Ag Today Thursday, March 19, 2015

Brown, Legislature to unveil $1 billion drought aid package [Contra Costa Times]

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders on Thursday introduced a $1 billion package of emergency drought legislation aimed at helping Californians cope with a stretch of bone-dry weather that’s starting to feel endless. But more than half the money — $660 million — is dedicated to flood control projects that will do little to nothing to mitigate the drought, which is entering its fourth year in California….The legislation will also include funding for safe drinking water, water conservation projects and food for farm workers and others hurting because of the drought.
New study, old data in Stanislaus County effort to manage groundwater [Modesto Bee]
A long-awaited tool created to help manage groundwater was unveiled Wednesday to the Stanislaus County Water Advisory Committee, whose members listened politely but seemed less than thrilled. The 10-year, $1.25 million effort by the U.S. Geological Survey, aimed at understanding and predicting how water moves underground in this region, relies on data at least 11 years old. That was before growers began pumping groundwater in earnest to feed millions of new almond trees blanketing the county’s east side, and before the ongoing four-year drought….The Water Advisory Committee, composed of officeholders and volunteers – many with stakes in agriculture, water and drilling – also voted Wednesday to pursue creating an agency to oversee groundwater management using an “integrated subbasin approach.” That means coordinating with leaders from San Joaquin and Merced counties, because the groundwater basin under much of Stanislaus extends beyond county lines to the north and south.
Judge: CVWD doesn’t need to ID heavy water users [Palm Springs Desert Sun]
A Riverside County Superior Court judge this week ruled that the Coachella Valley Water District doesn’t need to disclose its private customers’ groundwater use data. The First Amendment Coalition filed a lawsuit against the agency in August to make records of businesses, such as golf courses, accessible to the public. But a judge shot down the request on Tuesday. “CVWD fought this lawsuit because we believe it is important to protect private customer data, whether that customer is a homeowner, a business or a private pumper,” board president John Powell Jr. said in a statement….CVWD and Desert Water Agency used to report how much groundwater was being pumped by individual users, including golf courses, country clubs, farms and resorts. Most users were commercial or industrial. Both agencies changed course after The Desert Sun published a list of the valley’s biggest groundwater consumers in March 2014.
Water officials hear predictions of looming crisis at Salton Sea [Los Angeles Times]
After listening to seven hours of doomsday predictions, state water officials agreed Wednesday to look at one of California’s largest but often ignored environmental problems: the deterioration of the Salton Sea. State Water Resources Control Board members asked agency staff to explore what power the agency has to get involved in a dispute that, at its core, involves the state Legislature’s refusal to live up to its 2003 promise to keep the sea from shrinking and wreaking havoc on the region’s environment, economy and public health….The board’s hearing was at the behest of the Imperial Irrigation District, which has suggested that the board should amend its approval of the 2003 water deal between Imperial and the San Diego County Water Authority in order to require the state to fulfill its promise.
Tensions high amid crippling protests by farmworkers in Baja [Los Angeles Times]
Farmworkers in Baja California vowed to continue a strike that threatens the region’s harvest after negotiations broke down late Wednesday and authorities refused to release dozens of laborers arrested during protests that degenerated into rock-throwing and looting. The Mexican government has sent hundreds of soldiers, state and municipal police to secure the region about 200 miles south of San Diego after thousands of protesters shut down the main highway linking the coastal agricultural fields with export markets in California….Laborers are demanding higher salaries and government benefits like social security that they say agribusinesses have long denied them. Laborers make about $8 to $12 per day on average picking strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers.
U.S. presses Indonesia on agricultural trade restrictions [Wall Street Journal]
The U.S. is escalating a two-year-old fight with Indonesia over its agricultural trade restrictions by requesting formal settlement of the dispute at the World Trade Organization. Washington blames Indonesia for limiting U.S. exports to the fast-growing Asian economy. On Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman announced the U.S. would ask the Geneva-based WTO to settle the agricultural dispute, an indication that earlier consultations didn’t resolve disagreements over Indonesia’s 2012 rules governing horticultural and animal products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has criticized Indonesia’s goal to supply all of its poultry and beef needs internally as “protectionist policies” guarding the country’s domestic meat industry at time when Indonesia’s middle class swells and consumes more protein.
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