RDO Water in Salinas Moves to New Location

Relocation puts RDO Water and RDO Equipment Co. under one roof rdo_hawley_jd_9257

RDO Water in Salinas has moved the existing RDO Equipment Co. store at 501 El Camino Real S.

The move brings to the store RDO Water’s full irrigation solutions including pipe and system rental; pipe and pump repair; system automation, design and installation services; consulting services; and products including drip tape, sprinkler heads and fertilizer.

As a full-service John Deere agriculture dealer with both new and used equipment, a vast parts inventory, and highly-trained service department, RDO Equipment Co. has been serving Monterey County since the dealership was acquired in 2011.

The addition of RDO Water now enables the store to offer a true total solutions experience to customers, according to Darrell Olson, General Manager of RDO Equipment Co. in Salinas. “It’s exciting for us to provide customers with more opportunities to enhance their business,” he said.

Bruce Daughters, Vice President of RDO Water, echoed Olson’s enthusiasm, saying, “Both current and potential new customers will benefit from the expanded offerings now available.”

A grand opening celebration is planned in August. Customers and partners can stay up-to-date on details by visiting the RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Water websites.

New President Named to CALF

Fruit Association chief to head California Agricultural Leadership Foundation RDO-California

Author: David Eddy, Growing Produce

The California Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF) announced today the hiring of the president and CEO of the California Fresh Fruit Association, Barry Bedwell, as its new president. Bedwell officially assumes his new role with the nonprofit organization on Aug. 1.

CALF operates the California Agricultural Leadership Program, considered to be one of the premier leadership development experiences in the U.S. Since it was first delivered in 1970, more than 1,300 men and women have participated in the program.

As president, Bedwell will be responsible for directing all foundation activities and guiding the leadership program to a half-century of excellence and beyond. The program will admit its 47th class this fall.

“My focus and passion will be to take what I have learned at CFFA to further enhance a premier leadership development program that I believe is imperative to the successful future of California agriculture,” Bedwell said. “I have had the opportunity to work with production agriculture to observe and participate firsthand in the multitude of challenges that confront California farmers. I hope to use that knowledge to assist in developing even more effective leaders in the years ahead from this already very impressive program.”

Bedwell, a Class 13 alumnus of the Ag Leadership Program, has been president and CEO of the California Fresh Fruit Association since 2003. He has served in leadership positions for numerous organizations, including United Fresh Produce Association, California Association of Winegrape Growers, Fresno State Bulldog Foundation, Alliance for Food and Farming, Agricultural President’s Council and USDA’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Fruits and Vegetables.

Bedwell, who is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines, is well-known as an articulate spokesman, and has worked extensively with diverse groups and government officials. Bedwell graduated from California State University, Fresno, with a degree in business administration in 1974.

“Barry is an excellent fit for the foundation as a proven leader in the agricultural industry,” said CALF board chair Jeff Elder. “He brings immeasurable experience in agriculture and association management, strong leadership skills and a personal connection to Ag Leadership as a graduate and supporter. We are confident that Barry will not only help maintain the positive momentum that has occurred in the past seven years with Bob Gray, but provide his own perspective and skills to enhance the foundation and program.”

Outgoing CALF President and CEO Bob Gray is retiring after seven years with the foundation. The leadership transition will include Gray staying on in a consultant position for a few months.

“Bob was instrumental in steering the foundation with vision, wisdom, business acumen and patience,” Elder said. “He was a non-alumnus who cared about and believed in Ag Leadership and wanted it to succeed for future generations. He accomplished his goals and set a tone for excellence and positive transformation.”

Full article shared from Growing Produce website.

March Storms Prompt SWP to Boost Allocations

Season’s third upgrade since initial allocations set RDO-Water-California

Author: Tim Hearden, Capital Press

With runoff from the March storms filling Northern California reservoirs, the state Department of Water Resources has upped its anticipated deliveries to State Water Project customers to 60 percent of requested supplies.

In all, the 29 agencies that receive SWP water will get a little more than 2.5 million acre-feet of the nearly 4.2 million acre-feet they sought in 2016, marking the state project’s largest allocation since 65 percent of normal supplies were sent to districts in 2012.

The upgrade announced April 21 was the season’s third since the DWR set its initial allocation at 15 percent in January, later raising it to 30 percent and 45 percent. It’s also likely to be the last upgrade for the year, department spokesman Ted Thomas said in an email.

