Ag Today October 19, 2018

Trump to jump into Western water wars ahead of midterms [Politico]

President Donald Trump is jumping into Western water wars on the side of agricultural interests just weeks before the midterm elections, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the plans — a major political gift for GOP incumbents in some of the most competitive House races in the country where water supply is a top campaign topic. California Republican Jeff Denham, who is facing one of the country’s most competitive races for his Central Valley district, is due to join Trump in Arizona this afternoon for the signing of a presidential memorandum. The memo is expected to be aimed at sending more water to farmers in California’s arid Central Valley….But aside from offering a political win to California Republicans, it’s unclear how much more the Trump administration can do to affect the amount of water delivered to their constituents.


Survival trumps politics in poverty-hit California farm town [Associated Press]

…California may be famous for its wealth, but there is a distinctly different part of the state where poverty prevails: places like this one halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco….Stuart Woolf, who runs a family farm spanning 30,000 acres, said planting nut trees instead of seasonal row crops like lettuce or asparagus allows farmers to earn more per acre. Those changes have brought harder times for towns like Huron, which once doubled in size during late fall and early spring when Fresno County supplied most of the nation’s lettuce. Leon, the mayor, blames farmers for putting profits over workers who helped build their empires.


Tule elk are eating too much grass in Pt. Reyes. Should they be shot so dairy cows can graze? [Sacramento Bee]

…The elk have become as popular with tourists as the aquatic mammals, but they are a drain on Nunes’ bottom line because there isn’t enough grass for both elk and cows to thrive, she said. Nunes and her fellow Point Reyes farmers would like the National Park Service to thin a group of elk called the Drakes Beach herd….Nunes and her fellow dairy ranchers may get some long-term relief from the wild ungulates in the form of a bipartisan bill authored by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael….The controversial bill also would allow farmers like Nunes to continue their leases inside the national park for the next two decades.


As ranchers face drought, Trump administration cuts back a critical program [Wall Street Journal]

…Western ranchers are suffering one of the worst droughts in decades, and this week Mr. Elkins is liquidating half his herd of 1,000. He has avoided even deeper losses by offsetting feed costs through a decade-old federal drought-insurance program, which he says has been a “game changer.” But in late August, the Trump administration stunned the ranching community here by unveiling plans to significantly scale back the insurance program in 2019, ratcheting up anxiety in farm communities already upset over retaliatory beef tariffs imposed by China after President Trump imposed levies on its products.


As North Coast grape harvest nears end, wine industry frets about oversupply [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

As he walked around a cabernet sauvignon vineyard along a hilly stretch just west of Lake Sonoma this week, Clay Mauritson couldn’t help but be bullish about his 2018 grape vintage….Mauritson’s enthusiasm about his predicted bumper crop, however, is not shared by some others in the local industry, especially the larger wine companies, analysts said….One telling point: It’s a buyer’s market this fall on the spot wine grape market — which represents around 15 percent of the overall market — where growers sell their excess grapes that have not been locked into contracts with wineries.


Japan caved to Trump on trade talks. Now the real haggling begins. [New York Times]

…Japan acquiesced to direct, two-way trade talks with the United States, dropping its two-year insistence on trying instead to hammer out a pact that included multiple countries….The Trump administration has already indicated it may want more from Japan on autos and agriculture….With farmers in the United States already suffering from the trade war with China, “they are going to be very anxious to get quick and equal access to the Japanese agricultural market,” said Ms. Cutler.