Ag Alert Jan. 12, 2022

Cover crops Experts explain rewards and challenges for growers

Farmexport crisis Vilsack wants U.S. produce filling containers leaving ports

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Page 12 • JANUARY 12, 2022

Trees & Vines ®

s p e c i a l r e p o r t

ByChristine Souza The pomegranate, a deciduous fruit that contains hundreds of deep-red seeds known as arils, is one of the old- est recorded fruits and is considered by many cultures a symbol of prosperity and luck. But for some pomegranate farmers, these traits went out the door this harvest season onceMother Nature got involved. “At the outset, it was shaping up to be a grand season. What farmers were able to harvest before that damaging rain in mid-to-late October was top-quality fruit,” said Tom Tjerandsen, manager of the Pomegranate Council. But when the storms hit, many pome- granates couldn’t handle the prosperity of all that sudden water. “With the rain that showed up,” Tjerandsen said, “the bushes greedily suck up the water and send it out into the branches, and the fruit welcomes it but can’t expand fast enough, so it splits.” California farmers in top pomegran- ate-growing counties of Fresno, Tulare, Kern and Kings began harvest of ear- ly-variety fruit in late September and picked the crop through the end of last year. Tjerandsen said he expects the state’s 2021 pomegranate crop for the fresh market to be 6 million boxes, or 150 million pounds. With addition of processed fruit, he said the state’s total crop estimate could be 12million boxes, or 300 million pounds. Ray England, vice president of mar- keting for DJ Forry Co., a family-owned business inReedley that grows, packs and ships Wonderful variety pomegranates, said orchards in Fresno County were af- fected by unexpected weather events. “The winds just really played havoc with a lot of fruit causing an extraordi- nary amount of damage,” England said. “There were (puncture) marks on fruit that we had not seen in a long time. That caused a lot of fruit not to be able tomake a No. 1 box. See POMEGRANATES, Page 19 Early rain surge is challenging for pomegranates

Dave Phippen looks over developing bud spurs in an almond orchard near Manteca. Phippen and his son-in-law, Nick Gatzman, said their trees have seen good chill hours so far this winter, which should set the trees up for a good bloom about a month down the road.

Trees are chilling out, which is good news

ByKevinHecteman Fruit and nut trees up and down the Central Valley are chilling out this win- ter—which is exactly what their farmers want to see. NickGatzman,whogrows andpacks al- monds inManteca with his father-in-law, Dave Phippen, said the winter of 2021- 2022 looks as though it will be a good one for coldweather.

“I think we’re going to have sufficient chill hours,” Gatzman said. “We’re pretty similar to the last five years, with the ex- ceptionof last year.”At thispoint, 2020had a couple hundredmore hours, he added. Indeed, according to the chilling-hour calculators at the University of California, Davis, Fruit and Nut Research Center, Manteca had seen 497 chill hours and 480 hours between Nov. 1 and Jan. 6. At the

same time last year, the cityhad registered 734 hours. The previous four years regis- tered 523 to 592 hours each. Chillhoursaretimeswhentemperatures arebetween32and45degreesFahrenheit. This keeps the treedormant for thewinter. Awarmwinterwith insufficient chill hours can result in a late or uneven bloom and, eventually, lower crop yields.

See CHILL, Page 17

n e w s p a p e r

Comment.......................................2 Trees & Vines...............................7 Ask Your PCA............................ 15 Classifieds........................... 18-19 Inside

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America trusts us because our farmers never waver By ZippyDuvall

Likemany of you, I know this one from personal experience. When COVID hit, I resorted to Zoommeetings in my truck while the staff moved heaven and earth to get a stable signal atmy farmhouse. We are finally on our way to leveling the playing field for farmers, ranchers, rural hospitals, rural schools and all ru- ral Americans with a historic investment in broadband. Don’t ever say that your one voice can’t make a difference. Let me tell you: When you’repart of theFarmBureau family, you better believe it can. The wider we open our doors to invite newpeople into this FarmBureau family, the brighter that future is going to be. We need to represent all of agriculture, draw- ing infarmers fromall backgrounds, crops, racesandregions. Let’sactively recruit and include newvoices and perspectives. Do not underestimate the power of your voice. America trusts us, and for good reason. Through even the greatest challeng- es, we never waver in growing the safest, most sustainable food, fuel and fiber in the world. And FarmBureau remains true to our purpose—to be that one united voice of agriculture. The challenges we are facing today are gettingsocomplexthatitcanbehardtowrap our arms around them, but let’s commit to staying connectedandworking together to solve them. Itwill takeall of us todo it. It’s still our time. Let’s keep Growing Tomorrow, Together. (Zippy Duvall, a third-generation farm- er from Georgia, has served as president of the American FarmBureau Federation since 2016. This column is adapted from his speech delivered Sunday at the AmericanFarmBureauFederationAnnual Convention inAtlanta.)