“Never know what nature will do,” he said, “but in the absence of significant rain and snow, (it’s) doubtful if the allocation will increase.”

The new allocation comes as the U.S. Drought Monitor issued new maps showing improved conditions in much of California, as part of the Central Sierra and San Joaquin Valley emerged from the Exceptional Drought category — the most severe category of drought.

Much of the Sacramento Valley improved from extreme to severe or even moderate drought. However, a large swath of the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast remain in exceptional drought, according to the monitor.

Even with the wet winter in many places, state and federal officials caution anew that the drought is far from over. Cindy Matthews, a National Weather Service senior hydrologist, said in an email the D3, or extreme drought, classification still means an area is still within the worst 3 percent to 5 percent of droughts on record.

State officials said that while key reservoirs are rising from winter storms, some remain below average for this time of year. The San Luis Reservoir, a key storage body south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for both the SWP and federal Central Valley Project, is only at half its 2 million acre-foot capacity and 55 percent of its historical average, largely because of Delta pumping restrictions to protect imperiled fish, the DWR explained.

With an expected transition to La Nina oceanic conditions by next fall, the 2017 water year is too uncertain to abandon preparations for another dry year, officials said.

“Conservation is the surest and easiest way to stretch supplies,” DWR director Mark Cowin said in a statement. “We all need to make the sparing, wise use of water a daily habit.”

Full article shared from Capital Press.

All Forms of Fruits, Vegetables Can be Healthy

Efforts pushing to allow schools to serve more fruits and vegetables California-Agriculture

Author: Rich Hudgins, AgAlert

As the 2016 election draws closer, there are plenty of policy issues all Americans can argue passionately for or against. However, there should be no dispute regarding the importance of consuming more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. In fact, the recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that everyone eat more fruits and vegetables regardless of form: canned, frozen, fresh, dried or 100 percent juice.

Based on the Dietary Guidelines, it would seem to be a “no brainer” that all USDA food and nutrition programs would mirror the guidelines and provide recipients with access to all forms of fruits and vegetables. Though this is true for most programs, efforts are now underway to address an ongoing policy inconsistency regarding the school snack program, as part of the reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Currently, the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program only allows participating schools to serve fresh fruits and vegetables for school snacks. In an effort to allow schools to serve more fruits and vegetables—whether they are fresh, canned, frozen or dried—the California Canning Peach Association has joined with more than 50 food and agriculture groups from all across the country, including the California Farm Bureau Federation and American Farm Bureau Federation, in urging the House Education and Workforce Committee to expand the school snack program eligibility to encompass “all forms” of fruits and vegetables.

We believe expanding the program would provide school nutrition officials with a wide range of affordable options for increasing the variety of healthy fruits and vegetables that schools can offer year-round, thus furthering the program’s ability to promote improved childhood nutrition and benefit more children. We recognize many schools currently lack sufficient resources to meet the current school nutrition regulatory mandate to increase servings of fruits and vegetables. Increased flexibility on product eligibility would give many school foodservice directors the opportunity to serve more U.S.-grown fruits and vegetables.

Simply put, schools would not be forced to take any snack items they don’t want, but they would be free to choose which fruits and vegetables would work best for them from the entire menu of options. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack echoed this theme more than four years ago, when he noted that “we are very interested in promoting fruits and vegetables in a variety of different forms to be more integrated into the school lunch, school breakfast and school snack programs—as well as after-school programs and child care facilities throughout the country.”

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program plays an important role in educating children in low-income schools that healthy fruits and vegetables can fuel their bodies and minds. An equally important component should be teaching children that healthy fruits and vegetables come in many different forms.

Surprisingly, the effort to broaden school snack options for school foodservice officials continues to be controversial. Defenders of the “fresh only” regulations in Washington, D.C., seem to believe that fresh fruits and vegetables are more nutritious and that schools will elect to serve less nutritious school snacks if given the opportunity to choose a processed fruit or vegetable snack.

There is plenty of science available to counteract this misperception. Brian Wansink, who currently serves as director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, recently noted, “Consumers need to get out of the mindset that only fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy.” In addition, numerous studies conducted at the University of California, Davis; Michigan State; University of Georgia; and Tufts University have repeatedly confirmed the nutritional equivalency of fresh versus canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.

Although there are many schools with access to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, there are many more school districts in cold-weather states or rural areas where access to U.S.-grown fresh fruits and vegetables is limited, so they are not able to participate in the current school snack program.

