Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2011: The year without a summer?

Or is it going to be one of those years when it's 60 degrees one week and 105 the next?

at any rate, this chilly weather and recurring rain should continue at least until the third week of June, National Weather Service meteorologist Johnnie Powell told me this morning.

“We’ll keep getting systems across that are going to keep us cool,” he said. “There’s not going to be tons of rain … (but) we don’t see 90s until late June. Long term, we won’t be back to normal until late July or August.”

Great -- just in time for Back to School.

Here's where everything stands.

May rainfall
May and seasonal precipitation totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of May 31:
Eureka: month to date 1.13 inches (normal 1.58 inches); season to date 43.54 inches (normal 37.41 inches)
Redding: month to date 3.07 inches (normal 1.62 inches); season to date 34.09 inches (normal 32.79)
Sacramento: month to date 0.99 inches (normal 0.52 inches); season to date 22.45 inches (normal 17.72 inches)
Modesto: month to date 0.85 inches (normal 0.54 inches); season to date 13.98 inches (normal 12.98 inches)
Salinas: month to date 0.68 inches (normal 0.22 inches); season to date 15.33 inches (normal 12.81 inches)
Fresno: month to date 0.35 inches (normal 0.38 inches); season to date 15.6 inches (normal 10.99 inches)

Reservoir levels
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight May 30, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 93 percent
Shasta Lake: 98 percent
Lake Oroville: 96 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 95 percent
Folsom Lake: 90 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 86 percent
Lake McClure: 73 percent
Millerton Lake: 53 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 71 percent
Lake Isabella: 59 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 90 percent

Snowpack
Here are average snow water equivalents and comparisons to normal for the date in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center. Totals are as of May 31:
North: 30 inches, 363 percent of normal
Central: 32 inches, 259 percent of normal
South: 20 inches, 180 percent of normal
Statewide: 28 inches, 262 percent of normal

Friday, May 27, 2011

Meetings to ponder conservation easements

From the California Cattlemen's Association:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has initiated the planning process for a proposed California Foothills Legacy Area (CFLA). CFLA is a proposed new easement program to protect working landscapes and is focused on rangelands surrounding California’s Central Valley.

Currently, land trusts throughout California, including the California Rangeland Trust, have a backlog of ranchers seeking a conservation easement on their working ranchers. This proposal will reallocate Service funds for the expansion of refuge systems through fee title acquisition, to a new working landscapes conservation easement program.

“CCA has had a long standing grassroots policy to advocate for the no-net loss of private lands. This program upholds CCA’s commitment to find alternative means to meet conservation goals of government agency while preserving private working lands,” states CCA president Kevin Kester. “Conservation easements are not for every rancher; however they are a tool in the tool box.”

The Service has identified four preliminary focal areas including the following counties: Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, Shasta, Stanislaus, Tehama, Tulare and Tuolumne. USFWS believes that establishing the CFLA, in cooperation with landowners, will make a significant contribution to conserving California’s last great landscape – private-owned rangelands.

The following public meetings on the proposed program have been set:

June 6
Bakersfield
E. Bakersfield Veterans Building, 1&2 2101 Ridge Road, 93395
6-8pm

June 7
Porterville
Holiday Inn Express, 840 S. Jaye Street, 93257
6-8pm

June 8
Le Grand
Le Grand Branch Library, 12949 Le Grand Road, 95333
5-7pm

June 9
Sonora
Days Inn, 160 South Washington Street, 95370
6-8pm

June 14
Red Bluff
Red Bluff Community/Senior Center, 1500 S. Jackson Street, 96078
6-8pm

June 16
Hollister
Veterans Memorial Building, 649 San Benito Street, 95023
6-8pm

Also, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff will be providing an overview of the proposed program during the 2011 CCA Midyear meeting on June 22.

Innovator moved from office to farm

Call Michael Vasey a farmer by marriage.

The 47-year-old spent two decades in business and human resources work before taking over two years ago as president of Lindauer River Ranch in Red Bluff.

The 600-acre prune, walnut and wheat farm belongs to his father-in-law, Ken Lindauer, who’s been gradually teaching Vasey the ropes.

Since he started running the farm, he’s taken a businesslike approach to bringing the farm into the 21st century, installing solar panels, automated irrigation and other new technologies.

“I guess I see myself as a businessman first,” Vasey said. “Every day is different. There’s always a new challenge, and I like the variety of work.”

Vasey will be the subject of my next Capital Press Western Innovator feature. For my story, check our Web site soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Poll. Half expect U.S. to go bankrupt

From Rasmussen Reports:

Voters clearly aren’t confident that their elected officials will wrestle federal spending under control. In fact, many now think the government’s more likely to go belly up.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 50% of Likely U.S. Voters think it’s more likely that the government will go bankrupt and be unable to pay its debt before the federal budget is balanced. Thirty-three percent (33%) believe the budget is more likely to be balanced first. Sixteen percent (16%) are undecided. [...]

Political Class voters aren’t worried, however: 71% say a balanced budget will come first. Sixty-three percent (63%) of Mainstream voters, on the other hand, think a government bankruptcy is more likely.

There's lots of other interesting information in this poll, which you can read about here.

Ag secretary to work with fairs

From the California Department of Food and Agriculture:

In Governor Brown’s May Revise this month, he directed CDFA Secretary Karen Ross to develop a plan for the governor’s proposed 2012-2013 budget that addresses the future operation, maintenance and oversight of the network of California fairs. Due to the state budget crisis and a reduction of $32 million in funding, fairs will have to carefully consider how to continue current operations.

“While the budget situation definitely presents a challenge, this could be an opportunity, as well,” said Secretary Ross. “California’s fairs are an important part of our communities, and I am committed to working with the fairs to find ways they can be more entrepreneurial, including exploring options for more local control.”

The network of California fairs consists of 78 fairs operating under CDFA fiscal oversight. Fifty-two of them are District Agricultural Associations (DAAs), which are governed by boards of directors appointed by the governor.

According to Governor Brown’s directive, the plan to be developed by Secretary Ross shall include real and personal property holdings and the feasibility of restructuring the governance of fairs.

Bill to bring 'accountability' to Justice Act

From the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's Beltway Beef:

The Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) strongly support the Government Litigation Savings Act, legislation introduced today, May 25, 2011, by U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to bring much-needed transparency and accountability to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). NCBA President Bill Donald and PLC President John Falen agree that while EAJA was intended to level the playing field between private citizens and the vast resources of the federal government, radical environmental groups have abused the system to target private citizens.

"Well-funded environmental activists have abused EAJA to advance their agenda to ultimately end grazing and other multiple-use activities on federal lands," Donald said. "Congress intended EAJA to level the playing field between private citizens and the powerful federal government, not provide a means for radical environmentalists to use taxpayer dollars to target family farmers and ranchers. We strongly support the Government Litigation Savings Act and urge all members of Congress to do the same."

EAJA allows plaintiffs to recover attorney fees and other expenses from the federal government when they prevail in a case against the government. Falen said the government often settles cases and pays plaintiffs through EAJA instead of devoting time, staff and resources to a trial. He said when environmental activists file lawsuits against a governmental agency, farmers and ranchers lose.

"Farmers and ranchers pay to defend themselves against these frivolous lawsuits and at the same time their tax dollars are paying the attorney fees for the environmental activists attacking them. In what world can this be construed as being right and just? Rep. Lummis' and Senator Barrasso's legislation will finally shed light onto these abuses and reform EAJA," Falen said.

Specifically, the Government Litigation Savings Act will prohibit organizations with a net worth exceeding $7 million from filing for EAJA funds; require that EAJA filers show a "direct and personal monetary interest" in the action to be eligible for payments; and cap the attorney fees environmental activists claim to be owed. According to a letter signed by PLC, NCBA, ASI and 34 other organizations representing livestock ranchers, the Government Litigation Savings Act "will help protect our members from the injustice of funding their own demise."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Farmers, cattlemen shrug off the rain

[Photo caption: Lloyd Faria guides a truck in to drop cattle off at the Shasta Livestock Auction Yard in Cottonwood this morning.]

