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Member Visits

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State Sen. Glazer Tours Blue Diamond’s Almond Innovation Center

From L-R: Blue Diamond’s Director of Research and Development Steve Morgan speaks with Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) during a tour of the Almond Innovation Center.

From L-R: Blue Diamond’s Director of Research and Development Steve Morgan speaks with Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) during a tour of the Almond Innovation Center.

Ag Council appreciates Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) for visiting Blue Diamond Growers and its Almond Innovation Center in Sacramento on October 7. Senator Glazer was elected during a special election this year and is a former city council member and mayor of Orinda.

During the visit, Senator Glazer met with Blue Diamond Public Affairs Director Alicia Rockwell and talked about the cooperative’s leadership role in the industry, the various operations and also discussed water issues relating to the almond industry.

Senator Glazer toured the Almond Innovation Center with Director of Research and Development Steve Morgan. The Innovation Center is a research facility working to initiate new almond product concepts. Morgan showed Senator Glazer the state-of-the-art 6,500 square-foot facility, including a laboratory, dedicated to almond research and development.

Ag Council thanks Senator Glazer for connecting with Blue Diamond to learn more about its role in the almond industry, and we look forward to continuing to work with him in the State Senate. Click HERE to learn more about Senator Glazer.

Almond & Dairy Tour with Asm. Alejo & Karina Alejo

Pictured from L-R: Darrin Monteiro (CDI), Karina Cervantes Alejo, Assemblymember Luis Alejo, and Paulo De Carvalho (De Carvalho Brother Dairy)

Pictured from L-R: Darrin Monteiro (CDI), Karina Cervantes Alejo, Assemblymember Luis Alejo, and Paulo De Carvalho (De Carvalho Brother Dairy)

Ag Council was pleased to host Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) and his wife Karina Cervantes Alejo, who is running for the 30th Assembly District seat, for tours with our members in the dairy and almond industries on September 29.

Ag Council had a great day connecting with the Alejos, and we appreciate California Dairies, Inc. (CDI) and the Almond Hullers and Processors Association (AHPA) for their help in coordinating the tours.

The Alejos began the afternoon touring De Carvalho Brothers Dairy in Modesto, which is a member of CDI. Paulo De Carvalho hosted the group and discussed his Portuguese roots and talked about his family’s heritage in the dairy industry. The group discussed feed, water quality, food safety and other issues facing the industry while touring the dairy. Assemblyman Alejo and Karina also learned how almond hulls and shells are used in dairy feed and bedding and the connection between the dairy and almond industries was discussed. Darrin Monteiro Director of Member Relations at CDI joined the tour, as well.

Pictured from L-R: Assemblymember Luis Alejo, Karina Cervantes Alejo, Kelly Covello (AHPA), and Dexter Long (Hilltop Ranch)

Pictured from L-R: Assemblymember Luis Alejo, Karina Cervantes Alejo, Kelly Covello (AHPA), and Dexter Long (Hilltop Ranch)

Next, Ag Council member, AHPA, hosted the Alejos at Hilltop Ranch Inc., an AHPA member based in Ballico. The gathering was an opportunity to discuss water use efficiencies and water related issues in the almond industry by connecting with Dexter Long VP and General Manager at Hilltop Ranch, John Eisenhut Grower Relations Manager at Hilltop Ranch, who is also a member of the California Air Resources Board, and Kelly Covello President at AHPA. After discussing water and other issues, the group toured Hilltop Ranch, which is a privately owned processor of almonds, handling about 30,000 tons annually.

Ag Council thanks our members who participated in helping to coordinate the tours, and we greatly appreciate the Alejos for spending the day with us to learn more about our members.

Assemblywoman Irwin Visits Rice Harvest in Butte County

Asm. Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) visits BUCRA’s facilities with Pres. & CEO Carl Hoff and VP of Drying/Storage Steve Birdsong

Asm. Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) visits BUCRA’s facilities with Pres. & CEO Carl Hoff and VP of Drying/Storage Steve Birdsong

Ag Council member, Butte County Rice Growers Association (BUCRA), hosted Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), in Richvale for a tour on September 17 during rice harvest. Assemblywoman Irwin graciously spent an afternoon learning about the rice industry ranging from harvest to drying to the milling process.

