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By Vicky Boyd

Beginning with the 2020 crop year, producers throughout San Joaquin County will have to complete an irrigation and nitrogen management plan and record their anticipated applications for the upcoming crop year by spring.

The paperwork is part of new requirements under the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program, which was created by the state to address sediment, pesticide and nutrient discharges from irrigated farmland.

By Vicky Boyd

Many growers who did not have winegrape contracts or didn’t want to accept extremely low prices left their crop unpicked thisseason, like this one near Farmington. Some industry leaders say it’s the most fruit they’ve seen left hanging in several years.
Photo by Vicky Boyd

A record 2018 winegrape crop, changing consumer tastes and trade issues have created a perfect storm that has pushed down prices, prompting some growers this season to leave fruit unpicked or pull out vineyards.

“It’s hard to say how much fruit was actually left out there, but definitely there does seem to be more than we’ve seen in the past few years,” said Stuart Spencer, Lodi Winegrape Commission executive director.

Aaron Lange, vineyard operations manager for LangeTwins Vineyards near Acampo, said they were able to sell the vast majority of their fruit with the exception of a small amount of zinfandel.

By Craig W. Anderson

Assembly Bill 5 was signed into law Sept. 18 by Gov. Gavin Newsom with little fanfare, but the legislation is certain to engender confusion, anger and uncertainty in various agricultural business sectors.

“Much is unknown about the effects of AB5,” said San Joaquin Farm Bureau Executive Director Bruce Blodgett. “There are many unintended consequences associated with it and it is creating liability for a multitude of California businesses, including agricultural operations.”

AB 5 eliminates independent contractors in a multitude of work environments, transforming them on Jan. 1 into employees, which is, at the very least, confusing and annoying according to Blodgett.

By Vicky Boyd

Proposed changes to state rules for nighttime agricultural worker safety that include high-visibility clothing, nightly safety meetings and specific illumination levels are nearing adoption.

Some of the requirements, such as the minimum square inches of reflective material on clothing, are reasonable, said Brad Goehring, a Clements area winegrape grower and San Joaquin Farm Bureau board member. But others, such as mandated lighting illumination levels and how those are measured, could cost growers significantly with little improvement to worker safety.

“I poured over all of the board’s accident reports, and only two happened at night and none of them were related to lighting issues,” said Goehring, who has served on a California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board Advisory Committee since 2014.

By Craig W. Anderson

SJFB Past President Kenny Watkins, cattleman and diversified grower in the Linden area was named 2019 Cattleman of the Year by the San Joaquin-Stanislaus Cattlemen’s Association at the organization’s Christmas dinner in Oakdale.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to help my fellow cattlemen,” Watkins said. “The industry has struggled over the last couple of years and we’re looking forward to overcoming those obstacles.”

“Kenny is well-deserving of this award which is almost like a lifetime achievement award for all he’s done for cattle and agriculture over the years,” said San Joaquin Farm Bureau Executive Director Bruce Blodgett. “It’s good to see that another entity has recognized his achievements and dedication to all of agriculture.”

By Craig W. Anderson

Amber McDowell, San Joaquin Farm Bureau program assistant, graduated from the 2019 Leadership Farm Bureau’s year-long training program in a ceremony held Dec. 9 during the 101st CFBF Annual Meeting in Monterey..

Amber’s family farms pears near Walnut Grove and runs a pheasant-hunting preserve..

The nine-member class acquired enhanced background in communications, team-building, advocacy, and the Farm Bureau organization during seven sessions totaling more than 250 hours of instruction.