Ag Today February 4, 2019

As EPA eases wetlands rule, California makes a countermove [Wall Street Journal]

Home builders cheered a Trump administration move in December to ease environmental regulations on development in wetlands. But in California, the celebration didn’t last long. Builders there say the action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prompted state water officials to accelerate longstanding plans to bolster wetlands protections that exceed those for federal waterways. “There’s a commitment [in California] to try to do things to the farthest environmentally protected status possible,” said Dan Dunmoyer, the head of the California Building Industry Association. “We just think that Mr. Trump tends to motivate California leadership to do that even more so.”…In December, the EPA proposed reducing the number of federally protected waterways, saying it would no longer consider underground water, isolated wetlands or floodwater streams or rivers as so-called “waters of the United States.” The Obama administration EPA issued a rule in 2015 that put more small bodies of water and wetlands under federal protection to ensure clean drinking supplies.


US says 2 states must finish Colorado River drought plan [Associated Press]

Two states in the U.S. West have work to do on a plan to combat the shrinking supply of Colorado River water that 40 million people depend on but that’s threatened by a prolonged drought, a federal official said Friday. Complex agreements among water users in California and Arizona haven’t been signed, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said. She declared that the states missed her Thursday deadline to complete the work, which could allow the federal government to step in and decide the rules. But Burman said she prefers the seven states that rely on the river to reach a consensus on protecting the water that serves 5.5 million acres of farmland.


Tiny Northern California town is sinking, new report finds [San Francisco Chronicle]

The tiny town of Arbuckle in Northern California sank more than two feet in nine years. The revelation comes from a new survey that tracked subsidence — the gradual sinking of land — in the Sacramento Valley between 2008-17….Subsidence has long been an issue in California, but its recent acceleration was likely fueled by an extreme drought that plagued California between 2012-16. A lack of rainfall spurred the voracious pumping of groundwater, which was largely utilized for agriculture.


Farm work never stops, even in the offseason [Marysville Appeal-Democrat]

Rain or shine, there’s always something that needs to be done on a farm, especially during the offseason….With so much uncertainty surrounding immigration at the moment, it has become harder for people to travel to and from Mexico on a seasonal basis for work. Because of that, some farmers have taken it upon themselves to find more available work during the down months to keep their workforce busy and hold on to them.


Editorial: Machines cropping up here? [Santa Maria Times]

…No matter how you interpret those facts, the bottom line is that government policy decisions and uncertainty about the future of immigration will cause a spike in food prices. A Farm Bureau Federation officials said this: “At the end of the day, if you want your food grown in the United States, we need to find a way to have a legal and stable labor supply for farmers.” Without such a labor force, delays in harvesting or the elimination of certain crops is inevitable. If our elected policy makers at the federal level do not come up with solutions, and fairly quickly, this region’s agriculture will change, maybe with robots in the fields.


Investigation underway after school bus reportedly drives through pesticide mist [Bakersfield Californian]

County officials are investigating whether a Rio Bravo-Greeley Union School District bus was accidentally sprayed with a toxic insecticide Jan. 22 as it drove west past an almond orchard on Highway 58. Kern Ag Commissioner Glenn Fankhauser said Friday none of the five people aboard, including three special-education students, reported feeling sick after the bus drove with at least one window open through what appeared to be a mist of the chemical Asana, which according to the manufacturer is toxic if inhaled and can cause cancer and genetic defects….The preferred practice for avoiding such instances is to have a “spotter” who warns the spray machine operator of oncoming vehicles. The applicator is in violation if even a small amount of the pesticide lands on the vehicle.