Livestock Memorial Research Fund helps lead the way toward eradicating cattle illnesses

Thanks in part to Farm Credit support, one tick-borne disease is now in check, with promising research moving forward for a vaccine against another serious disease

 

The California Cattlemen’s Association Livestock Memorial Research Fund has accomplished much in its 40 years of service to the ranching community. But perhaps its most significant accomplishment was helping fund the creation of a vaccine against a tick-borne disease that had wreaked havoc to the state’s cattle industry for decades.

Photo courtesy of California Cattlemen’s Association

The Fund’s leaders aren’t resting on their laurels, however, and are now helping pay for a promising new research effort to find a vaccine against another serious disease affecting cattle.

For decades, a bite from a tick common to the foothill regions of California, Oregon and Nevada had caused tens of thousands of cows every year to abort their calves. In some cases, up to 100% of a year’s calf crop in susceptible herds were lost, and ranchers reported losses of more than $10 million a year.

Fund committee member Tom Talbot, a rancher and veterinarian from Bishop, recalled the disease – epizootic bovine abortion, also known as foothill abortion disease – nearly ruined his father’s cattle business in the 1960s. That crisis helped prompt him to go to veterinarian school, where he worked on the problem.

“I was a student at vet school in 1972 and my summer job was capturing different kinds of insects, trying to find out which one was causing the problem,” Talbot recalled.

Research Fund Chairman Dean Hunt, a rancher from Arcata, said the organization was formed in the 1980s to accept donations to benefit ranching in the name of a loved one. After building up the fund, the group’s leaders decided to support livestock research.

“We discovered there was a UC Davis researcher who wanted to work on the tick problem and develop a vaccine,” Hunt said. “Over the years, they developed the vaccine and it’s on the market.” Over the years, the fund contributed $278,500 toward development of the vaccine.

Dr. Jeffrey Stott, a professor at UC Davis, along with researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, lead the effort to develop the vaccine, which was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in late 2020 and is now being sold by Hygieia Biological Laboratories of Woodland.

Marc Busalacchi, Regional Banking Executive – Valley Region with American AgCredit, said Farm Credit has proudly supported the research since at least 2009 by donating funds that the Research Fund uses to buy a stock trailer that is auctioned off at the annual conference of ranchers from California and Nevada.

“Each year, Farm Credit gives generously to many nonprofits that help California’s agricultural community,” Busalacchi said. “We were thrilled when the researchers made the breakthrough that brought this vaccine to market and were proud to have played a part.”

American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West provide funding for the program. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

According to a UC Davis factsheet, the pajaroello tick lives in decomposing plant litter and soil near animal beds and is attracted to the carbon dioxide that cattle and wildlife give off. A bacteria carried by the tick leads four or five months later to a late-term abortion or the birth of sickly calves but has little or no effect on the cow itself.

A decade of vaccine trials were conducted to establish the safety and efficacy of the product. Talbot said the big breakthrough came with advancements in DNA technology, which allowed researchers to identify how to fight the unique bacteria.

“There were a number of times along the way where we thought we were done, that we’d never solve the problem. But it’s been extremely successful. Ranchers who had a high degree of abortion rates have seen that cut down to almost nothing,” Talbot said.

More recently, the fund has been supporting research to find a vaccine against bovine anaplasmosis, another tick-borne disease. The pathogen invades red blood cells, which are then destroyed by the animal’s immune system. That leads to anemia and, often, death. Anaplasmosis causes billions of dollars in losses worldwide and is all too common in California.

While there are vaccines available, none have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. An experimental vaccine has been used in the U.S. for several years but has not been evaluated in published research studies.

This summer, researchers at Kansas State University published a peer-reviewed paper on the successful testing of the vaccine they have developed, working with researchers at other universities including UC Davis. The fund has contributed $25,000 for anaplasmosis research, which was singled out in a Kansas State press release announcing the successful study.

Researchers at St. George’s University in Grenada (West Indies) collaborated on the project, which they said successfully “knocked out” a gene that was important for the pathogen’s growth. Talbot said the hope is a vaccine will be on the market within a few years.

Besides large research projects, the Memorial Fund also has awarded over $150,000 in graduate-level scholarships for students in fields that would benefit cattle production – an amount that has accelerated.

“During the past three years because of the support Farm Credit has given us, we have donated $30,000 a year to scholarships,” Hunt said. “If there are three kids really worthy of big scholarships, we do that. They have to be grad students, working to become a vet or an attorney working with ag-related groups – something that benefits the ag community.”

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said Farm Credit strongly supports scholarship programs each year and these scholarships are particularly important.

“Building the knowledge base of farmers and ranchers is vitally important, but it’s also crucial that we develop the next generation of skilled professionals who will provide services that the ag community needs to flourish,” Littlefield said.

