Ag Today Friday, June 3, 2016

Ag Today

Friday, June 3, 2016

 

Sacramento Bee

Three Bible quotes later, no extra overtime pay for farmworkers

By Jeremy B. White

California farmworkers will not be entitled to extra overtime pay, with lawmakers turning back a measure to lift laborers’ wages after an intense debate.

After deliberation that spanned over an hour, featuring emotional speeches from 16 different lawmakers and three Bible quotes – two in favor of overtime and one against – Assembly Bill 2757 failed on a 37-35 vote. Eight Democrats opposed the bill and seven withheld votes.

Farmworkers watched from the balcony and United Farm Workers of America President Arturo Rodriguez, whose union sponsored the measure, looked on from the floor. Lawmakers with agricultural backgrounds made emotional appeals on both sides: some who hailed from lines of farmworkers talked about uplifting those laborers, while others who worked on family farms warned about burying those businesses.

“If I could pick my dirt up and leave, I would,” said Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber. “My dream is to leave a flourishing farm to my children. You stand in the way of allowing my children to continue their great-grandather’s aspirations.”

Advocates argued that farmworkers should be entitled to the same protections as workers in many other segments of the economy who draw extra pay for working long hours. Many cast the debate in terms of a broad historical pursuit of social justice, drawing parallels to slavery, sharecroppping and the farmworkers’ rights movement that gripped California decades ago.

“This is not a new idea,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, whose grandfather traveled from Mexico to work in California’s fields as part of the bracero program. “It’s been tried and failed…but it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”

But those arguments did not win over lawmakers who argued the measure would devastate agricultural business models. Opponents said different rules apply to farmworkers because of the unique nature of an industry governed by weather and the seasons. Prominent agricultural industry groups like the California Farm Bureau Federation opposed the bill.

“People ask why do we treat ag differently – I can remember as a kid, during planting and harvest season, I hardly saw my father,” said Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City. “It’s hard work. It’s long hours.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert, jwhite@sacbee.com

 

 

Stockton Record

Another challenge to Delta land buy

By Alex Breitler

With a Southern California water district’s purchase of 20,000 acres in the Delta expected to become official as soon as next week, San Joaquin County and central Delta farmers have erected one more legal hurdle in an effort to stop the deal.

They filed suit in Contra Costa County Superior Court, alleging that the terms of the sale are in violation of an earlier legal agreement that contains rules about how the land can be used.

The lawsuit comes after a San Joaquin County Superior Court judge rejected the county’s other chief complaint — that environmental studies must be conducted before the purchase can move forward. That decision is expected to be appealed, said Dante Nomellini, an attorney with the Central Delta Water Agency.

“We have not abandoned the fight, and we’re not licking our wounds yet,” Nomellini said Thursday.

The impending purchase of the land by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has been met with skepticism, at best, in areas around the Delta. Metropolitan and its roughly 19 million customers rely in part on water exported from the sensitive estuary.

The water district has cited a number of potential uses for the property, including habitat restoration, levee rehabilitation and the facilitation of Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial twin tunnels project.

The current owners of the property, a company controlled by Swiss investors, had previously proposed flooding two large islands and using them as reservoirs to supply south San Joaquin Valley farmers. Delta interests challenged that plan, as well, but in 2013 agreed upon a deal that allowed the reservoir plan to move forward while guaranteeing certain protections for neighboring islands.

The reservoirs never were built, and Metropolitan says it doesn’t intend to use the islands in that way. Still, Delta interests argue that the previous agreement must carry on to any new property owner. Metropolitan’s proposed purchase agreement fails to do so, the lawsuit says.

Metropolitan officials have said that because the plan to build the reservoirs is being scrapped with the change in ownership, that the settlement no longer applies.

“Metropolitan is not a party to the settlement agreements,” spokesman Bob Muir said in a prepared statement. “Therefore, we believe those agreements are not relevant to the purchase of the property.”

The lawsuit seeks a restraining order from a judge to stop the land buy, escrow for which is expected to close as soon as Wednesday.

— Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or abreitler@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/breitlerblog and on Twitter @alexbreitler.

 

Salinas Californian

Trump’s water bomb hits snag with ag

By David Castellon

Donald Trump has made surprising and even shocking statements a veritable staple of his campaign for president.

But possibly no statement surprised California farmers more than when he told thousands in Fresno’s Selland Arena last week that there is no drought.

Specifically, the businessman and former reality show host accused state lawmakers of directing water from the San Joaquin Delta away from farms and communities to improve habitats for delta smelt – though he didn’t mention the delta by name and he referred to the smelt as a “three-inch fish.”

“[California has] a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous, where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea,” Trump told the crowd that cheered him and booed the smelt. “They don’t understand – nobody understands. There is no drought.”

