Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nielsen: Budget 'a victory' but has problems

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) released the following statement regarding the Democrat Budget passed on the Assembly Floor this evening.

“This budget confirms that the governor’s original proposal for five years of tax increases of 58 billion dollars was not needed. It is a victory for the citizens of California who in 2009 rejected these same taxes,” said Nielsen. “The problem with this budget is that cuts are temporary and reforms of the structural budget problems are non-existent.”

Nielsen continued, “Worse, it funds a dangerous realignment of public safety programs that represent a clear risk of danger to citizens who will become victims due to this ill-founded plan that has previously failed in lesser forms.”

Nielsen was referring to a 1992 Parole Reform bill and a 2004 New Parole Model that resulted in the release of violent criminals into California communities, which were quickly repealed.

Tehama innovator opens marketing doors

A fourth-generation rancher, Bryce Borror is continuing his family’s tradition of innovation.

Working at Tehama Angus Ranch, which was one of the pioneers of cattle breeding techniques, the 24-year-old Borror is opening new doors for marketing the operation’s high-quality beef.

Last year, the family put in a freezer, which enables Borror to take frozen sides of Angus beef to farmers’ markets in nearby Chico and Red Bluff with an eye on direct marketing.

“Our main goal in time is to sell boxes of beef,” said Borror, noting that a 40-pound box with a wide assortment of cuts sells for $250.

The effort marks a new direction of sorts for the more than 60-year-old ranch, which is best known for raising bulls to sell to commercial cattlemen for breeding. Its 37th annual sale in September will offer 155 bulls.

For my Western Innovator story on Bryce Borror, check CapitalPress.com next week.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Navel orange season wrapping up

The navel orange harvest in California is wrapping up, and growers are on a pace to meet a preseason prediction of 93 million cartons produced, an industry expert says.

That figure would top the nearly 81 million cartons of oranges picked in 2009-10, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Each carton weighs 40 pounds.

However, while last year was considered one of the best ever in terms of fruit utility, success among growers varied widely this year in large part because of weather, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

“It’s been a really difficult season,” Blakely said, adding that growers’ returns depended on how well their fruit held up and whether they will able to send a good percentage of oranges to the export market.

“On average, the whole season could be considered a good season, but we’re going to have extremes on both sides of that average,” he said.

For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Study pokes holes in dam removals

From the Los Angeles Times:

A $1.4-billion project to remove four hydroelectric dams and restore habitat to return Chinook salmon to the upper reaches of the Klamath River amounts to an experiment with no guarantee of success, an independent science review has concluded.

A panel of experts evaluating the proposal expressed "strong reservations" that the effort could overcome the many environmental pressures that have driven the dramatic decline of what was one of the richest salmon rivers in the nation.

Even after the decommission of dams that have for decades blocked migrating salmon, the panel said, biologists would probably have to truck the fish around a stretch of the river plagued by low oxygen levels.

"I think there's no way in hell they're going to solve" the basin's water-quality problems, said Wim Kimmerer, an environmental research professor at San Francisco State, one of six experts who reviewed the plan. "It doesn't seem to me like they've thought about the big picture very much." [...]

The scientists' June 13 report describes the proposals as a "major step forward" that could boost the salmon population by about 10% in parts of the upper basin. But to achieve that, the panel cautions, the project must tackle vexing problems, including poor water quality and fish disease.

The report concluded that the agreement doesn't adequately address those issues. Under the proposal, vegetation in restored wetlands and stream banks would be expected to absorb the phosphorus from natural and agricultural sources that promotes harmful algal blooms. But such a method, Kimmerer said, would require converting an area roughly equivalent to 40% of the irrigated farmland in the Upper Klamath Lake watershed to wetlands.

"This does not seem like a feasible level of effort," the report notes.

Dennis Lynch, who is overseeing a team of federal scientists gathering information on the effects of dam removal, said his group agrees that major water-quality problems will take decades to fix. But the federal scientists are more optimistic that they can be resolved.

The complete story is here.

For my story analyzing the two studies, check CapitalPress.com later in the week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

CCA comes out against easement plan

A key cattlemen's group has come out against a federal proposal to offer easements to preserve rangelands in the foothills around the Central Valley.

At their summer meeting this week, California Cattlemen's Association board members voted to oppose the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's controversial California Foothills Legacy Area project.

For CCA, siding against the proposal marks another awkward twist in its relationship with a partner organization, the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, whose rangeland preservation efforts inspired the Fish and Wildlife proposal.

Here is the CCA's press release:

This week at the annual Midyear Meeting of the California Cattlemen’s Association, the CCA Board of Directors, comprised of ranchers throughout the state, voted to oppose the recent Foothill Legacy Area easement proposal, brought forth in the past month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

CCA President Kevin Kester, a beef producer from Parkfield, Calif., said, “CCA is a grass roots organization committed to following the direction of its membership. Our regular meetings serve as an opportunity for our members to voice their concerns and make the important decisions that drive our association forward.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Foothill Legacy Area easement proposal has garnered a great deal of attention and our membership voted by a substantial margin to oppose this particular proposal. We had a great turnout at our meeting, which demonstrated the importance of coming together with a united voice to make decisions that impact the future of our industry. At this meeting, our membership was represented and their voice was heard. Our dedicated staff will continue to work hard to carry CCA’s policy forward.”

