Ag Today April 22, 2019

As California’s delta smelt spirals toward extinction, a future in captivity awaits [Los Angeles Times]

Despite a decades-long rescue effort, the tiny delta smelt appears closer than ever to vanishing from its only natural home, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta….Efforts to preserve the smelt have relied on restricting delta water operations supplying the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California — regulations that have vexed agricultural interests and water districts, and placed the fish squarely in the center of California’s water wars….Biologists who track the delta smelt report that its numbers have declined more than 90% over the last five decades.


Interior’s Bernhardt worked closely on matters he promised to avoid [Politico]

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO analysis of agency documents — a revelation that adds to the ethics questions dogging his leadership of the agency. Bernhardt’s efforts, beginning in at least October 2017, included shaping the department’s response to a key portion of a water infrastructure law he had helped pass as a lobbyist for California farmers, recently released calendars show….Interior’s inspector general is probing whether Bernhardt violated ethics rules by working on policies he had pushed as a lobbyist for the Westlands Water District, a job that earned his former firm more than $1.3 million in the five years before he returned to government service.


Court: EPA has 90 days to justify use of dangerous pesticide [Associated Press]

A federal appeals court has given the Environmental Protection Agency 90 days to justify why a widely used but dangerous pesticide should stay on the market. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday issued the order at the request of a coalition of farmworker and environmental groups. The attorneys general for several states, including California, Washington, New York and Massachusetts, joined the case. The groups sued after then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt reversed an Obama-era effort to ban chlorpyrifos, which is widely sprayed on citrus fruit and other crops.


California has farmers growing weeds. Why? To capture carbon [KQED, San Francisco]

…California’s farmers are receiving millions of dollars to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, something the state says is crucial for meeting its ambitious climate goals. The state is paying them to grow plants, which absorb carbon and help move it into the soil where it can be stored long-term. That makes California home to some of the first official “carbon farmers” in the country.


Sweet corn out, sweet potatoes in: Data shows fundamental shifts in American farming [Washington Post]

The American vegetable landscape has shifted. Farmers are abandoning one-time basics such as sweet corn, green beans, peas and potatoes. In their place, they’re planting sweet potatoes and leafy greens such as spinach, kale and romaine lettuce….Once every five years, the USDA Census of Agriculture provides a definitive guide to the trends behind the nation’s farms and diets. The latest figures, released last week, show broad dietary upheaval. In many cases, they show vegetables that may once have been dismissed as fads or trends are reshaping America’s agricultural landscape.


Charley Hess, dean who built UC Davis agriculture college’s reputation, dies at 87 [Sacramento Bee]

Charles “Charley” Hess, the dean emeritus of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis who was instrumental in building the college’s reputation as one of the top schools for agricultural and environmental studies in the world, has died. He was 87….A highly regarded researcher and administrator, Hess was appointed assistant secretary for science and education in the Agriculture Department by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, after he had served as dean at UC Davis for 14 years….Colleagues said Hess’ leadership as dean was critical to building the success and prestige of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Davis’ premier program.