North state farmers and ranchers are mostly taking today's rain in stride, though any prospect of a cool or soggy late spring and early summer could raise concerns of another delayed harvest.

"It frustrates some farmers who weren't finished, myself included," rice farmer Chris Crutchfield, president of American Commodity Co. in Williams, said of the occasional rain we've had in May. "In reality, it means we're going to be five or seven days longer until harvest, that's all.

"At this point in time, it would take something pretty catastrophic to derail planting season in California," he said, adding that as much as 70 percent of the crop is already planted and that growers expect the largest crop since 2003.

At Lindauer River Ranch in Red Bluff today, workers were under cover making drier trays rather than out in the orchards. The rain keeps some work from being done, such as mowing, and too much of it increases the threat of brown rot, farm President Michael Vasey said.

"They don't mind the rain," Vasey said of the 600-acre farm's plum and walnut trees. "It makes it a little harder to farm right now, that's all."

While many farmers were looking for things to do out of the rain, cattle ranchers were in the midst of the elements working with their animals. When I told the powers that be at the Shasta Livestock Auction Yard today that I wanted to get some pictures of people working in the rain, one fellow said, "They're all around you."

For my story recapping May precipitation in California and what kind of summer we may be in for, check CapitalPress.com early next week.

Report: Weak dollar raises fuel costs

[Photo caption: Truckers fuel up at the Redding Travel Plaza on Knighton Road.]

For a story recently on the declining dollar, some experts explained to me how it has led to rising input costs in agriculture, particularly in the area of fuel costs. Now a congressional report has put a monetary value on the degree to which the dollar's decline has increased the price of fuel.

CNS News reports:

A falling U.S. dollar and the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy have helped to drive gas prices to near-record highs, accounting for an estimated 56.5 cents of the current price of a gallon of gas.

An analysis produced by the Republican staff of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee blames the falling value of the dollar and the Fed's quantitative easing policy for inflating the price of oil, and therefore the price of gasoline.

The report explains that while many factors contribute to the market price of oil, one is the value of the “unit of exchange” – the currency in which barrels of oil are traded.

“Oil is an international commodity that trades in dollars,” the report states. “The value of the unit of exchange, in this case the dollar, plays an important role in determining the ‘headline’ price for the underlying commodity.”

Essentially, as the dollar weakens in value the price of oil can go up because more dollars are required to buy one barrel of oil. When the falling dollar is combined with other market factors, such as geopolitical volatility and rising demand, oil prices can climb even faster.

More here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

UC: Horse owners should limit travel

The recent equine herpes virus in the West seems to be running its course. but the University of California-Davis still has some advice for horse owners.

From the university:

In light of the ongoing outbreak of equine herpes virus, tied to a recent equine competition in Utah, experts at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine are providing information about the virus to horse, mule and donkey owners, veterinarians and coordinators of equine events.

Updates on the outbreak, basic information about the virus, recommended practices for protecting horses and mules against the virus, and links to other sources of information are available on the school's website at http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/whatsnew/article.cfm?id=2391.

"We urge horse owners and coordinators of upcoming equine events to educate themselves on the virus and to exercise the utmost caution as they determine whether to participate in or host events that could increase their animals' exposure to this potentially life-threatening disease," said David Wilson, an equine veterinarian and director of UC Davis' William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

"We encourage owners to avoid any non-essential transport of their horses, mules and donkeys," said Gary Magdesian, an equine veterinarian at UC Davis.

He added that alpacas, llamas and other camelid species are rarely affected by equine herpes virus.

Wilson and Magdesian note that updates on the outbreak are available at the California Department of Food and Agriculture website at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/animal_health/equine_herpes_virus.html.

U.S. meat still feeds Japan quake victims


From the U.S. Meat Export Federation:

Groups of displaced Japanese citizens ranging from several hundred to more than 10,000 were served meals of U.S. beef and pork in recent weeks through the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Japan Relief and Recovery Effort.

Working with Japanese retail and food service industry partners, USMEF is continuing to provide welcome meals to as many people as possible who were left homeless by the March 11 earthquake and the following tsunami. Products provided for the meals range from diced U.S. beef and pork served over rice to pork sausage and cooked peppered beef that require refrigeration, which are being provided to those who can enjoy fresh-cooked meals at their shelters.

The USMEF relief effort was joined recently by the Nebraska Beef Council, which donated $35,000, swelling the campaign coffers to $540,000.

“There are so many people who need and want our help, but the generosity of the producers in the USMEF network in the United States has enabled us to provide welcome meals to tens of thousands of displaced people,” said Susumu (Sam) Harada, USMEF-Japan senior director of trade projects and technical services. “The ‘thank-yous’ that we are hearing from people who have not had a meal with pork or beef in more than two months are heartfelt and sincere.”

In one of the biggest single relief efforts, USMEF is partnering with Japanese food industry giant Ito Ham to produce an estimated 20,000 servings of food that are being served to displaced residents in the heavily damaged prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima during the final weeks of May.

The Japanese restaurant chain Skylark has been serving an estimated 1,200 food servings per day in the city of Kesen-numa in Miyagi, which was virtually destroyed by the tsunami following the earthquake. USMEF is supplying U.S. red meat to Skylark to assist in its efforts.

Working with the nonprofit organization Bond & Justice and wholesaler Meat-Companion Company, Ltd., USMEF served an estimated 1,200 meals in Iwate and Fukushima last week.

Meat processor Hannan Foods Group and USMEF served much-welcomed hot meals to a group of about 200 senior citizens in Ishinomaki City, one of the areas most heavily damaged by the tsunami. Forced to live in a very tightly-packed shelter, the displaced seniors enjoyed their first meal containing meat since the natural disaster struck.

“The people thanked us for traveling so far from Tokyo to help them,” said Harada.

Food service leader Yoshinoya teamed last week with long-time partner USMEF on distribution of frozen gyudon (rice bowl with beef or pork) in the city of Tome, which is located northeast of Sendai More than 900 people who were evacuated from the coastal areas are being housed in Tome, and USMEF and Yoshinoya worked together to serve an estimated 6,000 meals to those affected.

USMEF also is in final discussion stages with retail leader York Benimaru, which is headquartered in the city of Fukushima, to produce bento (lunch) box meals that would help the thousands of affected residents in that region.

“Sadly, the need will not end soon,” said Harada. “Thousands of people in the coastal areas remain displaced. But the support of U.S. producers is making it possible for us to give some welcome relief. The people we are helping are thankful that their friends in America have not forgotten them.”

USDA responds (sort of) to Herger, others

I asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a response to the letter last week from Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, and 46 other U.S. House of Representatives members urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to withdraw proposed new regulations on meat marketing.

USDA spokesman Jim Brownlee didn’t respond specifically to the letter but said it was Congress that drove the effort to produce the rule in the first place.

“Congress directed USDA to develop new GIPSA rules to promote marketplace competition in the 2008 Farm Bill,” Brownlee told me in an e-mail. “After issuing the proposed rule in 2010, USDA received over 60,000 comments and the agency is now working to modify and improve the rule based on these comments.”

He did not say when the final rules would be issued.

For my full story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Valley rice, other processors going solar

I met this morning with Chris Crutchfield, president and CEO of the American Commodity Co., in Williams, which was one of a trio of solar-powered processing plants from which 13,000 tons of milled rice is being shipped to Japan as I write this.

About a dozen rice processing plants in Northern California have gone to solar power, driven partly by a desire to save on their PG&E bills and by a desire to be environmentally conscious. The 13,000-ton shipment, which is being loaded today at the Port of Stockton, is enough rice to fill 600 double-load trucks, which if bumper-to-bumper on the freeway would extend 10 miles, Crutchfield said.

Rice processors aren't the only ones going solar. On Wednesday, I'll be visiting a Red Bluff prune processing plant that runs on the alternative energy.

For my story on the trend in the rice industry, visit CapitalPress.com soon.