Iseethatthefutureisbright foragriculture as wework to get through this pandemic. I

visited26statesand Puerto Rico, and I bring the stories from your farms to our nation’s leaders and lawmakers in Washington,D.C. In Loui s i ana, I saw f i r s thand how regulations like Waters of the

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall addresses the organization’s 2022 convention, declar- ing, “The American farmer is one of the most trusted profes- sions today.”

Zippy Duvall

United States, or WOTUS, can impact farms. Farmers in Arizona made it clear howH-2A visa delays are hurting agricul- ture. The shocking realities of the border crisis became very real when I visited our southernborder states. InKansas, farmers weren’t shy about sharing their concerns around livestock markets. And in Puerto Rico, the power of farm bill programs to strengthen farmerswas on full display. TheAmericanFarmBureauteamisshar- ingyourstoriesontheHill,withtheadminis- trationandthroughmanycommunications channels that reach far andwide. OurthemethisyearisGrowingTomorrow, Together.Growingtomorrowrequirestaking onnewchallengesandembracingpossibil- ities, because we believe each season can be better than the last. Growing tomorrow requirescontinuedinnovationtoensurewe can feedagrowingpopulationwhile caring forournatural resources. TheAmerican farmer is one of themost trusted professions today. That may not always feel true when you see negative headlines, but our polling shows that 87% of Americans trust farmers and ranchers. And in that same spirit, Farm Bureau has your back. Over our 102-year history, FarmBureauhasbecome the leaderweare

today by adapting andworkingwith every administration and every Congress. But what has never changed is howwe stand tall for you. Adaptingdoesn’tmean forget- ting our roots.We remain grounded inour purpose,whichstrengthensus tomakethis time our time. Twoyearsago,wesawthewritingonthe wall: major food companies making cli- mate commitments with big implications for agriculture; Congress ramping up leg- islative proposals; and the public increas- ingly calling for climate action. We knew that if weweren’t at the table, wewouldbe on the table. The American FarmBureau co-found- ed two coalitions to lead the way. One was Farmers for a Sustainable Future. It highlightedour great achievementsacross America’s farmand ranch land. The second is the Food andAgriculture Climate Alliance. This historic alliance brought togetheragriculture, forestry, food and even environmental groups. Together, we highlighted the great work beingdoneonsustainability.Weestablished principlesandmadepolicyproposalstoad- vancevoluntary,market-drivenapproaches. Thealliancerecommendationshavenot

only guided climate discussions in D.C., they are the foundation of legislation and USDA programs that respect farmers. I personally cannot recall another time when I’ve heard somany leaders on both sidesof theaisleacknowledgeU.S. agricul- ture’s leadership on sustainability. America’s farmers and ranchers have enrolled140millionacres inconservation programs. That’s the size of NewYork and California combined. We have tripled our use of renewable energy on the farm. Andwe are producing more with less while protecting our land, air andwater. Another part of Growing Tomorrow, Togetherisstrengtheningourruralcommu- nitiesthroughinfrastructureimprovements. Thanks to our united voice, Congress passed—and the president signed—a bi- partisan bill that will invest in our roads, bridges, ports andwaterways. We’re also excited to see long-overdue attention toWesternwater infrastructure, which will ensure future production op- portunities for farmers. Infrastructure isn’t just about roads and bridges anymore. It’s also time for us to bridge the great digital divide.

