Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ag Today Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pelosi plans to pressure GOP on immigration [San Francisco Chronicle]
…An aide familiar with the strategy told The Chronicle that Pelosi, D-San Francisco, plans to introduce a bipartisan bill nearly identical to the one that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, with the support of key Republicans led by Florida's Marco Rubio. That legislation includes a path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 11 million immigrants who entered the country without authorization. The bill is intended to "put increased pressure on Republicans who were vocally supportive of comprehensive immigration reform in August," the aide said. That list includes a handful of California Republicans from districts with large Latino populations, including David Valadao, a freshman Republican from Hanford (Kings County), Devin Nunes of Tulare and Jeff Denham of Turlock (Stanislaus County).
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Immigration reform appears stalled [Salinas Californian]
While strawberry fields in the Salinas Valley are being plowed under because there are not enough skilled laborers to harvest the crops, a comprehensive immigration reform bill has been stalled by the GOP-controlled House. “This is a real and serious problem,” said Jim Bogart, the president and chief counsel of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California. Bogart made his remarks Tuesday during a Rotary Club meeting in Salinas. Growers up and down the valley are reporting labor shortages, in some places as much as 50 percent of the labor needed, Bogart said. Strawberry growers have told The Californian that fields are having to be “mowed” under because there are not enough farm workers to harvest the crop.

California has most undocumented people [Gannett Newspapers]
California’s 1990s-era recession is responsible for a contemporary demographic trend — the state is no longer the top destination for undocumented immigrants, according to the co-author of a report released Monday. California still has the nation’s highest number of unauthorized immigrants who snuck across the border or remained in the U.S. after their visas expired, according to the Pew Research Center study. The nonpartisan group’s analysis of Census Bureau data and U.S. immigration statistics showed that the nation’s undocumented immigrant population — an estimated 11.7 million last year — may be rising after falling during the recent recession, which lasted from December 2007-June 2009, and whose effects are lingering to this day.

Time short, House says it seeks a new farm bill [New York Times]
House leaders on Tuesday said they were working with their Senate counterparts toward a new five-year farm bill, just days after the House pushed through a bill that would slash billions of dollars from the food stamp program. But with only a few days left before the current farm bill expires at the end of the fiscal year, and with a fight over the debt ceiling looming, few lawmakers see any chance of getting a new farm bill done. “I’m an eternal optimist, but I can’t see them getting anything done before the fiscal year ends,” said Dale Moore, the executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Right now we’re just hoping that something will get done before the end of the year.”

Psyllid found in Exeter orange grove [Visalia Times-Delta]
The Asian Citrus Psyllid has made its way to the heart of Tulare County’s citrus belt….This week a single psyllid was found in a trap in a commercial grove in Exeter. The bug marks the third find of the pest since July. The discovery will mean another 5-mile quarantine will be set up in the county. This latest one will be directly in between the Porterville and Dinuba quarantine sites. This is also the second psyllid find in a commercial orange grove, as opposed to a backyard tree. “It only takes one to trigger a quarantine,” said Tulare County’s ag commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita.

Editorial: State minimum wage hike overdue [San Jose Mercury News]
California's Legislature did the right thing in passing a bill to raise the state's $8-per-hour minimum wage to $9 next July and $10 by January 2016. Gov. Jerry Brown, fortunately, plans to sign it. San Jose voters last fall approved a labor-backed ballot measure lifting the minimum wage here to $10 effective just two months later, with automatic increases for inflation. We thought the instant 25 percent increase in a city already fighting a bad-for-business reputation was not a good idea. Now Santa Clara County farmers are worried that a proposed county minimum-wage increase would put them at a severe disadvantage with competitors in other counties, given the razor-thin profit margins small growers survive on. Mandates like this applied to relatively small areas can have unintended consequences. But state and federal action is overdue, given the minimum wage's plunge in terms of buying power: The federal minimum, now $7.25, would need to be $10.59 to match its purchasing power in 1968. That's one factor increasing the ranks of Americans in poverty and shrinking the middle class that has powered our consumer economy.

