Ag Today Tuesday, February 17, 2015

An encore of Valley drought crisis — only worse [Fresno Bee]

The next train wreck in California’s drought is headed for the San Joaquin Valley this week when federal leaders forecast how much river water farmers can expect to irrigate nearly 3 million acres this summer. Most folks in farm country are expecting the same number as last year — zero for both east and west sides of the Valley. Consecutive years of no river water would be another unprecedented body punch from a drought dating back to the winter of 2011-12….This week, the angst will come from the initial forecast of federal water deliveries for summer. No date has been set, but the forecast in years past has usually been made in this week in February. The forecast is important because it involves a huge swath of California’s interior served by the Central Valley Project (CVP), the largest water system in the nation. The CVP is operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
State’s population growth expected to outstrip water conservation in coming years [Sacramento Bee]
California water agencies are on track to satisfy a state mandate to reduce water consumption 20 percent by 2020. But according to their own projections, that savings won’t be enough to keep up with population growth just a decade later….California’s population, already larger than all other Western states combined, is expected to grow 14 percent during that same period, reaching an estimated 44 million people by 2030, according to the state Department of Finance. If those projections hold, the result would be an additional 1 million acre-feet of water demand statewide – about equal to the capacity of Folsom Reservoir – by 2030. This would occur even as people use less water to meet the 20 percent reduction goal.
US labor official looks to untangle West Coast port dispute [Associated Press]
West Coast seaports that were all but shut over the holiday weekend because of a contract dispute are reopening as the nation’s top labor official begins his efforts to solve a stalemate between dockworkers and their employers that already has disrupted billions of dollars in U.S. international trade. U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez plans to meet Tuesday in San Francisco with negotiators for both the dockworkers’ union and the maritime association, which represents shipping lines that carry cargo and port terminal operators that handle it once the ships dock….After a fruitless meeting Friday between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, President Barack Obama said Saturday that Perez would come west and engage in the talks, which a federal mediator has overseen since early January. Over the weekend, Perez was in touch by phone with both sides.
Study: Ag is foundation of local economy [Marysville Appeal-Democrat]
What would happen to Yuba-Sutter’s economy if agriculture suddenly disappeared? A recent study provided the beginnings of an answer to the question by examining the effects of converting agricultural land into uses that are consistent with being in a floodplain — meaning that higher value crops, such as walnuts and almonds, would not be viable. The study, by Stephen Hamilton, professor and chair of economics at California Polytechnic State University, reinforces what is already mostly known: Agriculture is the lifeblood of the local economy, the foundation that props up a number of peripheral industries and provides billions of dollars of indirect benefits to the counties.…The study was commissioned by the Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau and the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency in response to a possible plan from the Central Valley Flood Protection Board to widen the Sutter Bypass, a flood control feature in western Sutter County, by either 1,000 feet or 2,000 feet.
Citrus industry gets research funds to help ward off a fruit-destroying disease [Ventura County Star]
WASHINGTON — With more than 20,000 acres devoted to citrus, Ventura County growers are bracing for the onslaught of a disease called citrus greening that has devastated the industry in Florida and Texas. Nationwide, growers and scientists are fighting back with a huge infusion of money for research to save the industry now threatened in Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina….Early detection is the focus of efforts by UC Riverside, said Michael Pazzani, the university’s vice chancellor for research and economic development. The school was awarded a $1.6 million USDA grant to tackle HLB last week. “For California, one of the goals is, as soon as it’s spotted, to eradicate it in a certain area before it can spread,” Pazzani said.
Gene-altered apples get U.S. approval [New York Times]
The government on Friday approved the commercial planting of genetically engineered apples that are resistant to turning brown when sliced or bruised. The developer, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, says it believes the nonbrowning feature will be popular with both consumers and food service companies because it will make sliced apples more appealing. The feature could also reduce the number of apples discarded because of bruising. But many executives in the apple industry say they worry that the biotech apples, while safe to eat, will face opposition from some consumers, possibly tainting the wholesome image of the fruit that reputedly “keeps the doctor away.” They are also concerned that it could hurt exports of apples to countries that do not like genetically modified foods.
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