VOL. 49, NO. 2

January 12, 2022

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2 Ag Alert January 12, 2022

Agriculture seeks clarity in revisions to U.S. water rules

empt,” Smallhouse said. “There is (also) uncertainty in that exemption in what is actually consideredprior-convertedcrop- land and a change in crop being a change in use. This has been an issue in the past, and we felt that the Navigable Waters Protection Rule provided a very clear and concise definition of both.” Fourth-generation Illinois farmer Eric Kelsey discussed what it was like to work with the Corps to complete a farm pond project. He later learned that the proj- ect was cited by the EPA as evidence in federal court as an example of how the Navigable Waters Protection Rule was

leading to environmental degradation. “My situation was being used in feder- al court as evidence over environmental degradation. This compelledme to tellmy story,” he said. “To me and many other farmers and small business owners in my area,” he continued, “this is a story not about envi- ronmental degradation at all, or harm. It is about a private landowner and a farmer who sought to realize the full use and en- joyment of my property. “And in doing so, I discovered that this

ByChristine Souza Farmers and ranchers are advocating for a federal “waters of the United States” ruleunder theCleanWaterAct that is clear andconciseandmaintainsexemptions for normal agricultural activities. Upon review of the previous Navigable Waters Protection Rule done during the Trump administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of the Army officials de- termined that theTrump-era rule reduces cleanwater protections. Theagenciessaidthataproposedrulere- visionwouldrestoretheregulationsdefining WOTUSthatwereinplacefordecadesuntil 2015—with updates to be consistent with relevantU.S. SupremeCourt decisions. EPA and Department of the Army offi- cials heard from farmers and ranchers on the issue last week, during a roundtable discussionheldby theU.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy. Sylvia Quast, senior advisor to the as- sistant administrator for the EPA Office of Water, described the proposed rule as foundational fordevelopingadurabledefi- nitionof waters of theUnited States. “This is a systemof rules around this definition that people have been working with for literally decades, and our hope is that that will provide people certainty in terms of planning your operations,” she said. StefanieSmallhouse, anArizona ranch- er andpresident of the state FarmBureau, said “farmers and ranchers take steward- ship of the land and water very seriously and strive to manage resources in such a way that the next generationwill have the same opportunities that we have had.” Smallhouse said the 2015 rule “was overwhelmingly opposed by those of us in the agriculture community because it further expanded this footprint of the reg- ulation in interpreting what qualifies as waters of theUnited States.” She added that the 2015 rule created “a complexmatrixofqualifiers,whileweaken- ing the farmingandranchingexemptions.” In contrast, she said, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule under the Trump administration brought clarity to what qualified as WOTUS through “bright line rules, while maintaining much needed farming and ranching exemptions.” “Clear and consistent exclusions pro- vide regulatory certainty for farmers and ranchers given the potential for misappli- cation by agency staff and citizen plain- tiffs filing suit under the Clean Water Act citizen provision,” Smallhouse said. “Groundwater should continue to be ex- cluded from the text of the rule and farm ditches, canals, ponds andsimilar features should continue to be excluded from the definition ofWOTUS.” In discussing the need for clarity and consistency for farming exemptions, Smallhouse cited the Duarte Nursery v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers case, in which California farmer JohnDuarte was accusedof federalwetlandsviolationsafter plowing a TehamaCountywheat field. He

settled the government’s CleanWater Act case against him in 2017. “We have seen cases in the last decade, suchas theDuarte case, whichhave taken thenormal farming and ranching exemp- tion and turned it on its head because the federal government essentially defined plowing as creatingmountains and ridges within an area that should have been ex-

See WOTUS, Page 8



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For a free insurance review or to learn more about Nationwide’s farm insurance, talk to your local agent. To find an agent near you, go to

1 By direct written premium, AM Best (2018). The Farm Bureau, FB, and the FB National logo are trademarks of the American Farm Bureau Federation and are used with permission under license by Nationwide. Nationwide and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. CountryChoice is a service mark of Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Company. © 2020 Nationwide GPO-0486CA.1 (12/20)

January 12, 2022 Ag Alert 3

Poll: Farmers more willing to discuss mental health Farmers and people in rural areas are more comfortable talking about stress andmental healthchallengeswithothers, and while stigma around seeking help or treatment hasdecreased in rural and farm communities, it is still a factor. national sample of 2,000 rural adults. Key findings include: than older rural adults to say they are ex- periencingmore stress andmental health challenges compared to a year ago, and theyaremore likely thanolder rural adults to say they have personally sought care fromamental health professional.

