Ag Today March 19, 2019

Western drought deal is a go, without IID and as Salton Sea clean-up remains stalled [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1 Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan, which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years because of an exceptionally wet winter. The process was fractious until the very end, with blistering rebukes from the river’s largest water user, and charges that state and federal laws were possibly being violated to cross the finish line. The Imperial Irrigation District, a sprawling rural water district in the southeastern corner of California, refused to sign on until the federal government pledged to provide $200 million to clean up the Salton Sea, which has not occurred.


One increasingly popular way to control floods: Let the water come [KQED, San Francisco]

…For much of the last century, standard practice in California has been to channelize rivers, choking off high flows from their natural floodplains, in an effort to protect crops and cities. But that convention is evolving. In his state-of-the state address this February, Governor Gavin Newsom vowed to expand floodplain habitat in the Central Valley….Although floodplains take land out of commission for growing crops or raising livestock, some people hope restored floodplains will benefit agriculture in the long run as a natural water storage system.


‘Tariff loophole’ blamed in $40 million loss to olive farmers in Tulare County [Visalia Times-Delta]

…Tulare County olive growers are reeling after Bell-Carter, a major California table-olive processor, terminated contracts to buy fruit from orchards across the state without notice….The impacts of Bell-Carter’s move will reverberate throughout Tulare County’s ag industry and across the country, growers and ag leaders said….”The impacts to our local economy will be felt by many, including the olive growers who have lost their processing contracts, and the 1,500 estimated farm workers who could find their annual income severely impacted by the loss of the harvest work that is traditionally done in September and October when olive picking occurs,” said Tricia Stever Blattler, Tulare County Farm Bureau executive director.


Delano-area grape grower plans downsizing, land sale to Wonderful [Bakersfield Californian]

Well-known Kern County grape grower Vincent B. Zaninovich & Sons Inc. will close a substantial share of its business after negotiating to sell land in the Delano area to Los Angeles-based ag giant The Wonderful Co. There was no suggestion the downsizing resulted directly from Wonderful’s move to purchase an undisclosed share of about 6,000 acres VBZ owns near Delano. Richgrove-based VBZ announced Monday it will soon cut up to 542 jobs in Kern and Tulare counties. Separately, Wonderful, which does not grow grapes, confirmed it will purchase some of VBZ’s land.


Flooding hits Nebraska and Iowa’s agriculture industries [Wall Street Journal]

Nebraska’s agricultural sector could be facing nearly a billion dollars in damage and losses after a blizzard and record flooding across the Midwest, according to early estimates from state and industry officials….Rivers remained high across the Upper Midwest Monday, as nearly nine million people in 14 states were under a flood warning, according to a National Weather Service spokeswoman….Officials estimate Nebraska’s agricultural industries are losing about $1 million a day, as they deal with logistical issues, given inundated properties and road closures. Flooding is also expected to impede farmers’ ability to plant next year’s feed crops.


Getting real about rural America [New York Times]

…There are powerful forces behind the relative and in some cases absolute economic decline of rural America — and the truth is that nobody knows how to reverse those forces….In 1950 U.S. agriculture directly employed more than six million people; these farmers supported a network of small towns providing local services, and some of these small towns served as seeds around which various specialized industries grew….Since then, however, while America’s population has doubled, the number of farmers has fallen by two-thirds….And politically, rural America is increasingly a world apart.