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Passage of TPP would boost California ag exports to Asia

Daniel Sumner is director of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center. (Photo: CAES)
President Obama won support from Congress in October for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade deal that would boost California agricultural exports by billions of dollars, reported Ken Wayne of KTVU TV in San Francisco. A vote on the deal is expected in Congress next summer, but may be delayed until after the 2016 election.

If passed, the TPP would open up ag trade with countries like Vietnam, Japan, Australia and Malasia, who are clamoring for California fruit, vegetables, nuts and wine. China is not part of the proposed trade deal.

Wayne's story featured clips from a lengthy interview with the director of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Agricultural Issues Center Dan Sumner, who explained why Pacific rim countries want to purchase California agricultural products.

"We're good at it," Sumner said. "They want our stuff. The governments get in the way. The more we can get the governmental barriers out of the way, the more their consumers can take our stuff."

The vote last month gave the president the ability to "fast-track" negotiations with the Pacific Rim countries. Congress can still reject the deal.

Sumner said it is a shame that the $9 billion dairy industry was left out of the TPP. 

"Asia and other Pacific rim countries want our products," he said. "We left some barriers in place that should have come down further."

Sumner said California farmers and their allies are pushing to get TPP approved.

Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 3:46 PM

Living with wildlife while managing working landscapes

Good fencing is one tool that allows coyotes and sheep to share the open range.
The UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (UC HREC) will host workshops on Dec. 1 and 2 to foster understanding and encourage community dialog about ranching on a landscape with populations of coyote, black bear, mountain lions and other wildlife.

“Mendocino County supports many ranchers and our communities enjoy locally produced lamb, beef, milk, cheese and other agricultural products,” said Kimberley Rodrigues, director of UC HREC. “Along with these opportunities come challenges associated with living alongside some of our resident wildlife. The workshops will help local residents deal with these challenges.”

Rodrigues – who has a doctorate degree in environmental science and has been a leader in outreach, strategic facilitation and partnership development for 25 years – has been actively involved in wildlife management at the 5,300-acre HREC since she arrived in mid-2014.

“I quickly realized the biggest challenge to maintaining a sustainable flock of sheep here in our location is addressing predation issues, primarily by coyotes,” Rodrigues said. “With some improvements to our fences, changes in pasture rotations and increased use of guard dogs, losses of sheep to coyotes are now at an acceptable level. We hope to share our own experience, hear from diverse perspectives and experiences at these events and would like HREC to become a hub for future learning on this topic.”

Recent discussion and decisions made by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors regarding their contract with USDA Wildlife Services (WS) and their use of an integrated wildlife damage management program prompted UC HREC to provide a space for two workshops to allow learning on wildlife management and community conversation.

The Dec. 1 workshop will focus on scientific design and is implemented by USDA WS. It provides an opportunity to hear experts from USDA, the Californi Department of Fish and Wildlife, UC Cooperative Extension and Defenders of Wildlife to discuss the most up-to-date research in wildlife behavior and non-lethal control methods.

The Dec. 2 community conversation workshop is hosted by UC HREC and includes current research from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, wildlife biologists and discussion of the challenges associated with ranching in Mendocino County from the Magruder family and other local ranchers. The day will culminate in discussion groups on topics ranging from integrated wildlife management tools to understanding local, state and federal connections.

The public may attend either day or both days. Registration for the two workshops is separate.

“Topography, surrounding environments, community viewpoints, available funds and the kind of animals being farmed are all part of the picture – there is no easy solution,” said Hannah Bird, UC HREC community educator. “Ranchers and land managers need to know what tools are available to them and the implications and benefits of each of these tools. Attending both workshops will provide a deeper understanding of the issues.”

Community members, ranchers, land managers and members of non-profit organizations are invited to attend. The workshops will be at the Rod Shippey Hall, Hopland Research and Extension Center, 4070 University Road, Hopland, CA 95449. Registration is $30 for each day (including lunch) and must be made in advance. The registration deadline is Nov. 23. Space is limited.

Sign up for the Dec. 1 USDA WS workshop at http://ow.ly/TYhBd and the Dec. 2 community conversation workshop at http://ow.ly/TYhos.

More on the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center:

The Hopland Research and Extension Center is a multi-disciplinary research and education facility run by the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources Division. As stewards of more than 5,300 acres of oak woodland, grassland, chaparral, and riparian environments their mission is to find better ways to manage our natural resources and conduct sustainable agricultural practices, through science, for the benefit of California's citizens.

Author: Hannah Bird

Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 10:38 AM

Valley farmer honored by White House for conservation practices

Farmer Jesse Sanchez hosted an agricultural tour from Afghanistan at Sano Farms last year as part of his involvement with UC ANR's Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center.
Jesse Sanchez, a farm manager for Sano Farms near Firebaugh and Mendota, was honored by the White House as a "Champion of Change" last month for his commitment to building healthy soils, reported Megan Ginise in the Fresno Bee.

