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|

Water Infrastructure Bill Passes Senate

Senate Passes Critical Infrastructure Bill

 

Recently, Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, issued the following statement after the California Senate passed SB 559 – The State Water Resiliency Act – authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) by a 34-1 vote:
“This year’s very real drought conditions reinforce the need for an all of government approach to drought response, both in the short and long-term. Today’s overwhelming vote, led by Senator Hurtado and the Valley delegation, puts the California Senate firmly in support of a strong state role in repairing California’s water conveyance infrastructure and increasing California’s drought resilience.
“The San Joaquin, San Benito, and Santa Clara Valleys need long-term water supply solutions if they are to remain global leaders in food production, high tech, and environmental stewardship. SB 559 offers a holistic, statewide approach to restore the conveyance capacity of California’s most critical water delivery infrastructure.
“We applaud Senator Hurtado for her leadership and support for increasing water infrastructure investments that better prepare us for future droughts by enabling the movement of water when Mother Nature provides it and look forward to working with the broad coalition of supporters urging passage of this bill in the Assembly.”
The State Water Resiliency Act of 2021 will allocate $785 million to repairing vital water delivery systems that provide drinking water to communities throughout California, water to sustain the state’s leading agricultural and technology economies, and wetlands of international importance. The funds would go to fixing the Delta-Mendota Canal, the Friant-Kern Canal, and major portions of the California Aqueduct, all of which have degraded and are losing water as a result of subsidence.
Key facilities of the Central Valley Project that convey water to member agencies of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority have lost conveyance capacity over time due to subsidence. This lost capacity, combined with higher operational and power costs, results in millions of dollars of increased ratepayer expenses to convey less water through the system and reduces long-term climate resilience. The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority is a lead sponsor of a broad coalition supporting Senate Bill 559 (Hurtado) and S. 1179 (Feinstein) / H.R. 2552 (Costa), companion state and federal legislation designed to address this issue.
2021-06-06T20:51:31-07:00June 6th, 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.

 

2021-05-11T18:17:01-07:00May 11th, 2021|

New Legislation Could restore Canal Capacity

Potential Funding to Accelerate Water Projects

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network

With more California farmers facing significant water cutbacks, public officials have responded with legislation to address the state’s recurring water shortages. A plan in the state Legislature would allocate $2 billion to accelerate a variety of water projects and programs. At the federal level, new legislation would restore canal capacity. Farm and water groups have also pressed to add water projects to a federal infrastructure package.

Two concurrent efforts aim to help farmers and ranchers ensure their properties in fire-prone areas. Legislation sponsored by the California Farm Bureau would authorize the state’s insurer of last resort, the California FAIR Plan, to underwrite coverage for commercial farms and ranches that can’t find it on the open market. At the same time, Nationwide has begun offering supplemental insurance for farmers who qualify for FAIR Plan coverage.

Dairy farmers will watch carefully as restaurants and other food-service facilities reopen. More than half of some dairy foods are typically consumed away from home. Dairy product sales to foodservice have increased and retail sales remain strong, but economists say future buying habits will be unpredictable as pandemic restrictions ease. With milk production expected to increase, analysts say food-service demand will be particularly important.

 

 

 

(Source: California Farm Bureau Federation)

2021-05-06T19:02:04-07:00May 6th, 2021|

Manure Management Get’s a Boost

 

A Consortia of Microbes Assist in Manure Management in Livestock

 

Boost is a product utilizing the digestion abilities of special bacteria and natural enzymes cultured for their ability to digest organic matter quickly, efficiently and without odor. These strains will work both in the presence of oxygen as well as in its absence. The natural enzymes quickly break down proteins, starch, carbohydrates, animal, and vegetable fats & oils as well as paper.

The composition of Boost includes a unique micro-nutrient enriched carrier to provide accelerated germination, growth, and superior enzyme production while reducing odor, BOD, COD, suspended solids, turbidity, and ammonia concentrations. Stable bacteria spores enhance shelf life and guarantee microbial concentration.  Spore-form allows it to resist chlorine, disinfectants, and high-water temperatures.

Considering the attributes of Boost in the digestion of organic materials, this consortium of bacteria proves to be a multi-functional/use means of preconditioning livestock manures in advance of field application.  Boost accelerates the transition of raw organics into plant-available nutrients reducing the stress on depleted indigent soil microbial bacteria. This process of preconditioning raw organics is not limited to poultry litter, livestock beddings, forage, and feed wastage.

 

The organic digestive ability of Boost bacteria has decreased the time required to compost whole livestock carcasses in mass to include the bones, viscera, hide, feathers, and bulking materials.  In the interest of on-farm biosecurity measures, the ability to dispose of animal/poultry carcasses at thermophilic temperatures at accelerated rates of decomposition decreases the exposure to trafficked disease while allowing for a field-ready, rich nutrient by-product.

In terms of poultry health and housing, Boost will reduce the measurable levels of ammonia ppm generated from litter after one application for an entire grow-out season significantly reducing flock mortality.  In the reduction of ammonia, the reduction of chick death loss due to blindness, respiratory infections, and footpad issues are noted.

 

In terms of swine health, applied to deep or shallow pull-plug pits, the ability of Boost to degrade organic materials reduces the levels of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane from the pits.  As with poultry, the reduction of pit gasses decreases the damage to ISOwean pig lungs, increases the rate of gain, and lessens effects of heat stress in confined livestock.

2021-05-13T16:03:01-07:00March 19th, 2021|
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