NRCS announces three local appointments

The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in California has announced three new leadership selections in the state. Allen Curry has been selected as the Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations in Salinas covering the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Stanislaus. Johnnie Siliznoff has been selected as the Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations in Fresno covering the counties of Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Tulare, and Tuolumne. Jon Gustafson is the new permanent State Resource Conservationist (SRC). Jon will work with staff and partners to provide leadership over our agency conservation planning and technical standards. Their assignments will be effective November 21, 2021.

The Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations is responsible for working closely with employees, customers, and partners to deliver conservation programs and technical assistance, oversee staff, deliver training, and communicate agency plans, progress, and goals. In addition, they will be working with you and the District Conservationists (DC), to strengthen Local Work Groups and focus on your most critical conservation needs. They will be working with partners and the DCs to implement the California Strategic Plan which focuses on people and making progress on six key natural resource concerns, including soil health, plant vigor that includes forest health, air quality, water quality, water quantity, and enhancing habitat.

Allen Curry is currently the DC in Indio, CA. He has worked in several field and area leadership positions in Mississippi (MS) and CA including Soil Scientist, local Soil Conservationist, and as an area Resource Soil Scientist. Curry is a native of Port Gibson, MS, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Plant and Soil Science from Alcorn State University.

Johnnie Siliznoff is currently the Acting DC in Fresno and previously the DC in Madera. He has worked as the Central Valley Air Quality Specialist and has extensive experience serving in several technical and leadership positions in CA, the West National Technology Support Center, and National Headquarters. Johnnie is a graduate of California State University-Fresno with a degree in Agriculture Science and has a California Pest Control Advisors license.

Jon Gustafson is currently the State Rangeland Ecologist. Jon started his career with NRCS in February 1998 as a rangeland management specialist at the field office in Petaluma California. Jon has spent most of his life in California, with his formative years in Orcutt and the past fifteen years in Davis. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Rangeland Resource Science from Humboldt State University.

WAPA receives CDFA grant to roll out first of its kind safety training for California nut industry.

FRESNO, CA – The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) received funding to craft and provide training to hundreds of agricultural workers who work at nut hullers and processors throughout California. The California Department of Food & Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program recently announced the selection of its 2021 projects, of which included WAPA.

“We appreciate the support of the Specialty Crop Block Grant program to respond to a critical industry need to develop comprehensive training program that will equip the tree nut community with the tools to ensure every step is taken to prevent workplace injuries and accidents,” said Roger Isom, President, WAPA.

WAPA is a non-profit organization comprised of members that hull, shell and process nuts. Initially, the industry-wide training need was brought to the attention of WAPA leadership by its membership.

“Employee safety is integral to our business, but training material has not kept pace with the introduction of new equipment. The Specialty Block Grant will provide the resources to create a consistent and thorough program that will keep our employees safe,” said WAPA Board Chairwoman Kim Keyawa-Musselman, Keyawa Orchards. Keyawa-Musselman is a third-generation walnut farmer in Butte and Glenn counties.

The project includes pre-season training starting in 2022.


ABOUT WAPA: The Western Agricultural Processors Association has more than 10 years experience in providing safety training and conducting inspections of processing operations. The organization represents the majority of almond, walnut and pistachio hullers and processors in the state.

ABOUT SBCG: The purpose of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) is to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Specialty crops are defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).” For more:

Media Contact: Elda Brueggemann

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Fed/OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued on November 5, 2021 an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 employees or more) from COVID-19.  Employers with 100 or more employees are now required to have a policy in place to either require all employees receive the COVID-19 vaccination or require weekly testing of all employees.  Employees must be vaccinated by January 4, 2022 or require unvaccinated employees to produce a negative test on at least a weekly basis. All employers must ensure their employees receive either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  Employees who do not receive the vaccination must provide a verified negative test on a weekly basis and wear a face mask while in the workplace.  All covered employees are to be provided paid time to receive vaccinations, and if needed, sick leave to recover from side effects.  Compliance dates: December 5, 2021 for vaccination shots and masking for unvaccinated employees; January 4, 2022 for weekly testing.  Additional Fed/OSHA COVID materials can be found here.  As we previously reported, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board is to address this issue at its next board meeting.    Update: As soon as this ETS was issued, the following day on November 6th the Federal Appeals Court has issued an order to “stay” or temporarily stop the ETS from taking effect.  The Association will closely monitor this issue.

Association President/CEO Isom Testifies on West Coast Port Crisis

A special hearing was held yesterday by the Joint Assembly and Senate Select Committees on Ports and Goods Movement at their special hearing today in Sacramento on the West Coast Port Crisis.  Association President/CEO Roger Isom was asked by the Committee to speak to the impact of the crisis on agriculture.  Additional panelists included representatives from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California Association of Port Authorities, California Retailers Association, California State Transportation Authority, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, BNSF, Teamsters and the ILWU.  Isom’s comments focused on quantifying the costs and impact to agricultural exports, and outlined the direct problems faced by the industry included rolled bookings and the cancellation of Shipping Lines coming to Oakland to take exports.  Isom stated “taking empties back to Asia, bypassing Oakland and leaving ag exports on the docks is clearly a trade issue…agriculture and our inability to get our exports out is simply collateral damage.  We need solutions and we need them yesterday.”  While the state of California has little jurisdiction on issues affecting the crisis, they can help with some of the short-term solutions to alleviate the logjam, including finding off-port storage and other potential solutions. 