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About Farm Credit: 

American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

 

About the Livestock Memorial Research Fund:

 The Livestock Memorial Research Fund is a 501(c)3 organization that funds scientific and educational projects and scholarships for students in fields related to California’s livestock industry. LMRF monies are used solely for scientific, charitable or educational purposes and are administered by a board consisting of California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) members. Other uses of LMRF funds include studies by University of California researchers which identify grazing management strategies that improve riparian resource conditions. Other studies funded in part by LMRF contributions have researched the effects of livestock grazing upon endangered species and sought methods to control livestock disease.

 

California Dairy Leaders Program helps build the industry leaders of tomorrow

Farm Credit is a proud supporter of the Western United Dairies educational and advocacy program

Like most farmers and ranchers, dairy farmers know a lot about farming but often need to learn more about the ways government actions and farmer checkoffs affect their businesses.

Participants in the 2019-2020 California Leaders Program

That’s where the California Dairy Leaders Program comes in. After a COVID-related hiatus, the program – sponsored by Western United Dairies (WUD) – has selected its 16th class of dairy professionals who will spend the next several months learning about the state and federal legislative and regulatory process, how milk products are marketed and ways they can communicate effective messages about the dairy industry.

Participants in the 2022/2023 California Dairy Leaders Program are:

  • Anthony Agueda, dairy farmer, Alberto Dairy, Stanislaus County
  • Eric Fast, Maas Energy Works, Redding
  • Tyler Ribeiro, dairy farmer, Rib-Arrow Dairy, Tulare County
  • Linda Sousa, Farm Credit West, Tulare County
  • Allison Tristao, Tristar Dairy, Tulare County

Darby Pedrozo, until recently WUD’s Technical Field Services Representative, said the program is a great learning experience – and she knows that first-hand, having participated in the 2019-20 sessions.

“I had just started at WUD, and it was great to meet other people in the industry. I made connections and friendships I’ll have for the rest of my life,” she said. “It was a big learning experience and I’m extremely thankful I was able to participate.”

Art Moessner, Vice President, Agribusiness Dairy Team Lead, with American AgCredit, said Farm Credit sponsors the program to help train future industry leaders by giving them a broader perspective.

“This program has done a great job over the years in giving dairy producers a better understanding of the forces that shape their industry beyond what they do on the farm,” Moessner said. “Every organization needs a steady stream of new leaders, and Farm Credit is proud to help build the future leadership of WUD.”

American AgCredit, CoBank, Farm Credit West and Yosemite Farm Credit provide funding for the program. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

The program begins with communications and leadership training, environmental and regulatory law that govern the California dairy industry, followed by a trip to Sacramento to learn about the state legislative process and how WUD advocates for key issues affecting the dairy industry. Participants also learn about the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) and dairy market risk management strategies.  Dairy’s unique pricing system and subsequent supply side economics are capped off for Dairy Leaders with a trip to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to get a national perspective on dairy promotion.

After that comes a trip to the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., to meet with federal agencies and other ag-related trade associations, as well as learning how the federal legislative process works.

In all, participants are away from their businesses for about 14 days over the course of a year.

“It’s important for our dairy families to understand all facets of the industry, especially where their milk check deducts are going,” Pedrozo said. “This program gives them an insight into the work Western is doing to represent them, along with groups like the Dairy Export Council and the DMI (Dairy Management, Inc.) and the state checkoff California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB).”

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, noted that the dairy industry is being particularly affected by state and federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, and said it was important for dairy producers to understand the major steps the industry has already taken to reduce emissions and share these successes within the industry and with government leaders.

“Many larger producers are participating in new systems to capture methane, pipe the emissions to digesters that upgrade the gas and use it to produce renewable electricity, renewable natural gas or hydrogen fuel,” Littlefield said, adding that smaller dairies are also reducing methane through less-costly means.

“California has set an ambitious goal of reducing dairy methane emissions by 40%, and our state’s producers are on track to meet that goal,” he said.

Pedrozo said producers are also concerned about the drought and the reduced amount of water available to grow feed and to water their cows. But on a brighter note, she said while fluid milk consumption continues to decline nationally, the industry is still holding its own due to the growth in other areas, such as cheese, butter, and ice cream.

And she should know. Besides working for WUD, Pedrozo has two aunts who married dairymen and in June she married a dairy farmer in Visalia. The couple now own and operate the farm together.

More information about the program is available here.

About Farm Credit: 

American AgCredit, CoBank, Farm Credit West and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

 

About Western United Dairies:

 Western United Dairies (WUD) is a voluntary trade association representing more than 75% of the milk produced in California. In appreciation of the tremendous dedication of capital, labor and caring concern that our dairy farming members have invested in their dairies, the staff and Board of Directors at WUD will earnestly and conscientiously work to promote sound legislative and administrative policies and programs for the success of the industry, welfare of the animals and the prosperity of our consumers. WUD is striving to advance strategies for the general welfare and longevity of dairy families, while maintaining the strong and positive public image of the entire dairy industry.

