By Lauren Moore, Assistant Public Affairs Specialist
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini recently traveled to the west coast where he made stops to FSA offices and farming operations in Washington, Oregon and his home-state of California. The focus of his trip was the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and climate change.
Dolcini visited four Washington State USDA Service Centers and toured two farms in the area.
Double J Farms is located in Whitman County, a place known for large wheat production. While on the farm, Dolcini rode in a crawler tractor pulling a no-till, cross-slot drill across Double J’s wheat fields. The no-till drill is used to reduce the carbon footprint by minimizing soil erosion, conserving soil moisture and reducing the use of fuel.
Dolcini also toured Mead Ranch, a dryland wheat farm, in Columbia County. The operation participates in CRP, removing environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production in order to establish plant species that will improve environmental health and quality.
Mead Ranch, along with other farms in the area, have partnered with energy companies to install wind turbines on their operations to help reduce climate change. The turbines provide enough power to serve over 50,000 homes.
Dolcini’s Washington visit closed with a meeting in Walla Walla with producers who sell directly to markets and restaurants. During this meeting, the producers learned from Dolcini about what USDA is doing to support local foods and direct-market farmers.
In Oregon, Dolcini toured two farming operations in Morrow and Umatilla counties. The first tour was Oregon Hay Products in Boardman. This first-generation farm operates an irrigated farm and hay press. The hay the company grows and purchases is shipped by containers to its export partners in Korea and Japan.
The second Oregon farm tour was Cunningham Sheep Companies in Nolin. During this visit, Dolcini learned about the generations of family farming operations dating back to the 1880s, as well as their newly-planted CRP and long-established CRP areas.
Dolcini ended his time in Oregon at Kameshige & Sons Inc., an irrigated row crop operation near Ontario that produces beans, corn, grass, onions, potatoes, wheat and alfalfa. The diversified operation is owned and operated by a second-generation Japanese-American family. The Kameshige family started the farm following their release from a World War II internment camp. The original farming operation spanned 30 acres and has grown significantly since its start in the mid-1940s. The Kameshiges are also part owners of Snake River Produce LLC, an onion storage and packing shed located in Nyssa.
The final stop on Dolcini’s trip was southern California where he visited Benson Farms and Sanchez Beekeeping operation in the Imperial Valley.
At Benson Farms, Dolcini met brothers Stephen and Rick. He visited the sweet onion fields while they were being harvested, and also got the opportunity to witness the packing process. Dolcini visited the melon field, organic quinoa field, sunflower field and olive trees.
“It’s good to have Val come down here and see what we do here as a business,” Stephen Benson said. “He got the opportunity to see the variety of things that we grow and talked about some of our needs as growers.”
He concluded his trip at Sanchez Beekeeping where Victor and Mercy Sanchez gave Dolcini a view of their beekeeping operation. Victor shared the devastation the Colony Collapse Disorder has had on their colonies. Victor also expressed his gratitude of their FSA Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP).
“It’s important because I know someone in Washington that gets to hear about the problems we’re facing in our industry,” Victor Sanchez said. “For us beekeepers, it is important for him to be able to visualize what we do with the funds that we get.”
In addition to his producer visits and in keeping with his commitment to Workforce Engagement, Dolcini visited nine USDA Service Centers in three states where he met with FSA employees and farmer elected County Committee members to discuss issues of significance related to federal farm program delivery in these locations.