Category: Top Stories

CEO at Foster Farms in Livingston talks about its future. New wing flavors are in it

Dan Huber looks to the future as CEO at Foster Farms. He aims for sustainable practices in the decades ahead at the Livingston-based poultry company. And he hopes the new line of chicken wings will please Super Bowl viewers early next month.

Huber took over in February 2019 at Foster Farms, the top-selling poultry brand in the West. About 12,000 employees process turkey in Turlock and chicken in Livingston, Fresno, Porterville and four plants in the Northwest and South.

Huber, 55, talked about consumer trends, food safety, sustainability and other topics in a mid-December interview in Livingston. He has worked since 1996 for the company, founded near Waterford by Max and Verda Foster in 1939.

“Our commitment to the Valley has been as strong as ever,” Huber said. “The 80-year celebration of this company has been exciting for all of us.”

Foster Farms sells chicken and turkey in hundreds of forms. Some of it is fresh whole birds or parts, with nothing added. Shoppers also can find marinated meat, frozen and breaded items, deli slices, corn dogs and much more.

FREE-RANGE LAUNCH

Huber’s first few months featured the launch of a line of free-range chicken, from birds that have access to the outdoors. Conventional chickens and turkeys live entirely indoors but still have room to move about.

Free-range came four years after Foster Farms entered the organic and antibiotic-free niches.

The food industry this year has seen a boom in meatless burgers and other plant-based versions of carnivore fare. Huber said Foster Farms will not go that far, but will still respond to the trend. Its Farm & Garden chicken patties will contain vegetables and whole grains along with meat.

“It’s not really replacing poultry per se,” Huber said. “It’s adding to the consumer’s basket, if you will.”

The new chicken wing line is called Take Out Crispy Wings, the name suggesting that they’re as tasty as those from places such as Buffalo Wild Wings. Fosters Farms sells them in four flavors: Classic Buffalo, Sweet Chipotle BBQ, Sweet Thai Chili and Korean BBQ.

FOOD SAFETY

The CEO also oversees food-safety measures that were tightened after a salmonella outbreak in 2013. It was traced to the Livingston plant and two chicken plants in Fresno.

Huber said Foster Farms keeps the products safe with intensive sanitation and testing every step of the way.

“We do 400,000-some tests a year, tracking through the farm and through into the plants, maintaining our tight food-safety requirements,” he said.

Salmonella occurs naturally in chickens. Huber reminded consumers that it is rendered harmless by cooking to at least 165 degrees and washing up after handling the raw product.

SUSTAINABLE POULTRY

Foster Farms does not have any expansion plans that will boost its workforce substantially, Huber said. He did note upcoming improvements in Turlock that will streamline the deboning of turkey. And the company is upgrading the part of the Livingston site that supplies restaurants and other food-service clients.

Huber noted Foster Farms’ part in reducing the emissions that contribute to climate change. This will include more efficient burning of natural gas in plant boilers. Refrigerated trucks will be powered by electricity rather than diesel while sitting in the plant yards.

Not in the works for now are electric trucks on the road, something just launched at Frito-Lay in Modesto.

Most of Foster Farms’ poultry feed is corn and soy shipped from the Midwest by rail, which has less impact than trucks.

Huber took over from Laura Flanagan, who had been CEO since 2016. He has held several other posts there, most recently chief operating officer. He also had sales and management positions with Oscar Meyer and Kraft Foods. He has a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

https://www.modbee.com/news/business/agriculture/article238340623.html?

CCVEDC Gains State Funding to Market Central California

Fresno – Assemblymembers Rudy Salas and Dr. Joaquin Arambula presented a check for $40,000 to the California Central Valley Economic Development Corporation (CCVEDC) Dec. 20 at their December board meeting in Fresno.  This is the first direct investment in economic development in the Central Valley by the state in some time. The funding will support the eight-county regional economic development efforts.

“I am pleased to play a key role in securing the resources that will allow the valley to attract more businesses and good jobs to our area,” Assemblymember Salas stated. “With this year’s budget supporting increased workforce training and economic development, families across the valley will gain more skills that will help them obtain good paying local jobs. I look forward to seeing the positive impact of CCVEDC.”

