Ag Today Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Orchard removal business hot when water is scarce [KXTV, Sacramento]

G and F Orchard Removal is one of those businesses that gets very busy when water is scarce in the Central Valley. Growers choosing to save younger orchards will have older orchards taken out when water restrictions are tight. “You can see a lot of them have bud failure, no leaves, they’re in stress mode. It takes a toll on trees for future use as well,” Stanislaus County walnut and almond grower Paul Wenger said….Wenger is having 20 acres of walnut trees removed later this week. Business at G and F Orchard Removal increases about 50 percent when water is limited.
Opinion: Jerry Brown now a champion for farmers [Sacramento Bee]
It was somewhat incongruous to watch Gov. Jerry Brown defend California’s farmers and their water use on national television Sunday….What made Brown’s stout defense of California farmers a little odd is that, as the old saying goes, they have history – mostly of conflict. During his first stint as governor that began four decades ago, Brown repeatedly clashed with the nation’s biggest agricultural industry, first over farm labor policies and later over his initial refusal to use pesticides against an invasion of Mediterranean fruit flies and his plan to transport water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta via a canal….He was something of a Hollywood hipster in the 1970s, but these days he stresses his links to pioneer farmers in the upper Sacramento Valley, often visits relatives in that area, plays host to family gatherings, and talks about building a cabin on ancestral lands. He’s not exactly Farmer Brown, but one might assume that those recent experiences have sensitized him to the challenges of rural life.
Editorial: Consider changes to management of water for farming? [Marysville Appeal-Democrat]
If you’re interested in making it look crazy — the amount of water agriculture uses versus that used by urban areas — you’re going to go with the 80/20 ratio….Do you want the same amount of water to be used for urban lawns and swimming pools and endless housing developments as you want used for production of the food all of us eat? When you think about it, the 80 percent/20 percent split is more logical….Restrictions for agriculture? Sure. Start lining up the talking points. There surely are reasonable additional conservation practices that could be implemented. It’s time for better data collection, perhaps more aggressive groundwater control, maybe more local involvement in planning how acres can be used between fields that can be fallowed in times of drought versus orchards that can’t be shut down so easily. But, again, we’d caution critics to slow down and think it through. You can argue conservation should be waged on all fronts, but that 80/20 ratio business … it’s only useful to show how important agriculture is. We get the feeling some arguing for stricter regulations on agriculture are really lobbying for a shift in the ratio. That would be a mistake.
Farmers back bill to subsidize biomass plants [Bakersfield Californian]
Local farmers are adding their support to legislation that would divert revenue from California’s cap-and-trade program to biomass plants that generate power by burning agricultural and urban green waste. Last month the Kern County Farm Bureau co-hosted a meeting in Delano to raise awareness of Assembly Bill 590 and help an industry the group called “very important” to local growers, in that biomass plants take trimmings and old trees that would otherwise be more expensive for farmers to dispose of. AB 590, co-authored by Assemblymen Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, and Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, is making its way through the state capitol at a time when California’s biomass industry says it is having a hard time competing with cheaper sources of electrical power, including solar panels and natural gas.
Democrats push to extend health, legal rights to immigrants [Associated Press]
Responding to federal inaction over immigration reform, California Democrats on Tuesday will propose a package of 10 bills that would extend health care, legal rights and business protection to immigrants who are illegally living in the state. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, will lead the majority party’s push to expand health coverage to all Californians, regardless of their immigration status, although they are not proposing any funding to pay for the extensions….Another bill bans businesses from discriminating against a person on the basis of their immigration status, citizenship or language. Other bills seek to establish a state agency to help newly arrived immigrants, protect immigrants from unscrupulous employers and extend legal protections to avoid detention and deportation, according to a written summary of the legislation. Democrats who control the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature have said they want to find ways for immigrants to come out of the state’s economic shadows.
Silicon Valley firms plant roots in farm belt [Wall Street Journal]
New technologies that promise to change how food is grown, transported and sold are attracting increased interest from the kinds of investors that have fueled Silicon Valley powerhouses….The money involved in U.S. food startups is still small compared with Internet companies. But venture-capital investment in agriculture and food soared 54% to $486 million last year, according to Dow Jones VentureSource….Driving the investments are a combination of cheap wireless technology, improved tools for collecting data and monitoring crops, and budding entrepreneurs looking to address new market demands and feed a growing global population. Increasingly health-conscious consumers also are scrutinizing what is in their food, pushing vendors to boost the transparency of their supply chains.
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