Ag Today Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Billions in water spending not enough, officials say [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

California’s water infrastructure is in crisis, and even billions of dollars in state funding won’t be nearly enough to solve the problem, local and national water leaders said at a conference in Indian Wells on Monday. Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and longtime Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters headlined the event, which was hosted by the California Utility Executive Management Association, a nonprofit that supports water utility officials. Surrounded by the lush landscaping of the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa — and the resort’s 36-hole golf facility — they bemoaned the fact that the United States doesn’t dedicate more money to water infrastructure….State policymakers have taken some steps to narrow that gap. Last year, voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and last week Brown signed two bills that would speed up the spending of more than $1 billion in additional funds to support water recycling, desalination and emergency relief for the Central Valley, among other measures. But like other water officials at Monday’s conference, Ed Pack, a member of the Coachella Valley Water District’s board of directors, said he didn’t think the funding approved so far would make much of an impact. While the money will help, he said, “it’s not going to come close to what the state’s going to need.”
Tribe fights Coachella Valley water agencies for aquifer rights [Los Angeles Times]
In drought-ravaged California, the vast freshwater aquifer beneath the Coachella Valley is a rare bright spot….But there is growing concern by some that local water agencies are drawing too much out of the aquifer, which supplies water for more than 260,000 people. The two water providers that control the aquifer, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency, acknowledge that they have drawn down the water supply but say they replace some of it with water from the Colorado River.
That’s not enough for some critics, including leaders of an Indian tribe that is now suing to wrestle water rights from the districts. It’s one of several legal disputes over water being fought across California, fueled by a drought that is making groundwater a more precious resource than ever. “No one cares about water rights except when there’s a shortage — and then people care a whole lot in a hurry,” said water law expert Eric L. Garner.
Group of Mendocino County farmers opposes MendoVito ‘village’ project [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]
When a group of self- described “social entrepreneurs” late last year launched a campaign to raise money and support for a self-contained, green-minded city of 10,000 residents on vineyard property in a Mendocino County valley several miles east of Hopland, local ranchers stayed mostly mum on the lofty proposal. Not anymore. Some of the county’s most established farmers have now launched an offensive against the so-called MendoVito project, claiming that its planned displacement of 423 acres of farmland would set off an irreversible urban development in a rural area of mostly vineyards and orchards. “What we’re opposed to is it’s going into the heart of agricultural land,” said Bill Pauli, a fifth-generation Mendocino County rancher who farms over 1,000 acres of grapes and about 100 acres of pears in the Potter and Ukiah valleys. He’s among more than 45 farmers who have signed a letter to the county opposing the project.
Divisions in Congress Hamper Pacific Trade Deal [Wall Street Journal]
Wavering support in Congress has emerged as the biggest obstacle holding up completion of a 12-nation Pacific trade pact under negotiation for nearly a decade. The Obama administration’s push to win fast-track powers from Congress to expedite the deal’s passage has stalled amid disagreements among lawmakers over how much leverage they should have over the pact’s final form. That uncertainty is stirring fear among many of the 11 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the U.S., who say they need proof Congress is on board before agreeing to final conditions in the deal. Passing the legislation, also known as trade promotion authority, would let negotiators finalize outstanding issues such as auto-industry tariffs, dairy-market access and sensitive rules on intellectual property, areas where negotiators need to get a final signoff from top political leaders.
Growers offers 15% raise to Baja farmworkers [Associated Press]
Mexico City • Export-oriented commercial farms in Mexico’s Baja California state say they have offered farm workers a 15-percent wage increase to end a two-week-old strike.
But leaders of the farmworkers called the offer unacceptable, and said they want assured benefits, higher wages and an end to abuses. The strike by an estimated 50,000 farmworkers has featured intermittent blockages of the main north-south highway in Baja, confrontations with police and the arrest of dozens of strike supporters. The Baja California state government said that thousands of workers had returned to the berry and vegetable fields, and that production had been resumed on 85 to 90 percent of farm acreage.
Nuts Are a Nutritional Powerhouse [New York Times]
A series of large studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study of 76,464 women and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of 42,498 men, found that the more nuts people consumed, the less likely they were to die at any given age, especially of cancer or heart disease. And a clinical trial conducted in Spain showed that death rates were lower among those consuming a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra nuts….Now, strong links between nuts and peanuts and better health have also been found in a major study of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and varied ethnic groups — blacks, whites and Asians — many of whom had serious risk factors for premature death, like smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The results were published in March in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Their study, conducted among more than 200,000 men and women in the Southern United States and Shanghai, found that the more nuts people consumed, the lower their death rates from all causes and especially from heart disease and stroke.
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