Ag Today June 14, 2019

What’s the California Legislature doing about wildfires? Not much yet [Sacramento Bee]

When the Camp Fire destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people last year, California legislative leaders vowed to make wildfires their top priority when they returned to work in December 2018….But midway through 2019, California lacks a comprehensive plan to deal with the growing threat….A few dozen bills are under consideration, but few have been signed, as lawmakers seek to juggle the interests of ratepayers, utilities and insurance companies. Experts warn of major consequences if the state doesn’t act quickly to update wildfire liability standards, stabilize homeowner insurance costs, encourage residents to make their homes more fire resistant and create a fund that balances the needs of ratepayers, utility companies and wildfire victims.


One in 4 Californians live in a ‘high risk’ wildfire area. Is the state ready for another fire season? [Los Angeles Times]

…On the heels of the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season in state history, officials across California are growing increasingly anxious over what many fear will be another one. Fire experts and climatologists warn that the heavy rains of recent months produced an excess of vegetation, which over the hot summer will become dry fuel….For all the urgency local and state officials are bringing into fire preparations this year, their methods for reducing the risks are nothing new….But a growing chorus of environmental advocates and some former fire officials are urging the state to shift its wildfire strategy to one that “starts from the home outward.”


Late rain and heat create cherry season disaster [KOVR-TV, Sacramento]

Rain, hail, and then sun. The unusual spring weather has nearly wiped out this year’s cherry crop….Now the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau is planning to request a disaster declaration for cherry farmers. For Linden cherry farmer Jim Ferrari, his money does grow on trees. And this is money wasted. The molded cherries represent a missed opportunity for what was going to be a record harvest.


1 dead, another treated after hazmat spill in Merced County [KFSN-TV, Fresno]

One person is dead and was treated following a hazmat spill in the Los Banos area….Crews have not yet given details about the chemical that was spilled in the accident….Investigators were on scene for hours, and while deputies aren’t releasing the chemical involved just yet, they say it’s agriculture related….Ryan Jacobsen with the Fresno County Farm Bureau said they’re also waiting to hear more on the investigation, but that circumstances like these are rare.


Santa Rosa Plain groundwater fees OK’d, but residents and businesses won’t pay for 3 years [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

A new era of groundwater regulation in Sonoma County is set to begin next month, with fees assessed on farmers, businesses and rural residents. They won’t have to pay those fees for at least three years, because municipal water users will foot the $305,655 bill over that initial period….The money will go to cover agency operations and development of the sustainability plan….The plan approved has generated pushback from rural groundwater users, who contend costs should be redistributed to fall heavier on large users like wine grape vineyards.


Roundup is embroiled in cancer cases. Now its maker is putting $5.6 billion toward a new kind of weedkiller. [Washington Post]

Bayer, the crop science and chemicals giant, said it would invest more than $5.6 billion in weedkiller research and trim its environmental impact — a move that follows three consecutive jury verdicts involving one of its top-selling herbicides….Bayer has been entangled in litigation over claims that Roundup causes cancer, even while the company has consistently defended the safety of glyphosate and Roundup….Billions of dollars for weedkiller research, plus a pledge to reduce the company’s environmental footprint by 30 percent through 2030, signaled more than a research and policy change. It also signaled a shift in tone for Bayer.