Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yolo and Solano leaders chart way for ag

Agriculture has been, is and will continue to be king in Yolo and Solano counties, but most people don’t understand that, industry leaders said Wednesday at a joint economic summit.

More than 100 politicians, farmers, professors, bankers and government employees met Wednesday at UC Davis to talk about the challenges facing the region’s $2.5 billion industry and how the two counties could pool their collective might to advance their interests.

Educating people will be key, they said.

“It’s important to dispel the myth that agriculture is a small part of the economy” or that agriculture equals farmers laboring in the field, said Dan Sumner of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, which is housed on the UCD campus.

Agriculture was a $2.5 billion business for the two counties last year, a sum almost evenly divided across a variety of sectors that include farming, processing, administrative support and distribution.

It could be an even bigger part of California’s economy, said Glenda Humiston, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program.

If leaders like the ones at Wednesday’s meeting create a statewide agriculture plan, Humiston said agriculture could add 182,000 jobs in five years. The average worker would make $24 an hour.

More than 14 million workers had jobs in California last month, according to data from the state’s Employment Development Department. That’s up 140,000 since 2011.

Despite misconceptions that all ag jobs are on the farm, 65 percent of the estimated 182,000 uptick would crop up in and around cities, not farms, she added.

“The second you start talking about agriculture, (urban and suburban residents) get this glaze over their eyes,” Humiston said. “They have an image of Ma and Pa Kettle holding a pitchfork somewhere. They don’t get this.”

Farm jobs would increase, sure, she said, but many more would sprout to support the raw products coming off the field, including work in light manufacturing, management, distribution, logistics, packaging and marketing.

“These are not farmworker jobs; these are head-of-household jobs.”

Most of the two counties’ ag jobs are already off the farm, according to data presented by Doug Henton, CEO and chairman of Collaborative Economics.

About 15,500 people work in agriculture in Yolo and Solano. Roughly 3,500 grow crops on the farm while the remaining workers are involved “in all those activities between that farm and that fork,” Henton said.

There are many links in the food supply chain, Humiston said, warning the leaders not to fixate on a single link. That’s what Sonoma County did when it homed in on creating a central cold storage where farmers could store their wares and restaurants could come to pick it up.

But that’s only a speck in a complex game of connect-the-dots, she continued. “How is that food getting to the aggregation hub? What will it do once it’s there? You going to put it in boxes? Wash it? Where is it going? Who’s the customer?

“We’ve got to recognize these food systems we’re talking about are very, very complex,” she said. “It’s not simply an aggregation hub.”

Next steps include promoting agriculture, figuring out way to fill in gaps in the food supply chain, like processing plants, and redoubling efforts to preserve ag land.

Yolo County Supervisors Don Saylor and Duane Chamberlain plan to serve as emissaries to the Solano County Board of Supervisors by presenting Wednesday’s action plan. Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan will do the same in Yolo.

“The counties have been working together without regard to artificial, manmade political boundaries for forever,” Reagan said. There’s a lot more work we can do to take advantage of the tremendous potential we have in this area.”

— Reach Jonathan Edwards at or (530) 747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @jon__edwards

Solano, Yolo counties hope to further build ag industry

By Melissa Murphy / The Reporter Posted: 11/17/2011 01:03:02 AM PST

Adding value to agriculture is the goal for Solano and Yolo county leaders looking to build on an economic asset already in the region.
That goal was the topic of discussion Wednesday during the first Solano and Yolo joint economic summit at the University of California, Davis.

Farmers, bankers and government leaders made up the more than 100 people in attendance interested in working together to further build the region's agricultural industry that generated $2.5 billion in 2009 between the two counties.

The group reviewed advantages that the counties already have, but also some of the disadvantages that hold back the potentially booming industry.

"This is another step in a journey we believe in," said Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez. "This is the foundation to know what our asset base is and to build off it."

According to the group, Solano and Yolo counties share strengths, including an abundant supply of water, location between Sacramento and San Francisco, soil, access to markets, infrastructure, high crop value and a skilled workforce.

The summit's purpose was to take the information shared and turn it into strategic actions.

Areas of opportunity identified by the group include crop processing, reaching the global market and agritourism.

However, taking advantage of those opportunities will pose quite a challenge. Government leaders mentioned the water war between Northern and Southern California and the impacts on the Delta water, air quality standards that were designed to protect agriculture actually hamper growth in processing crops. Additionally, agritourism has the potential to bring in revenue, but the impact to local residents is perceived by some as a negative.

