Agriculture

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. 

California Water Regulators Agree To Cutback Program For Farmers

May 22, 2015
http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/

California water regulators are praising some Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta farmers for coming up with a program to voluntarily cut water use.

The State Water Resources Control Board today approved a deal in which farmers with some of the oldest rights to divert water from rivers would reduce use by 25-percent or fallow 25-percent of their land. The board says those farmers who participate would no longer risk future water curtailments. Felicia Marcus is Chair of the water board.

Water Board Considers Voluntary Water Cut From Delta Area Farmers

May 21, 2015
California Department of Water Resources

Some farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta who hold the most senior water rights may agree to a 25-percent cut in their consumption. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the proposal comes as California water regulators consider mandatory curtailments.

Under the proposal, farmers who hold rights to divert water along a river or stream would either reduce irrigation use or leave fields fallow. In exchange, they want guarantees that regulators wouldn’t restrict remaining water. Jennifer Spaletta, an attorney for a group of farmers, says it’s a practical solution.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

A state appeals court has delivered a legal victory to a Fresno-based fruit grower in a decades old fight with the state’s ag labor relations board and the UFW. But as FM89’s Joe Moore reports, it’s likely not the final ruling.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

For the second time in two months the Fresno City Council has voted down a proposal to start a farmland preservation program. FM89’s Joe Moore reports. 

Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s administration had wanted to apply for a $100,000 state grant to help start the effort, which is a key part of the city’s new general plan. 

Drought May Mean The End For Some Native Fish

May 14, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

The drought in California is taking a heavy toll on native fish. Some experts fear if the drought lasts much longer, it may be a death knell for some species. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the Delta smelt is likely headed toward extinction.

California Veterans Find Refuge In Farming

May 14, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

More and more military veterans are finding refuge in farming. They say digging in the dirt relieves psychological trauma, and it provides reliable work. Capital Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg visited two vets who say growing food for the nation is akin to protecting the country. 

Matt Smiley feels at home when he’s engaged in physical work. The veins on his arms swell as he digs up a green irrigation hose.

The former combat vet says farming is good for his body and his mind.

Raw Almonds Might Not Be As "Raw" As You Think

May 12, 2015

  When you’re talking about raw almonds the product may not be quite what you think. All California almonds, which would be virtually all the nuts in the country, are either heat-pasteurized, or sprayed with a fumigant. The processes are intended to prevent food-borne illness. But, some almond aficionados say the treatments change the flavor, and mislead consumers. Lesley McClurg in Sacramento has the story.

In a warehouse near Newman, California millions of almonds are heated in huge metal containers.  

The drought across much of the Western U.S. is now in its fourth year. In California — where it's the most intense — farms are not under the same strict orders to conserve as cities are.

And inside the agriculture industry, farmers are quietly debating how best to respond to the drought. Given uncertainty around pending state regulations, some say there may be an incentive to not invest in water-saving technologies right now.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

In Kern County the oil industry and the world of farming are working hand in hand, but not everyone is happy about that. As Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports there are growing concerns over the use of oil field wastewater used to irrigate prime farmland.

Brown Revises Bay Delta Water Plan, Faces Criticism

May 1, 2015

California Governor Jerry Brown has revised his plan to restore habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, much to the dismay of environmental groups. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the plan also includes design changes for the proposed twin tunnels that would carry water south.

Governor Brown sold his plan to build two tunnels in the Delta with the promise that habitat would be restored. The number most commonly mentioned was 100,000 acres. Brown says that was just an “idea” with no way to pay for it.  He now proposes 30,000 acres.

New Heat Regulations Aim To Protect California Workers

Apr 28, 2015

With summer approaching, the state California is implementing new rules to protect outdoor workers. Revised heat safety regulations from Cal-OSHA take effect May 1st. Among the regulations, workers must have easy access to free, cool water. And supervisors and workers must also be trained to recognize and react to signs of heat illness.

Amy Martin is Chief Counsel of Cal-OSHA. She says the rules also require that shade be made available when the temperature reaches 80 degrees, which is five degrees cooler than the previous requirement.

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