to sustainable agricultural practices. Perhaps our policymakers would have a different perspective if they were to ever pay a visit to Bowles Farming Company, the Los Banos-based sesquicentennial family farm led by sixth-generation farmer, Cannon Michael. In inheriting the Bowles Farming Company legacy, Michael has also inherited an appreciation for sustainability, and strives to build his family farm into a model of sustainable agriculture. “Our continued progress is inseparable from the continued health and availability of our natural resources,” he notes. In practice, the Bowles Farming Company seeks out the best available technology to increase water efficiencies and decrease its carbon footprint, while improving its on-farm wildlife habitat. To grow its habitat footprint, the Bowles Farming Company works diligently to preserve historical ecosystems, restore degraded habitats and improve the ecological functionality of working lands. One crowning jewel of this effort is the Pick Anderson Riparian Restoration project, which is currently developing habitat for migratory birds and pollinators along an abandoned four-mile stretch of land adjacent to their fields. The Bowles Farming Company also works with conservation partners to actively manage its wetland habitats for the benefit of waterfowl and other migratory birds. Perhaps our policymakers would have a different perspective if they were to ever set foot on Terranova Ranch, the Helm- based operation managed by the purpose- driven farmer Don Cameron.

John D'Arrigo, D’Arrigo Bros. of California



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At Terranova Ranch, Cameron has pioneered the concept of on-farm water recharge in California. For the past 25 years, Terranova Ranch has been working to recharge its aquifer, the main source of the farm’s irrigation water. In 2011, Cameron landed on a novel solution. He worked with UC Davis researchers on an experiment in which flood water was applied to his farm fields as a means of capturing and storing excess water during the off-season, which would otherwise run out wasted to the ocean. The results were promising, and the following year Terranova Ranch began a collaboration with the Kings River Conservation District to build additional infrastructure required for the on-farm recharge project. While work is still underway, at full capacity, the project will be able to recharge up to 1,000 acre feet of floodwater per day, and will help the region meet its sustainable groundwater management goals.

California, where John D’Arrigo carries on the Andy Boy legacy. Driven by the core value of conserving energy and protecting natural resources, D’Arrigo Bros. of California consolidated and centralized its cooling and loading facility to minimize energy and fuel use. In designing its new facility, D’Arrigo Bros. of California considered the distance product traveled from the field to the facility, incorporated energy-efficient materials, equipment and lighting into the construction of the facility, and installed cutting- edge computer systems and other technology aimed at creating efficiencies in the product cooling process. D’Arrigo Bros. of California also powers its 152,000 sq. ft. cooling and loading facility—and ranch meters —with 5.5 megawatts of electricity generated from solar power. This solar farm, which includes 18,000 panels on 39 acres of land, meets 87 percent of the electrical needs of the facility.

Driven by the core value of conserving energy and protecting natural resources, D’Arrigo Bros. of California consolidated and centralized its cooling and loading facility to minimize energy and fuel use.

Perhaps our policymakers would have a different perspective if they were ever to spend time at Braga Ranch, the heritage of founder Sebastian Braga. Today, the third generation runs the Soledad-based family farm, headed by Rodney Braga. Braga Ranch operates by a simple motto: “Sustainable agriculture is the foundation of our operations.” With their sustainability program—which focuses on water, soil, energy and air—Braga Ranch aims to reduce waste and increase efficiency. Through practices such as drip irrigation, crop rotation, cover crops and conservation tillage, Braga Ranch conserves water and maintains air quality standards while nurturing the healthy soils that will provide for the farm for generations to come. Perhaps our policymakers would have a different perspective if they ever traveled up the road to the Salinas-based D’Arrigo Bros. of

In another demonstration of the company’s commitment to efficient resource use, D’Arrigo Bros. of California also participates in a comprehensive recycling program, with the goal recycling 100 percent of the recyclable materials used in the growing, packing and shipping of its products, which results in approximately 500 tons of cardboard and plastic being recycled each year. These stories are just a few of the countless ways Western Growers members farm with the natural world in focus, to steal a line from the Bowles Farming Company’s definition of sustainability. These are exactly the types of stories we all must be dedicated to sharing with the public and our policymakers. With these stories, our message is clear: It is not farming or the environment. It is farming and the environment. We must be committed to pursuing public policies that pave the way for both to thrive in perpetuity.

