GOP introduces drought relief bill, key step in reopening water debate in Congress
California House Republicans introduced a drought-relief bill Thursday afternoon that they said would pump more water to struggling farmers in the Central Valley without compromising protections for endangered fish. The 170-page bill, though unlikely to reach President Obama's desk in its current form, is a significant step in laying out the GOP position in the debate over how the federal government should respond to a four-year drought. Like prior efforts, the bill is already facing opposition from environmental groups and Democrats who say the changes would harm the environment and undermine protections for endangered species. <more> June 25, 2015 LA Times
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces $150 Million, New Partnership to Support Water Quality and Quantity in Drought-Stricken California
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today joined Interior Deputy Secretary Mike Connor and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird to announce a new partnership focused on conserving and restoring the Sierra-Cascade California Headwaters, as part of President Obama's Resilient Lands and Waters initiative. Over the next two years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Forest Service (FS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $130 million in the partnership, which also includes the Interior Department, the State of California, non-profits, and private landowners. In total, the partnership will yield a minimum investment of $210 million by all partners. The Sierra-Cascade California Headwaters provides 25 million Californians with drinking water and much of the water for irrigated agriculture in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. In addition to the partnership, USDA is announcing that $13.7 million is available to California producers and ranchers through NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and approximately $6 million remains available to drought-stricken communities through Rural Development's Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants (ECWAG), making nearly $20 million available to drought-affected communities. <more>
June 24, 2015 USDA news release
Application Deadline Nears for California Leopold Conservation Award
Sand County Foundation, the California Farm Bureau Federation and Sustainable Conservation are encouraging applications for the $10,000 California Leopold Conservation Award. The award honors California farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who demonstrate outstanding natural resources stewardship and practice conservation leadership and outreach. Applications must be postmarked by July 10, 2015. The Leopold Conservation Award is given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, he called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. The competitive award recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. It consists of a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000. The 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award will be presented December 5 at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Reno. For award and application information, please visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org. <more>
June 4, 2015 Ag Web
Third Annual Strip-Till Dairy Coach Tour Kicks off in Hilmar on July 15
The third annual strip-till dairy coach tour hosted by Sustainable Conservation and California Ag Solutions will be held Wednesday, July 15 from 7:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The half-day tour, which begins at the Hilmar Cheese Visitor Center, will include stops at multiple Merced County dairy farms that have adopted conservation and water efficiency practices. Tour participants will see first-hand technologies and practices, including strip-till, drip irrigation, center pivot irrigation technologies, in addition to dairies utilizing liquid manure instead of synthetic fertilizers to grow forage crops. The tour will also give participants a chance to have one-on-one discussions with dairy producers, agronomists, and irrigation specialists. Participants will also have a chance to examine strip-till equipment on display and learn about a strip-till equipment rental program. The day will conclude with a complementary luncheon and wrap-up at the Hilmar Cheese Visitor Center. The tour route and stops will be provided in the coming weeks.Please RSVP by Friday, July 10th to secure a seat on the bus. Contact Ladi Asgill, Sustainable Conservation, (209) 604-6554, firstname.lastname@example.org Denise Romero, California Ag. Solutions, (559) 674-3276, email@example.com.
June 15, 2015 Sustainable Conservation
Final deadline in July for funding through USDA-NRCS EQIP program
Western United Dairymen partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Sustainable Conservation to secure an additional $3.5 million for Merced and Stanislaus County dairy producers for water quality/conservation projects. The process to apply for the available funding is the same as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and will be submitted with NRCS. EQIP has changed from one deadline and funding cycle per year to five. Applications are batched and ranked on specific dates, providing a more timely funding response. The remaining FY15 batching deadline is July 17, 2015. A Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) needs to be completed as part of the process, making it important to plan ahead. A Technical Service Provider (TSP) is necessary to complete the CNMP process and NRCS reimburses producers for the cost of the CNMP. The type of projects that will be funded through this program are: irrigation pipelines; pumps; structures for water control; waste storage facility (concrete pads); solid liquid separators; irrigation land leveling; and Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMP). If you have questions, please contact your local NRCS office. WUD news
One of the Best Fields for New College Graduates? Agriculture.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new report showing tremendous demand for recent college graduates with a degree in agricultural programs with an estimated 57,900 high-skilled job openings annually in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment fields in the United States. According to an employment outlook report released today by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, there is an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor's degree or higher in agriculture related fields, 22,500 short of the jobs available annually.