Ranchers to mark year of 'civil disobedience'


A Siskiyou County property-rights advocacy group will hold a gathering Friday to mark the one-year anniversary since many Scott and Shasta valley landowners rebuffed state warnings that they sign up for blanket irrigation permits.

From the group Protect Our Water:

Scott Valley Protect Our Water
is holding a
Barbeque in the Etna Park
May 27th, 2011
6 p.m.
1 year to the day of our PROTEST against the California Dept. Fish and Game
Those who support POW are invited
Bring your own meat to BBQ;
a salad or dessert;
your own table setting
POW will supply the punch !
Craig will have the fire ready for the meat at 6 p.m.
We will hold a general meeting at 7 p.m.
Lots to talk about:
DWR increasing Water Master fees
Coordination
Status of $100 refund by DFG for 2010 NOI Permits
Klamath dams and Electrical Rate PUC increase and WHAT TO DO about it!
Felice Pace is now blaming Dept of Fish and Game for killing juvenile coho, as well as the ranchers – learn more
Call me for more info: Liz Bowen 530-467-3515

Friday, May 20, 2011

Williamson Act bill passes Assembly

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:

(Sacramento) –Assembly Bill 1265, authored by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) that would save Williamson Act contracts in California, was unanimously passed by the Assembly on Thursday. The bill now heads to the State Senate.

“Agriculture is the backbone of California's economy,” stated Nielsen. “The Williamson Act is an important tool that has been most effective in protecting our agricultural lands. AB 1265 will help save the Williamson Act. Our farmers throughout the state need assurances that their livelihood will be protected. This bill is another step in our efforts to keep California growing.”

AB 1265 re-instates the Williamson Act subvention program that was authored by Assemblyman Nielsen last year (Senate Bill 865 and Assembly Bill 2530). The language of SB 863 and AB 2530 was eliminated with the passage of Governor Brown’s budget bill (SB 80) earlier this year.

Approximately half of California’s farmland (16.6 million acres) is under Williamson Act contracts. The Williamson Act is a three way partnership between landowners, counties, and the state. Landowners agree to forego the possibility of developing their land during the term of the 10 or 20 year Williamson Act contract in return for lower property taxes.

AB 1265 would also allow participating landowners to opt out of the new shorter contracts and lesser benefits by simply exiting the program through notice of nonrenewal. If landowners agree to enter into contracts that are 10 percent shorter than a standard Williamson Act contract, they would still save 90 percent of their property tax relief and counties would be encouraged to stay in the program. Without AB 1265, the only alternative for counties that cannot afford the loss of subventions would be mass contract non-renewals.

Friday rant: Redding's big baby

An off-topic journey through some of the leading news stories of the week.

Shouldn't the "baby" grow up?

In the news this week, we learned of 30-year-old Stanley Thornton, a Redding man feted by a national TV reality show for his "lifestyle" as an "adult baby." We learned that he is apparently one of a number of American adults who go through life pretending they're babies, that this particular "baby" and his roommate-mama are both on welfare, and that he blames a rough childhood for his "condition."

Now I've never met the man, and I'm not a psychologist who can diagnose whether he truly has a mental condition that prevents him from working. But assuming as one Redding therapist seems to that he has no treatable psychoses, isn't this a grave reflection on our society that we would tolerate this kind of thing? C'mon, humanists out there. Aren't you always saying that people have the responsibility of making choices that contribute to the betterment of humankind? or something like that?

Redding.com's Ryan Sabalow posed this on Facebook yesterday.

Here's a serious question. Social Security is supposed to be a safety net for people who can't work because of a mental or physical disability. Even if Mr. Thornton could work, if you were a boss, would you hire this guy knowing about his lifestyle?

I would venture to suggest that Mr. Thornton has/had at least a temporary job posing for reality TV cameras. After all, how did National Geographic find out about him? If he was to tell his secret to the world, what was in it for him? But barring national TV attention, and again barring an actual disability, what employer would know what he does at home? For all I know, i could've had a half-dozen coworkers over the years who went home and slept in cribs.

Let me pose this question. Suppose Mr. Thornton isn't 30 years old but is 10 or 12. He's stressed out by life, so he wants to revert to being a baby. His mom capitulates, keeping him home from school and waiting on his every need. How long would it be before our prepubescent "baby" received a visit from state social workers, truant officers or even CPS, wondering what his problem is and why he's not in school? So if we wouldn't accept this kind of behavior from a minor, why would we tolerate it -- or even glorify it -- in an adult?

Barack Obama, map-maker

Hey, wait a minute, let me get this straight. I thought President Obama believed America should stop imposing its will on the rest of the world.

Now we see he wants to redraw Israel's boundaries back to its pre-1967 alignment, further signaling he doesn't particularly like that particular Jewish state.

It sort of makes one wonder how Mr. Obama would respond if a nation -- say, China -- urged the U.S. to roll its borders back to where they were before the Louisiana Purchase, and cede the entire West and Midwest to the control of friends and allies of Iran. The thing is, he'd probably agree.

Public school war zone

More evidence that if you're contemplating sending your kids to public schools, you'd be justified in nursing some concerns about their safety.

From the New York Daily News:

A 12-year-old Dallas student was bound to a chair with duct tape and beaten by four classmates as a substitute teacher stood and ignored the attack, according to the victim's mom.

The Dallas school district is investigating the charges made by Keneshia Richardson, who claims the attackers wrapped tape around her son's mouth to keep him from shouting.

"It was uncalled for," Richardson told The Dallas Morning News, adding her son had trouble breathing.

The woman said his hands were taped to the chair, he was wrapped with a telephone cord, and the attackers knocked him to the ground. The boy's shirt was torn as well, she claimed.

The Monday attack remained under investigation Thursday, although disciplinary action is pending against the students and the substitute.

The teacher was additionally removed from the list of approved district substitutes, said Dallas Independent School District spokesman John Dahlander.

The article didn't say where the regular teacher was at the time. Out protesting somewhere,, perhaps?

McDonald's vouchers for the homeless

[Photo caption: Adrienne Hulst, rear, watches as two 4-H students open cans to make spaghetti during a gathering this spring at her house.]

Remember the 4-H group up in Millville that got a $2,000 service grant to serve hot, fresh meals to the homeless, only to be told by the county and others that they couldn't do it without jumping through a boatload of hoops?

Well, they've found a solution, group leader Adrienne Hulst told me in an e-mail this week.

They're going around the Redding area this weekend and handing out McDonald's vouchers and bags of nonperishable groceries.

Yep, McDonald's rather than a home-cooked meal. Because we wouldn't want the homeless to get sick, don'tcha know.

Nielsen responds to LAO report

From the office of Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:

Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), today issued the following statement after the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released an analysis of the Governor’s revised budget proposal:

“It’s great news that the non-partisan Legislative Analyst affirms that the uptick in new revenues are even more optimistic than what Assembly Republicans originally anticipated,” said Nielsen. “Assembly Republicans have demonstrated that there is a pathway to solving this budget gap by protecting funding for our students and local public safety programs – without raising taxes. We look forward to working with the Governor and our colleagues across the aisle to pass a budget that does not contain higher taxes but protects core priorities and includes meaningful, permanent reforms to prevent future budget shortfalls.”

The full report may be found at: http://lao.ca.gov/reports/2011/bud/may_revise/may_revise_051911.pdf

The Assembly Republican Roadmap to a No Tax Increase budget may be found at:
http://arc.asm.ca.gov/?p=article&sid=194&id=248431

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Students think careers at Yreka ag day




About 350 elementary and middle-school children attended an ag awareness day today at the fairgrounds in Yreka, sponsored by local cattlemen's and cattlewomen's groups. There, the kids were encouraged that it's never too early to start thinking about college majors and careers, preferably ones related to agriculture.

In the top photo, children from Gazelle Elementary School in Siskiyou County match cards they were given to career descriptions on a board. In the middle, Sierra Pacific Industries forester Ted James quizzes youngsters from two schools about trees. At bottom, kids from Golden Eagle Charter School in Mount Shasta gather around a stream simulator provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

So speaking of water, did the education day delve into all the water woes experienced by Siskiyou County ranchers lately? Nope.