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The Next Generation of Food Safety

By Jeff Gullickson and Hank Giclas “ FDA, CDC, and state health authorities are investigating an outbreak of illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 in the U.S.” Despite the U.S. fresh produce industry having implemented the most scientifically-informed and rigorous food safety practices in the world, this is a refrain that has become all too familiar in recent years. The romaine industry has been hit particularly hard as of late. In early 2018, 210 illnesses in 36 states were traced back to romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli from the Yuma growing region. Later that year, another 62 E. coli -related illnesses in 17 states were linked to romaine lettuce production, this time in the Santa Maria growing region. In the fall of 2019, one year later, romaine tainted by E. coli was connected to the Salinas growing region, ultimately sickening 167 people in 27 states. Romaine is far from the only culprit. Over the past several years, Salmonella has been linked to fruit mixes, papayas, vegetable trays, pre-cut melons and sprouts. Hepatitis A has been connected to blackberries and frozen strawberries. In each of these events, we are reminded that the responsibility for food safety is not just limited to a few commodities but, rather, is the collective responsibility of the entire fresh produce industry, and is an obligation that extends throughout the supply chain. Following the E. coli outbreak in the fall of 2018, FDA called on the leafy greens supply chain to adopt several recommendations aimed at enhancing the safety of leafy greens, with a particular emphasis on traceability. These recommendations have tremendous applicability to the broader

fresh produce industry, as well. Specifically, “FDA strongly encourages the entire leafy greens supply chain to adopt traceability best practices and state-of-the-art technology to assure quick, accurate and easy access to key data elements from farm to fork when leafy greens are involved in a potential recall or outbreak.” While this may already be happening in certain segments of the industry, we must endeavor to make the adoption of real-time food safety documentation and supply chain-wide traceability technology universal. By and large, we remain an audit and checklist-driven industry. Most of the data we collect still resides in hard copy form, which limits our ability to examine trends or develop key metrics that allow us or our supply chain partners to monitor performance. Furthermore, in a recall event, we are slow to react because we become mired in record searches that are reliant on many parties and often paper records. The consequences can be catastrophic, both in terms of public health and financial exposure. This is where Western Growers excels; identifying the existential threats to our industry and developing innovative, cost-effective solutions to ensure our members are able to continue farming into the next generation. The risks related to food safety certainly qualify. Western Growers has developed an industry-driven, comprehensive food safety and traceability system—intended to be adopted by each partner in the supply chain—designed to limit both foodborne illnesses and liability. Simply put, it will deliver a best-in-class supply chain program with commercial

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Data Collection and Analysis One final potential benefit is the opportunity to build anonymous, aggregated data subsets for use by Western Growers to address member issues and inform policy development. The food safety systems of the future will be driven by data, which will enhance preventive controls in the field, help the supply chain identify trends, and ultimately lead us to a predictive state where we can identify and mitigate contamination events before they happen. This will require that data be collected and transferred in real time, and will require systems that are integrated. The Western Growers solution will lead the way. Western Growers, working with best- in-class technology providers, is currently testing this solution in a small supply chain in order to ensure that it can be easily integrated into any member operation. We will soon make this platform widely available and encourage those interested in the next generation of food safety to contact us for more information or to become one of our early adopters.

products that consist of three interrelated components: food safety, traceability and financial protection. Food Safety The first task is to minimize the risks of contamination, which requires adherence to good food safety practices— which, in turn, requires verification and documentation. To achieve this task, we have leveraged proven and vetted technology to capture real-time food safety data collected in the field. Using this data, the technology allows for mutually agreed upon risk-based metrics to be shared between buyers and sellers up and down the supply chain, giving real-time visibility to compliance and corrective actions. Traceability The second step is to deliver traceability from the field to the end consumer, which is accomplished through Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) solutions that provide simple-to-use software to print case labels, and support all workflows, from the shed to the line to the field. It can also provide item level traceability using