A real-world example of the distribution problem faced by many rural school districts is the challenge faced by Cindy Ritchie, the school foodservice director in Moran, Kan., population: 600. Her local high school serves approximately 200 students from Moran and outlying areas. This district was one of a limited number of participants in a USDA “all forms” pilot program conducted last year in four states. She said she was thrilled to have the opportunity to serve fruit cups as a school snack, and reported a very positive response by the students.

Expanding the program eligibility to “all forms” would allow more school districts to serve more fruits and vegetables to more students. A rising tide lifts all boats: Not only would this policy change benefit school districts, it would also benefit a broad range of specialty crop growers in all parts of the country.

We are pleased to have strong, bipartisan support for this effort in both the Senate and the House, but there is still more work to be done. We look forward to continuing the conversation as we seek to ensure that school-aged children consume more fruits and vegetables while developing healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Rich Hudgins is president and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association in Sacramento.

Full article shared from AgAlert, with credit to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Now Available: New Episode of RDO Equipment Co. Podcast

Episode 11 of Agriculture Technology podcast features RDO Water’s Danilu Ramirez RDO_Equipment_Co_podcast

Author: RDO Water

Each week, the RDO Equipment Co. Agriculture Technology podcast explores the latest products, services, and technologies in the agriculture industry. Hosted by Nate Dorsey, RDO Equipment Co. product specialist supervisor and agronomist, every episode is highlighted by a guest in the agriculture industry.

Danilu Ramirez, Water Management Consultant for RDO Water, is featured in the latest episode of the Agriculture Technology podcast, where she discusses some of the laws and issues around managing water in California, as well as the consulting services she provides.

Find the podcast on iTunes, Souncloud, or any mobile podcasting app. Connect with RDO Equipment Co. on Twitter @rdoequipment and with host, Nate Dorsey, @RDONateDorsey.

 

Listen now to Episode 11 with Danilu Ramirez.

Growing the Fruit Kings in the Low Desert

From the Coachella Valley to Yuma, taking a closer look at the date business Fruit-Trees-Dates

Author: Lee Allen, Western Farm Press

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but here’s to DATES. They’re more than a romantic rendezvous or an appointment on a calendar — they’re a big business, and continuing to grow even larger in the low desert commercial production areas in Yuma, Ariz., plus Imperial and Riverside counties in California.

There’s seldom a quiet moment on Medjool date farms, no matter on which side of the Colorado River they are grown. From the first work of the year, dethorning at the end of the dormant period, to early spring pollination, followed by training the fruit arms, ringing, and bagging, and ultimately, an always crazy fall harvest, there’s always work to be done.

While the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) has had many uses over its 5,000 year history, it’s most popular use is providing shelter, fuel, and materials for construction-weaving-basket making. But it’s most important reason for existence is the food it provides.

And for the 100 growers in California, plus a growing number in Arizona, the public’s increasing recognition of this healthy food means a rapidly-expanding fresh date industry, particularly for the Medjool variety.

According to the Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association (BVMDGA), a consortium of family growers responsible for producing more than 60 percent of Medjools grown in the U.S., 11 million pounds of this particular Fruit of Kings was produced last season.

This unique microclimate is the right place to grow the right product, according to BVMDGA marketing efforts, which say, “Bard Valley, nestled where California and Arizona meet, lies in a sun-drenched corner of the Southwest where Medjool date gardens are nourished by the Colorado’s high water table and ever-present sunshine.”

And while the Coachella Valley, located southeast of Indio, is still the largest overall date growing district, the geographic dateline is shifting eastward into the Yuma area, following the footsteps of pioneer Gusmar Nunez of the Imperial Date Gardens, who boldly began expansion planting there in the 1990s.

“There are 5,000 acres already planted in Arizona, and a good rule of thumb is you get 10,000 pounds of production per acre,” says Dave Mansheim, manager of Bard Date Company, custom growers and packers, and current BVMDGA president.

“It’s safe to say that the industry, in total, represents in excess of 40 million pounds annually, representing something north of $140 million,” says John Haydock, chief executive officer of DatePac (owners of the Natural Delights brand).

Lorrie Cooper is manager of the California Date Commission (CDC) at Indio, where they predict another volume increase this year and throughout the decade ahead. “Growers have seen lots of new growth coming on board — perhaps a little at a time, but there is a constant uptick, and it’s a good time to be in the industry,” she says.

