UC Cooperative Extension staff who will attend the meeting are strawberry and vegetable crops advisor Surendra Dara, farm advisor Ben Faber, San Luis Obispo County farm advisor Mary Bianchi, SLO County director and 4-H Youth Development advisor Richard Enfield, SLO County program representative Lisa Paniagua.
Kind-hearted Californians resoundingly supported Proposition 2 last November, which, among other things, requires farmers to provide the state's egg-laying hens with room to spread their wings. One of the concerns discussed before its passage - that unaffected producers from other states and Mexico will flood the California market with their cheaper eggs - would be mitigated by passage of Assembly Bill 1437, according to a Sacramento Bee story, which also appeared in the Merced Sun-Star.
The proposed law, which passed in the Assembly by a 65-12 vote, was written by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. It is likely to be heard next in the Senate Food and Agriculture Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, one of Huffman's co-authors on the bill, the story said.
The new law would require that all eggs sold in California be from cage-free hens. Reporter Jim Downing contacted the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, Dan Sumner, for perspective on the prospective regulation.
Cage-free systems add a penny or two to the cost of producing an egg, according to a UC study last year titled Economic Effects of Proposed Restrictions on Egg-Laying Hen Housing in California. However, the retail cost of a dozen cage-free eggs is currently about $1 more than conventionally produced eggs. "If cage-free eggs were the only type available in California, that spread would likely narrow to roughly the difference in production costs," Downing paraphrased Sumner.
Before the state budget fiasco of 2009, Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) wasn't well known outside his district. But by making deals with the upper house's Democratic majority and voting for their budget, Maldonado practically became a household name. Increasing his popularity still more among many Californians, he named UC Cooperative Extension when listing California state budget priorities, according to a story by Harry Cline published yesterday in Western Farm Press.
Cline said Maldonado flew his own twin-engine aircraft to Tulare County for the World Ag Expo in February to participate in a pre-show visit with the news media.
“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the state and it needs to be protected and worked with,” Maldonado was quoted in the story.
Maldonado also said vocational agriculture programs in high schools, the Williamson Act to protect farmland from high taxes and the University of California Cooperative Extension are programs that should be protected from draconian budgets cuts in the future, Cline wrote.
Maldonado has an interesting back story. His father was a Bracero. As a child, Maldonado worked in the fields picking strawberries alongside his father to help support the family. After college, he returned to the family's small Santa Maria farm, which under his guidance grew from a half acre of strawberries into a 6,000-acre farm that employs more than 250 people and ships produce all over the world, according to his official biography. At the World Ag Expo event, Maldonado said there is the need is to bring back a temporary worker program for agriculture and the service industry.
“I do not want amnesty. We need temporary workers like my dad who came here to work. He did not come for a free ride. He came to work hard,” Maldonado was quoted in the Farm Press article.
California State Senator Dean Florez (D-Shafter) has introduced a bill that would ban the practice of docking dairy cow tails, according to a story in Capital Press. Calling the practice of severing cows' tails unnecessary and cruel, Florez said that the new bill is a good place for him to start in efforts to make animal welfare in agriculture a central issue.
Florez is chair of the Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture. According to the story, he decided to focus on animal welfare issues after the overwhelming voter approval in November of Proposition 2, which bars veal crates, battery cages, sow gestation crates and any enclosure that prevents animals from turning around, standing up or spreading their wings.
". . . We're very, very focused on trying to figure out what are the animal welfare issues that we have ignored for so many decades here in California," Florez was quoted.
At a press conference last week, Florez said tail docking tends to accompany higher-volume production and depressed market conditions. Reporter Wes Sander spoke to UC Cooperative Extension dairy farm advisor Noelia Silva-del-Rio for her perspective on tail docking.
The story said Silva-del-Rio is conducting a study that so far suggests that 89 percent of the state's dairies do not dock tails and 86 percent of dairy cows are in non-docking operations. The preliminary data has come from Tulare, Kings, Kern and Fresno counties, the article said.