BY THADDEUS MILLER
FEBRUARY 07, 2019 03:29 PM,
California once again led the nation in agricultural sales in 2017, with six Valley counties — along with one along the state’s Central Coast — topping ag sales across the nation.
This according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture, which gathers information annually on U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.
Agricultural sales in California exceeded $45 billion in 2017 — about 12 percent of total U.S. ag sales — far outpacing the No. 2 state, Iowa, which had sales totaling about $29 billion, followed by Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Indiana.
But while the USDA lists the same top ag counties as the California Department of Agriculture, they don’t list them in the same order.
Most notably, the federal agency lists Fresno County as the top ag county in the nation for 2017.
CDFA placed Fresno County as third in sales that year, behind Kern and Tulare counties, respectively.
CDFA officials couldn’t be immediately reached to determine if the USDA census used different criteria in determining total ag sales.
The other four top ag counties were, in order, Monterey, Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin, all of which also are among the top seven ag counties on the USDA’s list.
The top commodities produced on farms nationally were cattle and calves, followed by corn, poultry and eggs, soybeans and milk. California lead the nation in milk production, a total of 18 percent.
Other California highlights from the farm census:
– The state’s top commodities were fruits and nuts, with $17.5 billion in combined sales; vegetables, with $8.2 billion; milk, with $6.5 billion; cattle and calves, with $3.1 billion; and horticulture, with $2.9 billion.
– Total farm production expenses for California totaled $37.8 billion.
– The average age of the California farmer was 59.2 years old, compared to the national average of 57.5 years old.
– Military veterans accounted for 10 percent of California farmers, compared to about 11 percent, nationally.
– At 14,552 farms, California was the top state using renewable energy-producing systems in agriculture. Solar was the most common renewable energy-producing system on farms and ranches in the state.
image via caloz.org
A new California organization has been formed to help investors and developers take advantage of federal Opportunity Zones.
CalOZ “will promote competitive, equitable and sustainable Opportunity Zone investments in California,” according to a release from the organization.
“Our state must embrace new strategies to rebuild an upward economy that works for all Californians,” said Kunal Merchant, president and Co-Founder of CalOZ. “Opportunity zones offer an important new tool, not only to promote economic mobility and the green economy in areas of our state that need it most, but also to re-evaluate and re-imagine how business, government, and community work together to foster a more competitive, equitable and sustainable economy in California.”
In President Donald Trump’s 2016 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, he outlined what was labeled Opportunity Zones, which offered tax breaks on capital gains for investments in distressed areas.
In Fresno, a number of the areas were established, including the Kings Canyon and Blackstone avenue corridors.
On average, Opportunity Zones have a poverty rate of nearly 31 percent with families making 59 percent of the median income for the area, according to the release, citing information from Economic Innovation Group.
“Opportunity zones offer an intriguing new pathway for our state to expand our middle class and restore the California Dream for all residents,” said Ashley Swearengin, Central Valley Community Foundation’s CEO and former Mayor of Fresno. “I’m thrilled to see CalOZ showing leadership on this issue and excited to support their work both in the Central Valley and state as a whole.”
CalOZ’s first priority will be coordinating with the state to create “high-impact” policies in addition to the ones being offered by the federal government. The plan is to create a “triple-bottom line mindset” for social, environmental and financial opportunities, according to the release.
“With more than three million Californians residing in opportunity zones, California can and must seize the chance to deploy an unprecedented source of private capital into the communities that need it most, “ said Jim Mayer, President and CEO of California Forward. “We’re proud to partner with CalOZ to support state and local action to ensure California emerges as a national leader in this program.”
The U.S. Department of the Treasury certified more than 8,700 qualified areas throughout the country. Of those, California has around 10 percent within its boundaries. And Fresno County is ranked third in terms of having the largest designated Opportunity Zones, according to Merchant.
Those designations will last through the end of 2028.
Bridgewater, N.J., U.S., March 8, 2019 – Today, Messer LLC (Messer) announced that it will begin construction on a new Carbon Dioxide (CO2) plant in Keyes, California. The plant will provide 450 tons-per-day of CO2, an essential product for carbonated beverages, food freezing & chilling, and electronics manufacturing. The product is also used by a wide range of industrial companies in northern California and surrounding areas. The new plant is slated for completion in Q4 2019.
“This investment represents our commitment to strategic U.S. expansion to meet growing market demand,” said Jens Luehring, President and CEO, Messer Americas. “We’re dedicated to providing a reliable supply of industrial gases to our customers and look forward to breaking ground on this plant to further meet that need.”
Messer currently operates two CO2 plants and two air separation units (ASUs) in California. Once completed, the new plant will support Messer’s strategy to enhance CO2 network reliability for customers.
