Ag Today Monday, January 4, 2016

Ag Today

Monday, January 4, 2016


Stockton Record

Tunnels fight changes venue

By Alex Breitler

Ten years after the first seeds were planted for the proposed twin tunnels, the battle shifts to a new arena in 2016 — a critical year for the controversial project.

A small state agency will soon begin the daunting process of deciding whether to change the water rights for the state and federal water projects, allowing them to divert some of their water from the Sacramento River and bypass the Delta for the first time.

The water rights must be changed before a shovelful of earth can be turned.

But it won’t be simple. Months of hearings are expected, starting in April. The hearings will feature sworn testimony from witnesses in a setting almost as formal as a courtroom.

“You’re going to have so many people involved — it’ll be very, very complicated. The lawyers will go crazy on this thing,” said Craig Wilson, an attorney retired from the State Water Resources Control Board, which will oversee the hearings.

Opponents are expected to challenge the process, arguing that the water rights cannot be changed until the state has completed a separate, long-overdue review of the Delta’s water quality and water flow needs. They will argue that it doesn’t make sense to put $15 billion pipes in the ground before knowing how much water they can safely divert from the sensitive estuary.

Supporters will say there is an urgent need to start the process now.

‘Much more complex’

In California, you can’t simply wake up one morning and decide you will take your water from a different location. You have to ask the state water board, to ensure there is no harm to any other water user or to the environment.

The board routinely handles such requests — for example, from a farmer who wants to pump the same amount of water from a different stream. But because of the sheer size of the water projects, which deliver millions of acre-feet of water each year to farms and cities as far south as San Diego, the latest request will be anything but routine.

“This one is much more complex,” said Diane Riddle, an environmental program manager with the water board.

Today, the water diverted by the state and federal projects flows through the Delta first, to giant pumps near Tracy. From there it is sent south in aqueducts and canals.

As the water moves through the Delta, some channels flow backward toward the pumps, pulling in threatened fish and disrupting the ecosystem. The tunnels are supposed to reduce that problem by taking some of the water directly from the Sacramento, which could also safeguard a share of the state’s water supply should Delta levees fail.

The tunnels are a spin-off of the old peripheral canal, which voters defeated in a 1982 referendum. The concept was revived by the Schwarzenegger administration in 2006.

It took a decade to write the tunnels plan. A final version is expected this year.

Cart before the horse?

Now, enter stage right the state water board, which oversees water rights and — until the drought — stayed mostly under the radar in California. The board is supposed to be a kind of watchdog, balancing the diverse needs for water among cities, farms and the environment.

To grant the projects’ request to take water directly from the Sacramento River, the board will have to determine that other water users will not be harmed, and that fish and wildlife will be protected. Delta farmers are sure to argue that removing freshwater before it reaches the estuary will, indeed, harm water quality and threaten their livelihoods.

Here’s where it gets sticky: While considering the water rights questions, the board will simultaneously begin a separate, broader review of Delta flow standards. The standards are supposed to be reviewed every three years but haven’t been comprehensively updated since 1995. Fish species have crashed under the current rules, and scientists believe those rules to be inadequate for the Delta’s environment.

The flows study should come first, before tunnels water rights are decided, opponents say. If the tunnels come first, it is likely that political pressure will skew any new flow rules in favor of water exporters, those opponents say.

“No state agency is going to approve a project and then gut it a couple of years down the road after it’s started,” said Bill Jennings of Stockton, with the environmental group California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. “They’re not going to give the go-ahead and then stab it in the back.”

“In short, Delta water quality policy should come before plumbing decisions,” Jennings’ group and other opponents, including Stockton-based Restore the Delta, penned in a letter to the state board.

Risk factor

Even if the plumbing decision does come first, the Delta won’t be without protection, state officials say.

Legislation approved in 2009 requires “appropriate” flow standards before the water rights are changed. Temporary rules, at least, would be required until the more comprehensive flow study is done, perhaps in 2018, Riddle said.

A decision one way or another on the tunnels won’t handcuff the board on its flow study down the road, she said. It’s possible that study could determine that less water will be available for the tunnels than expected.

“That’s a risk those that are financing the project will have to consider,” Riddle said. “That’s always a risk from any water development project, that you may not get the amount of water you expect to get.”