Here is the group's resolution:

FOOTHILL LEGACY AREA INITIATIVE

WHEREAS, the California Foothill Legacy Initiative redirects fee title acquisitions dollars and makes it available for voluntary conservation easements, the program includes provisions that CCA does support, and

WHEREAS, CCA opposes the fact that the California Foothill Legacy Area does not allow 3rd parties to hold, enforce and negotiate easements, and

WHEREAS, CCA opposes the fact the California Foothill Legacy Area is not based on a statewide competitive process for easement funding; now

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that CCA opposes the California Foothill Legacy Initiative by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that CCA communicate an official position of opposition to the USFWS.

Frank Luntz wows Redding audience

Nationally known pollster Frank Luntz kept a Redding audience spellbound this morning, detailing his belief that straight talk will trump "business as usual" in the 2012 elections.

Luntz was at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center on Hilltop Drive for a private reception and $75-a-plate breakfast to raise funds for Assemblyman Jim Nielsen's re-election campaign.

Erin Ryan, coordinator of the Redding Tea Party, describes Luntz' visit.

It was awesome! Frank is a really funny guy and is totally about audience participation. He was dressed in dockers, a polo shirt and red/white/blue sneakers! He wore a wireless microphone and roamed all over the room during his talk while running slides on a power point from a wireless pointer. It was a great mix of learning and fun and everyone enjoyed the message. He really made us all think about the words we use and about how we, as conservatives, message ourselves during this all-important election. Business as usual on the political scene is over. People are angry and have a very low level of trust. It’s time for some straight talk and a LOT of integrity. One distinction that really hit home was that only 3% of Americans consider themselves “mainstream” but some 48% consider themselves “independent thinkers”. Wow! Wipe “mainstream” from your vocabulary if you want to appeal to people who care about politics.

The event was very well attended – maybe 150 or so if I had to guess. Frank spoke for the better part of an hour and we could have listened to him for a lot longer. I guarantee that people will read his new book “Win”. I’m about 10 pages in and it is something that will help all of us do a better job as conservatives to get the word out.


Luntz headlined a similar luncheon event today in Chico for Sen. Doug LaMalfa.

Attorney blasts enviros over water suit

Darrin Mercier, the attorney for the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau in its lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Game, issued this response to the news that Earthjustice and other green-oriented groups are trying to intervene on the DFG's behalf.

It comes as no surprise that Earthjustice has filed for intervention in the case of Siskiyou County Farm Bureau v. California Department of Fish and Game. Once again the environmental activists are attempting to regulate farmers and ranchers out of business in the Scott and Shasta valleys. Meanwhile, the active environmentalists, the farmers and ranchers, continue to actively work to recover salmonid populations.

This lawsuit is about a new interpretation of a very old law. This new interpretation, by the Department of Fish and Game, is going to be very expensive and pose a significant regulatory burden from our members. Our question is not what "divert" means, but why you need a "streambed alteration agreement" if you do not alter the streambed -- plain English.

Certainly, there are numerous laws that require balancing of users and we are committed to following the law. The Endangered Species Act, which is really driving many of the activists up here, is the most significant. But this is not about balancing uses or trying to avoid doing things for the fish; this is about the Department of Fish and Game and their code, 50 years after the fact, saying that you need a streambed alteration agreement, regardless of whether you alter any streambeds.

Siskiyou County has some of the most progressive and engaged farmers in the state. Used often as an example by many agencies as a positive model. over 80 percent of rivers and streams have been fenced to more effectively manage grazing. All of the many stream extractions have fish screens in place and properly designed bypasses to prevent fish from entering irrigation ditches. And numerous other mitigation measures and habitat enhancements have been put in place.

The farmers and ranchers of this county have worked diligently for the past 20 years to create a salmonid haven, rich in diverse habitat with beautiful rearing areas. They are currently engaged with several local environmental groups to repopulate salmonids. Additionally, this past spring, several individuals from the Department of Fish and Game have even stated that habitat is no longer the limiting factor; it is getting enough returning spawners to the habitat.

We do not believe that Earthjustice has any interest in this case. We are asking the court to decide what obligations our members have under Section 1602. This is just a question between the Department of Fish and Game, as the entity charged with enforcing Section 1602, and thoswe who are questioning the department's new interpretation. Earthjustice really does not have any legal interest in whether a farmer needs to start notifying the Department before he or in many instances the watermaster, opens his measured headgate.