33 Different Types

According to CDC statistics, 33 different types of dates are grown in the Coachella Valley. The majority of date palms are the Deglet Noor variety, which like hotter and dryer conditions, while the Medjool variety prevails in the Yuma Valley’s humidity.

Emphasizing that dates are not a get-rich-quick scheme, but a long-term that may take a dozen years to reach a break-even point, Mansheim is optimistic about the industry’s future.

“We’re on a double-digit growth curve, and I anticipate a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in volume over the next 5 to 10 years,” he says.

Once new trees enter commercial production, date palms can continuously bear fruit for decades. The average lifespan for a date palm is 200 years. When it grows to a height of 80 feet, it is no longer economically feasible to harvest.
But if it were that easy — plant, produce, pick — everybody would be a date farmer. In real life, problems exist, ranging from water to labor supply issues, along with changing climate conditions that can bring pests and disease.

Lots of gallons of water (200 gallons a day per palm in Yuma, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times) have allegedly affected local aquifers.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve and are converting from flood irrigation to drip, which will save us 1 to 1½ acre feet of water annually,” says Mansheim. “Not only will this be a significant cost reduction, it’s part of our effort at sustainability. Our food value output, versus our cost input, makes dates a sustainable product — if we continue to maintain our efficiency.”

When it comes to pests and diseases, he knocks on wood … literally. “Currently, in the lower desert areas we have no natural pests, and not much insect pressure in Yuma, Bard, and Imperial. In Coachella, they get a bit more insect pressure. With no major pests attacking our crop, we don’t use any pesticides on our trees.”

California growers contend with a continual battle involving the carob moth, and a new problem wit the hibiscus pink mealybug. “That little bugger will go after everything, from date palms to citrus,” says Cooper. “There’s nothing it doesn’t like, so everyone is working to find a way to eradicate this bug from the valley.”

There is continual monitoring for two other specific pests that have made their presence known. Red palm weevil, a native of North Africa, was found a couple of years ago in the Long Beach area (although not seen again since), and two specimens of South American palm weevil have shown up, one near Mexicali and the other north of Yuma. It’s believed they were brought there on banana plants from Central America.

Constant Monitoring

“We work with the Department of Agriculture to constantly monitor for these pests, because they could decimate the industry,” says Mansheim.

Labor issues are his greatest frustration, he says. “Bureaucrats in Washington have come up with a one-size-fits-all worker program that causes hardships everywhere. On a daily basis, three quarters of our Yuma-Bard Valley labor force comes from Mexico. We’re not cold, heartless corporate barons — if we could have a guest worker program under local or regional control, our labor shortages could be resolved efficiently.”

At harvest time, more than 500 laborers (palmeros) can be involved in a date palm site. “We appreciate the work force we have,” says Natural Delights’ Haydock. “To harvest a Medjool takes six or more trips up the trees for hand work. We couldn’t do it without the work force we have.

Taking a page from the avocado industry playbook when it comes to marketing a healthy product, area date producers and packers want to expand their domestic market and further increase exports.

“Of our total production, about 40 percent is exported outside of North America and, of that number, nearly two thirds goes to, or through, Australia. The rest goes to Europe and Asian markets, so our international growth looks strong,” says Mansheim.

Cooper adds, “It’s sometimes difficult, price-wise, to sell California dates to Europe because they can get them cheaper from the Middle East. Our current export markets are Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, but we expect as production volume continues to increase that expansion of exports will be on the table for discussion.”

Looking to emulate success rather than reinventing the wheel, the BVMDGA is seeking to include more of industry players in an effort to build strength through unity.

“We can be much more productive by pooling our money to market the health benefits of our product, replicating the success of the avocado industry, which grew consumption of their product by focusing on health issues,” Mansheim says.

“Our focus is to drive consumers to our product, which will expand consumption,” says Haydock. “We’re investing heavily in advertising online, in print, and in social media.”

While price may be an issue, the ability of dates to act as a power fruit goes without question. Fresh and moist Medjools (other dates come dried) contain 16 vitamins and minerals, with 50 percent more potassium by weight than bananas, and are a good source of dietary fiber.

Medjools also contain natural sugars, are cholesterol- and fat-free, and are certified heart healthy by the American Heart Association.

In fact, when the association came out with an article about sweetener additives, food manufacturers who make protein and snack bars started purchasing Deglet Noor paste as a substitute for processed sugar.

“We’re on an upward growth curve, with a repetitive double-digit increase that should continue as new groves add to our base,” Mansheim predicts.

Full article shared from Western Farm Press