The Importance of California’s Agricultural Water Supplies

We cannot accommodate serious discussion on the demand side of water questions without working on the supply side

By Chris Scheuring, Special to CalMatters

Wendell Berry famously said that eating is an agricultural act. That makes all of us into farmers, and nowhere is that more true than in water terms.

For farming is irreducibly the process of mixing dirt, water and sunshine to bring forth from the ground what we need to eat. And no matter who you are, it’s true:  somebody, somewhere, must devote a lot of water to the process of feeding you.

Some have been sidestepping this fact in the ongoing policy evolutions over the way we must capture, store and move water in California. Yet even the most ardent urban environmentalist finds herself at the local grocery store or the farmers’ market – filling her basket with California-grown nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Some of these crops can only be grown here, or in one of the few similar agricultural climates around the world, in an irrigation-based agricultural economy.

Take almonds, now and then the whipping-post of California water use: They cannot be grown in a place where it rains in the summer. Iowa, for example, is awfully cold in February – which is precisely when almonds need mild Mediterranean winter weather for their blossoms to be pollinated. Mediterranean crops need a Mediterranean climate, which usually means mild winters and hot, dry summers.

Beyond that, the case for California agriculture is made by our farming practices and their regulatory backdrop, whatever natural reticence California farmers may have about being regulated. We do it more efficiently here, and with more oversight, than in most alternative agricultural venues around the world. I would compare a California avocado favorably to an avocado anywhere else in the world, on those terms.

That’s why I have always thought that a subtle strain of NIMBYism runs through the retrograde ideas that some have about “reforming” agricultural water rights here and constraining the water projects that ultimately deliver food to the world.  With nearly 8 billion people on the planet, pinching off California’s agricultural water supplies is a game of whack-a-mole which will cause the same water issues to arise elsewhere.

Without question, we must continue on our trajectory of making California farming more water-efficient. If you have been watching California agriculture for a generation, you already know that much of the landscape has transitioned from old-fashioned flood and sprinkler irrigation to more efficient drip and micro-sprinkler techniques – even in the case of row crops. We must continue this path; new technologies related to irrigation continue to be developed, including better monitoring of applied water and crop water use.

We must also recognize inherent conflicts between agricultural water use and the flora and fauna that are dependent upon our rivers and streams.

Gone are the days in California when a grizzly bear might paw a salmon out of the Suisun Marsh, but we can work together to find non-zero-sum water and habitat solutions that would take advantage of opportunities to protect and rehabilitate species of concern, where it can be done without disproportionate human impact. Again and again through public enactment, California has demonstrated its will to keep the environment in mind as we move forward.

Further, we must also carry forward processes to develop new water supplies for California’s farms and growing cities, whether those are storage facilities above ground or below ground, or stormwater capture and aquifer recharge, or desalination or recycling. In the face of a changing hydrology and the expected loss of snowpack, we simply cannot accommodate serious discussion on the demand side of water questions without working on the supply side. Otherwise, we are chasing a receding goalpost – and we will not get there.

Finally, remember that farming is not a question of “if,” but “where.” We’re going to eat – all of us around the world – and we’re going to farm in order to do so. So we should protect California’s agricultural water supplies, because the case for California water being used on California’s farms is strong.

Chris Scheuring is senior counsel for water policy at the California Farm Bureau. He is also a family farmer in Yolo County, growing walnuts, almonds and pistachios.

2022-01-11T10:05:19-08:00January 11th, 2022|

New Sacramento Museum Educates Residents About Farms’ Water Needs

Farm Credit helps fund three exhibits at Museum of Science and Curiosity that demonstrate why farms need water and how farmers are conserving this precious resource

Despite recent heavy rains, California is still experiencing one of its worst droughts in history, so reminding the public and policy makers that food does not grow without water is a critical need for the state’s agricultural community. That’s why Mike Wade and Farm Credit were excited to see the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity open recently.

The $52 million state-of-the-art science center in Sacramento contains dozens of interactive exhibits that allows visitors to explore the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math and specifically address global and local issues relating energy, water, health, nature, space and design engineering.

Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, said the three water exhibits the coalition is sponsoring bring home the fact that water is essential to grow our food and that California farmers are leading the world in conserving the precious resource.

“The exhibits have been very popular with museum visitors so far. Both students and adults have been taking turns finding out about the water it takes to grow our food and how farmers use the latest technology to conserve it,” Wade said.

“It’s always been part of our mission to educate people about the connection between farm water and their food supply. It’s important that everyone know that farmers are using water in an efficient manner and that as consumers, we all depend on farmers.”