comfortable talking to friends, family and their doctors about stress and men- tal health than they were in 2019. Four in five rural adults , or 83%, and92%of farm- ers and farmworkers say they would be comfortable talking about solutions with a friend or family member dealing with stress or a mental health condition, and the percentage of farmers and farmwork- ers who say they would be comfortable talking to friends and familymembershas increased 22% since April 2019. • A majority of rural adults, 52%, and farmers and farmworkers, 61%, are expe- riencing more stress and mental health challenges compared to a year ago, and theyare seekingcarebecauseof increased stress. Younger rural adults aremore likely

• Stigma around seeking help or treat- ment formental healthhas decreased but is still a factor, particularly in agriculture. Over the past year, there has been a 4% decline in the percentage of rural adults who say their friends or acquaintances at- tachstigmatoseekinghelpor treatment for mental health, and a 9% decline in those believing that their communityholds sim- ilar anti-treatment views. Still, a majority of rural adults—59%—say there is at least some stigma around stress and mental health in the agriculture community, in- cluding 63%of farmers and farmworkers. • Farmers and farm workers are more

quences for America’s farmers and ranch- ers,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. “They should be made after careful review and consideration of peer-reviewedscience. Thestakesaresim- ply too high tomakemajor label changes without duediligence fromEPAto learnall the facts surrounding reported incidents. America’s farmersdeservea fairprocessas theywork touseclimate-smartpractices to produce food, fuel andfiber forournation.” If you or someone you know is strug- gling emotionally or has concerns about theirmental health, visit the FarmState of Mind website at for information on crisis hotlines, treatment locators, tips for helping someone inemo- tional pain, ways to start a conversation andresources formanaging stress, anxiety or depression. (This articlewas originally publishedby the American FarmBureau Federation at

Those are findings of a new research poll from the American Farm Bureau Federation. AFBFconducted the surveyof rural adults and farmers and farmworkers tomeasure changes and trends in stigma, personal experiences withmental health, awareness of information about mental health resources and comfort in talking aboutmental healthwith others. Thepoll resultswerecomparedwithpre- vious surveysAFBFconducted in2019and 2020focusingonfarmermentalhealth,and the impactsof theCOVID-19pandemicon farmermental health, respectively. “Farm Bureau has been encourag- ing conversations to help reduce stigma around farmer stress and mental health through our Farm State of Mind cam- paign,” AFBF President ZippyDuvall said. “This poll shows that we aremaking a dif- ference, butwe all still havework todo. It’s up toeachof us tokeep lookingout for our family, friendsandneighborsand let them know they’re not alonewhen they feel the increasing stress that comeswith thedaily business of farming and ranching.” Morning Consult conducted the poll on behalf of AFBF in December among a

Ag groups skeptical about herbicide data American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, National Cotton Council and other agri- cultural groups are taking issue with the Environmental Protection Agency over its tabulation of complaints regarding the herbicide dicamba. were submitted tomultiple sourcesor reg- ulators and overcounted as a result.

The EPA released data Dec. 21 on com- plaintsoveroff-targetdamage fromdicam- ba use during the 2021 growing season. Agricultural groups say it isunclear if the EPAor state regulators actually investigat- ed complaints to confirmdamage. “The decisions EPA makes regarding herbicides have wide-ranging conse-

According to anAFBF statement, grow- ers are expressing concerns over potential major gaps indataprovidedby theagency and are questioning whether complaints

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4 Ag Alert January 12, 2022

UNTOUCHED THAT’S HOW CITRUS FEELS WITH MOVENTO. ® The same Movento ® insecticide that manages red scale and nematodes also protects against Asian citrus psyllids, which can cause a devastating and fatal disease, Huanglongbing. With its unique two-way movement upward and downward, Movento provides allover protection for high-quality fruit and long-term tree health.

For more information, contact your retailer or Bayer representative or visit

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. The distribution, sale, or use of an unregistered pesticide is a violation of federal and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. Check with your local dealer or representative for the product registration status in your state. Bayer, Bayer Cross, and Movento ® are registered trademarks of Bayer Group. For additional product information, call toll-free 1-866-99-BAYER (1-866-992-2937) or visit our website at Bayer CropScience LP, 800 North Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63167. ©2022 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.

