Thursday turned out to be a delightfully warm day, a great way to end the 2020 World Ag Expo in Tulare at the International Agri-Center. 

The three-day event that brought an estimated 100,000 people is an annual staple for the Central Valley.

Students, farmers, dairymen, locals, tourists and more flocked to the International Agri-Center to learn about the latest and greatest technology the Agriculture industry has to offer. Not only was technology on display, but events like seminars, interviews and demonstrations gave visitors at the World Ag Expo a variety of things to do.

An extremely popular exhibit at this year’s expo was the Toyota Test Drive Experience. After signing a waiver form, guests were allowed to hop into the driver’s seat of one of four different 2020 Toyota vehicles; the Rav-4, 4-Runner, Tacoma or the Tundra. After choosing their vehicle, drivers would enter the terrain course which featured rougher terrains like rocky and bumpy roads, sharp sloped turns and a large steep hill. 

Kevin Williams, the event manager for the Toyota Test Drive Experience, explained the purpose of the terrain course was for people to have fun while experiencing a ride in the newest models Toyota had to offer. 

Right next to the Toyota exhibit was Jim Evans with Far West Forest Products/Wood-Mizer Sales. Evans was sanding down a large piece of urban wood to show the capabilities of one of the portable hand sanders his company sells. Evans’ daughter, Jennifer Alger, explained urban wood is wood that comes from communities where people live, instead of rural forest type areas where most lumber comes from. Alger also stated she’s working towards developing an app that can trace the chain of custody of urban wood, allowing buyers to track where the wood came from and where it has gone since being sold. Alger stated the use of urban wood is environmentally beneficial and the wood can be given new life.

Boehringe Ingelheim, a company that focuses on the well-being of dairy cattle, got interactive with visitors. Their booth, located in the Farm Credit Dairy Center, featured a virtual reality game highlighting one of their newest products called Lockout. The product is designed to defend a cow’s utters from bacteria seeping into the teat canal. The virtual reality game compared the visibility of generic sealant tubes which are white to the visibility of Boehringe Ingelheim’s bright blue tubes. As people participated in the game, it was clear the blue tubes were easier to locate amongst herds of cattle versus the white ones. Christian Kassab, from Porterville, tried his hand at the virtual game and scored more than 50 points. The overall high score for Thursday morning was 75.

Hemp was a major theme for the World Ag Expo this year. Todd Diedrich, owner of MTD Farms out of Firebaugh, offered to give a tour of one of the newer fully automated transplanters he had on display at his exhibit. Diedrich stated the machines he had on display were mostly used for tomato planting around the Central Valley, but the transplanting machines was also used for hemp fields throughout California and Nevada.

Diedrich said the transplanting machines were made in Italy by Costruzioni Meccaniche Ferrari. The biggest machine on display, Diedrich explained, is fully automatic and only requires a single person to operate, whereas some transplanting machines can take up to 10 people to operate at full capacity. 

The transplanting machine pulls plants into a carousel from a tray holder, and then drops the plant into the ground by a timed kicker arm. The plant receives water at its base before the transplanter packs the plant into the ground. Diedrich explained the transplanter perfectly separates each plant from the next at a distance chosen by the machine operator. The fully automatic transplanter is self-steering and requires only one person to operate, which in turn reduces the amount of man power needed to plant an entire field.

This year’s World Ag Expo brought in people from all over the world, as it does every year, to take in the newest advancements in the agriculture industry. With acres of equipment and technology to explore, it was nearly impossible to take in the whole show in just one day. With an entire year ahead until the next World Ag Expo, it should be interesting to see what new innovations are introduced and implemented into the industry.his choosing, and that’s an important hallmark of a strong governor,” said Michael Wara, a researcher on climate and energy policy at Stanford University who has worked with the state on energy and wildfire issues.

State Assemblyman James Gallagher, a Republican whose district includes Paradise, said Newsom has done a good job of changing wildfire policy, fighting to compensate victims and holding PG&E accountable.

“The governor and I don’t agree on a whole lot ... but I think that we have found actually a lot of agreement and mutual cooperation when it comes to wildfire policy,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher even praised Newsom for working well with the Trump administration to procure federal disaster resources.

“I think a lot of this stuff is show,” he said of Newsom’s ongoing battles on Twitter and elsewhere with President Donald Trump. 

Regardless, Newsom’s feuds with the Republican president attracted much attention. Perhaps the most consequential was the Trump administration’s efforts to stop California from continuing to set its own auto emissions regulations. In response, Newsom teamed with four major automakers to go against Washington.

When he wasn’t battling with the president, Newsom was advancing policy at a frenetic pace. He began the year by placing a moratorium on executions for the more than 730 people on California’s death row, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The move won praise from criminal justice reform advocates and scorn from families of people killed by convicted criminals who had been sentenced to death.

Elsewhere, he checked off a litany of items in his progressive wish list. Among them: health care to more young immigrants living in the country illegally, expanded subsidies for middle-income people to buy health insurance, an increased tax credit for working families, a ban on for-profit prisons, and stricter rules for when police use deadly force. 

All of the moves drew sharp criticism from the state’s Republican minority, and some California residents have started a long-shot campaign to recall Newsom from office.

Newsom stumbled at times on message, sowing confusion early on about the future of California’s troubled high-speed rail project and injecting last-minute uncertainty into an impassioned debate over exemptions for childhood vaccinations. 

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a fellow Democrat, said it’s been a year of learning between Newsom and lawmakers after eight years of dealing with Gov. Jerry Brown. 

“We’ve had an incredibly productive year, and I consider him a partner, and I know he is willing to work through things,” Rendon said.

Atkins, however, found herself at odds with Newsom when he vetoed her bill aimed at blunting environmental rollbacks from the Trump administration. Environmental groups, normally allies, were upset. 

“I think he had some growing pains that were frustrating in the first year,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of the Sierra Club California.

Homelessness has become a top issue in California, and Trump took delight in highlighting the problem, saying the state’s major cities were “going to hell.”

Newsom has touted a $1 billion investment the state made in 2019 to address homelessness and the law he signed enacting a statewide cap on annual rent increases to help address the lack of affordable housing. But those moves have yet to produce visible results. 

Still, Newsom said in an October interview with The Associated Press that his administration has done more than any other on the two issues. 

“I can’t solve that overnight,” he said. But “we’re not being neglectful in that space, and I think the consequences of that will reverberate in cities large and small, but also will leave clues for other states that are struggling with the same.”

Gallagher said he thinks Newsom and Democrats have spent too much time focused on failed solutions to homelessness and housing. The assemblyman said the state needs to reduce government red tape and barriers to building. 

“He needs to push a little bit harder maybe against his base on the issue to really see results,” Gallagher said.

Newsom’s overall approval rating has stayed between 44% and 48% during his first year in office, according to surveys by the Public Policy Institute of California. About 46% of people approve of his handling of the wildfire issues.

In a recent interview with the AP, Brown said a governor shouldn’t be measured until after a full four-year term. 

“I think it’s a mistake to look to the first year and draw a lot of big conclusions,” he said. __ Associated Press reporter Adam Beam contributed to this story.

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