QR codes that enable consumers to find real-time food safety or other product information, while offering traceback and forward to immediately narrow an investigation or recall. This technology can readily integrate with blockchain for full The third leg of the program stool is financial protection that will allow the affected parties to recover from a contamination event. In such an event, participating operations will have access to top-of-the-line crisis management, legal counsel and claim adjudication teams. The insurance policy, which is provided by Western Growers Insurance Services (WGIS), will provide participating operations with funds for business interruption, brand restoration, product refusal and third party expenses. Because of the food safety and traceability components of this solution, the risks can be aggressively priced based on verified practices, thereby reducing the premiums and creating the option of pooling the risks in a captive or alternative structure. supply chain visibility. Financial Protection

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Mark Borba President Borba Farms Inc. Riverdale, CA

Member Since 2006

Water Issues Top the Charts

By Tim Linden

I t was in the early 1900s that Mark Borba’s ancestors started working the land, near Hardwick in the San Joaquin Valley. His grandparents were dairy farmers. After World War II, the Borba family began to rethink the economics of dairy farming and set their sights on row crops. “The first thing they started with was cotton,” said Mark, adding that cotton was grown by the family for more than 70 years. The transition to row crops in the late 1940s was indicative of the farming philosophy that has driven the Borba family for more than seven decades. A discussion with Mark reveals that economics has always played the most important role as crop decisions are made year in and year out. Many of those decisions have been driven by market price, but increasingly it is the

availability of water that informs the discussion. It was in the late ‘40s that Mark’s parents, Ross and Tina, and his uncle, Darril, started their own operation called Borba Brothers Farms. For 35-plus years, they grew a variety of row crops, with cotton always being one of the mainstays. In the meantime, young Mark grew up on the farm and always knew it would be his future. He went to college at the University of California, Davis majoring in agricultural economics and business management with a minor in agronomy. College not only yielded a great foundation for his farming life, but also gave him a partner for the journey. “I got married in 1971 when I was a sophomore at Davis. I told my wife, if she would work and put me through college, we would settle down and raise a family together…just like ‘The Waltons’.” And, Peggy and Mark have been married ever since, celebrating 48 years this past September. Armed with that degree, Mark did come back to the farm in 1974 to work with the rest of his family, which included his older brother, Ross Jr. In 1975, Ross Sr. had a severe heart attack that required a quadruple bypass. The elder Borba recovered but running a high-stress farming operation was no longer in the cards. In 1976, Mark and Ross Jr. teamed up to created Borba Farms Inc. and continue the family tradition. For the next 30-plus years, the second generation of Borba brothers made their living growing row crops. Ross Jr., who graduated from Healds College with a degree in accounting, handled the finance and legal end of the business, while Mark took care of the farming. The brothers continued along the same diversity path that their father and uncle followed. Mark noted that in the 1960s, the family operation moved to the Westside and started diversifying into other row crops, including sugar beets, barley and processing tomatoes. In the late 1960s, Borba Brothers bought a mechanical tomato harvester, when they were still the new thing, and began offering harvesting services to other growers, in addition to harvesting their new tomato acreage. That expansion of the

Brother Ross Jr, Mom Tina, Peggy and Mark

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business continues to this day as Borba Farms grows about 2600 of its own acres and manages an additional 7500 acres for other growers. Diversity has continued to be a hallmark of the organization. The farming operation is now involved in almonds, pistachios, processing tomatoes, garlic, onions, garbanzo beans, melons and lettuce as well as rotation crops. “And for the first time ever, no cotton,” Mark said. His story about the family’s cotton journey is emblematic of the calculations necessary for any successful farming entity. To compete with other lower-cost cotton- producing regions around the country, Borba Farms always grew ACALA cotton, a premium product unique to California’s San Joaquin Valley. It was always considered the highest Upland cotton in the world and did return a premium. “That premium started to evaporate, so in the early ‘90s we switched to Pima cotton.” Pima cotton produces long, fine and strong cotton fibers that result in an ultra- soft fabric. “We always received quite a premium for Pima cotton,” Borba said, noting that while regular cotton would return about 70-80 cents per pound, Pima would return up to $1.30 per pound. But the cotton market and the high cost of production has made cotton a risky proposition this year. Borba says he remains open to planting it again down the road, but it has to pencil out, and at today’s market…it doesn’t. Mark and his brother ran the operation together until 2007. At that point, Ross