Research study tracks wild birds for threats to crops Some species of birds that forage on the groundnearcattlearemore likely tospread pathogenic bacteria to crops such as let- tuce, spinach and broccoli, according to a University of California, Davis, study.

feedlots were more likely to enter fields and defecate on crops species.” It added, “Collectively, our results suggest that sep- arating crop production from livestock farmingmaybe thebestway to lower food safety risks frombirds.” The study included researchers from UCDavis, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside, as well as Washington State University, University of Georgia, University of Texas at Arlington, Nature Conservancy and the National College of Veterinary Medicine, FoodScienceandEngineering inFrance. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation. This month, the Woodland-based Center for ProduceSafetyawardedagrant of $370,000 for birdand farming studies in aproject titled, “Towards aholistic assess- ment of the food-safety risks imposed by wild birds.” Led by Karp of UC Davis, the study is evaluating farm impacts frombird popu- lations onnearby rangelands. “We will assess the food-safety risks associated with these species,” Karp and co-investigator JefferyMcGarvey wrote in an abstract describing the project. “Upon completion, we will disseminate our risk assessments andmanagement strategies through webinars and a photographic guide that will help growers identify birds on their farms and assess their risks.”

The study, published in the journal EcologicalApplications,notedthat invasive Europeanstarlings that flock in largenum- bersandforagenear livestockcantransport dangerous bacteria through their feces. However, thestudysaidmanyotherwild bird species foundnear farms—including useful insect-eating birds—are less likely to carry pathogens with food safety risks. Some California produce farmers have sought to remove bird habitats near crops amid fears over potential contamination. But study authors say data they collected may give farmers fewer reasons toworry. “Farmers are increasingly concerned that birds may be spreading foodborne diseases to their crops,” Daniel Karp, the senior author of the study and an assistant professor in the UCDavis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, said inastatement. “Yetnot all birdspecies are equally risky.” Karp and the research team conduct- ed pathogen tests and 1,565 bird surveys covering 139 bird species fromacross 350 fresh produce fields in the western U.S. Researchers collectedmore than 1,200 fe- cal samples. They measuredprevalenceof pathogens in feces, bird interactions with

The European starling, shown above, is an invasive bird species known to flock in large numbers to forage near livestock. Researchers say it can defecate on nearby crops, spreading pathogens.

crops, and the likelihood of different spe- cies to defecate on crops. Only one produce disease outbreak in the U.S. has been conclusively traced to birds. An outbreak of campylobacter, a bacteria that cancausediarrheabut is less dangerous thanE. coli andsalmonella,was found in peas inAlaska. In the Davis study, campylobacter was detected in8%of fecal samples, and E. coli and salmonella were found in less than 0.5%of samples.

“Our results indicated that canopy-for- aging insectivores were less likely to de- posit foodborne pathogens on crops, sug- gesting growers may be able to promote pest-eatingbirdsandbirdsof conservation concernwithout necessarily compromis- ing food safety,” the authors wrote. “As such, promoting insectivorous birds may represent a win-win-win for bird conser- vation, crop production and food safety.” But the study noted that researchers found that bird “species associated with

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6 Ag Alert January 12, 2022

A SPECIAL GROWERS’ REPORT OF AG ALERT ® C A L I F O R N I A Trees & Vines ® Experts weigh benefits, downsides of cover crops

ByDennis Pollock More farmers are embracing the idea of using cover crops, touting advantages that come with increasing or- ganicmatter, porosity of the soil andwater retention. But questions remain about how much water cover cropsmay require or whether theywill have any negative impacts on their cash crop. Some of those quest ions were answered in a December virtual discussion on cover cropping for drought resiliency. The program was presented by the Madera/Chowchilla Resource Conservation District, American Farmland Trust, University of California Cooperative Extension, the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District and the East Merced Conservation District. Among thequestionswere: “What about pest problems fromgrowing cover crops?” Anna Gomes, a doctoral student at Stanford University, pointed out that the interaction between cover crops and pests is specific to the crop system and organism. For example, she said, rodents prefer legumes and clo- vers; brassica vegetables may suppress nematodes; and cover cropsmay reduce infestationof navel orangeworms in almonds. But in grapes, legumes support the lifecycle of the three-cornered leafhopper. As to whether farmers will see changes in the first year after planting cover crops, Gomes said it can take six to eight years to see significant differences. She ex- plained that cover cropping is a “long-term investment in your soil.” Another question addressed how tomonitor improve- ments insoilwater infiltrationandwater-holdingcapacity. Gomes suggested measuring the height of the cover crop and collecting, drying and weighing the biomass of the cover to conduct simple andongoing determinations of soil aggregation. She also recommendedmakingwater infiltration determinations. “Youwill learn an awful lot if you do these simplemea- surements,” Gomes said. Her presentationemphasized that cover crops improve soil health. She said they usewater to grow, but it ismini- mal. Tillagematters.Not all cover cropspecies arecreated equal. Pest problems are unique to the crop and pest sys- tem, she stressed. Additionally, cover crops don’t eliminate full-season weeds. Soil change takes time but can be monitored. And cover crops improve on-farmwater management, she noted. In a follow-up to the webinar, sponsors sent out links to resources throughwhich growers can explore ground- cover options. Farmers who want to know more may search on- line for “Cover Crop Chart : Common Cover Crops for California.” That will lead to an overview from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service of commonly used cover crop species in the state.