California melon harvest heating up

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Following a cool spring, California melon growers welcome warm weather and say harvests of cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon will accelerate in coming weeks. Melon harvest has started in desert valleys and will begin early next month in the Central Valley, after the cool spring delayed it by up to 10 days. Farmers report better-than-average melon quantity and quality. Competition from other regions could mean a lot of options and lower prices for consumers.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Herger bill would repeal ethanol subsidies

From Rep. Wally Herger:

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Wally Herger (R-CA) and Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) introduced a bipartisan bill today, known as the Ethanol Subsidy Repeal Act, to immediately repeal the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), as well as the tariff on imported ethanol. At a cost to taxpayers of $5 billion per year, ethanol consumes forty percent of the U.S. corn crop. According to Iowa State University, the year extension of the ethanol blenders credit only created a little over 400 jobs in 2011, at the cost of over $14 million per job. By contrast, the livestock industry alone is expected to lose many thousands of jobs due to higher feed costs brought on by corn ethanol policies. Groups that oppose the ethanol tax credit include Americans for Prosperity, the American Meat Institute, Citizens Against Government Waste, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and dozens of others. The Senate voted 73-27 to repeal the ethanol tax credit on June 16.

Rep. Herger said, “Ethanol subsidies are among the worst examples of special-interest politics in the government. The Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office have concluded that the ethanol tax credit is both wasteful and duplicative. These subsidies distort the economy by diverting corn away from feedstock, raising costs for farmers and ranchers and ultimately for consumers. The Ways and Means Committee has been examining how best to pursue comprehensive tax reform that eliminates special tax breaks and lowers the tax rate for everyone. I believe that abolishing the wasteful ethanol subsidy is a key aspect of moving toward a simpler and fairer tax system. I thank Rep. Crowley and the coalition dedicated to eliminating ethanol subsidies and I look forward to working with them to pass this legislation. ”

Rep. Crowley added, “When we consume our nation's food supply in our cars instead of at the dinner table, we get higher food prices for those who can least afford it. We now use 40% of our nation’s corn crops for fuel – crops that could be used to fill empty stomachs, instead of empty gas tanks. In today’s economic climate, the last thing the American people need is high food prices. I am pleased to join Rep. Herger in this important effort and I urge our colleagues in the House to swiftly pass this legislation.”

Geoff Moody, Director of Energy and Environmental Policy, for the Grocery Manufacturers Association commented, “GMA applauds Representatives Herger and Crowley for their bipartisan leadership on this critical issue. After more than 30 years, the time has come to end subsidies for corn ethanol. This commonsense legislation is an important step towards sound policy that does not pit our energy needs against food security. GMA urges Congress to enact this legislation quickly and looks forward to working with Reps. Herger and Crowley, the bills cosponsors, and Congressional leadership to accomplish that goal.”

Original cosponsors include:

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)

Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA)

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT)

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR)

Alaska drilling bill passes House

From the Congressional Western Caucus:

WASHINGTON DC - Rep. Gardner's (R-CO) bill to streamline drilling permits in Alaska's Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) passed the House by a vote of 253 to 166 with bipartisan support Wednesday.

"This bill doesn't just relate to Alaska - it has to do with every American who is forced to suffer high gas prices and who wants to see our nation weaned off Middle East oil. Exploration in Alaska will bring relief at the pump, take us one step closer toward energy independence and create tens of thousands of jobs in Alaska and the rest of the country."

Production in Alaska's OCS could produce 1 million barrels of oil a day – comparable to what the US currently imports from Saudi Arabia. Right now, however, companies that have paid billions of dollars for offshore oil and gas leases are being held up by regulatory confusion between the EPA and the bureaucratically created appeals board that reviews permits.

The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, H.R. 2021, will simplify the process by taking the appeals board out of the equation. The EPA will be required to grant or deny permits within six months of the request.

A companion measure has been introduced in the Senate with a bipartisan list of co-sponsors.

The north state's Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, voted in favor of the legislation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Anniversary sparks calls for GIPSA rule

On the one-year anniversary of a proposal for sweeping new regulations of meat marketing, proponents of the rule urged President Obama and the USDA to act.

In a conference call with reporters this morning, representatives from the National Farmers Union, the Western Organization of Resource Councils and other groups urged an end to what they called meatpackers’ “virtual monopoly” in livestock and poultry markets.

“The Obama administration needs to act now to implement and enforce the GIPSA rule,” NFU president Roger Johnson said, adding he’s encouraging producers to call the administration to get the rule out.

“This rule is critically important to farmers and ranchers,” he said. “We have a very, very consolidated marketplace in the livestock industry right now. We need the industry to be competitive again.”

The conference call was the latest salvo in a bruising political battle over the proposed GIPSA rule, which was introduced on June 22, 2010.

the House of Representatives on June 16 passed an agriculture appropriations bill that bars the USDA from finalizing the proposed regulations.

The vote followed a letter last month from 147 House members – including more than a dozen from the West – urging Vilsack to withdraw the proposal and replace it with a new one.