Trump told the crowd that he had spoken to farmers about California’s water issues – including his claim to have been told, “No, we have plenty of water” – but he may not have correctly understood what farmers told him.

At the very least, his explanation of what was said appeared to have been off, said Joel Nelsen, president and CEO of California Citrus Mutual, a trade association for citrus producers.

Before Trump’s speech, representatives from Citrus Mutual were invited with others from the Central Valley’s agriculture industry to meet privately with Trump. Water was the primary topic.

Specifically, they discussed how the lack of water from four years of sparse rain is being exacerbated by the limited release of Delta water for farming to protect environmental habitats, said Nelsen, who wasn’t at the meeting but heard details about it from his two representatives there.

“So the message was delivered,” he said.

He said Trump responded that, if elected, he would “make a deal” to ensure a water supply for fish and California farmers.

“His comments at the podium, you can interpret them in a multitude of ways,” Nelsen said. “If you don’t like Trump, he’s an idiot for saying the drought doesn’t exist.

“His podium decorum is different from the meeting-discussion decorum,” Nelson said. “Let’s just say he embellished it.

Certainly, Trump’s Fresno comments have been scrutinized, with the Huffington Post calling them “disjointed, factually wrong, and weirdly self-congratulatory.”

And though Gawker.com noted that Trump’s “There is no drought” comment may have been him quoting a farmer, the article states “it’s clear he thinks this as well.”

And that seems to be enforced by his telling the Fresno crowd, “There’s plenty of water.”

Nelsen said a change in environmental rules that would bring farms more delta water would be welcome assistance, but the drought still would exist and the state desperately needs rain.

Asked if his comments may hurt or help Trump among voters in California’s agricultural community, Nelsen said he believes they’re unlikely to have much effect on whether people vote for the man. His organization will not endorse a candidate until after the party primaries.

 

 

Palm Springs Desert Sun

Hillary Clinton vows immigration reform in El Centro

By Gustavo Solis

Hillary Clinton took the podium at the Barcelona Events Center in El Centro Friday afternoon and got to the point quickly.

She told a majority Latino crowd that she wants action on comprehensive immigration reform “Starting on day one of my presidency.”

The former Secretary of State said she came to El Centro because it’s a community of hardworking people in agriculture and boasts a strong relationship with Mexico.

Chants of “Si se puede” broke out when she said America is a nation of immigrants. And her first mention of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump drew boos.

“I believe America is great,” she told her excited audience.

“I want your support so that I can come out of California strong,” she told the crowd of about a few hundred.

In her 20-minute speech, Clinton promised to increase access to healthcare as well as education, and to create more jobs in communities like El Centro. The Imperial County city’s main industry is agriculture and the unemployment rate is close to 20 percent.

She received the loudest applause when she talked about immigration reform.

“I will do everything that I possibly can to make sure we get it right this time,” she said.

She called immigration reform a “personal” issue for her because she grew up in Chicago and babysat children of farmworkers. She told a story of how she was moved by how happy the children were to see their parents when they came home from a hard day’s work in the fields.

Temperatures Thursday reached 108 degrees in El Centro. About 500 supporters waited as early as 10 a.m. to get inside the rally venue. About 100 people who did not get in waited outside to wave at Clinton as she drove away.

Volunteers outside handed out free bottles of water before and after the rally.

Clinton touted her record negotiating with Middle Eastern countries as an example of how she can work with Republicans. She is looking  forward to debating Trump in the general election, she said, as someone yelled “What about Bernie?”

Before leaving the podium she urged the crowd to turn out the vote.

“If you got a ballot in the mail, please fill it out and send it back,” she said. “If you don’t do that, please show up and vote on Tuesday.”

Robert Leon waited three hours under the hot sun to enter the rally. He brought a copy of Clinton’s biography “Hard Choices.” After the rally, the 25-year-old got to shake Clinton’s hand.

“It was very special, very unique. I’ll never forget it,” Leon said.

El Centro’s rally was one of three Clinton campaign events in Southern California Thursday. She gave a national security speech in San Diego in the morning and met with community leaders in Perris in the late afternoon. Clinton is in the midst of a five-day swing through the state in which she hopes to drum up support before the June 7 primary.

Clinton’s California blitz began a day after a state-wide poll had her in a statistical tie with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The poll – conducted by NBC News, Wall Street Journal, and Marist – has Clinton with 49 percent of support from likely Democratic voters while Sanders have 47. The margin of error is 4 percent.

She currently leads Sanders by 767 delegates, including super-delegates. She needs 71 more to become the Democratic nominee and – with 126 up for grabs in New Jersey, also on Tuesday – she could lock up the nomination before polls close in California.