 

 

4-H Relaunching in-person animal judging in California; looks to expand in 2023

Farm Credit sponsorships help send California teams to national competitions

After a two-year COVID-induced pause, 4-H animal judging returned this year, and if the state program coordinator has anything to say about it, the program will be bigger and better than ever next year.

Laurie L. Fringer, the 4-H community education specialist for U.C. Cooperative Extension in Madera, was recently asked by state 4-H leaders to take over as their animal science coordinator. She said the 4-H members were really excited that the program resumed this year.

Photo Courtesy of 4-H
The CA 2022 4-H champion livestock judging team consisted of, from left, Moriah Marshall, Myah Davidson, Joey Stefani and Elana MacFarlane, and was coached by Liza Stefani. They are members of the Ophir 4-H Club in Placer County.

“4-H members are excited to actually be out and doing things and attending activities and events. They’re at the fairs and activities and going to in-person state leadership programs instead of having to use Zoom. They’re excited to have in-person contact again,” Fringer said.

“We learn by doing, so when COVID-19 prevented us from meeting in person, it really threw 4-H members a curve ball. We had to revamp a lot of our programming, and of course had to deal with the schools trying to do the same thing.”

Fringer said the state 4-H program is working to get contests in other fields up and running in the 2023 program year. She noted that there was a poultry team competition this year and the champion team will be competing in the national Avian Quiz Bowl in November.

Keith Hesterberg, President and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, said everyone at Farm Credit is excited that the judging competitions have resumed.

“Farm Credit has been sponsoring California 4-H for more than 20 years,” Hesterberg said. “Our sponsorships help pay for teams to compete in national events, which is such a great opportunity for these hard-working young people. We’re so pleased that the competitions have been resumed and look forward to continuing our support.”

Besides Fresno Madera, participating Farm Credit institutions supporting 4-H are American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit and Farm Credit West. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said it’s vital to support organizations like 4-H because they represent the future of farming in the Golden State.

“4-H has expanded its reach into citizenship, healthy living and STEM, but agriculture remains a core area,” Littlefield said. “Many of the members focusing on livestock, poultry, and plant science will put their skills to work in the future to expand and improve farming practices, and we are pleased to be able to help support its mission.”

Fringer said Farm Credit’s support allows 4-H youth who may not have been able to attend otherwise, participate in state and national-level competitions that showcase their leadership skills, public speaking skills, critical thinking skills and their ability to defend/justify a decision based on the information given.

She said 4-H is working to expand the number of contests 4-H students can participate in so they have exposure to developing skills at the national level and engage in deeper learning opportunities to support their development. The more opportunities created for California 4-H members, the better prepared they’ll be for securing college and career opportunities in the future.

“My goal is to have regional events prior to state contests to build on,” Fringer said. “If we’re going to send a team to represent California to nationals, I want them to have the mindset that they are going to do their best. For that to happen, they need experience.”

To that end, she’s drawing on her long involvement with FFA – her daughters were both active in that organization from a young age – to involve 4-H members in FFA judging contests early in the year, prior to the big statewide Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Field Day at U.C. Davis in early March.

Fringer and her enthusiastic committee members are also working with four-year and community colleges to allow 4-H members to participate in fall judging competitions. They are also promoting these contests in different parts of the state, in the south San Joaquin Valley, Southern California and the Central Coast for now.

“Our contests are open to everyone statewide, but it can be hard for someone in Imperial County to come up to Chico State for animal judging. We are trying to get kids from all over the state participating,” she said.

As a veteran FFA parent, Fringer said the competitions not only provide invaluable life lessons for students, they also are great networking opportunities.

“Besides all the work raising the animals, students get speaking skills because after the judging, they have to defend their placing – give a set of reasons why they placed where they did,” she said.

Students are graded on such things as the animal’s market-readiness or, if raised for breeding, their health and structure to give an idea of what kind of offspring they will produce.

And it’s a lifestyle as well.

“Members will tell you they are in the barns and pens before school and again at night after sports and dinner. It’s a lifestyle and they love it. With my girls, some of their best friends are other competitors from all over the state or even other states that they met at contests at the college level. I don’t think you get that with any other type of contest,” she said.

For 2023, Fringer said they expect to have horse judging, hippology, the equine speaking contest, dairy cattle and poultry judging, the Avian Quiz Bowl and livestock judging events to qualify for national 4-H competitions. They are working to revive the Livestock Quiz Bowl as well.

