Ag Today June 17, 2021

Climate change batters the West before summer even begins [New York Times]

… Global warming, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, has been heating up and drying out the American West for years. Now the region is broiling under a combination of a drought that is the worst in two decades and a record-breaking heat wave. … The drought has forced farmers to take drastic measures. … “We’ve been through droughts. This is one of the driest we can remember,” said Dan Errotabere, 66, whose family has grown fruits, vegetables and nuts near Fresno for a century. … Many California farmers are already using micro-irrigation, drip hoses and other water conservation methods. “We’ve stretched every drop,” said Bill Diedrich, a fourth-generation farmer in Fresno County.


Regulators approve emergency rules to allow halt of Russian River diversions for thousands of water right holders [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

… The 5-0 vote of the State Water Resources Control Board late Tuesday came over the objections raised by agricultural interests and allies who argued the new rule was too blunt a tool to use to address the worsening drought. Hundreds of Sonoma and Mendocino county grape growers, ranchers, rural residents and even some municipal suppliers are on notice that they could have their rights suspended under the move. … Farming interests have pushed for more detailed hydrological data from the watershed. They also questioned the methodology used to calculate the source of water in the river and user demand basin-wide.


Editorial: State restrictions reflect urgent need to conserve water [Bay Area News Group]

… Bay Area water agencies should be imposing mandatory water restrictions on users now. … California also needs to conserve every drop of water possible to ensure needed supply for urban and agriculture users and protect against further destruction to critical Delta wildlife habitat. … To be sure, while urban and suburban users urgently need to conserve, agriculture irrigation remains the biggest drain, sucking up about 75% of California’s available water supply. The state should reject any further demands from farmers for additional supply, since it would come at the expense of the fish and other wildlife living in rivers and streams that feed the Delta.


No more masks for vaccinated California farmworkers? ‘Too soon,’ some advocates say [Fresno Bee]

Labor rights organizations are raising concerns about a California agency’s proposal to ease some COVID-19 workplace safety regulations for most industries. … While the agency has proposed requiring healthcare employees to follow existing COVID-19 workplace rules, which include mask-wearing at the workplace, enforced social distancing and cleaning and disinfection protocols, other industries — including agricultural and food processing workers — would no longer be required to do so for all of its workers. … But labor organizations and workers’ rights advocates are concerned the new rules could leave unvaccinated farmworkers unprotected and put them at higher risk of contracting the virus again.


Santa Maria City Council repeals H-2A housing ordinance, agrees to HUD terms in split vote [Santa Maria Times]

The city of Santa Maria narrowly escaped entering a costly legal battle with the federal government Tuesday, when the City Council agreed in a split 3-2 vote to repeal a controversial H-2A ordinance. “We are being punished for doing what I think was a good job on the part of this council,” said Councilman Mike Cordero, referencing the months spent creating the 2019 H-2A housing ordinance that requires agricultural employers to obtain discretionary permits to house H-2A workers in single-family areas. … Had members not chosen to repeal the ordinance and implement provisions such as increased fair housing resources, they would have faced a $400,000 fine and potential litigation.


Lumber prices are falling fast, turning hoarders into sellers [Wall Street Journal]

… The rapid decline suggests a bubble that has burst and the question is how low lumber prices will fall. Even after tumbling, lumber futures remain nearly three times what is typical for this time of year. Lumber producers and traders expect that prices will remain relatively high due to the strong housing market, but that the supply bottlenecks and frenzied buying that characterized the economy’s reopening and sent prices to multiples of the old all-time highs are winding down.


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