“At a time when cattlemen are wondering why the federal government seems determined to put them out of business, it is encouraging to see the U.S. House of Representatives push back on government overreach into the private marketplace,” NCBA president Bill Donald said in a statement.

For my complete story on the latest concerning the GIPSA rule, check back at CapitalPress.com.

Nielsen honors three Shasta veterans

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) today honored Shawn Bainbridge, Scott Grant and Kenneth Taylor as the 2011 Veterans of the Year for the 2nd Assembly District during a special lunch at the State Capitol. All three honorees are currently serving as Officer Helicopter Pilots in the California Highway Patrol in Shasta County.

“This year I selected three superb servicemen as veterans of the year,” said Nielsen. “I chose the three because of their common experiences as California Highway Patrolmen. All exemplify the traits and values of the American soldier. They have nobly applied these traits to their post military careers in the CHP and also as family men and citizens.”

Shawn Bainbridge is a Chief Warrant Officer Two and member of the United States Army National Guard. He served as a helicopter pilot flying Chinook helicopters in support of the U.S. Air Force in Northern Iraq during the operation and he assisted Special Forces units searching for the upper echelon leadership of the Iraq Government and engaged in re-supply missions for ground units.

Scott Grant served as a flight medic in Operation Desert Storm and flew throughout Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. He flew UH-1 helicopters and performed medical evacuations of wounded soldiers and enemy combatants. He later deployed to Afghanistan as an airplane pilot and performed troop transports, medical evacuations, VIP transportations and other missions as required. Grant was granted an Air Medal Award and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 3.

Kenneth Tyler distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight as a Flight Nurse in support of Operation Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The courage exhibited by Captain Tyler resulted in the successful evacuation of combat casualties from multiple medical facilities within Afghanistan and Iraq. He provided in-flight medical care to 224 critically wounded patients during 22 combat missions on C-17 and C-130 airframes under hazardous conditions.

Before the luncheon Nielsen had the pleasure of giving a tour of the Capitol to two of the three veteran honorees accompanied by their family.

UC study: Wild bees worth up to $2.4 billion

[Photo caption: The California native bee species Bombus vosnesenskii, the yellow-faced bumble bee, forages on almond flowers that are located right next to rangelands habitat. (Alexandra Maria-Klein photo)]

From UC-Berkeley:

California agriculture reaps $937 million to $2.4 billion per year in economic value from wild, free-living bee species that serve the critical function of pollinating crops, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, published this week in the June issue of the journal Rangelands.

About one-third of the value of California agriculture comes from pollinator-dependent crops, representing a net value of $11.7 billion per year, according to the study. Currently, many farmers rent European honeybees to ensure crop pollination, and it has been widely assumed that wild pollinators were not a significant source of crop pollination. However, the new study estimated that wild pollinators residing in California’s natural habitats, chiefly rangelands, provide 35-39 percent, or more than one-third, of all pollination “services” to the state’s crops.

“This means that preserving rangelands has significant economic value, not only to the ranchers who graze their cattle there, but also to farmers who need the pollinators,” said Claire Kremen, UC Berkeley associate professor of environmental science, policy and management, and senior author of the study.

More on the study is here.

Western lawmaker seeks EPA relief

From the Congressional Western Caucus:

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and seven other members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee introduced the EPA Regulatory Relief Act today. This bipartisan bill would aid job creators by directing the Environmental Protection Agency to develop better standards for industrial, commercial, and institutional boilers and incinerators, grant the EPA more time to develop those standards, and grant companies more time to comply with them.

“With the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, we are giving the EPA the time it needs – the time it has requested – to address difficult technical issues and develop rules that are workable in the real world,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers and the other members in a statement. “Likewise, businesses, institutions, and facilities need adequate time to finance the new monitoring and control equipment that will be required to meet the new standards, to obtain necessary regulatory approvals, and to design, procure, install, test, train personnel and start up equipment. Without regulatory relief, EPA’s current rules endanger hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide by forcing plant shutdowns and relocation of American manufacturing and jobs overseas.”

On Mar. 21, 2011, the EPA published four highly-complex rules setting new standards for more than 200,000 boilers, process heaters, and incinerators. The Council of Industrial Boiler Owners estimates that the capital costs of those rules will exceed $14 billion and put 224,000 jobs at risk. Similarly, the American Forest and Paper Association predicts costs could range from $5-7 billion for the forest products industry alone.

In addition to Rep. McMorris Rodgers, the original cosponsors of today’s bill are Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), John Barrow (D-GA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Pete Olson (R-TX), Mike Ross (D-AR), and Steve Scalise (R-LA).

To view the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, click here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eureka company acquires Siskiyou Lumber Products

From PRNewswire:

The California Redwood Company announces today that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Siskiyou Lumber Products, a California-based company specializing in remanufacturing and wholesale lumber distribution.