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About Farm Credit: 

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West and Fresno Madera Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

About the California 4-H Program:

The University of California 4-H Youth Development Program promotes hands-on, experiential learning for all youth ages 5-19. We provide meaningful opportunities for youth and adults to work together to create sustainable community change in the areas of Civic Engagement, Leadership, Healthy Living and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Our 4-H programs are delivered locally through the county University of California Cooperative Extension offices, where youth participate in 4-H through clubs, schools, military clubs, camps and more. Each year, approximately 100,000 youth and over 10,000 volunteers participate in the California 4-H Youth Development Program.

 

 

Want to explore the wide variety of California wines? Come to Oakland on August 21

Family Winemakers of California to host major tasting event, sponsored in part by Farm Credit

When you’re a small, family-owned winery without a large advertising budget, the best way to spread the word about the quality of your wines is to have key influencers taste them. But since the 300 members of the Family Winemakers of California are located from Eureka to San Diego and many points in between, it can be difficult to get these influencers to come to you.

Photo courtesy of the Family Winemakers of California, taken at the Del Mar Fairgrounds tasting event in March

Which is why the trade association holds two large tastings each year, one at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County in the spring and one in the Bay Area in the summer. This year, the Bay Area event will be held on Sunday, August 21, at BLOC15 in Jack London Square in Oakland – the first time a Bay Area tasting will be held outside of San Francisco.

A total of 52 producers who sell fewer than 5,000 cases a year will be pouring more than 350 different wines at the event, which is expected to draw about 250 people from the wine trade – retailers and writers for trade publications – and another 150 or so discerning consumers.

“We host two events to connect small producers with the wine trade they wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to formulate a relationship with,” said Kathy Spallas, the association’s vice president of administration. “A lot of tastings are like a festival, but ours is just a wine tasting. It’s about meeting the winemaker and the winery owner and allowing them to learn what they want to learn about the wines.

Farm Credit has been a sponsor of the events for many years, which Spallas said “means the world to us.” Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said Farm Credit was proud to help showcase wines from smaller producers, especially after the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

“The pandemic has been very difficult for many small producers in the wine industry, as many were selling their wines only to restaurants or relied on visitors to their tasting rooms for wine sales,” Littlefield said.  “These wineries are eager to get back to pouring their fabulous wines for consumers and especially for the trade accounts that are back in business and ready to restock their wine lists.”

Farm Credit West, American AgCredit and CoBank provide funding. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Besides helping member companies market their wines, the association also is a strong advocate for family-owned wineries at the state Capitol. Besides the labor and regulatory issues affecting most businesses, the biggest issue affecting smaller wineries is their ability to sell directly to consumers – the main reason the association was formed in 1990.

“We’ve spent more than 30 years working to loosen up the post-Prohibition restrictions in California law and broaden access to domestic markets,” Spallas said. “We’ve pursued legislation for many years to create numerous sales channels that now allow wine to be sold at certified farmers’ markets, at fairs and festivals and through order-taking at non-profit wine tasting events.”

Julie Renner, food and wine agribusiness team lead with American AgCredit, said Farm Credit is pleased to have the opportunity to support advocacy efforts that benefit agriculture.

“The Family Winemakers of California have made significant contributions to the California wine industry since its founding, by helping to spearhead efforts that now make it easier for California wineries to sell directly to consumers in other states,” Renner said. “Organizations like the Family Winemakers are great examples of how cross-industry collaboration and partnership can advance agricultural interests.”

Spallas noted that small wineries that market directly to consumers fared better during the pandemic than their counterparts that focused on relationships with restaurants and retailers because of the decline in eating out.

Doors will open for the Oakland Tasting at noon for specially ticketed consumers and at 2 p.m. for the general consumer. The event ends at 4 p.m. Consumer tickets are on sale now https://familywinemakers.org/taste (click on the Consumer button) for $55. Early admission tickets are $75. The cost at the door will be $60 and $80. Orders can be placed that day for wines you like for shipment to your home, and many wineries will be offering special prices.

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About the Family Winemakers of California:

Small, family-owned wine producers across the state are the foundation of Family Winemakers of California. Formed in 1990 to lobby for the rights of its members to freely produce, market and sell their products, we currently represent over 300 producers. Our legislative and regulatory work is augmented by the tastings we organize for our members to help them succeed in a highly competitive marketplace.

Family Winemakers … Taste California!

 

 

Students learn about commodities grown almost exclusively in the Golden State

Funded in part by Farm Credit, the Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom educated 16,000 students about “the 99% club” this year

California’s farmers grow more than 400 commodities each year, making the state the nation’s breadbasket. And for 36 years, the nonprofit California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom has been educating students around the state that the nutritious and tasty fruits and vegetables they eat don’t just come from the supermarket.

Live video presentation to students

During the past school year, Executive Director Judy Culbertson said the focus of the educational program was highlighting the “99% club” – 16 commodities grown almost exclusively in the Golden State.