Glenda Humiston, state director for the USDA Rural Development, encouraged the group of agriculture supporters to be vocal about California as a whole creating an agricultural strategy.

Humiston explained that she regularly hears that if the housing market was back on track, the economy would pick up.

She believes the opposite.

"You wouldn't put a roof on a house before a foundation is laid," she said. "Until we get these (agricultural) jobs out there, they can't afford the house."

She encouraged the group to look at things differently.

Humiston explained that everyone needs to be involved in boosting the agricultural industry.

"Make a case to the business community why buying local will benefit them," she said, adding that instead of having city economic developers trying to bribe companies to relocate to the area, reach out to those already here.

"Things aren't going to be fixed by another farmers' market," she said. "It all comes down to collaboration, start using current resources."

Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor picked out a few steps the counties can take in the next few months, such as presenting the information to each of the supervisor boards, figuring out a way to hire an agriculture ombudsman and including those at the summit that are willing to help in the planning.

"Agriculture is not a boutique industry, you can't just leave it on a shelf," he said. "It has to be a business enterprise."

Solano County Agricultural Commissioner Jim Allan said the summit was very constructive and gave definitive direction.

"Now it's time to take this to the broader ag industry and to the community," he said. "I think they will (accept it). They have an entrepreneurial spirit that will respond."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Editorial: Let's Champion Travis AFB

Published by The Reporter Posted: 11/13/2011 01:04:25 AM PST

The recent announcement that Travis Air Force Base would be eliminating 58 civilian jobs and moving 35 military positions to other bases should serve as a wake-up call to local leaders. If Solano wants to keep -- much less grow -- the base's $1.5 billion annual contribution to the local economy, it's time to resume advocating on its behalf.
It was a united advocacy that helped ensure Travis's survival a decade ago, when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission was downsizing the military footprint then.

Solano's local representatives joined the state's entire congressional delegation and stood behind an effort to protect as many California bases as possible. The governor organized a Council on Base Support and Retention, and the Legislature lobbied on its behalf.

Locally, leaders from all seven Solano cities joined forces with those from the county, the Solano Economic Development Corp., Solano Community College and other government agencies and private interests. They formed the Travis Community Consortium whose purpose was to protect the base's interests locally and in Washington, D.C.

Travis emerged from those BRAC hearings on solid footing. It is also poised to survive this current round of cuts, as the Pentagon attempts to reduce its spending to 2010 levels and shave off $450 billion during the next decade.

Of course, if the Congressional Super Committee fails to do its job, the military may be required to cut another half-trillion dollars, and who knows what that might mean.

As long as Congress is determined to reduce the nation's $14 trillion deficit, the military shouldn't expect to be spared completely. Certainly no one objects to the elimination of unnecessary services or duplications of efforts. But local leaders are in a position to encourage the Pentagon to look to Travis as the logical place to headquarter units when consolidations occur.

Among the reductions announced by Travis earlier this month, for example, is the Pentagon's decision to deactivate the 615th Contingency Response Wing and put it under the command of the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. Similarly, the 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force's headquarters at Travis is being deactivated and its military positions will be transferred to other bases. In all, 35 active-duty military members will be moved to different missions or bases.

Presumably, though, it might have been just as easy to deactivate other groups and bring their headquarters to Travis. That's the kind of pitch the local air base needs to have made on its behalf.

It won't be easy, though. The BRAC process was done publicly, but the legislation that authorized it has expired. Decisions are once again being made behind Pentagon walls, with little or no warning to Congress, much less local officials. Ensuring that these decisions are made in the open is the first thing local leaders should push for.

So far, the job losses announced at Travis have been relatively small. Most of the 58 civilian jobs being cut are coming out of the 60th Force Support Squadron and the 60th Civil Engineer Squadron, and many are being accounted for through a hiring freeze, attrition and retirements. They represent only 3.6 percent of Travis' 1,600 civil service positions. Meanwhile, the military positions being reassigned account for less than 0.5 percent of the base's 10,000 uniformed employees.

But there is no reason that Travis should have to lose any positions. It's location as the gateway to the Pacific, combined with the ongoing effort to modernize its facilities, should make it a base to which the Air Force wants to add missions.