"We try to stay neutral" in presentations to kids, said event organizer Melanie Fowle, president of the California CattleWomen..

High school students might grasp the concepts of water law or political lobbying, "but these are fourth-graders," said Maryann Munson of the Redding-based College OPTIONS, which was conducting the booth on careers.

For my coverage of today's event, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Prices for U.S. wood up worldwide

...
[Photo caption: Cut logs are loaded onto a truck on private timberland east of Shingletown]

From a quarterly report published by Wood Resources International LLC:

Higher lumber production, increased log trade and a weak US dollar were three factors that pushed sawlog prices up in dollar terms worldwide in the 1Q/11.

Wood fiber costs for pulp mills worldwide rose for the third consecutive quarter in the 1Q/11.

Global pulp prices stayed strong during the quarter and actually increased to record-high levels in the month of April.

Global demand for softwood lumber increased by about 18 percent in 2010. Lumber imports to Japan were up 21 percent. The weak building and construction market in Europe late last year resulted in lower lumber demand. During the first two months of 2011, lumber production was up in most provinces of Canada.

The housing market in the US South has fared relatively better than the rest of the country resulting in higher lumber consumption.

While the US and Canadian domestic pellet industry struggled through another year of weak domestic market demand and overcapacity, pellet exports to Europe continued to rise.

Herger, others target meat-market controls

The U.S. Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's proposed restrictions on livestock and poultry marketing have never been very popular in Congress. Now Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, and 146 other House of Representatives members are calling on U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to withdraw the proposed rule, which was introduced almost a year ago.

From the National Chicken Council:

More than one-third of the members of the House of Representatives have called on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to go back to the drawing board with a rule on the marketing of livestock and poultry proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

“Withdrawing the June 22, 2010, proposed rule and re-proposing a revised rule once the Department completes its economic analysis would allow stakeholders the opportunity they deserve to comment on what we hope will be substantial changes to the proposed rule more consistent with the intent of Congress outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill,” said a letter signed by 147 members.

“I am grateful for the action taken by so many members of Congress in urging the Secretary of Agriculture to withdraw and re-propose the GIPSA rule,” said Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council. “This would allow dialogue to resume between affected industries and the USDA, a dialogue that was cut off by the end of the comment period in November. The GIPSA rule clearly needs more careful review in light of its impact on economic growth, jobs, and the Administration’s stated goal of doubling exports.”

The rule proposed by GIPSA would make profound changes in the relationship between ranchers and farmers who produce cattle, swine, chickens, and turkey and the companies that bring meat and poultry products to market. GIPSA wrote the proposed rule in response to four specific mandates in the last Farm Bill after debate in which several other proposed mandates were rejected.

“Congress provided a narrow set of issues for the Department to address,” the letter said. “It is troubling that the Department appears to be using the rule-making process to accomplish objectives specifically rejected by Congress, and we are confident any such rule will not be looked upon favorably by Congress.”

USDA published the proposed rule last year with only a cursory economic analysis, and Vilsack has agreed to conduct a more detailed analysis before a final rule is published.

“Particularly in a climate in which additional scrutiny is being applied to regulations seen as overreaching or overly burdensome, we urge the Department to proceed in a transparent manner that allows for those most impacted by this action a chance to comment on not only pending changes to the proposal but the accompanying economic analysis as well,” the letter said. The members also asked for an update from Vilsack on the timeline for completion of the economic analysis and further action on the proposal.

Those signing the letter include both Republicans and Democrats and a majority of the members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Dairy Livestock, and Poultry.

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for more than 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

For my story on reaction to the letter and an update on where the process stands, check CapitalPress.com early next week.

Deadlines loom for FSA programs

From the USDA California Farm Service Agency office in Davis:

USDA California Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Val Dolcini reminds producers that June 1, 2011, is the enrollment deadline for the 2011 Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program or the traditional Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP).

"Farmers in California who are interested in enrolling in these programs need to add this important deadline to their list of ‘must do’ jobs,” Dolcini said. "Producers should contact their local county office right now to set up appointments before the June 1 deadline."

Annual contracts are required to be signed to receive program benefits. All signatures of producers receiving a share in DCP and ACRE payments are required by the June 1, 2011 deadline.

For the farm and ranch calendar, here’s a schedule of FSA program deadlines coming up in the next several months:

- May 31, 2011 - 2010 Crop Year Final Loan Availability Date for Corn, Soybeans, Grain Sorghum, Sunflowers, and Pulse Crops

- June 1, 2011 - Deadline for 2011 Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program (DCP) Enrollment and for 2011 Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program Election

- July 15, 2011 - 2011 Crop Year Acreage Reporting Deadline for most crops and deadline to file 2010 Production Reports for most Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) crops

- July 29, 2011 - 2009 Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) Program Signup Deadline

- August 1, 2011 - Deadline to Request a 2011 Farm Reconstitution

- September 1, 2011 – Deadline to file 2010 Production Reports for ACRE. This deadline was extended from July 15, 2011 for 2010 production only.

For more information about DCP and ACRE programs or other FSA programs, contact your county FSA office and visit the state FSA website at: www.fsa.usda.gov/ca.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reward offered after Tehama cattle theft

From the California Cattlemen's Association:

Following the recent theft of cattle in the Tehama County area, local cattlemen as well as the California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) are working together to put an end to the issue and hold those responsible for the theft accountable.

Last week, there was a small block advertisement on the front page of the Red Bluff Daily News that read, “Reward Offered: John Owens offering $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the theft of our cattle. Please contact us at (530) 520-9399, or (530) 527-6332. Anonymity guaranteed.”

Since then, the reward has increased to $12,000 with $5,000 coming from the Tehama County Cattlemen’s Association, $1,000 from CCA and $1,000 from Lee Loverin, a Cottonwood rancher who lost cattle last year. Several other area producers lost cattle last spring as well.

This spring, since April 15, John and Candace Owens, Red Bluff, Calif., have had their neighbors call them saying there were mother cows along the road outside the fence with no calves. Or a “JO-branded” cow with no calf in their pasture; not the Owens’ pasture. So far, it has totaled 14 cows with no calves, found 5 to 10 miles from Owens’ property. With the late rains this spring, the calves had not yet been branded. Since recently branding their calves, the theft has seemed to have stopped.

CCA President Kevin Kester, a rancher from Parkfield, Calif., spoke out on the issue saying assistance from the state level will be provided to ensure those responsible are held accountable.

“As livestock owners, who work hard to make a living, we take this problem very seriously. Theft of any kind is serious, but as cattle owners, who care about our animals and our livelihood, we can’t afford to stand by and let this problem continue,” said Kester. “CCA will continue to help the Owens family and other ranchers combat this issue and provide support where possible. We will be in touch with local government officials and state elected leaders to ensure that those responsible know how serious this matter is.”

To help address this significant concern, for more than 15 years, the California Cattlemen's Association (CCA) has partnered with the Bureau of Livestock Identification to sponsor a reward program as a service to all cattle producers.

The CCA reward program has assisted the Bureau’s investigations and local law enforcement by paying rewards for information leading to the arrest of persons stealing, maiming or illegally slaughtering cattle in California. Rewards paid by CCA in beef or dairy theft cases provide incentive for individuals to report suspicious behavior and help reduce the incidence of rustling. Individuals with this type of information are encouraged to call the California Bureau of Livestock ID’s anonymous toll free hotline at (800) 671-4327.

A day on the ranch

North state historian Dottie Smith attended a gathering of about 50 people last weekend at the Holiday Ranch in Cottonwood to help long-time rancher Richard Morgan brand his cattle. According to Smith, the gathering included schoolteachers, retirees, neighbors, fellow ranchers and even kids.

Her story at Redding.com is here.

Also at Redding.com today, Scott Mobley gives a rundown on this week's wet and chilly weather.