Nancy Vogel, a spokeswoman for the state’s Natural Resources Agency, said it is important to start the process of changing the water rights now, because the flow study could take years.

Vogel acknowledged the risk in proceeding before knowing exactly how much water will actually be available for diversion through the tunnels. “But you have to think of the flip side,” she said. “There’s a huge amount of risk involved in the status quo. If we do nothing about the reverse flows (in the Delta), we can assume the species populations are going to continue to deteriorate, and we can assume more regulatory restrictions on the projects.”

Even with the tunnels, the possibility of such restrictions is a gamble for water exporters, said Jerry Meral, an environmentalist and tunnels supporter who formally served in the Brown administration as the governor’s point man on water issues.

Because the tunnels plan no longer includes 50-year guarantees for water deliveries, the larger risk for the projects comes likely not from any standards the water board will impose in the future, but from the possibility that fish and wildlife agencies could put the clamp down on water exports if fish aren’t faring well.

“(Tunnels proponents) are just betting that the construction and operation of the project will benefit those species, or at least not harm them further,” Meral said. “They’re willing, apparently, to take that risk.”

Coming soon

The water board’s hearings are scheduled to begin in earnest on April 7.

Three months ahead of that date, a written notice explaining the process already makes it obvious just how complex this will be.

“I got a headache,” quipped Wilson, the former water board attorney, “just reading the thing.”

— Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or Follow him and on Twitter @alexbreitler.




Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown gets ready to swim upstream

By Dan Morain

Jerry Brown is a little like a salmon.

Brown led the campaign to persuade voters to approve the $7.5 billion water bond in 2014. In part because of his exhortations in 2015, in which he derided “nice little green grass getting lots of water every day,” we are tearing out our turf and conserving.

But if 2016 is to be counted as a success, Brown once again must focus on water, specifically the massive California WaterFix project that includes the twin tunnels and restoration of Delta habitat.

“It is a critical year. Either a decision gets made this year, or there won’t be a project,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies water to 19 million Southern Californians and is the most consistent supporter of the tunnel concept.

“We have studied it enough,” Kightlinger said. “It is either thumbs up or thumbs down within the next 12 months.”

Brown embraced the tunnels in 2012 when he announced his desire to get stuff done, although he didn’t exactly use the word “stuff.” Ever since, he and his aides have been advocating for the two tunnels – 40 feet in diameter, 30 miles long and $15.5 billion in cost – to divert Sacramento River water by the Delta, to farms and cities to the south and west.

“Until you’ve put a million hours into it,” Brown said last year as if dismissing tunnel critics, “shut up.” Brown said it with a grin, though predictably, Delta interests feigned outrage and used it as a rallying cry.

The governor hasn’t exactly put a million hours into studying the project. But he has been working on water since he was governor the first time, intent on completing the job begun by his father, who helped build the Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct. He certainly has devoted enough time to water to know that a $15.5 billion project that would take a decade to build and involves water is like swimming upstream.

Consider the obstacles: Understanding that few issues are as divisive as water, congressional Republicans tell thirsty San Joaquin Valley farmers that if only the Endangered Species Act were weakened or abolished, their almonds would have plenty of water. Where, exactly, it would come from is less clear.

Dean Cortopassi, a wealthy Stockton-area farmer, is promoting an initiative on the November ballot that, if approved, would limit the state government’s ability to fund the $15.5 billion project.

Studies required by the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act have been years in the making, and should be completed in 2016. Then Brown must obtain permits from state and federal agencies. There will, of course, be lawsuits.

Obama administration officials who have been working on the project are on their way out. If they fail to act before President Barack Obama leaves office, the next administration would insist on reviewing the proposal anew. That could add years to the process.

Californians for Water Security – a coalition of unions, some farm groups and chambers of commerce – supports the tunnels. But politicians who might be the governor’s natural allies are missing from the list.

Although legislators need not vote on the tunnels, neither Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, nor has Anthony Rendon, the incoming Assembly speaker, who also represents Los Angeles.

If “there is not a critical mass” of Southern California lawmakers in support, Rendon said by phone last week, “then I could see where he could have a problem.”

“The jury is still out,” Rendon said. “A lot of folks in L.A. are on both sides. I don’t know yet.”

Then there’s the matter of money. Farmers, including those who have bet the farm on the availability of water to irrigate almonds, have been less than enthusiastic about the project.

