Ag Today, September 24, 2021

La Niña is about to take the Southwest drought from bad to worse [CNN]

Global scientists reported in August that due to the climate crisis, droughts that may have occurred only once every decade or so now happen 70% more frequently. The increase is particularly apparent in the Western US, which is currently in the the throes of a historic, multiyear drought that has exacerbated wildfire behavior, drained reservoirs and triggered water shortages. More than 94% of the West is in drought this week — a proportion that has hovered at or above 90% since June — with six states entirely in drought conditions, according to the US Drought Monitor. On the Colorado River, Lake Mead and Lake Powell — two of the country’s largest reservoirs — are draining at alarming rates, threatening the West’s water supply and hydropower generation in coming years. Though summer rainfall brought some relief to the Southwest, the unrelenting drought there is about to get worse with La Niña on the horizon, according to David DeWitt, director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. “As we move into fall, from October on, the Southwest US, based on all the best information that we have, they’re going to see persistent intensification and development of drought,” DeWitt told CNN. “There’s, at this point, not any indication that they’ll see drought relief.”


In California’s Water Wars, Nuts Are Edging Out People [Mother Jones]

Even if you’ve never heard of California’s San Joaquin Valley, you’ve likely benefited from its existence. Its nut groves, fruit and vegetable fields, and industrial-scale dairy operations contribute mightily to the US food supply. So it’s bad news for eaters that the valley has emerged in recent decades as a site of intensifying climate chaos; it’s reeling under the pressure of record heat, wildfire smoke, and its second historic drought in a decade. Right now, many are worried about access to one of life’s necessities: drinking water. As of September 21, 700 residential wells have come up dry throughout the state this year, up 724 percent compared with the same period of 2020. The great bulk of them are in agriculture-dominated San Joaquin Valley counties like Tulare, Fresno, and Madera. The trend marks a grim rerun of the previous drought of 2012–2016, when residents of several towns including East Porterville, Okieville, and Tombstone saw their wells go dry.


Sustainability Grows on the American Farm [American Farm Bureau Federation]

While climate-smart trends and initiatives have increased in popularity in recent years, farmers and ranchers have been “going green” for decades, and for some even longer. What’s more, U.S. agriculture is a global leader in climate-smart practices that enrich the soil, protect our water, absorb carbon and reduce emissions. America’s farmers and ranchers have a great success story to share, and it’s a story that keeps getting better. There is a real hunger not only for sustainably grown food, but also for direct farm-to-table stories. Americans have a high level of trust in farmers and ranchers, to the tune of 87% according to a recent American Farm Bureau public opinion poll. Our surveys have also found that the public ranks farmers high as a trusted resource among professionals for information related to food and climate. However, most misunderstandings about agriculture’s environmental impact come, not surprisingly, from a lack of information. When we share agriculture’s story broadly and farmers and ranchers share their stories specifically, we can move the needle together.


Who has the finest flower? California State Fair to hold first marijuana competition [Sacramento Bee]

Cannabis is coming to the California State Fair. For the first time, the fair in 2022 will host a competition — open to all licensed cannabis cultivators in the state — to judge the finest flower in California. Cannabis will join other California products, such as wine, craft beer, olive oil and cheese that have competitions at the fair. SC Labs will conduct the testing of the cannabis flowers. “I’m really excited to be involved with the state fair because it is the traditional place where the agricultural community comes to show off their best work,” SC Labs co-founder and President Josh Wurzer said in a statement. “This just further validates cannabis as part of that community.”


Napa County ready to approve Walt Ranch greenhouse gas plan [Napa Valley Register]

Napa County has tentatively approved changes to the controversial Walt Ranch vineyard development to try to address a court decision involving greenhouse gases. The planned vineyard project would remove about 14,000 carbon-sequestering trees. Walt Ranch planned in return to preserve 248 acres of woodlands. But the courts thought some of this land might already be undevelopable. The Center for Biological Diversity has been among the project opponents. Senior Attorney Aruna Prabhala on Wednesday said the group is still reviewing the new greenhouse gas mitigation proposal. “We are very interested to see what the project proponent has proposed to address one of the most significant impacts of the development,” she said. Vineyard development in the mountains away from the Napa Valley floor has become controversial in general. Some say the county should do more to protect trees and water quality. Others say the county already has strict environmental laws in place. Walt Ranch is perhaps the highest profile case of vineyard development in the mountains. Craig and Kathryn Hall of HALL Wines in St. Helena have pursued the project for close to 15 years. Opponents in packed meetings have held signs saying “No to soil erosion” and “Halt Walt.”


Gavin Newsom visits KNP fire near Fresno; signs $15 billion climate change bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom remembers standing with former President Donald Trump amid the devastation of the Paradise Fire and thinking he wouldn’t see anything like it again in his life time. Two years later, California saw the worst fire season in its history. Currently, there are 10 large, active wildfires burning across the state and some 2.35 million acres have been destroyed in what the governor sees as direct impact of climate crisis. Fresno State to take on UNLV, Bullard alum Charles Williams “You can’t deny your own eyes,” Newsom said Thursday during a press conference at the entrance to Sequoia National Park, just a mile from the KNP Complex Fire line. Newsom was at the park to sign AB 170, a more than $15 billion package of legislation aimed at combating the impacts of climate crisis, including wildfires. The package, which includes $1.5 billion for wildfire prevention and suppression, is an “unprecedented commitment,” by California, and also invests in drought response efforts and water resilience, clean transportation and sustainable agriculture. The bill allocates close to $5 billion for immediate drought response, which Newsom said will include water storage in a broad sense.



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