Almond Board of California (ABC) CEO Rodger Wasson greeted new U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Modesto native Ann Veneman during her first week on the job in Washington. Wasson was in the capital for meetings with various USDA and Foreign Agricultural Service officials providing updates on current ABC programs.

Wasson also took part in two days of strategic planning meetings for upcoming promotions with the ABC public relations and advertising agencies.

During his visit to the USDA office, Wasson discussed issues affecting California almonds and agriculture with Secretary Veneman.

While energy bills have soared in recent months, California consumers benefit from affordable, high-quality food that flows from the Golden State's 89,000 farms and ranches. Because of the state's efficient farmers, the average American family will have earned enough income to pay for their entire 2001 food bill in just 38 days, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation

Who was the “Jack” in Monterey Jack Cheese? Before lettuce was a major Monterey/Salinas crop the area had a booming dairy industry built up by immigrant farmers from Spain, Switzerland and the Azores. Each family made a similar soft, white cheese from surplus milk called El Queso del Pais, or country cheese. In 1882 an entrepreneur sent a sample of this cheese to market, but the San Francisco merchants couldn't pronounce “El Queso del Pais,” so they called it “Jack's Monterey Cheese” after David Jacks. And now you know the rest of the story.

“Make hay while the sun shines.” California farmers did. Of all field crops last year, hay was valued the highest at $802 million.

Agriculture does more than put food on your table. In California, it contributed more than $80 billion to the economy.

There are 1.8 acres per person of arable land in agricultural production to feed the current U.S. population. By 2050, that figure is expected to decline to 0.6 acres. This will result in higher food prices, imported goods and less diversity in our diet. Farmers look to advances in science, biotechnology, animal nutrition, technology and water delivery systems to help them stay productive and competitive.

What did one ear of corn say to the other? “Quit stalking me!”

What do you call cattle with a sense of humor? Laughing stock.

Natural? Or organic? If you're talking about the method used to produce some foods-from growing to processing, they're not necessarily the same. “Natural” has no legal definition or regulations to guide production and processing and offers no guarantees that no pesticides were used. “Organic” includes a fully audited management system, guaranteed by a third-party inspection and certification.

American beef consumption has been on the increase since 1993 and now equals that of poultry, pork and seafood combined.

Nematodes — a threat to dozens of California crops — are nearly invisible. Ten times finer than an eyelash, these microscopic worms with voracious appetites invade the roots of plants, suck out their juices and leave them vulnerable to attack by deadly fungi and bacteria. That's the bad news. Here's the good news: Genetic researchers found a rare strain of sugar beet that resists a half-dozen nematodes and are working to insert its disease-resistant genes into peaches, tomatoes, beans, carrots and potatoes.

Proud hunters who bag their limit usually haul the meat home to feed the family. To get the maximum enjoyment from your wild game, Farm Bureau suggests that you follow food safety procedures when dressing, storing and cooking the meat. Why? Of the cases of human trichinosis reported to the Centers for Disease Control, many were the result of eating bear and other game meats.

The most recent statistics indicate that California exports of milk and cream to Mexico increased $46 million to a total of $65 million annually.

California is the second largest cheese-producing state and manufactures one out of every six pounds of cheese produced in the U.S. California cheese production has doubled from 702 million pounds in 1990 to 1.4 billion pounds in 1999 and industry experts have projected California will move into the top cheese producing spot within five years.

Beef is the largest volume item sold in grocery stores. Farm Bureau sources report fresh beef represents 6 percent of all grocery store sales and 53 percent of retail meat, poultry and seafood sales.

Young American farmers are outstanding in their field when it comes to technology. More than 90 percent use computers and 87.4 percent own cell phones, according to Farm Bureau research. They're well connected too; more than 72 percent of today's young farmers access the Internet and nearly 25 percent use it to buy online.

Cheese consumption is predicted to rise from the 29.8 pounds per person reported in 1999 to 37.5 pounds by 2009, according to Farm Bureau sources.

Today's beef is 27 percent leaner than it was 20 years ago. The leanest cuts of beef are those the “loin” or “round” in the name.

How many kernels of wheat in a pound? Anywhere from 14,000 to 17,000.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service reports American families and individuals spend, on average, 10.4 percent of their disposable personal income for food.

The productivity of California agriculture is one reason food costs are relatively low. California farmers and ranches produced $26.7 billion in total agricultural value in 1999. Each California farmer reportedly provides enough food for 129 people.

The percentage of disposable personal income needed for food has declined during the last 25 years. Food Check-Out Day in 1970 would have been 13 days later, Feb. 20. Food is more affordable because of the widening gap between growth in per-capita income and the amount of money spent for food, according to USDA.