Siskiyou's Woodland, California, operations and its Ukiah, California, fence plant will now operate as part of The California Redwood Company, distributing redwood lumber products, Douglas-fir lumber and treated lumber.

"A year ago we announced a long-term marketing strategy of working with retailers to better understand and serve the needs of consumers. The acquisition of Siskiyou Lumber Products provides us the opportunity to get closer to consumers and allows us to offer a full range of premium redwood products directly to retail such as decking, railing, fencing and garden accessories. To better access core redwood markets and effectively service consumers, we will continue to use a combination of both internal and traditional distribution channels," said Carl Schoenhofer, Vice President and General Manager for The California Redwood Company. "We also plan to expand our product development efforts and value-added applications for redwood."

About The California Redwood Company

The California Redwood Company, headquartered in Eureka, California, manufactures and distributes high-quality redwood and Douglas-fir lumber products for use in outdoor living, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Green Diamond Resource Company. For more information on The California Redwood Company, visit us at http://www.californiaredwoodco.com.

Green Diamond Resource Company is a privately held, integrated forest products company with timberlands in Washington and California, and operates lumber manufacturing facilities in California through its subsidiary The California Redwood Company. Our timberlands and manufacturing facilities have been independently certified as meeting the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Standard. For more information on Green Diamond, visit us at http://www.greendiamond.com.

Sun City opponents back easement proposal

Remember a group called California Oaks?

The organization gained public attention in Northern California for its thus-far-unsuccessful suit to stop the proposed Del Webb “active adult” subdivision in the rolling hills north of Red Bluff. That lawsuit is on appeal.

Well, California Oaks is a member of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, which is behind the proposed California Foothills Legacy Area easement project.

The tree-preservation group began circulating foothill-preservation maps similar to the ones floated by the Rangeland Coalition's about 15 years ago. Both oak woodlands and rangelands provide rich habitat that leads to a healthy watershed, executive officer Janet Cobb said.

“This needs to happen, and I’m looking forward to referring many calls we get to local land trusts who will be implementing this, I’m sure,” Cobb said. “More than 330 species depend on these oak woodlands and grasslands. It’s a very important project.”

However, none of California Oaks’ maps were used for the Rangeland Coalition’s prioritizing, director Tracy Schohr said.

“Our map was pulling together a number of other maps that were out there, pulling together the ecological value of rangelands as well as their potential for development,” she said. “The map was merely an illustration of the importance of rangelands for the state of California.”

For more on how the easement proposal got started, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Most crops don't mind abrupt warm-up

Summer came quickly to California fields this year, but most crops were ready.

While much of the spring brought rain and temperatures that were well below normal, the warmer weather that arrived in mid-June was a welcome change for field crops, according to a report from the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service.

After rain cut into the hay harvest earlier this year, alfalfa growers have been getting cuttings throughout the state this month while sunflower seed, corn and bean planting continued, the report states.

Rice planting is mostly complete, with a majority of the planted fields having emerged, and the wheat harvest has been moving north as plants have reached maturity, according to the NASS report.

Meanwhile, the almond, walnut and prune orchards are holding up well, although it might have been better for the trees if the warm-up were gradual, said Rick Buchner, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Red Bluff.

“We haven’t found a whole lot of problems at this point,” Buchner said. “We’ve seen some pretty good prune and walnut crops.”

For my full story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

First female UC farm advisor to retire today

From UC Davis:

Carolyn Pickel, UC Cooperative Extension’s first woman farm advisor, will retire from the university on June 20 after 38 years.

Pickel, who is currently the integrated pest management advisor for the Sacramento Valley, joined UC Cooperative Extension in 1977 as a farm advisor intern, after four years as a UC staff research assistant. In 1979, she was promoted to UC IPM area advisor for the Central Coast, working on a variety of crops, including strawberries, brussels sprouts and apples. In 1990, she moved north to work with Sacramento Valley growers in Sutter, Yuba, Tehama, Glenn, Butte, Colusa and Yolo counties, to develop IPM practices for growing walnuts, almonds, prunes and peaches.

Don O’Dell, a Chico walnut grower, praised Pickel for scientifically evaluating the IPM techniques’ effectiveness on a regular farm, not just in a laboratory environment. “She’s really been helpful to industry and been beneficial to society in the long term,” he said.

O’Dell has worked with Pickel over the years testing pheromone mating-disruption techniques to control codling moth, the number one walnut pest. In recent years, she has been experimenting with puffer devices, which fill the tree canopy with pheromones so the male codling moths get confused and can’t find the females to mate.

“People will look back and see that was key to controlling codling moth,” O’Dell said, explaining that reducing the numbers of codling moths with mating disruption has reduced growers’ dependence on organophosphate and pyrethroids. “If it works well, we don’t have to spray.”

Although her maternal grandfather had a 100,000-acre cattle ranch, Pickel didn’t grow up on a ranch but spent summers there. She was raised in New Mexico, where her father was Santa Fe’s only general practitioner physician. Pickel chose a major that didn’t require her to dissect squirrels. She did not mind dissecting cockroaches and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1973 and 1976, respectively.