Assemblywoman Irwin toured BUCRA’s drying and storage facilities with President & CEO Carl Hoff and learned about the cooperative, which began 100 years ago to meet the needs of farmers planting and harvesting rice. The drought was a particular area of discussion during the tour. Hoff discussed water conservation, showed Assemblywoman Irwin fallowed fields due to water cutbacks and talked about the critical importance of rice fields to 230 species of wildlife, including waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway.

The legislator also visited Gorrill Ranch, one of BUCRA’s over 400 members, where she took the opportunity to demonstrate her rice harvesting skills by driving a harvester in the field. Before leaving Richvale, she also viewed the milling process at Far West Rice.

As background, Assemblywoman Irwin is a member of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture and Chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs. We appreciate her strong interest in agriculture and thank her for taking the time to learn more about the rice industry.

Ag Council extends a special thank you to the following individuals for their help during the tour: BUCRA President & CEO Carl Hoff, BUCRA Chairman Carl Lindahl, BUCRA VP of Drying/Storage Steve Birdsong, Gorrill Ranch CEO Daniel Robinson, Gorrill Ranch Farm Manager Mark Breckenridge, and Far West Rice CEO Chris Davis.

 Assemblyman Dodd Visits Pacific Coast Producers

Ag Council thanks Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa) for touring Pacific Coast Producers’ tomato processing plant located in the legislator’s district in Woodland on July 29. Pacific Coast Producers is a grower-owned cooperative with three plant locations: Lodi, Oroville and Woodland.

Pictured in photo from left to right: Chris Ward, Plant Manager with Pacific Coast Producers, Mona Shulman, VP & General Counsel with Pacific Coast Producers, Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa), and Will Arnold with Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis).

Pictured in photo from left to right: Chris Ward, Plant Manager with Pacific Coast Producers, Mona Shulman, VP & General Counsel with Pacific Coast Producers, Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa), and Will Arnold with Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis).

Assemblyman Dodd and his staff, as well as a staff member from Senator Lois Wolk’s (D-Davis) office, viewed the operations in full swing during harvest season. The Woodland plant is where Pacific Coast Producers processes and cans private label tomatoes in the form of paste, puree, stewed and diced tomatoes, among other tomato products. The tomatoes are grown and harvested within a 16-mile radius of the Woodland facility.

Several policy issues were discussed during the visit including water use, the drought, sustainability, energy and climate change.

The day prior to Assemblyman Dodd’s visit, a group of state regulatory officials and Ag Council staff participated in a tour of Pacific Coast Producers’ Woodland facility where various regulatory-focused issues were discussed.

Ag Council appreciates Assemblyman Dodd for taking the time during the legislative recess to visit with and learn more about our members.

We also thank Pacific Coast Producers for their outreach to state officials. Tours are an important part of Ag Council’s effort to connect with legislators and regulatory officials to discuss critical issues facing our members.

Assembly Ag Committee Chair Henry Perea Visits Almond Farm

Dan Clendenin, a farmer with Blue Diamond Growers, speaks with Assembly Ag Committee Chairman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) about water use efficiencies.

Dan Clendenin, a farmer with Blue Diamond Growers, speaks with Assembly Ag Committee Chairman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) about water use efficiencies.

Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) on April 10, met with Dan Clendenin, a family farmer in Merced who grows almonds for Blue Diamond Growers, an Ag Council member.

Chairman Perea toured the farm and Dan talked about how the drought has impacted him and discussed his efforts to efficiently use water. Dan talked about his use of micro-sprinklers to efficiently irrigate his crop. With 70 percent of almond growers using such systems, farmers are leaders in water use efficiency. Dan also uses a drip irrigation system because it maximizes water absorption into the soil with less evaporation.

Dan, like many farmers in California, is experiencing significant water challenges given that he is currently not receiving any surface water and is using groundwater. Though Dan has no surface water allocation, surface water is being provided from the same source for environmental purposes. Dan also spoke with Chairman Perea about the cost of water, which is contingent upon many factors, as well as the costs to operate his farm.

Ag Council thanks Chairman Perea for taking the time to learn more about ag water use. We also appreciate Dan Clendenin and Blue Diamond for helping to provide Chairman Perea with critical information about ag water use.

