Patrick Cavanaugh Wins Award for Audio Report on Temperance Flat Dam
By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor
The Fresno County Farm Bureau (FCFB) recognized Patrick Cavanaugh, Ag News Director and co-owner of California Ag Today Radio Network and CaliforniaAgToday.com, with a First Place Journalism Award in the Audio category on May 9. Cavanaugh’s radio report entitled “Temperance Flat Dam Denied Full Funding” broadcasted across our 26-station network, focused on the California Water Commission’s failure to fund the Temperance Flat Dam storage project.
Cavanaugh was among four award winners recognized by the FCFB at its second annual “Bounty of Fresno County” event at Wolf Lakes Park in Sanger. This year marked the FCFB’s 25th annual Journalism Awards.
Over 25 entries were received from publications, websites, radio and television stations. The criteria for the awards were: thorough and objective coverage of issues, given time and space limitations; educational element for the agriculture industry or the consumer; and portraying the personal stories of those who make up the food and agriculture industry, making issues relevant to consumers and Valley residents.
Serving as judges were Westlands Water District Public Affairs Representative Diana Giraldo, farmer Liz Hudson of Hudson Farms, and journalist Don Wright of Water Wrights.
Rodriguez speaks with the President and Chief Executive Officer of Sun-Maid Growers of California, Harry Overly, about the company’s national campaign focused on rekindling consumers’ fondness for the brand.
Balekian explores the implications of Prop. 6, “the gas tax,” on California agriculture.
Check the CaliforniaAgToday.com Google News-recognized website for additional coverage on Temperance Flat Dam.
Featured Photo: Ryan Jacobsen, CEO, Fresno County Farm Bureau, and Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today Radio Network, holding tractor award.
Fresno County Farm Bureau is the county’s largest agricultural advocacy and educational organization, representing members on water, labor, air quality, land use, and major agricultural related issues. Fresno County produces more than 400 commercial crops annually, totaling $7.028 billion in gross production value in 2017. For Fresno County agricultural information, visit www.fcfb.org.
California Ag Today conducted an extensive interview with Les Grober, assistant deputy director, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB, Water Board) Division of Water Rights. We published Part 1, “Water Board’s Point of View on Increasing San Joaquin River Flows,” on November 28, 2016.
Grober explained the Water Board’s water diversion plan to adjust the flow objectives on the San Joaquin River to protect fish and wildlife. The plan, specifically, is to divert 40 percent of water flows from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers that flow into the lower San Joaquin River.
California Ag Today: We asked Mr. Grober to explain how the Federal Water users on the Westside of Fresno and Kings Counties were granted a mere 5 percent allocation this year, and why many did not receive their full 5 percent.
Grober: The 5 percent allocation is due to the junior water rights of those growers and to the interconnections of so many things — priority of right, hydrologic conditions, and minimal protections or fish and wildlife. Anyone who thinks it’s all due to fish is simplifying a very complex situation.
California Ag Today: Regarding the water hearings that are scheduled over the next few months, is the Water Board trying to give information to farmers and others would be affected by the decreased water should the Water Board’s proposal go through?
Grober: The ultimate goal is to make people even more prepared to provide comments to the Board at the scheduled hearings. It’s part of a public process where, if we did not get our economic figures right, we want [accurate] information from the stakeholder to make it right.
We thought we did a good job in an economic analysis on how we thought the proposed taking of 40 percent water would affect the communities and farmers. We clearly heard from many people who thought we did not do a good job, and my response is: Good, show us why, make a proposal and take it to the Water Board hearings, and then we can adjust it.
California Ag today: The Water Board has a 3,100-page report all about saving the salmon.
Grober: The reason we have a big report is because we are making a proposal and we’ve shown our work. Although it is work for people to look at it and review it, we have tried to make it easy so that people can see if we have made mistakes, if there are things that are left out or if we have made an incorrect assumption. That’s why we’ve shared it with everybody and here’s your opportunity for setting us straight.
It won’t help to vilify different people who are making good use of the water or to vilify or disparage the implementation of our laws and what we are required to do. We have a great process I think, as hard as it is, a public process where we can work these things out in the open, just to use it and deal with each other professionally.