File photo shows cover crop thriving in Butte County. A Stanford researcher calls cover crops “a long-term investment in your soil.”

See COVER, Page 8

January 12, 2022 Ag Alert 7

Cover Continued from Page 7

He said it is critical to manage mow- er height and frequency when mowing cover crops. Karen Lowell, aUSDA agronomist, said it isgood for farmers to thinkof cover crops as a tool that, amongother things, increas- es water infiltration and holding of water, and lessens pooling and runoff. It keeps water where it landed—on the land. In a press release issued after the virtu- al meeting, researchers noted that cover crops also can help groundwater sustain- ability agencies. Jef f Mi tchel l of the Universi ty of California, Davis, recommended that groundwater sustainability agencies ex- pand their viewof cover crops beyond re- mote sensing images that see thecovers as “water-using vegetation.” “This approach may not account for the important benefits that winter cover cropsprovideSan JoaquinValley farmers,” Mitchell said. Cover crops grown during the winter may not use a lot of soil water because evapotranspiration during this period tends to be low. They also provide shad- ing that cools the soil surface. Inaddition, Mitchell said, cover crops can improve soil aggregation, pore space and soil moisture retention. (Denni s Pol lock i s a repor t er in F r e s no . He ma y b e c on t a c t e d a t basic in the formof:Whodo I go to?Where can I reach them? Who has jurisdiction? Andhowcan I get aproject throughapro- cess?” she said. “Unfortunately, we also havepeoplewho find themselves after the fact with some pretty intimidating letters and phone calls from our federal agen- cies, and that is because they know it is a big deal with such heavy consequences. They’reafraidofwhat theymayhavedone wrong and feel unprepared.” Ted Schneider of the National Cotton Council ofAmericaandaLouisianacotton farmer said farmers want a pristine envi- ronment and cleanwater. “We aren’t opposed to regulation at all when regulation is necessary, but for it to beeffective, ithas tobeworkable, clearand consistent,” Schneider said. ColoradorancherJamesHenderson,vice president of the stateFarmBureau, said the proposed rule “will have an absolutely real andadverse effect onmy ability to conduct my business and create disparate impacts onour rural andagricultural economies.” TheEPAandtheDepartmentof theArmy have scheduled the followingvirtual public meetings on the rule: Jan. 12, from7 to 10 a.m.; Jan. 13, from11a.m. to2p.m.; andJan. 18, from2to5p.m.Thepubliccommentpe- riod is scheduled tocloseFeb. 7. For more information, see www.epa. gov/wotus/revising-definition-waters -united-states. (Chr i s t ine Souza i s an ass i s tant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at

Information may be found on cov- er crops such as annual ryegrass, a cool-season grass that grows 2 to 4 feet tall. That planting option, for example, does well on heavy, waterlogged soils, yet also will survive drought. USDA provides details on when to plant and at what soil depth and the best way to terminate the planting. The downside for ryegrass is its ten- dency to bemoderately invasive, as it can be very difficult to eradicate once estab- lished. Itmaybe resistant tocommonher- bicides andmay competeexcessivelywith grapevines and orchards, necessitating intensemowing regimes. Growers may also go to the SmartMix Calculator site at smartmix.greencover seed.comand create a customcover crop mix that’s just right for their field. The site helps identify thestrengthsandweakness- es of selections. Tom Johnson, an agronomist with Kamprath Seeds, reiterated the idea that cover cropping will take time—pos- sibly two to five years—to show quanti- fiable results. “It’s not a silver bullet but part of a program to address soil issues,” he said. He said an advantage of cover crop- ping is that it reduces dust in orchards and vineyards and, alongwith that, curbs mite pressures. He added that adding