The Metropolitan Water District might be able to pay for the tunnels on its own. But that won’t happen. All 25 million potential beneficiaries would need to chip in.

“The idea that our ratepayers would subsidize other ratepayers would be unacceptable,” Kightlinger said. “We’re going to need everyone to pay a fair share.”

That would include the users in the Bay Area where opposition traditionally is most intense to anything that can be characterized as a Southern California water grab, no matter that much of the Bay Area relies on Hetch Hetchy for its water.

The Metropolitan Water District hardly speaks with a single voice. The San Diego County Water Authority, a part of the MWD, has fought with the district for decades over the cost of water. That feud could continue, depending on the amount San Diego customers would be asked to pay.

“That is pivotal for a lot of agencies to understand where they stand,” San Diego water board Chairman Mark Weston said by phone.

Given all the obstacles, Brown will need to do much more than offer derisive or dismissive comments. He’ll need to sell Californians on the need for the project. Either that or come up with a Plan B, which would not surprise me.

Brown is one of the few politicians willing to focus on water, and doesn’t give up easily, like a salmon. The mighty fish spend years in the ocean and then swim hundreds of miles upstream, avoiding anglers and navigating fish ladders, only to beat themselves silly against rocks, a little like politicians who aspire to get water stuff done.

Dan Morain: 916-321-1907,, @DanielMorain,



San Francisco Chronicle

Lawmakers look Down Under to help state get over the drought

By Kevin Fagan

Don’t be surprised to see a flurry of new legislative proposals in 2016 that push toilet water recycling, rooftop water tanks and underground systems to filter sewer sludge for field irrigation in California. Call it the Australian plan.

Nearly three dozen California lawmakers and nonprofit and business leaders flew across the Pacific recently to see how the Aussies slashed their water use in half during a catastrophic 13-year drought that ended in 2010, and they came away so impressed that they want to adopt some of the innovations. Those mostly involve recycling every drop possible from toilets, fields, roofs, gutters and sewer pipes.

The visiting team also thought the Golden State could learn something from Australia’s robust water-sales market, which allows farmers to sell water to the government in exchange for help upgrading their irrigation systems. Those systems, in turn, use far less water than the old methods.

Australia did away with an ironclad water-rights market similar to California’s, and forced farmers, environmentalists and cities to share supplies from reservoirs equally. The new market allows rights holders to trade water like a commodity, depending on rural and urban needs.


Just how much of the Australian way can be adapted to California is an open question. But the fact that a crippling drought was gut-punched by a country whose most inhabited area resembles California in size, economy and geographical characteristics had the visiting team excited.

“It was eye-opening,” said state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who helped lead the delegation. “It is clear that the Australian government — and in particular the states — has taken a much bolder, active role in dealing with their water crisis than we have, and it was inclusive. We can do more here, and it doesn’t have to be us versus them among the various interests. … We can share ideas, no matter how bold.

“I’m looking forward to sitting down with my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to see how we can find common ground to move forward,” de León said.

Recycling water

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, said she hopes to kick-start more use of gray water, storm-water recycling and competitive grants for local conservation innovations.

“I’d like more public-private partnerships like the kind we saw there,” she said. “For instance, in Melbourne we went to the cricket stadium and the horse racing track and saw how they water the grounds with recycled sewer and storm water.

“These are things we can incentivize here by getting around some of the obstacles for permitting for recycling water,” Eggman said. “People have to get past the ‘yuck’ factor on some of the reuse, like from sewers. … The fact is that if there is no health risk, we should be able to use water as many times as scientifically possible.”

Widespread measures

More than two-thirds of Australia’s houses use systems that recycle water from showers, clothes washers and other appliances for watering gardens and flushing toilets, and many screen their water even more closely for drinking. More than half of the country’s homes capture roof runoff in tanks, and just one heavy rainstorm can produce enough water to supply a house all summer.

In California, only 13 percent of homes use gray water, and rain barrels are rare.

All told, Australia spent $13 billion on drought-busting programs, which included building six major desalination plants.

De León and Eggman were among 11 state Democratic and Republican legislators who made the 10-day trip in October and November, after a Chronicle report on Australia’s drought measures. They were joined by 24 others ranging from members of the state Water Commission and California Farm Bureau Federation to representatives of the Nature Conservancy and Shell Energy North America.