-Les Grober, assistant deputy director, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB, Water Board) Division of Water Rights
California Ag Today: We are sure you are getting a lot of information from farmers and city leaders about this not being a good use of the water.
Grober: These problems are not so simple that they could be reduced to a sound bite. I think we would have solved the salmon problems by now, but because we are in the drought situation, we are dealing with a precious resource, which is water. Everybody wants the water but there’s not enough to do all the things we would like to do with it.
California Ag Today: But there are many people in California who feel that more water for fish instead of farmers is reprehensible.
Grober: It won’t help to vilify different people who are making good use of the water or to vilify or disparage the implementation of our laws and what we are required to do. We have a great process I think, as hard as it is, a public process where we can work these things out in the open, just to use it and deal with each other professionally.
California Ag Today: But we’ve heard from experts that have been studying this, that the increased flows have not really helped these species. Do you have proof that they have?
Grober: It’s hard to show proof one way or the other because recently we have not increased flows to see what effect it would have. That seems to be a notion that is out there, that we have somehow done something to increase flows in recent years, and that’s simply not the case.
If anything, flows have gone down. And in the recent drought years, as I said, even the minimal flows that were required were adjusted downward. You would have to show me that evidence that flows have gone up and there has been no response to those higher flows. I do not believe that there is any.
California Ag Today: So, the Water Board wants 40 percent of unimpaired flows?
Grober: When we say the requirement is 30 percent to 50 percent of unimpaired flows, it is 30 percent to 50 percent of that amount, which means just the opposite. It means that 50 to 70 percent of [flows] for February through June would be available for consumptive use.
That is frequently misunderstood and turned around. That is still from February through June, so it means more than 50 to 70 percent since other times of the year this water is available for consumptive use.
California Ag Today: Is the Water Board looking at the fact that if the water is needed for the species, it is going to force these growers to use more groundwater? That is a direction in which we do not want to go, especially in a region that has not yet had critical overdrafts. How does the Water Board look at that domino effect forced on these growers in order to survive, stay in business and produce the food in this major Ag production region?
Grober: Implementing that 30 to 50 percent of unimpaired flows would mean less surface water available for diversion. So our analysis of the potential environmental effects and overall effects of the program, based on recent drought information and other information, shows we would see increased groundwater pumping.
California Ag Today: Is the increased pumping weighted at all in the proposal, because overdraft groundwater pumping is not sustainable?
Grober: By our analysis, the area is already in overdraft.
California Ag Today: What? Why would there be overdraft pumping in an area that has great irrigation districts such as Modesto and Oakdale Irrigation Districts delivering surface water? We did not think growers in those districts would be overdrafting.
Grober: Sure. Within those irrigation districts themselves, they are not overdrafting. That’s why the analysis we do goes into that level of detail. The irrigation districts that already have a source of surface water actually apply much more water than they need just for the crop, so they are recharging groundwater within those districts, and even with this proposal, would continue to recharge groundwater. It is all those areas outside of those districts that don’t have access to surface water that are pumping groundwater.
California Ag Today: There is a lot more pumping of groundwater on the east side near the foothills.
Grober: Based on the information that we have, the total area — not just the districts that have access to surface water — but the total area, is already overdrafting groundwater. And there are many areas on the east side of these districts now, up into areas that were previously not irrigated, converting now to orchard crops. So with the information we have, there are large areas of production using water from the basin. The entire area is to some extent pumping more groundwater than there is recharge.
California Ag Today: We’ve been concern about this.
Grober: That’s why the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is going to be good, because the local areas are going to have to get on top of that information and on top of the management.
California farmers are careful with crop protection products because they know the importance of producing safe and wholesome food for their customers across the nation and in their export markets. “However, I think that there are some real challenges facing growers in California today,” said Thomas Jones, senior analytical services director for the Fresno-based Safe Food Alliance.
“As growers send their commodities around the world, they’re facing increasing challenges of knowing the right chemicals to apply and at what levels. We have our own strict regulations within California, if needed, [that govern] not only the application but also the maximum residue levels (MRL) or tolerances allowed for various crops,” said Jones.
