Ag Today January 8, 2020

Judge: MID overcharged 122,000 electric customers to help farmers. What happens next? [Modesto Bee]

A judge has ruled in favor of two Modesto Irrigation District customers who allege the utility has overcharged its electric customers to provide a subsidy to its farm water prices….Beauchesne ruled the subsidy was an illegal tax under California law because the MID had not sought voter approval for electric customers to subsidize irrigation water customers. The second phase will consider the remedy, which could include the MID reimbursing its electricity customers for some of the years they were overcharged.


Newsom wants an extra $220 million for Salton Sea plan in upcoming California state budget [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year will include an additional $220 million for the Salton Sea Management Program, a 10-year plan to reduce the environmental and public health hazards plaguing the communities that surround the fast-drying body of water. The proposed increase, which would boost the state’s total commitment to $891 million over the duration of the program, comes after Imperial County in October declared a local state of emergency at the sea, which straddles Riverside and Imperial counties. The Imperial County Board of Supervisors forwarded their declaration to Newsom and said they hoped a state of emergency would pressure the state to begin the 10-year plan’s dust suppression and habitat projects, which have been beset by delays.


Opinion: Westlands backs governor’s Delta water [Bay Area News Group]

…Westlands and numerous other water agencies strongly support the governor’s efforts to develop voluntary agreements that include both flow and non-flow actions….On Nov. 21, 2019, the state announced, without explanation, that it had concluded new biological opinions issued by federal agencies to protect native fish under the Endangered Species Act are not scientifically adequate and would sue the federal agencies….It is true that on Dec. 10, 2019, Westlands’ general manager sent to representatives of the state an email that stated the threat of litigation would make it “impossible to reach a voluntary agreement,” but that same email encouraged the state to work with the federal agencies to resolve quickly, outside of a litigation context, the state’s concerns with the biological opinions….Simply put, the earlier the issues over the biological opinions are resolved, the sooner important discussions on voluntary agreements can resume.


Businesses try to roll with minimum wage increase [Bakersfield Californian]

…As of Wednesday, the state’s minimum wage is up another dollar per hour as California moves closer to its goal of a $15 per hour minimum in 2023….For local farmers, the wage increase is just the latest in a series of regulatory changes impacting agriculture. The Kern County Farm Bureau’s executive director, Ariana Joven, pointed to the new requirement that ag employers with more than 25 workers pay farmworkers overtime after nine hours in a single day or more than 50 hours in one workweek….John Moore III, a nut, citrus, carrot and potato grower in Arvin, said he can’t afford to bring on more people and will have to cut his workers’ hours.


Federal officials offer $2,500 reward for information about wolf shooting [Redding Record Searchlight]

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a reward up to $2,500 for information about the shooting of an endangered gray wolf in Modoc County in December 2018. Fish and wildlife spokesman John Heil said that a year after the wolf was shot the agency was running low on leads in the case and decided to seek help from the public by offering a reward for information. The wolf, known as OR-59, was originally from northeast Oregon but had traveled south, crossing into California in early December 2018, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Senate committee approves USMCA trade deal, timing of full Senate vote uncertain [Fox Business]

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement moved closer to a final vote in the Senate, with the Senate Finance Committee advancing the legislation Tuesday in a 25-3 vote. The timing of a vote in the full Senate is uncertain, however. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said a vote will come after an impeachment trial, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not yet sent the two articles of impeachment to the Senate….”This modernized trilateral trade agreement will open new markets for American exporters, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, grow the national economy and protect U.S. workers,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement.