The California Cotton Ginners Association named John Toscano, manager of Farmers Firebaugh Ginning Co., Firebaugh, Calif., its ginner of the year and gave its Distinguished Service Award to Jerry Ward, retired area director of the USDA Visalia classing office at the association's recent annual meeting.

Toscano is current chairman of the board of the association. A native of Los Banos, he is a graduate of Merced Junior College and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After graduation John joined Simon Newman Co. in Newman, Calif. In 1980, he transferred to Murrietta Farms in Mendota as a foreman. In 1986 he took a job with Anderson Clayton at their Butte Gin near Huron as assistant gin manager. Within a short time he became manager of their Silver Creek Gins where he stayed until 1993. From 1993 through 2002, he was general manager of Cantua Cooperative in Cantua Creek. In 2002 he took his current position.

He is a founding member of the board of the Ag Energy Consumer's Association and serves as a ginner delegate to the National Cotton Council.

Ward graduated from Arkansas State College with a bachelor's degree in vocational agriculture in 1960. He went to work for USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Cotton Division in 1961 in Little Rock, Ark., as a cotton marketing specialist. He then moved to Memphis, Tenn., in 1978 as a member of the board of supervisors then onto Altus, Okla.. in February of 1989 as the area director. In July of 1995 he was selected for the position of area director of the Visalia Classing Office where he retired this past January after 42 years of service with the USDA/AMS Cotton Program.

Alfalfa must be dried or cured for safe storage as hay. Field and harvesting losses of hay are normally as high as 20 percent to 30 percent. Rain can increase these yield losses and reduce quality. Rain extends curing time and yield and quality are decreased due to loss of leaves, plant respiration, and leaching of nutrients.

Irrigation efficiency requires not only uniform irrigation, but also the proper timing and amount of applied water. It is considered important that the irrigator know the system water application rate, either in inches per day, inches per hour, or gallons per hour.

In meetings with Japanese officials, Vice President Dick Cheney urged Japanese agricultural officials to lift the ban on U.S. beef imports. A cross-agency team of respected U.S. government and technical officials were to be in Japan to review U.S. regulations as they pertain to BSE, the changes that have been made to U.S. regulations since Dec 30, 2003, and most notably those pertaining to specified risk materials.

Mexico re-opened its border to U.S. beef variety meat products, including trimmings, liver, tongue, lips, heart and kidneys. According to the USDA, the newly allowed cuts will have to come from meat packing plants approved by Mexican authorities, and will have to come from cattle under 30 months of age who have never been exposed to ruminant-derived feed.

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

It is reported that more than 87 percent of America's farmers own cell phones.

On average, agriculture uses about 43 percent of the state's available water.

Forty-five percent of American adults eat Asian foods at least once a month. Thai food is the fastest-growing segment of international cuisine. For a wine to compliment the textures and complex interplay of salt, sweet and sour flavors, a “quiet” reisling, sauvignon blanc or cabernet works well.

Alfalfa got its name from the Persian word for horsepower.

Farmers make about a nickel or less from each loaf of bread.

Want to keep unwanted grains from slipping into your box of organic cornflakes or canister of Basmati rice? The USDA says with more specialty grains flowing into the marketplace, there is a growing need for grain-handling programs that can effectively segregate grains so that there's no unwanted mixing.

Zeroing in on the commingling that can occur during grain unloading and storage, a scientist with the Agricultural Research Service recently identified the parts of a grain elevator that may contribute to mixing and assessed how flushing with a quick burst of “cleansing” grain can lessen the problem.

Drinking black tea and eating meals low in fat and cholesterol may help lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol in blood.

The 1.5 million Americans who are allergic to peanuts may someday have an allergen-free peanut they can enjoy.

A form of vitamin D, discovered in laboratory studies by an ARS researcher, may help fight cancer.

Eating fruits, vegetables and certain grains that are rich in antioxidant compounds could be the most practical and least expensive way to delay formation of cataracts.

Small, hard-to-find particles on poultry carcasses may now be easier to detect at the processing plant, using a newly patented, high-tech imaging system from ARS.

You may already use WD-40 to protect and maintain farm equipment. Here's something from the WD-40 folks that makes the job easier: the new WD-40 Big Blast can - WD-40's newest product innovation since 1953. The Big Blast contains the same WD-40 but has a unique spray nozzle that covers large surface areas. WD-40 cleans and gives a protective coat to the entire sub-soiler, chisel plow or cultivator in a matter of seconds, preventing what can be hours of maintenance.