<more> May 11, 2015 USDA news release
In Parched California, Innovation, Like Water, Has Limits
California’s drought has not spared A. G. Kawamura. A former state secretary of food and agriculture, Mr. Kawamura grows vegetables and strawberries south of Los Angeles in Orange County. He was relatively lucky, losing 15 percent of one green bean crop when his well went dry last June, two and a half weeks before harvest. Still, the fields have remained fallow since then. “If I didn’t have another farm, I would be out of business.” Despite his worry over California’s four-year drought and its weirdly warming winter, Mr. Kawamura remains optimistic about farmers’ ability to adapt through human ingenuity. Irrigation systems have evolved from furrows to sprinklers to drips in the three generations since his family began farming in what is now the highly urbanized Los Angeles basin. <more>
April 7, 2015 The New York Times
Calif. authorities won’t dictate crops, irrigation amid drought
State authorities have no plans to mandate further water conservation efforts on farms even as Gov. Jerry Brown’s order that cities slash their water use by 25 percent has invited more scrutiny on agriculture. Some environmental groups, news outlets and users of social media expressed astonishment last week that Brown’s drought-related water cutbacks mostly spared farmers. Administration officials have maintained that growers have already faced severe cutbacks which caused some 400,000 acres of farmland to be fallowed last summer. Though political pressure is sure to mount as urban voters start feeling the drought’s impacts, state officials told the Capital Press they have no plans for more drastic measures such as requiring more widespread use of drip irrigation or dictating which crops can be grown in certain areas. <more>
April 8, 2015 Capital Press
Carly Fiorina: The Man-Made Water Shortage in California
While California is clearly experiencing another drought, the extreme water shortages are an ongoing and man-made human tragedy — one that has been brought on by overzealous liberal environmentalists who continue to devalue the lives and livelihoods of California residents in pursuit of their own agenda. It comes down to this: Which do we think is more important, families or fish? With different policies over the last 20 years, all of this could have been avoided. Droughts are nothing new in California — the state has suffered from them for centuries. The difference now is that government policies are making it much worse. Despite the awareness around this issue, liberals continue to develop and promote policies which allow much of California’s rainfall to wash out to sea. Specifically, these policies have resulted in the diversion of more than 300 billion gallons of water away from farmers in the Central Valley and into the San Francisco Bay in order to protect the Delta smelt, an endangered fish that environmentalists have continued to champion at the expense of Californians. This water is simply being washed out to sea, instead of being channeled to the people who desperately need it. <more>
April 7, 2015 TIME
Governor Brown, Legislative Leaders Announce $1 Billion Emergency Drought Package
Mobilizing state resources to face another year of extreme dry conditions, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today joined Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Republican Leaders Senator Bob Huff and Assemblymember Kristin Olsen to announce legislation to help local communities cope with the ongoing, devastating drought. The $1 billion package will expedite bond funding to make the state more resilient to the disastrous effects of climate change and help ensure that all Californians have access to local water supplies.
“This unprecedented drought continues with no signs yet of letting up,” said Governor Brown. “The programs funded by the actions announced today will provide direct relief to workers and communities most impacted by these historic dry conditions.”
The legislation includes more than $1 billion for local drought relief and infrastructure projects to make the state’s water infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events. The package accelerates $128 million in expenditures from the Governor’s budget to provide direct assistance to workers and communities impacted by drought and to implement the Water Action Plan. It also includes $272 million in Proposition 1 Water Bond funding for safe drinking water and water recycling and accelerates $660 million from the Proposition 1e for flood protection in urban and rural areas.
"Taken together, this package provides a major boost to our state’s efforts to manage the drought and strengthen our infrastructure," said pro Tempore De León. "I want to thank the Governor and the Speaker for working together to respond to this crisis. It shows how we—as leaders--can get things done when we all work together in common purpose."
"The drought isn’t letting up, so we can’t let up either," said Speaker Atkins. "This legislation will deliver relief to Californians harmed by the drought and help us manage the significant problems the drought continues to cause. Since our skies are still clear—our job is too. And making sure we meet emergency needs, prepare for short term problems, and advance longer-term projects are an important part of that effort."
"I want to thank the Governor, the pro Tem and the Speaker for inviting us today. We were briefed on this proposal just this morning, and so far it sounds like a good approach. We need to review the legislation in detail but it seems like a reasonable start," said Senate Replican Leader Bob Huff. "Republicans have consistently said that storage is essential for providing a reliable water source to all of California for future generations. The Prop 1 water bond that was passed last year is a critical step forward in meeting the needs for California’s future. There’s no question California’s drought crisis has worsened, as once again we’ve experienced a dry winter. With the hot summer months approaching, it’s incumbent on all Californians to be responsible with how they use water. It’s critical that we act now."
"This emergency drought relief is an important band aid," said Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen. "We must move beyond temporary fixes. Projects to increase water supply have been hung up in government red tape for decades. I'm glad today we are making decisions that help people and look to us all to take real actions on long-term projects so emergency actions are no longer needed."
The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which Californians rely on heavily during the dry summer months for their water needs, is at a near record low. The March snowpack measurement came in at 0.9 inches of water content in the snow, just 5 percent of the March 3rd historical average for the measurement site. The overall water content for the Northern Sierra snowpack came in at 4.4 inches, just 16 percent of average for the date. Central and southern Sierra readings were 5.5 inches (20 percent of average) and 5 inches (22 percent) respectively. Only in 1991 has the water content of the snow been lower.
Taking action to further strengthen water conservation in the state, the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday voted to expand and extend an emergency regulation to prohibit certain water use, such as washing down sidewalks, and create a minimum standard for outdoor irrigation restrictions by urban water suppliers.
Since last February, the state has pledged over $870 million to support drought relief, including money for food to workers directly impacted by the drought, funding to secure emergency drinking water supplies for drought impacted communities and bond funds for projects that will help local communities save water and make their water systems more resilient to drought. Last month, Governor Brown met with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in Sacramento to announce nearly $20 million in federal drought relief for California’s Central Valley Project.
In December 2013, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to closely manage precious water supplies, to expand water conservation wherever possible and to quickly respond to emerging drought impacts throughout the state. The following month, the administration finalized a comprehensive Water Action Plan that charts the course for California to become more resilient in the face of droughts and floods and the Governor declared a drought state of emergency. In April 2014, the Governor called on the state to redouble their efforts at combating drought.
Last fall, the Governor signed legislation requiring local, sustainable groundwater management as well as legislation to put a water bond before voters, which won bipartisan approval in the Legislature and was approved overwhelmingly at the polls. He also issued an Executive Order streamlining efforts to provide water to families in dire need as the extreme drought continues to grip the state by making funding available through the California Disaster Assistance Act to provide water for drinking and sanitation to households currently without running water.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste. Visit SaveOurWater.com to find out how everyone can do their part and Drought.CA.Gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought.
March 19, 2015 press release, office of Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.