decided to step away from the day-to- day operation and farming risks and only remain involved as a landlord. He still comes into the office most days and handles some of the accounting and legal work, but has backed away from some of the headaches involved in being a farmer in California. And those headaches are many. Mark runs down a litany of government-created issues that make farming difficult. He is especially apoplectic about the water situation. “The cost of water has made it uneconomic to grow most row crops,” he said, using cotton as his first example. “It takes us 2.25-acre feet of water under drip irrigation to grow cotton. That used to cost $7.50 per acre foot.” And they used to get all that water from their Central Valley Project contracted water allocation. Borba Farms no longer gets its full contracted amount. In fact, over the last couple of decades, its water delivery has averaged out to be only 37 percent of its allocation and the cost to accumulate sufficient seasonal water has ranged historically between $85 and $1,300 per acre foot! The growing operation must supplement that water with well water, with wells costing $850,000 to $1.2 million each to install, and energy costs alone at $165-$250 per acre foot. For budgeting purposes, Borba uses a blended $250 per acre foot to determine if a crop makes economic sense. Few do. If a solution isn’t forthcoming, he said row crop farming will disappear from the San Joaquin Valley. He noted that Gilroy is no longer the garlic capital of the world. That designation should go to the Five Points/Huron area in the San Joaquin Valley. But Borba said the cost of producing garlic versus the price received currently doesn’t pencil out. “Agronomically, you can only grow garlic on a piece of ground in one year out of four,” he said, stating that if you are going to be a garlic grower, you have to devote a lot of land to the project. Turning his attention to processing tomatoes, he revealed that by most measures, Borba Farms had a very good year in 2019. “We produced 55 tons to the acre and received $73 per ton,” he said, noting that both of those numbers would have been very credible not that long ago. “But we had red ink, with no return to cover fixed costs like land rents, property taxes, insurance, legal and accounting, management, and interest on debt! We have

to get over $80 (per ton) this year and the processors are saying they can’t afford it.” Borba said the result is that more and more land is being bought up by large conglomerates, who are putting in permanent crop, such as nuts and wine grapes. Those crops have a better chance of penciling out and the land itself is the investment these financial companies are looking for. That is a silver lining for agricultural landowners as the value of the land continues to climb. There is open farmland on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley selling for $10,000 per acre, which is more than 300 percent greater than a couple of decades ago. “My brother keeps asking me what I am waiting for,” Mark quipped. But Borba cautions that once the land is planted in permanent crops or developed for non-agricultural use, it is lost to agriculture for a long time, if not forever. He hopes that California’s government officials will see the light and recognize that growing crops is an important part of the state’s fabric. He pines for the day when farmers and their pursuit to feed the nation trumps the latest crisis cooked up by activists. He fears that SGMA (the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act) could be “strike three” as it further reduces the water farmers have available. Borba Farms has already switched its acreage to 100 percent drip irrigation and uses about half the water per acre that it once did. But, crops have to grow, and while technology can offer efficiencies, the crops’ required consumptive use of water is not replaceable. Despite it all, Mark Borba does remain an eternal optimist (“probably to a fault”) and is delighted his son Derek has joined the operation and is poised to carry on the family legacy. But, he admits that Derek is wary of the future and not as optimistic about the long-term prognosis for California agriculture. “He is deeply concerned about the economics of agriculture,” Mark said. “My son is tech- savvy and is keeping one foot in that arena.” Mark and Peggy continue to love the farming life and on the day of this interview, they could be found driving the backroads of the San Joaquin Valley enjoying the peace that farming the land brings. For fun, the couple loves to hang with their four grandchildren and are very fond of visiting California’s Central Coast. “I believe my wife was a mermaid in an earlier life,” Mark joked.