UC-Davis study examines chicken housing

From UC-Davis' Ag and Natural Resources department:

UC Davis and Michigan State University have received $6 million from the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply to support research on the sustainability of laying hen housing in the United States.

The first study of its kind, the three-year "CSES Laying Hen Housing Research Project" will explore the interactions and tradeoffs among food safety, worker safety, environmental impact, hen health and welfare, and food affordability aspects of three different housing systems. Information generated by the research is expected to help egg purchasers and producers make objective, science-based decisions as the egg industry evolves in response to consumer needs and desires.

The goal of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply is to evaluate the viability of various laying hen housing systems. The coalition is composed of leading animal welfare scientists, research institutions, nongovernmental organizations, egg suppliers, food manufacturers, and restaurant/food-service and retail food companies. It is facilitated by the Center for Food Integrity, a nonprofit organization established in 2007 to increase consumer trust and confidence in today's U.S. food system.

"We are pleased to partner with such prestigious research organizations on this important work," said Charlie Arnot, chief executive officer of the Center for Food Integrity. "Today there is much discussion about laying hen housing and standards of care but those conversations are centered primarily on one aspect of sustainability and lack adequate data from current commercial U.S. egg production facilities to provide the information necessary to make informed decisions. CSES members believe it is important to consider all potential impacts of responsible production in evaluating egg production systems. We hope the knowledge gained will benefit CSES members as well as the entire egg industry."

Joy Mench, a UC Davis animal science professor and director of the Center for Animal Welfare, said that the funding offers the first opportunity for researchers to study the potentially wide-ranging impacts of producing eggs in different kinds of commercial hen housing systems in the U.S.

"The information gained will be useful to all consumers as they make decisions about what kinds of eggs to buy," Mench said.

Janice Swanson, director of animal welfare and a professor of animal science at Michigan State University said: "Our goal is to thoroughly understand the full range of sustainability factors. This multiyear study will examine seasonal shifts, bird lifecycles, bird health and behavior, environmental impacts, human health and other factors affecting the sustainability of the egg production system."

The funding will support a comprehensive study examining five sustainability areas: environmental impact, food safety, worker safety, animal health and well-being, and food affordability. The study will be conducted in commercial-scale buildings of three types:
* conventional cage housing, the type of housing currently used by the majority of U.S. egg producers;
* enriched cage housing (also known as a furnished colony system), which provides more freedom of movement because the cages are larger than conventional cages and is also equipped with perches, nesting areas, and material designed to facilitate foraging and dust-bathing behavior; and
* cage-free aviary, a non-cage system that allows the hens to roam within a section of a building at floor level and vertically to perches and nest boxes.

Mench and Swanson are the co-scientific directors for the study.

Darrin Karcher of Michigan State University is the overall project coordinator. Additional cooperating research institutions include Iowa State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

The first research flock was established in late April 2011. The study will be replicated over two flocks with study completion expected in 2014. For updates on the CSES research, please visit http://www.SustainableEggCoalition.com.

CFBF maps out 2012 opportunities

Casey Gudel, manager of Political Affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation, has this to say about next year's elections:


The 2012 election cycle will bring a number of opportunities, but many factors are at play and we are doing our best to seek out, support and help elect the best candidates who will keep business and agricultural interests at heart.

Gudel notes that 2012 will be the first year that elections are held under redistricting conducted by a voter-approved independent commission and not by the Legislature. She also talks about candidate recruitment, a campaign management seminar being offered in July and the opportunities brought by next year's open primary.

Her column in Ag Alert is here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Storms make fruit growers nervous


From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Mid-May storms will have farmers of cherries, apricots and other crops checking their orchards for signs of any damage. Harvest of both cherries and apricots has started in the southern San Joaquin Valley, and ripe fruit is most vulnerable to rain damage. Farther north, farmers say they remain hopeful their crops can withstand the rain, especially if it's followed by cool, breezy weather. Storms in the Sacramento Valley also slowed planting of rice and other crops.

In Northern California since Saturday, Redding has received 1.24 inches of rainfall, Red Bluff 0.52 inches and Sacramento 0.45 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Not exactly a mid-winter storm, but enough to get in the way of work that needs to be done in the field.

Production costs analyzed for almonds, other crops

The University of California Cooperative Extension has unveiled new studies analyzing production costs for olive oil, peaches, onions, almonds, sunflowers and lettuce.

Each analysis is based on hypothetical farm operations and uses input from farm advisers, researchers, growers, accountants and other experts, according to a UC news release.

Tables show a range of profits based on prices and yields, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs and other data.

The studies can be viewed online at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu or can be obtained at Cooperative Extension offices or by calling (530) 752-6887.

Nielsen: Gov should use revenue, not taxes

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:

(Sacramento) – Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) commented today on Governor Brown’s May Revise Budget plan. Last week, Nielsen, Vice Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, and his Republican colleagues presented a roadmap that would solve the state budget deficit without raising taxes and without extending any cuts to education and public safety.

“Raising taxes only guarantees increased spending,” said Nielsen. “The news that our budget deficit continues to shrink and that California continues to take in unexpected tax revenue, projected now to be an additional 6.6 billion dollars, is further proof that we don’t need to impose billions in higher taxes on already overburdened taxpayers to balance the budget.”

“The governor, commendably, has now embraced, at least verbally, a budget spending cap, but he continues to insist on imposing 50 billion dollars in tax increases on Californians,” said Nielsen. “This revised budget doesn’t correct the dangerous public safety realignment plan that will diminish justice and will make all of us much more vulnerable to victimization.”

The governor’s revised budget assures an over 31 percent increase in state spending over the next three years, according to the Department of Finance multi-year projection from last January.

Based on the same January projection of the Department of Finance, the personal income tax revenue has increased above projections, but corporate income taxes are down, which is a reflection of the continued hostile business environment in California. Continuing the tax-drain on California businesses will lead more employers to leave our state and keep California unemployment at destructive levels.

“It’s time to accomplish a no-tax increase budget, with real spending reforms that will ensure California’s budget gets and stays balanced,” concluded Nielsen.

I saw Nielsen interviewed on a Bay Area news station last night. It appears he's becoming somewhat of a player in budget negotiations.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mixed weather for Rodeo Week

The 63rd annual Redding Rodeo is happening this week, and those who attend the many activities surrounding the rodeo will experience weather of all sorts.

Here is this week's forecast for Redding, according to the National Weather Service:

Tonight: Showers. Low around 44. North wind around 6 mph becoming calm. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Tuesday: Showers. High near 53. Light and variable wind. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Tuesday Night: Showers, mainly before 11pm. Low around 46. Southeast wind between 3 and 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Wednesday: Partly sunny, with a high near 70. Light and variable wind.

Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 51.

Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 78.

Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 53.

Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 77.

Friday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 54.

Saturday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 73.

Saturday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 54.

Here's a schedule of events, courtesy of Redding.com:

Tuesday

Bank holdup, bank and business judging.

Wednesday

Chili cook-off: 6 p.m., Redding Rodeo Grounds. Setup time is 5 p.m.

Quick draw contest: 6 p.m., Redding Rodeo Grounds

Street dance: 8 p.m., Redding Rodeo Grounds.

Thursday

Kiddie pet parade: 4 p.m., Mt. Shasta Mall.

Pre-rodeo: 6 p.m., grand entry 7:15 p.m., Redding Rodeo arena

Friday

Pancake breakfast: 5 to 10 a.m., Market Street between South and Placer streets. Resale tickets are $3 and $4 at the event.

Pre-rodeo: 6 p.m., grand entry 7:15 p.m., Redding Rodeo arena.

Saturday

Redding Rodeo Parade: 10 a.m., downtown Redding.

Pre-rodeo: 6 p.m., grand entry 7:15 p.m., Redding Rodeo arena.

Cost: General admission rodeo tickets are $13 per person on Thursday and Friday, and $16 on Saturday.

For more details, check out the Redding Rodeo Web site here and the Asphalt Cowboys' site here.

Yee-haa!

