Ag Today, December 14, 2021

Big California storm dumps snow, drenches parched regions [The Associated Press]

Motorists spun out on whitened mountain passes and residents wielded umbrellas that flopped in the face of fierce winds as Northern California absorbed even more rain and snow on Monday, bringing the possibility of rockslides and mudslides to areas scarred by wildfires following an especially warm and dry fall across the U.S. West. Motorists spun out on whitened mountain passes and residents wielded umbrellas that flopped in the face of fierce winds as Northern California absorbed even more rain and snow on Monday, bringing the possibility of rockslides and mudslides to areas scarred by wildfires following an especially warm and dry fall across the U.S. West. The storm will bring much needed moisture to the broader region that’s been gripped by drought that scientists have said is caused by climate change. The latest U.S. drought monitor shows parts of Montana, Oregon, California, Nevada and Utah are classified as being in exceptional drought, which is the worst category. Most western U.S. reservoirs that deliver water to states, cities, tribes, farmers and utilities rely on melted snow in the springtime.


Lack of bids costs county nearly $900,000 [Imperial Valley Press]

Imperial County has lost nearly $900,000 in state funding to help local agricultural workers affected by COVID-19 because it received no proposals to implement the program, a county official said Monday. It is the latest fall out from a federal investigation into a prominent Imperial Valley medical practice that remains shrouded in secrecy. The Housing for Harvest effort was first derailed in September when the county Board of Supervisors pulled the plug on a proposal to have the nonprofit Vo Neighborhood Medical Clinic run it. That was because of board concerns over a federal probe into Vo Medical Clinic, a separate for-profit medical practice. Housing for Harvest provided outreach, wellness visits, transportation, meal or grocery services, laundry services and family support. It was for essential farm and food processing employees who either tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to it and needed safe places to stay because they could not isolate at home. The county board originally awarded Vo Neighborhood a $927,500 contract to run the program on May 4. But the first round of the program ended June 30 with just 23 clients served and about $32,000 spent.


Million-dollar bail reduced for father, son suspected of sparking California wildfire [Sacramento Bee]

A Placerville judge Monday slashed the $1 million bail for the father and son accused of starting the Caldor Fire in August, saying there was no evidence that they acted maliciously and rejecting most arguments that they are a flight risk. “Justice was done today,” said Mark Reichel, defense attorney for Travis Shane Smith, 32, whose bail was reduced to $50,000. His father, David Scott Smith, 66, had his bail reduced to $25,000 after his attorney, Linda Parisi, joined Reichel in arguing that the men are lifelong residents of the area with no criminal history and no reason to leave behind their lives and families. David Smith of Somerset and his son, Shane Smith of Folsom, were arrested last week and held in the El Dorado County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail each on felony counts of recklessly starting a fire, as well as weapons charges involving a machine gun and silencer. The Caldor Fire burned more than 220,000 acres in El Dorado, Amador and Alpine counties and destroyed entire neighborhoods, including much of the community of Grizzly Flat. More than 1,000 homes, business and other structures were destroyed, and five people were injured.


Opinion: California’s water supplies are in big trouble as drought tightens its grip on the state with the biggest population and the largest farm output [MarketWatch]

California is preparing for a third straight year of drought, and officials are tightening limits on water use to levels never seen so early in the water year. Most of the state’s water reservoirs are well below average, with several at less than a third of their capacity. The outlook for rain and snow this winter, when most of the state’s yearly precipitation arrives, isn’t promising. Especially worrying is the outlook for the Sierra Nevada, the long mountain chain that runs through the eastern part of the state. California’s cities and its farms—which grow over a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruit and nuts—rely on runoff from the mountains’ snowpack for water. As an engineer, I have studied California’s water and climate for over 30 years. A closer look at California’s water resources shows the challenge ahead and how climate change is putting the state’s water supply and agriculture at greater risk. In 2020, for example, California’s precipitation was less than two-thirds of average, and the State Water Project delivered only 5% of the contracted amounts. The 2021 water year, which ended Sept. 30, was one of the three driest on record for the Sierra Nevada. Precipitation was about 44% of average.


Newsom can’t get Californians to cut their water use. His family is doing far better [Sacramento Bee]

Gov. Gavin Newsom has had a tough time convincing Californians to conserve water during the drought. He’s done a lot better with his own family. Compared to a year ago, the Newsoms have reduced water usage on their spacious Fair Oaks home by 33% from late June to early November, according to records released by the governor’s office Tuesday. By contrast, urban Californians as a whole have reduced consumption by 5.7% since Newsom issued a call for 15% voluntary conservation, the State Water Resources Control Board said Monday. The board added that conservation numbers for October, the most recent figures available, were considerably better at 13.2%. Despite a significant atmospheric river dumping heavy precipitation in the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada, the state remains mired in one of the worst droughts on record. The state Department of Water Resources said recently that mandatory conservation measures are likely if conditions don’t improve significantly over the winter.


‘Pork Apocalypse’?: California grocers, suppliers seek delay of animal welfare bill [Newsweek]

A group of California restaurants and grocery stores is trying to stop an animal welfare law set to take effect in the new year, possibly delaying an already 3-year implementation process. The law, originally approved in November of 2018 and set to be implemented on January 1, would require that all breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves have enough space to stand and turn around. While the egg and veal industries have been able to comply, it has proved more difficult for hog farmers, as the new law would not allow “gestation crates,” which are metal cages barely larger than a pig’s body that trap pregnant pigs. The California Grocers Association, California Restaurant Association, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, California Retailers Association and meat processor Kruse & Sons filed the lawsuit in Sacramento County last month, asking for a 28-month extension to approve enforcement regulations. The groups argued that they do not have enough time to comply with the law before the deadline. Michael Formica, the general counsel for the National Pork Producers Council, argued that implementing the law would mean there would be “finite supplies to sell there.” However, others say there is enough pork currently in cold storage to carry Californians over for several months. Josh Balk of the Humane Society said they should not be concerned about “pork industry claims of the apocalypse.”


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