Ag Today November 5, 2019

Does a rain-free October signal a return to drought in California? [Los Angeles Times]

“There are 200 different definitions of drought,” said climatologist Bill Patzert….Southern California got no rain during October, and it was desiccated by super-dry Santa Ana winds….According to the Drought Monitor, almost one-fifth of California is either abnormally dry or in moderate drought, as of the end of October….Drought is all in your definition, said Patzert, a retired climatologist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. Although the reservoirs are generally pretty full, he says he looks at conditions in the wildlands and forests, and after almost no rain for the last seven months, “It’s not just dry, it’s incendiary.”


Study: Alien grasses are making more frequent US wildfires [Associated Press]

For much of the United States, invasive grass species are making wildfires more frequent, especially in fire-prone California, a new study finds….The study in Monday’s journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looks at the connections between a dozen species of invasive grasses and fires nationwide, finding fires occur more often in places with the non-native grasses. But the study did not find a link between invasive grasses and the size of the fires. Four of these species, including cheatgrass and common Mediterranean grass, are in California.


Have California’s renewable energy mandates hampered wildfire prevention efforts? [San Diego Union-Tribune]

While California prides itself on its array of clean energy programs, large portions of the Golden State have been set ablaze and more than 2 million customers — the vast majority living in Pacific Gas & Electric’s service territory — have had their power shut off in the past month to reduce the chances of utility equipment sparking wildfires. Is the increased spending state policymakers have earmarked for renewable energy integration eating into the dollars utilities need to spend to harden their infrastructure and clear clogged forests? That’s at the heart of legislation two Republican members of the California Legislature say they will soon introduce.


Cream cheese tea? Milk prices soar as Chinese get a taste for dairy [Wall Street Journal]

Milk prices are climbing around the globe and have reached multiyear highs, driven in part by a surprising surge in demand from China….Milk products traditionally haven’t been a big part of Chinese cuisine, but people in China are drinking more milk, reaching for cream-laden desserts, and incorporating cheese into everyday foods such as spring rolls and glutinous rice balls. Wholesale prices of skim-milk powder, a common ingredient in commercially produced ice cream, chocolate, cakes and breads, have risen by 26% to 47% in the U.S., Europe and Oceania in the past year.


E.U. defends farm subsidy program exploited by autocrats [New York Times]

European Union officials, questioned about new revelations of corruption and exploitation of the bloc’s farm subsidies, said Monday that outright fraud was very rare and that auditors swiftly rooted it out. But they also acknowledged that law enforcement often fell to the same national leaders who warp the system — and benefit from it….The responses at a daily news briefing came after a lengthy New York Times investigation that showed how oligarchs, populist leaders and their families had made millions of dollars from European farm subsidies, often based on dubious land deals or outright corruption.


Opinion: Bill would protect farmworkers, promote ag workforce [Santa Cruz Sentinel]

…Farmworkers and a workable H-2A program are vital for the sustainability of farms and farming communities across the country. The current and outdated regulations and mandates that accompany the program hurt both our farmers and farmworkers. With the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, farmers on the Central Coast and across the country will finally have access to the dependable and experienced workforce they need and farmworkers will get the legality and dignity they deserve.