“Assemblymember Salas really championed this investment, and his support was critical to the funding being awarded,” stated Lance Lippincott, Vice Chair CCVEDC. “This funding will be utilized to attract new companies on a national and international level to the growing Central Valley economy.”

California Central Valley EDC will use the grant to market the Region and California programs to out-of-state site selectors and businesses through a comprehensive campaign: to include delivery of current data, real estate and programs by web and email; trade show attendance; targeted industry emails and Broker missions.

“I am excited, actually, for where our communities can get to in the next decade,” said Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula. “The only way we will be successful is to continue to work together and to partner like this.”

The program, already initiated, included marketing Central California in Chicago at the Process Expo Trade Show in September. The booth saw more than 1000 visitors and collected over 136 business contacts over the four day show leading to 17 businesses looking to expand their West Coast footprint.

“Process Expo represented a clear opportunity for the CCVEDC to market our region as the go to place to do business in California. Our team painted a very clear picture for industry leaders in the United States and around the globe.” Mark Hendrickson, CCVEDC Chair.

Another component of the program is regional Target Industry Spotlights that are sent to over 3,400 brokers and business leaders throughout the country and internationally. They will highlight Advanced Manufacturing, Food Processing, Logistics and eCommerce, Professional and Business Services, Health and Medical, Energy and Natural Resources. The industry information will also be available on their website: www.centralcalifornia.org.

CCVEDC previously completed a Central California Regional Profile funded by their Workforce partners in the Central California Workforce Collaborative. This was the first regional effort of this kind, benefiting both existing and new business. The profile is available online.

The California Central Valley Economic Development Corporation (CCVEDC) is a regional marketing group whose mission is to promote job creation in the valley, mountain, and desert communities located within Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare. This program supplements the existing efforts of individual agencies throughout the area.

https://hanfordsentinel.com/regional-group-gains-state-funding-to-market-central-california/article_73dce18f-2f5e-5b27-9440-a58db49869a8.html

The CVBT Podcast: Bay Area manufacturer moves headquarters to Central Valley

Central Valley Business Times

December 16, 2019

  • Jatco Incorporated finds warm welcome in Modesto
  • Uses robots and human workers for precision molding

For anyone who might have thought high-tech manufacturing cannot be found in the Central Valley, there’s a now-former San Francisco Bay Area company that might change one’s mind. It’s Jatco Incorporated, a plastic injection molding company that has packed up and moved its headquarters and main manufacturing plant to Modesto after some 40 years in the Bay Area.

“We are plastic injection molders. We’re custom molders, which means that we produce product that different OEMs require,” says Steven Jones, president of Jatco. “We product a lot of medical products, some agricultural  product, consumer product – a very wide range of plastic product … from very tiny medical parts to things the size of a curbside garbage bin.”

Mr. Jones says the company employs more than 100 workers in the new plant on Stoddard Road. Steven Jones is president of Jatco and joins us on this CVBT Audio Interview Podcast to tell why his growing company picked Modesto….

Please click here to listen:

https://americanbizradio.net/

Or here:

For more information:

https://www.jatco.com/

Registration opens for 6th “Valley Made” Manufacturing Summit

 

  • Set for April 21, 2020 in Fresno
  • Features keynote speaker John Shegerian The 6th annual “Valley Made” Manufacturing Summit is scheduled for April 21, 2020 in Fresno, say the sponsors, the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance and the Fresno Business Council. It is scheduled to feature keynote speaker John Shegerian, co-founder and executive chairman of Fresno-based ERI.

More than 1,000 representatives from the manufacturing industry are expected for the day-long event at the Fresno Convention Center Exhibit Hall. Registration is open by visiting www.sjvma.org. Also sponsorships and exhibit space are available by contacting Genelle Taylor Kumpe via email (genelle@sjvma.org) or calling 559.214.0140.

The event is designed as a workshop and resource expo that celebrates the Valley’s history of innovation in manufacturing while providing resources and networking opportunities that continue to build a well-trained, outstanding workforce.

