Agriculture

The 'Deepest Straw Wins' In Central Valley Scramble For Groundwater

Jun 16, 2014
Marnette Federis / Capital Public Radio

  The California drought is becoming a source of tension between homeowners and farmers in the Southern Central Valley. Farmers are seeing unprecedented reductions in their allotments to surface water. Homeowners are watching their private wells run dry. Pauline Bartolone has more about how people in the Fresno area are tapping into underground water.  

The home where Ruth Griffin planned to retire looks like it’s an island in a sea of almond orchards.

Fresno State

Fresno State officials broke ground today on a $24 million agricultural and engineering research center.

The 30,000 square-foot facility will host labs and foster collaboration among students and faculty in the university’s agricultural, engineering and science and math colleges.

The Jordan Research Center aimed at solving agricultural challenges will be located on the corner of Barstow and Woodrow avenues.

Lawmakers Get Pressured To Act On Water Bond

Jun 10, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California lawmakers are debating whether to put a scaled-down water bond on the November ballot. And as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, a rally at the Capitol Monday demonstrated the increasing pressure on the legislature as it wades through a number of bond proposals.

Business, agriculture and environmental leaders gathered under the blazing sun, in front the brown Capitol lawn to express the dire need for a water bond. Bryce Lundberg is a rice farmer and a member of the North State Water Alliance. His group has some criteria they’d like to see included in a bond.

California Officials Developing Groundwater Management Plans

Jun 10, 2014
California Department of Water Resources

California state officials are working on a five-year plan they hope will lead to better local management of underground water supplies. Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

The state says groundwater levels are in alarming decline – and that must be reversed. In times of drought, more water is pulled from the ground. A number of government agencies are generating a five-year plan to make sure that over years of use and replenishment, there’s adequate supply of groundwater

The entire state of California is in a severe drought. Farmers and farmworkers are hurting.

You might expect this to cause food shortages and higher prices across the country. After all, California grows 95 percent of America's broccoli, 81 percent of its carrots and 99 percent of the country's artichokes, almonds and walnuts, among other foods.

Yet there's been no sign of a big price shock. What gives?

Here are three explanations.

California Water Managers May Limit River Water Diversion For Crops

May 21, 2014
State Department of Water Resources

Some California farmers may not be allowed to divert river water to irrigate their crops this summer. The restriction is part of new rules being considered this week by state water managers.

Some members of the Water Resources Control board say suspending water rights is an unavoidable temporary emergency measure caused by the drought.

Felicia Marcus Chairs the Board, and says any limits on water rights should be clearly explained, and narrow in scope.

Report: Drought Won't Hurt California Economy

May 20, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California’s drought may have a lot of negative consequences, but a new report out today says the state’s economy won’t be one of them. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

The report from Moody’s Investors Service finds, short term, California’s economy won’t suffer as a result of the drought. It finds the state’s reliance on income taxes and sales taxes will largely provide a buffer. H.D. Palmer with the governor’s Department of Finance, agrees the state’s economy has weathered the drought so far. 

Drought Could Cost California Agriculture Industry $1.7 Billion

May 19, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new study shows that California’s drought could result in severe economic losses for Central Valley farmers. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the analysis also shows the drought will mean thousands of job losses.

California Department of Water Resources

Researchers have long known that the mountain ranges surrounding the Central Valley have been rising faster than expected--a few millimeters every year for over a century.  And over the same time, seismic activity in the area has also increased.  According to a new study, both may be linked to the depletion of groundwater in the Central Valley.  Colin Amos of Western Washington University is lead author on the study.

"We find that the mountains are rising surrounding the San Joaquin Valley where the greatest rates of groundwater withdrawal are happening. "

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced today that for the first in this history of Friant Dam, the oldest water rights holders on the San Joaquin River - the Exchange Contractors  - will begin to draw down water from Millerton Lake.

The move pits farmers in Merced County against those on the east side of the valley from Fresno to Kern, and underscores the divide between the holders of historic water rights, and those whose supplies came about in the middle of the 20th century.

Diana Aguilera

Schools on the east side of Fresno County are already feeling the impact of California’s ongoing drought.

Education officials from the Kings Canyon Unified District say they have seen a significant drop in attendance this year.

 Superintendent Juan Garza says families have been forced to relocate, taking their school aged children with them.

Come August of next school year, there may be even less kids having fun on the playground. 

California Water Officials Report Near Record May Snow Levels

May 1, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

This year’s final measurement of the Sierra snowpack showed near-record low water levels for this time of year. The state takes five monthly measurements each year from January to May.

Doug Carlson with the Department of Water Resources says the state-wide “snow water equivalent” is only at about 18 percent of what would be typical for the first of May.

Carlson: “That means that we are looking at very little relief coming from the mountains in the way of snow melt to provide us with drinking water over the summer and into the fall.”

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

May is almost here, and that means we’re entering the peak of the growing season – those sunny days and warm temperatures that make the San Joaquin Valley the most productive ag region in the world. But in this drought year, everything is a little different.

Governor Brown Issues New Executive Order In Reponse To Drought

Apr 25, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown’s latest executive order to combat the drought has some aid for farmers, fish and firefighters – and some requests for all Californians.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

Back in 2010, the city of Irwindale was so excited to lure the factory that makes Sriracha hot sauce to their area, they helped finance the $40 million project.

But earlier this month that same city council designated this once desired business as a public nuisance, over complaints from residents about spicy odors and burning eyes.

Sriracha sauce creator David Tran is now being peppered with offers to relocate his plant to other states and counties, including the San Joaquin Valley. The move could create hundreds of jobs and bolster the local economy.

America’s farmers are dying. But it’s not just because they’re aging. In 1978 the average age of the American farmer was 50, today it’s around 58. But there’s another even more troubling issue facing those who grow our food -  farmers taking their own lives.

On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Cove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gather on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart.

One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.

If there is no water, there's no work, he says in Spanish.

Cannon Michael runs an 11,000-acre farm in California's Central Valley. His family has been farming in the state for six generations.

Michael's multimillion-dollar operation usually provides a wealth of crops including tomatoes, onions and melons. But recently, he's pretty pessimistic about work.

"It is going to be a year that's probably, at best, maybe break even. Or maybe lose some money," Michael tells NPR's Arun Rath.

Spring Rain And Snow Mean Increased Water Allocations

Apr 18, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Rain and snow may not have pushed California out of its drought, but the late season precipitation will mean a little more water for State Water Project users. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, there

At a recent rally in Fresno County, Calif., farmers in plaid shirts stood side by side with migrant farmworkers in ball caps, holding signs that read "sin agua, no futuro" and "no water, no food." Fresno is the top agriculture-producing county in the U.S., with more than $6 billion in annual sales.

Protesters argued that farms could go out of business without more water, and there would be mass layoffs. That rhetoric may be familiar, but the two groups' alliance is decidedly unusual.

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