Ag Today April 8, 2019

California could see fewer wildfires thanks to wet winter [Wall Street Journal]

California’s unusually wet winter has officials hopeful that there will be fewer deadly wildfires in 2019 than last year’s series of devastating infernos. So far this year there have been 149 wildfires in the state, compared with 720 during the same period last year, according to tabulations as of April 2 by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. The number is the lowest in at least 10 years of record-keeping and is attributable in part, officials say, to soaking rains finally reaching Southern California after seven years of dry winters. “I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Scott McLean, a deputy chief with Cal Fire. “This is great weather we are having and if it continues on, it’ll definitely help the situation.” However, Mr. McLean and others warn that if the weather heats up quickly, the fire danger could increase later this year due to the new grasses and other vegetation that have erupted from the rain. So-called superblooms of colorful flowers have drawn hordes of tourists to observe them on Southern California hillsides.


Nielsen says she still supports Trump’s border goals [Associated Press]

Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday she still shares President Donald Trump’s goal of securing the border, a day after she resigned as Homeland Security secretary amid Trump’s frustration and bitterness over a spike in Central American migration. Trump announced on Sunday in a tweet that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would be taking over as acting head of the department. The decision to name a top immigration officer to the post reflects Trump’s priority for the sprawling department founded to combat terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks. Nielsen had traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday with Trump to participate in a roundtable with border officers and local law enforcement. There she echoed Trump’s comments on the situation at the border, though she ducked out of the room while Trump spoke. As they toured a section of newly rebuilt barriers, Nielsen was at Trump’s side, introducing him to local officials. She returned to Washington afterward as Trump continued on a fundraising trip to California and Nevada.


U.S., China tout progress, vow to continue trade talks [Wall Street Journal]

Trade talks between Chinese and U.S. negotiators wrapped up in Washington with no clear timeline for resolution, but with both sides touting progress and vowing to continue talking via videoconference. President Trump said Friday he didn’t want to predict whether the world’s two biggest economies would reach a deal, but said the meeting was a success….In a statement Friday evening, the White House said that talks had been productive but cautioned that “significant work remains, and the principals, deputy ministers, and delegation members will be in continuous contact to resolve outstanding issues.”…The White House said that talks had been wide-ranging, including issues of U.S. intellectual property protection, the Chinese practice of requiring American companies to share their technology with Chinese partners, as well as agriculture, services, purchases and enforcement of the pact’s provisions.


Bill targets ag theft, proposes directing fines to rural crimes enforcement [Bakersfield Californian]

A bill pending in the state Legislature would divert fines from the theft of tractors and other agricultural equipment to fund law enforcement activities in Kern and other rural areas where such crimes have long been a problem for farmers. Senate Bill 224, introduced this year by state Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, would create a new classification for grand theft of agricultural equipment. Any fines resulting from criminal convictions of such theft would be set aside for rural crime prevention programs in the Central Valley and the Central Coast. Sponsored by the sheriff of Tulare County, where in 2018 ag equipment thefts were estimated at $2 million, SB 224 is supported by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the California Farm Bureau Federation.


Roundup, the world’s best-selling weedkiller, faces a legal reckoning [Wall Street Journal]

For years, scientists at Monsanto Co. worked closely with outside researchers on studies that concluded its Roundup weedkiller was safe. That collaboration is now one of the biggest liabilities for the world’s most widely used herbicide and its new owner, Bayer AG BAYRY -0.81% , which faces mounting lawsuits alleging a cancer link to Roundup. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are putting Monsanto’s ties to the scientific community at the center of a series of high-stakes suits against Bayer. Since the German company acquired Monsanto last June, two juries in California have sided with plaintiffs who have lymphoma and blamed the herbicide for their disease. Bayer’s shares have fallen roughly 35% since the first verdict. In both cases, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that Monsanto’s influence on outside studies of Roundup’s active ingredient tainted the safety research.


210 Connect looks at drought’s lingering impacts in the Central Valley [Visalia Times-Delta]

The drought may officially be over in Tulare County and across the state, but it remains a critical time for water in the Central Valley….Finally, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is requiring farmers, engineers and everyday citizens to work together to replenish the region’s depleted aquifers after years of historic drought….”We’re living through a very interesting moment in the history of California water,” said 210 guest moderator Jessi Snyder. “Difficulties long endured by Valley communities and families are now being recognized and responded to, while we collectively examine how we use groundwater and what we have to do differently do sustain that shared resource.”…On Monday, she will lead a discussion with farmers, water officials and community activists to explore how all Valley residents can work together to preserve this scarce resource for future generations. Panelists include: Ryan Jensen, Community Water Center; Zack Stuller, Tulare County Farm Bureau;

Mark Larsen, Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District; Kevin McCusker, Cal Water; Paul Hendrix, Mid-Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency; Greg Collins, Visalia City Councilman; Johnny Amaral, Friant Water Authority.