THE UC/AIC QUARTERLY

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE UC AGRICULTURAL ISSUES CENTER
VOLUME 13. NO. 3. 1999

Ag Personnel Management Program Joins the Center

The long-standing UC program focusing on farm labor, productivity, management, and policy is now part of the Agricultural Issues Center.

The new arrival is the Agricultural Personnel Management Program (APMP), one of several statewide units within the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). Through this consolidation, we expect to do a better job of focusing the University’s scarce resources on the many farm labor issues facing California agriculture, said ANR Associate Vice President Henry J. Vaux, Jr.

AIC Director Daniel A. Sumner will oversee the UC Agricultural Personnel Management Program as a unit within AIC. Agricultural personnel and labor issues will be part of the Center’s overall integrated program of research and outreach.

Farm labor is a crucial topic. At least 75 percent of farm work in California is done by hired workers. About 25,000 agricultural employers pay $5 billion yearly in wages.

The goal is to build on the APMP’s achievements and extend its reach through a network of campus researchers and county Cooperative Extension advisors. Farm labor issues have never been more important, or more controversial, for California agriculture. It is vitally important for the University to be involved, providing objective analysis and education programs.

The new home for APMP comes at the same time as a major reorganization of DANR designed to make the University more responsive to its diverse clientele groups. An important part of that reorganization is the initiation or reconstitution of a number of workgroups that focus research and extension expertise from various academic sources onto specific topic areas. One important workgroup will deal with farm labor and productivity. AIC Director Sumner is a co-convener of that workgroup, along with James Meyers, School of Public Health, Berkeley, and James Thompson, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Davis.

In analyzing the need for more research and extension attention on farm labor, the workgroup points out that:

  • On average, farm labor costs in California are about one-quarter of total operating costs, and can range as high as three-quarters.
  • Topics such as worker health and safety, wages and hours regulation and immigration policy are crucial, on-going public policy issues.

Farm workers and their families, a significant part of CaliforniaÕs rural population, are one of the lowest income groups in the state.

Under the workgroup arrangement, expertise from a number of disciplinesÑin particular, economics and agricultural engineeringÑwill concentrate on farm labor and efficiency problems. The front line of UC activity on farm personnel management will remain with the APMP, with its new administrative link to AIC. The APMP, which was established by a specific augmentation to the University budget in 1981, produces research and extension publications, conducts workshops and provides technical assistance to farm managers on personnel management practices and factors in the labor market and regulatory environment that affect them. Participants include Daniel Sumner in Davis, Howard Rosenberg in Berkeley, Gregory Billikopf in Modesto, Steve Sutter in Fresno and secretaries Yolanda Murillo and Elizabeth Resendez.

AIC plans a number of major new farm labor and personnel activities over the coming year. Already scheduled for June 2000 is a one-day conference on assessing the Agricultural Labor Relations Act after 25 years. We will announce more activities in the next AIC Quarterly.

For more information about the APMP and a variety of other farm-labor oriented information sources, contact the programÕs website at http://are.berkeley.edu/APMP/ or through its link with the AIC website at aic.ucdavis.edu.

Who’s Who in UC Ag Personnel Work

  • Gregory Encina Billikopf is the UC labor management farm advisor for San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties. His research and extension efforts are focused on such topics as employee selection, compensation, performance appraisal, discipline and termination, interpersonal relations, conflict resolution and negotiation skills. He is the author of Labor Management in Agriculture: Cultivating Personnel Productivity and maintains an active website, Agricultural Labor Management, where the book as well as popular and research articles and an electronic forum, AG-HRnet, are available. A farm advisor since 1981, he has been a guest speaker throughout the U.S. as well as foreign countries, including his native Chile.
  • Steve Sutter has primary responsibility for the Agricultural Personnel Management Program in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties. He is a veteran farm advisor, having worked as extension farm management specialist from 1976 to 1989 in Raleigh, North Carolina, and since 1990 in his current position. He is also a veteran in the farm print and broadcast media and since joining UC has given close to 70 talks per year across the state, most of the recent ones on the U.S. EPA Worker Protection Standard and other current regulatory developments. Sutter is a native of northern Maine, the son of a potato farmer, and was raised on a family farm that was truly dependent on seasonal farm workers.
  • Howard Rosenberg is Extension Labor management Specialist, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Berkeley. Dually serving as director of the APMP from 1988 to mid-1998, he worked with a broad range of University staff and external collaborators on dozens of projects supported by temporarily allocable program funds. He is lead author of Labor Management Laws in California Agriculture and survey studies on farm labor contractors, seasonal farm workers, and farm business employment practicers. His current research ranges from H-2A (the agricultural work visa program, and proposals to reform it) to H20 (hydration to combat heat stress in the farm work). He keeps the APMP website under continuous development.