Assemblymember Garcia Tours CDI Plant in Artesia

From L-R: Rico Hinojosa with CDI, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and Darrin Monteiro with CDI.

From L-R: Rico Hinojosa with CDI, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and Darrin Monteiro with CDI.

Ag Council member California Dairies Inc. (CDI), hosted Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) for a tour of CDI’s Artesia processing plant in early August. The plant is located in Assemblymember Garcia’s district, which includes Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce and Downey, all in Los Angeles County.

Darrin Monteiro, Director of Member Relations at CDI, and Rico Hinojosa, CDI’s Artesia plant manager, had lunch with the Assemblymember and discussed key issues affecting CDI. They also talked about the plant’s operations before taking a tour of the facility.

The Artesia plant converts milk into milk powders and custom blended fluid products. Garcia posted details about her visit on her Twitter account explaining, in particular, that the plant processes over 4.2 million pounds of milk a day.

Ag Council thanks Assemblymember Garcia for touring CDI’s Artesia plant. We also appreciate CDI for their help in coordinating the tour and for their efforts to reach out to Assemblymember Garcia and other legislators to help elected leaders better understand the California dairy industry and other ag issues.

Legislators Visit Ag Council Members

As Ag Council continues its outreach to key members of the Legislature, Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) and Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) in September 2013 joined our members from Allied Grape Growers, Almond Hullers and Processors Association (AHPA), California Dairies Inc. (CDI), and Central California Almond Growers Association for a day of tours.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, dairyman Bob LaSalle, Assemblyman Bigelow & Darrin Monteiro with CDI

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, dairyman Bob LaSalle, Assemblyman Bigelow & Darrin Monteiro with CDI

Bob LaSalle, a dairyman with CDI, hosted the legislators at his dairy in Firebaugh. He talked about some of the struggles facing the California dairy industry including high input costs and regulations that can be overwhelming when aggregated. The assemblymen saw his milking barn and discussed the interconnection between dairies and the almond industry given that hulls and shells are used for feed and bedding. This first-hand, on-the-ground experience at a dairy is invaluable as Ag Council reaches out to legislators about the difficulties confronting dairy families.

Next, the legislators met with Mathew Andrew, who is a wine grape grower and board chairman of Allied Grape Growers. He is also an almond grower with Central California Almond Growers Association. The legislators spoke with Andrew about taxes and labor issues, as well as the need to increase regulatory oversight. Bigelow and Frazier watched almonds being harvested and also saw raisins drying in the sun on paper trays.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, Mathew Andrew & Assemblyman Bigelow in front of harvesting equipment.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, Mathew Andrew & Assemblyman Bigelow in front of harvesting equipment.

The legislators then visited Jeff Hamilton of Minturn Huller Cooperative, a member of AHPA. Bigelow and Frazier toured the hulling and shelling facility, and Hamilton discussed key state issues, such as Proposition 65 and how regulatory decisions on this matter could affect food safety. Hamilton also talked about how important it is for state officials to consider the cost of compliance on businesses as regulations are implemented. Ag Council is engaged in an effort at the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce the cost of the compliance and increase the efficiency of the compliance process.

One of the themes that emerged from the legislators is the desire to strengthen the legislative oversight of regulatory agencies. Ag Council supports such an effort and looks forward to working with Assemblyman Bigelow and Assemblyman Frazier, and their counterparts in the Legislature, in this endeavor.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, Jeff Hamilton of Minturn Huller Co-op, Kelly Covello with AHPA & Assemblyman Bigelow.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, Jeff Hamilton of Minturn Huller Co-op, Kelly Covello with AHPA & Assemblyman Bigelow.

Ag Council greatly appreciates the help of each of the farmers and businesses involved with the tours. We thank our members Allied Grape Growers, AHPA, CDI, and Central California Almond Growers Association for their commitment to this outreach. The tours are an important part of our effort to connect with legislators and discuss the critical issues facing our members.

We also very much appreciate the time that Assemblyman Bigelow and Assemblyman Frazier devoted in order to spend the day with Ag Council members.

