Interior Dept: Water Grab at New Melones Devastating for Central Valley

Comments Come After Secretary of the Interior’s Visit

News Release from the Office of Rep. Jeff Denham

Following Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s visit to Don Pedro and New Melones Reservoirs at the request of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), the Department of Interior issued an official comment on Friday regarding the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab.

The Department of Interior’s comment notes that the proposed water grab “directly interfere[s] with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water” and “elevate[s] the Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.” Interior’s comment also specifies that siphoning off at least 40 percent of Central Valley’s rivers during peak season would result in significant reductions in water storage at New Melones and result in diminished power generation as well as recreational opportunities. DOI recommends the Board reconsider and postpone the scheduled August 21-22 public meeting to allow for “additional due diligence and dialogue.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

“Sacramento’s radical water grab would cripple the Central Valley’s economy, farms and community.  Secretary Zinke saw that when he visited New Melones and Don Pedro reservoirs with me last week,” Denham said. “They cannot drain our reservoirs and ignore our concerns.  I will continue fighting to make sure Central Valley voices are heard.”

“Under Sacramento’s plan, the Valley will suffer skyrocketing water and electricity rates.” Denham explained. “After a decade and millions of our money spent on a study that they required, the board ignored the science based proposal that would save our fish while preserving our water rights.  We will not allow them to take our water and destroy our way of life”

Last week, Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill, and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower. Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years. This would put in jeopardy critical water supplies for Central Valley farmers and communities who rely on the water for their homes, businesses, farms, and electric power. The amendment takes this issue head-on to protect Valley water.

Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.

To read the full comment from the Department of the Interior, click here. For more information about what Denham is doing to fight for water in the Valley, visit www.Denham.house.gov/water, where you can also sign up to receive periodic updates on his work in Washington to improve local water infrastructure, storage and delivery.

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Officials Applaud Ruling in Gerawan Employees’ Favor

Ballots in UFW Decertification Vote Must be Counted

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Two officials spoke out via press release following today’s ruling that the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) must count the ballots cast by Gerawan employees in the 2013 vote to decertify the United Farm Workers (UFW) as their union bargaining representative.

George Radanovich, President of the California Fresh Fruit Association, applauded the decision by the 5th District Court of Appeal.

George Radanovich
George Radanovich

Radanovich stated, “This has been a long time coming. We are encouraged and pleased to see the Court account for the most important opinion in this entire matter, the prerogative of the employees.”

Gerawan employees voted in a sanctioned election in November 2013 to decertify the United Farm Workers as their bargaining representative. Despite having ordered, sanctioned and supervised the election, the ALRB impounded the ballots, withheld a final vote count, and thereby denied recognition and acceptance of the employees’ decision.

Radanovich continued, “Today’s Court action would not have occurred without the determined effort of Gerawan Farming, Inc.; the Gerawan family; and in particular, company president Dan Gerawan, for defending his company and his employees’ right to choose. Finally, sunlight has been cast onto this injustice and the farmworkers’ voice will be heard.”

Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) made the following statement regarding today’s ruling:

Jim Patterson

“This moment is the next step in the most important civil rights battle of our time. More than 2,600 immigrant farmworkers from the Central Valley cast their ballots to determine their own future. Those votes were locked up tight and stowed away by the ALRB—the same agency whose job it is to protect the rights of farmworkers.”

“These hard-working men and women know exactly why their ballots were taken, and they have spent countless hours fighting for the fundamental right to have their votes counted so their voices can be heard loud and clear. Today is victory for them.”

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Future of Integrated Pest Management

IPM: A Decision Making Process

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Lori Berger is the academic coordinator for the University of California’s statewide Integrated Pest Management program. She spoke with California Ag Today recently about the sustainability of IPM and where it’s heading in the future.

“IPM is part of a sustainable approach to pest management. It’s very holistic. It’s a decision-making process. It incorporates all factors in an environment and in a situation, and it uses all human resources.”

Berger believes that even though IPMs are sustainable, the system might not work as well as it should.

“IPM has been around for 50 years, but our system is somewhat stuck in that we tend to be more reactive than proactive,” she explained. “If there’s an event such as an invasive pest or some … pesticide incident, some huge regulatory change or some legislative pressure, it’s like all of a sudden the system needs to reboot itself. We need to look deeper into the system and be working in a more embedded way across platforms and people.”

Berger told us that instead of looking at things in a linear way, it’s important to look at all the parts and how they relate to each other to find flaws in the system.