On March 1, 2019, Messer Group and CVC Capital Partners Fund VII (CVC) acquired most of the North American gases business of Linde plc, as well as certain Linde business activities in South America. With over 70 production facilities and approximately 5,400 employees operating in the US, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile, Messer today is one of the leading industrial gas companies in North and South America. Together with Messer Group, the company represents a USD $3 billion global enterprise with presence in the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information, visit. www.messer-us.com
A Tulare butcher is making a splash in the world of smoked and cured meats — again.
This time, it’s a bigger splash.
Danny Mendes, owner of Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage Co., recently took home several awards at the annual California Association of Meat Processors’ Cured Meat Competition held at California State University, Chico.
This is the fourth year Mendes has entered his prized meats in the competition and the second time the business has taken home the best in show award.
Mendes has made a name for himself and is quickly gaining state and national recognition.
“They didn’t know what Tulare was,” he said. “They know now.”
At the state competition, Mendes entered 28 products in 18 different categories. He took home 10 grand champion wins. In total, he took home 18 awards.
“Getting best in show two out of the four years is pretty awesome,” he said. “It was impressive — a feel-good moment.”
Mendes received grand champion awards for his bone-in ham, Italian bacon, jalapeno cheese stick, stadium franks black label, old fashion hot dogs, fresh Italian sausage, smoked bratwurst, cheddar bratwurst, jalapeno cheddar sausage, braunschweiger, garlic summer sausage, duck bacon and Linguica-style cottage bacon.
He also received a merit award for his sugar cured bone-in ham and turkey bacon.
But the big takeaway was the coveted Joe Cutler Memorial Best of Show for his Italian bacon. His sausage was judged against the grand champions of each meat category — many his own creations.
Mendes first started to work for Tulare Meat Locker, which originally opened in 1976, when he was only 13. After a call from the former owner in 2003, Mendes decided he wanted to take over the business.
Over the last 15 years, Mendes has worked on his technique and offers custom butchery to Tulare County residents and beyond.
His sandwiches are top hits at the annual Ag Expo and Tulare County Fair.
“That’s what makes this place unique, it’s all done in house,” he said.
The shop offers custom butchering of livestock and fresh meat that isn’t sliced until ordered. Sausages, snack sticks, hams, tri-tip and linguica are also available. He hopes to one day expand his storefront and offer all in-house made sandwiches.
The annual contest is open to all California Association of Meat Processor members and is judged by a panel of meat specialists.
Mendes is expected to compete at the national level this summer in Alabama.
Last year, he took home several wins at the American Association of Meat Processors’ American Cured Meat Championships, held in Kansas City.
Mendes won awards for five different meat products, one of which earned grand champion: his hot link sausage.
Tulare Meat Locker is located at 1531 E. Bardsley Ave.
Foster Farms on Thursday announced a multimillion-dollar capital investment project to support an expansion and upgrade of the company’s poultry processing facility in Livingston.
The company that supports 2,032 jobs in Merced County will expand the facility’s product lines and add jobs, according to a news release. The announcement comes as the company is possibly in discussions to be sold to meat industry giant Tyson Foods, CNBC reported Tuesday.
Foster Farms spokesperson Ira Brill would not say exactly how much the company planned to spend on the expansion, noting the firm is privately held.
“Foster Farms is expanding its Livingston operation to allow for future growth and diversification of our customer mix on the West Coast,” CEO Laura Flanagan said in the news release.
The expansion project is underway, the company said in the release, with completion scheduled for September. State and local leaders worked with the company to offer a $6.5 million economic incentive package.
“This is a perfect example of government working with local business to help keep jobs in the Valley and grow our economic base,” Merced County Board of Supervisors Chairman Lloyd Pareira said in the release.
Foster Farms employs about 12,000 people at poultry plants in Livingston, Fresno, Turlock, Porterville, the Pacific Northwest and the South. Max and Verda Foster started the operation in 1939 and it remains under family ownership.
“The city of Livingston prides itself for having such a dynamic and community-oriented company and we are pleased to see Foster Farms continue to grow and prosper here,” Livingston Mayor Gurpal Samra said in the release.
Neither Tyson nor Foster Farms has confirmed the discussions of a possible sale, referring to the report as a rumor. The cable business network based its report on unnamed sources, who put the price at roughly $2 billion. The two sides disagree on the exact amount, and the deal could fall through, CNBC said.
Foster Farms is one of the largest employers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Its hundreds of products include whole chickens and turkeys, fresh poultry parts, ground meat, deli slices, marinated products, frozen patties and corn dogs.
The company has annual revenue of $2.4 billion, according to Forbes.
The Modesto Bee contributed to this report.
Blue Diamond Growers broke ground Tuesday on an expansion of its west Turlock plant to meet the demand for almond milk.
The addition will add 25 to 28 jobs to the 150 already at the Washington Road plant, said Travis Hill, start-up manager for the Sacramento-based cooperative.