American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West collectively pledged $75,000 over five years to help build and maintain the exhibits. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Wade said one exhibit consists of a touchscreen monitor on which people can drag food items from an illustrated list to your plate. Once they’ve made their selections, they can click the “eat it” button and the display will show the nutrition value and water demand of the foods on the plate. And that in turn shows participants how close they are to meeting their nutritional needs and the amount of water needed to produce that food.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said the exhibit will be an important learning tool for visitors.

“The exhibit helps people understand that it takes a significant amount of water to grow the food we eat. It’s eye-opening to select the right foods to eat and then see at the end of the game how much water it takes to grow that food,” he said.

Another interactive exhibit demonstrates how technology is helping farmers use just the right amount of water to grow their crops, said Curt Hudnutt, President and CEO of American AgCredit.

“The More Crop Per Drop exhibit lets visitors irrigate their field with a set water budget without giving them any information about how much water the crops need,” Hudnutt said. “Then they can try again after getting information from water sensors and then a third time with additional information from drones that pinpoint areas that have enough water and areas that need more. In most cases, participants will do better with additional information, making this a great way of showing how farmers are already at the cutting edge of technology.”

Wade said the third exhibit is a map of California that shows the state’s major water projects and conveyance facilities.

“The highlight here are quotes from five farmers from the five major ag regions who describe how storage and conveyance have made it possible for them to farm,” he said.

The exhibits will be on display for 15 years at the museum, located in a building that once housed a century-old powerplant on the banks of the Sacramento River. The building was rebuilt and modernized and a new wing added that includes a planetarium, offices, and a café. The agricultural water interactive exhibits are part of the Water Challenge Gallery, located in the historic power plant section of the museum.

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been extremely valuable in making the exhibits a reality.

“None of this would be possible without Farm Credit and the other donors giving so generously,” he said. “Educating the public is a shared responsibility of the entire agricultural industry, and Farm Credit is leading by example.”

###

About Farm Credit: American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. We specialize in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

About the California Farm Water Coalition: CFWC is a non-profit, educational organization formed in 1989 to provide fact-based information on farm water issues to the public. The organization works to help consumers, elected representatives, government officials and the media make the connection between farm water and our food supply. For more information, visit www.farmwater.org.

2022-01-04T14:33:46-08:00January 4th, 2022|

Farm Credit: Water for Food is Critical

Cultivate California Educates Residents About Farms’ Need For Water

Exceptional drought conditions mean Farm Credit’s support is crucial, as reminding people about link between water and their food is more important than ever

California is in the middle of one of its worst droughts on record. The federal government reports that showed that nearly half of the state – including the entire Central Valley – is in an exceptional drought as of mid-October. Overall, 2021 has been the ninth driest year in California since accurate records began being kept 127 years ago. Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, is at 23% of capacity and Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir, is at 22% of capacity.

No one knows how long these dry conditions will last, but the most recent drought lasted for 376 weeks, from December 2011 to March 2019. And the National Weather Service currently forecasts that drought conditions are likely to continue in California as a weak La Niña effect will likely see storms diverted to the Pacific Northwest this winter. And all of that is bad news for California agriculture.

Which is why Cultivate California’s program aimed at educating Californians about the connection between consumers, the food they love and the water needed to grow it is so important as its messaging reaches 16 million people a year.

Mike Wade, the program’s executive director, said getting out early this year with messaging about water was essential to counter messaging from other groups.

“Californians continue to get inundated with negative messages about farming,” Wade said. “The Cultivate California program was designed to help bolster the natural support people have for agriculture and farms and to continue providing them with facts and information about the connection between their food and the water supply.”

The need to counter misinformation about farmers’ use of water is why Farm Credit has been one of the program’s largest donors since 2018, said Curt Hudnutt, president and CEO of American AgCredit.

American AgCredit, along with CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit, collectively contribute $100,000 a year to help Cultivate California inform Californians. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

“This year, many California farms had just 5% of their water supply this year to grow our food,” Hudnutt said. “Cultivate California is one of the most successful groups we have to educate people about the impacts the drought has on our food supply, and the need to improve our water storage to protect all of us in future droughts, and we are proud to help support them in their efforts.”

Wade said one important message this year is that farmers and irrigation districts need to have flexibility to transfer water supplies to areas in greater need without burdensome red tape. And he said improving the state’s water supply system is crucial.