For her master’s degree, Pickel developed the codling moth degree-day model that shaped her future career.

“UC Cooperative Extension specialist Clancy Davis hired me to teach farm advisors to use the degree day model,” Pickel recalled. “That’s when I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I went into Extension because I wanted to work on the practical end of research, making it useful to people.”

But when she graduated in 1976, there were no women advisors for agriculture. The women advisors worked in home economics and 4-H. She applied for 13 UC Cooperative Extension jobs before getting hired.

“They said I didn’t have enough experience and Jerry Siebert, UC Cooperative Extension director, told me to write a proposal to hire interns,” she said. Pickel’s proposal initiated UC’s farm advisor intern program, which has since been discontinued. “Internships would be a way to help women and men become more successful as farm advisors, and we were very well trained when we came into these positions.”

Many women have followed Pickel, serving as UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors.

“Carolyn always impressed me with her hard work, dedication to her field and her very creative thinking,” said Mark Cady, environmental scientist for the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. “Carolyn was instrumental in producing grower-friendly outreach materials, particularly the seasonal guides to almond pest management and prune pest management.”

He noted the popularity of UC’s tree fruit pest identification and monitoring cards, which were her idea. “These are simple to keep in a glove box and are packed with information about each pest and beneficial.”

The cards, which identify each insect with a description and close-up color photographs of important life stages, are now on their third printing and inspired pest cards for landscapes and other crops.

“Carolyn was one of the first advisors to see the value in broad collaborations that put farmer-to-farmer information sharing in the mix of outreach tools,” said Cady, who worked with Pickel on the walnut Pest Management Alliance project when he was deputy director for Biological Farming Programs at the Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

“Early on, Carolyn recognized that the environmental outcomes of farming practices had to be considered alongside economic returns and crop productivity,” Cady said.

Her research has persuaded prune growers to apply dormant sprays earlier in the fall, when the ground is drier so the pesticides stay on the ground, rather than getting transported offsite by rain.

Pickel has won several awards, including the IPM Foundation Team Award from the National Entomology Society of America, California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s IPM Innovators Award for authoring the Seasonal Guide for Environmentally Responsible Pest Management based on research conducted with the Almond Pest Management Alliance, and the IPM Team Award from the Pacific Branch of the Entomology Society of America, all in 2008.

In retirement, Pickel and her husband Marty O’Connell plan to move to McCloud, an old historic mill town near Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County. “Where the air is clear, the sky is blue and there’s no traffic,” she said. UC has granted her emeritus status so Pickel also intends to continue her research and demonstration of puffers for walnut growers, and author the insect chapter for the UC walnut production manual.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bee virus study sheds light on die-offs

From the University of California-San Francisco:

A 10-month study of healthy honey bees by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) scientists has identified four new viruses that infect bees, while revealing that each of the viruses or bacteria previously linked to colony collapse is present in healthy hives as well.

The study, which followed 20 colonies in a commercial beekeeping operation of more than 70,000 hives as they were transported across the country pollinating crops, was conducted to answer one basic question: what viruses and bacteria exist in a normal colony throughout the year?

The results depict a distinct pattern of infections through the seasons and provide a normal baseline for researchers studying a colony – the bee population within a hive – that has collapsed. Findings are reported in the June 7 issue of the Public Library of Science ONE (PLoS ONE).

I spoke with the lead researcher on the project yesterday. Look for my story at CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Shasta livestock, crop values up

Shasta County's 2010 Crop and Livestock Report is out. Redding.com's Alayna Shulman offers up some details here.

Grape growers: Good riddance to bad weather

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Grape growers have something to smile about as spring finally begins its transition into summer. Until this week, farmers battled the nagging cool weather as it slowed grape growth, causing mildew and fungus to spread. Farmers say they still expect a high-quality grape crop if weather cooperates from here on out. In addition to the weather, growers closely monitored populations of the European grapevine moth. According to a report, compared to last year, the moth's numbers have been much lower.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nielsen decries Legislature's spending habits

From the office of Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) stood up in defense of California taxpayers during the Assembly floor debate today.

“A timely budget was passed, but a responsible budget was not accomplished,” stated Nielsen following the floor session. “So far there are no reforms included that will keep the budget reigned in, nor is there anything except policies that will kill jobs!”

Nielsen criticized the Legislature’s predisposition to reckless spending of the new unexpected revenue. This budget represents a 27 percent increase in spending over three years and a two billion dollar increase since the Governor’s January budget with little invested to reduce the ‘wall of debt,’ to which he referred in his may revise.

Although this budget would eliminated some minor state agencies, Nielsen pointed out that the main government agencies are still fully staffed and doing business as usual.

