AgPlus to host Funders Forum in October

News Release

June 15, 2017

FRESNO – The Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium (AgPlus) announced today it will host the 2017 AgPlus Funders Forum in October at the McClellan Conference Center in Sacramento County. The two-day event is designed to share innovations in financing tools for business and to determine the feasibility of a regional finance fund to support new and existing food and agriculture businesses and nonprofits in the Central Valley.

Day One of the Forum will be a working session for financing experts, with presentations, in-depth policy discussions and breakout sessions. On Day Two,  a wide array of business/finance advisors and food system partners will provide insights and updates in a trade show environment with exhibition booths, workshops and more.

Event details: AgPlus Funders Forum, Oct 17-18, 2017, McClellan Conference Center in Sacramento. For further information, please contact the following AgPlus team members.

Erik Cherkaski (Fresno), 559-278-4575
Adrian Rehn (Sacramento), 916-325-1630
Dan Ripke (Chico), 530-898-4598


In 2016, AgPLUS was awarded an USDA Rural Development California Grant for its AgPLUS Rural Business Resources Assistance Program. The program provides workshops and technical assistance to small and emerging rural businesses throughout the Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley, and North State regions. 

3rd Annual Manufacturing Summit rousing success

FRESNO – Over 850 registered for the 2017 Manufacturing Summit-Thriving in the Valley, including 205 local students. The day was dedicated to the “thriving” manufacturing community in the San Joaquin Valley.

The third annual event took place at the Fresno Convention Center and featured 85 vendors from manufacturing, education, finance and government. Additionally, 24 diverse workshops were offered, created based on feedback from previous year’s attendees. These practical workshops pointed a spotlight on a range of topics for manufacturing from financing and taxes to diversity and veterans.

Opening remarks were provided by Fresno City College President Carole Goldsmith, and San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance (SJVMA) Chair Mike Betts. Former President of Shell Oil Company and Founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy, John Hofmeister, provided the morning session keynote address, where he focused on energy related issues and its impact on manufacturing. The lunch keynote was delivered by Katherine A. DeRosear, the Partnership Architect for the Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI), and facilitator of the Dream it. Do it. Virginia Network. DeRosear’s presentation centered on increasing the manufacturing capacity of communities by closing the career planning and skills gaps faced by advanced technology industries.

Planning for this year’s event was carried out by SJVMA committee members, led by Chair Mike Betts and Business Development Director, Sam Geil. Since rebranding itself in April 2016, SJVMA has reached a membership milestone of more than 500. Committee members and their hard work were recognized at a VIP reception held the night before the Summit at Mechanical Associates.

The Summit’s success shows what can be accomplished when people from different professions come together under one common vision: support a thriving economy where our Manufacturing industry can meet its full potential. SJVMA has many more projects to support this goal in the pipeline, and are already planning for next year’s Summit!

USDA certifies another investment pool for small and startup rural businesses

Acting Deputy Under Secretary Roger Glendenning has announced that USDA has certified the Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV LP as an investment pool for small and startup rural businesses.

The fund will support 30 to 45 companies that have the potential to generate more than $200 million in economic activity and create 600 jobs. It will provide capital for high-growth companies in the biosciences, technology and agricultural technology industries. The fund is the second USDA has certified under the Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP). RBIP funds support USDA’s strategy for rural economic growth.

Farm Credit System members are contributing $31 million to the Ag Innovation Fund. The Farm Credit System is a nationwide network of banks and lenders specifically chartered to serve agriculture and the U.S. rural economy.

This is not your grandfather’s manufacturing career

The 2016 Presidential race put a spotlight on bringing jobs back to the US, particularly in manufacturing. While the focus during the campaigns was on losing the jobs to lower-wage economies abroad, there is another reality: we lost interest in the greatest American middle-class industry sector somewhere along the way. Contrary to another belief, technology hasn’t taken these jobs either – it’s only changed them. The physical muscle required for manufacturing jobs 20 years ago has been replaced with the need for intellectual muscle and technical expertise, and here in the Valley we’re building our own world-class workforce.

The San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance’s 2017 Manufacturing Summit in April was attended by nearly 800 people – over 200 of them students, 60 exhibitors, and two notable keynote speakers affecting manufacturing and policy on a national level. SJVMA and the annual Summit are bringing together this industry sector in unprecedented ways. The aim: to develop pathways for a future workforce.

The energy surrounding the rebirth of manufacturing is electric, and exciting for the economic development of Fresno and the whole Valley. Through tools like the E3 Network, which matches students up with employers to participate in job shadowing and internships, we are engaging our children earlier to think about careers and explore the many onramps to success. Robust new Career Technical Education programs are being launched throughout the region, enabling students to fast track into the workforce through project-based learning and dual-enrollment in courses through our high schools and community colleges simultaneously.

The development of these invaluable programs is based in our ability to come together as a community and focus efforts on one goal – building a world-class workforce development ecosystem. Fresno Unified is working closely with the State Center Community College District to ensure these programs are meeting employer demands, and move seamlessly into post-secondary curriculum. With incredible alignment of focus, the synergy being created is resulting in remarkable programs and unlimited options for our kids to build a bright future – for themselves, and in turn, enriching our community.