Son Derek and wife Jennifer, the fifth generation of Borba Farms



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MICROGRIDS: Shifting to More Reliable Energy

By Chardae Heim I n the fresh produce industry, reliable energy is essential to running an operation and maintaining the integrity of the product. With storm-related power outages and public safety power shut-offs plaguing California and contributing to significant damages among agricultural businesses, the industry is beginning to explore alternative energy options. In the traditional utility structure, the power grid is centered around population hubs. As you get further away from these city centers, the infrastructure begins to taper, which is significant for California growers who often operate on the edge of these centralized power grids. Consequently, the quality and stability of energy can oftentimes be unpredictable in rural communities. When adding unforeseen power outages to the equation—in particular, during harvest season—it can be difficult for growers to plan their production and preserve the fruits of their labor accordingly, and the economic impact can be devastating. Unlike other businesses that can simply make up their work at a later date, the timing of cultivation practices and harvest is everything for fresh produce operation; there are crops to irrigate and harvest and coolers to keep cold. In addition to the disruption-related costs of power outages,

the cost of energy itself is on the rise. Over the past several years, energy costs have risen by as much as 20 percent in some agricultural areas, forcing growers to explore innovative ways to achieve power independence. One concept that has emerged to help farmers gain this energy independence is microgrids—intelligent, renewable and localized electricity sources that have the capability to disconnect from traditional grids to operate autonomously. Microgrids incorporate renewable energy sources and serve as a reliable way to achieve operational resilience and economic certainty. “Because they can operate while the main grid is down, microgrids help mitigate disturbances. Microgrids utilize intermittent renewable generation—like wind and solar—as well as dispatchable resources like cogeneration and batteries,” stated Concentric Power’s CEO and founder Brian Curtis. Curtis further explained that microgrids are controlled by integrated software and hardware technologies that manage the power sources and distribute the energy to the power users according to their needs. Microgrids also use artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify ways to achieve better results and manage assets.

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Center for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT) in January 2020 to co-host the Salinas Valley Energy Forum, which brought together an expert panel of energy developers, government agencies and solution providers to discuss the unreliable energy challenges facing agricultural operations along the 101 corridor. With questionable power quality and potentially a decade of PG&E power shut offs ahead, the forum offered insight on how Salinas Valley agriculture can avoid major disruptions to their businesses, all while saving money and meeting sustainability goals. First up on the docket was Curtis, who kicked off the panel discussion with a synopsis of macro-trends in energy usage by Salinas Valley growers, coolers and processors. Gonzales City Manager Rene Mendez followed up with the microgrid solutions being developed by his city. Next, Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, Vice President Gregg Morasca of Strategic Customers at Schneider Electric, and Rick Sturtevant, California State Energy Coordinator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture rounded out the panel discussion, which centered on the complexities of getting off the grid. The Salinas Valley Energy Forum was an important early step in driving forward the conversation around developing reliable, sustainable energy solutions in agriculture. Beyond the Salinas Valley, Western Growers members in every region will be forced to grapple with the increasing need to become more energy independent, which is part and parcel of the overarching trend toward renewable energy sources. Microgrids will invariably be part of the answer.

Concentric Power founder and CEO Brian Curtis

“Working together, the microgrid’s resources are greater than the sum of its parts, driving system performance to a level of efficiency and economic benefit none could do alone,” Curtis pointed out. Ultimately, microgrids allow farmers and ranchers to have more control over their power systems and operations when their existing utility service is inefficient. Coming off 20 years of energy engineering experience, Curtis founded Concentric Power, an intelligent microgrid developer focused on providing energy solutions to California’s agriculture industry. His mission is to assist customers in building clean power infrastructure that allow them to keep the lights on independent of the main power grid, while reducing carbon emissions and optimizing energy efficiency. Concentric Power teamed up with the Western Growers



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HANK GICLAS | SR. VICE PRESIDENT, STRATEGIC PLANNING, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Proving our Environmental Case Miriam-Webster defines “environmentalist” as an advocate of the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment or one concerned about the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (such as climate, soil, water, air and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival. Especially with respect to the control of pollution.

