Ag Today Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Scary times for California farmers as snowpack hits record lows [National Public Radio]

The water outlook in drought-racked California just got a lot worse: Snowpack levels across the entire Sierra Nevada are now the lowest in recorded history — just 6 percent of the long-term average….And it has huge implications for tens of millions of people who depend on water flowing downstream from melting snow — including the nation’s most productive farming region, the California Central Valley. Last year was already a tough year at La Jolla Farming in Delano, Calif. Or as farm manager Jerry Schlitz puts it, “Last year was damn near a disaster.”…This year, the outlook is no better: The Central Valley Project, which decides where and when to release what water is left in California’s reservoirs, has already warned that most farmers downstream won’t get any water for the second straight year.
Turlock Irrigation District caps water deliveries at 40 percent of normal [Modesto Bee]
The board of the Turlock Irrigation District voted Tuesday to cap water deliveries at about 40 percent of what farmers can get in years with ample supplies. Two board members, concerned that the Don Pedro Reservoir supply might run out next year, urged an even tighter limit. The 3-2 vote set the cap at 18 inches, but farmers can go up to 20 to complete their final irrigation….TID and the neighboring Modesto Irrigation District are dealing with a fourth straight year of drought. MID projects just 16 inches for its farmers this year….Some of the lost surface water will be made up with increased pumping of district-owned and farmers’ wells.
Editorial: Farmers don’t need help deciding what to plant [Modesto Bee]
Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton, one of Sacramento’s foremost observers, suggests the state (or someone) should tell farmers what they can plant. Crops that require more water would be forbidden during a drought. Less-thirsty crops would be OK – assuming there was enough water to also keep lawns in Long Beach green….“You will regulate farming out of business,” said Stanislaus Farm Bureau executive director Wayne Zipser. “You have to have the ability to change crops when the markets require it.”…Farming is not gardening. Farmers take risks in deciding what to plant. During droughts, those risks can be enormous. Farmers are willing to take them, and don’t need the help of others to determine what they can and can’t plant.
Opinion: State needs new dams, reservoirs [Sacramento Bee]
Surface storage is the first and most important part of a comprehensive water solution. Even the areas of the state with the greatest potential to recharge groundwater require a steady supply of water to fill the underground aquifers. Other than the few short months of heavy rains, that water will come from a reservoir….Today’s angst and handwringing over new reservoirs should be seen for what it is – at best a lapse in memory. At worst it is an attempt to reverse the clear mandate that a long-awaited comprehensive solution to the state’s water problems include all options – even dams.
Teachers, others demand more distance from pesticides [Salinas Californian]
A consortium of regional health, educational, political and environmental groups came out Tuesday with a case study critical of existing protections for children from pesticide drift.The target pesticide is the fumigant chloropicrin, used extensively in the strawberry industry to control nematodes and other soil-based pests that can decimate crops….While chloropicrin has not officially been listed as cancer-causing by the Environmental Protection Agency, a cadre of scientists and physicians have publicly stated that it is. Mark Weller, an organizer with Californians for Pesticide Reform, which conducted the study, titled “Fumigant Pesticides Put Central Coast Communities at Risk,” said the new buffer zones of up to 100 feet are inadequate to protect the health of school children. He is seeking a one-mile buffer….But is a one-mile buffer zone practical? Norm Groot, the executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau said the DPR set buffer zones based on science, not on one person’s backyard. “They are trying to solve problems that don’t exist,” Groot said.
Next-generation GMOs: Pink pineapples and purple tomatoes [Associated Press]
Cancer-fighting pink pineapples, heart-healthy purple tomatoes and less fatty vegetable oils may someday be on grocery shelves alongside more traditional products. These genetically engineered foods could receive government approval in the coming years, following the OK given recently given to apples that don’t brown and potatoes that don’t bruise. The companies and scientists that have created these foods are hoping that customers will be attracted to the health benefits and convenience and overlook any concerns about genetic engineering. “I think once people see more of the benefits they will become more accepting of the technology,” says Michael Firko, who oversees the Agriculture Department’s regulation of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
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