“You ask the people you represent, is there a relationship with the government agency that they love any better,” said Nielsen during the floor debate. “Is government serving them any better, being less intrusive in their lives, less oppressive in driving them out of California.” He continues, “I think not. The worst thing we can do is tax them (people of California) to do it/

Nielsen thinks that it is absurd to increase taxes by 58 billion dollars over five years only to place Californians at higher risks as a result of the governor’s realignment plan.

“This budget is going to fund a dangerous realignment,” said Nielsen. “The public safety realignment portion is the worst part of it, a great, absolutely egregious historic compromise of justice.”

Watch Assemblyman Nielsen’s full comment in the beginning of the floor debate here.

Lawmakers line up against easement plan

U.S. Rep. Wally Herger's office sent me this statement about the California Foothills Legacy Area, which was discussed at a meeting in Red Bluff last night:

Over the years I have heard from ranchers, farmers and other property owners who wish to participate in conservation easements because they believe that programs of this nature will make their operations more viable over the long term while preserving land that they already wish to see remain open in perpetuity.

While I would not personally choose to put my land into a conservation easement – mostly because “forever” is a very long time -- I really would not view it as my business if my neighbor wished to forgo the possible future development of his land in exchange for cash in hand today. As a fervent proponent of private property rights, I understand that disposing of one’s land or an interest in one’s land is a part of the “bundle” of rights associated with property ownership.

But the California Foothills Legacy Area program is not merely a private transaction. It utilizes federal funding, and that is the fundamental basis of my objection to this program and all similar conservation easement programs that utilize scarce federal revenues. Even in the best of financial times I would have concerns about using federal money to essentially pay people to preclude, forever, any development of their property. But these are not the best of financial times. Indeed, the federal government is currently borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar we spend. We simply do not have the luxury of paying people to give up their right for future development. Moreover, easements purchased with federal dollars or otherwise held by the federal government create a federal “nexus” and regulatory strings and land-use restrictions that can be incredibly burdensome for private landowners. I have heard some disturbing cases in which the restrictions placed on some conservation easements have spilled over and had impacts on neighboring property owners. We should be dramatically shrinking the government’s reach, not expanding it. More than 50% of the land base in California is managed by either the federal or state government.

While I certainly understand the economic pressures on ranchers and farmers today, I have grave concerns about the very concept of one generation accepting permanent restrictions on land that the next generation must accept. I hope my friends in the ranching and farming community will seriously consider the many implications of a permanent conservation easement.

Some might argue that the California Foothills Legacy Area program does not actually use taxpayer dollars, because it would be primarily funded by revenues received from the Land and Water Conservation Fund which receives money from royalties on oil rigs. That’s a distinction without a difference, in my view. It is still federal revenue, and thus still money that could be allocated for a different purpose. Indeed, it has long been my position that revenues from the Land and Water Conservation Fund should be used to help manage land that the federal government is already responsible to steward and yet is not managing, as opposed to using those resources for additional land purchases or to create new obligations for the federal government. It concerns me that federal agencies routinely complain that they do not have the resources to manage the land is already their responsibility to manage, and yet they seem to have an insatiable desire to expand the federal land base or, in the case of easements, expand agency land management priorities on to private lands. Additionally, it is not unusual for these federal agency priorities to run contrary to the land management plans of local government.

For these reasons, I oppose the California Foothills Legacy Area program and I will oppose the use of federal funds to http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifimplement it.

Brenda Haynes, a field representative for state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, prepared this statement for last night's meeting:

Senator Doug LaMalfa opposes this Federal Plan, and he would lead State opposition to these efforts.

Neither the State or Federal Government are in a financial position to propose this type of conservation easement program.

The State and Federal government are not currently living up to their promises to local government regarding payments for Williamson Act, Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Federal School payments to make up for the diminished logging industry. If they cannot keep promises to hold up their end of the bargain to States and local governments, they will not keep it to individuals.

In addition, these funds do not come without restrictions. They may change with time, to rules that are not acceptable, such as grazing restrictions and other restrictions that may force those folks who willingly participated off of their land completely.

For these, and may others reasons, Senator LaMalfa cannot support the plan.

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen has also come out against the plan, the Record Searchlight has reported.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Skepticism reigns at Red Bluff meeting



[Photo caption: Tea party activists converge on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's public meeting in Red Bluff to discuss the proposed California Foothills Legacy Area.]

A federal agency’s plan to create easements for rangelands surrounding California’s Central Valley received mostly skeptical reviews at a public meeting tonight in Red Bluff.

Supporters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to provide voluntary easements in four huge swaths of mostly private grasslands around the state say they’d help landowners resist pressure to sell to developers.

“If it’s a voluntary situation, we can volunteer for it,” Mike Spencer of Igo, Calif., told a sometimes feisty gathering of about 150 people at the Red Bluff Community and Senior Center.

“Some of us see growth a little differently,” he said. “A lot of so-called growth we don’t need. Those of us who feel that way appreciate possibly tax money being spent in our direction.”

