Ag Today Wednesday, March 18, 2015


California restricts yard watering as drought persists [Sacramento Bee]

California regulators on Tuesday ordered every water agency in the state to restrict how often customers can water their landscaping, an unprecedented move that marks another milestone in the severe and ongoing drought. The decision was adopted unanimously by the State Water Resources Control Board and will take effect in about 45 days. Officials at the water board said it is the first time any state in the nation has imposed an emergency water conservation requirement on every local water agency within its borders….At the same meeting, state and federal water officials reported that the Sierra Nevada snowpack – source of about 60 percent of the state’s fresh water – was 12 percent of average as of Tuesday. In the approximately 100 years the state has been recording snowpack across the range, that marks a historic low for this time of year.
Overpumping of Central Valley groundwater creating a crisis, experts say [Los Angeles Times]
A simple instrument with a weight and a pulley confirmed what hydrologist Michelle Sneed had suspected after seeing more and more dirt vanish from the base of her equipment each time she returned to her research site last summer. The tawny San Joaquin Valley earth was sinking a half-inch each month. The reason was no mystery. “There are wells up and down this road,” Sneed said, nodding toward a two-lane byway that cut across the flat agricultural landscape. Parts of the San Joaquin Valley are deflating like a tire with a slow leak as growers pull more and more water from the ground. The land subsidence is cracking irrigation canals, buckling roads and permanently depleting storage space in the vast aquifer that underlies California’s heartland.
Merced County adopts groundwater ordinance to regulate new wells [Merced Sun-Star]
Nobody was jumping for joy Tuesday as the Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted Merced County’s groundwater ordinance, which is intended to regulate new wells. The supervisors spoke somberly about the state’s water problems, while some farmers said the regulations are a necessary evil. Still other farmers said the regulations do not go far enough to help California’s dire water shortage as the state endures the fourth year of a drought. The new ordinance is the first of its kind for Merced County. It regulates groundwater transfers outside county basins through a permitting process, allowing county officials to scrutinize each project to determine potential impacts on groundwater resources. It also requires people who want to build a new well, those who want to export water from existing wells or those who want to increase pumping activities to apply for a permit.
Locals embrace spirit of National Ag Day [Imperial Valley Press]
Whenever Alex Jack thinks of the hardships that pioneering farming families had to endure in order to stay in business in the Valley’s bygone days, he is left with a sense of awe and inspiration. Such reveries are common throughout the year, Jack said, but more so on National Ag Day, which aims to highlight the contributions of the nation’s agricultural community. “I’m mostly thankful on National Ag Day for all the forefathers that opened up all the inroads we have in agriculture,” said Jack, of Brawley-based Jack Bros. Farms….Locally, ongoing efforts such as the Farm Smart Program help to raise awareness and provide a hands-on learning experience for many of the Valley’s young students and winter visitors, said Linsey Dale, Imperial County Farm Bureau executive director.
Opinion: Not all industrial food is evil [New York Times]
I’VE long wondered how producing a decent ingredient, one that you can buy in any supermarket, really happens. Take canned tomatoes,…So, fearing the worst — because we all “know” that organic farming is “good” and industrial farming is “bad” — I headed to the Sacramento Valley in California to see a big tomato operation. I began by touring Bruce Rominger’s farm in Winters….IT’S far from paradise, but it isn’t hell either. The basic question is this: Are the processes and products healthy, fair, green and affordable? Workers in the fields have shade, water and breaks; they’re not being paid by the piece. Workers in the plants are not getting rich but they’re doing better than they would working in the fields, or in a fast-food joint.
Rominger is managing his fields conscientiously and, by today’s standards, progressively. He’s also juggling an almost unimaginable array of standards set by the state, by P.C.P. and other processors, and even by his customers, who may say things like, “What are you doing about nitrate runoff?” The canner P.C.P. is running what appear to be safe and clean production lines while producing close-to-“natural” tomato products that nearly anyone can afford.
Opinion: More info for consumers can backfire [USA Today]
In the same month the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a new breed of apple genetically modified to resist browning, yet another proposal to require the labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs) hit Congress. Federal regulators chose to follow scientific evidence, which demonstrates that genetically modified organisms are generally safe to eat. Yet, congressmen are still pandering to irrational fears of GMOs, following similar labeling requirements already adopted in several states. That pandering can actually leave consumers worse off — leading them to make less healthy decisions for themselves and their families….Numerous studies by behavioral scientists research cognitive biases and find that providing people with more information leads them to make less accurateevaluations or less beneficial choices. Some studies reveal that giving people additional irrelevant information not only decreases their ability to accurately process information but also increases their confidence in the accuracy of their choices….That brings us back to GMOs. Labeling proponents argue that, even if there’s no evidence of GMOs posing any health risk, there’s no harm in disclosing this information. Yet, as the research shows, disclosures can, in fact, confuse consumers and lead them to make less beneficial choices when they trigger consumer biases. Given that so many consumers believe that GMOs are harmful, their food choices may be driven by irrational fears, and they may opt for more expensive GMO-free foods. Consequently, the disclosure would actually lead consumers to pay more for food while not making them any safer.
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