“We need to look long-term, which we should have done after the last drought,” he said. “Eighteen trillion gallons of water fell in February 2019 when the last drought ended, but we didn’t have the facilities to capture it and recharge our groundwater so we would have more supply available now. Hopefully our leaders will act so next time a drought occurs we will be better prepared.”

Rob Faris, President and CEO, Golden State Farm Credit, said it’s essential that more Californians are exposed to one of Cultivate California’s key messages – that the state’s farmers are producing more food but using much less water.

“The value of the state’s farm production increased by 38% between 1980 and 2015 while our farmers used 14% less water,” Faris said. “Farmers continually invest in irrigation technology, such as new drip and micro-irrigation systems, soil moisture monitoring, remote sensing, and computerized irrigation controls. Today, nearly half of our 8.4 million acres of irrigated farmland use drip, micro or subsurface irrigation, and more savings are on the way. Farm Credit is committed to help our members finance these improvements.”

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been invaluable.

“The support we get from Farm Credit is amazing and critically important,” he said. “It has helped attract other supporters as well, and the support and leadership we get from Farm Credit has been instrumental in helping this program succeed.”

2021-11-09T17:50:30-08:00November 9th, 2021|

Walnut Freeze Update

Growers Urged to Keep Soil Moist to Lessen Freeze Damage

By Rachel Elkins, Pomology Farm Advisor in Lake and Mendocino Counties and Master Gardener Advisor in Lake County – Emeritus

It is mid-October and in addition to harvest starting it is time to consider potential cold weather. It is still dry and though rain is expected (In Northern California) over the next 10-14 days it is anticipated to be under 1” (I hope I am wrong!). As detailed in my June newsletter (https://ucanr.edu/sites/uclakecounty/files/359649.pdf), dry conditions render walnut trees vulnerable to freeze damage, as can be seen throughout the county. Irrigated trees fare much better than dry trees, although fruitwood and buds are certainly damaged, as reflected in subsequent low cropping.

In June I suggested growers consider applying enough water to moisten the upper 1-2 feet of soil after terminal bud set in order to fill soil pores to supply warmth and reduce chances of freeze damage, and this is echoed by colleagues throughout the state. With harvest moving into full swing timing will of course depend on 1) harvest logistics, and 2) rainfall amounts over the next month. Many older orchards lack sufficient crop to harvest and growers must decide how much to invest in trees that failed to recover after the 2020 freeze.

Statewide UC walnut advisors have combined to offer resources to address fall (winter) freeze issues. We have listed the following resources prominently on the front page of our website (http://celake.ucanr.edu/):

1)      2020 WALNUT FREEZE DAMAGE SURVEY (https://ucanr.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8q4drAbdgNJ4Nls). You are invited to participate in this survey provided by University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) regarding freeze damage in walnuts. The survey will help us gain greater understanding of freeze damage in walnuts. “Freeze damage” is defined as damage observed in spring yet incurred during the previous fall from cold temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Participation in this survey is voluntary and individual answers will be kept confidential. The survey should require two minutes or less to complete. Address questions or comments to main author Kari Arnold, Orchard and Vineyard Systems Advisor for Stanislaus County (klarnold@ucanr.edu 209-525-6821) or to me via the contact information below.

2)      NEWSLETTER ARTICLES written by Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley advisors, as well as my June 2021 newsletter. Links to these can be found on our website (see above).

3)      UC WALNUT FREEZE WEBINAR to be held NOVEMBER 4, 2021, 4:00 – 5:30 PM.  A panel of UC experts and walnut growers will discuss best practices for freeze mitigation and recovery. Event details and registration will be posted at sacvalleyorchards.com/events as well as on the Lake County website. Meeting information will also be emailed out to electronic walnut newsletter recipients. PLEASE COMPLETE THE FREEZE SURVEY IN ORDER TO ENHANCE OUR WEBINAR!

2021-10-20T13:24:49-07:00October 20th, 2021|

State Water Board Raises Fees Again!

State Water Board Raises Fees Again – Ignores Industry Concerns

 

Recently, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) voted to increase all of their water quality and water rights fees again.  This time they increased the fees across the board.  In one program in particular, the Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR) Fee had already increased by 112% from 2011 to 2020.

This past week, the SWRCB voted to increase those fees another 16.8%!  Despite industry pleas, including testimony from the Association’s President/CEO Roger Isom, the board voted unanimously to increase the economic burden on the agricultural industry once again.