Ag Today is distributed by the CFBF Communications/News Division to county Farm Bureaus, CFBF directors and CFBF staff, for information purposes; stories may not be republished without permission. Some story links may require site registration. To be removed from this mailing list, reply to this message and please provide your name and e-mail address. For more information about Ag Today, contact 916-561-5550 or

Ag Today Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Valley farm laborers protest UFW union [Visalia Times Delta]
About 200 farm workers gathered Monday at the Visalia office of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, 1642 W. Walnut Avenue, to protest the United Farm Workers union. The group of protesters, which was comprised primarily of workers employed by Gerawan Farming, said that they are being forced to join the UFW against their will….According to the protesters, the UFW is forcing Gerawan’s employees to join the union and pay dues — three percent of their earnings — in exchange for collective bargaining rights, which workers say they do not need….Gerawan’s workers, being represented legally by attorney Joanna MacMillan, have filed a petition to have a formal vote amongst themselves about their future with the union, which MacMillan said is a provision provided in the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975.

Number caught entering U.S. illegally rises again [Wall Street Journal]
The number of people caught illegally entering the U.S. is up for a second straight year, according to federal data, adding fuel to the debate in Washington over whether the border should be better secured before any overhaul of immigration laws….But after six years of declines, apprehensions have now risen for two years in a row despite the construction of a partial fence along roughly a third of the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border and a quintupling of border agents to more than 21,000 in the past two decades. The rise in apprehensions is likely to underscore calls to better secure the boundary with Mexico before Congress allows those already here illegally to gain legal status or citizenship.
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…LaMalfa briefs students about status of Farm Bill [Chico Enterprise-Record]
LaMalfa, who voted for the House version of the bill, said it's time to separate supplemental food programs from the farm bill. The two were combined in the 1970s, partly as an incentive for urban areas to see the value of farm programs….The changes being proposed in Congress would restore the programs to where they were several years ago, he said. It's time for the farm bill to be renewed every five years, and food stamps every three years. "The separation is happening," LaMalfa said….When asked how he thinks the farm bill will shake out, LaMalfa said "the House version will have a hard time in the Senate; The Senate version will have a hard time in the House."

Study: Strawberry fumigant affects births weight [Salinas Californian]
Salinas mothers exposed when pregnant to a banned strawberry fumigant still used in the Salinas Valley gave birth to babies weighing slightly less than average, a new study from the University of California show. In a second study, methyl iodide, a fumigant selected to replace methyl bromide, was found to have been the subject of a flawed approval process by regulators. The first study, by UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research & Children’s Health or CERCH, has tracked Salinas Valley children and moms since 2000 as part of the broader CHAMACOS research…The results are important because lower birth weights are associated with later health problems in children, including developmental….The state DPR, the regulator of methyl bromide, came under fire in an unrelated study released Monday by the University of California, Los Angeles. The new report issued by UCLA's Sustainable Technology and Policy Program, a joint program of the Fielding School of Public Health and the School of Law, shows that in at least one case, the system failed by approving a chemical called methyl iodide for use on strawberries.

Logging bill reaches governor, without Santa Cruz in it [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
A logging bill that ran into a buzz saw of local controversy has landed on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk, who -- after the Santa Cruz Mountains were carved out of the bill -- he is expected to sign it. The bill, AB 904, allows all but large landowners to pursue timber plans in perpetuity, as long as they comply with stricter environmental standards than those required of routine harvests. But the bill alarmed some local environmentalists, who worried about the removal of barriers to unwanted logging….The Sierra Club and local environmentalists opposed the bill, but some conservation groups, such as the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, supported it. So did Davenport-based Big Creek Lumber, with a representative saying bill opponents took an anti-environmental position and that their real aims are to end logging.

Rim fire's effects likely to last for decades to come [Los Angeles Times]
…The huge Rim fire, ignited Aug. 17 by a hunter's illegal campfire, is likely to have transformed large swaths of the Stanislaus National Forest for decades to come. Remote sensing satellite images indicate that virtually all of the vegetation is dead on nearly 40% of the area of the 401-square-mile blaze, which burned from the national forest into the western portion of Yosemite National Park, where it continues to smolder…."We have … miles and miles of mortality," said botanist Jennie Haas, who has worked in the Stanislaus for more than three decades. She has seen some seeds floating through the ghostly landscapes — what she called "little rays of hope." "But if we don't intervene, it will convert to brush," she added. Intervening means salvage logging, clearing out the charred trees that are of no value and replanting. The process is opposed by many environmentalists who point out that a thriving post-fire ecosystem emerges in burn areas, drawing bird and other species found only in blackened forests.

