Ag Today February 12, 2019

Top leader at Interior Dept. pushes a policy favoring his former client [New York Times]

As a lobbyist and lawyer, David Bernhardt fought for years on behalf of a group of California farmers to weaken Endangered Species Act protections for a finger-size fish, the delta smelt, to gain access to irrigation water. As a top official since 2017 at the Interior Department, Mr. Bernhardt has been finishing the job: He is working to strip away the rules the farmers had hired him to oppose. Last week President Trump said he would nominate Mr. Bernhardt to lead the Interior Department, making him the latest in a line of officials now regulating industries that once paid them to work as lobbyists.


Opinion: America has a farm labor shortage. We need a better guest worker program [Los Angeles Times]

…Farming’s labor system is broken. We need to fix it….The American Farm Bureau was encouraged last month when Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), the new chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee, proposed to tackle one aspect of this issue….The current H-2A program, which is supposed to assist farmers and ranchers, too often falls short in meeting growers’ or workers’ needs….We need a 21st century solution that works for growers and workers alike.


18 million trees just died in California, continuing worries of major wildfires yet to come [Sacramento Bee]

An estimated 18 million trees have died in California wildlands and private property in the past year, many of them victim of recent droughts and bark beetle infestations, the latest federal tree mortality count has found. In total, an estimate 147 million trees, many Sierra conifers, have died in California since the start of the state’s drought years in 2010. The death toll comes as the state struggles with an elevated fire risk, some of it fueled by unhealthy forests.


Young mountain lion shot dead in Napa area after preying on two sheep [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

A young mountain lion trapped last week and fitted with an electronic collar as part of an Audubon Canyon Ranch research project was shot dead Saturday outside a Napa-area home, where it already had preyed on two sheep on successive nights and was trying to snag a third when it was killed by a resident. The incident set off a round of angry criticism aimed at residents of the Redwood Road home for choosing to kill the wild cat rather than better secure their livestock — a central tenet of the nonprofit conservation organization’s Living with Lions program. It’s proved painful, too, for the Napa family now feeling the need to defend actions driven by concern for the safety of three young children and their small family herd amid a slew of hateful social media comments — not to mention gawkers parked on their rural lane recording video and, in one case, calling out hostile remarks.


Cows in space? NASA to open 52nd World Ag Expo in Tulare [Visalia Times-Delta]

…Over the next week, Tulare’s population will nearly double as ag professionals from across the globe gather for the 52nd World Ag Expo….”Expect to hear lots of discussion about water,” said Jennifer Fawkes, expo spokesperson. “NASA data provides critical information and imaging used by farmers across the county.” NASA’s drone research is at the forefront of current ag technology. Bridenstine will visit AeroVironment, a firm that specializes in drone and data analytics software that farmers can use to monitor the health of their crops and increase efficiencies and profitability.


Is hemp cultivation coming to Redding? City Council is checking out pot’s kissing cousin [Redding Record Searchlight]

The Redding City Council is examining whether to amend zoning rules to permit hemp growing within the city’s limits. The council is taking action after would-be hemp entrepreneurs recently approached Vice Mayor Adam McElvain to express interest in opening Redding’s first hemp nursery. But the city currently has no zoning rules regarding hemp production….While Redding hasn’t explored the hemp issue before, Shasta County has. Last year, with California officials drawing up statewide regulations on hemp production, Shasta County passed a temporary ban on hemp growing in April 2018.