Isom pointed out the SWRCB fees far outweigh other environmental fees altogether, and joined the Ag Council’s Emily Rooney, who also testified, in a call for an outside look into the SWRCB’s financial situation and the setting of fees.  It did not sway the board.  In addition to the huge increase on WDR fees, which impact food processors and packing houses, fees for the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) increased 15.6% and fees for Confined Animal Feeding (CAF) operations increase 15.4%.  The Association and other industry groups are currently weighing next options, which may include a call for an audit of the program.

2021-10-13T17:39:23-07:00October 11th, 2021|

Benefits of Gene Editing in Produce

Gene Editing in Produce Could Help Solve Food Shortages

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network 

 

Throughout the GMO revolution of many row crops, the technology was largely not applied to the fresh produce industry. Gene editing, however, is different. It allows breeders to edit the genome of these crops in the same way that could happen in nature, speeding up the process and opening new doors to solve problems in the food supply. Here’s Produce Marketing Association vp of technology Vonnie Estes.

 

“There’s a number of things like, non-browning is a trait that’s pretty easy to do on a lot of different crops,” said Estes.  “And so that really allows for a lot less food waste. And so let’s focus on that. How can we make, you know, fruit and vegetables, more convenient so that people, especially children eat more of them? And so looking at the convenience factor is important. So I think we’re at this really great point right now of we have these tools, you know, how do we move this along so that it’s best for the consumer?”

Estes sees big benefits to gene editing technology for consumers, the planet, and for farmers.

“You know, these technologies are really going to help as we start having the effects of climate change more, where you don’t have as much water as you used to. And so you have to grow a different variety because you don’t have as much water, or it’s too hot. Really being able to use gene editing to help around climate change and where people are growing crops is going to make a big difference,” explained Estes.

 

The key, says Estes, will be communicating about this technology to consumers.

2021-08-18T17:26:30-07:00August 18th, 2021|

Study: Cannabis Growers’ Irrigation May Affect Nearby Streams

Cannabis Farms Irrigating with Groundwater May Affect Stream Flows

 

By Pam Kan-Rice UCANR  Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach

 

The legalization of marijuana for recreational use in California has encouraged growers to expand plantings of the lucrative crop. Like any plant, cannabis requires water to grow. A new study from the Cannabis Research Center at UC Berkeley examined where cannabis growers in California are getting water for their crops, highlighting significant gaps in cannabis cultivation policy.

Environmental advocates have expressed concern that cannabis farms are diverting water from rivers and streams, which could harm fish and other wildlife.

The researchers studied water use in 11 of the state’s top cannabis-producing counties – Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Monterey, Nevada, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Trinity, and Yolo.

Is cannabis production causing harm to fish in rivers and streams?

Using California state cannabis permitting data, the researchers found that cannabis farms rely primarily on groundwater wells, not streams, for their irrigation needs. But pumping groundwater could also have an undesirable effect on wildlife.

“Wells drilled near streams in upland watersheds have the potential to cause rapid streamflow depletion similar to direct surface water diversions,” said co-author Ted Grantham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and co-director of the Cannabis Research Center.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, enacted in 2014, is designed to prevent overdraft of groundwater and protect water quality and supplies for agriculture, residents, fish and other wildlife.

But according to Grantham, “Most of the cannabis farms fall outside of the groundwater basins regulated under SGMA, so well use represents an important, but largely unregulated threat to streams in the region.”

The researchers found that well use by cannabis farms is common statewide, exceeding 75% among farms that have permits to grow in nine of the 11 top cannabis-producing counties. In eight of the 11 counties, more than one-quarter of farms using wells are located outside of groundwater basins subject to state groundwater use regulations. Farms growing larger acreages of cannabis pumped more groundwater for irrigation, while farms with on-farm streams or located in areas that receive more rainfall were less reliant on wells

The study relied on water-source data only for cannabis farms that have state permits to grow.

Based on models, the researchers estimate the majority (60%) of unregulated Northern California cannabis farms in Humboldt and Mendocino counties are likely to use groundwater wells if they follow the same patterns as the regulated industry.

“Our results suggest that proactive steps be taken to address groundwater use in cannabis regulations in California and call for further research into the effects of groundwater use on streamflow, especially outside of large groundwater basins,” write the authors.

2021-08-12T12:23:58-07:00August 12th, 2021|

The Truth: Plants do not USE water….The plants Borrow water

Plants Transpire Most of the Water They Use!

Editor’s note: California Ag Today interviewed Allan Fulton, an Irrigation and Water Resources Advisor, UC Cooperative Extension Tehama County, in Redbluff CA, to comment on the debate about the agricultural industry’s use of water and to focus on a critical but disregarded process—that all plants transpire, even plants cultivated for the crops we eat.

