Ag Today, December 20, 2021

California likely to crack down on water waste with daily $500 fines [San Francisco Chronicle]

After two years of drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom remains reluctant to put limits on statewide water use. His administration, however, is looking to take a first step. Next month, the State Water Resources Control Board is expected to adopt temporary prohibitions on outdoor water practices, including hosing down driveways, filling up decorative fountains and watering lawns within 48 hours of rain. A violation of these rules would carry the threat of a $500-a-day fine. “Even though it’s been raining (recently), we’re still in a water supply shortfall and still in a drought,” said Eric Oppenheimer, a chief deputy director at the State Water Board. “These prohibitions to me are just common sense.” California is reeling from two of its driest back-to-back years on record. The state’s biggest reservoirs have hit historic lows, thousands of farms have been cut off from state and federal water projects because of the lack of water, and cities and towns are facing shortages.


Marijuana industry’s plea for help + California leads in unemployment + $$$ for water projects [Sacramento Bee]

CANNABIS INDUSTRY TO ELECTED LEADERS: ‘LESS TAXES AND MORE RETAIL: Several top players in the California cannabis industry came together on Friday morning to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins to take action to save the industry which they say is desperately flailing due to high taxes and over-regulation. They are calling for the permanent elimination of the state’s cultivation tax on cannabis, a three-year tax holiday for the cannabis excise tax, and for the Legislature to pass a law requiring local jurisdictions to allow retail commercial cannabis activity. SENATE REPUBLICANS CALL FOR FULL FUNDING FOR WATER PROJECTS: California state coffers are looking mighty flush these days, and so the Senate Republican Caucus has called on Gov. Newsom to use some of that money to fully fund the state’s water projects. In a letter to Newsom, the caucus reminds the governor that state voters approved Proposition 1 in 2014, which was intended to allocate funding for water infrastructure in the state. “Over the course of four decades, state leaders have failed to build any new water storage, missing every opportunity to capture and store additional water while also failing to provide funding for the repair and restoration of various canals throughout the state, severely limiting the state’s conveyance capacity,” the letter to Newsom reads in part. The Republican lawmakers are asking Newsom to include $3.2 billion in his budget for water infrastructure projects, including $2.6 billion for the Sites Reservoir and $685 million for the repair of the Friant-Kern/Delta-Mendota Canals as well as the San Luis Field/San Joaquin Divisions of the California Aqueduct.


A river of secrets: How the battle over Reservation Ranch summoned a violent past [Los Angeles Times]

The Smith River is the last major waterway in California that runs freely without a single dam — a precious refuge for salmon, for steelhead and a bygone timber community still searching for a future. Settlers came here for the gold, and then the trees, but this river is the true lifeline for Del Norte County, a coastal California outlier where farmers now call the shots and environmentalists are met with disdain. The politics lean red, and many here are inclined to secede from a state where most would pronounce Norte as “nor-tay.” (It’s “nort.”) And for more than six generations, one family has held the keys to this exhausted frontier: 1,668 acres of pastureland right by the river mouth, where clear, cold water winds its way from the Siskiyou Mountains to the sea. Known as Reservation Ranch, this coveted property has been off limits to most, deforested and quietly altered over the years by a system of levees, pumps and wetlands packed with discarded waste and dead cattle. So when Reservation Ranch suddenly went up for sale, chaos ensued. Conservationists have sought for years to restore this final piece of the river, and the owners, shoved into the spotlight, are now facing the full force of state regulators who rarely make it this far north. Rumors exploded as fellow farmers met privately to rally against the demise of yet another livelihood.


Farm supplier bears witness to 50 years in local ag [Bakersfield Californian]

Vard Terry took a drive from Bakersfield to Paso Robles not long ago to visit a retired farm manager and former customer who had reached out after hearing him talk on the radio about the ag business. For Terry, president of Bakersfield-based ag, mining and logistics company Holloway, the visit served as a reminder of how much things have changed in local ag since he joined the company 50 years ago Saturday. Having worked closely with farmers large and small, he has a broad perspective on what the industry has gone through during the past half-century. Looking back, he says the region’s water situation has changed drastically. That has brought with it advancements and investments in irrigation technology for more precise, efficient application. Changes he has experienced go well beyond that. They range from a sharp tightening of the labor market to greater automation to smarter applications of science through things like soil, tissue and water sampling. One of the most consequential shifts was the move away from row crops such as cotton, wheat and sugar beets to higher-margin, so-called permanent crops like almonds, citrus, pistachios and table grapes.


Pierce’s Disease, Glassy Winged Sharpshooter Board holds annual research symposium focused on protecting California’s vineyards [Napa Valley Register]

The California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) recently hosted its annual Pierce’s Disease Research Symposium, highlighting the work of countless scientists and industry professionals tackling the threat of Pierce’s Disease (PD) and the glassy-winged sharpshooter (GWSS). A vector insect for PD, which causes grape leaves and fruit to dry and shrivel up when infected, and GWSS are a major threat to California’s ag industry, but have been largely avoided here in Napa County since the early 2000s thanks to these efforts. “A lot has happened since we first learned of the Pierce’s Disease and Glassy Winged Sharpshooter nexus back in 1999,” said Craig Hanes, statewide coordinator for the Pierce’s Disease Control Program through the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA). “But the threat continues as seen by recent infestations in Solano County in the Vacaville area.” Over the last 20 years, members of the PD/GWSS Board have been working alongside CDFA Secretary Karen Ross to allocate funds for relevant research projects at UC Davis and beyond, all focused on mitigating the risk of PD in California’s grape growing regions. Funds are collected from PD winegrape assessments, and since 2010, the board has also been able to financially support projects researching other wine grape pests and diseases, too. Despite these efforts, though, the risk of PD prevails, keeping researchers like those presenting at this month’s symposium on their toes.


Farmers Business Network’s First CIO Looks to Refine Data Insights [Wall Street Journal]

The new chief information officer of Farmers Business Network Inc.—a company that runs an -like platform for farmers to buy supplies from seed to pesticides—plans to use data to sharpen the insights it offers farmers, as well as bring more of them to the site and keep them coming back. Kumud Kokal, a former vice president of e-commerce firm Stitch Fix Inc., joined the seven-year-old San Carlos, Calif.-based network and platform in October in the newly created role. “We want to make sure that the data that you get back, the insights that you’re generating are very much applicable to you,” Mr. Kokal said, “so that means localization, giving you information that is very relevant in your ZIP Code, on your farm.” FBN says it has 33,500 members across the U.S., Canada and Australia and operates more than 25 warehouses. Its members agree to share data on seed performance, pricing, weather and other facets of the business. In return, they gain access to a repository of industry and product pricing information. The company’s cloud-based data software also tracks spatial data from farm machinery, as well as other metrics provided by farmers to help them score the carbon footprint of crops.Mr. Kokal, however, also plans to modernize the company’s IT systems, improve its supply-chain tech and grow FBN Finance, the company’s credit and insurance arm.


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