Local California Table Grapes are Going Global

Harvesting California table grapes is going strong. Many different varieties are being picked, and boxed in the vineyard and sent to the cooler for market.CATableGrapes

“We’re harvesting in the San Joaquin Valley now, and just finishing up in the Coachella Valley,” said Kathleen Nave, President of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission. “The grapes are moving quickly into the marketplace in the US, Canada and around the world.”

“Mother nature has been kind so far with respect to the quality and the weather.” said Nave.

California Table Grape Commission is implementing a Grapes From California marketing campaign to connect with consumers around the world, as well in the U.S., focusing on usage, or ways in which grapes are consumed, and health benefits.

“We have brand new television commercials airing on the Food Network,” said Nave, “and we have Food Network magazine ads in the U.S. and similar ads in other parts of the world,” she added.

Nave said that the state’s grape growers have been amazing, producing two record crops, back-to-back, and now maybe a third. “So in 2012, we crossed the 100 million-box mark for the first time, and in 2013 ,we took a very big, unexpected jump, to 117 million. Our estimate for 2014 is just slightly higher than last year’s estimate,” said Nave.

Friant District’s ‘Zero’ Disaster Mounts

Parched Trees Being Pulled in Friant Division As Senior Rights Water Releases Begin

 

Zero remains the frustrating word for Friant Division growers who continue to have no Central Valley Project water to use and, in many cases, little or no groundwater available to tap in their desperate efforts to save increasingly moisture-stressed permanent plantings along the south valley’s East Side.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s zero water supply declaration remains in effect for the Friant Division, even as Reclamation increases the Friant Project’s first-ever CVP supply releases to get water to the San Joaquin River’s senior water rights holders downstream, the Exchange Contractors, even though the Bureau has other sources from which to make the exchange supply available.

A Friant Water Authority news release, which gained some national news coverage May 15 when the river releases started, said that date was probably “the darkest and most frustrating day in the eastern San Joaquin Valley’s long and complicated water history” and laid the blame squarely on federal regulatory factors that did not exist in the past’s worst drought events.

In districts along the Friant-Kern Canal with no usable groundwater and which rely entirely on CVP water diverted at Friant Dam from the San Joaquin River, ever-increasing numbers of permanent plantings – mostly orange trees – are already being taken out as more and more growers bow to what they see as the inevitable.
Tens of thousands of acres covered by trees remaining in those districts are doomed to die by late summer if they receive no water. Also promising to wilt are economies of dozens of farm communities and rural areas as jobs are lost, lives and opportunities are uprooted along with trees, and local and regional business, social and civic institutions also find their means of support lost.

A preliminary estimate of losses in just the citrus industry alone has been listed at some $3 billion over the next five years, including crop losses, removal of groves, preparations for replanting and waiting for young trees to commercially produce.

Start of Exchange Releases

Friant’s dispute with the United States government over how Reclamation is managing the river system’s complex water exchange reached the tipping point May 15 when the Interior Department agency began sending water down the river after Reclamation announced it was “unable” to provide the Exchange Contractors with their substitute supplies of Delta water.

That substitute water for the better part of the last seven decades has made possible Friant-Kern Canal and Madera Canal diversions at Friant Dam, as agreed upon in decades-old CVP contracts.

The Friant Water Authority has made it clear its members fully respect and abide by the Exchange Contractors’ senior water rights, which date back to 19th century filings by the historic cattle firm Miller & Lux.

However, Reclamation has more than 200,000 acre-feet of CVP water stored in San Luis Reservoir and is also maintaining increased CVP storage in Lake Shasta. The Bureau decided to use some of these supplies for south-of-Delta wildlife refuges, which primarily benefit migratory waterfowl such as ducks, rather than supplying it to the four agencies known as the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors. Refuges are to receive 178,000 acre-feet, and Reclamation estimates that it will provide the Exchange Contractors with 529,000 acre-feet from April through October, using a combination of the CVP’s San Joaquin River supplies and north state water pumped from the Delta.

Senior Water Rights

Friant Division contractors asserted in newly-filed litigation that CVP agreements and senior water rights should compel Reclamation to deliver water to the Exchange Contractors as has always previously been done, from Lake Shasta, the Delta and San Luis Reservoir. (See related story.)  Lake Shasta storage continues to be enhanced by a few hundred thousand acre-feet of water that the National Marine Fisheries Service has stubbornly reserved under a biological opinion for cold water preservation to benefit Chinook salmon later this year.

Friant believes there is no evidence that Reclamation has ever requested consultation on its mandatory performance of the Exchange Contract, and thus, there is no basis for withholding this water under an inapplicable biological opinion.

Friant also contends that the United States is not respecting the Exchange Contractors’ senior rights as a result of Reclamation’s decisions to reserve CVP water in Lake Shasta and San Luis Reservoir for use by junior water rights holders. (Please see summary of Friant’s litigation claims.)

This third year of critical drought conditions has dramatically reduced natural San Joaquin River runoff, meaning that the water Reclamation is releasing to the Exchange Contractors is permanently lost to Friant Division use. Projections are that the river releases may consume most of the river’s remaining supply. The San Joaquin River Restoration’s interim flows were suspended in February because of the drought and are not currently a factor in the lack of Friant supply availability.

Ironically, the San Joaquin River water now being released has always been at the heart of the Friant Division’s supply. In the late 1930s, Reclamation signed a “purchase agreement” and an “exchange of waters” agreement, enabling the agency to divert water at Friant Dam.

