Ag Today February 5, 2019

Trump taps ex-California water lobbyist for Cabinet. Critics call him a ‘swamp creature’ [Sacramento Bee]

President Donald Trump on Monday nominated David Bernhardt, the former top lobbyist for a powerful Fresno-based irrigation district, to run the Department of the Interior, raising renewed questions about whether he’d try to steer more California water to his former clients. Trump announced Bernhardt’s nomination to become Interior secretary on Twitter. “David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed!” Trump tweeted. Bernhardt has been deputy secretary since early in the Trump administration, and became acting secretary after Ryan Zinke resigned in December under an ethical cloud. Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for Westlands Water District, which serves farmers in Fresno and Kings counties and is one of the most influential customers of the federal government’s Central Valley Project. Bernhardt is widely seen among environmentalists and state officials as leading the Trump administration’s controversial efforts to pump more water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Westlands growers and other Valley farmers. Critics say the extra pumping could put more pressure on endangered fish species in the Delta.


California Farm Bureau Federation files lawsuit to block plans for San Joaquin River [23ABC News, Bakersfield]

The California Farm Bureau Federation has filed a lawsuit to block by the State Water Resources Control Board’s plans for the lower river flow of San Joaquin River. In a press release, the Farm Bureau said that the Board’s plan , which was adopted last December, “misrepresents and underestimates the harm it would cause to agricultural resources in the Central Valley.”


Opinion: Why Santa Clara Valley Water District filed lawsuit against California [San Jose Mercury News]

Protecting the environment surrounding our waterways is a critical pillar that the Santa Clara Valley Water District stands on. Providing a safe, clean and affordable water supply to the people and businesses of Santa Clara County is another essential pillar. These two pillars meet in the lawsuit the water district filed on Jan. 11 against the State Water Resources Control Board. The board’s decision to send more water through the San Joaquin River and its tributaries, in an effort to assist endangered and threatened fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, was well meaning but didn’t fully consider our local impacts. The water district does not take legal action lightly. Our decision to file suit against the state water board was the result of painstaking review, scientific analysis and a conviction that there are better ways to improve conditions for fish.


Agriculture execs say U.S.-China trade deal nearing [Wall Street Journal]

Agricultural executives are upbeat that the U.S. and China will resolve a nearly yearlong trade dispute that has upended food exports and hurt business for both countries’ farmers and food companies….U.S. and Chinese negotiators say they are working toward a broad agreement that could drop tariffs on products ranging from steel to pigs’ feet and lay out new standards for intellectual property protections, a top goal of the Trump administration.


Jimmy Dean parent Tyson Foods has held talks to buy Foster Farms for $2 billion [CNBC]

Meat processor Tyson Foods has held talks about buying privately owned California-based Foster Farms for roughly $2 billion, people familiar with the situation tell CNBC. The two sides are disagreeing over price, said these people, and it is possible the talks fall apart. If a deal is consummated, it is still at least several weeks away. Shares of Tyson briefly dropped nearly 2 percent on news of the talks, but quickly rebounded to $61.64 a share, off less than 1 percent….An acquisition of a U.S. brand like Foster Farms, which makes products like branded chicken, turkey and frozen foods, would therefore mark a mild change in course for Tyson.


Huge storms are slamming California with torrents of rain and heaps of snow [Washington Post]

The second in major storm systems is battering California and other parts of the West Coast. It’s unleashing strong winds, heavy rain and massive amounts of mountain snow. Much of the state has already seen 200 to 400-plus percent of normal precipitation over the past week, and the same region is also generally running well above normal year-to-date. All this moisture has translated to over six feet of new snow in parts of the Sierra mountain range, and it’s still falling. Additional rainfall keeps a flood and mudslide threat going through at least Tuesday. Heavy snow continues to blanket the mountains, pushing some totals perhaps as high as 10 feet over a handful of days. There could even be snow at the coast in northern California as snow levels plummet Monday night.