The expedition was funded by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, a San Francisco think tank that examines labor, environmental and business issues.

A report by the foundation after the trip urged substantial investment in water recycling, monitoring of all water so it can be better managed, and construction of systems to capture rainwater runoff that now mostly flows off city streets into the ocean. Desalination, such as the $1 billion plant that opened in December near San Diego, should be considered as just one part of the antidrought equation, it said.

Most of all, the report urged: “Start now. It will take 20 to 30 years to realize results.”

“When I came back from what I saw, my head was actually spinning at the enormity of what they accomplished,” said Patrick Mason, president of the foundation. “It’s going to take a while to do what we need to here, but there is no putting it off.

“The legislators we have today … won’t see the end of what they start, but they have to do it now,” Mason said.

First steps

The easiest first step would be to encourage — possibly with tax breaks or grants — systems that recycle home gray water and rainwater from roofs, streets and fields, participants said. California farmers and ranchers who, as in Australia, use about 80 percent of the available water, would be the most complicated group to please.

Some of the reforms that eliminated longtime farming water rights in Australia met with fury, and there is still grumbling over agricultural priorities versus urban or environmental needs. But those who made the Australian trip agreed that water discussions between rural and city interests are harmonious compared with the past.

Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said he was impressed at how much easier it is to move water around Australia and to recharge aquifers with storm-water runoff.

“Not everything they did would work over here, but the Aussies do have a better way of coming to the table and working things out,” Wenger said. “Here, our politics are so polarizing we can’t even get people to the table.”

El Niño danger

Above all, everyone agreed, the possible return of steadily pounding rains this winter in California shouldn’t fool anyone into thinking the state can stick to the old ways.

“The reality is that in Australia, they recognized their water system was oversubscribed,” said Jay Ziegler, policy director for the Nature Conservancy. “Like them, we need to recognize that. We need to recognize the seriousness of the drought, of climate change, of longer drought cycles, more severe storm years — just to think longer term about water management.

“My fear is that the delirium of one good El Niño year will erase the realization that we use more water than we have in our lakes and rivers,” Ziegler said. “The nightmare is that people will forget we need to continue on a path of reform. We have to be smarter than that.”

Kevin Fagan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @KevinChron



Los Angeles Times

Harold Parichan dies at 92; attorney, almond farmer fought California bullet train project

By Ralph Vartabedian

Harold Parichan spent sleepless nights worrying about the California bullet train.

Over dinners with his daughter and sons, he would ponder the fate of his prized almond orchards in Madera County, which would be sliced diagonally by the future tracks.

Disabled since polio struck him in the 1920s, Parichan overcame many obstacles, attending UC Berkeley and Stanford University law school on crutches and braces. But the bullet train became one of the biggest emotional challenges in his life, and time was running out for the 92-year-old farmer.

Parichan died Wednesday in Fresno after a bout with the flu, leaving his fight to keep the train off his farm unfinished.

Sue Parichan Habild, who worked with her father for decades, vowed that the family would continue his fight.

“We would be there for dinner, and all we would talk about was the bullet train,” she said. “You could see how angry he was. I’m sure it affected his health.”

The battle that Parichan waged against the $68-billion project is part of a deeply emotional land war that has drawn in hundreds of farming families from Merced to Bakersfield.

The refusal of farmers to sell out is a large part of the reason that the project is now more than two years behind schedule and massive earthmoving machinery is parked idle in Fresno, as the bills mount and the frustration of project supporters grows.

The Central Valley farms in the way have been handed down from generation to generation, and the current owners believe they have a debt to their parents and grandparents.

“I hate to say it, but it is an obsession with me,” said Kole Upton, a Stanford engineering graduate and almond farmer who was a friend of Parichan. Upton’s own 1,000-acre almond farm lies in the high-speed rail line’s path, and he has been fighting to keep his land intact for years.

‘If I go down, I will go down fighting to my last dollar,” he added. “My daughter and son and their families live with me on my land. I know how Mr. Parichan felt.”

Dan Richard, the rail authority board chairman, said he has attempted to engage with farmers and understands their opposition, but in the end the taking of their land is unavoidable.

“It comes with the territory,” he said at a board meeting in 2013.

Despite Richard’s resolve, the state has fallen far behind schedule. It was supposed to be more than halfway toward building the first 29 miles of rail structures from Madera to Fresno, but it has turned over only half the necessary land to its contractor, Tutor Perini.