The 52,000-square-foot annex also will employ a yet-to-be-determined number of people making a new product that is still under wraps, said Mark Jansen, president and chief executive officer.
“It’s about generating growth for Blue Diamond, for our growers and the communities that we live in,” he said.
The plant opened in 2013 with about 200,000 square feet of space for further processing of plain almonds received at Blue Diamond plants in Salida and Sacramento. The Turlock plant slices, dices and blanches nuts and makes almond flour, popular with people avoiding gluten.
The expansion, scheduled for completion in April 2020, will make the butter-like base for the Almond Breeze milk. Water is added at other locations around the world to reduce shipping costs.
Blue Diamond will continue to make almond milk base in Sacramento, where it also produces its wide array of flavored snack nuts and gluten-free crackers.
The 108-year-old company is the largest player in a California almond industry that accounts for about 80 percent of global volume. It employs a total of about 1,500 people in Sacramento, Salida and Turlock.
The expansion announced Tuesday is part of a three-phase plan that ultimately will bring the Turlock plant to about 500,000 square feet. The timeline and products to be added have not been revealed.
Blue Diamond also is not disclosing the cost of the expansion. The building will be erected by the Austin Co., based in Cleveland. Foth, a company based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, will install the manufacturing equipment.
The ground-breaking ceremony featured Turlock officials and other guests. Mayor Amy Bublak noted that the original building won the Plant of the Year Award from Food Engineering magazine for its food-safety measures and other features.
“We truly are growing our reputation as the Silicon Valley of food production,” she said.
Blue Diamond used the occasion to present a $20,000 donation to the California FFA Foundation. It was accepted by the Turlock High School chapter of the agriculture education group.
Central Valley Business TImes
January 8, 2019
California’s farmers and ranchers had more than $50 billion in cash receipts for their output last year, an increase of almost 6 percent compared to 2016, according to the new California Agricultural Statistics Review for crop year 2017. That is nearly double the next highest state, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The Number 2 state is Iowa, followed by Texas, Nebraska and Minnesota. Seven out of the top ten counties for agricultural output value are in the Central Valley: California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities.
Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. California is the leading state for cash farm receipts, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agricultural value. The top producing commodities for 2017 include: Dairy products, milk — $6.56 billion Grapes— $5.79 billion Almonds— $5.60 billion Strawberries— $3.10 billion Cattle and calves — $2.53 billion Lettuce— $2.41 billion Walnuts— $1.59 billion Tomatoes— $1.05 billion Pistachios— $1.01 billion Broilers— $939 million.
“As you know, farming and ranching can be a tough business. But these are still exciting times for agriculture,” says Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture in the report.
“As we move further into the 21st Century we see a worldwide demand for food that is growing rapidly, and a corresponding demand for Californiagrown products that will bring tremendous opportunity for producers able to maintain sustainability in the face of climate change.”
California agricultural exports totaled $20.56 billion for 2017. Top commodities for export in 2017 included almonds, dairy and dairy products, pistachios, wine and walnuts.
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Employees at Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds in Lost Hills clap on Wednesday after hearing that full-time employees will be getting a $15 minimum wage starting Jan. 1.
The Wonderful Co. announced on Wednesday that it is increasing its minimum wage to $15 an hour for all its full-time California employees as of Jan. 1.
The change will give more than 2,000 of its employees a 36 percent jump in pay, as the company currently pays a minimum wage of $11 an hour. The company said the increase marks an $80 million investment in its workers across all of its divisions and is the largest wage increase in company history.
The move comes as the state is working toward a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2022. Gov. Jerry Brown approved a law in 2016 that steadily increases the minimum wage by a dollar every year, from $10 to $15.
“This substantial investment in our workers will have an immediate and meaningful impact on their lives,” co-owner Lynda Resnick said. “In addition to providing our Central Valley employees and their families free health care and education, we are now able to help them achieve a significantly improved standard of living.”
The company said employees were notified of the pay increase on Wednesday during meetings at some of the company’s facilities in the county.
“It felt like: Is this really happening?” said Julio Roja, who works as a forklift driver for Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds in Lost Hills. “We were just in shock. Everybody was happy.”
Roja said he thinks the wage increase is going to make a difference not just for his co-workers but for their families as well.
“I feel like it was a good thing they’re doing. I’m excited for everything that’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s going to make a big difference for my family, and for all of us. This is good news for everybody.”
Fellow employee Yesenia Osornio said the wage increase is just one way the company has shown support for its employees and their families.
“It’s a great company to work for, not only for the wages but the charter schools, scholarships and other things that they do,” she said.
Company officials said full-time employees who make more than the benchmark $15 per hour also will benefit with higher wages; however, it’s unclear what the amount might be or when it might happen.
Dave Szeflin, executive vice president of Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds, was excited to see the response the announcement about the increase would get from employees.
