Ag Today February 19, 2019

Is the gas tax putting California’s most valuable resource in jeopardy? [KSEE TV, Fresno]

One of the most hotly debated and controversial ballot measures – Proposition 6 – was voted down in November, giving the green light for California’s gas tax….But the backbone of the Central Valley, our farmers, are feeling the pinch at the pumps even more than other Californians, two prominent Valley farmers telling me the gas tax is the beginning of the end for the Valley’s most precious commodity. Paul Betancourt has been farming in Kerman for nearly four decades….He says the extra 19-cent tax per gallon for diesel to transport his product is a back-breaker, saying he’s out another $3,000 to $5,000 a year from the gas tax.


Federal commission accepts MID, TID plan for river flows. Will state water board agree? [Modesto Bee]

A federal environmental analysis recommends relicensing the Don Pedro hydroelectric project and accepts a Modesto and Turlock irrigation district plan for well-timed flows to boost salmon in the Tuolumne River. The flows, combined with other measures to assist spawning and outmigrating young salmon, would commit less water to the environment than a State Water Resources Control Board plan that’s unpopular in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is considering a new license for Don Pedro, balanced the environmental measures with projected economic impacts to the region, district officials said.


Rare L.A. mega-storm could overwhelm dam and flood dozens of cities, experts say [Los Angeles Times]

…Although it might sound absurd to those who still recall five years of withering drought and mandatory water restrictions, researchers and engineers warn that California may be due for rain of biblical proportions — or what experts call an ARkStorm. This rare mega-storm — which some say is rendered all the more inevitable due to climate change — would last for weeks and send more than 1.5 million people fleeing as floodwaters inundated cities and formed lakes in the Central Valley and Mojave Desert, according to the U.S. Geological Survey….In recent years, officials with the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Geological Survey have sought to raise awareness of the threat of mega-storms and promote emergency preparedness.


Fish in the fields [Marysville Appeal-Democrat]

While the science is complex, the idea is simple: put small fish in flooded rice fields and watch them help combat climate change. At the end of 2017, several local rice farmers teamed up with researchers for a pilot program known as “Fish in the Fields” through the Resource Renewal Institute, a nonprofit research and natural resource policy group, to see what would happen when fish were introduced to flooded rice fields. Now in its second year of experiments, researchers have concluded that it works, with methane – a climate-changing byproduct of rice agriculture much more detrimental than carbon dioxide – being reduced by about two-thirds, or 65 percent, in flooded fields that had fish in them.


Massive loss of thousands of hives afflicts orchard growers and beekeepers [NPR]

…Like Adee, many beekeepers across the U.S. have lost half their hives — they call one with no live bees inside a “deadout.” Some beekeepers lost as many as 80 percent….This year, many beekeepers have had to tell their orchardists that they won’t have enough bees this year to cover their entire contracts. And some orchardists are desperately calling beekeepers. Some report pollination prices going up.


Opinion: So the monarch is endangered — now what? [Davis Enterprise]

…The fact is that there are huge holes in our knowledge of basic monarch biology, and those translate into our inability to say why monarchs are in decline. Most of the factors claimed to be involved have been operating for decades, and none of them explains the interval of high breeding success during the drought, let alone the catastrophic decline in the West in 2018….There is no point in declaring it threatened or endangered if that, like planting milkweed, is just a feel-good action unlikely to translate into any benefit to the species.