Ag Today June 24, 2019

To reduce wildfires and save utilities, Newsom wants $10.5 billion from ratepayers [Los Angeles Times]

Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking the California Legislature to extend an existing charge on utility customers’ bills in hopes of generating $10.5 billion for a new wildfire fund, one that power companies could use to pay for fire damage — but only if they meet the state’s safety standards….Under pressure from Wall Street analysts to take action, the governor disclosed a broad outline Friday that seeks to shore up utility finances amid rising costs for wildfires…But Newsom’s advisors said they were confident that a fund coupled with a new safety certification process would stabilize the industry’s finances, ensure that wildfire victims can recoup losses and reduce fire risks.


PG&E owns land across California. What will happen to it? [San Francisco Chronicle]

…In the aftermath of PG&E’s 2001 bankruptcy, the company agreed, in exchange for financial relief, to protect or donate more than 140,000 acres of its land holdings, many of which encompass California’s key forests and watersheds. While the company would retain about two-thirds of the land, the rest was to be donated to public agencies and tribes….But PG&E’s second bankruptcy, which it entered into this year, casts a pall of uncertainty over what’s already been a difficult waiting game for prospective land stewards.


‘Centers of insurrection’: Central Valley farmers reckon with climate change [KQED, San Francisco]

…The climate in the Central Valley is, like that in other food-growing regions of the earth, bouncing on an unpredictable axis…Such volatility presents a particular challenge to the crops that have swept through the Valley over the last decade — namely, almonds and other tree crops….Last year, scientists at UC Merced published a paper in agronomy suggesting that the climatic shifts underway ultimately challenge the Central Valley’s long-term life span as an agricultural powerhouse….For the Central Valley, climate change is revealing the vulnerabilities of an industrial agriculture system that relies on predictability — which is rapidly unravelling — and shining a light on alternative growing practices that are potentially far more resilient to the onrushing changes.


Opinion: What if we paid farmers to fight global warming? [New York Times]

How we address an expanding list of crises related to global warming is the most demanding question of our day….A simple, cheap and relatively quick fix is to pay farmers and ranchers for environmental services. Not traditional government cost-share programs; we mean cut them a check when they provide measurable environmental services….Farmers would focus on five categories of practices to do this and generate collateral environmental and social benefits: conservation tillage; keeping roots in the ground all year (like using cover crops); using livestock for environmental services like managed grazing; adding crops into rotations; and producing renewable energy.


Water rich and storage poor, IID finds itself in a tough spot [Imperial Valley Press]

The good news for the Imperial Irrigation District is that farmers are doing a really good job conserving water. The bad news is that they’re doing such a good job the district has no place to store the surplus, meaning it’s facing paying for water it won’t be able to keep….That is not a sustainable business model, but the flip side of the coin is that farmers who participate in the program do their financial and crop planning with those conservation payments in mind, so they were understandably very interested in learning what IID intends.


Opinion: Groundwater markets pose a risk to communities on wells or small water systems [Fresno Bee]

…Groundwater is a vital resource, not only for irrigating crops, but also because it is what the overwhelming majority of Central Valley residents depend on for our tap water,…But groundwater markets are a huge risk to communities on private wells and small community water systems, which are sprinkled throughout the Valley and provide much of the labor force for our agribusinesses. If large farms are allowed to purchase as much water as they want from other farmers, they will lower the water table and again, communities will suffer.