“That’s also carried onto the federal level; we have very strict EPA regulations. But as we [export] into other countries, they may have entirely different regulations,” said Jones. He noted this could be confusing not only to farmers, but also to registrants of crop protection materials because there is a lack of standardization of MRLs in different countries.
“Historically, there was the CODEX system, a UN-based system geared towards a more international standard for pesticide residues. It was very thought out, and very scientifically based,” Jones said.
However, as Jones explained, many countries do not want to follow the important scientific standard. “Increasingly, we are seeing countries want to establish their own systems, their own tolerances. They may be responding to their own political pressures within their countries.”
“We are seeing a process called ‘deharmonization’ in which every country wants to establish its own positive list of what is allowed and what is not allowed in [farm] products. Sometimes, those are in agreement with U.S. regulations and California state regulations; sometimes they are not. So it is important that [our] growers know not only what is legal in this country and in our state, but also what is allowed in their target [export] markets.”
Jones commented it is now known that some of these marketers [apply] random low MRLs and keep other MRLs high on some of their own products in order to get a marketing edge. “Some of those MRLs may or may not be based on any scientific standards.”
“There are a number of great tools out there,” he said. “There are a number of great software programs. Obviously, anything that [information growers] can get out of the print media or any educational courses are really essential. It is important to work with your Pest Control Adviser (PCA), as well. It’s important that [farmers] know what they are up against, as far as growing these crops,” said Jones.
The Safe Food Alliance is available to growers to help them qualify to meet the standards in the U.S. and abroad. “We [provide] training twice a year on fumigation safety for the various processors of dried fruits and tree nuts. We focus particularly on commodity fumigations and on what treatments are allowed and not allowed. We also have a full-service pesticide-testing laboratory and are very aware of the requirements in these other countries, so we’re happy to help both processors and growers with our monitoring efforts,” noted Jones.
Featured Photo: For these California-grown peaches to be shippable to any out-of-state U.S. consumers or international export markets, they must meet scientific Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs).
In an exclusive interview with Fresno attorney Anthony Raimondo, California Ag Today’s Patrick Cavanaugh discussed the significance to farmworkers of yesterday’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) decisionto “set aside” Gerawan farmworker votes from the ALRB-sanctioned November 2013 election to decertify the UFW. Raimondo is the attorney for the UFW union decertification petitioner, Silvia Lopez, an employee of Gerawan Farming, a Fresno County diversified tree fruit operation.
California Ag Today: The central California agricultural industry is flabbergasted this week following the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board’s decision to set aside—and not count—the ballots of 2,600 Gerawan farmworkers cast in 2013. What is your take on this decision?
Raimondo: It is unfair because from the outset, we have argued all along that this entire process has been unfair and has denied the workers their “day in court” and their due process. From the first day that Silvia Lopez walked into the ALRB office in Visalia, the greatest opposition to her filing for an election has been the ALRB itself.
We had a judge who couldn’t stay awake for the hearing. We have board members who are—shall we say at the least—biased. In the case of ALRB board member, Genevieve Shiroma, we have a person whose entire career is intertwined with the UFW’s primary paid lobbyist. There’s no way these folks can be objective in a case that has this kind of stakes in the UFW.
And this case is all about money. If they can get a contract with Gerawan, the UFW will essentially double its revenue and double its membership overnight.
California Ag Today: What is at stake for the UFW?
Raimondo: There is a clear reason why the State would end up spending $10 million on this case: They want to silence these workers and save the UFW. There is no union organizing in the field; the UFW has abandoned organizing. They’re not out there getting the workers to support and join the union.
They’re in the courtroom and in the back halls of Sacramento, making deals to take control of these workers’ future, whether the workers want it or not.
California Ag Today: In denying the ballot votes to be counted, the ALRB said it was unfair that the employer—Gerawan in this case—gave the workers a pay raise without permission of the state government or the UFW.
Raimondo: But even with this illegitimate process, the only thing that the Board actually found was that the employer violated the law—not the workers.
So the Board is going to punish the employees by destroying their ballots, like some sort of third-world dictator. What control does the farmworker have over what the company does? What can the workers do to protect their right to vote if their right to vote can be thwarted by what a third party—the company—does?
