Ag Today Friday, April 10, 2015

California regulators defend farmers’ access to water in drought [Reuters]

The administration of California Governor Jerry Brown hit back on Thursday against criticism that its drought conservation mandates apply to consumers but do not include the state’s $45 billion agriculture business. Pushback from top water regulators came in response to complaints from environmentalists that agriculture, which accounts for 80 percent of water used by humans in the most populous U.S. state, should also be required to conserve. “Agriculture in California produces the food we all rely on,” said Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird at a briefing on the drought in Sacramento. “Folks want to point fingers, but we’re all in this together.”…Making water even harder for farmers to get could damage the state’s economy and force up food prices, he said.
California farmers mount PR campaign to counter backlash over water use [Sacramento Bee]
When Gov. Jerry Brown announced his unprecedented water use reduction order last week, California farmers were largely spared. They quickly developed another problem: Bad PR. At issue was the apparent disconnect between Brown’s focus on urban water use and the fact that agriculture – not cities or towns – accounts for roughly 80 percent of all water used by people in California. Newspaper and television stations hammered on the statistic, while critics counted gallons of water required for different foods. The almond, an especially profitable and water-heavy crop, became a national symbol of California’s water problems, forcing growers to fight back by promoting the nutritional value of their food….In an effort to push back, industry officials began meeting in recent days with politicians, business people and journalists….Farmers argue that so-called “environmental water” should be taken into account when calculating total water use, putting agriculture’s consumption at closer to 40 percent. Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, made this case to reporters outside a drought forum in Sacramento on Thursday.
‘Almond shaming’ targets California growers for water use [KCRA-TV, Sacramento]
Northern California farmers are defending themselves from people criticizing how much water they use to irrigate their crops in the ongoing drought. It’s called “almond shaming” and it started when this statistic was released to the public: “It takes one gallon of water to produce one almond.”…That’s when the media discovered California’s $11 billion almond crop was drinking up about 10 percent of the state’s agricultural water and the finger-pointing began, sparking the Almond Board of California to release what it referred to as a “fact sheet” containing eight items about almonds, agriculture and the drought….The Almond Hullers and Processors Association believes almond growers are being unfairly targeted. President Kelly Covello insisted the industry has decreased its water usage by 33 percent in the past two decades and is now using other methods to do its part to conserve.
Stanislaus River pact would end local defiance [Modesto Bee]
The Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts are optimistic that state water officials on Friday will approve a compromise that should satisfy local farmers and fish advocates and keep Tulloch Lake high enough for recreation until fall. If terms are finalized Friday, the irrigation districts would end this week’s defiant snatch of Stanislaus River water meant to help fish, and a surge of higher-than-normal flows would resume. A deal would guarantee that farmers near Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon, Ripon and Manteca get the amount of snowmelt captured behind New Melones Dam that they’ve been counting on….The districts for a short time Wednesday channeled extra water, released by federal agencies, to Woodward Reservoir near Oakdale rather than letting it run down the Stanislaus, where it would help propel young steelhead trout toward the ocean.
Sites Reservoir not alone on water bond project list [Marysville Appeal-Democrat]
When it comes to public money for water storage projects, there’s just not enough to go around. The California Water Commission, which will ultimately select the storage projects that will be funded by the water bond voters passed in November, recently completed a survey to gauge the level of interest for storage projects. In all, 147 potential projects responded seeking more than $6 billion in public funding. The water bond carved out $2.7 billion for funding water storage projects, which means that many of the projects will not receive the full amount of funding requested, said Ajay Goyal, manager of the statewide infrastructure investigations branch for the Department of Water Resources….Sites Reservoir is one of the largest storage projects proposed, and could cost around $3.5 billion. The water bond can fund a maximum of 50 percent of that cost, although, given the competition, that appears unlikely, said Thad Bettner, general manager of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District. But Bettner is still confident that Sites will be awarded a portion of the bond money, because about 75 percent of the projects that responded to the survey don’t meet the criteria for receiving funding.
Opinion: Please don’t tell us how to farm [Marin Independent Journal]
The Local Coastal Plan (LCP) update is Marin’s opportunity to revisit the original — 1981 — edition of its Coastal Act policy. Over the six-year update process, ranchers have shared the realities of present day farming with county planners and state Coastal Commission staff in a sincere effort to ensure that the environment is protected and family farms remain viable in coastal Marin. Throughout this process, the actions and attitudes of certain environmental activists towards our agriculture has been disappointing….Stringent coastal permit requirements for production changes would especially punish young farmers struggling to start new ventures and producers on modest farm incomes trying to adapt to a changing marketplace. For those who care about local agriculture, please urge our county supervisors and the Coastal Commission to leave the business of farming up to the farmers and to support the longstanding precedent to adapt production without permit processes.
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