Thursday, March 20, 2014

News articles and links from March 20, 2014

House panel meeting in Fresno hears emotional impact of Calif. drought
From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

Larry Starrh's voice choked with emotion Wednesday as he told congressional members of his family's decision to dry up 1,000 acres of almonds this year and let the trees die due to water shortages.

"Shortages that were created and controlled by regulations that have been imposed and brandished like weapons," the Kern County farmer said. "Sadly, in the real world, water is about power, water is a weapon, water is a hostage."

From: Dale Kasler, Sacramento Bee

When spring arrives, the Central Valley farm fields owned by Harris Ranch normally come to life with tomatoes, lettuce and watermelons. This year, much of the land has been left dry and bare.

California's epic drought is being felt all over rural California, from small family farms to agribusiness giants such as Harris. Growers are fallowing land, tapping expensive groundwater and rationing supplies to keep their orchards and vineyards alive. This downshift will cost the state billions of dollars in lost economic activity and translate into higher food prices for consumers.

Fallowed farmland acreage estimate jumps to 800,000
From: Staff, Western Farm Press

The California Farm Water Coalition has upgraded its estimate of acres farmers will leave idle this year to 800,000, up from 500,000, because of a lack of water.  "Farmers are still waiting to the last minute to determine their planting schedules this year in hopes that the water situation will improve," said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.

Why California's Drought Impacts Every American Who Buys Food
From: Terrell Johnson, The Weather Channel

Prices for meat, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables and a wide range of other foods shot up last month, the federal government reported Tuesday, thanks largely to the searing drought that has gripped the western United States for months on end.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said food prices rose 0.4 percent between January and February in a report released Tuesday, which follows an earlier report by the Department of Agriculture that said food prices are expected to rise 2.5 to 3.5 percent this year over 2013 levels.

Representatives call for more Valley water, storage 
From: Staff, The Business Journal

A congressional committee met at a full Fresno City Hall on Wednesday, taking up California's drought crisis and calling for freeing up more water and the construction of large reservoirs and dams.

The House Natural Resources Committee heard testimony from Central Valley farmers, community leaders and state water officials. Many speakers at the hearing titled "California Water Crisis and its Impacts: The Need for Immediate and Long-Term Solutions," took sharp aim at the environmental community for becoming extreme and one-sided in its approach to water.

California hosts congressional drought hearing
From: Scott Smith, AP

Farmers holding signs protesting dramatic cuts to their irrigation supplies packed Fresno City Hall for a congressional hearing Wednesday, delving into the politics of California's drought crisis striking the state's agricultural heartland.

Visalia farmer Michael Malmgren's sign had the words "Water is the heart of the matter," surrounding a big, pink heart.

BLOG: VIDEO: Jerry Brown talks drought at agriculture event
From: Christopher Cadelago, Capitol Alert Blog

Gov. Jerry Brown touched on California's worsening water shortage Wednesday in brief remarks to representatives from the state's agriculture community.

"We're doing everything we can to respond to the drought," Brown said outside the state Capitol as the California Department of Food and Agriculture hosted its annual Ag Day. "We've got to emphasize water conservation, and water recycling and managing the water." 

Water Storage 

Citing California drought, Garamendi and LaMalfa push Sites Reservoir bill
From: Jeremy White, Sacramento Bee

In a rare moment of unity for two ideological antagonists, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, on Wednesday unveiled legislation to build a new large-scale reservoir in Northern California.

"There's a world of hurt in these fields and in the orchards around us because we failed in the past to prepare for the inevitable drought," Garamendi said, gesturing to fields bordered by the slow-flowing Glenn-Colusa canal.

Congressmen seek momentum to build new reservoir north of Sac
From: Staff, KCRA 3

Two members of California's congressional delegation on Wednesday called for building a new reservoir north of Sacramento, displaying bipartisan agreement on one potential solution to California's long-term water problems.

Democratic Rep. John Garamendi and Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa held a news conference near the location of the proposed reservoir to announce their bill. It calls for accelerating an existing federal feasibility study to authorize construction of the Sites Reservoir in a valley near Maxwell, about an hour's drive north of the state capital. They hope construction can start by 2015.

2 congressmen seek momentum to build new reservoir
From: Fenit Nirappil, AP

Two members of California's congressional delegation are displaying bipartisan agreement on one potential solution to California's water problems by promoting legislation to study the cost of building a reservoir north of Sacramento.

Democratic Rep. John Garamendi and Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa held a news conference Wednesday near the location of the proposed reservoir to announce their bill. It calls for a federal study on the costs of building the Sites Reservoir in a valley near Maxwell, about an hour's drive north of the state capital.


Water battle: Judge halts local water exports
From: John Lindt, Visalia Times-Delta

Tulare County Superior Court Judge H.N. Papadakis this week granted an injunction sought by Lower Tule River Irrigation District against Sandridge Partners to halt any appropriation of Lower Tule groundwater to property not in the district.

Sandridge acquired farm property in the district west of Porterville in 2012 but grew no crops on it in 2013.

Food News 

Valley Asparagus Growers Struggle To Compete
From: Rich Ibarra, Capital Public Radio

Asparagus is coming up in the Delta, but cheaper imports make it too expensive to harvest. Prices at the supermarket have seldom been lower, even dropping to 99-cents a pound, this makes it harder and harder for Delta farmers to compete.

How California's drought is changing organic milk and honey
From: Hoda Emam, San Jose Mercury News

The milk that you think is organic, isn't. Not really.

Blame the California drought, which has dried up the grass that gives farmers the right to slap the label "organic" on their meat and milk. It's not hard to win that label from the US department of agriculture: farmers just have to make sure that their cows graze on local grass, at least four months out of the year.

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