Ag Today August 24, 2021

Drought worsens in Southern California, with Ventura County in worst category

As sweltering drought conditions continue to worsen throughout California, Ventura and other Southern California counties have shifted from “extreme” to “exceptional” drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor Report. Along with Ventura County, northwest Los Angeles County, most of Kern County and the eastern portion of San Bernardino County are also in the federal report’s highest range, signifying “exceptional drought.” Almost all of California is facing detrimental drought conditions, with 50 of the state’s 58 counties under a state of emergency amid excessive drought conditions. In Ventura County, Calleguas Municipal Water District officials have declared a water shortage, continuing their call to residents to conserve water. Officials at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies imported water to Calleguas Municipal Water District, said the state’s water supply has been “increasingly stressed by the extreme drought.”


U.S. Crops Wither Under Scorching Heat [Wall Street Journal]

Drought is blistering key U.S. cash crops, further elevating prices for staples including corn and wheat.

Extreme heat is baking most of the U.S. North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska all contain areas of extreme drought, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. North Dakota and Minnesota, in particular, are experiencing near-record lows in soil moisture, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a result, many crops planted this spring are wilting. Some 63% of the U.S. spring wheat crop is in poor or very poor condition, versus 6% at this time last year, according to Agriculture Department data. The poor weather has caused the USDA to scale back its expectations for U.S. crop production in 2021—which, in turn, is causing domestic inventories to dwindle. In the USDA’s latest monthly supply and demand report, the agency pegged ending stocks for corn, wheat, and soybeans all at their lowest level since 2013. For 2021, wheat and corn prices have risen 11%.


Caldor fire burns more than 440 homes as Lake Tahoe air quality ranks among worst in U.S.[Los Angeles Times]

More than 440 homes have been destroyed by the raging Caldor fire, and smoke has created conditions so hazardous that the air quality around the blaze is the worst in the country. Burning through rugged terrain east of Sacramento, the Caldor fire grew to more than 100,000 acres over the weekend as it creeps toward South Lake Tahoe. The fire was at 9% containment Monday night after spreading unchecked for more than a week. The expansion of the blaze — now covering 114,116 acres — has slowed amid weakening winds, but flames continue to threaten more than 17,000 structures, according to the latest incident report. Winds, now at 7 to 10 mph, are still pushing the flames north and east, toward the southern end of Lake Tahoe. Smoke has choked the region, spurring “hazardous” air quality throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin, according to the Air Quality Index.


Biome Makers Raises $15 Million To Become The 23andMe Of Soil [Forbes]

Biome Makers founders Adrián Ferrero and Alberto Acedo started their first company together in 2010, AC-Gen Reading Life, that used DNA sequencing to identify mutations related to cancer. It dawned on the pair that the tech’s uses reached beyond healthcare. “We realized there was an amazing opportunity to bring personalized medicine into agriculture,” Ferrero tells Forbes. “We realized that there were no biological indicators already available, especially in the soil.” The pair launched Biome Makers in 2016. The West Sacramento startup acts as the 23andMe for soil, using DNA sequencing and “intelligent computing” to help farmers and companies analyze the microbiomes in their soil to make more sustainable and economical choices.


‘They need help now:’ In Gold Country, PG&E fire victims have waited 6 years for payment [San Francisco Chronicle]

At the height of California’s last severe drought, a poorly maintained pine tree in the central Sierra Nevada foothills hit a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power line, sparking a wildfire that killed two people and destroyed more than 900 structures.Six years, another drought and several disastrous fire seasons later, about 1,500 people who survived the 2015 Butte Fire are still waiting to be paid everything they’re owed from a PG&E settlement fund. And the company’s actions this year could determine how much money they get. “I have friends that are living in camping trailers that are falling apart around their ears,” said Terry McBride, who, like many others in her Gold Country community, lost her home in the Butte Fire. “It’s beyond the word ‘struggling.’ They need help now.” Much of the money available for McBride and other victims of PG&E-caused fires is tied up in shares of the PG&E Corp. parent company, as part of a settlement the company reached before it exited bankruptcy last year.


Proposed north Butte County water district stirring controversy [Chico Enterprise-Record]

A proposal for a new Butte County water district is wending its way through the approval process, and not everyone is happy about that. The Tuscan Water District would cover most of the northwestern county, excluding Chico. The area is dependent on well water. Under a recently approved state law, the amount of groundwater currently being pumped in the area will have to be reduced. Each well owner is currently on their own. No entity speaks for them as a group. Proponents say the Tuscan Water District would be that advocate for the whole area. However a handful of farming families own the majority of the land in the district, and opponents think they could stack the district’s board of directors to the detriment of the others.


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