CA Export Data

In June, the Center sent a questionnaire about winegrape contracting practices to all 12,000 growers and wineries in California. Preliminary findings from this survey were reported by Dale Heien, Rachael Goodhue, and Hyunok Lee of the UC Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Survey questions dealt with written versus oral contracts, methods of determining price, bonus/penalties and other aspects of winegrape contracts. A detailed report will be published by the Center later this summer.

A few highlights of the preliminary analysis, based on about 2,000 responses:

  • Statewide, 70% of responding growers use written contracts, 11% use oral only, 9% use both (with different wineries), and 10% use neither. The highest percentage of written contracting was in the southern San Joaquin Valley (74%) and the lowest in the Central Coast (56%).
  • Pricing procedures are almost evenly divided among “stated in contract” (31%), “negotiated yearly” (27%) and “reference price,” tied to some more general level (35%).
  • The average California grape grower has been in business 19 years, and with the same winery for nine years. The figures were generally similar in all regions.
  • Grape acreages reported by respondents reflected industry-wide patterns (indicating that the survey returns are representative): 25% of the respondents, 10 acres or less; 22%, 11 to 25 acres; 15%, 26 to 49 acres; 11%, 50 to 99 acres; 11%, 100 to 199 acres; 8%, 200 to 499 acres; and 9%, 500 acres and more.

Contracts are one form of risk management. Lee described another: federal crop insurance, a tool used by some growers to mitigate the impact of substantial fluctuations in yield. Catastrophic coverage is provided at no premium and $60 processing fee for 50% yield guarantee at 55% of the USDA price. Although multiple peril crop insurance has been available since 1981, only about 7% of California grape growers are insured. Participation is higher in the Central Valley than in coastal regions.

Another Year’s Data Added to State Ag Export Estimates

The AIC has added 1998 data to update our new and more realistic system of estimating California’s agricultural exports, developed last year in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. As reported in an AIC Issues Brief just off the press, the new figures reveal a drop to $6.7 billion in total agricultural exports during 1998, compared to a revised estimate of $7 billion the year before. (Reflecting, among other forces, the Asian economic crisis and El Ni–o.) Other major findings remained virtually unchanged for recent years:

  • Almonds, cotton and wine were the top exported commodities.
  • Japan and Canada remained the largest export markets.
  • California continued to export about 20% of its agricultural production.

In 1999, with the help of feedback on our 1995-97 data from industry and government sources, we refined our original methodology. We continue to combine formal data collection and calculations with informal adjustments on a commodity-by-commodity basis to generate export statistics for California. Using more recent data and the retooled methods, we developed export figures for 1998 and also revised our 1997 estimates. Highlights of the results show that:

  • Wine had the most significant increase in export value during 1998, up 35%. (Wine exports have gone up each year since 1995 for a total increase of 141%.)
  • Among the top 20 commodities, the only other one that increased significantly over 1997 was milk and cream, up 28%.
  • Exports of cotton, table grapes, lemons, and hay decreased by 20% or more during 1998.
  • Horticultural crops accounted for more than half of the total export value.

Reflecting the leading role of vineyards in California agriculture, the export value of all grape productsÑwine, raisins, table grapes and grape juiceÑincreased to nearly $1 billion in 1998. If added together in the data, they would have topped the list of exports. The new AIC Issues Brief, Number 10, titled “Data on California’s Agricultural Exports, 1998,” also reports on (1) the ratio of farm quantity exported to farm quantity produced for leading commodities and (2) international market destinations. It’s available from the Center. The new data are also on our website, and are available from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. A detailed description of the method of estimating exports is in an earlier AIC Issues Brief. (No. 8, December, 1998).

The lead author of the new AIC Issues Brief is Nicolai Kuminoff, a research assistant at AIC for the past 18 months, who is now working toward a master’s degree in the Agricultural and Resource Economics Graduate Program at UC Davis. Kuminoff grew up on the urban-rural boundary in west Marin County. His interests include environmental and resource economics, and farm-urban issues. At AIC, he has worked on various topics including the agricultural export statistics project and more recently the issue of conversion of farmland to urban uses. He presented preliminary results from work he co-authored on farmland conversion to the Commission on 21st Century Production Agriculture at its recent Fresno hearings.

