Ag Today January 23, 2020

California will be hit hard as Trump administration weakens clean water protections [Los Angeles Times]

Defying environmentalists and public health advocates, the Trump administration on Thursday will announce the replacement of Obama-era water protections with a significantly weaker set of regulations that lifts limits on how much pollution can be dumped into small streams and wetlands. The changes to the Clean Water Act’s protections are expected to hit California and other Western states especially hard….In California, two out of three of the state’s freshwater streams could lose federal protection. Yet the state is better positioned than others to weather the changes. Waters that lose protection under the Trump rule will still be covered under California law.


Vineyards versus vernal pools: On Napa’s Atlas Peak, a neighbors’ dispute turns ugly [San Francisco Chronicle]

…As Napa Valley’s wine industry has developed in recent decades — with a grape crop valued at over $1 billion in 2018 — a vocal contingent of residents has criticized it. They insist that the onslaught of vineyard plantings has led to too many uprooted trees, too much displaced wildlife and too many contaminated water sources, as chemical sprays run off from vineyards into streams….The Atlas Peak troubles began in 2017 when vintner Igor Sill wanted to plant an additional 0.74 acres of grapevines at his 25-acre Sill Family Vineyards….Sill said his neighbor, the environmental activist Chris Malan, objected to the vineyard expansion because she believed it would destroy vernal pools


The danger in our salad bowls [Boston Globe]

…More than a year after the Thanksgiving outbreak, the E. coli threat is as real as it ever was, and the government still lacks the means, and maybe the will, to take it on, a six-month Globe review finds….In fact, leafy green vegetables now cause more E. coli outbreaks than any other food, including beef, but the government’s efforts to secure the safety of greens remains a pale shadow of its policing of red meat. The Globe review found that the FDA still sometimes seems more concerned with preventing panic than fully informing the public about health hazards in the food supply. Despite the growing number of outbreaks, the agency remains protective of the growers, taking little enforcement action and sometimes shielding growers suspected of causing outbreaks from bad publicity.


California’s monarch butterflies critically low for 2nd year [Associated Press]

The western monarch butterfly population wintering along California’s coast remains critically low for the second year in a row, a count by an environmental group released Thursday showed….Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in the Western United States due to the destruction of their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases….The monarch is now under government consideration for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The decision on whether the butterfly will be listed as threatened is expected by December.


California bill would make utilities pay some blackout costs [Associated Press]

Californians left in the dark by electric companies that shut off their power to prevent wildfires could get paid for things such as lost wages or spoiled food under a bill being considered in the Legislature….The bill would require investor-owned utilities to reimburse customers and local governments for some costs associated with blackouts. It would require an electric company’s shareholders — not its customers — to put money into a fund to reimburse customers within two weeks of a blackout….Others worry the bill would spook electric companies into being too cautious with blackouts, thus increasing the risk of deadly wildfires.


Untreatable fungal infections threatens local almond orchards [Bakersfield Californian]

…Researchers say ganoderma adspersum has been killing trees young and old across the southern Central Valley since it was first discovered in the area about five years ago….The researchers have reported that adspersum is the most damaging of the three types of fungi, killing trees as young as 4 years old….Spraying for the fungal disease has not proved effective, Ludwig said….With industry-funded research continuing, she said the best hope is that researchers will find a vulnerability within the fungus, possibly leading to a chemical or biological treatment.