The workers’ right to vote shouldn’t be in the hands of the company, or of the union, or of anybody else. The California Constitution says that when people cast votes in our state, those votes must be counted. That’s apparently true, unless you’re a farmworker.
California Ag Today: And the agricultural industry is asking, “How can the State of California and the state ALRB get away with this?”
Raimondo: It’s appalling what they’ve done here. It really is appalling. They’ve decided that the best way to control the behavior of an employer is to punish the workers who have no control over that employer.
You know there’s no reason that, if they believe that that election was tainted, they can’t run another election. I’ve spoken to Silvia, and Silvia’s not afraid of letting the people vote. I wonder if the UFW is as brave.
Let the people vote.
California Ag Today: Is the ALRB and the UFW requesting a new vote?
Raimondo: No, they want the farmworkers to stand off to the side and be quiet while the UFW makes the deal through political moves to take their money.
California Ag Today: What’s next?
Raimondo: We are planning, on Silvia’s behalf, to file briefs in the ongoing mandatory arbitration case that is sitting before the California Supreme Court. The UFW has a brief due and the Court has not yet set a hearing date.
We’re hoping that the Supreme Court will be kind enough to give us the opportunity to speak in that case, as the Court of Appeal did. So that case still provides us with a very real chance to vindicate the workers’ rights.
In the election case that was just decided, we are planning on filing a petition for reconsideration with the Board. We think that they need to think twice before they destroy people’s ballots.
California Ag Today: The ballots have not been destroyed at this point, right?
Raimondo: We don’t know. That’s a question only the ALRB can answer.
From my view, I would hope that they were not rushing to have a bonfire today.
I would think that because these votes are precious and irreplaceable, the Board would show the restraint to withhold taking any action on the ballots until the parties have had the opportunity to pursue the various legal options that we have to challenge this decision and make sure they are doing the right thing.
Justification for Reclamation’s 5 Percent Allocation
Following the stunning announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) on Friday, April 1, 2016, of a 5 percent water allocation for Federal water users south of the Delta, Patrick Cavanaugh, deputy editor with California Ag Today interviewed Louis Moore, deputy public affairs officer with the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) Mid-Pacific Region based in Sacramento regarding justification for the low allocation for the Central Valley during this El Niño year.
Cavanaugh: We are all stunned in Central California with that 5 percent water allocation to Central Valley Project water users. With so much hydrology in terms of rain and snow this winter, it seems impossible that farmers and cities could only expect 5 percent!
Moore: Yes, understood. I will try to explain what our logic is behind the 5 percent allocation.
Cavanaugh: Yes, I would like just one reason for the 5 percent. We cannot imagine why so much water is going to waste.
Moore: So basically when we looked at the hydrologic conditions in preparation to make the allocation announcement, we found that regionally, water has fallen differently in the various basins. There was substantially more rain and snow in the mountains in the Oroville and Shasta Dam areas that caused those reservoirs to increase storage quite rapidly. Over at the New Melones Reservoir, which provides water to the south, the storm systems did not materialize and did not produce large sums of runoff; therefore the reservoir storage is low.
Cavanaugh: But the snow that could fill New Melones has not yet melted. And, as you said, there is a lot of water in northern California, and there is a system to get it southward to farms and cities.
Moore: So this is the initial allocation that is out today. We are hopeful that conditions will improve; and if they do so, we can make an adjustment to what the allocation is.
Cavanaugh: You did not mention San Luis Reservoir, a major reservoir jointly run by the state and federal governments that could have had more water pumped into it during the recent high flows, particularly given the flood releases from northern California.
Moore: Water is being pumped into San Luis, and it is for a combination of reasons. Sometimes the natural runoff causes different flows into the systems, but we have to regulate the water that goes through the Delta. San Luis is a shared Federal and State reservoir with legal criteria under which we operate. So we have to be very careful about what waters we can push through the Delta. But we were still providing water to that system.
Cavanaugh: Well, Louis, clearly more water should have pumped into the San Luis Reservoir. On April 2, it was only 52 percent full and, given the flood releases, it should have been more. Californians on farms and cities south of the Delta are frustrated. They assert that far too much water is wastefully flowing out to the ocean—way more than necessary for the protection of species and the prevention of salt-water intrusion. Please explain why so much fresh water, nearly 800,000 acre-feet have flowed out to sea.
