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.
Jerry Brown seeks $1-billion emergency drought relief plan for California
A new plan for battling Caifornia's persistent drought includes more than $1 billion in funds, mostly bond money that was approved by voters as far back as 2006, according to details obtained by The Times.
The proposal is scheduled to be unveiled by Gov. Jerry Brown and top Democratic lawmakers in the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. Sources requested anonymity to provide details of the legislation before the official announcement.
The biggest chunk of the money is $660 million from a ballot measure nearly passed a decade ago to fund flood control projects.
Another $272.7 million would be spent from the $7.5 billion water bond measure that was approved by voters in November. That money would be used to safeguard drinking water and support recycling and desalination projects.
Other parts of the plan would require the state to spend millions of dollars faster than previously scheduled on initiatives like food assistance and wildlife preservation.
California is entering its fourth consecutive year of drought, and this latest proposal could mark the second consecutive year in which the Legislature has approved emergency drought relief. <more>
March 19, 2015 LA Times
USDA to hold California Federal Order Outreach Meetings in May
USDA will hold three public outreach meetings throughout California in May 2015 to provide a forum to review proposals received regarding a California Federal milk order. The outreach meetings will give USDA the opportunity to explain the FMMO rulemaking process and allow proposal sponsors the opportunity to explain the technical details of their submissions. Agendas for the meetings will be released following the April 10, 2015, additional proposal submission deadline. All attendees are encouraged to pre-register. Meetings will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. at the following locations: Tuesday, May 5, 2015, California State University, Chico, Bell Memorial Student Union, Room 203, corner of West 2nd and Chestnut Streets, Chico, CA 95927, register here; Wednesday, May 6, 2015, Piccadilly Inn Airport, 5115 E. McKinley Avenue, Fresno, CA 93727, register here; Thursday, May 7, 2015, Los Angeles County Farm Bureau, 41228 12th Street West, Palmdale, CA 93551, register here.
March 17, 2015 USDA-AMS-Dairy Programs notice
Farm groups fight E-Verify bill
More than 140 food and agriculture groups are warning House leaders that legislation requiring employers to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of workers would have a “devastating impact” on farms. The bill (H. 1147) is one of a series of immigration measures moving out of the House Judiciary Committee. The committee is expected to consider legislation later to expand the availability of foreign agricultural workers, but the farm groups want the two measures to go hand in hand. <more>
March 17, 2015 Agri-Pulse
Dry Southern California Offers Northern Farmers Top Dollar for Water
As California continues to endure its historic drought, a huge water district in the southern part of the state is offering to pay what is thought to be its highest price ever for water from farmers in the north — more than double what it paid just five years ago. "We're going to make a lot more selling the water than planting the rice," Lance Tennis, whose family owns about 900 acres of farmland in southern Butte County, about 80 miles north of Sacramento, said Tuesday. "This is a huge deal.” The offer from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and others to buy water from the Sacramento Valley for $700 per acre-foot reflects how dire the situation is as the state suffers through its fourth year of drought. In 2010 — also a drought year — it bought water but only paid between $244 and $300 for the same amount. The district stretches from Los Angeles to San Diego County. <more>
March 17, 2015 NBC news
Family Farms are the Focus of New Agriculture Census Data
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that family-owned farms remain the backbone of the agriculture industry. The latest data come from the Census of Agriculture farm typology report and help shine light on the question, "What is a family farm?" "As we wrap up mining the 6 million data points from the latest Census of Agriculture, we used typology to further explore the demographics of who is farming and ranching today," said NASS Statistics Division Director Hubert Hamer. "What we found is that family-owned businesses, while very diverse, are at the core of the U.S. agriculture industry. In fact, 97 percent of all U.S. farms are family-owned." The 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology report is a special data series that primarily focuses on the "family farm." By definition, a family farm is any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator, including through blood, marriage, or adoption. <more>
March 17, 2015 USDA news release
Vilsack: Dietary Guidelines Are About Health, Not Environment
A panel of nutrition experts generated controversy last month when it pressed the federal government to consider the environment when issuing new dietary guidelines later this year. Generally speaking, that would mean asking Americans to eat less meat and more plant-based foods. Ever since then, the question has been whether the agencies developing the recommendations – the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services – would take up the suggestion and weigh the impact of food on air and water quality, among other issues. In an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack suggested that, for him, the answer is no – that so-called sustainability issues fall outside the scope of the dietary guidelines. <more>
March 11, 2015 The Wall Street Journal