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Trump presidency and potential impact on food prices

President-elect Donald Trump promised to crackdown on illegal immigration during his campaign. Caitlin Dewey reported in the Washington Post that such a move would result in increased fruit and vegetable prices for Americans.

The Post sought information from the UC Agricultural Issues Center (AIC), a statewide program that is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. UC Cooperative Extension was credited as a source for a chart that accompanied the article that noted the crops most vulnerable to labor-cost change. Asparagus is listed as having the highest proportion of the farms' operating costs dedicated to labor: 82 percent. 

"The plants must be hand cut multiple times per day during their two-month harvest season," the story said. Other crops that have high labor costs are wine grapes, oranges, sweet cherries, and all types of fruit. The article said berries, peppers, onions, watermelons and apples are also typically picked by hand.

A Texas A&M agricultural economist, Luis Ribera, told the reporter he believes U.S. farmers may not be able to produce some fruit and vegetables as a result of Trump's planned deportation of undocumented immigrants.

"We had a farm labor shortage even without Trump. Whatever he does will just compound the problem," Ribera said.

The director of the AIC, agricultural economist Daniel Sumner, doesn't express dire concern about the potential impact of the Trump administration on food prices and agriculture policy.

"I do not see big changes in immigration policy relevant for ag. Except perhaps a guest worker program, which would be positive," Sumner said. "I do not see big deportation of farmworkers coming."

Crops that require hand labor are more vulnerable to price fluctuations when immigration policies change.
Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at 11:14 AM

UC Cooperative Extension to track wild pig damage

UC Cooperative Extension is asking California farmers and landowners to help track the the state's wild pig population, reported Julia Mitric on Capitol Public Radio News. Signs of the pig's presence are hard to miss, UCCE advisor John Harper told the reporter.

"It looks like you came in with a rototiller and just uprooted everything," he says. "It's like ground squirrel mounds or gopher mounds on steroids because the pigs can go over such a large area."

Wild pigs can cause serious environmental damage. (Photo: Silvia Duckworth, Wikimedia Commons)

California's wild pigs have a variety of origins. Harper says many are descended from domestic pigs who were released into the wild by humans or escaped on their own and bred with game hogs such as the Russian boar hog. Wild pigs root around  in the soil for truffles and small plant roots with their sharp tusks tear, destroying plants and grasses that sheep and cattle like to graze on. They also open up the land for erosion and invasive species.

"So you might get something like 'medusahead,' an invasive grass that tends to crowd out other more desirable forage species," Harper said.

A team of UC Cooperative Extension scientists have created a GIS-based mobile app that works on Android and Apple devices to make it easy for landowners to participate in the study. 

“Rangeland managers and farmers can enter data into the app from the field so that we can estimate the land area and economic impacts of feral pig damage over a longer time period,” said Roger Baldwin, UC Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist in the Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at UC Davis.

Learn more and sign up to participate in the study on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources news website.

Posted on Friday, December 2, 2016 at 11:08 AM
Tags: John Harper (4), Roger Baldwin (2), wild pigs (1)

Food is already genetically altered

True to its name, a listicle published on BuzzFeed News about genetic modification of foods caused a buzz during Thanksgiving week. Writer Stephanie Lee reported that many techniques have been used over the centuries to tinker with the DNA of fruits, vegetables and animals to make them prettier, tastier and easier to grow.

Largely based on an interview with UC Cooperative Extension specialist Alison Van Eenennaam, the article said some changes were accidental acts of nature, some from traditional cross breeding, and others are crop improvements by genetic engineering. None of these changes make food fundamentally unsafe or unhealthy.

Alison Van Eenennaam is a UCCE specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis.

"It's up to us as parents or humans to seek out correct information," Van Eenennaam said. "And that's why my kids are vaccinated, we drink pasteurized milk, and we happily eat GMOs."

Cross breeding and selection have transformed scrawny poultry into today's plump, meaty domestic turkey. Corn is descended from a barely edible grass. Spontaneous mutations from solar radiation produced Washington navel oranges. Seeds exposed to radiation by scientists "randomly scrambles the genes inside them and yields desirable traits," the article said.

