Ag Today August 26, 2020

Heat, smoke and Covid are battering the workers who feed America [New York Times]

… Like the gossamer layer of ash and dust that is settling on the trees in Central California, climate change is adding on to the hazards already faced by some of the country’s poorest, most neglected laborers. … Hundreds of thousands of men and women like Ms. Flores continue to pluck, weed, and pack produce for the nation here, as temperatures soar into the triple digits for days at a time and the air turns to a soup of dust and smoke, stirred with pollution from truck tailpipes and chemicals sprayed on the fields, not to mention pollution from the old oil wells that dot parts of the valley.


First the coronavirus pandemic and now wildfire smoke: A look at farmworkers’ health [KXTV, Sacramento]

Amid the coronavirus pandemic and now wildfires, farmworkers continue to work to help put food on tables all across the country. But are those essential workers being given the proper equipment to stay healthy? … ABC10 spoke with Juana Gonzalez who said every farmworker is responsible for getting their own mask. … John Aguirre the president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers said farmworkers have rights. “It is the responsibility under the regulation that a farmer makes a mask available to workers when air quality index hits 151, and there need to be hazard communications.”


‘Smoke taint’ on grapes may mean almost no wine to make in 2020, Sonoma vintner says [San Francisco Chronicle]

… Conventional wisdom says that it takes 10 days of prolonged, heavy smoke exposure to seriously damage wine grapes, an effect called smoke taint. But Dorrance said his personal experience suggests otherwise. He’s made wines from wildfire-adjacent vineyards before that seemed OK at first, but six months later were overcome by smokiness. This time around, he says, he can already taste the effects of smoke on some grapes hanging near the Walbridge Fire, which has burned more than 52,000 acres in northern Sonoma County.


California fires: Want to control blazes? Start more, experts say [New York Times]

… In recent years, momentum has built for purposefully setting fires in certain areas to help thin vegetation and restore ecosystems that would naturally burn more frequently, if not for California’s policy of more than a century requiring that all fires be put out. … But the challenge now is getting enough funding to use prescribed burns — which require lots of on-the-ground work and monitoring — and getting the green light to conduct prescribed burns in places where residents might be concerned about fires escaping or fouling the air.


Opinion: Wildfires show it’s time to change the narrative around the ‘resilient’ farmer [San Francisco Chronicle]

… Farmers are resilient. We are determined and passionate about our difficult work, and we are dedicated to feeding our communities despite the challenges inherent in food production. And in many ways, that resilience is a problem. … True resilience in our farming system would be having the ability, social safety nets and financial security to leave your farm in the face of fires without fear of financial ruin from loss of market or assets.


Desert water basin hopes to dive into California water market [Bakersfield Californian]

If you’ve got water for sale, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has $50 million to spend. … This is all part of the state’s mandate that overdrafted aquifers bring their basins into balance by 2040 under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … As part of its sustainability plan submitted to the Department of Water Resources earlier this year, the authority outlined a fallowing program and “transient pool” concept that will likely drive most agriculture out of the valley. … The valley will still need to import water, an extremely pricey move.