“The goal … is to provide manufacturers with the needed resources and workforce connections to upscale and train existing employees for today’s automated technologies, and to attract the next generation workforce to grow the industry and region for a brighter future,” says Troy Brandt, chairman of the board for the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance and general manager at Hydratech.

Mr. Shegerian is scheduled to talk about how to attract and retain effective employees and clients through good times and bad. As an entrepreneur, Mr. Shegerian co-founded several organizations built on his philosophies of making the world a better place one business at a time, and of providing a second chance to those who are most in need. His philosophies have led him to run the largest electronic recycling company in the U.S., among other ventures.

“The convention center will be filled with the leading lights of the Central Valley’s manufacturing industry and many of my fellow local business leaders, so I’m excited to have the opportunity to share useful takeaways regarding positive culture team building and how to balance best employee retention practices and effective operations with growing a profitable enterprise,” says Mr. Shegerian.

The San Joaquin Valley’s manufacturing industry is responsible for nearly $15 billion of the Valley’s gross domestic product and employs more than 105,000 people. Nationally, it is estimated that over the next decade, almost 3.5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs will need to be filled due to baby-boomer retirements.

https://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/c1ad790b-010c-4a85-8e70-0e8f5ff54f78.pdf

WE’RE BACK, BABY! FRESNO TOP AG COUNTY ONCE AGAIN

Workers sort navel oranges earlier this year at Kings River Packing, northeast of Sanger. Photo by David Castellon.

Published On October 8, 2019 – 11:23 AM
Written By David Castellon

For the first time since 2013, Fresno County is the top agricultural county in California and the U.S.

This news comes with the Tuesday morning release of the 2018 Tulare County crop and livestock report, which shows sales of agricultural goods produced there last year totaled more than $7.21 billion, a 2.5% increase from ag sales in 2017.

In 2017, Kern County was the top ag county based on sales, followed by Tulare and Fresno counties, respectively.

But based on this latest crop report and those previously released, Fresno County shot up in the rankings to the top spot, with 2018 gross ag sales totaling more than $7.88 billion, followed by more than $7.46 billion in sales by Kern County farmers, ranchers, apiarists and others.

Although the data on 2018 ag sales isn’t in for all California counties and those in the rest of country, Fresno, Tulare and Kern have far and away been the top ag-producing counties in the nation in terms of ag sales.

For years, Fresno held on solidly to the first-place spot until Tulare County knocked it off that spot in 2014. After that, the top ag county title was held annually by either Tulare or Kern counties.

A big part of the reason for Fresno County falling short of the No. 1 ranking those years was due to California’s five-year drought that began in late 2011— the worst in the state’s recorded history — causing major water shortages in the western end of Fresno County that forced farmers there to limit their farming or let fields go fallow.

Weather and water conditions have since improved in the region.

As for the other South Valley counties, ag sales in Kings County totaled more than $2.35 billion last year and $2.05 billion in Madera County.

Those two counties ranked ninth and eleventh, respectively, among California’s ag counties in 2017.

It wasn’t immediately clear how they ranked statewide or nationally in 2018, as those tallies will not be compiled and disclosed until next year.

Madera, Kings and the other three South Valley counties all saw their ag sales totals increase last year.

For Tulare County, long the top dairy county in the U.S., it’s no surprise milk was the top-selling ag commodity in 2018, with sales totaling more than $1.68 billion. But that was down more than 5% — $93.1 million — from 2017 sales.

The report shows that the price of milk purchased from dairies declined from about $16.39 per hundredweight — 100 pounds — in 2017 by about a dollar in 2018, which reduced the total income dairies in the county received for their milk, even though production was up slightly.

It goes on to say that poultry and livestock values among Tulare County sales also declined slightly in 2018.

Sales of field crops rose nearly 9% from 2017 to 2018, which the county’s agricultural commissioner and his staff attributed to higher prices paid for them, while the 5.7% rise in sales of fruits and nuts is at least partially attributed to farmers expanding their production acreage of blueberries, pomegranates and tangerines.

Sales of ornamental trees and shrubs, as well as nursery-raised products, experienced even more vigorous growth over the same period of 47% and 34.7%, respectively, while sales of vegetable crops declined nearly 16% to $17. 2 million.