Today's farmed turkeys barely resemble their ancestors. (Photo: USDA)

More than 90 percent of U.S. corn is genetically modified. Most goes to ethanol plants, animal feed or processed food, but, "In 2011, Monsanto began growing sweet corn engineered with a protein that helps fight off pests. It's meant to be eaten directly and sold in grocery stores." 

The article generated a few online conversations, with comments from those praising the article and others suggesting it was not balanced.

"I cannot believe this is your header Thanksgiving article," wrote one reader. "Seriously, who paid you?

Another said, "The anti-GMO movement isn't really about food safety ... it's primarily an anti-corporate movement."

The article said the FDA requires that food derived from GMO plants to meet the same food safety requirements as food from traditionally bred plants. 

"What I would be more worried about is undercooking my turkey, because then I could actually be exposed to salmonella — that actually could kill people," Van Eenennaam said.

Posted on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 3:08 PM
Tags: Alison Van Eenennaam (15), GMO (16)

High interest in SOD spread to San Luis Obispo County

Central Coast residents, officials, ranchers and representatives of conservation organizations came out in force to a November UC Cooperative Extension meeting sounding an alarm about the recent detection of Sudden Oak Death (SOD) in San Luis Obispo County trees, reported Kathe Tanner in the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

This was the first such gathering in this county since tests confirmed that the disease made its way south of Monterey County, according to event coordinator Mary Bianchi, director of UC Cooperative Extension in SLO County. But there will be more meetings to come, she said.

California bay laurel infected with the pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Dealth.

Previously confirmed infestations of the disease stayed north of the Monterey County border with San Luis Obispo County. Because SOD spreads by wind and rain, experts believe the prolonged California drought inhibited the spread further south. However, recent tests confirmed the SOD pathogen, phytophthora ramorum, on oaks along the parking lot at Salmon Creek, and in bay laurel trees along Santa Rosa Creek Road, west of Atascadero near Highway 41 and along Stenner Creek and Prefumo Canyon in San Luis Obispo.

Another intensive survey to be conducted by foresters and volunteer citizen scientists in the spring will include Cambria neighborhoods, ranches and other areas. In the meantime, residents were asked to keep an eye out for SOD symptoms in local bay laurel and oak trees. SOD lesions show up as pixilated brown, black or gray areas on leaf tips. Oozing cankers on an oak tree, with sap coming out of the trunk but with no wound evident on the bark, is another sign that the trees could be infected with the pathogen that causes SOD.

 

The most reliable early symptom of sudden oak death is dark sap exuding from trunk base, as on this coast live oak. (Photo: UC IPM)
 
For more information from the University of California about Sudden Oak Dealth in California, visit http://suddenoakdeath.org.

Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/community/cambrian/article115140873.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/community/cambrian/article115140873.html#storylink=cpy
Posted on Friday, November 18, 2016 at 10:17 AM

President-elect Trump may put his own stamp on TPP

Although President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly said he was against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the presidential campaign, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources expert says he may moderate his position once he is in office, reported Julia Mitric on Capital Public Radio.

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an attack on America's business. It does not stop Japan's currency manipulation. This is a bad deal," Trump was quoted in a 2015 article on CNN.com. TPP was negotiated by the Obama Administration, but is stalled in Congress.

Director of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center, Daniel Sumner, said Trump may want to put his own stamp on the deal, and not stop it altogether.

Daniel Sumner, director of UC ANR's Agricultural Issues Center.

"I can imagine President Trump asking for a delay on that until he renegotiates parts of it," Sumner said. "And if he can renegotiate what he considers a better deal, great, and he may well be very instrumental in getting such a thing through Congress."

Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, was also quoted in the story. He predicted Trump will consider the merits of TPP. 

"If he's such a good businessman, he will see this is a good deal," Wenger said.

Sumner added, "When there's trade, both sides benefit. Otherwise you don't trade."

 

Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 10:09 AM
Tags: Daniel Sumner (20), Donald Trump (1), TPP (2)

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