Grasses sprout in an orchard. Harvest considerations may dictate whether planting a cover crop is feasible. Researchers say covers may take several years before showing quantifiable results.

organic matter “will reduce cracks over time, gluing the soil together.” Johnson also stressed the need to consider the crop being grown and its harvest. For example, is the cropwalnuts or pistachios, which should not land on the ground during harvest? Is it almonds, which must be scooped up from the ground?Are the raisingrapes driedon the vine, or will they be dried on paper trays between vines? Those differences, he said, figure into whether a ground cover is feasible during harvest. Johnson said there are considerations before attempting cover cropping. For

example, cover crops can increase hu- midity andmodify temperature. They can harbor pathogens or virus vectors. They may increase rodents and other verte- brate pests. “It’s aproduction tool,” Johnsonsaid. “If it’s not working, take it out.” Si las Rossow, wi th Cal i fornia Ag Solutions, said soil benefits from being covered with residues, from not being disturbed, from plant density, from con- tinual living and growing roots, and from animals grazing. Hesaidthereare increasedlevelsofben- eficial insects that are known to be associ- atedwith cover crops.

WOTUS Continued from Page 3

process was intimidating, time consum- ing, confusing and expensive.” Lauren Lurkins, director of natural and environmental resources at the Illinois Farm Bureau, said she often helps farm- ers as they seek to complywith “a complex network of environmental laws that touch their operations.” “(Farmers) reallywant something that is


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8 Ag Alert January 12, 2022

Lenders, nurseries provide advice on starting vineyards

Other speakers at the Wine and Grape IndustryForumincludedHonoreComfort, vice president of international marketing with The Wine Institute. She pointed to statistics that show the U.S. is first in wine consumption, third in imports, fourth in wineproduction, sixth invineyardacreage and seventh inwine exports. Comfort talked of steps being taken to boost wine exports, particularly out of California, which accounts for 95% of total U.S. wine exports. Bright spots among export markets for U.S. wine in- clude South Korea, Norway, Denmark,

Taiwan and Canada, she said. For would-be California winegrape growers and winemakers, Comfort tout- ed self-study and online courses and a California wine certification program available through TheWine Institute and Capstone California. The educational re- source includes contributions frommany Californiawineries, industryprofessionals and educators. Information is available at (Denni s Pol lock i s a repor t er in F r e s no . He ma y b e c on t a c t e d a t

ByDennis Pollock If you’re thinking of taking the leap by planting or replanting a vineyard, you’ll probablyneeda loan. Randy Dhindsa, the Tulare County- based regional vice president for credit operations forFarmCreditWest, said lend- ers will consider risk factors for vineyard project loans. He said bankers want to know where vineyards are being planted, the level of experience of the borrowers, the nature of “water support” for the property and the type of soil. Beyond that, he said, they want to know about growers’ abilities to service the debt, their cash flow, liquidity and risk perspective. “Give yourself 90 days,” Dhindsa said. “That will allow for an appraisal; it will al- lowforall thequestions, signingdocuments andattorneynegotiations.Somebanksmay do it quicker, somewill take longer.” Dhindsa was one of lending industry representatives who appeared recently at the Wine and Grape Industry Forum presented by the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association in Fresno. The event also featurednurseryoperatorswho offered advice on soils, irrigation, root- stocks and vineyardmanagement. The nursery operators recommended planning to order needed vines early. “The sooner we know, the better,” said Matt McMillanwithWonderful Nurseries inWasco. “Planning ahead is in everybody’s best interest,”saidDustinHooperwithSunridge Nurseries inBakersfield. Hooper also discussed replant shock and the need for site analysis before start- inga vineyard.He recommendedgrowers visit nurseries toseehowtheyoperateand “see the effort that goes into your vines.” The nursery operators also provided an overviewonrootstock trials andsaidmore needs to be known about how rootstocks fare in a wide variety of soils, in different irrigationsettings andunder variousman- agement techniques. Justin JacksonwithCasaCristal Nursery in Delano said 1% is collected on the sale of each tree and vine to devote to re- search, amounting to between $800,000 and $900,000 for various proposals. The groups involved in research include the California Grape Rootstock Commission and the CaliforniaWinegrape Inspection AdvisoryBoard. In the lenders’ panel, Ryan Sturdevant, a Modesto-based Wells Fargo executive focusing on food and agribusiness, said borrowers seeking to redevelop dormant vineyards shouldprovideahistoryof vines grown in the past on the properties. Sturdevant said it is also important to know the soil profile and if water available is of good quality. Meanwhile,when it comes todetermin- ing collateral, Dhindsa said lenders look at facilities, chattel assets and real estate, “things we can use to derive value.” Walter Pierce, senior relationshipman-

