CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND: Water Use Efficiency Grants

Water Use Efficiency Grants: Beneficial or Double Jeopardy for California Farming? Or both?

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Through a competitive joint pilot grant program, the Agricultural Water Use Efficiency and State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) jointly intend to demonstrate the potential multiple benefits of conveyance enhancements combined with on-farm agricultural water use efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas reductions.

The grant funding provided in this joint program is intended to address multiple goals including:

  • Water use efficiency, conservation and reduction
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction
  • Groundwater Protection, and
  • Sustainability of agricultural operations and food production
Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program – DWR/CDFA Joint RFP Public Workshops
Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program – DWR/CDFA Joint RFP Public Workshops

Are these competitive grants promoted by DWR and CDFA providing financial support for further compliance or insulting to farmers who have already met and exceeded these stockpiling regulations? Or both?

I would like to address each goal, one by one.

Water Use Efficiency

I challenge DWR and CDFA to find one California farmer who is using water inefficiently or without regard to conservation. Grant or no grant, many farmers in the state have lost most of their contracted surface water deliveries due to the Endangered Species Act, which serves to save endangered species, an important goal we all share, but does so at any cost.

In addition, DWR is now threatening to take 40 percent of the surface water from the Tuolumne River and other tributaries of the San Joaquin River from February 1 to June 30, every year, to increase flows to the Delta to help save the declining smelt and salmon. This will severely curtail water deliveries to the Modesto Irrigation District (MID) and Turlock Irrigation District (TID)—population centers as well as critical farm areas.

MID TID Joint LogoThis proposal, which disregards legal landowner water rights and human need, would force MID and TID to dedicate 40 percent of surface water flows during the defined time period every year, with no regulatory sunset, for beneficial fish and wildlife uses and salinity control. The proposal disregards other scientifically acknowledged stressors such as predatory nonnative non-native striped bass and largemouth bass, partially treated sewage from Delta cities, and, according to the Bay Delta Fish & Wildlife Office of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Region, invasive organisms, exotic species of zooplankton and a voracious plankton-eating clam in the Delta from foreign ships that historically dumped their ballast in San Francisco waters.

While many farmers have fallowed their farmland, other farmers across the state have resorted to reliance on groundwater to keep their permanent crops (trees and vines) alive. The new DWR proposal to divert 40 percent of MID and TID surface water will force hundreds of growers in this region—the only groundwater basin in the Valley that is not yet critically overdrafted—to use more groundwater. 

In a joint statement, MID and TID said, “Our community has never faced a threat of this proportion. MID and TID have continued to fight for the water resource that was entrusted to us 129 years ago.”

The deadline for submitting public comments is September 30, 2016.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Have regulators forgotten Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, that requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent (back to 1990 levels) by 2050? Ag is already accommodating this regulation.

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Source: EPA) https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions
U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Source: EPA)

Now Governor Brown has signed SB-1383, “Short-lived climate pollutants: methane emissions: dairy and livestock: organic waste: landfills” into law that mandates a 25 percent reduction in methane emissions from cow burps, flatulence and manure from all dairy cows and other cattle to achieve the 1990 statewide greenhouse gas emissions level by 2020.

Now CDFA and DWR are asking for grant requests to reduce greenhouse emissions even further. Really?

The deadline for submitting public comments is September 30, 2016.

Groundwater Protection

Ironically, farmers want to reduce their groundwater needs because groundwater has always functioned in the state as a water savings bank for emergency use during droughts and not as a primary source of irrigation. But massive non-drought related federal and state surface water cutbacks have forced farmers to use more groundwater.

Golden State farmers are doing everything possible not to further elevate nitrates in their groundwater. Some nitrate findings left by farmers from generations ago are difficult to clean up.

But the DWR and CFA grant wants California agriculture to do more!

The deadline for submitting public comments is September 30, 2016.

Sustainability of Agricultural Operations and Food Production

Virtually, no one is more sustainable than a multi-generational farmer. Each year, family farmers improve their land in order to produce robust crops, maintain their livelihoods, enrich the soil for the long term, and fortify the health and safety of their agricultural legacy for future generations.

California farmers will continue to do all they can to improve irrigation methods and track their crop protection product use.

And so, I ask again, is this beneficial or double jeopardy for California farming? Or both?

The deadline for submitting public comments is September 30, 2016.

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Air Resources Board to Rein In Cow Flatulence

Public Enemy #1: Cow Flatulence

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

While not a popular or sexy topic of discussion, flatulence is a very natural activity. Who amongst us hasn’t occasionally burped, belched, or otherwise passed a little gas? When guilty of passing waste gases such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and other trace gases due to the microbial breakdown of foods during digestion, we may say, “Excuse me.”

 

California CattleBut for dairy cows and other cattle, manners do not suffice; the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has a low tolerance for such naturally occurring and climate-altering gaseousness. The ARB is planning to mandate a 25% reduction in burps and other windy waftage from dairy cows and other cattle, as well as through improved manure management.

 

Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of the Modesto-based Western United Dairymen (WUD), said, “The ARB wants to regulate cow emissions, even though the ARB’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) reduction strategy acknowledges that there’s no known way to achieve this reduction. The ARB thinks they have ultimate authority, even over what the legislature has given them: two Senate Bills—SB 32 and SB 1383—to limit the emissions from dairy cows and other cattle.”

 

“We have a social media campaign addressing the legislative advocacy components,” Raudabaugh explained, “to make the legislatures aware that this authority has not been given to ARB by the legislature, and to bring that into perspective.” Raudabaugh said while SB 32 is not that popular because it calls for raising taxes, SB 1383 is worrisome, “because if anybody wanted to achieve something of a win for the legislature this year with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, this is the only bill left,” she said.

 

WUD Cattle Flatulence Social Media FB
Cattle Flatulence Social Media (Source: Western United Dairymen Facebook)

Raudabaugh said that in order for the ARB to achieve their mandated 75% reduction in total dairy methane emissions, they are proposing that 600 dairy digesters be put on the methane grid by 2030. According to the ARB’s own analysis that could cost as much as several billion dollars—more than $2 million, on average, for each of California’s remaining 1,400 family dairy farms.

 

“That is not only expensive, but digesters do not work for every dairy. They can be an option for some, but because of their expense and the reality that not everyone ‘dairies’ the same way, digesters cannot be a mandated solution,” noted Raudabaugh. “All dairy personnel and other interested Californians should contact your state legislature and urge them to veto both bills and not allow the ARB more powers than they actually have.”

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