Research: Strawberries may prevent cancer

From the California Strawberry Commission:

A new study by The Ohio State University suggests strawberries may help prevent human esophageal cancer. This news comes at a time when, according to the American Cancer Society, more than 16,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed in the United States this year.

According to lead researcher, Tong Chen, M.D., PhD, strawberries may help protect those at risk of esophageal cancer. This study builds on previously published research by Chen and colleagues in China, who found that freeze-http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifdried strawberries significantly inhibited tumor development.

These results were presented at the 2011 anhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifnual meeting of the American Association for Cancer
Research in Orlando, Florida. This study examining the beneficial impact of strawberries on cancer prevention was funded by the California Strawberry Commission.

Researchers from The Ohio State University are also investigating the effects of strawberries on reducing inflammation-associated colorectal cancer.

For more details regarding the study, please visit: http://bit.ly/gtXlFC

Esophageal cancer is the third most common gastrointestinal cancer and the sixth most frequent cause of cancer death in the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Robbing Peter to pay ... Peter?

What a wild idea. From the California Cattlemen's Association's legislative newsletter:

In an attempt to sweeten a sour deal, Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski ( D- Fremont) has authored AB 218, a bill which would place an initiative on the ballot that would reinstate the California estate tax for estates valued at $1 million or more, and appropriate those funds toward full funding of the Williamson Act, as well as the creation of a manufacturing ehttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifquipment sales tax exemption.

While CCA vehemently supports fully funding the Williamson Act, establishing an estate tax effectively uses back end taxes to pay upfront subvention costs. CCA will be meeting with Assemblyman Wieckowski next week to express member concerns. For now, we are relieved to report that that bill has been suspended, and will likely not proceed during this legislative year.

It sort of makes you wonder who these sheltered Bay Area lawmakers think the "wealthy" actually are.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nielsen, others propose no-new-taxes budget

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:

(Sacramento) – Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) together with his Republican colleagues has released a ‘Roadmap for a No Tax Increase Budget,’ today, which does not include cuts to education or pubhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.giflic safety, two areas which the government should have as priorities.

“There is a better way to solve the budget deficit than raising taxes for five years on struggling families and employers,” said Nielsen. “This budget roadmap does not ask Californians to pay a 55 billion dollar tax increase to fuel unsustainable government programs.”

Nielsen explained that with the recent unanticipated increase in state revenue of 2.5 billion dollars and other future projections for increases in state revenues it is possible to balance the budget and to protect the priorities of education and public safety, without raising taxes on overburdened Californians.

“Education and public safety have been and will continue to be top priorities for me as your representative in Sacramento,” stated Nielsen. “And similar to struggling families that have had to cut their budgets, the government also needs to cut long term overspending, and establish priorities.”

Some of the elements of the Republican ‘Roadmap for a No Tax Increase Budget’ include protecting education; protecting law enforcement and rejecting dangerous, ill-conceived realignment schemes; eliminating waste and abuse; reducing the cost of program delivery; adopting remaining solutions proposed by Governor Brown and reducing the state work force. For a more comprehensive look at the Republican roadmap, click here.

Nearly all of these recommendations in the Republican roadmap have been proposed by reliable non-partisan sources, such as the Legislative Analyst, Bureau of State Audits, and key budget stakeholders like the University of California.

Assemblyman Nielsen represents the Second Assembly District, which includes
Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama and Yolo counties.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Humboldt farm plans canning workshops

From Earthly Edibles Family Farm in Arcata:

Earthly Edibles Family Farm invites all those interested in food preservation to participate in a new type of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) being offered this year. Members of the Canning CSA will receive a monthly box of produce and subsequent canning workshop where participants will learn four different processing techniques. Workshops will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Mad River Grange in Blue Lake on the second Sunday of each month, July-October. Participants can sign up by workshop or for the entire CSA. Each workshop costs $55 and includes all materials, produce, ingredients, and a light organic lunch. Signing up for all four months costs $200.

For more information please contact Lindsey Byers at (720) 317-7330 or e-mail EarthlyEdiblesCSA@gmail.com.

Students watch as loggers work

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Some scenes from yesterday's logging education day in the woods east of Shingletown, sponsored by the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference.

In the top photo, Happy Valley Elementary School fifth-graders Tegan Trinidy, Annette Brady and Jazzy Maaele pose in front of a feller buncher. Next, Brian Adair (left) of Sierra Pacific Industries shows fifth-graders from North Cottonwood School some equipment used for monitoring water quality in streams. Then, kids from Junction School in Palo Cedro are seen walking through the woods to their next station. Finally, at bottom, Mike Mitzel (wearing a hard hat) of SPI talks to students from Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood as logs are loaded onto a truck.

My story on yesterday's event is here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Expert: Reform civil justice, fix economy

Kim Stone, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, writes in Capitol Weekly (via the California Farm Bureau Federation's Ag Alert):

The difficult times for California continue. We've all heard the stats: 12 percent unemployment, 4.7 businesses leaving California per week (up from 3.9 per week last year) and a $25 billion budget deficit. We've been hearing these types of stats like a broken record for three years now.

The time has come for our leaders in Sacramento to step up and seize the opportunity at hand to tackle the underlying problems hurting our economy. We must make meaningful change now.

One area ripe for reform in California is our tort system. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and a group of California legislators recently returned from a trip to Texas to learn how that state has added 165,000 jobs over the last three years while California has lost 1.2 million. Texas business leaders made it clear that the sweeping tort reforms their state enacted years ago and the ensuing reduction in lawsuit abuse was a primary cause of their job growth.

Proposed reforms to the civil justice system would make the system more fair and allow California businesses to grow and create new jobs.

We need Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature to implement fair tort reform in order to improve California's 46th place ranking in state legal climates and have a lasting impact on the state's economy.

Read the entire commentary here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summer strawberry season has arrived

...

Strawberry stands have started to crop up around the north state in the past couple of weeks, signaling that the summer berry season is kicking into high gear statewide.

A vendor in Cottonwood told me the other day that yields so far have been good, and that the late winter rains didn't spoil the quality. Our own taste test certainly verified that; the flat we bought was full of big, sweet berries that we've all but polished off.

For my story on the state of the summer strawberry crop, check CapitalPress.com in the next couple of days.

Prime-time session tonight to address jobs

From the Congressional Western Caucus:

Congressional Western Caucus Members will be speaking on energy issues and the Obama Administration’s ‘War on Western Jobs’ from the House floor tonight after last votes.

Please tune in to C-SPAN tonight following final votes around 6:30 pm to watch Members speak on a variety of issues related to rising gas prices and the ‘War on Western Jobs.” Topics will include: the legislation being considered in the House to address rising gas prices which will increase American energy production and create jobs, Democrat proposals to increase taxes on oil and gas companies, and other issues relating to creating jobs and increasing domestic energy production.

The Congressional Western Caucus was established in 1993 to enhance, sustain and preserve the West’s dynamic and unique culture, and to find innovative solutions that address the distinctive concerns facing western and rural communities.

Listening session set on invasive species

From the California Department of Food and Agriculture:

The California Invasive Species Advisory Committee (CISAC), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the Natural Resources Agency have scheduled a listening session to ask for public input about the draft Strategic Framework. The particulars are as follows:

May 12, 2011
5:30pm – 7:30pm
California Environmental Protection Agency
Coastal Hearing Room, Second Floor
1001 “I” Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

The session will be webcast at http://www.calepa.ca.gov/Broadcast/

The listening session is open to the public. Comments will be accepted through June 17, 2011. Comments may be submitted vie email to cisac@iscc.ca.gov, via phone at (916) 651-3990 or may be addressed to the following:

California Invasive Species Advisory Committee
Attn: Strategic Framework
1220 N Street, Suite 221
Sacramento, CA 95814.

The Invasive Species Council of California (ISCC) was created in 2009. The ISCC appointed 24 diverse stakeholder representatives to CISAC. As a critical baseline task, CISAC developed a draft Strategic Framework, which was modified after one round of listening sessions in October 2010. Comments received have been incorporated into the draft document. The framework will recommend to the ISCC a series of interrelated actions to strengthen the state’s response to invasive species over the next several years.