“As scientists, we tend to look at things cause and effect. We were looking into optimizing the whole by looking at the parts, but now taking things that are more of a systemic level, we’re trying to looking at the parts and also how they work in relationship to each other. That’s to where we can realize some of our biggest gains that there’s not as much at stake, or there’s less risk for all parties, and people are more aware of what’s going on.”

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Bayer’s “Grow On” Tool Pinpoints Sustainable Farming

Program Segmented for Different Crops

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Nevada Smith of Sacramento is a marketing manager for Bayer Crop Science’s Western Region. California Ag Today recently spoke with him about Grow On, a tool that farmers can use to identify, apply, and communicate sustainable farm practices.

“It’s a tool to help growers really think about how they approach the marketplace and how they communicate the message around sustainability. We think it’s a critical aspect for not only … their success but our success,” Smith explained. “But there’s many things they’re not really identifying that they do every day from a common standpoint that they need to promote themselves. What we’ve really done in the next step which we felt was missing was really going after each crop segment. In the Grow On campaign, we have a citrus segment, a tree nut segment, a grape segment, and several other ones. “

Segmenting the program can help target specific aspects of each type of crop.

“You can really understand what aspects might provide you from a labor point of view that really affects grapes and … performance,” Smith said. “If I’m a citrus guy, what am I doing about bees? These are different components, so you don’t really overlap. We’re really trying to ground into each crop.”

The idea behind Grow On is to give farmers the tools to be advocates for farming and sustainable agriculture.

“Bayer’s producing this before the marketplaces, which I really don’t understand, and let them be their own conduits,” Smith said. “We’ve talked about advocacy. We’ve talked about what growers are doing each day to solve their own problems to keep themselves sustainable, but now’s an opportunity to take these little aspects in six different buckets here and really understand how they can talk the story themselves.”

“We look at the big picture, and what we’re trying to do is provide solutions to what Bayer’s providing. They’ll begin to see other things that their doing themselves. They can organize themselves in thought and provide those tools to whoever’s buying their commodity and crop and also to that persons who’s asking them why do you farm? How are you helping the environment through your practices? This is the platform for them to do that.”

For more information about Grow On, visit cropscience.bayer.us.

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Agricultural Guestworker Act Won’t Help California

Proposed Legislation Long Way from What State Needs

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s Agricultural Guestworker Act is moving forward for the full Ag Committee to consider it, but according to Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation, it’s a long way from what California needs.

“They did something with the H2C proposal. It’s a long, long, long ways from what we need here in California. We’ve been very clear on that … with Kevin McCarthy’s office, being the leader of the Republicans and really our key architect for all things that go through the Legislature, and so we’re in constant contact with Congressman McCarthy,” Wenger said.

The ag leaders in California are pretty astounded that Congress is doing anything about labor.

“We’re glad we finally got something to discuss, but there’s a long ways to go,” Wenger explained. “As it’s written, as it came through the subcommittee, there’s really nothing there that would work for our employees here in California and give us the kind of flexibility that we need, but we need a vehicle to start the discussion. … Talking to Congressman [David] Valadao’s office, Jeff Denham and others on the Republican side because it’s really got to be led by the Republicans.”

“We  now need a lot more that will allow for some portability of our workforce, in order to get legal documentation for those folks that don’t have good documentation that are already here in our state working without touchback, because we know folks aren’t going to go back and stand in line for 20 years waiting for some kind of a work authorization.”

 

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Hundreds of Studies Point to Glyphosate Being Safe

Herbicide is Non-Toxic if Used Correctly, Expert Says

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Glyphosate herbicide, produced under the well-known brand of Roundup, or any of its generic labels, has been studied around the world with absolutely no findings showing it to be toxic if used correctly. California Ag Today recently interviewed Liza Dunn, an emergency medical doctor, and also a medical toxicologist on the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, about the herbicide. She’s been working with Monsanto for about a year.

Monsanto has done lots and lots of studies, and not only Monsanto, but there are six full data packages that review using very, very, very intensive laboratory and epidemiologic techniques to look and see if something is actually causing a problem,” Dunn said.

But according to media reports, glyphosate does cause big problems.

“We have never found any problem with any health claim with glyphosate, and this is both independent researchers and researchers who are based with industry, so when you look at the evidence objectively, there is no health claim that has ever been demonstrated with glyphosate. If you use it as directed, it is incredibly, virtually non-toxic,” Dunn explained.

