Ag Alert: July 8, Special Issue on Irrigation, Vegetables, and California Water Crisis

The latest issue of Ag Alert® is now available online. Our July 8 special issue on Irrigation includes special reports on Vegetables, and we continue our California Water Crisis series. You can read full content of the newspaper by logging in to www.agalert.com. 


New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River held only 17 percent of its capacity-or about 26 percent of its average for the date-when this photo was taken, July 3. 
Photo/Dave Kranz

More restrictions hit state's water supplies 

As water supplies deteriorate around California, already-tight supplies are being cut further, some water-right holders are challenging curtailment of their supplies, agencies continue to assess the impact of unforeseen restrictions on Lake Shasta, and members of Congress are promoting legislation intended to make the state's water more reliable. Read more...

Farm groups mount challenges to 'waters' rule 

Now that the federal waters of the U.S. rule has been finalized with publication in the Federal Register, agricultural and other groups are gaining insight on what the rule will mean once it takes effect on Aug. 28--and planning both legal and legislative challenges to its implementation. Read more...

Commentary: Here's how to be politically active for agriculture 

As farmers and ranchers are well aware, political representation in California continues to shift from rural areas to more urbanized areas. That change in representation can lead to changes in laws and regulations that make it increasingly difficult for agricultural businesses to conduct their day-to-day operations. Read more...

Other headlines from this week's Ag Alert:

  • California Bountiful TV program earns awards
  • To stay in the dairy business, farmers diversify
  • From the Fields
  • Task force discusses effects of new groundwater law
  • Onion crop paves the way for planting garlic
  • Lender assesses potential drought damage to farming
  • CAPCA schedules education events
  • Specialist describes drought management of alfalfa
  • Emergency state rules allow removal of dead, dying trees
  • Research focuses on water efficiency in rice production
  • Fresno State research looks at orchard water efficiency
  • Drought, lack of chilling reduce state's almond crop
  • Almond Board invests in research
  • Rice leaders in training
  • Study checks pest lure
  • MPP enrollment opens
  • New use approved for fungicide

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Commentary: We Must Communicate the Facts About Water Use

AgAlert   By Mark Jansen   May 26, 2015

The headlines have been unavoidable. Almonds have been painted as our state's "thirstiest" crop, but what these stories lack is context. The management team from the Blue Diamond Growers cooperative has been collaborating with industry experts to communicate the facts about agricultural water use to the media and our urban neighbors.

According to a recent editorial in the San Jose Mercury News, "California's dams and reservoirs were never envisioned to release water year-round for environmental objectives such as aiding the delta smelt or reintroducing salmon in the San Joaquin River watershed. A majority of reservoir water once intended for households or farming is simply sent out to sea."

Clearly, our solution to California's water situation will require a collaborative effort among all Californians to find a solution that makes sense for everyone.

The drought debate continues as we enter the hot, dry summer of the Central Valley, with mandatory water restrictions now in place throughout our state. For many Californians, that means the drought will now affect their day-to-day lives. Millions of urban Californians will have to join agriculture in the fight to save water and push for storage to protect our future. Gov. Brown's mandate made it clear that all Californians need to do their part to conserve our most precious resource, and yet the media firestorm aimed at agriculture, and almonds specifically, has been fierce.

Our message has been simple: All food takes water to grow.

California's agricultural abilities are second to none. In fact, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, nearly half of our country's fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables come from California. And CDFA reports that from 1967 to 2010, California agriculture has increased revenue and decreased total applied water use by 20 percent.

In order to achieve such an impressive statistic, access to a consistent water supply is key. The amount of water required for California farming to grow our food is only 40 percent of captured water, with environmental projects taking the majority at 50 percent. The often-quoted 80 percent ignores any water used for environmental purposes.

I have read suggestions that agriculture has been let off the hook by the governor's mandate. Here are the facts: In 2014, farmers received only 5 percent of their contracted State Water Project allocation and 0 percent from the federal Central Valley Project. This year, farmers are projected to receive 20 percent of State Water Project allocation and again, 0 percent of CVP water. Our farmers have been feeling the effects of this drought from the very beginning.

Some have questioned whether agriculture's economic impact justifies the amount of water used by the industry. The media points to agriculture's 2.8 percent share of the state GDP, but again, this figure lacks context. It does not tell the whole story. Getting our food from farm to fork involves an interconnected supply chain, undoubtedly contributing significantly more than 2.8 percent to the state's economy. The almond industry alone contributes 104,000 jobs to California, 97,000 of which reside in the Central Valley, and more than 37,000 additional jobs throughout the supply chain.

Speaking of almonds, there are 9 million acres of farmland in California and almonds account for 12 percent of that total, while only using 8 percent of the water currently used for agriculture. Almond crops produce more than just the kernels humans eat, which provide an efficient source of a heart-healthy, plant-based protein. The almond crop also produces hulls and shells that provide feed and bedding for livestock animals. Almonds rank No. 1 in California for food exports out of the state, with North America consuming four times more almonds than any other market. Our industry is a global driver of $11 billion in economic activity for California.

In the last 20 years, California almond growers have reduced the amount of water required to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent. Nearly 70 percent of almond growers use micro-irrigation systems and more than 80 percent use demand-based irrigation scheduling. No one in the world can produce a high-quality almond as efficiently as we can in California.

In times of crisis, there are people who look for someone to blame. Almonds were the first target. Through sharing a few facts about our water stewardship, the media tide has turned to more balanced reporting. As the weather continues to warm into the summer, I expect agriculture will continue to field questions from our urban neighbors about water. Rest assured that Blue Diamond is committed to collaborating with our industry peers, water and environmental experts, consumer groups, regulatory bodies and policy makers to establish a water policy that makes sense for all Californians—rural and urban, Central Valley and coastal, producers and consumers.

(Mark Jansen is president and CEO of Blue Diamond Growers in Sacramento.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

Read at... http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=8324

 

Ag Alert February 4, 2015

Ag Alert  By Robert Giblin  February 4, 2015

The latest issue of Ag Alert® is now available online. Our Feb. 4 issue includes special reports onVegetables and we continue our California Water Crisis series. You can read full content of the newspaper by logging in to www.agalert.com. 

Water rights: Farmers prepare for possibility of new curtailments 
When it came, the notice was disappointing but not surprising: The State Water Resources Control Board warned farmers, ranchers and other people with water rights to prepare for another round of curtailments in 2015. Coming off a year that resulted in water cutbacks to farms even in the North State that historically enjoyed more secured supplies, some farmers say they are planning early for another year of possible reductions. Read more...

Flood plan could require more land as habitat 
A long-term plan intended to improve flood protection in the Central Valley would affect tens of thousands of additional acres, including farmland that could be converted to permanent wildlife habitat, according to figures released in a new draft conservation strategy document from the California Department of Water Resources. Read more...

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