“On April 1 we held our second annual California Farm Day virtually, with presenters talking about a different one of the commodities for 10 minutes, providing information, activities, recipes and ‘did you know’ segments,” Culbertson said.

“Nearly 500 teachers registered, and we sent out a box of goodies for each class, with snacks, resources for students and teachers and the What’s Growin’ On? newspaper. We put the video package on YouTube, and 16,000 kids registered!” She added that 45 counties had at least one school participating this year.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said Farm Credit organizations have given the foundation over $250,000 since 2002 to help educate students in urban and rural areas alike about the importance of agriculture to California.

“California’s climate makes it ideal for growing a large variety of crops, many of which can’t be grown anywhere else in the U.S.,” Littlefield said. “It’s important to educate Californians about how much of their food is grown here and why agriculture is so vital to the state’s economy. Farm Credit is proud to be a longtime sponsor of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, which has done a great job over the years providing that education.”

Farm Credit West, American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Fresno Madera Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit all provide funding. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Besides talking about the 99% club commodities during the two-hour virtual event, there was also a half-page devoted to each commodity in the newspaper – which celebrated its 20th anniversary this school year – that provided information about their history, nutrition, and little-known facts.

The commodities are almonds, artichokes, celery, clover, figs, garlic, honeydew melons, nectarines, olives, peaches, pistachios, raisins, medium- and short-grain rice and walnuts. Among the fun facts included in the publication are:

  • Celery has many health benefits and that bunches of celery were presented to ancient Greek athletes, much as a bouquet of roses would be today.
  • Almonds, roses, and peaches are distant cousins, members of the rose family.
  • Garlic was used as a first aid compound in World War II to kill bacteria and germs on the battlefield.

Among the Farm Day video presenters was Ag in the Classroom Foundation President Jamie Johansson, an Oroville olive grower who also is president of the California Farm Bureau.

“It’s a fruit, right, like a cherry or a peach, but it’s one of the few fruits you can’t pick off the tree and just eat,” he told the students. “The first time I tasted an olive off the tree it was so bitter I wondered what I was doing and how I failed.” He later explained that you have to cure the olives by soaking them in lye or brine to remove the bitter compounds. You can view the entire Farm Day presentation here.

Culbertson said the response from teachers and students was overwhelmingly positive.

“One teacher wrote back to say, ‘It really gave our students a better understanding of the impact that California’s agriculture has on our state, country, and the world.’ Another wrote, ‘They learned so much about their home state and came back from the weekend telling me what they taught their parents about California agriculture. Thank you so much,’” Culbertson said.

This year, Ag in the Classroom began working with the Fresno Unified School District to promote the commodities grown in the heart of California’s farm belt. The district received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to provide locally grown fruits and vegetables to the school lunch program and to provide education about the importance of agriculture.

“We are providing the education side of the nutrition grant,” Culbertson said. “We produced classroom materials including a monthly Fresno Farms to You newsletter, along with posters for each school’s cafeteria. Both feature information about what’s in season in the Fresno area that month.

“There are 70,000 kids in Fresno Unified, and everybody goes through the cafeteria and learns about the commodities. We’re going through evaluation now, but it’s a two-year grant, and we’re planning to do it again next year.”

The poster for October, for example, featured table grapes, informing students that eating them benefits the heart, brain, and skin. And each month’s poster includes a joke about that month’s commodity, which she said she hopes helps capture their attention. For October, it was, “What happened when the grape was promoted? It got a raisin pay.”

Keith Hesterberg, president and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, said he was especially pleased that California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom was able to help promote agriculture in his community.

“The Fresno area has grown tremendously in recent years, and many people moving here from other parts of the state don’t have the same understanding about the importance of agriculture as people who grew up here. This program is a great way of giving students information as well as a taste of how delicious locally grown fruits and vegetables are,” he said.

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About Farm Credit:

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

 

About the Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom:

The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth throughout California about the importance of agriculture in their daily lives. We do this through:

  • Developing materials that are accurate, teacher-tested and scientifically sound to enhance the educational experience of K-12 students.
  • Providing programs, inspiration and training opportunities for educators.
  • Partnering with like-minded organizations to create awareness about the significance of agriculture in our everyday lives.
  • Recognizing teachers and students for their achievements in agricultural literacy.
  • Supporting the pursuit of agricultural careers and continuing education.

Our mission is to increase awareness and understanding of agriculture among California’s educators and students. Our vision is an appreciation of agriculture by all. Learn more at https://learnaboutag.org.

 

FARM CREDIT PROVIDED NEARLY $900,000 TO CALIFORNIA NON-PROFITS IN 2021

Leading Lender to California agriculture focused heavily on diversity, equity and inclusion

Farm Credit organizations serving California’s farmers and ranchers contributed $870,000 during 2021 to nonprofit organizations working to support the industry, preserve agriculture, and raise awareness of the importance of agriculture.

