Ag Today June 23, 2021

Supreme Court rules California farms can keep union organizers off private land [Los Angeles Times]

The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down part of a historic California law inspired by Cesar Chavez and the farm workers union, ruling that agricultural landowners and food processors have a right to keep union organizers off their property. The justices by a 6-3 vote said the state’s “right of access” rule violates property rights protected by the Constitution, which states private property shall not be “taken for public use without just compensation.” Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said “the access regulation is not germane to any benefit provided to agricultural employers or any risk posed to the public.”

Supreme Court says California farms can restrict union access – Los Angeles Times (


California’s new overtime laws may tank its sheep industry. That’s bad for wildfire season [KMPH TV, Fresno]

Starting January 1st, 2022, overtime laws for agricultural workers are going to change. That now lumps in people in the sheep, goat, and lamb industries. They’ll have to start paying herders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. … People who own sheep ranching companies say it would tank their business, forcing them to lay off workers, reduce their business size, or risk going out of business entirely. … Over 100 local lawmakers recently signed on to an open letter to Governor Gavin Newsom about this very issue. They cited a survey from the Fresno County Farm Bureau that found the law would cause a third of the industry to go out of business entirely.


Editorial: This is why proposed Stanislaus River water sale makes good sense [Modesto Bee]

State water officials should approve a plan to sell up to 100,000 acre-feet of Stanislaus River water to thirsty buyers on the Valley’s west side and south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. … Unfortunately, the Bureau — which operates New Melones Dam and controls releases — is a formidable opponent. … The Water Resources Control Board should recognize the public value in moving water from places that have it to places that don’t, especially in a bruising drought. It’s good policy, it benefits all involved and it makes sense.


Riverside County board moves forward on fee lands amendment [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors moved forward unanimously Tuesday with a general plan amendment that involves fee lands in unincorporated parts of the region. As defined by the county, fee lands constitute parcels of land within a tribal reservation’s boundaries that are not owned by the tribe or tribal members — in other words, privately-owned reservation land within the county’s land-use jurisdiction. Supervisor Jeff Hewitt has called the parcels a “gray area.” The amendment would assign those fee lands an “agricultural” designation, which staff says would lead to shorter processing times and reduced application fees for most simple residential or agricultural developments. It would also emphasize collaboration between tribes and the county, and ensure that new proposed development is consistent with surrounding land-use plans, according to a staff report.


Racism, drought and history: Young Native Americans fight back as water disappears [Los Angeles Times]

…For decades, an agonizing war over a scarce resource — water — has divided indigenous people and the descendants of settlers of this region, which like much of the American West, is now plagued by drought. Family farmers often describe the conflict as one that pits them against federal bureaucrats who protect the suckerfish, imperiled as the lake grows more inhospitable. That portrayal, say members of the tribes, dismisses a tougher truth….This year, the conflict is more intense than before, with a faction of far-right activists threatening to use force to take control of the irrigation gates that determine how much water stays in the lake, and how much goes to farm fields. The lake, about a hundred miles around, received little snow melt and is shallow enough to walk across in places. Later this summer, as in past years, it is likely to be too hot and toxic for the c’waam and another variety of federally protected suckerfish, the koptu, to spawn and survive. To ward off extinction, federal regulators have cut off every drop that normally flows from the lake to fields — but are still providing huge pulses of water to help another protected variety of fish, a salmon, down river. Native Americans don’t control the water but hold senior legal rights to it through a treaty that guarantees them the ability to hunt, gather and fish on the land of their ancestors. They’ve long argued that poor lake conditions are decimating the fish and their government-given rights.

Racial tension builds in Klamath Tribes water, drought crisis – Los Angeles Times (


These parts of California are most vulnerable to drought [San Francisco Chronicle]

…California’s last drought, which lasted from 2011 to 2017, was particularly hard on rural communities and small water suppliers, state officials say. In 2016, the California legislature passed a law tasking the state’s Department of Water Resources to identify the most vulnerable communities and make recommendations to help them plan for emergencies. As part of that effort, the state quantified the risk levels of about 5,000 rural communities and 2,400 small water systems, along with the specific factors that make them vulnerable to water shortage and drought. The Chronicle’s analysis of that data shows that California’s most socially disadvantaged and under-resourced communities are most at risk, and that this is true in all regions….The farming communities of Sultana and Orosi in Tulare County were the rural areas identified as having the highest risk scores at 99.8 and 97.7 respectively (on a scale of 0-100). Sultana, which has just over 1,000 people, the average household income is $32,500, less than half of the national average. Orosi has a population of about 8,300 people, and has even lower incomes at $26,400.

These parts of California are most vulnerable to drought (


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