Ag Today is distributed by the CFBF Communications/News Division to county Farm Bureaus, CFBF directors and CFBF staff, for information purposes; stories may not be republished without permission. Some story links may require site registration. To be removed from this mailing list, reply to this message and please provide your name and e-mail address. For more information about Ag Today, contact 916-561-5550 or

Ag Today Monday, September 23, 2013

Central Valley awash in water worries [Fresno Bee]
…If this winter is as dry as the previous two, the drought conversation could turn to pumping restrictions, which is a dreaded prospect. Farmers, politicians and many businesses do not want state authority and expense involved in the use of groundwater….About 70% of California's total groundwater use is in the combined San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, known as the Central Valley, according to the state Department of Water Resources. California groundwater pumping is not regulated by the state, as it is in such places as Colorado and Arizona. The idea always has been a political hot potato in Sacramento. One result: The region has tens of thousands of private wells that are not tracked in a detailed way, unlike river water. People in the water business around the Valley are talking about dozens of private wells going dry this year, but the state has no way of tracking it.

Southern California water users view Delta tunnel plan as key to reliable future [Sacramento Bee]
…Some Northern Californians have branded the project a water grab, fearing the tunnels are primarily a tool to divert more precious Sierra Nevada snowmelt to Southern California. But the current project description promises no additional water supply beyond what has been diverted from the Delta, on average, over the past decade….The Southern California water agencies backing the project say the answer is clear-cut. They say the tunnels are essential to their economic future – and by extension, the state’s. What they want from the project is “reliability,” a word that is relatively new in the world of water supply. What it means is disputed. But the clamor for reliability does suggest there are not many options left to provide more water in 21st century California.

Who will pay for Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tunnel project? [Los Angeles Times]
…The San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts and urban water agencies in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area that get water supplies from the delta have promised to pick up most of the tab, with federal and state taxpayers paying the rest. But the key question of precisely how the costs are divvied up between urban and agricultural users is unanswered. And hints have been dropped in recent months that to keep the project alive, urban ratepayers in the Southland may wind up paying more than their share, in effect subsidizing San Joaquin Valley agribusiness interests….Jim Beck, general manager of the Kern County Water Agency, which supplies southern San Joaquin Valley agriculture, said that the cost distribution would mirror project benefits. But he couldn't say how benefits would be determined.

House Republicans say they’ll act on immigration reform this year [Washington Post]
House Republicans intensified their outreach to Latino groups last week, offering renewed pledges that the House will deal with immigration reform this year. The effort has revived hope among advocates that a bipartisan deal can be reached to address the fate of the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers and students. The chances of a comprehensive deal passing Congress remain doubtful, advocates cautioned, and they worry that the legislative process will spill into 2014, presenting new complications in a year when lawmakers face reelection battles. But they were encouraged by signals from key GOP leaders that the House is willing to move forward on legislation that could produce a breakthrough in the stalled negotiations.

Fresno County farmworkers seek to vote out UFW [Fresno Bee]
Workers at Gerawan Farming have filed a petition with the state seeking to dissolve their rocky relationship with the United Farm Workers union. The workers are asking the state's Agriculture Labor Relations Board to schedule a decertification election so that they can vote the union out. If the state verifies the petition's signatures -- decertification advocates need a simple majority of the company's 2,600 workers -- then an election could be held as early as Wednesday, said Ed Blanco, an acting regional director of the ALRB.

Editorial: Stop pumping farm animals full of antibiotics [San Jose Mercury News]
When historians look back on our time, one question they're likely to ask is this: How could people have been so stupid as to cripple the lifesaving power of antibiotics by letting farmers pump cows, pigs and chickens full of them? It's a clear case of putting profits before people's lives, and if the FDA and Congress won't act, California should show them how….California has set the pace for the nation on clean-air regulation and other health advances that eventually went national. If the FDA and Congress continue to ignore this very serious threat to public health, California should set rules for meat raised or sold in the state. It is a huge market -- and even if factory farmers across the country try to ignore it, consumers are likely to take notice. Especially as the number of deaths from antibiotic-resistant infection continues to grow.

