AHPA Leadership Urges Members to Support Voluntary Almond Industry PAC

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Almond Hullers & Processors Association (AHPA) Chairman Dick Cunningham and President Kelly Covello urged their membership to support the voluntary California Almond Industry PAC at the association’s 34th Annual AHPA Convention, held on the Big Island in Hawaii over the past three days.

Almond Hullers & Processors Association

Facing immense challenges such as the slowdown of West Coast ports, air quality laws and regulations, net energy metering (NEM), food quality and safety, worker safety, bees and bee health, wastewater treatment, crop protection regulation, aboveground petroleum storage Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, competing research priorities and most urgently, unprecedented drought conditions and public misunderstanding and criticism of almond water usage, the Almond Industry aims to create a unified voice for candidate support, political information and education services.

Through a Memorandum of Agreement with the Almond Board of California (ABC), AHPA is able is able contract for a portion of ABC Logostaff time/expertise to assist in AHPA’s advocacy efforts and provide a unified voice for the industry. The ABC educates regulatory agencies and legislators but is prevented by the USDA Federal Marketing Order to advocate for government policy or legislation.

The California Almond Industry PAC will hold a fundraiser in Bakersfield on May 14th, at Imbibe, 4140 Truxtun Avenue, from 5:30-7:00pm, sponsored by Golden Empire Shelling, LLC., Landmark Irrigation, Inc., Pacific Ag Management, Inc., Paramount Farms, and Supreme Almonds of California.

Fundraisers will also be arranged in the Northern and Fresno areas in the upcoming months.

Sponsorship Levels include:

  • Platinum: $2500
  • Gold: $1500
  • Supporter: $500 (includes a guest)

You do not need to be an AHPA member to contribute or attend the event.

For more information, contact (209) 599-5800 or staff@ahpa.net.

California Almond Industry Political Action Committee
California Almond Industry Political Action Committee

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NASA satellite mission to help farmers and water managers

By Edward Ortiz; The Sacramento Bee

A NASA satellite being launched into space will measure moisture in the top layer of soil, including soil on California farm fields far below.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive project is expected to provide crucial information to Central Valley farmers and water resource managers dealing with the multiyear drought. The mission, which was due to launch Thursday but scrubbed by NASA because of a weather pattern, will begin a three-year mission after liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard a Delta II rocket.

The soil moisture information gleaned from the mission can be used by farmers to decide when to plant and harvest crops, said Narendra Das, project leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is running the SMAP mission.

“This information will be a great tool for agriculture,” said rice farmer Charley Mathews Jr. Mathews owns a 700-acre rice farm in Marysville. He is an avid believer that more data can help his farming operation.

“For rice growing, it may help is preparing our rice fields,” he said of SMAP. “There are time periods when we prepare the soil or when we have rainfall events, and that is when we want to get our timing right.”

The 128-pound SMAP satellite will map soil moisture globally every two to three days. The SMAP data will be gleaned from space, using radar, with the use of a 19-foot antenna – the largest rotating antenna of its kind ever deployed by NASA.

It will take measurements 1 inch deep. The soil moisture it estimates will be matched to other data to provide accurate information on how much water is in the soil.

Only a tiny percentage of Earth’s total water is lodged in the top layer of soil. However, the water within that tiny layer plays an important role in moving water, carbon and heat between land and atmosphere.

The mission is the latest Earth-looking satellite effort at NASA, an effort that began in 1972 with the launch of the Landsat I.

The mission is the final of a recent slate of five Earth satellite missions to be launched by NASA within the past 11 months that began with the launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory satellite. Each mission is culling data at never-before-attempted resolutions.

NASA said it has partnered with a large California grower, Paramount Farms, on sampling studies and airborne experiments on the run-up to the launch.

Paramount Farms, based in Kern County, is one of the world’s largest growers and processors of almonds and pistachios. Paramount Farms declined to comment on its work with NASA.

Predicting floods and suggesting improved water usage may ultimately be another benefit of the SMAP mission, said Robert Hartman, acting director with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s California Nevada River Forecast Center.

That entity runs climate models for California, Nevada and Southern Oregon. “Once we understand what the data represents and what they mean, it may help us with runoff models,” Hartman said.

Hartman said it remains to be seen how accurate the data from SMAP will be – especially from heavily forested environments. In other areas it may help assess how much moisture exists in a given watershed, especially prior to the onset of winter storms.

“In the fall we’re sensitive to how ready the watershed is to respond to the season’s first rain,” Hartman said. “It can also help us in the period between winter storms when there has been a substantial dry period.”

NASA has also been working with the California Department of Water Resources and expects the department will use the SMAP data to run its water use models.

The DWP is allowing the use of 40 soil sensor stations throughout the state for the SMAP mission. The sensors will help NASA calibrate the SMAP satellite measurements, said Jeanine Jones, DWP interstate resources manager.

Jones said it remains to be seen how useful the data will be to the department’s water management aims.

“Currently in the water supply and flood control business, most agencies do not use soil moisture information,” Jones said. “There are no applications for that kind of data yet. We’ll see if this mission will be the impetus to develop applications for it.”

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State Failed to Analyze Effects of Kern Water Bank

Source: Bettina Boxall; LA Times

resnick-stewart_pic
Stewart Resnick

A court ruling issued Wednesday could throw obstacles to the operation of a Kern County groundwater bank that has helped billionaire Stewart Resnick build a nut empire in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

In the latest development in a two-decade legal fight, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge found that the state Department of Water Resources didn’t properly analyze the environmental impacts of the Kern Water Bank, which is partly controlled by Resnick’s Paramount Farms enterprise.

Judge Timothy Frawley will hold a hearing to determine the next step in the case. Environmental groups intend to argue that the water bank should be shut down while the state prepares a new environmental report.

“These guys have spent 16 years avoiding this moment. It’s always been a possibility that a court would come in and shut it down,” said Adam Keats, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, which represented plaintiffs in one of two related lawsuits that Frawley decided.

Representatives of Resnick and his wife, Lynda, who also own Fiji Water and POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, referred requests for comment to the water bank, whose attorney could not be reached.

The legal challenges sought to undo changes to the State Water Project that were made as part of a 1994 deal, known as the Monterey Agreement, between the Department of Water Resources and agencies supplied by the project. An earlier round of lawsuits forced the state to issue a new environmental review of the pact, which opponents argued was again insufficient.

Frawley ruled against them on all but one issue involving the water bank.

On that count, the judge concluded that the state’s environmental report failed to adequately assess the effects of the bank’s operation, particularly on groundwater and water quality.

Some neighboring water districts and environmental groups contend that the bank — originally developed by the state, but later ceded to private control — is harming the aquifer.

They also argue that because the groundwater bank is replenished with supplies from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the operation is increasing demand for water from the environmentally fragile delta.

The Monterey Agreements, made behind closed doors, were intended to settle disputes between contractors of the State Water Project, which supplies Southern California cities and some irrigation districts in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

The deal has been controversial since its inception and opponents have spent years trying to overturn its provisions.

In his decision, Frawley rejected most of their most recent claims, finding that except for the water bank, the state’s review met legal requirements.

Next, he has to decide what happens to the bank while the state launches yet another environmental evaluation. “That’s the big question we’re all going to be fighting over,” Keats said.

Paramount Farms is the world’s largest grower and processor of almonds and pistachios; in tandem with their Grower Partners, they farm 125,000 acres that deliver 450 million pounds of nuts.

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