Part of the reason for the latter drop was due to farmers harvesting 931 fewer acres of vegetables last year compared to 2017, according to the crop report.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/were-back-baby-fresno-top-ag-county-once-again/?utm_source=Daily+Update&utm_campaign=bfd5b60568-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_10_08_08_31&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fb834d017b-bfd5b60568-78934409&mc_cid=bfd5b60568&mc_eid=a126ded657

Kern quickly rises to become California’s top hemp-producing county

As of Friday afternoon, the county’s Agricultural Commissioner’s Office had registered 33 different entities planning to grow hemp on 76 sites comprising 6,864 acres, a county-wide total the agency said eclipses every other in the state.

With interest skyrocketing among local and out-of-town investors, there is some concern the boom in hemp cultivation could lead to a glut of material to produce the trendy cure-all cannabidiol, or CBD. But the plant itself is versatile enough that market participants are hopeful the crop is here to stay.

“I’d like to see this become a crop on your top-10 list in Kern County,” said Arvin-area hemp grower Kent Stenderup. The diversified farmer said he gets phone calls every week from people interested in contracting his company to grow the plant or show them how to do it themselves.

So many people have contacted county ag officials about their intentions of growing hemp locally that such inquiries now take about 80 percent of their time, said Cerise Montanio, deputy director of Kern’s Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.

WIDE INTEREST

State records show Kern hemp registrations have been issued to companies with mailing addresses as far away as Encino. Companies with names like CA Hempire and Freedom Farms LLC have gotten approval to grow on various parcels concentrated in the Lamont and Arvin area.

Questions remain as to how well-rooted the plant is locally. Montanio said harvesting techniques remain experimental and that it’s still unclear how many of the hemp fields being grown now will meet the requirement that the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol, accounts for no more than about one-third of 1 percent of the plant’s chemistry.

“It’s a tricky little game,” she said, adding that any plant testing greater than that THC threshold must be destroyed.

HANDS-OFF APPROACH

One reason Kern has attracted so much interest, she said, is the county’s accommodating regulations. Other counties have caps on how much acreage may be used to produce hemp, while others ban cultivation of the plant altogether, she said. But not Kern.

“We don’t have a moratorium. We don’t have ordinances,” she said.  “We are allowing it.”

She and Stenderup expressed worries the surge of interest in CBD oil may quickly lead to over-planting. Stenderup said he hopes the situation doesn’t soon create a market “bubble.”

Even if the CBD market doesn’t need as much hemp as is being grown, though, Montanio said the plant’s strong fiber could prove useful for things like textiles, straws and even automobile parts.

ADDED BENEFITS

On the other hand, Kern’s openness to the crop may allow it to capitalize on another aspect of the CBD trend: oil processing.

The director of the county’s Planning and Natural Resources Department, Lorelei Oviatt, noted that hemp plants may be turned into oil within the county’s borders, but that this activity can only take place legally on land zoned for agricultural use. Once that’s done, however, the oil can be processed into creams or lotions on non-ag real estate.

She was optimistic hemp’s relatively low consumption of water would help Kern farmers weather upcoming restrictions on groundwater pumping. Plus, the need to extract oil from the crop is already bringing underused ag processing plants in the Arvin area back to life.

This community college in Stockton has been named one of the best in the country

 

SAN JOAQUIN DELTA COLLEGE

San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton was recently named the fourth best community college in the United States.

WalletHub, a personal finance website, analyzed 710 community colleges across the country on a variety of merits and found that the nearby school was the best in California.

Local colleges in the Los Rios Community College District made the list as well, with Folsom Lake College placing 118th overall and 18th in California, American River College placing 148th overall and 22nd in California, Sacramento City College placing 186th overall and 28th in California, Sierra College placing 253rd overall and 40th in California, and Cosumnes River College placing 397th overall and 60th in California.

WalletHub’s ranking is based on tuition costs – San Joaquin Delta College received praise for its affordability – educational outcomes and career outcomes.

The Stockton community college tied for third lowest in-state tuition along with American River College, Sacramento City College and Folsom Lake College.