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Ag Today Friday, September 20, 2013

Shortage of workers hampers SLO County's crop harvest [San Luis Obispo Tribune]
San Luis Obispo County’s harvest season is in full swing, with a variety of crops —from bell peppers to wine grapes — being picked from local fields. Growers, however, say they have fewer workers, and that has hampered their ability to quickly get wine grapes off the vine and vegetables out of the ground and into the marketplace. “We’re struggling to find enough people to do the harvest of our specialty crops,” said Dan Sutton, general manager of the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange…In years with an abundance of help, crews would consist of about 12 to 14 people, he said. Now, crews average about eight to 10, and to keep up with the workload, they have been working longer hours and into the weekend, Sutton said.…Claire Wineman, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, which represents fruit and vegetable growers, is also hearing about the labor shortage from members. Some growers have adjusted work hours and are trying different ways to encourage increased productivity.

State OKs new water rules for farmers [Fresno Bee]
State water regulators approved landmark groundwater rules Thursday for 850,000 acres of farmland across Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties. About 7,200 growers will be regulated in the program, which is part of a larger effort called the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Monitoring Program. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board met in Fresno Thursday for a day-long public hearing before voting. The hearing covered details of previous meetings and workshops over the last year.

Outside review raises questions about key Delta tunnel claims [Stockton Record]
The $24.5 billion twin tunnels plan might not give state officials the flexibility they so desperately want to more efficiently move water to far-flung portions of the state. And the hope that restoring large tracts of wetland habitat in the Delta will help certain fish appears to be "overly optimistic," a team of outside experts has concluded….Not all of the findings are negative. The group agrees with plan proponents that taking water through the tunnels would reduce the slaughter of fish that are often sucked into the existing water export pumps near Tracy. Models show the benefits to be so great that if the system had been in place over the past decade, populations of native fish such as the Delta smelt might never have crashed to begin with, Mount said….The study was conducted for two environmental groups, The Nature Conservancy and American Rivers.

House and Senate face deep divide over food stamps [Associated Press]
Farm-state lawmakers hoping for passage of a farm bill by the end of the year will have to bridge a deep divide between the House and the Senate over the role of the government in helping the nation's poor. The House passed a bill Thursday that would make around $4 billion in cuts annually to the almost $80 billion-a-year food stamp program and allow states to put in place broad new work requirements for recipients. A Senate-passed farm bill would make around a tenth of the amount of those cuts, or $400 million a year….GOP leaders then split the farm programs from the food stamps and passed a farm-only bill in July. Conservatives crafted the food stamp bill, saying higher cuts would be easier to pass in a stand-alone bill. Getting the three bills into a House-Senate conference could be tricky under House rules. Republicans said Thursday that one more step is needed — the House will have to hold a procedural vote to allow both the farm and food stamp bills to go to conference. It is unclear if Republicans who pushed to split the two bills will oppose that effort.

A new stinkbug swarming in Sacramento’s downtown gardens [Sacramento Bee]
…Scientists deem the marmorated stinkbug one of the newest “superpests,” and it now calls a patch of downtown Sacramento home….This is the area where entomologists have documented an infestation that covers over half a square mile. It is believed to be the first reproducing population in California outside of Los Angeles County….It’s because of their taste for greens – and many other plants – that brown marmorated stinkbugs become a problem. They typically start out in urban gardens, then spread to agricultural areas, where they’ve been known to damage tomatoes, corn, berries, grapes and array of other fruit crops.

Misgivings about how a weed killer affects the soil [New York Times]
…While regulators and many scientists say biotech crops are no different from their conventional cousins, others worry that they are damaging the environment and human health. The battle is being waged at the polls, with ballot initiatives to require labeling of genetically modified foods; in courtrooms, where lawyers want to undo patents on biotech seeds; and on supermarket shelves containing products promoting conventionally grown ingredients. Now, some farmers are taking a closer look at their soil. First patented by Monsanto as a herbicide in 1974, glyphosate has helped revolutionize farming by making it easier and cheaper to grow crops. The use of the herbicide has grown exponentially, along with biotech crops. The pervasive use, though, is prompting some concerns. Critics point, in part, to the rise of so-called superweeds, which are more resistant to the herbicide. To fight them, farmers sometimes have to spray the toxic herbicide two to three times during the growing season. Then there is the feel of the soil.

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