Majority Leader Atkins Tours Ag Council Member Farms

Grower Dave Phippen and Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego)

Grower Dave Phippen and Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego)

In February 2013, Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who is now Speaker of the Assembly, joined our members from the Almond Hullers and Processors Association (AHPA) and the California Canning Peach Association for farm tours. Majority Leader Atkins is in her third year as a legislator and is a newly appointed member of the Assembly Ag Committee.Dave Phippen, an almond grower, packer, shipper and board member with AHPA, hosted the Majority Leader at his farm in Manteca. He talked about almond bloom and irrigation practices in the field, and he discussed sustainability relating to crop protection tools. In addition, Dave explained how solar power is being harnessed to power his processing facility.

Next, the Majority Leader met with Peter Martini who is a peach grower with the California Canning Peach Association. He discussed his family history and talked about the growing process. Peter also spoke of the challenges he faces as a cling peach grower such as labor, fuel costs and the impact of imports. The trees were in full bloom, so it was a beautiful time to visit. Majority Leader Atkins and her staff member had the opportunity to taste and enjoy canned peaches during the drive back to Sacramento.

Ag Council greatly appreciates the help of Kelly Covello with AHPA who assisted in the organization of the tour, as well as the assistance of Rich Hudgins with the California Canning Peach Association.

We are especially thankful to the Majority Leader for taking the time to learn more about our membership and for her interest in agriculture.

Mendoza Visits Ag Council Members

From L-R, Larry Serpa w/Land O’Lakes, dairyman Tyler Ribeiro and Tony Mendoza at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare

Ag Council member, Land O’Lakes, hosted Tony Mendoza for a two tours of family farms and a processing facility.

Mendoza started the day at Chandler Farms in Selma, which is a family farm growing for the following Ag Council members: Sun-Maid Growers, Blue Diamond Growers and Central California Almond Growers Association. John Chandler–who is a next generation farmer following in the footsteps of his parents Bill and Carol Chandler–introduced Mendoza to the farmworkers who were pruning vineyards on the farm. Mendoza spoke with the workers, learned many had longstanding jobs with the farm, and they talked about how their children are now in college. Mendoza also toured the farm’s almond and citrus crops and learned how they are grown.

Mendoza then visited Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare owned and operated by the Ribeiro family, which is a farmer-owner of Land O’Lakes. Dairymen Dave and Tyler Ribeiro graciously showed Mendoza the milking facilities, where the cows rest and eat, and discussed the various feed that is provided to the cows. Importantly, Mendoza learned about the current difficulties facing the dairy industry, including high feed, energy and regulatory costs, among others.

During a brief lunch stop at Superior Dairy in Hanford, Mendoza met local Land O’Lakes dairyman Dino Giacomazzi who discussed the reasoning for opposition against high speed rail among the ag community in Kings County.

Mendoza then finished his day of ag tours at Valley Fig Growers in Fresno where he learned how the farmer-owned cooperative processes locally-grown figs. In addition, Mendoza learned about the wastewater and anaerobic digester facility at Valley Fig Growers, which serves as an environmentally-friendly model in the food processing industry. The digester uses wastewater to produce renewable energy, reduces disposal costs for the plant and frees up energy needs for thousands of homes. Gary Jue and Jim Gargiulo of Valley Fig Growers also discussed food safety and other issues with Mendoza.

The day concluded with a dinner in Fresno with Ag Council’s local board members in the area who talked with Mendoza about labor, education and other key policy issues.

We greatly appreciate Tony Mendoza’s time and interest in our industry.  Also, a special thanks to all of our members and farmer-owners involved with the coordination of the tours.

New Democrats Visit Ag Council Members

Pictured (from L-R) Blue Diamond Growers’ CEO Mark Jansen with Assemblymembers: Perea, Eggman, Bonilla, Cooley, Dr. Pan and Frazier.

Ag Council members welcomed legislators from the New Democrats-a group of moderate Democrats in the Legislature-for site tours and a reception in January 2013.  We express our sincere gratitude to the following Assemblymembers for joining us to learn more about our members: Henry T. Perea, Susan Bonilla, Dr. Richard Pan, Jim Frazier, Susan Eggman and Ken Cooley.