In exchange, the Bureau agreed to provide the territory formerly within the massive ranch of the old cattle firm Miller & Lux with a substitute supply of water from the Delta, delivered through the Delta-Mendota Canal.

The old Miller & Lux rights continue to exist and belong to the Exchange Contractors.

CaliforniaDroughtFriantArea

JUST IN: UC Davis’ Preliminary Findings on Drought Impact in Central Valley

Source Office of Public Affairs

Photo Source-Aquafornia

California’s drought impact will be a severe blow to Central Valley irrigated agriculture and farm communities this year and could cost the industry $1.7 billion and cause more than 14,500 workers to lose their jobs, according to preliminary results of a new study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

Researchers estimated that Central Valley irrigators would receive only two-thirds of their normal river water deliveries this year because of the drought.

The preliminary analysis represents the first socio-economic forecast of this year’s drought, said lead author Richard Howitt, a UC Davis professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics.

“We wanted to provide a foundation for state agricultural and water policymakers to understand the drought impact on farmers and farm communities,” Howitt said.

The Central Valley is the richest food-producing region in the world. Much of the nation’s fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown on the region’s 7 million acres of irrigated farmland.

The center plans to release a more comprehensive report of the drought’s economic impact on the state’s irrigated agriculture this summer.

The analysis was done at the request of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which co-funded the research, along with the University of California.

“These estimates will help the state better understand the economic impacts of the drought, ” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The research confirms where emergency drought assistance will be needed most, and efforts are already underway.”

The UC Davis researchers used computer models and the latest estimates of State Water Project, the federal Central Valley Project and local water deliveries, plus groundwater pumping capacities to forecast the economic effects of this year’s drought.

The analysis predicted several severe impacts for the current growing season, including:

▪Reduced surface water deliveries of 6.5 million acre-feet of water, or 32.5 percent of normal water use by Central Valley growers. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre of land in a foot of water, or enough water for about two California households for a year.

▪ Fallowing of an additional 410,000 acres, representing 6 percent of irrigated cropland in the Central Valley.

▪ The loss of an estimated 14,500 seasonal and full-time jobs. About 6,400 of these jobs are directly involved in crop production.

▪ A total cost of $1.7 billion to the Central Valley’s irrigated farm industry this year, including about $450 million in additional costs of groundwater pumping.

▪ About 60 percent of the economic losses will occur in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Lake Basin.

Growers are expected to replace much of the loss in project water deliveries with groundwater, California’s largest source of water storage during drought years, said co-author Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences and a UC Davis professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“Without access to groundwater, this year’s drought would be truly devastating to farms and cities throughout California,” Lund said.

The additional pumping will cost an estimated $450 million and still leave a shortage of 1.5 million acre-feet of irrigation water, about 7.5 percent of normal irrigation water use in the Central Valley, according to the forecast.

While the current drought is expected to impose major hardships on many farmers, small communities and the environment, it should not threaten California’s overall economy, Lund said.

Agriculture today accounts for less than 3 percent of the state’s $1.9 trillion a year gross domestic product.Other authors on the report are UC Davis agricultural economist Josue Medellin-Azuara and Duncan MacEwan of the ERA Economic consulting firm in Davis.

Rice Growers Selling Water, Not Rice

Kirk Messick, Senior Vice President, Farmers Rice Cooperative in Sacramento, reviewed the water allocations announced last Friday. “The federal water districts have allocated 75% and the state has allocated 100%; however, the districts on the state side are planning to sell 20% of their water to growers who have permanent crops, such as people in the San Joaquin area.”

Messick says rice growers will plant 60 – 65% of their rice acreage, compared to last year, and he thinks there will be quite a movement of federal water towards permanent crops.

Rice growers in northern California are selling their water to growers who need water for permanent crops. Messick said, “Rice farmers are diverting water to San Joaquin, in general, especially to those along the Westside who lack water. They are even providing water to farmers in the north for young permanent crops such as walnut trees, pistachio trees, grapevines, etc.”Rice Field

Messick is worried rice growers will not meet the demand for the rice industry this year because they can make more money by conveying their water elsewhere. “They’re being offered $1500 an acre-foot, and they cannot make that money with rice. They have the right to move the water, and the state is encouraging it because it wants the water to go to the highest and best use, whether for permanent tree crops or urban use. Other water recipients may pay $2-3,000 per acre.

“Though the state has allocated 100% water for ag use in northern California,” Messick continued, “we know already that 6 of the 15 districts in the state system are going to sell 20% of their water, and that’s the minimum.”

“We are going to see water sales for sure. The numbers are upwards of $1500/acre and will reduce what we thought would be 75% planting (compared to last year) down to 60% – 65%.”

Messick expressed concern “that we will not meet some of our markets, particularly the Middle East or those with less money to spend. Some markets will have to buy from other suppliers in the world.”

“We’re better off than a month ago,” Messick reasoned, “because we didn’t know if we would have any water so decisions to sell water have come up.”

“But,” he said, “there’s a lot more going on with competitive medium-grain rice growers facing droughts in the rest of the world, such as in Australia, Turkey, and Egypt. These droughts will cause dramatic cutbacks in rice planting overseas.”

Back at home, Messick is concerned about 2015, “because we have less than 15% snowpack compared to normal, and very low levels in both Shasta and Oroville—and we haven’t even started to use any water for agriculture.”