The Fresno Business Council, SJVMA and Betts Company are proud to be involved with all of our community partners in creating bright futures for our next-generation workforce and our local manufacturers.

AgPLUS News April 2017


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CALED honors Kelly with ‘Golden Bear’

kelly-trish 2 Trish Kelly, Valley Vision managing director and AgPLUS executive committee member, received top honors from California Association of Local Economic Development with its Golden Bear Lifetime Achievement award.

The presentation was made at CALED’s 37th Annual Conference on March 23, 2017, in San Diego.

We congratulate Trish on this well-deserved honor!


Workforce Summit, Food Processing Expo

Panel discussion at Feb 7 Workforce Summit

Central Valley AgPLUS in partnership with California League of Food Processors and Zenith Insurance kicked off the 2017 Food Processing Expo with the Food Processing Workforce Summit on February 7. The Summit addressed issues surrounding recruiting, training and retaining a strong workforce for food processors; and how human resources managers can keep up with various regulation requirements. More than 70 attended, representing food and beverage manufacturers and public organizations. Trish Kelly represented AgPLUS , moderating the morning session and providing an overview of AgPLUS and its IMCP designation. Summit panel discussions were represented by industry, education and government, and featured keynotes Tim Rainey, executive director of California Workforce Development Board, and Matthew Roberts, dean of Field Operations for Workforce and Economic Development Division, California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

Results of a survey by California League of Food Processors were released at the event. The survey covered workforce issues for Central Valley food processors and how these can potentially affect initiatives dedicated to solving the skills gap in the industry. Fourteen companies indicated the positions they have the greatest need to fill include maintenance mechanics (93%), electricians (70%), boilers/process heater operators (55%), automation and controls/mechatronic specialists (44%) and machine operators (33%). Many of the positions listed also were named as ones anticipated as having a significant number of vacancies to fill within the next five years due to retirements and departures. DOWNLOAD SURVEY RESULTS

AgPLUS was one of 260 exhibitors at 2017 Food Processing Expo in Sacramento

The Food Processing Expo on February 8 and 9 hosted 260 exhibitors including AgPLUS. Thousands from around the world attended the Expo making it the largest food processing trade show in California. Featured exhibits included machinery, equipment, and supplies along with informative sessions and industry-networking opportunities.

AgPLUS business workshops continue throughout Central Valley

Congressman John Garamendi speaks at Marysville workshop

AgPLUS rural business workshops connect food and beverage manufacturers to business development resources and financing opportunities; and feature presentations from various partners of the AgPLUS network. Workshops began in November 2016 and got off to an early start in 2017.

Valley Vision kicked off their 2017 regional workshops on January 27 in Marysville. This second workshop was for food processors in Yuba, Sutter and surrounding counties. U.S. Congressman John Garamendi joined the meeting and provided remarks for attendees. The next workshop, which took place on March 31 in Placerville, was for food businesses in El Dorado, Placer and surrounding counties.

North Valley leads at Chico State Center for Economic Development got their regional workshops under way on March 20 at the Glen County Farm Bureau in Orland.

OCED is set to co-host a workshop with Fresno State SBDC, Plan Prosperidad of Univision, CAMEO, Fresno CDFI, among others, on April 22 at Reedley High School in Reedley, Calif. Financial planning, expanding to other markets, and export/import strategies are just some of the discussion points.

AMP SoCal brings together IMCP communities

AgPLUS and other members of the IMCP community attend the AMP SoCal Bi-Annual Meeting

AgPLUS was on hand for fellow IMCP community Amp SoCal and its 2017 Bi-Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on March 9, where we participated with other IMCP communities and EDA officials in discussions about the future of IMCP under the new Presidential Administration.

This meeting engaged small- to medium-sized manufacturers and their supply chain in discussions about the work they do in aerospace, and the goals and impact on workforce they have accomplished since receiving IMCP designation.

CalAsian Chamber hosts 2017 international trade show

International work group member CalAsian Chamber of Commerce is hosting its second trade show of the year,Seoul Food and Hotel 2017, in Seoul, South Korea, from May 14-21. The first was in Shanghai, China, from March 26 through April 2.

CalAsian Chamber of Commerce has been committed to helping food and beverage growers/producers expand and export their products to the Asian market for the past five years. This has been achieved by organizing international trade missions, providing export training support, marketing research and business matching. CalAsian Chamber administers the China Direct and Korea Direct export programs under a cooperative agreement with the International Trade Administration Market Development Cooperator Program under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

2017 Manufacturing Summit


The 2017 San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Summit is just around the corner. On Thursday, April 20, more than 800 will be at the Fresno Convention & Visitors Bureau along with 90 vendors, 24 workshops, and keynotes by John Hofmeister, former Shell Oil Company President, and Katherine A. DeRosea , Dream It. Do It. Virginia, and Headed2, LLC.

For more Summit information, visit the official event page:

Stay up-to-date

We have a lot of exciting new projects in the pipeline so be on the lookout for news on future developments, and stay up-to-date on info and upcoming events. Visit

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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