San Joaquin Delta College’s enrollment fees for California residents are just $46 per unit, which adds up to $552 for a full academic load of 12 units.

The community college was beat out by State Technical College of Missouri in first place overall, Arkansas State University, Mountain Home in second place and Southern Arkansas University Tech in third.

These three colleges received higher marks from WalletHub in terms of educational outcomes, though still were given lower scores for cost, and the top two were given higher marks for career outcomes. San Joaquin Delta College was given a significantly better score for career outcomes than Southern Arkansas University Tech.

https://www.fresnobee.com/news/california/article234221017.html

UC MERCED Student Discovers 65-Million-Year-Old Triceratops Skull

By Josh Axelrod | NPR
Friday, July 26, 2019

As a child, Harrison Duran would visit the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, captivated by the fossils preserved in asphalt. Now 23, Duran is responsible for his own fossil discovery: the 65-million-year-old partial skull of a triceratops.

In June, the University of California, Merced student participated in a paleontology dig with Michael Kjelland, a biology professor at Mayville State University of North Dakota. The two met at a conference and began a mentor-mentee relationship – now, Duran is an intern at Kjelland’s nonprofit group, Fossil Excavators.

Duran’s account isn’t too far off from the action-movie plot the name Fossil Excavators evokes.

The pair went off into the Badlands of North Dakota on a two-week paleontology expedition. Arriving at Hell Creek Formation, an area famed for cretaceous dinosaur fossils, they came across the skull.

“I’m just feeling absolute – it’s almost like disbelief at first, but absolute just joy, excitement and it’s a very fulfilling feeling,” Duran tells NPR, about the moment the team made the find. “It’s almost like a spiritual moment in a way because I’ve been so passionate about this topic.”

After finding leaf fossils embedded in sandstone, the excavators continued forward and noticed the triceratops horn sticking out above the ground.

The dinosaur skull, which Kjelland and Duran named Alice, will be prepared for display after the specimen is solidified. Duran plans to have a mold exhibited at his school, where he is entering the fifth year of a 4+1 program in biology.

Duran’s dinosaur passion is prehistoric. He can’t remember the moment he first became infatuated.

“Since I was an infant I’ve always been so fascinated with a bunch of titans of these lost worlds,” Duran says.

As a freshman biology student, he took a course on the History of Dinosaurs with Justin Yeakel.

“He was just one of the most curious students in the class,” Yeakel says. “He probably knew about as much as I did about dinosaurs and would always ask really good questions.”

Duran plans to continue on with his biology degree and keep going on expeditions with his fossil-hunting mentor Kjelland. He hopes that the 65-million-year-old skull will stimulate interest in the land before time and the world of nature.

“I just want to say that our mission is for public education,” Duran says. “Our mission is to make sure that the public can become inspired and re-engaged in paleoecology, paleontology or just conservation.”

http://www.capradio.org/news/npr/story/?storyid=745760553

Cutting Edge Company Creates Opportunity Zone Fund

PRESS RELEASE

 

July 19, 2019

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Contact:

Bobby Kahn

Executive Director

Madera County EDC

559-675-7768

bkahn@madercountyedc.com

 

Bill Pitman

CEO/Managing Member – Benton Enterprises

(559) 664-0800

bill@elkridgealmonds.com

 

Cutting Edge Company Creates Opportunity Zone Fund

A Madera County business specializing in state-of-the-art food safety technology has launched the region’s first qualified Opportunity Zone business and on June 19, 2019, The Berenda Opportunity Fund, LLC was formed. Also organized at that time, a second new entity named H-ATS to acquire certain assets of Benton Enterprises, LLC including, intellectual property under the name Adaptable Technology Systems (ATS), Heart Ridge Farms (HRF) and Elk Ridge Almonds (ERA).

ATS developed a proprietary process to reduce pathogens through a science and energy based technology to maximize food safety, preserve the integrity and taste of the food products. These techniques will significantly improve safe food handling for a wide variety of foods. Both Heart Ridge Farms and Elk Ridge Almonds currently utilize this technology for the retail brand (HRF) and bulk processing of almonds and pistachios (ERA).