Moore: We operate to meet endangered species requirements. We operated to meet water delivery requirements through these various systems. These are federal/state requirements and biological opinion that we are operating to. We are trying to make sure we are following the law, so there are combinations of things where Reclamation works with its partners to determine where and how to get the water where it needs to be.
Cavanaugh: Inflows into the Delta were as high as 300,000 acre-feet of water per day, and only a fraction of that has been moved into San Luis with a capacity of 2 million acre-feet. We understand why San Luis is not filled during drought years; but in an El Niño year like this, it’s confounding how Reclamation could justify an initial 5 percent allocation. It defies any logic, all the water, all the flood releases and the 95 percent on-average snow in the Sierras. Again, how can it possibly be justified?
Moore: What I can say is there is absolute consideration and we understand the impact this has on our customers. One of the reasons we waited until April 1 to make this allocation announcement is because we have been hopeful. We have been looking at the storage, snow and runoff to see if conditions improved enough, so we could actually increase what we thought was going to be a worse allocation.
Cavanaugh: Well, it’s laughable—only 5 percent for San Luis, with all the water in the system from the El Niño year! You’re still not answering the question. None of this makes sense to anyone who is a critical thinker. Can you please explain, other than preventing salt-water intrusion and protecting species, why so much more water—over the top—was sent out?
Moore: We are stillcoming out of the fourth year of dry conditions and that’s not news for folks. The dry conditions that we came through up until the fall of 2015 really impacted our ability to move water downstream into San Luis, which is the same water that can be provided to folks south of the Delta.
We completely understand that, but we are talking about timing of the water supply that we received. Of the additional 4.4 million acre-feet of water that we received over the past several months, 2 million-acre feet occurred in March, which was late [for purposes of allocation analyses]. So we are just getting the sum of this water into our system. And we are still hopeful that [these late hydrology] conditions will improve and we can provide additional water.
Cavanaugh: We know that Fresno received 135 percent of normal rainfall this year; it was wet throughout the area. Five percent was stunning to all of us. We know that farmers will never see 100 percent any longer. And possibly we will never see 80 percent any longer. I mean we could have record flooding throughout the state and farmers may not see a 50 percent allocation—even if the Delta Smelt were proven, unfortunately, to be extinct.
Moore: Yeah, I do hear you. But there is a lot of work that goes into developing water deliveries and a lot of coordination as well. I am not blaming it on the laws, but when we sit down at the table with all the interests for water, it literally becomes a discussion on how to distribute the water and meet all that demand. Now we come to these agreements to meet the legal obligations, to meet the contractual obligations and to protect the environment. So this requires a lot of effort.
Cavanaugh: Louis, I do not get what you are saying. In fact, I disagree with what you are saying. The family farming interest got a zero allocation two years in a row, but the environment still got all the water they wanted. So Reclamation is not sitting down with all the interests for water. The environment gets 100 percent of what they need while everyone else get far less—including zero two years in a row—and now only 5 percent.
Moore: That’s part of the legal requirement that we have talked about. It’s absolutely one of entities at the table that has to be managed.
Cavanaugh: Does the Bureau of Reclamation understand that all this water being used for the environment has not really helped the protected species in the Delta? The species continue to decline despite farmers going without water, fallowing land, and laying off workers, and in spite of devastating communities and severely hurting the economy in the Central Valley.
Moore: You know, I hear you. This is a discussion that I absolutely understand. It’s going to take a lot of folks coming to the table and a lot of discussion to change policy, to change the law and to introduce new ideas on how this works. Those are the things that have to happen
Cavanaugh: Can you help us make this happen?
Moore: You know, this is an ongoing discussion, I assure you. You probably see all the legislative reporting that’s done about water management. It is these discussions that somehow need to culminate into the change that you are mentioning.
Clovis, Calif., August 14, 2014 Timely, relevant and important California agricultural radio news is now available for the first time ever –online, 24/7. Find it at www.CaliforniaAgNews.com.
Listen to the most comprehensive California agricultural news, updated continuously, on your smartphone, iPad, tablet, or any computer.
