Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Drought impacts feed availability, orchard plantings

I'm posting remotely today as I continue to work on our big drought package. The California Farm Bureau Federation offers some reports on the situation this morning:
Animal feed suffers from drought

The California drought will have “serious impacts” to production of animal feed, according to University of California specialists. They describe oat hay as “a disaster” due to lack of rain, and predict diminished supplies of alfalfa hay, as well. At the same time, livestock owners need to buy more hay, because drought has parched rangeland on which animals would normally feed. That will lead to short supplies and high prices for animal feed this year.

Water situation could affect orchard plantings

With demand for almonds, walnuts and pistachios remaining strong, farmers continue to plant new orchards. But nurseries that supply young trees say the ongoing drought could reduce interest in new orchard plantings. The nurseries say they continue to take orders for trees, but have heard from some farmers who are waiting to commit until they see how much water they will have available. At this time of year, nurseries begin delivering bare-root trees to farmers for planting.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wall Street advisor: True unemployment is 37.2%

A noted Wall Street investment advisor is saying the true number of Americans who are out of work is much higher than government officials (and by extension, many in the media) are reporting.

Writes Paul Bedard in the Washington Examiner:
Don't believe the happy talk coming out of the White House, Federal Reserve and Treasury Department when it comes to the real unemployment rate and the true “Misery Index.” Because, according to an influential Wall Street advisor, the figures are a fraud.

In a memo to clients provided to Secrets, David John Marotta calculates the actual unemployment rate of those not working at a sky-high 37.2 percent, not the 6.7 percent advertised by the Fed, and the Misery Index at over 14, not the 8 claimed by the government.

Marotta, who recently advised those worried about an imploding economy to get a gun, said that the government isn't being honest in how it calculates those out of the workforce or inflation, the two numbers used to get the Misery Index figure.

“The unemployment rate only describes people who are currently working or looking for work,” he said. That leaves out a ton more.

“Unemployment in its truest definition, meaning the portion of people who do not have any job, is 37.2 percent. This number obviously includes some people who are not or never plan to seek employment. But it does describe how many people are not able to, do not want to or cannot find a way to work. Policies that remove the barriers to employment, thus decreasing this number, are obviously beneficial,” he and colleague Megan Russell [write] in their new investors note from their offices in Charlottesville, Va.

Monday, January 20, 2014

North state farmers, ranchers not taking a holiday


Government workers are taking the day off, as are many of their ideological soulmates in the progressive media. But farmers and ranchers are working today, and so is the Capital Press.

This morning I went on a short tour of drought-impacted farms with one-time Western Innovator Michael Vasey, now president of the Tehama County Farm Bureau, then swung over to the Tehama District Fair grounds to catch set-up activities for next week's Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale.

In the photos, from the top: Vasey, manager of Lindauer River Ranch, digs up some soil in an orchard that hasn't been irrigated yet to show how dry it is; Brian Burt uses a forklift to move some livestock gates at the fairgrounds; Chad Heitman of Red Bluff puts up a screen to protect animals from weather; and workers carry a gate into one of the barns to be put in place.

The dry weather is the big topic of both casual and serious conversations in California agriculture today. Not only is the lack of water a problem, but tree growers are concerned that the balmy weather we're experiencing may trigger an early bloom, which is more susceptible to frost damage.

Watch for my advance on the bull sale at CapitalPress.com, and keep checking the website for our wall-to-wall drought coverage in the weeks and months ahead.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bill to strip federal funding from rail project

California's Republican delegation in Congress has introduced a bill to strip federal funding from the state's high-speed rail project after court decisions stalled the project in the fall.

From the north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa:
Representative Doug LaMalfa testified this week at a hearing of the House Transportation & Infrastructure’s Rail Subcommittee on the financial risk to federal and state budgets posed by California’s high-speed rail plan. Following the hearing, LaMalfa joined every Republican member of California’s Congressional delegation in introducing a bill to suspend federal funding for the project, H.R. 3893.

“After a state court ruled what anyone paying attention has known for years, that the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plan violated voter-approved law, it’s time for Congress to end the gravy train," said LaMalfa. "We need to ask ourselves, as a federal body, whether we are being good stewards of Americans’ tax dollars, particularly now that California is prohibited from using state bonds to build the project. At a time when every aspect of federal spending is being scrutinized, is it appropriate to use borrowed federal dollars for this project?”