Reporter Gustavo Solis can be reached at 760 778 4443 or by email at gustavo.solis@desertsun.com and twitter @journogoose.

 

 

Ukiah Daily Journal

Coyote control: Non-lethal methods encouraging at Hpland Center

By Sarah Reith

Kimberly Rodrigues is still cautiously optimistic. Since taking over the directorship of the Hopland Research and Extension Center in the summer of 2014, Rodrigues has been overseeing a program of non-lethal predator controls. The facility, which is the property of the University of California, has about 500 head of sheep, which reduce the fire danger with their foraging and serve as a host flock for the popular sheep dog trials, which take place in the fall.

They are also very attractive to coyotes, which are the main predators of concern on the property. Shepherds have long relied on lethal controls, including poison, to keep coyotes away from their sheep, but a closer look at the problem indicates that this may not be an entirely feasible long-term solution. At a workshop on managing livestock and wildlife at HREC last December, Dr. Brashares, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at UC Berkeley, pointed out that, in order to truly control the highly adaptable coyote population, it would be necessary to kill 75 percent of them over the next 50 years.

Instead of attempting that, Rodrigues and Jim Lewers, the Senior Animal Technician at Hopland Center, began implementing a standard operating procedure that does include lethal methods, but only if a coyote is seen chasing or feeding on sheep. The deterrents include five large guard dogs, miles of fencing and changes in pasture and herd management. Lewers, who has worked with sheep since 1975, relies on ‘mob stocking,’ or keeping large numbers of animals in one pasture at a time. This intimidates predators and requires frequent pasture rotation.

Last winter, Rodrigues was confident that the data would support her methods. She even decided against removing a litter of coyotes that was being raised in close proximity to a high-value pasture.

In an email on May 28, Rodrigues reported that of 515 lambs born this year, one succumbed to a coyote attack that was witnessed by the neighbors; three were probably killed by coyotes; and eight are missing or unaccounted for. “For our total flock,” she wrote, “including lambs, ewes and rams, we had 10 confirmed coyote kills, eight suspicious and 21 missing.” Five coyotes were shot, a third of the number taken in 2015, and almost one-fifth of the 26 killed in 2014. Sheep killed by coyotes in the same year numbered 43, plus 178 lambs unaccounted for. Last year, 10 sheep were killed and 12 lambs were unaccounted for.

Two weeks ago, the Hopland Center Animal Care and Use Committee approved the non-lethal procedures, with all the attendant costs of maintaining dogs and fences, for another year. “I think it will be year to year,” Rodrigues reflected in an interview. She acknowledged that the information gathered over the course of one year “is not data. It is simply interesting information and this is not a scientific study at this point.” Because “it can’t be peer-reviewed and discussed if we don’t maintain consistent operating procedures” over a considerable length of time, she hopes to continue developing non-lethal predator controls.

New measures include e-collars that are designed to emit noises that are obnoxious to canines. They also have flashing strobe lights to further discourage wildlife. One sheep in every 10 would wear the collar, which Rodrigues said costs under $100. She has ordered 10 of these collars, and, providing they do not have an adverse effect on the animals, hopes to implement them by the fall. A sample collar that was donated by Project Coyote produced mixed reactions in the guard dogs, but Rodrigues pointed out that not all the flocks are guarded by dogs, and not all the dogs were distressed by the collars.

Foxlights are also being used to illuminate some of the pastures at night, which Rodrigues said “seems to be working,” though she did concede that coyotes can “just adjust their sleeping patterns” and hunt during the day, which is what two of them were doing when they were destroyed.

Rodrigues still feels good about her decision not to kill the litter of pups that grew up so close to this year’s lambs. “That den pupped out and our numbers are still beyond acceptable,” she maintained. “Things are still progressing scientifically.”

 

 

Wall Street Journal

Guacamole Lovers Say Low-Fat Florida Avocados Are the Pits

By Erin Ailworth

Corinne Zmoos, an avocado lover in Boston, thought she had stumbled on a buttery bonanza when she picked up a softball-size specimen at a grocery store.

But elation turned to outrage when she sliced into the kelly-green fruit and discovered she had purchased something altogether different: a SlimCado.

“I’ve never felt so betrayed by a piece of food in my life,” says Ms. Zmoos, a 22-year-old graduate student, describing how this avocado’s innards were watery, producing a soupy guacamole that lacked the rich, creamy flavor she craved.

Triple the dip with up to half the fat: That’s the sales pitch for the SlimCado, an avocado grown in Florida that is trying to compete with California’s Hass variety, which accounts for 95% of the American avocado market and 80% of global demand.

Though the oversize SlimCados look like a guacamole lover’s dream, their different taste has left many disappointed, making them the avocado some foodies love to hate.