“What we’re trying to do is make The Wonderful Company the employer of choice in the Valley, and this is a big step in getting us there,” he said.
Szeflin said he hopes other Kern County companies will follow The Wonderful Co.’s example, but said that is unlikely to happen immediately.
“I don’t think we’re going to see anything in the next few weeks,” he said. “It takes some time to figure out the logistics.”
Wednesday’s announcement caught some industry insiders off guard.
“It certainly surprised us,” said Jeff Huckaby, president and CEO of Grimmway Farms, a leading agricultural company in Kern County. “We currently are evaluating the potential impact and what it means for the future.”
Huckaby said his company will continue to offer their workforce competitive wages and benefits that allow for a sustainable future. He cautioned about equating Grimmway to other ag companies, as it’s not an “apples to apples” comparison.
“Wonderful operates at the higher end of the industry spectrum … higher earnings, higher margins,” he said. “That’s not our business model.”
Bolthouse Farms, another leading agricultural company in Kern County, didn’t return a request for comment on Wednesday
November 07, 2018 05:37 PM
Updated November 07, 2018 06:36 PM
Say organic food and some might envision earthy-crunchy concoctions that are high on health and low on flavor.
But at Hughson’s new Don’t Panic It’s Organic, good for you and good tasting collide in a pleasant package. The family-run eatery offers organic cafe food — like sandwiches and salads, chili bowls and smoothies. They also offer a full juice bar, smoothies, coffee and tea.
Owner Katherine Bertolotti and her family began eating organic close to two years ago. The Modesto native now lives in Hughson, as do her mother, sister and brother in the heart of the community’s farming land. But then, her now 7-year-old son began to develop severe allergies — including rashes and asthma attacks. She worried that the pesticides on their food and used in their surrounding orchards might be part of the problem.
So she switched her family to organic foods at home and stopped using pesticides on their trees, and then convinced the rest of her family to do the same. But eating out was still a challenge, as few restaurants offer solely organic fare.
“I was cooking and preparing food at home all the time. And I thought, ‘Man, this is a lot of work. If only I could get someone to do it for me,’” she said.
But instead of that, she decided to do it for other people. Bertolotti and her brother David Mingham opened the eatery Don’t Panic It’s Organic in late October. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and light dinner options as well as specialty fresh juice, coffee, tea and smoothie drinks. And to prove organic food isn’t all wholesome, they also offer wine and grape-liquor based cocktails like bloody marys and margaritas. Heck, they even have kombucha (a fermented tea) on draft, along with a handful of beers.
Mingham serves as the restaurant manager, and his sister Sarah and mother Lisa also work behind the counter. They source many of their products locally, from small organic farms like Burroughs Family Farms and We the People Farms from Denair. The vast majority of the products they use are organic, while others are gluten-free and some of their meat and poultry are free-range or grass-fed.
The restaurant doesn’t have a full kitchen, so its fare is on the lighter side. But you can still get a heaping plate of grass-fed beef chili nachos ($12) or a large organic salami sandwich on roll from Berkeley’s Acme Bread ($9).
Another attraction is the fresh juice bar. You can order a Healthy Heartbeat made from apple, beet, celery, lemon and ginger or the Immunity Booster with celery, spinach, kale, lemon, ginger and garlic. Juices run $7.49 each. Power up any drink with a wheat grass shot for $3 or a “gut shot” of ginger beet, golden turmeric and smoked jalapeno for $1. Smoothies, which also run $7.49 each, range from superfood favorites and fruit-based options to a peanut butter and banana sweet treat and classic strawberry and banana.
Bertolotti said she initially thought about opening possibly in Modesto or elsewhere, but decided on Hughson because it was so close to home. While she worried that the small farming community might not be receptive, she said, people have generally been pleased when they’ve come in. Though there have been a lot of questions.
“People say, ‘Oh, you’re organic. So this is vegan.’ And we’re like, no, we eat meat. It’s just grass-fed and healthier,” she said.
The restaurant has options for people looking for organic meals, gluten-free or probiotic options, paleo menus and more. And it joins a small spate of eateries in and coming to Hughson which have made the small town a mini-foodie destination. They include the new joint Slick Fork BBQ and upcoming Callahan’s Brewing Company. Don’t Panic It’s Organic is also in the same shopping center as the popular Agave Azul Kitchen & Tequila Bar.
As for that great name, well, it came from her father, who used to reassure her when her kids came over and he fed them.
“My dad would say, ‘Don’t panic, it’s organic.’ And I’d say, ‘Sure, let me read the label,’” she said. “We really just want to cook and feed people good food.”
Don’t Panic It’s Organic, at 6724 E. Whitmore Ave. in Hughson, is open 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 6 a.m. to about 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 209-883-7227 or visit www.facebook.com/dont.panic.its.organic.hughson.