In addition, the participating members of the nationwide Farm Credit System – American Ag Credit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit, provided critical funding to several nonprofits working to strengthen efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the state’s agricultural community.

“Both at the national level and here in California, Farm Credit is committed to supporting people of color in agriculture and rural communities,” said Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West. “By supporting these organizations, we are reaffirming our commitment to that mission.”

Keith Hesterberg, President and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, added that it is particularly important for California agriculture to become more inclusive to ensure the state’s farmers and ranchers continue to help feed the nation and the world in the years to come.

“Latinos now comprise the state’s largest single ethnic group in California but are underrepresented in agricultural ownership and management,” Hesterberg said. “That’s why Farm Credit is proud to support the Latino Farmer Conference, the Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture program at Fresno State University, and numerous other programs promoting diversity in farming and ranching.”

Organizations promoting diversity that were supported by Farm Credit in 2021 included:

  • The Latino Farmer Conference, which brings together Spanish-speaking farmers from around California to share their experiences, network with other farmers, and attend workshops about marketing, production practices, farm finances and other topics.
  • The Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture program at Fresno State, which was established by Farm Credit in 2013. Funds are used for a variety of academic and student success activities as determined by the Dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, including student mentors, outreach to middle schools, high schools and rural communities across the Central Valley and student scholarships.
  • Women of the Vine, a symposium that attracts 750 attendees from five countries. The organization empowers and equips women to advance their careers and fostering gender diversity and talent development.

 

Farm Credit helps give veterans what they love — free tacos

Fresno State’s Student Veteran Organization sees strong turnout for annual veterans’ tailgate

Veterans love tacos. At least veterans at California State University, Fresno, love tacos. Especially when they’re free.

ROTC cadets and Farm Credit volunteers wait for the tacos to be ready at the annual Fresno State veterans’ tailgate.

That’s what Eliza Hernandez, the president of the university’s Student Veteran Organization, attributed the larger-than-usual attendance for the annual veterans’ tailgate, which has been sponsored by Farm Credit since 2018.

Hernandez said 130 veterans attending Fresno State, their family members, and ROTC cadets gathered for the 2021 tailgate, held prior to Fresno State’s 34-7 victory over New Mexico.

“It was one of the biggest turnouts we’ve had, and it had to do with the tacos, which were free for attendees,” Hernandez said. “This year I chose to do catering from Mi Linda Tierra, a taco place in Sanger, to help a small business.”

Keith Hesterberg, President and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, said Farm Credit sponsors the annual event because of the university’s strong support of its veteran students.

“Veterans make up a much smaller proportion of college students than in years past, but it’s just as important to support their transition to civilian life and to help them prepare for their future,” Hesterberg said. “Through its Veterans Resource Center Student and Veteran Organization, Fresno State has made that commitment, and Farm Credit is proud to help support this annual event to recognize veterans.”

Besides Fresno Madera Farm Credit, American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, and Yosemite Farm Credit provide funding. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said the 2021 tailgate was particularly meaningful as the campus – along with the rest of the state and nation – began to rebound from the COVID-19 restrictions.

“This was the first semester since the pandemic hit that students were back on campus, allowing the Student Veteran Organization to hold the tailgate and provide free tickets to the football game,” Littlefield said. “Farm Credit was particularly glad to be able to sponsor the event this year for students who are returning to some semblance of normal.”

Hernandez, an Army reservist who recently graduated with a degree in criminology and law enforcement, said the ticket department donated 700 tickets to the game.

 

About Farm Credit:

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

 

About the Student Veterans Organization

Today’s veterans face tremendous obstacles in their path of attaining a college degree. These challenges range from a missing sense of camaraderie to a lack of understanding by university faculty and peers. When coupled with the visible and invisible wounds of war, a college degree seems to be an elusive goal for men and women returning from military service. Student Veterans Organization (SVO) makes that goal a reality.

New FFA Program helps students make the leap into college

Two-day Change Makers Summit, with support from Farm Credit, opens eyes to the wide range of ag-related career pathways.

 

Going off to college is a big leap into the unknown for most college-bound high school seniors – especially when they’re doing so in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. To help ease the transition, the California Association of Future Farmers of America (FFA) has introduced a new program to make that leap a little more manageable – and to remind the students that there are many pathways to a career in California agriculture.

Funded in part by grants from Farm Credit, the Change Makers Summit: The Future Awaits! is a two-day program aimed at incoming high school seniors, explained Maureen Funk, the California FFA Foundation’s development director.

