Ag Today March 30, 2021

US departments urged to become year-round wildfire agencies [Associated Press]

California’s U.S. senators and nearly two-dozen representatives asked the Agriculture and Interior departments on Monday to transition their agencies to a year-round wildland workforce because blazes are no longer limited to traditional fire seasons. The move would require reclassifying more seasonal federal firefighter positions as permanent, said a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. … The letter signed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and 21 members of Congress notes that 57% of forest land in California is owned by the U.S. government.


Panetta introduces bills to thwart collapse of butterflies [Santa Cruz Sentinel]

Congressman Jimmy Panetta announced on Saturday the introduction of a pair of bills that would study, fund and protect the Western Monarch butterfly population, a species on a fast road to extinction and which are important to the cities of Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz. … “We don’t want to lose this important pollinator for our crops and this icon of our communities,” Panetta said. … The legislation would authorize $62.5 million for projects aimed at conserving the western monarch and an additional $62.5 million to implement the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan, which was prepared by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in January 2019.


Wandering wolf arrives in pastoral San Benito County [Bay Area News Group]

This week, the extraordinary journey of a gray wolf from western Oregon took a startling twist: the animal crossed the Central Valley’s busy Interstate 5 and arrived in pastoral San Benito County over the weekend, just south of the crowded San Francisco Bay Area. … He likely crossed Interstate 5 at night, when there is less traffic, said Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. … Biologists will continue to monitor the peripatetic animal.


Drivers are returning to the road. That is good news for corn growers [Wall Street Journal]

Corn prices have hit their highest levels in almost eight years. Analysts say they are likely to get a further boost from motorists. Drivers returning to the road are expected to lift demand for ethanol. About 40% of the U.S. corn crop goes to producing the gasoline additive, and consumption has plunged amid the pandemic. … Corn prices have already climbed about 50% over the past six months, lifted by increased demand from China.


Opinion: The 2021 drought is already an emergency [Bakersfield Californian]

… Through water conservation, groundwater banking and innovative water transfers, the farmers and residents of Kern County have done a good job preparing for years when the state can only provide 5 percent of the water supply we need. But Kern County’s families, farms and businesses also need state agencies to have the flexibility to make additional water supplies available through a drought emergency declaration. No amount of local planning will make up for a 5 percent water supply allocation without the flexibility provided to state agencies by a drought emergency declaration from Gov. Newsom.


Opinion: Strong state oversight needed to ensure California’s wetlands are protected [CalMatters]

… Birds migrating through the Central Valley today must rely on scattered patches of wetlands across a landscape of agriculture and urban development. … State oversight is needed by the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board to ensure that California’s last, precious wetlands are protected in the process of long-overdue water management fixes. As local groundwater sustainability agencies implement groundwater allocations to curb overpumping, managed wetlands that rely on groundwater need consideration as a public trust resource, and the state should ensure they have adequate water supplies.


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