Agriculture

California Drought: NASA Says Land Sinking Faster In San Joaquin Valley

Aug 19, 2015
Credit www.usbr.gov

A new report from NASA shows the San Joaquin Valley is sinking much faster than ever before. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

With reduced surface water available because of the drought, more groundwater is pumped.

As the underground aquifers are tapped, land surfaces sink. 

While subsidence in California isn't new, the report from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the rate has accelerated.

Drought Causing $2.7 Billion Economic Hit To California

Aug 18, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A new UC Davis study projects the fourth year of drought in California will cost the overall economy two-point-seven billion dollars. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the study’s authors say agriculture remains remarkably resilient despite the drought.

The report finds the agricultural sector will be hit hardest by the drought, losing nearly two billion dollars and more than 10,000 jobs. Farmers will also take 500,000 acres out of production this year. But the report finds agriculture is still fairly robust. 

Funding Targets Farmworkers Hurt By The Drought

Jul 27, 2015
CA Dept of Water Resources

New state and federal funding will provide relief for farmworkers hurt by California's drought. The US Department of Labor is providing 18 million dollars, and the state is providing 7.5 million dollars. Lesley McClurg in Sacramento has more.

An estimated 18,000 people have lost their jobs because of the drought -- most of them in the Central Valley.

Marco Lizarrga: "What we call the ground zero of the drought. Mendotta and Firebaugh and those little farm towns that are the sources of the cantaloupes and the sources of other products have been heavily impacted."

Office of Rep. David Valadao

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Western Water and American Food Security Act, which promises to bring more water to valley farmers. Written by Hanford Republican David Valadao, and co-sponsored by Fresno Democratic Rep. Jim Costa, the bill would change the way the government manages water in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and threatened species. It would also make major changes to the plan to restore the San Joaquin River. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A bill that aims to deliver more water to San Joaquin Valley farms has passed the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

The Western Water and American Food Security Act would change the way the government manages both water in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and threatened species. Supporters say it would allow more water to be captured from early season storms, while still protecting the environment.

Valley Republican David Valadao authored the bill. He says existing regulations not only hurt farmers, they also aren't helping fish.

Apps Help Farmers With Efficiency During The Drought

Jul 16, 2015

More and more California growers are using smartphone apps to streamline their farming operations. Capital Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg has more.  

Anne Burkholder is a soil scientist. She's standing in an alfalfa field in Davis that has an unusual large dead patch in the middle of it.

Burkholder: “Basically the alfalfa is maybe five inches tall, and it's really yellow right here where we’re walking, it’s crunchy and yellow, you can kind of even hear it.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

With immigration reform efforts seemingly stalled in Washington D.C., the California legislature is taking its own steps to address the undocumented immigrants who call the state home. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports on one new bill that would give state work permits to agricultural workers.

The bill introduced by assembly member Luis Alejo hopes to give undocumented workers the chance to work legally in California’s agricultural industry. According to Alejo, as much as 75 percent of the industry’s workforce is undocumented.

Jim Choi and Chihiro Wimbush / Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm

  In the tiny community of Del Rey sits one of the nation's most acclaimed organic farms. The Masumoto family has been farming the land there for generations, and their heirloom peaches are sought after by the country's top chefs. But the Masumoto farm is also in transition, a transition of generations, as David "Mas" Masumoto's daughter Nikiko has returned home to work with her father and keep the farm alive for another generation. 

http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/

In recent months, the valley's agriculture industry has been thrust into the national headlines, largely over the debate over how much water farmers use to grow crops. Critics say farmers use 80 percent of the water used by people in California. However farmers say that number is misleading, pointing out they actually use only 40 percent of the state's total water supply, where about 50 percent is set aside for environmental uses.

Most conventional and organic farmers rely on insecticides to kill pests. But, new research shows that a compound in fruit may be a good natural alternative to repel bugs. Lesley McClurg in Sacramento has the story.

Anandasankar Ray is an entomology professor at UC Riverside.

He recently studied how butyl anthranilate keeps fruit flies away from blueberries.

The natural compound smells like grapes. It's found in low concentrations in several types of fruit. It’s commonly used as a flavor and fragrance additive.

