Ag Today Friday, March 27, 2015

Legislature approves $1 billion drought package [San Francisco Chronicle]

The California Assembly approved a $1 billion plan Thursday to bring immediate relief for communities hit hardest by the drought and to move long-term water projects along more quickly. Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders announced the plan last week, and it now heads to the governor for final approval. The Senate approved the plan Wednesday….In addition to the $1 billion authorized by AB91, the Legislature passed a companion bill, AB92, on Thursday that grants additional authority to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to allow the agency to issue fines for improper water diversions, such as those by illegal marijuana growers. Republicans opposed the new authority, saying it broadly expanded Fish and Wildlife powers, including allowing the agency to issue fines of $8,000 per day without the ability for an impartial hearing….Democrats said the measure was necessary to ensure the state wasn’t turning a blind eye to people illegally taking water from streams and rivers.
Forum near Tulloch will explore river flows [Modesto Bee]
Critics of boosting river flows for fish will gather Saturday near Lake Tulloch, which is at risk of emptying this summer because of drought. The speakers will include Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, who on Thursday introduced a bill that would suspend reservoir releases aimed at keeping water cool for salmon and other fish. The event, the Water Crisis Forum, happens amid a now 4-year-old drought that has reduced water supplies for many farmers and strained rivers that support fish and other life….McClintock, whose district includes the central Sierra Nevada, aims to deal with the issue with House Resolution 1668, the Save Our Water Act.
Why is so much water being released from Lake Mendocino? [Ukiah Daily Journal]
As is required by state law, the releases from Lake Mendocino have been increased. Just in the past week, those releases have amounted to a loss of 800 acre feet of water, or more than 260 million gallons. “The minimum flows are dictated by Decision 1610, which was written in 1986,” said Sean White, executive director of the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District….So even though the entire state is suffering from a prolonged drought, the official determination for the weather year thus far is “normal,” because of the amount of water in Lake Pillsbury. Therefore, the Sonoma County Water Agency, which is currently in charge of releases from Lake Mendocino, is releasing more than 120 cfs to meet the minimum flow requirements.
Decline of Valley biomass plants a threat to ag [Hanford Sentinel]
local orchard farmers taking out trees piled them up in large heaps and struck a match, sending huge plumes of smoke into the air. More recently, the waste has gone to biomass power plants that crank out electricity, meet stricter air pollution requirements and provide a renewable energy component. But now that the whole biomass industry in California is threatened with extinction, the issue has become a hot topic in the ag industry. Growers are asking: If you can’t burn orchard trees that have been removed, and you’ve got no biomass plant to send them to, where does it all go? “They just pile up,” said Dino Giacomazzi, Kings County Farm Bureau president. “Currently, biomass plants are about the only way we have to dispose of orchard removal.”
Santa Cruz County’s first Ag-Tech MeetUp sows solutions [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
An hour away from Silicon Valley, agricultural Watsonville has the makings of a tech hub. Next to its berry and lettuce fields, startups are building robots and mobile apps to aid farmers. Technology offers help to growers looking to become more sustainable and efficient while challenged with water supply, environmentalism and a shortage of labor. Digital NEST, a nonprofit teaching technology to youth, hosted Santa Cruz County’s first Ag-Tech MeetUp Wednesday, modeled after the popular New Tech MeetUps held monthly in Santa Cruz….Two dozen of tech entrepreneurs, ag community members and members of the City Council networked and heard presentations on local burgeoning technology.
Arkansas lawmaker urges ban on California wine over egg law [Associated Press]
An Arkansas lawmaker said Wednesday that the state should ban California wine as retribution for the West Coast state’s law requiring egg-laying hens to be able to stand up, turn around and fully extend their wings. The House voted 57-19 to advance to the Senate a bill that outlaws wine imports from any state that imposes a “substantial burden” on the Arkansas agriculture industry. The Secretary of the Arkansas Agriculture Department would determine what is burdensome under the bill….Republican Rep. Dan Douglas of Bentonville said California’s voter-approved 2008 egg law has created a “nightmare” for Arkansas producers. The California Legislature in 2010 extended those requirements to all eggs sold in the state — which has barred some Arkansas eggs from cooped-up hens….Republican Rep. Stephen Meeks of Greenbrier voted against the bill and said the ban would harm Arkansas residents by limiting what they can buy. He also worried the bill could prompt retaliation from California lawmakers.
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