Cal/OSHA Proposed 2nd Readoption – COVID-19 ETS

One day prior to the October 21st Standards Board meeting, Cal/OSHA published proposed language for the second readoption of the COVID-19 ETS.  If approved at the December Standards Board meeting, the readoption would provide for the proposed regulation to be in place from January 14, 2022 through April 14, 2022.   Proposed updates include:

  • Screening: During screening, both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees are to wear face coverings
  • Testing: If COVID-19 case occurs in the workplace, testing for all non-symptomatic close contacts, including those who are vaccinated.
  • Close contacts: currently employees who have had close contact but are fully vaccinated and remain asymptomatic do not need to be excluded from the workplace.  Under the proposed – these employees must now wear a face covering in the workplace for 14 days, social distance for 14 days, and get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after the close contact.
  • Return to Work: The proposal revises if an employee returns to work before 14 days, they must wear a face covering and maintain social distancing until 14 days have passed.
  • Outbreaks: employers will be required to test all employees regardless of vaccination status.
  • Employer provided housing: housing ventilation must be maximized regardless of vaccination status.  All employee residents must be tested if there were 3 or more cases in their housing in a 14-day period; the quarantine policy to exclude asymptomatic vaccinated close contacts has been removed.
  • Employer provided vehicles: all employees must be provided and wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status.

WAPA will continue to monitor changes of the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 regulations in the workplace and provide comments at the December Standards Board meeting.

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Governor Signs Ag Overtime Bill

Ignoring the pleas of real farmworkers and the agricultural industry, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed AB 1066, the ag overtime legislation. This means that California will have the most stringent trigger of any state in the country for overtime for farmworkers, with 45 states having no overtime protection at all. The Governor signed this bill, supposedly to bring “equality to all workers”, yet taxi cab drivers, commercial fishermen, car salesmen, student nurses, computer programmers, and carnival workers all work without any overtime provisions whatsoever. The Governor signed this ag overtime bill in the same year that minimum wage legislation was also passed that will take California to the highest minimum wage as well as legislation forcing California to adopt additional greenhouse gas regulations for businesses in California. California is the only state in the country subject to such regulations. Today’s signing occurred despite numerous requests by the agricultural industry to meet with the Governor to discuss our concerns. The message is clear. California simply doesn’t care. These provisions will be phased in over the next few years ending with the overtime provisions to be triggered at 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

In the Beginning As folks transitioned out of cotton and into tree nuts, the industry recognized the need to have active and effective representation at the local, state and national levels. Having enjoyed such effective representation over the years from the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, these folks yearned for the same representation in the tree nut processing industry. Issues such as air quality, food safety, labor, taxes, employee safety, and environmental concerns are at the forefront, and there is a significant need for an aggressive and dynamic Association to lead the industry into the next decade and beyond. In recognition of this, the Western Agricultural Processors Association was created in 2009. The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) shares staff and office space with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations taking advantage of a unique and opportunistic situation. WAPA is a voluntary dues organization with four shared staff and one dedicated staff person. Regulatory, legislative and legal issues fall under the purview of this new organization for the tree nut processing industry, which includes almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. From air quality permits to conditional use permits, from regulatory hearings on greenhouse gases to federal legislation on food safety, and from OSHA violations to assisting members on hazardous materials business plans, no issue is too small or too large for WAPA. WAPA has assembled one of the best and most capable staffs in the industry, and the results are already starting to show Membership The Western Agricultural Processors Association represents facilities involved in the processing of almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.Membership in the Association is classified as Regular memberships are limited to almond hullers or processors, pecan and pistachio processors, and walnut dehydrators and processors. Associate memberships are limited to any individual or business entity which is not engaged in agricultural processing, but which provides products or services directly related to the agricultural processing industry. WAPA Associate members include, but are not limited to, commodity brokers, accounting firms, and insurance brokers. Organization The Western Agricultural Processors Association is governed by a Board of Directors, elected by its membership.The Board consists of up to 15 members from throughout the state, and throughout the industry.The Board meets on a quarterly basis and conducts an Annual Meeting in the spring of each year.WAPA, in conjunction with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, conducts a special training school for its members focused on safety.In combination with the school, the Association holds a Labor Management Seminar for all of the managers. Consulting Services In researching and considering the concept of forming a new organization, the Boards of Directors for the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations instructed staff to perform some of the work on a consulting basis first. The point was to determine the workload from consulting and to determine if there was sufficient interest. In November of 2007, the Association began conducting services under consulting contracts for such services as air quality permits and safety plans.The effort has been so successful that demand has progressed outside the tree nut industry into other agricultural processing facilities, including vegetable dehydration facilities, tomato processing facilities, and wheat mills, as well as cotton gins in Arizona.It was determined by the new Board of Directors of WAPA, that WAPA would maintain the consulting services to provide offsetting income to help with the expenses of getting the new organization up and running.Today, WAPA provides for a long list of satisfied clients in the agricultural processing industry, by providing critical services such as air quality, safety, food safety, and environmental issues (Hazardous Materials Business Plan, Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans, etc.).