Ag Today January 30, 2019

Just days left to avert Colorado River water crisis. Can states make a deal? [KQED, San Francisco]

Avoiding a long-expected crisis on the Colorado River, a water source for 40 million people, is coming down to a final few days of frenzied negotiations. A 19-year drought and decades of overuse have put a water shortfall on the horizon. If California and six other states, all with deeply entrenched interests, can’t agree on a plan to cut their water consumption by Jan. 31, the federal government says it will step in and decide the river’s future….If farmers, cities and water districts can agree to conserve water now, it would mark a new era of cooperation.


As China trade talks begin, Trump faces pressure to make a deal [Wall Street Journal]

As the U.S. and China resume high-level trade talks Wednesday, President Trump sees himself with the upper hand given China’s lagging economic growth, but there is pressure for Mr. Trump and his administration to cut a deal too. Chinese tariffs imposed to counter U.S. levies are unpopular with leading business groups and have hit regions and constituencies that Mr. Trump counts among his staunchest supporters, including soybean farmers in the Great Plains, auto workers in the Midwest and oil-industry workers in the Dakotas and Texas. In a measure of the issue’s significance, Mr. Trump mentioned China 18 times in a speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual conference two weeks ago, offering assurances that a deal was within reach.


California seeks faster forestry approvals in wildfire fight [Associated Press]

California wildland managers said Tuesday that they want to speed up logging and prescribed burns designed to slow wildfires that have devastated communities in recent years. After the deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history, officials are scrapping 12 years of efforts and starting anew on creating a single environmental review process to cover projects on private land, such as cutting back dense stands of trees and setting controlled fires to burn out thick brush….California’s strict environmental laws require individual reviews of projects to determine if they will be harmful, but some elected officials of both political parties say the laws have been used to slow necessary improvements. Environmental groups are already predicting lawsuits over the new policy.


Area congressmen introduce flood insurance for farmers act [Woodland Daily Democrat]

Congressmen John Garamendi and Doug LaMalfa have reintroduced legislation to provide farmers access to discounted rates under the National Flood Insurance Program. The  bipartisan Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of 2019 (H.R.830) would also lift the de facto federal prohibition on construction and repair of agricultural structures in high flood-risk areas designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency….“Agriculture is one of the most beneficial uses for land in a floodplain, and the bill reintroduced by Reps. Garamendi and LaMalfa would help family farmers and ranchers address some of the challenges they face,” said Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.


Napa’s Board of Supervisors swamped with public comments over vineyard development rules [Napa Valley Register]

Napa County supervisors finally had their say on how to balance oak and watershed protections with new vineyard development after hearing plenty of passionate, conflicting advice from the public….Many of the community disagreements come down to how many oaks to protect and how far to keep new vineyards and other development away from streams and city reservoirs….The Napa County Farm Bureau, Winegrowers of Napa County and Coalition Napa Valley suggested keeping the present law without extending protections beyond the municipal watersheds.


Santa Clara County supervisors approve spending $20 million to start farm preservation program [Bay Area News Group]

Santa Clara County supervisors Tuesday unanimously agreed to spend $20 million to start a program that aims to prevent farmland from being sold to developers….The county already has a $100,000 state grant to begin developing the so-called Agricultural Conservation Easement (ACE) program, which targets 12,000 acres of farmland at high risk of being converted to other uses, largely in Coyote Valley, Morgan Hill and San Martin….The goal of the program is to not only preserve agricultural land for farmers and workers, but also strengthen the regional food supply, protect open space and reduce greenhouse gases, according to the agricultural plan.