Ag Today June 13, 2019

Trump’s wildfire plan eases environmental law to speed forest thinning in California [McClatchy News Service]

The Trump administration is proposing new regulations it argues could help prevent wildfires — but could also open up more federal land to logging and mineral exploration. The U.S. Forest Service released proposed regulatory changes Wednesday that would exempt several new types of forest management projects from the typical review process under the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA. The changes are part of an ongoing push by the Trump administration to speed forest management projects — things like clearing brush, removing dead trees and thinning smaller trees from overgrown forests.


Are bees fish? The courts may have to decide in California [Bloomberg Environment]

The California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-1 June 12 to move forward with a petition to list the Crotch, Franklin’s, Western, and Suckley cuckoo bumblebees as endangered. The move triggers a year-long review. If listed under the California Endangered Species Act, the bees would be the first pollinators and insects added. Pesticide restrictions, grazing rules, and other habitat protections could then be ordered. But the courts will likely get involved….Insects aren’t specifically cited as eligible for listing—but supporters of the permit said they fall under the definition of fish, which includes invertebrates.


Parched US Southwest gets reprieve as snowmelt fills rivers [Associated Press]

A welcome surge of melting snow is pouring out of the Rocky Mountains and into the drought-stricken rivers of the southwestern U.S., fending off a water shortage but threatening to push rivers over their banks. Last winter brought above-average snowfall to much of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, so an abundance of snowmelt is rushing into the Colorado River, the Rio Grande and other waterways after a desperately dry 2018….The influx into Powell will allow the Bureau of Reclamation to send enough water downstream into Lake Mead in Arizona and Nevada to avoid a possible water shortage there. Arizona, California and Nevada rely heavily on the reservoir.


Supervisors pony up $5 million to kickstart Santa Clara County farmland preservation effort [San Jose Mercury News]

A new initiative to preserve farmland in Santa Clara County will get a modest start, after county supervisors approved spending nearly $5 million to prevent some of it from being sold for development….In January, the Board of Supervisors approved a new agricultural easement program that calls for buying up easements — known as development rights — on farmland at risk of being paved over….The $5 million is only a fraction the $500 million that an agricultural task force estimated the program ultimately could cost, or $20 million annually for the next 25 years.


Santa Maria is close to passing an H-2A housing ordinance, but the issue isn’t settled yet [Santa Maria Sun]

…Over the last decade, the agricultural industry has increasingly turned to the federal temporary guest worker program to supplement its labor supply….According to the city’s best estimates, in fiscal year 2016-17, about 1,700 guest workers were housed in Santa Maria;…“Unfortunately, we are kind of at the forefront. Not a lot of cities in California have had to deal with this like we have,” Sinco said….Santa Barbara County is working on loosening the permitting restrictions for housing workers in agriculturally zoned areas, but it’s not easy to build housing on ag land.


Fighting Ag crime with SmartWater [Fresno Business Journal]

…Tulare County Sheriff’s officials figure they’ve found a way to put a dent in agricultural crime. Since January 2017, the sheriff’s department has been handing out to farmers and ranchers sample bottles of SmartWater, which isn’t actually water, but rather a clear mineral solution and adhesive that can be applied to most anything that can be stolen, from tractors to tools to vehicle parts to all-terrain vehicles, along with office equipment and computers that also can be targeted in thefts at farming operations….The Madera County Farm Bureau put up $50,000 last year to buy SmartWater bottles for its members, along with UV flashlights and larger lights for the Madera County Sheriff’s Department and police in Madera and Coalinga.