Sanchez is an active member of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center (CASI), a diverse group of UC researchers, farmers, and representatives of public agencies, private industry and environmental groups that work together to develop knowledge and exchange information on conservation-oriented production systems in California. 

In 2009, CASI named Sanchez and his employer, Alan Sano, its "Conservation Agriculture Innovators of the Year." The 2015 honor from the White House is another recognition for efforts to make soil health a priority on the 4,000-acre farm that produces garbanzo beans, garlic, processing and fresh market tomatoes, along with pistachios and almonds.

Jeff Mitchell, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist and CASI chair, said the White House's acknowledgment, which honors 'everyday Americans who are doing extraordinary things,' is a very fitting recognition for Sanchez and all of Sano Farms.

"They're very much pioneers, very innovative and persistent as well," Mitchell said. "What they've done through the vision they have had, sticking with it, learning step-by-step how to improve the system how to adjust things."

A story about Sanchez' White House honor also appeared on the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service website

The NRCS article noted that Sanchez and Sano have long shared their work with Mitchell, and through Mitchell with other farmers interested in conservation agriculture systems. 



Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 9:24 AM

FDA approves fast-growing GMO fish

Size comparison of an AquAdvantage Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age.
The Food and Drug Administration approved fish that are genetically modified to grow faster, reported Dan Charles on the National Public Radio program All Things Considered.

Charles spoke with a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) animal science expert about the AquaAdvantage salmon that have now been cleared for production.

"Basically, nothing in the data suggested that these fish were in any way unsafe or different to the farm-raised salmon," said Alison Van Eenennaam, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist based in the Animal Science Department at UC Davis.

The GMO fish must be raised in tanks on dry land. Producers must take precautions to prevent the genetically engineered fish from making it to the ocean or other natural waterways where they could transfer the fast-growing gene to a wild salmon population.

Fast-growing salmon were created 25 years ago by inserting a new gene into fertilized salmon eggs. The FDA said in a statement that, "after an exhaustive and rigorous scientific review" the agency decided the GMO fish is as safe as non-GMO Atlantic salmon, and equally nutritious. GMO fish is not subject to mandatory labeling, but the FDA released a "draft guidance" for voluntary labeling indicating whether food has or has not been derived from genetically engineered Atlantic salmon.

The All Things Considered story noted, however, that the product will face PR challenges. Friends of the Earth say people won't eat GMO fish even if it is available; Center for Food Safety said it will sue the FDA to block approval.

Posted on Friday, November 20, 2015 at 11:49 AM

El Niño expected to drench California

Shasta Lake in 2009. El Niño precipitation may help refill the lake after four years of drought. (Photo: CC BY 3.0 by Apaliwal via Commons)
Brace yourself for El Niño. All major climate models indicate that the current El Niño will be the strongest on record in terms of sea surface temperature departures from normal.

Climate scientists refer to the anomaly as ENSO, for El Niño Southern Oscillation. The term describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific, just west of the Peruvian coast. The area is roughly between the International Date Line and 120 degrees west.

The ENSO cycle has three distinct phases: El Niño, La Niña and neutral. El Niño is defined when sea surface temperature is unusually warm for an extended period of time. La Niña is declared when equatorial Pacific is unusually cool for an extended period of time. Neutral phase is defined when the sea surface temperature is considered normal.

These large-scale changes in the surface water temperatures are linked to changes in the strength of the trade winds blowing from east to west across the region, which impacts weather patterns across the globe.

According to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center and International Research Institute for Climate and Society, a strong El Niño will continue through the Northern Hemisphere during the winter of 2015-16, followed by weakening and a transition to ENSO-neutral during the late spring or early summer.

Source: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/monitoring-references/dyk/elnino-2015-2016
What does that mean for California? In general, during a strong El Niño, California experiences a wetter than normal winter. During six strong El Niño events (1957-58, 1965-66, 1972-73, 1982-83, 1991-93 and 1997-98), California received 120 to 160 percent of normal precipitation from October through March. In addition to the wetter than average conditions forecast for the 2015-16 rainy season, the winter is also has a warmer than normal temperature outlook.

Some of the expected outcomes are:

  • Increased risk of flooding for California, since most of the precipitation is expected in the form of rainfall, rather than snow. Increasing streamflow in undammed rivers and quick filling of reservoirs that come with the potential for reservoir releases for flood control.

  • Early bud breaking in many agricultural crops due to warmer than usual conditions. This can have significant yield impact on crops that rely on sufficient chill for proper development, such as citrus, apples, tree nuts and grapes.

  • Increased aquifer recharge through so-called groundwater banking.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers will continue to monitor the El Niño Southern Oscillation and how it influences weather patterns in California. Future articles will provide detailed discussions on El Niño, with a focus on water resources impacts, effects on crops and potential for groundwater recharge.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Authors: Tapan Pathak, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in climate adaptation in agriculture and Samuel Sandoval Solis, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in water resources

Posted on Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 8:34 AM

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