Parichan was a formidable opponent.

“They are raping my ranch,” Parichan said in a 2015 interview. He was himself an accomplished attorney, wealthy and committed to fighting a project that be believed was misguided. He hired a former federal judge, Oliver Wanger, to represent him.

“He was the strongest person I ever met, a great soul,” said Adrian Valdez, Parichan’s caregiver for seven years. “He fell constantly and broke every bone you could think of: his legs, his hip, his neck. He always bounced back and continued his life as normal as possible. Struggling with polio, you would think he would have a hard time with life, but he loved life.”

Valdez said Parichan’s fight against the bullet train changed him. “It really did a number on him. It took away his peace. He would be awake at night thinking about it.”

Parichan was born Nov. 23, 1923, in Reedley, the son of an immigrant cobbler from Armenia.

As a young boy, he underwent numerous experimental surgeries for his polio, including the removal of his ankle at a Los Angeles hospital. After graduating from UC Berkeley, he went to Harvard Law School. But he left for Stanford because the harsh Eastern winters made it too difficult for him to get around campus.

By then, he had married Edna Elizabeth Schramm, the daughter of a German farming family in the Central Valley. After graduating, he opened a law office Fresno with other attorneys. He built a reputation as a tough corporate defender, representing General Motors, Ford and gunmaker Sturm Ruger in some of the biggest product-defect cases in history.

But when he fell on the courthouse steps in the late 1990s, he decided it was time to give up his law practice. He had been drawn to farming after spending decades listening to his wife’s family talk about their land, Habild said.

He had amassed a fortune as an attorney, living in a home on the banks of the San Joaquin River in Fresno. He had a second home at the Vintage Club, the gated Indian Wells community where Bill Gates and other wealthy Americans have homes.

While the love of his land gave him motivation to fight the state, the almonds gave him the money to accomplish it. He was harvesting 2,500 acres of almonds, which produced annual revenue of more than $13 million.

The rail authority has designated a route that would cut through seven of Parichan’s almond orchards, severing irrigation systems and cutting off hundreds of acres from tractors, he said. The initial offers that the state made represented only a small fraction of the value of the land, he said.

So far, the state hadn’t moved legally against Parichan, as it has with other farmers, but he had expected an eminent domain action to acquire the property.

Michael Brady, a Bay Area attorney who was among Parichan’s friends and is representing other farmers in the Central Valley, said the urban dwellers of the state cannot comprehend the scope of the legal battles that are occurring.

“These are wonderful people, very strong,” Brady said. “They love their land and love their way of life, unlike many people in California who jump here and jump there.”

Parichan is survived by his wife, Edna, and three children, Rod Parichan, Tim Parichan and Sue Parichan Habild. He has six grandchildren, including Reid Parichan, who manages the almond farm., Twitter: @rvartabedian



Fresno Bee

San Joaquin Valley tree-fruit farmers welcome wintry weather

By Robert Rodriguez

Kingsburg cherry farmer Allen Jackson laments last season’s paltry harvest. Dry and warmer than normal temperatures contributed to fewer cherries and less revenue.

“There were some areas where there wasn’t enough fruit on the tree to even try picking it,” said Jackson, who grows 11 varieties of cherries. “But things are looking much better now.”

Jackson and other tree fruit farmers are welcoming the return of cooler daytime temperatures and foggy weather – staples of San Joaquin Valley winters and two factors needed for good fruit development.

The National Weather Service said December’s temperatures in Fresno were normal – meaning lows in the upper 30s and daytime highs in the upper 40s to low 50s.

Scientists say that fruit trees, like cherries, require a certain number of hours of cool temperatures. In the plant world, that is known as chilling hours. Although some trees require more chill hours than others, cherries and pistachios did not get enough last winter. Farmers say a temperature in the low-to-mid 40s is ideal.

Without the optimum chill hours, the tree’s reproductive development is stunted, resulting in poor fertilization and fewer fruit buds.

“It is like the female flowers were ready to party but the male flowers weren’t around,” said David Doll, University of California pomology farm adviser in Merced County.

In pistachio trees, the shells develop, but without any nuts inside. It’s called blanking. Add a lack of water, and the 2015-16 crop could be down by at least 30%, Doll says.

