Ag Today Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cannabis stream diversion study prompts legislation, enforcement [Eureka Times-Standard]

After several years in the field assessing cannabis cultivation sites, counting plants from Google Earth views and calculating stream flows, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife team has released a comprehensive paper revealing the affects of marijuana cultivation on the North Coast’s watersheds….Awareness has been rising, pilot programs are in effect, enforcement has increased and legislation is on the way, but it may not be enough to prevent Humboldt County’s streams from going dry a second year in a row, lead author of the study, said Scott Bauer, senior environmental scientist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife Watershed Enforcement Team….Two North Coast legislators have taken notice of the issue facing the region. The Marijuana Watershed Protection Act, Assembly Bill 243, was introduced by Assemblyman Jim Wood and a multifaceted cannabis regulation bill is soon to follow from Sen. Mike McGuire. Both bills will address bringing cannabis farmers into environmental compliance.
Monsanto bites back at Glyphosate findings [Wall Street Journal]
Monsanto Co. escalated its criticism of a World Health Organization agency’s finding last week that a commonly used herbicide probably has the potential to cause cancer in humans. The St. Louis-based agribusiness giant—a major seller of the weed killer—sought a meeting with senior WHO officials on the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s finding, while a WHO agency official defended what he called an “exhaustive” review of eligible data. The IARC’s classification of glyphosate, the U.S.’s most commonly used weedkiller, as “probably carcinogenic” in a report published Friday reignited debate over a chemical that environmental groups have long criticized and the agricultural industry has defended as safe for humans and less harsh on the environment than others….Monsanto, which markets glyphosate under the Roundup brand, sent letters to WHO members seeking to discuss the IARC classification, which Monsanto officials said ran counter to many other findings, including those by other WHO programs, according to Philip Miller, the company’s vice president of global regulatory affairs.
Fireman’s Fund to pay $44 million to settle U.S. fraud allegations [Marin Independent Journal]
Novato-based Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. has agreed to pay $44 million to settle allegations that it issued fraudulent crop insurance policies, federal authorities said Monday. The company “knowingly issued insurance policies that were ineligible under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s federal crop insurance program and falsified documents,” said Benjamin Mizer, acting assistant attorney general….The Department of Justice said that over those three years Fireman’s Fund sold and serviced crop insurance policies that were reinsured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a portion of the risks. The government alleged the company backdated policies, forged farmers’ signatures, accepted late and altered documents, whited out dates and signatures, and signed documents after relevant deadlines.
Early strawberry harvest eclipses last year’s [Salinas Californian]
The unseasonably warm weather has lit a fire under strawberry production statewide, prompting one of Monterey County’s top crops to blow past the volume harvested by this time last year. Data provided by the California Strawberry Commission for the week ended March 14 show the Watsonville-Salinas district produced 342,642 flats, compared to 26,855 flats at this time last year – more than a 12-fold increase….“We’re way ahead,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the Strawberry Commission. “The warm weather and lack of rain is resulting in Santa Maria and Watsonville to begin early.”…There has been no reports of labor shortages yet, O’Donnell said. Last year growers reported isolated spots of short labor.
Editorial: Pricing will solve California’s water crisis [Orange County Register]
California’s drought strategy – public awareness campaigns, rationing and fines for noncompliance – is having little effect, but there is one simple measure that would help deal with the water scarcity….Rising prices would encourage conservation much more effectively than public awareness campaigns, and would do so without government agencies spying on people and without the fear of the cantankerous or busybody neighbor tattling on someone to enforce $500 fines. A freer market for water would much more efficiently allocate this precious resource, and perhaps prompt people to decide that water-intensive rice farming, for example, is not best-suited to California’s climate.
Opinion: Confusion sets in over ground water law [Salinas Californian]
It’s beginning to look like the hosannas that greeted California’s first groundwater regulation law were a tad premature when it passed late last summer….The new law’s rules sounded just fine – until someone happened to look at the time limits….The timetable needs to be cut from 30 years down to no more than five. There must be a mechanism to create new groundwater agencies if existing districts can’t resolve disputes. And there needs to be far more reliable information on the exact amount of water in each basin. Failure to do any of these things will surely produce a far more severe disaster than the current drought – unless Mother Nature intervenes with several years of much heavier rain and snow than California has seen in decades.
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