Ag Today October 19, 2020

Many California wineries will make no wine this year because of wildfire smoke [San Francisco Chronicle]

California’s 2020 wildfire season will be remembered not only for its destruction of wineries, homes and vineyards but also for another lasting impact: the unprecedented number of California wineries that have decided, due to wildfire smoke, to make far less wine than usual — or in some cases, to make no wine at all. Just how much California wine will go unmade in 2020 is impossible to quantify right now, as many farmers and winemakers are still assessing the impact of wildfire smoke, which can imbue wines with unpleasantly smoky flavors and aromas, a still scientifically murky phenomenon known as smoke taint. But early anecdotal reports from individual vintners paint a dramatic picture. Philippe Melka, consulting winemaker for about 25 high-end California wine brands, most in Napa Valley, said that he harvested just 35-38% of the red grapes he’d planned to.


‘Crazy’ beekeepers determined to make it in tough times [Associated Press]

They wrote it right into their business plan -– an expectation that, each year, at least half the stock on which their livelihood depends would die. Building a business around bees is not for the faint-hearted. “You have to be a little crazy,” says James Cook, who, with wife Samantha Jones, started beekeeping eight years ago. They knew well the challenges their bees face –- parasites and the impact of pesticides among them. Even so, they were hopeful. 2020 was to be their year to go off on their own, after working several years for another beekeeper. They and their bees spent the past winter in California’s massive almond orchards, full of white blossoms that turn into nuts, thanks to the many beekeepers who travel extensively with their hives to pollinate many of the nation’s crops.


Opinion: Will California property tax initiative drive up food prices? [Sacramento Bee]

In ads funded by agricultural groups, farmers tell Californians a ballot measure aimed at raising taxes on large businesses will drive up food costs. “It hikes taxes on farms that produce our food,” Laton dairy farmer Melvin Medeiros says in one ad. “That means higher food prices for consumers at the worst possible time.” The measure, Proposition 15, would change how California taxes business properties. Right now, California taxes all property based on its purchased value, so people and businesses who bought their property long ago generally benefit from lower taxes than those that purchased property recently.


Update: Trump administration reverses course, approves California wildfire aid [USA Today]

The Trump administration will approve California’s request for a disaster declaration for six destructive wildfires after initially denying federal aid for blazes that burned hundreds of thousands of acres across the state. One of the fires listed is the massive Creek Fire, the largest wildfire in the state’s history. On Friday afternoon, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Sacramento) Tweeted that President Trump had reversed the earlier FEMA decision.


Florida citrus growers squeezed by rising production costs, lower farm prices [Lakeland Ledger]

Florida citrus growers are caught in a vice between low farm prices and high production costs, contributing to the downward spiral in the state’s annual harvest of oranges and grapefruit. Growers worried last season that historically low farm prices on the cash market would force many growers to cut back on caretaking costs, resulting in fewer fruit to harvest. That worry may play out this season as the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday forecast a 15% decline in the 2020-21 orange harvest and a 7% decline in grapefruit.


He didn’t expect to be an agriculture teacher. Nor did he expect the $50K he won after inspiring Visalia students. [Visalia Times Delta]

Travis Wyrick had to get creative teaching the hands-on trade of agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic. Wyrick oversees students working on independent plumbing projects while keeping up with others earning certifications online. He also keeps busy working on projects at his shop in Visalia Technical Early College High School. That’s where Wyrick was when he learned he won $50,000 for himself and his students as part of a contest recognizing excellent teachers.


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