More information about the ISCC and CISAC can be found at www.iscc.ca.gov.
The draft Strategic Framework can be found at http://www.iscc.ca.gov/cisac-strategic-framework.html.

2011 irrigation starts in Siskiyou

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[ This photo on Jeff Fowle's Common Sense Agriculture blog shows the first day of irrigation in Siskiyou County's Scott Valley. ]

Etna rancher Jeff Fowle blogs:

Due to nice spring rains, we were able to hold off turning on the water until May 3 this year. Long range forecasts had shown another front coming in, but was adjusted on Monday to show upper 60′s and low 70′s without chance for rain.

While the alfalfa could have made it another five to six days without irrigation, I made the decision to stay ahead of the draw down and lay down an inch of water now to make sure that I was ahead of the water level for second cutting, so the plants do not get stressed. The master plan calls for starting 1st cutting in 12 days. We’ll see if the weather cooperates. :-)

It was a pleasant morning flushing the mainline and discovering that for the first time in years, no risers were cracked or broken due to winter wear, livestock and wildlife. Not so pleasant is knowing that the power bills are going to start coming again…

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shasta's ag commissioner is 'concerned'

Shasta County Agriculture Commissioner Mary Pfeiffer, who is also president of a statewide organization that represents ag commissioners, has weighed in on the controversial firing of the commissioner in Sonoma County. That commissioner, Cathy Neville, is suing the county, charging that it violated state rules in ousting her last night.

The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat explains:

Neville's suit is the first test of state laws that reference the early dismissal of agricultural commissioners, who are appointed to four-year terms. As a result, the case is being closely watched statewide.

“We are concerned that the appropriate processes are followed,” said Mary Pfeiffer, president of the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association.

The association's stance is that only the state can remove commissioners from office. “If the county wants to fire her (Neville), there is a process essentially to go get her license,” Pfeiffer said.

She said the laws were written that way to protect commissioners from political reprisal at the local level. She gave the example of a commissioner trying to implement a state-mandated pest eradication program over the protest of local factions.

The full story is here.

In California, ag commissioners are among the few non-elected county officials who operate independently from the Board of Supervisors. They're appointed to four-year terms, and -- at least until the Sonoma County case came along -- could only be removed under a state process that found them guilty of negligence or misconduct in office.

Pfeiffer told me this afternoon the arrangement came about in times when powerful farmers served as supervisors, and commissioners found themselves in the dubious position of having to deny them a permit or challenge them in some other way.

While she didn't state an opinion on the particulars of the Sonoma case, she's concerned the outcome could cause some of that independence to be stripped away.

Stay tuned.

Rice planting has begun in valley

...

Many a small airplane can be seen in the skies over the Sacramento Valley as rice growers have been busy planting their crop.

Aviation services have been booked in the past couple of weeks as the weather has remained consistently dry, said Jim Morris, a spokesman for the California Rice Commission.

“It’s going pretty well,” Morris said, adding that planting is proceeding early enough to assure a normal harvest.

Farmers were out in force in April leveling their fields to get them ready. In the photo, Charley Mathews, chairman of the California Rice Commission, is seen preparing a field south of Oroville.

For my complete story, visit CapitalPress.com soon.

Gripe raised about Cottonwood rodeo

At the bottom of a Redding.com story on the history of the Redding Rodeo was this observation from somebody nicknamed Prancer3:

I wish they'd "study" the rodeo in Cottonwood. What I saw on Sunday with the "wild cow milking" was utterly ridiculous. I think this "non-rodeo" event resulted in a milking cow's back being broken, but I am not sure...she was dragging her hind quarters and those "men" who have NO clue how to treat stock animals were still all over her. She managed to get herself up and they started chasing her again, if you can believe that. She went down again...and then tried and tried and managed to get herself up and out the gate. I heard somebody ask about her at the end of the rodeo and they were told she most likely has a broken back and was going on sheer adrenaline like the dancers do on DWTS when they get hurt. Another guy was hanging on another cow's neck with his whole body weight...and she was trying to get him off of her. I thought he was going to break her neck. She finally got him off of her. It was a shameful display of animal cruelty like I've never seen before...and frankly, gives the real rodoes a bad name, which I am sure they do NOT want.

I have always defended the practices of The Rodeo to anybody who said they "mistreat" animals, because I knew those animals most likely got alot better care than alot of peoples' kids get - UNTIL I saw what I did on Sunday in Cottonwood.

These cruel non rodeo events like "wild cow milking" have got to stop. When a cow is hurt - and likely has a calf waiting to be fed...enough is enough. Cows were NOT meant to be chased around with their bags full of milk like this, they are meant to feed their babies and be milked like normal cows - and NOT by some redneck goat ropers from Cottonwood who most likely cannot even tell the difference between a cow and a steer.

I am SO disgusted by this maltreatment of those milking cows and somebody better look into what is going on at the Cottonwood "Rodeo"...because it has turned into a fiasco with zero regard to the animals' welfare.


I didn't attend Sunday's rodeo, but I've been to ranch rodeos where they've had competitions for things that actually go on on the farm, and they typically involve farmers with years of experience around large animals. If you put humans around livestock and they don't know what they're doing, it can be a dangerous situation -- for the animals and for the people.

On the other hand, if you haven't spent much time around ranches, certain activities can appear to be rough on the animals when they really aren't.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Deadline this week for CCA event

From the California Cattlemen's Association:

The 2011 CCA/CCW Midyear Meeting is the place to be June 21-23 at the DoubleTree Hotel Sonoma Wine Country, in Rohnert Park!

Hotel reservations can be made by calling the Sonoma DoubleTree at 1-800-HILTONS and requesting “California Cattlemen’s Association” to receive the $107/night room block rate. Hotel reservations must be made by Wednesday, May 11. Registration materials have been mailed to CCA and CCW members, and attendees can view the schedule and register online at www.calcattlemen.org. For more information about the Midyear Meeting contact Chaley Harney in the CCA office at (916) 444-0845 or Chaley@calcattlemen.org.

To better accommodate a busy tourist weekend in Sonoma, the meeting will take place Tuesday through Thursday this year. The midyear schedule is packed with meetings and events for you to maximize your membership and have a hand in directing your association! It isn’t everyday you have the opportunity to contribute so greatly to preserving a lifestyle that you love. Join us in June to make a difference!

Question

So will the California Department of Fish and Game fine the you-know-what out of the city of Redding as they undoubtedly would some farmer who inadvertently dumped silt into the Sacramento River?

Farm Bureau bolsters PR team

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From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Experience in public relations and as a member of a family of California farmers and ranchers prepared Megan Alpers for her new role as a media specialist for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Alpers will work on media outreach with reporters covering Farm Bureau and California agriculture. She will also create content for Farm Bureau websites and social media feeds.

Alpers joins Farm Bureau after working for the previous four years at a public relations firm in San Jose, acting on behalf of food-service and high-tech clients and gaining experience at writing news releases and website content, working with reporters, and managing blogs and social media programs.

“Throughout its history, Farm Bureau has employed the latest communications techniques to reach out to its members, to reporters and to the public. With her background both in new media and in agriculture, Megan will help us take advantage of the widening spectrum of communication opportunities,” CFBF Communications/News Division Manager Dave Kranz said.

Alpers’ family raises Angus-cross beef cattle in Santa Clara County. A native of San Jose, she graduated with a degree in journalism and a minor in agricultural communications from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and earned a master’s degree in mass communications from San Jose State University.

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of approximately 76,500 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 6.3 million Farm Bureau members.

I worked with Ms. Alpers on a couple of stories last week and she was very helpful. Any improvement in accessibility at the CFBF would be welcome, considering it sometimes seems they get so enamored of their own ag publications that they forget it's important to work with the rest of the media, too.