Farmers claim to be the “original environmentalists” and in my three decades of service to the agricultural industry I have often heard that claim, in many settings and from many people. It is a common theme in agricultural discussions (and the theme of this issue of Western Grower & Shipper ), particularly when the conversations turn toward policy proposals that will restrict a farm’s activity to achieve some environmental goal or another. But the claim is not frequently recognized by those in a position to regulate agriculture whether they be from government, the marketplace (buyers) or the NGO (non-profit, non-government organization) community. These days, it takes immutable data to prove the case that farmers are practicing environmentalists and that as an industry we are preserving, restoring and improving our natural surroundings. Unfortunately, it is seldom the case when the industry can step forward with quantitative data that demonstrates environmental performance, improvements, progress, etc. Representatives of the industry continue to lead with anecdotal information—like “farmers don’t apply too much (pick your input—water, pesticide, fertilizer, etc) because it is too costly” or “farmers control (pick your input—water, pesticide, fertilizer, etc.) through technology (pick your technology—drip irrigation, electrostatic sprayers, timed release fertilizers, etc.)” or “we are a (pick your generation) 4 th generation farming operation and are obviously taking care of our environment.” Our failure to prove our case seems to spawn more and more top down control (read increased cost and reduced flexibility) and greater interest in “sustainable,” “regenerative,” “indoor” and other agricultural systems. This is precisely why Western Growers has been working with a small group of dedicated organizations for the past decade to develop a system of performance indicators that will allow industry to quantitatively demonstrate environmental performance. The Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC), consisting of growers, grower groups, NGOs and buyers, is slowly but surely publishing metrics that will provide a common language to demonstrate (document and prove) “environmentalism.” These metrics established by SISC are now being adopted more broadly by buyers and others as a means of communicating “environmentalism” throughout the supply chain, and they are beginning to be recognized by regulators as meaningful methods to demonstrate performance. Today there are metrics for applied water use, habitat and biodiversity, energy use, nitrogen use, phosphorus use, soil organic matter and simple irrigation efficiency. Each is an important

environmental consideration. The metrics establish a common language for measurement and allow for industry to document where they are today, how they are improving and to tell their story with hard data that cannot be disputed. This pays dividends to growers both in the marketplace and in the regulatory arena and, when complemented by a data aggregation and shared, can empower your advocates to push back on draconian and top down requirements. This is the crux of Western Growers interest. First and foremost, we wish to equip growers with tools and methods that will assist them to document, benchmark, improve and communicate their performance. In early tests, member companies who have piloted the metrics have identified operational efficiencies that have led to decreased costs of production. One example is a recent conversation with a company representative who was trialing a simple irrigation efficiency metric. Through its use, the company identified a potential 30 percent savings in water that could be gained within the operation, translating into both water and energy savings. Individual operators who measure quantitatively can gain insights into where opportunities exist to optimize and gain efficiency (save money). In that discussion, we also talked about the costs associated with collecting the information, which requires technology and people. These costs are not insignificant and are the next piece of the puzzle your association is working on. How can we reduce those costs? One way to reduce data collection costs is to roll out tools to record information and provide analysis to growers. Western Growers has recently engaged Supply Shift to provide a free online tool to growers to confidentially record SISC metrics and receive feedback on performance. While there is individual benefit, some of the most powerful value will only come through aggregated data shared through a trusted source. The Western Growers sponsorship of the Supply Shift tool allows us to anonymously collect data and reflect it in meaningful ways to member companies and to communicate industry wide progress and performance. This empowers Western Growers to advocate with real data in forums like the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. It affords us an opportunity to sing the praises of the industry’s environmentalism and it backs up with immutable data our claim that growers are environmentalists. I urge WG members to reach out and actively engage with Western Growers, Supply Shift and the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops. I believe growers have a great positive impact on the environment and together we can prove it.

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