ager at Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Commercial Banking in Fresno, said the valueof anewlyplantedvineyard relieson projected income and replacement costs. Sturdevant said it is good to have “fo- cused conversations” early with bankers to explore lending possibilities. “The best time to be asking for money is when you don’t need it,” he said.



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January 12, 2022 Ag Alert 9

Plan to help small meat producers is drawing praise American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall is applauding a Biden administration plan that seeks to help small meat and poultry proces- sors and enhance America’s food supply chain by promoting more competition. “AFBF appreciates the Biden admin- istration’s continued work to ensure a fair and competitive meat processing system,” Duvall said in a statement. “We must get to the bottom of why farmers and ranchers continue to receive low payments while families across America endure rising meat prices.” Duvall was responding to President Biden’s Jan. 3 announcement of new reg- ulations for U.S. meatpackers to increase market opportunities and boost regional livestock farmers andmeat producers. According to aWhite House fact sheet, fourmajor companies control 85%of beef productionand54%ofpoultryproduction. The administration says their market dominance is allowing major meat pro- ducers to pay farmers less, even as meat prices are increasing. It noted that cattle ranchers today get 39 cents for every dol- lar spent onbeef, compared to60 cents 50 years ago, and hog farmers get 19 cents per dollar compared to 40 to 60 cents. “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation,” Biden said in a virtual meeting last week with farmers and ranchers, in which he dis- cussed the stricter rules for livestock purchasing and meat labeling. “That’s what we’re seeing in poultry and those industries now. Small independent farmers and ranchers are being driven out of business.”

Also Jan. 3, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vi lsack and Attorney General Merrick Garland jointly announced that they would employ antitrust laws and the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act to enforce fair competition in the market, safeguard farmers and ranchers and pro- tect consumers. Aspartof thateffort, theU.S.Department of Agriculture and the JusticeDepartment will create a portal for farmers, ranchers, producers and growers to submit com- plaints about potential violations of anti- trust laws. “Producers all across the country for too long have faced a marketplace that benefits a few large companies over those who are growing our food,” Vilsack said in a statement. “Thismeans that consumers are paying more and farmers, ranchers and producers see less of the profits.” He said the COVID-19 pandemic “only further disrupted these challenges across the supply chain, exposing a food system that was rigid, consolidated and fragile. “Antitrustandmarket regulatoryenforce- ment is essential to enabling the compe- tition necessary to transformour concen- trated supply chains in favor of diversified, resilient food systems,”Vilasack said. In his statement, Garland said, “The Justice Department takes very serious- ly the responsibility we share with our partners across the federal government to protect consumers, safeguard compe- tition and ensure economic opportunity and fairness for all.” Duvall said he welcomed the admin- istration’s actions, saying, “Farmers and ranchers want a fair shake.” He saidmeasures including newprod- uct-labeling standards and the online portal to report competition law viola- tions “will go a long way to ensuring fair- ness in the industry” and “allow families tomakemorewell-informeddecisions at the grocery store.” “We are encouragedby the administra- tion’swillingness toworkwith lawmakers onboth sides of the aisle to improve price discovery in the cattle markets,” Duvall said. “We urge bipartisanship through- out this process. Securing fair prices for farmers and for families is a goal that transcends party lines.” In July, the USDA announced a $500 million program to provide grants, loans and technical assistance to aid in the creation of new meat and poultry pro- cessing businesses. In November, the USDA additionally announced $32 million in grants to help expand capacity at small poultry process- ing facilities, modernize equipment and meet packaging, labeling and food safety requirements. It said themeasure would help enhance market reach of local agri- cultural producers.

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10 Ag Alert January 12, 2022

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