Lawmakers: Lower gas prices, create jobs

From the Congressional Western Caucus:

Today, the House passed H.R. 1230, Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act, which expands American energy production and creates jobs by requiring the Secretary of the Interior to conduct oil and natural gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Virginia that have been delayed or cancelled by the Obama Administration.

Western Caucus Chairman Steve Pearce (NM-2) issued the following statement:

“I would like to congratulate Chairman Hastings and Republican leadership for taking the lead to address this important issue. This is the first step in reversing the policies of the Obama Administration which has actively blocked American energy production leading to higher gas prices and a loss of American jobs.

“While the President is busy attempting to single out the American oil industry for tax increases, Republicans are focused on creating jobs and increasing our domestic energy production. The President’s proposals will only increase energy prices and destroy American jobs.

“In a speech last month at Georgetown, President Obama called for more offshore oil exploration and production. This bill gives the President the opportunity to accomplish that goal. Will he continue to talk out both sides of his mouth or will he stop the empty rhetoric, put words into action and demand this legislation gets to his desk for his signature?”

The average gallon of gas in the US was up to $3.96 last week which is more than double the $1.84 national average when President Obama took office on January 26, 2009.

President Obama has attempted to take credit for the short-term increase in oil production in 2010 which was ultimately due to the policies of the previous administrations. In fact, oil production is projected to go down in 2011 and 2012 by about 190,000 barrels a day due in large part to the Obama Administration’s moratorium on off-shore drilling.

The call for higher taxes on domestic energy production comes despite the fact that the oil and gas industry already provides $95 million per day in revenue to the government and supports 9.2 million American workers according to a report by API.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Destined to be a reporter


Yes, that's me, circa 1965, getting an early jump on developing sources for stories.

This photo, of course, was taken by my mother, who happily put together photo and keepsake albums highlighting her beloved kids.

Thank you, mothers, for all that you do -- even providing mentorship and advice for us 40-something big babies. Happy Mother's Day, all.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Berkeley student guilty of journalism

If college campuses are laboratories for what the future will bring, then what's happening at UC-Berkeley is downright ominous. From the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: Ryan Sabalow):

Guilty verdicts for practicing journalism are the stuff of authoritarian nations and now, apparently, UC Berkeley.

A campus disciplinary panel has concluded that journalism student Josh Wolf should not have been inside Wheeler Hall on Nov. 20, 2009, during an 11-hour student occupation even though, the panel acknowledged, he was filming the protest as a journalist.

His punishment? No dungeon or leg irons, but he must write an essay to help the administration establish a clear policy on the rights of student journalists.

"I'm more than happy to do anything I can to remedy the situation for future journalists," said Wolf, 28. "But it seems absurd to make it my punishment. (I'm) a consultant without pay under threat of not getting my diploma."

Yeah, and I imagine he'd better write it the way they like it, too.

Democrat takes aim at Agenda 21

There was a time when true liberals abhorred the notion of intrusive government with police-state powers. In that sense, Rosa Koire may be a throwback to an earlier era.

A Bay Area real estate appraiser dealing with eminent domain issues, Koire has reportedly taken heat from fellow Democrats for her staunch views on constitutionally protected privacy rights. Her Web site, www.DemocratsAgainstUNAgenda21.com, takes aim at a United Nations initiative some believe is designed to depopulate rural areas.

Koire will be a guest on the Sunday morning program, "We the People," on KCNR 1460 AM in the Redding area. The program airs from 8 to 10 a.m. and will be streamed live here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Haymakers see a good first cutting

...


Above, Cottonwood hay grower Ivar Amen holds a fistful of alfalfa to check it for dryness. Below, Miguel Torres of Alturas-based Brent Dolby Hay rakes a field in Cottonwood that had been cut.

California hay producers say they're getting good tonnage out of their first cuttings. For my story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Is Sears peddling hard-core porn? (updated)

The Americam Family Association says that they are. In one of their "Action Alerts" they write:

Under the new leadership of Chairman Edward Lampert, Sears is now offering hard-core pornographic DVDs and music. Not just a few x-rated products, but scores of them!

AFA ordered one of the DVDs to see if it really came from Sears. It did! It was mailed to us in a Sears envelope, with a Sears shipping label, from a Sears distribution center. See it here.

Not only does Sears' website allow children to view its pornographic offerings online, it will sell them to children. During our online check-out process, we were never asked to verify our age.

I hope you will take my word for it, but if you must see the proof, AFA has set up a Sears Project page with more information, and how AFA navigated Sears' website quickly and easily to access hundreds of explicit products. Warning: the material is extremely graphic and offensive, although it has been edited by us.

Technology allows Sears to remove and stop selling these products within minutes, if they want too. AFA has tried more than a half-dozen times to reach out to Sears quietly and professionally. Basically, their single response was, "We're going to keep on selling them!"

The AFA suggests several measures consumers could take, including complaining on Sears' Web site or calling one of the stores.

Talk about getting out of hand. Next thing you know they'll be selling this.

UPDATE: Sears has reportedly pulled the materials because of public pressure, according to AFA.

A federal crackdown on transportation

Well this ought to put a damper on farmers, truckers and just about anyone else who needs to get from point A to point B in the course of making a living.

What's the latest proposal for massive government control of the population coming to a member of Congress near you? A highway bill that would put a bunch of new toll booths on highways and even in cities across the U.S., and put mileage trackers inside of every vehicle.

It's as if farmers and other businesspeople aren't being punished quite enough with stiflingly high fuel costs. Aside from the obvious downward pressure that a proposal such as this would put on an already fragile economy, it also brings a question to mind: Could today's toll booths be tomorrow's checkpoints?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Research looks to cut pesticide use

North state scientists have been looking for ways to cut down on the use of pesticides in orchards and thereby protect waterways.

From UC-Davis:

Technology that allows orchard sprayers to skip the space between trees can protect the environment while saving growers money.

The idea is simple: When orchards receive dormant and in-season sprays of agricultural chemicals, the spray should only fall on the trees where it is needed, rather than on the ground.

Orchard sprayers can be retrofitted with target sensors that activate spray nozzles only when a tree is present.

A review of research on this "smart" sprayer technology, published in the April-June 2011 issue of the University of California's California Agriculture journal, found that the financial and environmental benefits of the technology are substantial.

"By reducing the application rate of the pesticide mix, each tank load of material covers a greater land area, effectively reducing the number of refills, ferry trips and time spent spraying each orchard," wrote author Durham Giles, UC Davis professor of biological and agricultural engineering, in California Agriculture. "This provides additional economic return to growers by reducing labor and fuel costs."

Based on field tests, the authors estimated that reductions in pesticide and operating costs with smart-sprayer technology ranged from $58 per acre for peaches grown in the San Joaquin Valley to $31 per acre for prunes grown in the Sacramento Valley.

At the same time, reductions in the total amounts of pesticide sprayed ranged from 15 percent for a mature prune orchard near Chico, to 22 percent for a mature almond orchard near Modesto, to 40 percent for a younger (more open) prune orchard near Oroville.

The trees themselves received the same amount of pesticide in the smart-sprayed orchards, but a lot less pesticide ended up on the ground than in the control.

"For the almond and more open prune orchards, the reductions were 79 percent and 59 percent, respectively," Giles and colleagues wrote.

Likewise, when the amount of pesticide in water running off the younger prune orchard was measured, the reduction was 54 percent in the smart-sprayed orchard compared to the control.

Despite its obvious benefits, the study authors noted that "use of the smart-spray technology is growing but remains a small part of the spraying equipment market." The retrofitted spray sensor and control equipment cost about $15,000, with an estimated payback period of 2 years or less, given documented cost reductions.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) can provide up to $30 per acre for a total of $15,000 per contract when the new equipment provides a 20 percent reduction in spray, which as been documented in peer-reviewed research such as the California Agriculture article.

"The amount is sufficient to adequately cover the cost of purchasing a typical target-sensing system for an orchard sprayer," the authors note in California Agriculture journal.

California Agriculture is the University of California's peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources. For a free subscription, go to: http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org, or write to calag@ucdavis.edu.