California passes nation’s toughest methane emission regulations

The San Francisco Chronicle
By Dominic Fracassa

California air quality officials have approved what are widely considered to be the most rigorous and comprehensive regulations in the country for controlling methane emissions, a move that helps cement the state’s status as a standard-bearer for environmental protection.

The new rules, green-lighted Thursday by the state’s Air Resources Board, seek to curb methane emissions at oil and gas production plants by up to 45 percent over the next nine years. The cuts will come from a combination of heightened efficiency requirements, inspection mandates and rules meant to ensure that leaks are discovered and fixed swiftly. The regulations apply to both onshore and offshore oil and gas centers.

The standards, which experts said mark the first major piece of environmental regulation passed by any state since the turnover of power in Washington, were hailed as a triumph by environmental activists, but criticized as cumbersome, costly and ultimately unnecessary by oil and gas producers.

“Our industry is not the top emitter of methane in the state, yet this rule will add to the nation’s toughest regulations that our operators must follow, such as cap and trade,” Rock Zierman, the chief executive officer of industry trade group the California Independent Petroleum Association, said in a statement. “We hope that regulators will provide ample time for implementation and ensure that the program is fairly and consistently enforced across the state.”

Above: Crews work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon plant in Los Angeles in 2014. Dean Musgrove, Associated Press.

Chronicle staff writer David R. Baker contributed to this report.

Go to full story at The San Francisco Chronicle

San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance-Episode 9

Manufacturing Advocates Podcast
By Joe Hackman

March 15, 2017

There is something extraordinary going on in the San Joaquin Valley. Economic development, education and business interests have gotten together to form the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance. Their upcoming manufacturing summit has already been making waves here in California, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are felt farther and farther out as great ideas tend to spread.

In Episode 9 of the Manufacturing Advocates Podcast I go in depth with two impressive gentlemen Mike Dozier and Mike Betts discussing the SJVMA and the Manufacturing Summit. I was really impressed with the work these two and their organization have done to help the community in a number of different ways. Listen in and hear for yourself.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Ripon plant will keep making cow health products under new owner

The Modesto Bee
By John Holland

RIPON – The La Belle Inc. plant here makes cattle health products from colostrum, the stuff cows feed their newborns before the regular milk starts flowing.

The 30-employee operation could get bigger with its sale last month to PanTheryx, based in Boulder, Colo. The buyer plans upgrades that would make the East Fourth Street plant a bigger player in this low-profile niche of the dairy industry.

PanTheryx will close the La Belle headquarters plant in Bellingham, Wash., later this year and plans to move many of its 25 employees to Ripon and Phoenix, the Bellingham Herald reported.

All mammals produce colostrum, which provides their babies with nourishment and immunity against disease in the hours after birth. The Ripon site buys the excess from more than 500 dairy farmers in California, plant manager John Lehr said during a tour for The Modesto Bee last week.

The raw product is frozen on the farms in 4-gallon buckets, then is turned into a powder through what Lehr called “proprietary thermal treatment” at the plant. It then adds vitamins and vanilla flavoring and sells the packaged items to veterinarians and other users in the United States and beyond.

The roughly 20,000-square-foot plant operates under a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Go to full story at The Modesto Bee

Above: Employee Roberto Ramirez processes a dairy cattle health supplement made from colostrum, the first nourishing fluid secreted by a mother cow before milk production, in Ripon on Thursday. The plant has been operated by La Belle, which was acquired in February by PanTheryx, based in Boulder, Colo. John Holland

Read more here:

Fowler farming couple donates $1.5 million to Cal Poly Ag tech center

The Fresno Bee
By Robert Rodriguez

Jim and Michelle Marderosian, owners of Bee Sweet Citrus in Fowler, have pledged $1.5 million to Cal Poly’s new J.G. Boswell Agricultural Technology Center.

The Marderosians are longtime supporters of Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and wanted to further their commitment to the university by funding a new plant-pathology lab. The lab will be used to diagnose and explore plant diseases and disease-control strategies.

“The plant-pathology lab in the J.G. Boswell Agricultural Technology Center will give Cal Poly students the ability to research different environmental effects, diseases and agricultural pest issues to compete with the ever-changing world conditions,” Jim Marderosian said. “When students graduate, they will be prepared to handle the industry challenges happening now and in the future.”

Bee Sweet Citrus, founded in 1987, is a packer and shipper of California citrus and has become an industry leader, shipping navel and Valencia oranges, lemons, grapefruit and mandarins throughout the United States and overseas through export.