It's time for all Solano leaders to come back together and resume the effort to remind the Pentagon of that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nominations for appointments to the new Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness

The Department of Commerce is seeking nominations for appointments to the new Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness, published in the Federal Register on 3 November 2011.

The deadline for applications is 14 December 2011. Full details appear in the Federal Register notice: 76 Fed. Reg. 68,159.

As described in the notice, the Committee will advise the Secretary of Commerce on the development and administration of programs and policies to expand the competitiveness of U.S. supply chains, including programs and policies to expand U.S. exports of goods, services, and technology related to supply chain in accordance with applicable United States regulations.

This advisory group is possible due to the sustained interest and willingness to participate that has been demonstrated from the beginning in May 2009 at the joint Department of Commerce – Department of Transportation national conference, “Game Changers in the Supply Chain Infrastructure: Are We Ready to Play,” held in Washington and carried on through informal regional outreach discussions on freight policy and competitiveness issues in Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, Kansas City, and New Orleans.

Nominees meeting the eligibility requirements will be considered based upon their ability to carry out the goals of the Committee as identified in the Federal Register notice.

Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs
t: (202) 482-3015 (main)      f: (202) 482-0900
email:  web:
U.S. Department of Commerce | International Trade Administration

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Agriculture focus of Solano, Yolo summit

Published by The Reporter Posted: 11/02/2011 01:04:05 AM PDT

Adding more value to agriculture is the focus of a joint upcoming Solano and Yolo county economic summit. "We are bringing together the experts -- from academia to operators -- to help shape some strategies to grow this vital sector of our economy and bring more quality jobs to the area," said Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan in a press release announcing the summit.

The Solano and Yolo Counties Joint Economic Summit will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 16 at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center on the University of California, Davis, campus.

"The summit promises to give us a road map that will guide us in our collaborative efforts to increase the development of our agriculture economy," said Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor.

The agenda of the summit includes:

* An overview of the Food Chain Cluster report and the shared agriculture opportunities in the two counties.

* Panel discussions that examine the potential for making the region the heart of the seed industry and how an aggregation hub can expand the region's capacity to move products to market
* Facilitated discussions that explore how the region can move past identified barriers to growing agriculture and the food chain cluster.

* Creation of strategic action plans that add more value to agriculture and bring quality jobs to the region.

To reserve your seat at the summit, call 864-1855 or e-mail Registration fee is $25 per person, which includes parking and lunch. For more information about the reports shaping the discussions at the summit, visit

Kaiser opens trauma facility in Vacaville

Posted: 11/02/2011 01:03:53 AM PDT

Excitement bubbled Tuesday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vacaville, where officials heralded the opening of Solano County's second Level III trauma facility. The first -- at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield -- opened in September.  "We know that with this important level of care, the people who live in this area (and others) will benefit," said Max Villalobos, Kaiser's senior vice president. "We are excited that we are finally here."

The new designation means that trauma patients will receive aid including emergency resuscitation, surgery and intensive care. Since the hospital's "soft opening" on Oct. 17 an estimated 15 to 20 patients, including one at 4 a.m. Tuesday, have already been treated. And officials' preparations have proved successful.

"We've already learned that having them here, ready to go, is instrumental in saving lives," the administrator advised, regarding the team of top medical professionals assembled in-house, from surgeons to specialists to nursing staff and more.

Dr. Steven Stricker, physician-in-chief and chief of staff, described the Vacaville facility as "the most beautiful, incredible, wonderful medical center in the United States of America," called his team "world class" and emphasized that patients will receive comparable care.

He also promised that Kaiser would bring Solano's first neurological center to Vacaville next year, with plans to upgrade the trauma facility to Solano's first Level II center, which would make it Kaiser's second Level II center in Northern California. Its first is in South Sacramento.

With its location between Level II centers in Walnut Creek (John Muir Medical Center) and Sacramento (University of California, Davis, Medical Center), Vacaville is in a great position to grow its services, Stricker said.

"We are so lucky," he added.

Having a trauma center within the city, said Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy, could change lives.

"In Vacaville, people will live who wouldn't have otherwise without the care," he said. "I'm very proud of this."

Dr. Mark Hawk, chief of neurosurgery with Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Region, pledged unrivaled care.

"There was a statement made that we opened the finest trauma center in Sacramento and we promise nothing short of that here," he said.

A permanent helipad is being sought for the facility and plans are already in the works to upgrade the trauma center's designation.