CalAgToday: We hear in the media that our crops are using too much water. And while all plants need water to grow food, we also know that a high percentage of water taken up by all plants actually transpires back into the atmosphere, to form clouds and precipitation, right?

Fulton: Yes, when plants transpire, the water just returns to the local hydrologic cycle, leaving the harvested crop that we distribute elsewhere in the US or in the world actually very low in water content.

CalAgToday: When we think about transpiration, are the plants actually “borrowing” the water?

Fulton: Yes. We get a lot of questions about why we irrigate our crops so much, and it comes from the general public not being as close to farming every day. The truth is, plant transpiration is a necessary biological process. The water cools the tree so it stays healthy and exits the leaves through special cells called stomata. While the stomates are open to allow water to transpire, carbon dioxide enters and is used in photosynthesis, making sugars and carbohydrates for the plant to create the fruits and nuts that we eat. So, an inadequately watered plant cannot take in enough carbon dioxide during transpiration, resulting in defective fruits and nuts that are smaller, shriveled, cracked—all the things the typical consumer does not want to buy.

Plants cannot gain carbon dioxide without simultaneously losing water vapor.[1]

CalAgToday: Can we say 95 or 99% of the water that is taken up by the plant gets transpired and definitely not wasted?

Fulton: Definitely. We converted to pressurized irrigation systems, micro-sprinklers, and mini sprinklers, so we have a lot more control over how much water we apply at any one time. We do not put water out in acre-feet or depths of 4-6 inches at a time anymore. So, much like when rainfall occurs, we can measure it in tenths, or 1 or 2 inches at most. As a result, the water doesn’t penetrate the soil very deeply, maybe only 1 or 2 feet each irrigation.

We are very efficient with the water, but because we deliver it in small doses, we have to irrigate very frequently. That is why we see irrigation systems running a lot, but they are systems that efficiently stretch our water supply and do not waste it.

CalAgToday: But again, the vast majority of the water that the tree is taking up is being transpired, right?

Fulton: Yes, most of the time, at least 90% of the water that we apply is taken up through the tree and transpired so that photosynthesis can happen.UCCE Tehama County

CalAgToday: And transpiration increases on a hot day?

Fulton: Yes, we do get a little bit of loss from surface evaporation from wet soil, but we try to control that with smaller wetting patterns—drip-confined wetting patterns. When you think about it, the heat of the day is in the afternoon when many irrigation systems don’t run because of higher energy costs. There are incentives not to pump in the middle of the afternoon, but those who do try to confine the wetted area to limit evaporation. And the hot hours of the day make up about 4 hours of a 24-hour cycle, so we irrigate mostly during the night time and early morning hours to lesson evaporative loss.

CalAgToday: Growers are doing everything they can to conserve water. If the trees and vines are all transpiring most of their irrigated water, why is using water to grow food a problem?

Fulton: I think the emphasis throughout the United States has always been to provide a secure food supply. That security has many benefits, economically and politically; and in the end, we are trying to provide the general public with good quality, safe food at the best price possible.

______________________________________________

[1]  Debbie Swarthout and C.Michael Hogan. 2010. Stomata. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC.

CIMIS

 

The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) is a program unit in the Water Use and Efficiency Branch, Division of Statewide Integrated Water Management, California Department of Water Resources (DWR) that manages a network of over 145 automated weather stations in California. CIMIS was developed in 1982 by DWR and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). It was designed to assist irrigators in managing their water resources more efficiently. Efficient use of water resources benefits Californians by saving water, energy, and money.

The CIMIS user base has expanded over the years. Currently, there are over 40,000 registered CIMIS data users, including landscapers, local water agencies, firefighters, air control board, pest control managers, university researchers, school teachers, students, construction engineers, consultants, hydrologists, government agencies, utilities, lawyers, weather agencies, and many more.

2021-08-04T18:34:08-07:00August 4th, 2021|

Big Grant for Dairy’s Net Zero Initiative

Dairy’s Net Zero Initiative Gets Boost with $10 million Research Grant

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research has awarded a $10 million grant to support U.S. dairy’s Net Zero Initiative as a critical on-farm pathway to advance the industrywide 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals set through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

In California, UC Davis and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists will collaborate on the nationwide project addressing carbon sequestration, soil health and nitrogen management.

“The Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research grant in partnership with Soil Health Institute and Dairy Research Institute are funding research that will positively impact the future of animal and plant agriculture in a world with increasingly limited natural resources,” said Deanne Meyer, UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Davis, who studies livestock waste management.