“The original plan, pre-pandemic, was that prior to their senior year, seniors would take time out and go to a conference at a college campus, experience life in the dorms, and have conversations with FFA alums about what skills they need to develop during their senior year to get ready for their next steps,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to stop and reflect for a bit – you’re almost done with this program, what’s next?”

Of course, due to COVID-19, the conference had to be virtual. The first one was held in the spring of 2021 for students about to graduate from high school, with a second session held in August for incoming seniors. FFA is planning to hold the program again this year, but plans are not yet final.

Rob Faris, President and CEO of Golden State Farm Credit, said the program is designed to help students use the skills they have gained and fulfill their life’s purpose after leaving the FFA blue and gold.

“The FFA alumni volunteers help students identify the specific skills they have gained from their FFA education and help them create a career plan that highlights how those skills will help them find success,” Faris said. “The volunteers also outline specific service projects seniors can undertake in their home communities or at college, and the seniors will leave knowing how capable, valuable and marketable they are.”

Farm Credit institutions supporting the California FFA are American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit. They are all part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, the largest provider of credit to American agriculture.

Curt Hudnutt, President and CEO of American AgCredit, noted that another key part of the summit is outlining all the careers they can pursue in agriculture.

“Whether a student pursues a career in finance, joins their family farm or has an innovative business idea they want to bring forward, California agriculture – and U.S. agriculture –  needs them,” Hudnutt said. “In 2022, the plan is to amplify this message by bringing in former FFA students now working in ag-related businesses to tell the students how they got where they are and help them understand the opportunities that are open to them.”

Funk said 164 students participated last April and another 207 did so in August.

“Our target was 150 participants at each session, so we were very pleased with the outcomes. Both sessions included a broad band of students from all our areas and participation was very good. The interns and volunteers all felt they got really good feedback and that it was a valuable experience.”

Farm Credit has supported FFA for more than 20 years, during which it has contributed well over $550,000. Funk said Farm Credit’s strong support has been extremely important to helping FFA provide programs like the summit.

“Farm Credit is our most generous donor. They commit year over year to the organization, which helps us plan new things, knowing that those funds are coming in. And sponsors like Farm Credit keep our programs affordable for our students. We really value their support,” she said.

For more information about the summit, visit https://calaged.org/change-makers-summit.

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About Farm Credit: 

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com.

About California Association FFA and California FFA Foundation:

California FFA’s school-based agricultural education program prepares students for successful careers and a lifetime of informed choices in the global agriculture, food, fiber and natural resource systems.

California FFA Foundation provides individuals, businesses, foundations and others the opportunity to invest in the premier secondary Agricultural Education leadership development program in California FFA. For more information, visit https://www.calaged.org.

 

 

New Sacramento museum educates residents about farms’ water needs

Farm Credit helps fund three exhibits on Museum of Science and Curiosity that demonstrate why farms need water and how farmers are conserving this precious resource

 

Despite recent heavy rains, California is still experiencing one of its worst droughts in history, so reminding the public and policy makers that food does not grow without water is a critical need for the state’s agricultural community. That’s why Mike Wade and Farm Credit were excited to see the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity open recently.

 

Graphic of interactive exhibit that shows how much water is needed to produce a meal and the nutritional value of the food

The $52 million state-of-the-art science center in Sacramento contains dozens of interactive exhibits that allows visitors to explore the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math and specifically address global and local issues relating energy, water, health, nature, space and design engineering.

 

Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, said the three water exhibits the coalition is sponsoring bring home the fact that water is essential to grow our food and that California farmers are leading the world in conserving the precious resource.

“The exhibits have been very popular with museum visitors so far. Both students and adults have been taking turns finding out about the water it takes to grow our food and how farmers use the latest technology to conserve it,” Wade said.

“It’s always been part of our mission to educate people about the connection between farm water and their food supply. It’s important that everyone know that farmers are using water in an efficient manner and that as consumers, we all depend on farmers.”

American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West collectively pledged $75,000 over five years to help build and maintain the exhibits. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Wade said one exhibit consists of a touchscreen monitor on which people can drag food items from an illustrated list to your plate. Once they’ve made their selections, they can click the “eat it” button and the display will show the nutrition value and water demand of the foods on the plate. And that in turn shows participants how close they are to meeting their nutritional needs and the amount of water needed to produce that food.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said the exhibit will be an important learning tool for visitors.

“The exhibit helps people understand that it takes a significant amount of water to grow the food we eat. It’s eye-opening to select the right foods to eat and then see at the end of the game how much water it takes to grow that food,” he said.

Another interactive exhibit demonstrates how technology is helping farmers use just the right amount of water to grow their crops, said Curt Hudnutt, President and CEO of American AgCredit.

“The More Crop Per Drop exhibit lets visitors irrigate their field with a set water budget without giving them any information about how much water the crops need,” Hudnutt said. “Then they can try again after getting information from water sensors and then a third time with additional information from drones that pinpoint areas that have enough water and areas that need more. In most cases, participants will do better with additional information, making this a great way of showing how farmers are already at the cutting edge of technology.”

