Ag Today, December 13, 2021

State tells San Joaquin Valley agencies that groundwater plans are flawed [Los Angeles Times]

California water officials have alerted local groundwater agencies in farming areas across the San Joaquin Valley that their plans for bringing aquifers into balance don’t adequately address how continuing declines in water levels could cause many more wells to run dry. The state Department of Water Resources notified agencies in six areas of the San Joaquin Valley this week that their groundwater sustainability plans are incomplete and have deficiencies that need to be corrected. While the specifics of the flaws will be outlined when assessments are released in January, the department said many of the submitted plans lacked details about addressing how declining groundwater levels in the coming years will likely continue to cause well failures, sinking ground and worsening effects on drinking water quality.The local agencies were required to prepare plans for combating chronic over-pumping under California’s landmark 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. The state has designated 21 groundwater basins as being in a state of “critical overdraft,” and these areas — many of them in the Central Valley — have until 2040 to achieve their sustainability goals. “The standard in the law is ‘significant and unreasonable’ effects,” said Paul Gosselin, deputy director of DWR’s sustainable groundwater management office. “I think it’s kind of hard to justify wells going dry and not being significant and unreasonable. I think if you have your water supply shut off, that’s pretty significant.”


Will new bacon law begin? California grocers seek delay [The Associated Press]

A coalition of California restaurants and grocery stores has filed a lawsuit to block implementation of a new farm animal welfare law, adding to uncertainty about whether bacon and other fresh pork products will be much more expensive or in short supply in the state when the new rules take effect on New Year’s Day. The lawsuit is the latest step in a tumultuous three-year process of enacting rules overwhelmingly approved by voters but that remain in question even as the law is set to begin. Since voters approved Proposition 12 by a 2-to-1 ratio in November 2018, state officials have missed deadlines for releasing specific regulations covering the humane treatment of animals that provide meat for the California market. Most hog producers haven’t made changes to comply with the law. And now a coalition of business owners is seeking more than a two-year delay. “We’re saying this is not going to work,” said Nate Rose, a spokesman for the California Grocers Association. While groups are working to delay the measure, the state has eased the transition to the new system. It has allowed pork processed under the old rules and held in cold storage to be sold in California in 2022, which could prevent shortages for weeks or even months.


The biggest snowstorm of the season to hit California this week [CNN]

A drought-denting weather system will hit the West Coast, bringing the biggest snowfall of the season to California. Strong winds and welcome but heavy rain also will affect the West Coast through midweek. The system is moving in from the Gulf of Alaska and will slowly push hazardous conditions southward from the Pacific Northwest Sunday to Southern California by Tuesday. This will be “easily the biggest snowstorm this season,” forecasters at the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Sacramento said in their discussion on Sunday morning. Snow totals of 3 to 5 feet are likely for the Sierra Nevada, with isolated areas receiving up to 8 feet. Some areas could see snowfall rates of more than 2 inches an hour. California continues to experience record low reservoir levels and exceptional drought conditions. All of the state is in at least a moderate drought, with much of the central and southern sections in an extreme to exceptional drought. This is exactly where a long-lived atmospheric river will set up, bringing with it an impressive surge of moisture.


After cold snap, rain isn’t the only rough weather headed toward Fresno and the Valley [Fresno Bee]

Continued cold as well as rain will be accompanied by high winds as Fresno and the rest of the central San Joaquin Valley deal with harsh winter weather. With the precipitation already looming, a wind advisory is also in the forecast as the storm system moves into the Valley. A high wind watch is set to take effect at 4 a.m. Monday and last until 4 a.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service office in Hanford. Sustained southerly winds are expected to blow from 15 to 25 mph, with gusts to 40 mph possible, in areas of Fresno, Merced, Kings, Kern, Madera and Tulare counties. The Weather Service on Sunday warned that winds could cause unsecured objects to be blown around and create the possibility of power outages. Anyone outdoors is advised to be mindful of trees, as winds can cause limbs to snap and fall to the ground. Fresno, Merced, Madera and Visalia are among the cities that may see as much as 2 inches of rain, according to meteorologist Jim Bagnall. Mariposa, Oakhurst and Shaver Lake could receive 4 to 6 inches of rain and the higher elevations will see snow. The snow level is expected initially to be limited to elevations of 5,000 to 6,000 feet and above in the Sierra Nevada, but then possibly fall as low as 3,000 feet as the storm winds down Tuesday night. Yosemite Valley is expected to see 1 to 3 inches of snow between Monday and Tuesday.


Farmers ease workers’ path to citizenship [Bakersfield Californian]

California farmers frustrated with congressional inaction on farmworker immigration and guest-worker reform have settled on another way to nudge their workforce toward U.S. citizenship. A partnership announced last week between the California Farm Bureau and the Washington, D.C.-based National Immigration Forum gives ag employees access to an online portal guiding them through the naturalization process. The platform also helps with matters like protecting family members facing deportation. The agreement reflects the worsening shortage of field workers as much as it does industry’s cultivation of laborers fueling the Central Valley’s economy, with restricted or no legal status. “Offering farm employees who are eligible for U.S. citizenship a low-cost means to access citizenship puts them on a path to fully share in the American bounty they work every day to create,” the president of the bureau, Jamie Johansson, said in a news release Monday.


Sonoma, Napa wineries bullish on premium chardonnay market [Santa Rosa Press-Democrat]

In the wine world, cabernet sauvignon has been described as the king of the grape varietals while chardonnay is known as the queen.

But the queen has been a little neglected in the overall conversation within the wine industry between the skyrocketing prices for cult cab out of Napa Valley and the fandom of pinot noir from such areas as the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley. But in fact, the green-skinned grape that originated in Burgundy, France, is the biggest seller by volume in the United States and a staple of most wineries and supermarket shelves. While overall chardonnay volume decreased by almost 7% in 2020 from the previous year, the market for bottles priced at $25 and above grew by 6%, according to data from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. Wine sales are growing significantly in the direct-to-consumer market and luxury chardonnay also has seen a boost in that category. That’s no surprise for David Ramey, the winemaker who founded Ramey Wine Cellars in Healdsburg. The winery has sold out of its single-vineyard chardonnays. Its 2019 vintage will be released early next year, and the winery is raising the price on it from $70 to $75 a bottle. “Business is business. When you are sold out, you get to raise the price,” Ramey noted.


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