“From a price tag that has doubled and wildly exaggerated employment claims to false ridership and ticket price figures, the High-Speed Rail Authority has never been truthful with Californians or the federal government,” added LaMalfa. “The claims made in attempts to prop it up have reached the level of farce. Governor Jerry Brown has proposed using funds meant for carbon reduction to prop up the plan, even as the Authority itself admits that it plans to plant thousands of trees to offset the system’s massive emissions.”
Video footage of LaMalfa's testimony is here. In signing on as a sponsor, LaMalfa makes good on a promise he made in November, when he called the project "dead in the water" as a result of the court rulings.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A 'conservative case' for universal health care?

It's starting. Obamacare's problems are getting so bad that at least one self-described conservative is advocating for universal health care.

Avik Roy writes at the National Review Online:
There’s been a lot of talk on the right about the importance of having a policy agenda that addresses the challenges of poverty and economic mobility. A neglected aspect of that discussion, however, is the degree to which access to health coverage is a part of the problem facing lower-income and middle-class Americans today. Medicaid is a basketcase of a program that leaves poor people no healthier than they were before — though it spends trillions on their behalf. And, thanks to Obamacare, one of the biggest economic challenges facing the middle class — the rising cost of health insurance — is getting significantly worse.

While “repealing and replacing” Obamacare is one way to address this problem, its political viability in 2017 — when tens of millions of Americans will be on Obamacare-sponsored coverage — is far from guaranteed. What will repealers-and-replacers say to Americans who like their Obamacare plans, and want to keep them?

The good news is there is an alternative approach, one that would achieve similar – if not better – fiscal results to repeal-and-replace, but with less disruption to existing coverage arrangements. I’ve discussed that approach previously in these pages, and I have a new article discussing the idea today in the Washington Examiner.

In today’s piece, I argue that no Republican health-reform plan will get anywhere until Republicans come to agree that it’s a legitimate goal of public policy to ensure that all Americans have access to quality health care, just as we agree that all Americans should have access to a quality education[.]
Really? Really? You call Medicaid a "basketcase" and yet you would impose it on the entire country? And you'd compare that system to public education, which is, to borrow a phrase, a shredded mess. If I had kids, I wouldn't send them anywhere near a government school, for reasons I've already discussed. And now you want to build a health care system I wouldn't want to send my loved ones to?

Interestingly, if you look at the comments, he isn't getting many takers. But you wait. Insurance under Obamacare will get so unaffordable that the hue and cry for taxpayer-funded care will reach a crescendo just as Hillary is taking office -- and that was the plan all along.

CFBF: Drought declaration draws attention to water

Gov. Jerry Brown's declaration of a statewide drought today will draw the public's attention to the state's water problems, California Farm Bureau Federation leaders observe.

From the state Farm Bureau:
In welcoming Gov. Brown’s declaration of a drought emergency today, California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said he hopes the action will give state agencies increased flexibility to act in people’s best interest, and said the federal government should follow the governor’s lead in taking immediate action to provide flexibility in regulations that could hinder water transfers.

“Given the unprecedented dry weather we have endured for the past 13 months, it’s entirely appropriate for the governor to declare a drought emergency and we appreciate his timely action,” Wenger said.

“Farmers across California face wrenching decisions today, as well as in coming months. Will they have enough water to plant crops, to water their livestock, and keep trees and vines alive? An additional concern is how many people they may have to lay off as a result of water shortages. Any way the state and federal governments can provide assistance in adding water to the system will help,” he said.

Wenger said he also hopes the governor’s action will bring increased attention to the longer-term water supply crisis California faces, which is compounded by population growth, environmental regulations and now, by drought.

“We don’t know if this is Year 3 of a three-year drought or Year 3 of a longer drought,” he said. “We do know that long droughts can be a feature of the California climate—and we know one way to insulate ourselves from droughts is to store more water when we can.

“While he leads California through this drought, we urge Governor Brown to lead the campaign for new water storage,” Wenger said. “California has continued to improve its water efficiency, both on the farm and at home, but conservation alone won’t solve our chronic water supply problems. California must commit to improve its water system—and new storage, both aboveground and underground, provides more flexibility to respond to more volatile weather patterns.”

Wenger noted that California has an opportunity to invest in new supply by recrafting a water bond scheduled for the ballot this year.

“Farm Bureau looks forward to working with the governor and the Legislature to enhance future water supplies and cushion California from future droughts,” he said.
Here is the governor's press release. The AP story is up at Redding.com. Watch for our continuing coverage of this development and of the drought as a whole at CapitalPress.com.