Wade said the third exhibit is a map of California that shows the state’s major water projects and conveyance facilities.

“The highlight here are quotes from five farmers from the five major ag regions who describe how storage and conveyance have made it possible for them to farm,” he said.

The exhibits will be on display for 15 years at the museum, located in a building that once housed a century-old powerplant on the banks of the Sacramento River. The building was rebuilt and modernized and a new wing added that includes a planetarium, offices, and a café. The agricultural water interactive exhibits are part of the Water Challenge Gallery, located in the historic power plant section of the museum.

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been extremely valuable in making the exhibits a reality.

“None of this would be possible without Farm Credit and the other donors giving so generously,” he said. “Educating the public is a shared responsibility of the entire agricultural industry, and Farm Credit is leading by example.”

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About Farm Credit: American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. We specialize in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

 

About the California Farm Water Coalition: CFWC is a non-profit, educational organization formed in 1989 to provide fact-based information on farm water issues to the public. The organization works to help consumers, elected representatives, government officials and the media make the connection between farm water and our food supply. For more information, visit www.farmwater.org.

 

 

 

Cultivate California educates residents about farms’ need for water

Exceptional drought conditions mean Farm Credit’s support is crucial, as reminding people about link between water and their food is more important than ever

California is in the middle of one of its worst droughts on record. The federal government reports that showed that nearly half of the state – including the entire Central Valley – is in an exceptional drought as of mid-October. Overall, 2021 has been the ninth driest year in California since accurate records began being kept 127 years ago. Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, is at 23% of capacity and Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir, is at 22% of capacity.

No one knows how long these dry conditions will last, but the most recent drought lasted for 376 weeks, from December 2011 to March 2019. And the National Weather Service currently forecasts that drought conditions are likely to continue in California as a weak La Niña effect will likely see storms diverted to the Pacific Northwest this winter. And all of that is bad news for California agriculture.

 

Which is why Cultivate California’s program aimed at educating Californians about the connection between consumers, the food they love and the water needed to grow it is so important as its messaging reaches 16 million people a year.

Mike Wade, the program’s executive director, said getting out early this year with messaging about water was essential to counter messaging from other groups.

“Californians continue to get inundated with negative messages about farming,” Wade said. “The Cultivate California program was designed to help bolster the natural support people have for agriculture and farms and to continue providing them with facts and information about the connection between their food and the water supply.”

The need to counter misinformation about farmers’ use of water is why Farm Credit has been one of the program’s largest donors since 2018, said Curt Hudnutt, president and CEO of American AgCredit.

American AgCredit, along with CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit, collectively contribute $100,000 a year to help Cultivate California inform Californians. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

“This year, many California farms had just 5% of their water supply this year to grow our food,” Hudnutt said. “Cultivate California is one of the most successful groups we have to educate people about the impacts the drought has on our food supply, and the need to improve our water storage to protect all of us in future droughts, and we are proud to help support them in their efforts.”

Wade said one important message this year is that farmers and irrigation districts need to have flexibility to transfer water supplies to areas in greater need without burdensome red tape. And he said improving the state’s water supply system is crucial.

“We need to look long-term, which we should have done after the last drought,” he said. “Eighteen trillion gallons of water fell in February 2019 when the last drought ended, but we didn’t have the facilities to capture it and recharge our groundwater so we would have more supply available now. Hopefully our leaders will act so next time a drought occurs we will be better prepared.”

Rob Faris, President and CEO, Golden State Farm Credit, said it’s essential that more Californians are exposed to one of Cultivate California’s key messages – that the state’s farmers are producing more food but using much less water.

“The value of the state’s farm production increased by 38% between 1980 and 2015 while our farmers used 14% less water,” Faris said. “Farmers continually invest in irrigation technology, such as new drip and micro-irrigation systems, soil moisture monitoring, remote sensing, and computerized irrigation controls. Today, nearly half of our 8.4 million acres of irrigated farmland use drip, micro or subsurface irrigation, and more savings are on the way. Farm Credit is committed to help our members finance these improvements.”

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been invaluable.

“The support we get from Farm Credit is amazing and critically important,” he said. “It has helped attract other supporters as well, and the support and leadership we get from Farm Credit has been instrumental in helping this program succeed.”

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About Farm Credit: 

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com.

About Cultivate California:

The Cultivate California program was formed following Governor Brown’s 2014 drought proclamation. It is an educational effort, composed of agricultural industry partners, designed to educate the public about the connection between farm water and our food supply, using media insights, social media analytics, paid advertising and fact-based myth-busting. Cultivate California is managed on behalf of its industry partners by the California Farm Water Coalition.