According to Dunn, that’s been proven by more than 100 toxicology studies.

“There are different levels that you have to study when you’re bringing your product to market, so different things that you have to look at. We have produced multiple, multiple studies, way in excess of what regulatory agencies have required, in order to demonstrate the safety and virtual non-toxicity of our product,” Dunn said.

 

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Bayer Launching CoLaborator Space in Sacramento

Biotech Startup Lab to Serve as Incubator

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Bayer Crop Sciences Biologics Group in West Sacramento is Bayer’s global headquarters for microbial base crop protection products. The company recently announced that a new biotech startup lab space known as the Crop Science CoLaborator is available in 3,000 square feet within the West Sacramento facility. Jon Margolis, head of research technologies for Bayer Biologics, recently spoke to California Ag Today about the project

Jon Margolis

“This is a part of the original building as we built it out,” Margolis said. “We set aside about 3,000 square feet in the back to be dedicated to this incubator space, and now we’ve just finished the construction.”

The lab space is scheduled to become available in December.

“It’s part of kind of a larger strategy for Bayer,” Margolis said. “So we have actually now three of these so-called CoLaborator spaces. So there’s one in Mission Bay associated with UCSS in San Francisco. There’s another one in Berlin, and then this is the latest. But this is the first one for Bayer that’s dedicated to agriculture and food research.”

We asked Margolis what the meaning is behind the CoLaborator.

“It’s really based around the idea that for start-up companies, there’s a clear benefit of being associated and nearby to Bayer, not so much for the facilities as much as the opportunities to be able to talk to and interact with us,” Margolis explained. “From our side, it’s a great thing because it gives us kind of a reason or an opportunity to be talking to start-ups in this space who might be interested in renting this.”

Bayer is already starting to solicit for tenants for the space.

“It’ll be a combination of office and then fully modern, what we call, wet lab or biochemistry and cell biology kind of labs, which would be able to host up to three different companies,” Margolis said. “So typically, these early stage start-up companies are comprised one to three people, and what they’re really trying to do is get the initial proof of concept to really show that their idea, their technology works, to then be able to go out to investors and get the next round of funding. So this is kind of in that sweet spot because there’s not a lot of that space in the local area.”

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Washington Post Writer Sees Ag Issues with RAISE Act

Disconnect Exists with Urban Politicians, Ruben Navarrette says

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Ruben Navarrette grew up in the Central Valley and is a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. California Ag Today caught up with him recently at an event in Fresno called the The Latino Paradox: Immigration Forum. He spoke about the RAISE Act S.354, which severely limits immigration into the U.S. because it would be based on education and skills.

Ruben Navarrette

“There’s this disconnect in Washington and New York … mostly urban areas where politicians don’t think much about agriculture, agribusiness,” Navarrette said. “They have no clue about where this fruit is coming from when they walk down the street in New York and they see an orange. They don’t understand how dangerous something like the RAISE Act would be if you ultimately limit the amount of people who come here based on education and skills.”

The RAISE Act will limit immigration from Latin American countries. Meanwhile, U.S.-born citizens don’t go out to work in the fields.

“I think there’s a lot of people who wrongly believe that American workers will do those jobs if the wages are high enough, and the way they tell the story [is] to make the agribusiness and the farmers into the bad guy,” Navarrette said. “If you know enough farmers and you go out into enough fields and you interview enough farmers and enough workers, you know that’s completely false. Farmers could be in business for 30 years and never in 30 years have they ever had an American come to them and say, ‘Can I pick peaches?’ ”

With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act (DACA), if dreamers are sent back, there are questions about what may happen with their parents.

“If they go back, the parents may ultimately self-deport as well and that’s going to be disruptive,” Navarrette said. “Clearly it’s a mistake for us to believe that sort of agriculture and DACA, they’re all separate from each other. The issues are all intertwined. When a farm worker is working in a field, he cares about whether the local police have the authority to detain him, if he’s pulled over. He cares because he has kids who are in the DACA Program, so farming isn’t necessarily segregated. The farm workers are piped into all these different issues.”

 

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Letter in Support of Temperance Flat Dam

California Building Industry Association Supports Temperance Flat Dam Project

Many letters are flowing to the California Water Commission in support of Temperance Flat. Here is just one of them!

