Ag Today July 31, 2019

California farmers are planting solar panels as water supplies dry up [Los Angeles Times]

…Converting farmland to solar farms also could be critical to meeting California’s climate change targets. That’s according to a new report from the Nature Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit….One takeaway from the report, released this week: California will need hundreds or maybe thousands of square miles of solar power production in the coming decades — and it would make sense to build one-third to one-half of that solar capacity on agricultural lands, mostly within the state….California has plenty of farmland that could be converted to solar panels without harming the state’s $50-billion agriculture industry, clean energy advocates say. A previous report identified 470,000 acres of “least-conflict” lands in the San Joaquin Valley, where salty soil, poor drainage or otherwise less-than-ideal farming conditions could make solar an attractive alternative for landowners.


Slow progress in trade talks is partly a result of China’s new tactic to wait [Wall Street Journal]

Plodding progress in trade negotiations between the U.S. and China this week is partly the result of a new tactic from Beijing, which increasingly thinks waiting may produce a more-favorable agreement….In traveling to Shanghai, the U.S. team, led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, was hoping the Chinese side would commit to purchasing a defined quantity of American agricultural goods, people following the talks said. The White House later said in a statement that China confirmed its agriculture-purchase commitment but didn’t provide specifics. China’s Commerce Ministry said the need for the U.S. to “create favorable conditions” for such procurement was discussed.


California’s tariff-tired walnut farmers get relief from the U.S. government [Chico Enterprise-Record]

Last week, United States Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced funding for walnut growers impacted from recent trade wars with China regarding the tariff retaliations….Starting Monday, walnut farmers can apply for this money, according to Butte County Farm Bureau officials. Growers will need visit their local federal Farm Service Agency to register for the program, which runs through Dec. 6. Walnuts, almonds and rice continue to thrive as Butte County’s top three producers annually, said Colleen Cecil, Butte County Farm Bureau’s executive director. Cecil says she expects all of the local walnut growers will apply for the program.


Wolves kill two calves, wound three with tooth scrapes in California, officials say [McClatchy News Service]

Wolves killed two calves during separate Lassen County incidents this month in what wildlife officials are calling the largest wolf attack on livestock since the predators returned to California. The yearling cattle were killed by wolves on private land in western Lassen County, and three other cattle were found with tooth scrapes and other injuries, according to investigative reports from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife….State officials said in a July 23 news release confirming both wolf attacks that they appreciate “the enormous challenges associated with living with such an iconic species of predator and the impacts that are suffered by the owner of the calves.”


Wildfires prompt adoption of rule protecting California workers from smoky air [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

…As a direct result of that pollution, California employers are now required to protect all workers — except for those in closed buildings with filtered air — from wildfire smoke whenever the air is officially deemed unhealthy to breathe….Steve Dutton, a west Sonoma County grape grower, said he was fully supportive of the new rule. While most farm work can’t be moved inside and workers often can’t be moved away from smoky air, Dutton said he offered N95 masks to all of his employees in 2018 and during the October 2017 North Bay wildfires. “That’s what we do for sure,” said Dutton, who is president of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.


Editorial: Solving a work dilemma [Santa Maria Times]

As it turns out, the federal government’s H-2A guest worker rules established in 1986 remain a work in progress….It’s fairly evident that changes are needed. The California Farm Bureau surveyed more than 1,000 farmers earlier this year, and more than half said they were unable to fill their worker requirements in the previous five years….There are a lot of moving parts in this issue, and what seems to be lacking is any coordinated effort to better define immigration policy at the national level, and local policies that affect all parties.