Sacramento Region Agricultural Forum Slated

In cooperation with the Green Valley Inititive, the Agricultural Issues Center is sponsoring a forum on Agricultural Trends in the Sacramento Region in late January. The forum will cover long term land use, market, support industry, and technical trends affecting the $1 billion farming industry in the six county regionÑSacramento, Yolo, Sutter, Yuba and the western slopes of Placer and El Dorado counties. The forum is scheduled for Friday, January 21, 1:30-4:30 P.M. at Putah Creek Lodge on the UC Davis campus.

As well as a panel of data presenters, the program will include a reactor panel of growers in the region and audience discussion. The AIC will prepare a data book for the program, with copies to be distributed to forum participants and others. The co-sponsor, the Green Valley Initiative, is an informational group that is focused on open space preservation issues in the region. For further information or to register, email: agissues@ucdavis.eduor call Laurie Treacher at the AIC: 530-752-2320

Report Looks at Economics of Irrigation Water Losses

A new AIC publication analyzes potential impacts of a 25% reduction in irrigation water supplies to eight Sacramento Valley countiesÑcuts that are hypothetical but not unrealistic. It’s titled Economic Impacts of Irrigation Water Cuts in the Sacramento Valley. Under four alternative scenarios, the report examines in detail potential changes in crop acreage and other on-farm responses, as well as effects on local economies. The counties are Tehama, Glenn, Butte, Colusa, Yolo, Yuba, Sacramento and Sutter.

An earlier AIC Issues Brief (No. 1, June, 1997) reported briefly on one of those scenarios. The new publication, 62 pages with numerous tables and charts, provides detailed results on all four scenarios involving:

  • Two base situations, a “normal” rainfall year and a drought year.
  • Under each base, either no additional groundwater pumping, or a maximum of a 10% increase.

The authors conclude that even though their economic model allows substantial adjustments by farmers responding to changes in water availability, significant farm revenue losses are likely. In all the rural counties of the Sacramento valley, this translates into significant losses of overall county income and employmentÑand those counties with the least economic resources would be hardest hit. The authors, all with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, are Hyunok Lee, research economist; Daniel A. Sumner, professor and director of the AIC; and Richard E. Howitt, professor. Economic Impacts of Irrigation Water Cuts in the Sacramento Valley is available from the Center.

Executive Seminar Looks at Trend to Global Retailers

This year’s UC Executive Seminar on Agricultural Issues includes our annual outlook for food and agriculture, and focuses on the theme of marketing through the new global retailers. The one-day event, on December 13 in Sacramento, is co-sponsored by the Agricultural Issues Center and the Center for Cooperatives.

The program features CEOs and senior executives speaking on recent developments in the food industry and their implications, including discussions of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and of nuts and wines.

Speakers and moderators include:

  • Dr. Mahlon Lang, director, UC Center for Cooperatives
  • Dr. Jerome Siebert, Cooperative Extension economist, UC Berkeley, and AIC associate director
  • Michael Mendes, CEO, Diamond of California
  • Dick Spezzano, consultant and retired vice- president, Produce & Floral Division,Vons Markets
  • Christine McGlasson, director, Food Services Marketing, Blue Diamond Growers
  • Don Schriver, executive vice-president, Dairy Farmers of America
  • Richard DeBurgh, food service director, Glendale School District
  • Al Vangelos, Novelle Consulting, Inc.
  • Russ Hanlin, CEO emeritus, Sunkist Growers
  • Dennis Mullen, CEO, Agrilink Foods
  • Marco Dimare, The Dimare Company
  • Bill Allewelt, chair, AIC advisory board
  • Walt Payne, CEO, Blue Diamond Growers
  • Tom Shelton, president, Joseph Phelps Vineyards.

New Publication Highlights FMD Threat

A new AIC report describes a potential economic nightmare for California’s livestock industry — the possible sudden appearance of foot-and-mouth disease. A detailed study of the industry and the results of economic modeling reported by Javier M. Ekboir in the 120-page volume emphasize the crucial importance of quick detection and immediate control of an outbreak of the disease. Ekboir’s results indicate that a few days could make a difference of billions of dollars in control costs and quarantined markets.

Ekboir, now with CIMMYT in Mexico City, was formerly a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis. He conducted his project in cooperation with the UC School of Veterinary Medicine and with the support of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. His report is titled Potential Impact of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in California: The Role and Contribution of Animal Health Surveillance and Monitoring Services.

Ekboir’s foot-and-mouth disease study preceded and contributed to the AIC’s on-going Exotic Pest and Disease Project, which includes case studies of 14 invasive weeds and plant and animal diseases and pests. A report on that project’s conference last May will go to the printer before the end of the year.

Potential Impact of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in California is available from the Center for $20.