It’s doubtful the new crop will surpass last season’s crop of 520 million pounds.

The good news is the cooler weather is getting the trees off to a good start. Already, some regions on the west side of Fresno County have accumulated 70 percent of the total chill necessary.

“And January is the biggest chill month,” Doll said.

Farmers are optimistic this will be a better year than last.

“We are hoping this cold weather sticks around,” Jackson said.

Jackson said two of his most popular varieties of cherries – Brooks and Tulare – were down significantly last season. On the whole, he estimates his crop was 50 percent of normal.

In Merced County, farmer Raj Iyer is also thankful for more normal winter weather.

“Last year, we had 70-plus degrees in January,” Iyer said. “That’s not winter.”

Iyer said the foggy weather, while treacherous for driving, helps keep the daytime temperatures down.

“We have had a normal weather pattern since November, so hopefully we will be back on track to producing a nice cherry crop,” Iyer said.

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob,



New York Times

We Need a New Green Revolution

By Phillip A. Sharp and Alan Leshner

DESPITE the four-year drought that has parched California and led to mandatory restrictions on water use, farmers there have kept feeding the country. California produces more of 66 different food crops than any other state, $54 billion of food annually.

Maintaining this level of productivity has been quite a challenge in recent years and is likely to become more difficult over the next few decades as weather patterns, available water and growing seasons shift further and threats of invasive weeds, pests and pathogens rise.

If agriculture is to have any chance of answering these challenges, we must have new and improved techniques and technologies. The problem is that agricultural innovation has not kept pace.

The last time our nation was in a similar crisis was just after the Dust Bowl years in the 1940s, but the country’s agricultural science enterprise was in much better shape. At that point, almost 40 percent of American research and development spending was focused on agriculture. This ambitious embrace of research was part of the “green revolution” that significantly boosted agricultural output around the world.

Today, farm production has stopped growing in the United States, and agriculture research is no longer a priority; it constitutes only 2 percent of federal research and development spending. And, according to the Department of Agriculture, total agricultural production has slowed significantly since the turn of the century. We need another ambitious surge in agricultural science.

Consider the avian flu epidemic, in which more than 48 million birds were killed — 30 million in Iowa alone — because the only way to control an outbreak is to eradicate a farm’s entire flock. The Agriculture Department recorded only 219 birds that were actually sick with the flu. The $3.3 billion in losses have led to a search for a better method of controlling the virus than killing a farm’s flock because of one sick bird.

While private sector research and development in agriculture have grown over the past decade and now exceed what is federally funded, this financing is focused on shorter term benefits. On the other hand, more than 80 percent of federally funded research is designed to provide the building blocks for long-term production increases to address the many problems we face in the decades ahead. These problems have been amplified by climate change and the demands of a growing global population.

Experience has shown that the best way forward is funding research through a competitive process, with projects selected through a peer-review procedure that excludes politics. There is a program in the Agriculture Department that embraces these tenets, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, and its research grants show great promise.

New, hardier varieties of corn are being developed from tropical species that can better withstand heat, drought and changes to the environment. The probiotics found in fermented products like yogurt are being tested to replace antibiotics used in animal husbandry. And nanotechnology and electrified micro-coatings of water are being applied to some produce, to prevent food poisoning. Government research is even exploring how to double the rate of photosynthesis and eliminate the need for pesticides.

The potential is great, but the program has never been fully funded. Despite a $25 million increase in the omnibus budget agreement, the budget of the department’s research initiative sits at half of what Congress authorized in 2008 when it created the program. In the 2014 fiscal year, the program’s peer-review process identified approximately $1.1 billion in grants as worthy of funding, but the program could dispense only $270 million. We cannot kindle the next green revolution if we treat roughly three-quarters of a billion dollars in worthwhile scientific ideas as if they were table scraps.

Throughout humanity’s existence, farming and food production have always benefited from innovative solutions that solved challenges and looked beyond the horizon. Now more than ever, we need to embrace 21st-century science, fund it and turn it loose so we can develop better methods of putting food on the table. Our world is changing; the way we grow and produce food needs a much richer diet of scientific ingenuity to keep pace.

Phillip A. Sharp, a professor at M.I.T., won a Nobel Prize in 1993. Alan Leshner is the C.E.O. emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They serve on the board of the Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation.

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