Ag Today March 29, 2019

U.S. sues California over river flow standards [Los Angeles Times]

The federal government Thursday added to the pile of lawsuits challenging new state requirements to boost river flows in order to help struggling fish populations. The U.S. Department of the Interior, which manages California’s largest irrigation supply project, argues that the flow standards will interfere with its operation of the New Melones Dam and reservoir on the Stanislaus River. The federal complaint, filed in both state and federal court, is the 11th lawsuit launched against the State Water Resources Control Board since it voted in December to require greater flows in the Stanislaus and two other tributaries of the San Joaquin River.


A nemesis of California environmentalists gains new powers, but also new foes [McClatchy News Service]

Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a former lobbyist and frequent foe of California environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of the department….Among those now in position to lead the charge against Bernhardt: a cadre of California Democrats in Washington.


Editorial: The Salton Sea is a disaster in the making. California isn’t doing anything to stop it [Los Angeles Times]

California’s largest internal body of water is steadily drying up, exposing a lake bed that threatens to trigger toxic dust storms and exacerbate already high levels of asthma and other respiratory diseases in Southern California. Yet there is something about the Salton Sea that leads many lawmakers to ignore the urgency and put off remediation programs….Both California and the feds have to do better than this — especially if they want to encourage agreements such as the one that makes Imperial Valley farmers more water-wise while keeping San Diego residents from deep rationing.


California farmers and scientists race to combat a citrus disease infecting trees [Los Angeles Times]

…This month, more than 500 scientists from around the world gathered in Riverside at the sixth International Research Conference on Huanglongbing, meeting in California for the first time. Their findings show that although the disease is spreading rapidly in the Southland and no breakthrough is imminent, a host of new detection methods and strategies could help California avert the kind of disaster that destroyed almost three quarters of Florida’s citrus production….Until now California has avoided painful losses from HLB, but that may be changing.


Farmers who disputed frog-focused habitat lose suit [Courthouse News Service]

Nearly 2 million acres designated as critical habitat for three imperiled frog species survived a court challenge Wednesday by California farmers. The Fish and Wildlife Service had designated the land in 2016 under the Endangered Species Act to protect two high-altitude species — the mountain yellow-legged frog and the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog — as well as Yosemite toads. But the California Cattlemen’s Association, the California Wool Growers Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation filed suit a year later, saying the designation severely burdened ranchers and farmers in the area.


Many California asparagus farmers calling it quits [KTXL TV, Sacramento]

It’s considered one of the cash crops in San Joaquin County but now several farmers are throwing in the towel when it comes to asparagus because it’s too expensive. Jeff Klein, the president of Klein Family Farms, is one of the last asparagus farmers standing in California….The farmer says a number of factors have driven up the labor-intensive crop, such as crew shortages and costs….”In the past year, I know of six growers who have thrown in the towel,” said Dan Miller, the director of field operations for produce shipping company Jacobs Malcolm and Burtt. Miller says Delta farmers can’t compete with the cheaper costs of Mexican asparagus.