Ag Today November 8, 2019

Interior proposes coveted deal to ex-client of agency head [Associated Press]

The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural California water district that had long employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a lobbyist. Conservation groups are demanding fuller disclosure of financial terms and an environmental review of the proposed deal for the California’s Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest agricultural water supplier. The water district serves some of country’s wealthiest and most politically influential corporate farmers….Responding to questions, Interior spokeswoman Carol Danko said the handling of the Westlands’ contract was delegated entirely to California staffers of the Bureau of Reclamation, which is under the Department of Interior. The agency will make a final decision after the legally mandated public comment period, she said.


Kern farmland values begin to stabilize as investors absorb groundwater restrictions [Bakersfield Californian]

A new report shows market conditions in local agriculture are generally stabilizing — though not improving much — as investors in Kern County farmland take in the bad news about upcoming restrictions on groundwater pumping and, to a lesser degree, lower commodity prices and a continuing labor shortage. Thursday’s update from Bakersfield’s Alliance Ag Services Inc. points to big year-over-year drops in the value of properties with minimal surface-water supplies, and more modest decreases in areas with more reliable access to irrigation….The price of farmland is considered a broad-based measure of how well local agriculture is performing financially.


Opinion: Pinpointing water content in mountain snow will help California water management [Modesto Bee]

This past legislative session, I worked hard with groups like the Turlock Irrigation District and the Friant Water Authority to pass Senate Bill 487, which would have authorized the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to create a statewide Aerial Snow Observatory (ASO) program. Despite unanimous support in every policy and fiscal committee, and in both the Assembly and Senate, Governor Newsom vetoed SB 487, indicating that the bill carried unbudgeted general fund costs….Expanding the ASO, however, does not seem to actually be dead with the veto, and that is great news for all Californians.


China says tariffs will go, but U.S. doubts remain [Wall Street Journal]

Beijing’s announcement Thursday that the U.S. and China have mutually agreed to roll back tariffs as part of a “phase one” trade accord lifted financial markets, but questions remained over how much ground—if any —the Trump administration had agreed to give. Optimism that the trade war was finally nearing an end was raised by comments from a Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman in Beijing on Thursday….But there were conflicting reports from within the Trump administration as to whether there was a firm commitment to reduce tariffs.


Port of Los Angeles reports trade war starting to affect its shipment volumes [City News Service]

Officials with the Port of Los Angeles said Thursday based on its monthly operations report, the tariffs imposed in the trade war between the United States and China have started to affect its cargo volumes. The Port announced it moved 770,189 twenty-foot equivalent units in October, a 19.1% decrease compared to 2018’s record-breaking October. Total volumes this year are still 1.8% higher than last year, which was the Port’s busiest year ever.


Sudden oak death spreading fast, California’s coastal forests facing devastation [San Francisco Chronicle]

It is the forgotten killer when compared to our increasingly frequent climate calamities, but the virulent pathogen known as sudden oak death remains active and is spreading death so fast it could destroy California’s coastal forest ecosystem, UC Berkeley scientists reported Thursday. The deadly microbe has now established itself throughout the Bay Area and has spread along the coast from Monterey to Humboldt County, according to a study of 16,227 trees in 16 counties in Northern California. Millions of coast live oak and tan oak trees have withered and died over the past quarter century, leaving acres of kindling for wildfires, but the outbreak this year was one of the worst.