The top attorney at California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board has a new job. On Wednesday Governor Jerry Brown appointed  Sylvia Torres-Guillen to a new job as special counsel in his office.

Torres-Guillen had served as general counsel for the ALRB since 2011. In recent years the board has been at the center of controversy over a case involving Fresno’s Gerawan Farming and the United Farm Workers union, including a disputed 2013 decertification election.

Is California's Animal Welfare Law Creating Better Conditions?

Jun 22, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

In 2008, Californians passed a law by a two-thirds majority to give egg-laying hens more space to move around. Farmers have had the last seven years to comply. Proposition 2 (the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act) went into effect this January. 

Farmer Frank Hilliker was against Proposition 2 from the beginning. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to stay in business when the law passed.

But, the long time egg producer has come around.

Why The Price Of Eggs Is Skyrocketing

Jun 22, 2015
Creative Commons - Flickr user geishabot

Egg prices have soared this spring for a lot of reasons. Lesley McClurg breaks down why you’re paying more. 

The cheapest price for a dozen conventional eggs is $3.50 at Raley’s in Sacramento. 

That’s about 75 cents more than the national average – which is at a record high $2.62. 

So, what’s driving the premium on California eggs?

First, there’s the drought. John Segale is with the Association for California Egg Farmers. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court is ruling in favor of a Fresno raisin farmer that it is unconstitutional for a government-backed agricultural board to claim control of a third of his crop.

The ruling is a blow against a program that authorizes growers to join together to prop up market prices.

The justices say the scheme violates the Fifth Amendment by allowing the government to take the raisins without providing just compensation. The court ruled that, just like land, raisin growers must be compensated for any product taken by the government.

From Oranges to Grapes, California Drought Changes What's Grown

Jun 18, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Water scarcity is driving farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable -- less thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Nowhere is this more true than San Diego County where the water prices are some of the highest in the state.

Billowing orange and grapefruit trees shade Triple B Ranches winery and vineyard near Escondido. The rural setting is quaint and bucolic. The tasting room is a converted kitchen festooned with country knickknacks.

New Growing Technique Could Save Drought Stricken Avocado Farmers

Jun 9, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Farmers are being widely criticized during the California drought because of agriculture's water use, but some farmers are cutting back by employing new techniques. Lesley McClurg visited an avocado grower who is using half as much water to yield twice as much fruit. 

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It wasn’t long ago that avocados were a luxury crop, but the fruit’s popularity has soared in recent years… demonstrated by the sandwich chain Subway.

For the last several years the featured sub has included avocados.

Feds, California Agencies Sued Over Water Management Plan

Jun 4, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A federal lawsuit claims California and federal water managers are harming several fish species with water allocations.

A coalition of four groups, including Restore the Delta, filed the lawsuit in federal court.

The lawsuit claims two federal agencies and the California State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Water Resources violated federal and state water laws.

It alleges several fish species in the Delta and Chinook salmon runs on the Sacramento River are near extinction.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla is with Restore the Delta.

Rudy Mussi is not the California farmer you've been hearing about. He is not fallowing all his fields or ripping up his orchards due to a lack irrigation water.

For Mussi and most of his neighbors in the bucolic Sacramento Delta, the water is still flowing reliably from the pumps and into the canals lining the fields.

"If you had to pick a place where you would say, 'Okay, where should I stick my farm?' You'd come to the Delta," he says.

California's drought isn't just turning green lawns brown or #droughtshaming into a trending topic. It's taking a multi-billion dollar toll on the state's agricultural industry as well.

The University of California, Davis is out with a new report, and some of the numbers are steep. The study found that in 2015 alone, the drought will cost the state's farmers industry $2.7 billion and more than 18,000 jobs, with 564,000 acres fallowed.

LA Times

California's drought isn't just a water shortage. It's also an event that has highlighted the political, cultural and economic divides that make up the Golden State in the 21st century.

The one common thread? Everyone wants to find someone to blame. Urban residents in San Francisco blame "greedy" San Joaquin Valley farmers. San Joaquin Valley farmers blame Bay Area "extreme" environmentalists. And Southern California groups blame political gridlock in Sacramento on such key issues as building more water storage and "fixing" the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. 

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