CaliforniaAgNews 24/7 includes the latest reports broadcasted on the CaliforniaAgToday Radio network, plus extensive in-depth interviews and reports, all presented to users in a state-of-the art, multi-platform format.
“CaliforniaAgNews 24/7 uniquely covers the state’s $45 billion dollar agricultural industry,” noted Ag News Director Patrick Cavanaugh, a thirty-year-veteran agricultural news reporter, often breaking stories.
“Our broadcast team is constantly in the field reporting news directly from farmers and other industry leaders throughout the state,” said Cavanaugh. “We also report relevant USDA news.”
“This new service will spread the word on what’s really happening in California agriculture during this severe drought crisis, worsened by federally-imposed environmental restrictions,” said Cavanaugh.
“In California, a major disconnect exists between the urban consumer and the farming community. CaliforniaAgNews 24/7 bridges the gap between the field and the fork; connecting the public to the land, resources, science & technology, politics and policies of California’s safe and local food, fiber, and fuel,” noted Cavanaugh.
“Hearing a farmers’ voice talking about how she or he provides a safe and nutritious crop will go a long way towards that city listener’s understanding of the farmer. On CaiforniaAgNews 24/7, listeners will hear, firsthand, about the concerns and challenges of farming in California – the leading and most diverse farming state in the nation,” said Cavanaugh.
Written by: Monique Bienvenue – Cal Ag Today Associate Editor
As the Senior Intern and the current Associate Editor of Cal Ag Today, I’d like to personally congratulate my colleague, Patrick Cavanaugh, for being awarded at the 20th Annual Journalism Award Ceremony last night.
Patrick is not only hard working; he’s extremely dedicated and passionate about promoting all issues pertaining to the California agricultural industry. As somebody who understands the importance of agricultural literacy, I’m extremely proud of Patrick’s accomplishments and cannot wait to see what’s in store for Cal Ag Today and its impact on the agriculture industry.
The following Press Release has been provided by the Fresno County Farm Bureau:
FCFB announced the recipients of its 20th Annual Journalism Award Ceremony at the organization’s Celebrating Friends of Agriculture social tonight.
Recognized for excellence in agriculture reporting were:
Print/Web Print Media
First place: Mark Grossi, The Fresno Bee, “For Valley citrus growers, this season has 2 natural disasters,” March 2, 2014 – a comprehensive story about Valley citrus growers, specifically in the Porterville area, who are suffering the challenges brought on by the drought. The article touches on the impacts both farmers and consumers will face due to the drought.
Television/Radio/Web Audio-Visual Media
First place: A.J. Fox, Justin Sacher, Dave Spaher and Heidi Waggoner, KSEE, “High and Dry” series, April 21-24, 2014 – a four-part series focusing on the water struggles California farmers and consumers are encountering due to the drought; addresses potential solutions to the issues.
Farm Trade Print/Television/Radio/Web Media
First place: Patrick Cavanaugh, Pacific Nut Producer, “West Side water series,” Aug. 2013, Nov. 2013, April 2014 – a three-part series that examines Valley farmers and their agricultural journey through California’s water crisis, including the challenges they encounter along the way and what may be in store for the future.
More than 800 growers and PCAs were at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds TODAY, to hear from many speakers, visit with hundreds of exhibitors, talk about tree nuts and grape vines, and enjoy breakfast and a barbeque Tri-Tip lunch.
“It was the 18thannual event and with a record crowd. All growers were upbeat following a good harvest and good nut prices. Also, both domestic and export sales are increasing,” said Patrick Cavanaugh, editor of Pacific Nut Producer magazine and co-host of the event.
Exhibitors speak with tree nut growers about products and services
“We are pleased that both the nut and grape industry are doing well in California. All we really need is a lot of rainfall this winter,” said Dan Malcolm, publisher of Pacific Nut Producer as well as American Vineyard magazine, and co-host of the show.
Crowd gathers outside to look over equipment.
Speakers came from UC Davis, Stanislaus County Ag Commissioner’s office, UC Cooperative Extension, Almond Board of California, California Walnut Board, Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, and CalAgSafety.
“We appreciate the support of the event sponsors and the record number exhibitors,” said Cavanaugh.