Opportunity Zones are census tracts that were nominated by governors of each state and certified by the United States Treasury into which investors can invest in new projects to spur economic development in exchange for certain federal capital gains tax advantages. The opportunity zone tax incentive was adopted on December 22, 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that provides tax incentives for investments in underserved communities.

Opportunity Zone Funds are investment vehicles that require at least 90% of their capital in “Qualified Property,” which includes stock, partnerships, interests and business property. The fund model enables a broad array of investors to pool their resources in Qualified Zone Property, increasing the scale of capital going to investments in which the Opportunity Zone Fund will invest. An Opportunity Zone Fund provides material tax benefits for investors with capital gains from other investments.

William B. Pitman, with over 40 years of farming and food processing experience, founded Benton Enterprises in 2013. Recognizing the need for improved food safety while preserving and enhancing its product integrity, led to the development of a low temperature process for several types of locally grown nuts marketed for retail sales under brands Heart Ridge Farms (retail) and under Elk Ridge Almonds (bulk). “The H-ATS combination of the Benton businesses and the ATS technologies creates a food safety solution worldwide” said Pitman. “The need for better food safety while preserving the quality is critical and we feel we can help meet those needs with our proprietary technologies,” he added.

Pitman met with the Madera County Economic Development Commission to obtain information about Opportunity Zones and had this to say, “Bobby Kahn was very helpful in getting me started in the right direction”. “Bobby explained the basics of how an Opportunity Zone Fund works and provided me with names of people that could provide the expertise in the formation of an Opportunity Zone Fund” Pitman added.  It is interesting to note that Pitman represents a 7th generation Madera county family that has deep roots in agriculture.  The project consultants are the accounting firm of Moss Adams LLP (Fresno) and the legal firm, Cutting Edge Counsel (Oakland).

 

###

 

About Opportunity Zones: Opportunity Zones are a new tool for community development. Established in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones provide tax incentives for investment in designated census tracts. https://opzones.ca.gov/

 

About The Berenda Opportunity Zone Fund: Located inside a qualified Opportunity Zone. Under this new tax codes, this is a qualified fund for the new investors to enter through.

 

About H-ATS:  An opportunity zone business that includes Heart Ridge Farms (HRF), Elk Ridge Almonds (ERA) and Adaptable Technology Systems (ATS).

 

About Benton Enterprises: Benton Enterprises will manage both H-ATS and The Berenda Opportunity Fund.

 

About Madera County EDC: Madera County Economic Development Commission (MCEDC) is a joint Powers Authority comprised of the County of Madera, the City of Madera, and the City of Chowchilla. MCEDC’s mission is to support dynamic and diverse industry sectors that provide family sustaining wages and a high quality of life. MCEDC assists business with development projects, site selection, demographics, and business incentives. www.maderacountyedc.com

UC Merced ranked one of the nation’s top young universities, new ranking reports

 

More than 1,000 students walked the stage at UC Merced in the university’s 10th commencement ceremonies Saturday in Merced. More will walk the stage Sunday. (Thaddeus Miller/tmiller@mercedsunstar.com) http://www.mercedsunstar.com

The University of California, Merced landed on a list of the top five “young universities” in the country.

The University tied with Rush University in Ill., at number four among U.S. universities in the 2019 Times Higher Education Young University Rankings, according to a UC Merced news release.

This is UC Merced’s first year of eligibility for the ranking, which evaluates research, teaching, citations, industry income and international outlook of the qualifying universities.

“I consider this ranking to be an incredible feat for our young campus because it shows that we are a top-notch university that is already being recognized for excellence at just 14 years old,” said Chancellor Dorothy Leland in a news release.

Universities that ranked ahead of UC Merced on the list were the University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Texas at Dallas and George Mason University.

Last fall, UC Merced was ranked number 67 among public schools by the U.S. News and World Report. The ranking was an increase of 20 spots from the previous year according to the university. 

The university has also been ranked number 15 for social mobility, number 17 for best undergraduate teaching among public universities as well as being ranked number two in the nation for outperforming graduation rate expectations, according to the news release. 

UC Merced was also recognized last year as “University of the Year” by Education Dive.

https://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/local/education/uc-merced/article231992142.html