Ag Today August 29, 2019

California’s fire insurance market reaches a crisis [Los Angeles Times]

Steve Nielsen would not normally have considered himself a resident of California’s wildfire zone. But that ended in October 2017, when a fire swept through Coffey Park, his suburban Santa Rosa neighborhood, destroying his home and those of about 1,200 neighbors. Since then, Nielsen, 54, has been struggling to rebuild while dealing with one of the most troublesome nemeses confronting state residents across the state: the fire insurance industry. Nielsen says his insurer, State Farm, canceled his homeowners policy last spring, on the grounds that there was “no longer a residence at the address they were insuring,” he says….Homeowners with records unblemished by a single claim have been told their policies won’t be renewed, forcing them to find coverage through FAIR, the state’s industry-funded fire insurer of last resort, or non-traditional “surplus line” insurers such as Lloyd’s of London. What makes the situation urgent for homeowners carrying a mortgage is that fire coverage is typically mandated by their lender.


Trump’s new tariffs will begin Sunday — here’s what they mean for your wallet [McClatchy News Service]

The U.S.-China trade war is set to enter a new phase, one expected to be so costly that it will take away much of what Americans gained from the 2017 tax cut. But experts say there is good news for consumers: the effect of the new tariffs slated to be implemented Sunday won’t be felt right away. “The impact won’t be immediate. You won’t all of a sudden be paying more, but it (the tariff impact) will trickle down to the consumer,” said Melissa Miller, senior manager at the World Trade Center Kansas City, which promotes international trade.There are a host of reasons that the impact will be delayed: Suppliers have imported items already and are looking for alternatives to dealing with China. And retailers are applying pressure to suppliers to hold costs. But experts agree that such strategies are stopgaps and prices are likely to spike….Eastman calculated that by the end of the year that Trump administration-imposed tariffs that are already in effect and are scheduled to take effect are estimated to cost a family of four a total of $1,467.


Trump administration to relax restrictions on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas [Washington Post]

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it plans to loosen federal rules on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas linked to climate change. The proposed rule would reverse standards enacted under President Barack Obama that required oil and gas operators to prevent the release of methane in new drilling wells, pipelines and storage facilities. It also challenges the notion that the federal government has the authority to regulate methane without first making a detailed determination that it qualifies as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.


PG&E offers forecasts on power blackouts for wildfires. Here’s how to find out if you’re next [Sacramento Bee]

Facing criticism over its wildfire blackout policy, PG&E Corp. this week launched a “weather awareness” website to give customers warnings of up to seven days ahead of deliberate power shutoffs. The site offers detailed weather forecasts across PG&E’s territory, with information about temperature, humidity, winds and other factors that could prompt the beleaguered utility to cut off electricity. As it happens, the website showed that no power shutoffs are expected over the next week, despite an increased chance of wildfire activity. Much of Northern California sits under a “red flag” warning from the National Weather Service, with forecasters predicting that lightning strikes could start wildfires in the Sierra Nevada and elsewhere.


1.3 billion tons of food being wasted each year. Can we stop it? [Los Angeles Times]

Across the planet, more than a billion tons of essential, nutritious, life-sustaining food goes to waste each year. It is being eaten by weevils in sub-Saharan Africa and inadvertently passed over by harvesters in the rice fields of Southeast Asia. It gets scraped into the trash in restaurants in North America, and sometimes left to rot on the vine on farms in Europe. In today’s economy, it can be cheaper for farmers to leave perfectly good food in the fields than to sell it. Roughly one-third of all food produced on Earth is either wasted or lost somewhere along the way from the farm to our bellies, according to a 2011 report from the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization. That translates to about 1.3 billion metric tons of food loss per year. And if that proportion doesn’t change, the amount of wasted food will balloon to 2.1 billion tons per year by 2030, experts say.


Editorial: Like almonds, grapes and oranges? Then you will want a key Valley canal to be fixed [Fresno Bee]

A key reason the San Joaquin Valley is one of the world’s premier farming regions is a ribbon of water called the Friant-Kern Canal. Part of the federal Central Valley Project, the 152-mile-long canal carries water from Millerton Lake north of Fresno to the Kern River in Bakersfield. Along the way 15,000 farmers use irrigation to grow $10 billion worth of crops. But the ability of farmers south of Porterville to produce those crops has been dramatically hindered in recent years because the canal has sunk — or, more accurately, the ground on which the canal sits has fallen. That is the result of groundwater pumping during drought years. The pumping caused the sinking, also known as subsidence. Because the canal relies on gravity to move the water, the Friant Water Authority has been able to deliver only 40 percent of the supply for which the south-end farmers have contracted.