Working with California dairy forage and almond producers, UC Cooperative Extension scientists and technicians will evaluate and demonstrate the impacts of using manure products as fertilizer in combination with more traditional soil conservation practices.

“With this research, there’s a potential to expand the use of dairy manure products beyond forage crops to crops such as almonds,” said Nick Clark, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Fresno and Tulare counties. “We expect results to demonstrate that groundwater quality and quantity can be protected and preserved, and crop yields can be maintained without increasing net greenhouse gas emissions from crop production.”

Clark added, “We look forward to working with our local producers and connecting with our national partners and collaborators to examine and demonstrate the best practical solutions that science has to offer for farming in tomorrow’s world.”

California dairy operators who would like to participate in the experiment may contact Clark for more information at neclark@ucanr.edu.

Data from the “Dairy Soil & Water Regeneration: Building soil health to reduce greenhouse gases, improve water quality and enable new economic benefits” project will be broadly shared among the dairy community. The six-year project will provide measurement-based assessments of dairy’s greenhouse gas footprint for feed production. It will also set the stage for new market opportunities related to carbon, water quality and soil health.

“Addressing the U.S. dairy industry’s emissions is a critical solution to climate change,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “I know dairy farmers are working hard to decrease their environmental footprint and I’m thrilled to support their efforts by advancing research needed to adopt climate-smart practices on dairy farms across the country.”

Through foundational science, on-farm pilots and development of new product markets, the Net Zero Initiative aims to knock down barriers and create incentives for farmers that will lead to economic viability and positive environmental impact.

“After six years, we will have data that accurately reflect our farms’ greenhouse gas footprint for dairy crop rotations with consideration for soil health management practices and new manure-based products,” said Jim Wallace, Dairy Management Inc. senior vice president of environmental research. “We expect to develop critical insights that link soil health outcomes, such as carbon sequestration, with practice and technology adoption. This will provide important background information to support the development of new carbon and water quality markets.”

The project will be executed across four dairy regions responsible for about 80% of U.S. milk production: Northeast, Lakes, Mountain and Pacific. In addition to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis, collaborators include the Soil Health Institute and leading dairy research institutions, including Cornell University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, University of Vermont, and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research in Idaho.

Dozens of dairies representing climates and soils of these major production regions will participate in a baseline survey of soil health and carbon storage. Additionally, eight farms, including five operating dairies, two university research dairies and one USDA ARS research farm, will participate in the project. These pilots will be used to engage farmers in soil health management practices and monitor changes in greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon storage, soil health and water quality.

The FFAR grant will be matched by financial contributions from Net Zero Initiative partners such as Nestlé, the dairy industry, including Newtrient, and in-kind support for a total of $23.2 million. The funds will be managed by the Dairy Research Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity founded and staffed by Dairy Management Inc., whose scientists will serve as the project leads to address research gaps in feed production and manure-based fertilizers.

About the partners

FFAR builds public-private partnerships to support bold science that fills critical research gaps. Working with partners across the private and public sectors, FFAR identifies urgent challenges facing the food and agriculture industry and funds research to develop solutions.

NZI is an industrywide effort led by six national dairy organizations: Dairy Management Inc., Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, International Dairy Foods Association, Newtrient, National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. This collaboration represents a critical pathway on U.S. dairy’s sustainability journey.

For more information about dairy sustainability, visit www.usdairy.com/sustainability.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.

 

2021-07-22T16:09:39-07:00July 22nd, 2021|

This Growing Season Could Be Similar to 2015

Low Water Allocations Remind Growers of 2015

 

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network

The year 2015 is not a year most farmers remember fondly. The severe drought-affected California agriculture in profound ways and alarmingly 2021 is looking very similar.

Mike Wade is the executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, which is a non-profit educational organization to help inform the public about agricultural water use.

“We’ve got quite a situation in California this year, similar to what we saw in 2015. And if we use that as kind of an example of what we might expect this year, we had over 540,000 acres of fallowed farmland back in 2015,” said Wade.

“And we’re expecting probably as much, or maybe more this year. Most of the state in agriculture has had significant water supply cuts. Probably one in four acres is facing a 5% water allocation this year. And huge other swaths have had 25% cuts – or they’re getting about 75%. But it’s affecting every corner of California agriculture and in a way that we’re starting to see impacts on our food supply this summer and into the fall through acreage reductions,” noted Wade.

 

2021-06-13T20:47:16-07:00June 13th, 2021|
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