The Applied Sciences Innovation Labs within the J.G. Boswell Agricultural Technology Center, expected to be complete in 2021, will feature 11 labs, each dedicated to an important emerging issue in agriculture, nutrition and the food industry.

Go to full story at The Fresno Bee

Above: Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean Andrew Thulin, left, with Jim and Michelle Marderosian as they sign the gift agreement pledging $1.5 million to the college’s new J.G. Boswell Agricultural Technology Center. Bee Sweet Citrus Special to the Bee.

Tiny worms tackle manure from dairy farm near Hilmar

The Modesto Bee
By John Holland

HILMAR- Two years into an experiment in dairy manure handling, the worms are proving their worth.

A $483,950 federal grant helped pay for a system where these creatures break down most of the nitrogen in water used to flush out dairy stalls. The partners aim to reduce the risk of water and air pollution.

As a bonus, the worms leave their own manure, known as castings, a pleasant-smelling fertilizer that can be sold to home gardeners and farmers.

“Worms are eating and they’re pooping and they’re producing worm castings, which is a highly beneficial soil amendment,” said Mai Ann Healy, regional manager for Biofiltro, the Chilean company that created the system.

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service provided the grant for the project, taking place at Fanelli Dairy. An equal amount came from partners that include the dairy and Sustainable Conservation, a group based in San Francisco that helps businesses protect the planet.

The Modesto Bee on Tuesday paid its second visit since 2015 to the project, off Washington Road about 2 miles west of Hilmar. The worms do their work in a concrete box 160 feet long and 35 feet wide, and filled 3.5 feet deep with wood shavings. The wastewater is sprayed onto the top, and the worms wriggle through the shavings as they carry out the process over four hours.

Milk is the top-grossing farm product in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and statewide, but farmers also have to contend with the manure left behind. The standard practice is to irrigate feed crops at a rate that assures the nitrogen is taken up by the plants, rather than reaching streams or aquifers. This is done under permits from the state, which could someday require more cropland to dilute the contaminants.

Fanelli Dairy has 104 acres growing feed for its 750 cows, which produce milk for Hilmar Cheese Co. Co-owner Vic Fanelli said additional land would be too expensive, so he was happy to give the worms a try.

“This pretty much takes the place of 50 acres,” he said. “If it helps us and helps the industry, we’re all for it.”

The worm system has removed 75 percent to 98 percent of the nitrogen per day, said Joseph Choperena, a senior project manager at Sustainable Conservation. The range is so wide because the makeup of manure can change daily, he said.

The process also releases a nonpolluting form of nitrogen into the atmosphere while cutting down on nitrates, the form that can cause pollution.

Above: Mai Ann Healy, left, regional manager for Biofiltro, and Marsha Campbell, a farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County, take a tour of Fanelli Dairy near Hilmar on Tuesday, checking out a pile of worm castings, which can be used as fertilizer. John Holland 209-578-2385

Go to full story at The Modesto Bee

‘Fast pitch’ for Getting Water Tech Flowing for Ag before Mar 16

A Western Growers “deeper dive” on AgTech Innovation, in partnership with the City of Fresno, Fresno County Farm Bureau, Fresno State Center for Irrigation Technology, Fresno Food Expo, Fresno County Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, and Forbes.

If your venture can provide a novel impact on water technology in the agriculture sector, check this out. Up to eight ventures will be selected on a first-come, first-serve basis to present at 4 PM, March 27 at the Fresno Convention Center.

Presenters will have the opportunity to give a “fast pitch” of up to four minutes and will get real-time feedback from growers. If you’re interested, email Helle Petersen at before Mar. 16.

Panelists scheduled to attend the “Getting Water Tech Flowing for Agriculture” event include:

A.G. Kawamura, former California Secretary of Agriculture
Mayor Lee Brand, Mayor of Fresno
Stuart Woolf, Woolf Farming
Don Cameron, Terranova Farms
Steve Patricio, Westside Produce
Cannon Michael, Bowles Farms
Kevin France, SWIIM
Manu Pillai, Waterbit
Rich Bernier, Simplot
Jedd Forbes, WIldeye
John Jefferson, AT&T
Aaron Magenheim, AgTech Industries
Paul Noglows, Forbes
David Zoldoske, Center for Irrigation Technology & California Water Institute at CSU Fresno
Ryan Jacobson, Fresno County Farm Bureau
Hank Giclas, Western Growers Association

Again, to be considered to pitch at the “Getting Water Tech Flowing for Agriculture,” email Helle Petersen at before Mar. 16.