Ag Today Monday, March 16, 2015

Ready to fight: Some growers unwilling to lose land for bullet train [Los Angeles Times]

…When the state chose to start construction of the high-speed rail in the Central Valley, it was based partly on the theory that assembling needed land would be easiest in the state’s rural backbone. As it turns out, some of the farmers most resistant to accepting state offers are proving to be wealthy, highly educated professionals and investors — and formidable opponents in negotiations. Whether the issues they are raising are valid or intended to drive up prices, their ability to hold out against early offers and threaten lengthy court battles poses costly risks of delay for a $68-billion project facing tight construction and spending deadlines….The Madera County Farm Bureau alleged in a legal filing in January that the rail authority reneged on commitments made in an earlier settlement to help farmers. Anja Radabaugh, executive director of the farm bureau, said, “Their appraisals aren’t compensating farmers. They are violating their agreements and robbing people blind
Sacramento Valley landowners are buying into Sites Reservoir plans [Chico Enterprise-Record]
It’s easy to give a nod of approval for a new reservoir in Northern California when chatting at the coffee shop. But these days farmers are being asked to support Sites Reservoir by opening up their checkbooks. They’re saying yes. So far, landowners in the Sacramento Valley have made commitments for 85,000 acre-feet of water if Sites Reservoir is built. Fritz Durst, chairman of the Sites Joint Powers Authority, expects that number to increase to about 120,000 acre-feet. Depending on how you do the math, that means Sacramento Valley landowners would pay for a third to more than half of the water from Sites, excluding the roughly half of the water dedicated to the environment.
Water reservoirs hitting record lows [Santa Maria Times]
In the face of an ongoing drought that has caused the number of applications for water wells to nearly triple, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will consider a moratorium on permits for new wells Tuesday….The report links the increase in applications for well permits to the ongoing drought that is affecting the entire state and the fact that water reservoirs are at record lows….Most of the applications for new water wells are coming from the Montecito area and are proposed to be used for irrigation, although three dozen private wells located within the Montecito Water District have failed due to increased demand for groundwater, according to district officials.
Editorial: Preserve our resources without destroying our region [Modesto Bee]
News flash: The state doesn’t want to ruin the Valley’s economy. News flash: Farmers don’t want to see our rivers die or salmon vanish. Why is it necessary to make such obvious statements? Because since the release of the state’s flawed environmental plan for the Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus rivers in 2012, the opposite beliefs have become dogma. It’s time to restart the conversation. Faced with outrage and rapidly organizing opposition, the state withdrew its 2012 Substitute Environmental Draft last year. A new one is expected “this spring.” In it, we hope for significant changes.
The peach farmer vs the labor union: Gerawan hearing finally finishes [CNBC]
After nearly six months of testimony, hearings in California on alleged unfair labor practices at America’s biggest peach grower finally closed on Thursday—and sparks flew all the way to the end of the hearing and beyond. As CNBC first reported in 2013, Gerawan Farming was surprised when the United Farm Workers (UFW) union resurfaced in 2012—after a 20-year absence—to demand negotiations on a labor contract for more than 3,000 farm workers at one of the world’s largest fruit growers. The hearings in the dispute started in September 2014 before Mark Soble, an administrative law judge with the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB). More than 130 witnesses were called over 105 days in Fresno, California, making it the longest ag labor hearing in state history. A decision is expected later this year.
Tomato plant virus could be making a comeback in San Joaquin Valley [Fresno Bee]
A plant virus that wrecked the central San Joaquin Valley’s tomato crop in 2013 could be making a comeback, experts say. Recent inspections in Fresno and Kings counties have turned up a high number of beet leafhoppers, the insect responsible for spreading beet curly top virus. The virus is a nasty disease that causes plant leaves to curl, leading to stunted growth and poor yields. It also can be deadly to seedlings. “We are not ringing the alarm bells and telling people not to plant if they don’t have to,” said Chuck Rivara, director of the California Tomato Research Institute. “But we are worried.”…As a result, the state is treating hot spots in Fresno and Kings counties where the beet leafhopper counts are extremely high.
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