 

 

Mr. Armando Quintero

Chairman

California Water Commission

P.O. Box 942836 Sacramento, CA 94236-0001

 

Re: Support for Temperance Flat Reservoir

Dear Chairman Quintero:

The California Building Industry Association (CBIA) is a statewide trade association that proudly represents 3,000 members, ranging from homebuilders and trade contractors to suppliers and industry professionals. CBIA member-companies are responsible for over 90% of the privately financed and privately constructed new homes built in California each year. As such, we take great interest in the Water Commission’s Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) and its process for allocating Proposition 1 funds for projects to improve the statewide water system. CBIA has historically been a strong supporter of efforts to increase water supply – our organization was a key stakeholder in the water bond negotiations in 2009 through the successful Proposition 1 bond on the ballot.

Given our longstanding interest in California’s water system, we wish to express our support for the Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir Project given its ability to provide essential water storage for the state of California. As one of the projects identified in the 2000 CALFED Record of Decision, the project would provide up to 1.26 million acre-feet of vital water storage, thereby improving water supply and the flexibility needed to manage California’s precious water resources.

An increase in water supply is particularly important given the state’s current and projected housing crisis. Housing supply is not keeping up with demand nor has it in several decades. The current backlog of housing is estimated at two million homes needed. Additionally, to keep pace with growth, the state needs at least 180,000 new units per year through 2025. With low supply and skyrocketing costs, it is not surprising that California’s overall homeownership rate is at its lowest level since the 1940’s. The State ranks 49 out of the 50 states in homeownership rates as well as in the supply of housing units per capita.

One critical component for addressing California’s housing needs is there must be an adequate and reliable source of water. While today’s homebuilders employ the newest and most effective water efficiency technology, new housing projects cannot be approved and built without identifying water supply. Temperance Flat would help provide that reliability so that our members can move forward on much needed housing projects throughout the state.

We strongly support this project, as it would help ensure that California has the ability to sustain its growing water needs by enhancing deplenished water resources and providing the necessary flexibility in the system to manage those resources. We look forward to working with the California Water Commission and the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority to advance this important project.

Sincerely,

Erin Guerrero

Vice President of Legislative Affairs

 

Many other letters are coming in for support. Here is who to contact, by e-mail or U.S. mail, with your comments attention to:

California Water Commissioners and Executive Director

California Water Commission

P.O. Box 942836

Sacramento, California 94236-0001

CWC@water.ca.gov

Mr. Joe Yun, Executive Director

California Water Commission

P.O. Box 942836

Sacramento, California 94236-0001

joseph.yun@water.ca.gov

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Almond Growers Conserve Water – Part 2

The Value of the California Almond Industry – Part 2

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The California almond industry is doing very well as a leading crop desired by consumers around the world, and growers are doing a tremendous job in growing the crop efficiently. This is Part 2 of a multipart series on the value of the California almond industry.

Buddy Ketchner runs a consulting firm called Brand K Strategies, and he works closely with the almond industry. He said that a cornerstone of industry is the fact that about 78 percent of the almond growers farm almonds under drip or micro sprinklers.

“That’s why we have the fact now that we’re using 33 percent less water than we were 20 years ago. I think that investment and that commitment to continual innovation is one of the reasons the industry’s done well. Now, all food takes resources, all food takes water, all food takes energy to grow,” Ketchner said. “I think what the almond industry has done well, and needs to continue doing, is to make sure that we’re doing it in the most effective, the most efficient, the most productive way. Not just for our growers but for the Earth and for the planet, which is what they do.”

The almond industry is committed in saving even more water over the coming years. There is a solid trend going on in the food industry that’s known as plant protein.

“I think one of the things we talk a lot about is the rise of the plants. The notion is that as populations increased, that as the middle classes increased globally, there’s a sense that we need to have protein that comes from plants as well as animals. So, people choose plant-based proteins for a number of different reasons,” Ketchner explained.

“For some of them, it’s because of the environmental story; they believe it’s more sustainable. For some people, it’s a health story; they just think it’s healthier or lighter, or it has some contribution to health that makes it a better choice for them than animal protein,” he said.

“For some people, it’s cost. There are a lot of reasons people pick plant-based protein. And how people are choosing to get their protein. I don’t remember what the latest statistic is. I think it’s like eight percent of the population is vegetarian, but 33 percent of the population regularly chooses vegetarian and plant-based protein options. It’s just how they want to balance their diet,” Ketchner said.

“I just want to make sure I’m clear: All food is good. I think animal protein is great, and plant-based protein is great. Consumers are looking for a balance in their diet, and so lots of reasons why that’s grown, but almonds are certainly part of that trend,” he said.

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