Ag Today, November 15, 2021

‘An unfixed problem’: Family farmer says ending illegal dumping requires more than cleanup [Bakersfield Californian]

Longtime family farmer Tom Pavich is faced with cleaning up yet another illegal dumpsite on his farm east of Bakersfield where, instead of hauling trash and junk to the Bena landfill, someone decided to use Pavich’s land as their own personal dump site. It’s an ongoing problem, he said, not just for him but for growers throughout the valley and rural areas across the county. “Every appliance in your house, I’ve seen it,” he said. “I get a couple of cars a year, torched.” … “You have hit on a topic that seems to be a symptom of what is defining our world today,” Kern County Public Works Director Craig Pope told The Californian in an email. … “Unfortunately, illegal dumping is a persistent problem for local area farmers and ranchers, both large and small,” said Romeo Agbalog, executive director of the Kern County Farm Bureau. “Illegal dumping violates private property rights by means of trespass, creates hazards and safety concerns for farm employees, it adds to the cost of doing business, and brings blight to our community,” he said in an email.


Crunch at ports may mean crisis for American farms [The New York Times]

It’s just 60 miles from El Dorado Dairy in Ontario, Calif., to the nation’s largest container port in Los Angeles. But the farm is having little luck getting its products onto a ship headed for the foreign markets that are crucial to its business. The farm is part of one of the nation’s largest cooperatives, California Dairies Inc., which manufactures milk powder for factories in Southeast Asia and Mexico that use it to make candy, baby formula and other foods. The company typically ships 50 million pounds of its milk powder and butter out of ports each month. But roughly 60 percent of the company’s bookings on outbound vessels have been canceled or deferred in recent months, resulting in about $45 million in missed revenue per month. “This is not just a problem, it’s not just an inconvenience, it’s catastrophic,” said Brad Anderson, the chief executive of California Dairies. … The same congestion at U.S. ports and shortage of truck drivers that have brought the flow of some goods to a halt have also left farmers struggling to get their cargo abroad and fulfill contracts before food supplies go bad. Ships now take weeks, rather than days, to unload at the ports, and backed-up shippers are so desperate to return to Asia to pick up more goods that they often leave the United States with empty containers rather than wait for American farmers to fill them up.


As infections rise, the San Joaquin Valley becomes the land of the eternal COVID surge [Los Angeles Times]

In Fresno County, understaffed hospitals have been so clogged that ambulance crews have stopped transporting people unless they have a life-threatening emergency. In Tulare County, a Visalia hospital — which has been treating more COVID-19 patients in recent days than any other medical facility in the state — declared an internal disaster last week on a day 51 patients in the emergency room waited for a bed to open up. And this week, sparsely populated Kings County, which has one of California’s lowest vaccination rates, had one of the state’s highest per capita COVID-19 hospitalization rates. Over the last year and a half, the rural, agricultural San Joaquin Valley has been a perpetual hot spot for the virus — the land of the eternal COVID-19 surge. … Hernan Hernandez, executive director of the Delano-based California Farmworker Foundation, argued that more employee mandates are needed in the San Joaquin Valley, especially among agricultural workers and Latinos, who have been disproportionately affected.


$1 billion project to expand major Bay Area reservoir gains momentum [East Bay Times]

The rolling hills and ranchlands of eastern Contra Costa County are known for wineries, cattle ranches, wind turbines and growing subdivisions. But soon they may be known for something else: The biggest new water storage project in the Bay Area in years. And now, amid the current drought, nearly every major water agency in the region wants a piece of it. The Contra Costa Water District is moving closer to breaking ground on plans to expand Los Vaqueros Reservoir, south of Brentwood, by raising the reservoir’s earthen dam by 56 feet, to 287 feet high. That would make it the second tallest dam in the Bay Area, eclipsed only by Warm Springs Dam on Lake Sonoma near Healdsburg, which is 319 feet high. Construction, slated to begin in late 2023 and finish by 2030, would expand Los Vaqueros from its current 160,000 acre-feet capacity to 275,000 acre-feet, enough water when full for the annual needs of 1.4 million people.


Santa Barbara County wins Wine Region of Year Award from Wine Enthusiast magazine [Santa Maria Times]

If Santa Barbara County’s 2021 wine grape harvest produces the exceptionally high quality that vintners and industry experts are expecting, it will add more veracity to the county’s selection for the Wine Region of the Year Award from Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Described as a “wine lover’s paradise,” the county beat out California’s Lake County as well as Marlborough, New Zealand; Provence, France; and Western Cape, South Africa, to capture the prize for the best wine region in Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Star Award program. Santa Barbara County rose to the top due, in part, to the many varietals produced in its diverse microclimates owing to its unique geography — valleys that run west to east, rather than north to south, thus allowing the inflow of cool Pacific air to moderate temperatures that at times can reach into double digits. … Its leadership in sustainability as home to some of the country’s first organic and regenerative vineyards, the higher proportion of women winemakers here than any other region in the state and wineries’ increasing support for farmworkers through special bottlings and scholarships were also cited in the selection.


Opinion: How ag’s footprint has changed since the last drought [Bakersfield Californian]

In the world of farming, not all crops are equal. That is starkly apparent when looking at how crops changed in the central and southern San Joaquin Valley since the beginning of the last drought, according to county crop reports. While most counties saw reductions in overall harvested acres between 2012 and 2020, they also saw sharp increases in permanent crop acreage — particularly almond and pistachio trees. Almond and pistachio acreage increased by 584,387 acres across Kern, Kings, Tulare, Madera and Fresno counties between 2012 and 2020 (2019 for Fresno County, which has not yet released its 2020 crop report). … Crop reports show prices per ton of nuts averaged $4,000 last year compared to about $1,700 per ton of fresh table grapes, which are the area’s next most prolific high-value crop. That doesn’t mean 584,387 acres of “new” ground was planted in orchards as trees often took the place of existing crops such as alfalfa and tomatoes. In fact, the region lost a total of 178,504 harvested acres overall, according to crop reports.


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