The legislators first visited Blue Diamond Growers in the heart of downtown Sacramento where they were greeted by CEO Mark Jansen. The group toured the plant, as well as the new Almond Innovation Center on its opening day where they had the opportunity to taste some of the latest almond products. The Center will increase the speed of innovation and lower the cost of developing new products. As they wrapped-up their tour, the legislators learned about the significant health benefits of eating almonds from grower, Dr. George Goshgarian.

Next, the group traveled to Lodi where Pacific Coast Producers hosted the legislators at its nearly one million square-foot distribution center. Dan Vincent, CEO of Pacific Coast Producers, welcomed the legislators to the farmer-owned cooperative, which is a cannery that distributes California-grown products such as tomatoes, peaches, and apricots for private labels. The legislators discussed issues such as cap and trade and food safety. They also toured the distribution center and tasted various products.

The day concluded with a reception where the New Democrats had an opportunity to connect with additional Ag Council members and farmer-owners at the Cellar Door in Lodi.

We greatly appreciate the support of our members who were able to attend the reception and meet this key group of legislators. In addition, we thank the legislators for the significant amount of time they devoted to learning more about our members.  And, a special thank you to Blue Diamond Growers and Pacific Coast Producers for their help in this outreach effort.

Assemblyman Perea Visits Valley Fig Growers

Ag Council member, Valley Fig Growers, hosted Assemblyman Perea (D-Fresno) for a tour of its processing facility located in the legislator’s district and met with him to discuss regulatory issues.

Assemblymember Henry Perea and Mike Emigh, President of Valley Fig Growers

Perea toured the plant in downtown Fresno and viewed the wastewater and anaerobic digester facility, which serves as an environmentally-friendly model in the food processing industry.  The digester uses wastewater to produce renewable energy, reduces disposal costs for the plant and frees up energy needs for thousands of homes.

In addition, Perea sat down with Mike Emigh, President of Valley Fig Growers, his staff, and others to talk about regulatory hurdles obstructing economic and job growth in the region and to discuss possible solutions.

Perea was elected in 2010 and is the Chair of the Assembly Revenue and Tax Committee.  He also sits on the Agriculture, Banking and Finance, and Governmental Organization Committees.

Given his interest in regulatory reform, Ag Council looks forward to working with Assemblyman Perea throughout his term to help eliminate regulatory hurdles facing our members and the ag community.

Assemblywoman Yamada Tours Pacific Coast Producers

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) recently toured Pacific Coast Producers’ (PCP) food processing plant in Woodland.  During district work periods, Yamada creates “farm to fork” tour days for her and her staff, so they have the opportunity to learn about agriculture from the field to the table.

Yamada and her staff saw the scales, where tomato trucks are brought in and weighed and the fruit is sorted and peeled.  The tour included the entire cannery processing facility.  Even though springtime is “off-season,” Yamada’s staff observed several workers prepping the plant for this year’s upcoming harvest. Several welders and mechanics were on-site working on the plant to implement the latest technologies and recent capital investments made by PCP.  This gave PCP the opportunity to highlight their efforts in sustainability and create discussion surrounding labor and jobs provided in the local communities.

In the Assembly, Yamada is a member of the following Committees: Agriculture, Labor and Employment, Water, Parks & Wildlife, Veterans Affairs, and she is Chair of the Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care.

Ag Council has worked with Yamada and her staff on issues related to climate change and other issues, and we will continue to engage with her on issues in the future.

Assemblywoman Halderman Visits Sun-Maid

Rick Stark, Manager of Grower Relations at Sun-Maid Growers,|Assemblymember Linda Halderman and Gary Marshburn,|Assistant to the President at Sun-Maid Growers

Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (R-Fresno) met with Sun-Maid board members and management recently to talk about issues at the state policy and political forefront and to tour the Sun-Maid facility in Kingsburg.

Halderman discussed the ongoing budget issues and the statewide ballot initiative.

In addition, Halderman, who worked as a surgeon in the San Joaquin Valley prior to serving in the Assembly, discussed how efforts in the Legislature to implement a state system to carry out the contentious federal health care law could impact the business community.

Halderman also toured the Sun-Maid processing plant, which operates year-round and provides over 700 jobs in an area with high unemployment.

Jon Marthedal, who is Sun-Maid’s board Chairman–as well as Ag Council’s board Chairman–attended the meeting with Halderman.