After her disappointing experience, Ms. Zmoos took to Twitter—under the handle @slimcados—to complain. She regularly dishes out avocado love and SlimCado disdain to nearly 3,000 followers.

“I have not given them another chance,” says Ms. Zmoos of SlimCados, which she tried last year. “They broke my heart.”

Trademarked by Brooks Tropicals LLC, SlimCados are available for eight months each year starting in June. Brooks began selling the avocados—actually several different Florida varieties—under the SlimCado moniker in 2003 so people wouldn’t mistake them for their Hass cousin.

The company has gotten used to getting flak, says Mary Ostlund, a spokeswoman for the Homestead, Fla.-based company, one of the largest growers and shippers of Florida avocados.

“I get a lot of people from California absolutely emailing me and calling me saying, ‘What the heck are you doing?’ ” she says.

Some think SlimCados—which can weigh up to 3 pounds, roughly six times as much as a Hass avocado—are genetically modified. Ms. Ostlund assures inquirers the avocados are naturally grown, just different, possessing a subtle tropical flavor.

SlimCados are popular in the Sunshine State, where many Floridians grew up eating these types of avocados. Ms. Ostlund says the number of retailers Brooks sells to has increased 1% annually over the past five years. Canada is a growing market, while retailers in Europe and Asia have started asking after SlimCados, she says.

The fruit does have devotees, including Delores Curtis, of Waldorf, Md., who discovered the SlimCado amid a weight loss journey that saw the 61-year-old shed 180 pounds. When she first brought one home, her husband didn’t know what to make of it.

“He said, ‘Slim what? Slim who? Slim Jims?’ ” she recalls. But when the fruit is in season, it is one of her staples. “I put it on almost anything. I just love it.”

Still, some question the raison d’être of lower-calorie avocados. Avocados are generally celebrated by nutritionists as a source of “good fat,” though calories ultimately count when it comes to weight loss, says Rachael Hartley, a dietitian in South Carolina whose website is avocadoadaynutrition.com.

“Avocados, they have that great healthy fat,” she says. “Fat is an often overlooked nutrient, but it is definitely important for keeping us full or keeping us satisfied.”

The SlimCado’s detractors include Cooking Light magazine, which serves up healthy eating advice.

“I tried the SlimCado tonight. Please let’s never ever recommend it. Ever,” Kimberly Holland, a Cooking Light editor, said in a text message to the magazine’s nutrition editor, Sidney Fry.

Ms. Fry’s response: “Omg I hated it! Watery slimy. Gross.”

The vitriol escalated from there. In an exchange Cooking Light published for all to see, the health food editors described their disgust, calling the SlimCado more pointless than fat-free cheese.

“It was almost immediately after my first bite that I grabbed my phone and said, ‘Sidney, how dare you not tell me,’ ” Ms. Holland recalls. She and Ms. Fry concede the fruit may appeal to calorie counters but still declined to endorse it as a Hass substitute.

Their pronouncement is just one reason the SlimCado’s chance of building a Hass-like following is, well, slim.

The Hass was patented in 1935 by Rudolph G. Hass, who said the fruit’s mother tree came from a Guatemalan seedling of unknown parentage growing in La Habra Heights, Calif.

“The flesh is a rich cream color of butter consistency with no fibre and excellent nutty flavor,” Mr. Hass wrote in his filing.

Today, the Hass’s dominance is impossible to refute. It is the avocado most people know, and its popularity has spawned odes to guacamole, cutesy greeting cards and the rise of avocado toast.

Americans now eat more than four billion Hass avocados each year, nearly triple their consumption a decade ago, according to data from the Hass Avocado Board, which promotes the variety. The group, which runs a campaign with the slogan “Love One Today,” declined to give its take on the SlimCado.

Hass fans aren’t so shy.

“Oh, not good,” Ellen Ludwig, a 37-year-old fitness coach in Indiana, said the first time she bit into a SlimCado slice last year. “I’d rather eat a real avocado.”

Sharon Hoffmann, 65, a writer living in Florida, won’t even cut a Florida avocado on the occasions her husband accidentally grabs one at the supermarket. “I just think they’re tasteless,” she says.

Amanda Odasz, a self-proclaimed Hass enthusiast, is sure she will dislike SlimCados—if she can ever find one. The 20-year-old California native has been on the hunt since learning of their existence.

“I was like, what is this horrific Floridian travesty?” says Ms. Odasz, who eats avocados almost daily. “I don’t think I would like it, but I would try it so I could confirm that.”

Edward “Gilly” Evans, a Florida avocado lover, says SlimCados will likely remain a niche fruit. An agricultural economist at the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Mr. Evans would know.

“We would love for it to become popular as the Hass variety,” he says. “But, of course, that is not going to happen.”

Write to Erin Ailworth at Erin.Ailworth@wsj.com