But opponents, including ranchers and local tea party groups, say the federal government shouldn’t be spending money on such things and that landowners shouldn’t invite government scrutiny of their operations.

“One of the things I’m having trouble understanding here is why we who control the land want to turn it over to you?,” Red Bluff, Calif., resident Bill Heins said. “The federal government produces nothing, the people sitting out here produce everything. You’re going to take our tax money and pay us so you can control the property?”

Ubiquitous at tonight's meeting were some 50 tea party activists, who met outside the meeting hall wearing patriotic clothes and hats and walked in together.

For my complete story on the meeting and the issue, check CapitalPress.com in the morning.

Workshop to explore farm collaboration

From UC-Davis:

Delivering local, farm-fresh products from fields to markets can be a logistical challenge — especially for smaller farmers who cannot justify the costs of buying their own trucks, building their own coolers or hiring their own food safety coordinators.

The “Collaborating to Access New Markets” workshop will share ways small- and medium-sized growers can pool their resources to better supply wholesale markets and other larger distribution networks. The event will also include lessons learned from one of the East Coast’s oldest and largest organic produce cooperatives, and from one of the original collaborative efforts of Yolo County growers.

The workshop, offered by UC Cooperative Extension, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 29 at the office of the Yolo County Housing Authority, 147 W. Main St. in Woodland.

“Many growers are trying to expand their markets, and they can’t do it all by themselves,” said Shermain Hardesty, director of UC's small farm program and agricultural economist at UC Davis.

“By working together, small- and medium-sized farmers can save time and money. We’re not just talking about a vague concept, but talking about specific tools that can help farmers grow their businesses,” she said.

Featured at the event will be Jim Crawford, farmer and president of Tuscarora Organic Growers cooperative in Pennsylvania. Crawford has more than two decades’ worth of experience leading a collaborative marketing service to sell to urban wholesale markets.

Tuscarora Organic Growers is owned entirely by member farmers who share shipping and marketing costs to retail grocery stores, food co-ops and restaurants in the Washington, D.C., metro area. The cooperative currently works with more than 50 producers to distribute about 100,000 cases of fresh produce and flowers each year.

Also speaking at the event will be Dru Rivers and Andy Scott to discuss lessons learned from their experiences as founders of YoCal Produce Cooperative in California. Though no longer in operation, YoCal’s decade of marketing collaboration led to many of the ventures that Capay Valley growers participate in today.

The workshop is co-sponsored by the Yolo County Agricultural Commissioner and UC Cooperative Extension in Yolo, Solano, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Lake, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Marin counties.

Registration includes lunch and is $15 by June 24, or $20 after.

For more information or to register, visit http://ucanr.org/collaborating or call (530) 752-7779.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Group: US sovereignty 'attacked' by WTO

From the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America:

While the nebulous powers of the United Nations (U.N.) and its various international subsidiaries like the World Trade Organization (WTO) are far removed from the day-to-day lives of most U.S. citizens, a wake-up call has just been delivered to every U.S. household. Today, according to a report issued by the respected Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), the WTO has issued a preliminary decision that strikes down the United States’ consumer information law that requires many foods in U.S. grocery stores to be labeled with their country of origin.

This consumer information law, known as the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law, was first passed in the U.S. Congress in 2002 and requires that U.S. food retailers affix labels denoting the country-of-origin to such important household food staples as beef, lamb, pork, goat meat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, ginseng and macadamia nuts.

“The COOL law is widely supported by farmers, ranchers and consumers as an important consumers’ right-to-know law,” said R-CALF USA COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz. “COOL enables consumers to exercise choice in the marketplace by giving shoppers the information they need to choose from which country they want their food produced.

“U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers support COOL because we want consumers to be able to support our U.S. cattle industry by differentiating and selecting U.S.-grown beef from the growing volumes of imported beef sourced from over a dozen foreign countries,” Shultz said.

The governments of Canada and Mexico did not want the United States to pass its COOL law and, shortly after the law went into effect, they each filed a formal complaint with the WTO arguing the U.S. COOL law violated international agreements. Today’s BNA report suggests the WTO has agreed with these foreign governments.

“While we are tremendously disappointed in the decision, we believe it was necessary to prove to the American people just how dangerous it is for the United States to acquiesce to international tribunals such as the WTO,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “U.S. citizens exercised their constitutional right to self-governance by urging Congress to pass a law that informs them of where their food is produced. Now we have an un-elected, foreign tribunal that is attempting to strike down our constitutionally passed law.

“There can be no clearer evidence than this that Congress’ acquiescence to these international tribunals threatens our nation’s core sovereignty,” he added. “If U.S. citizens no longer have the right to have a label on their food that informs them of where their food came from, then our sovereign rights as citizens of this Great Nation have already been eroded.”

“This is a wake-up call to every U.S. family,” said Schultz. “Every U.S. citizen needs to pick up the phone and call their members of Congress to tell them it’s high time that Congress quit kowtowing to international organizations and begin listening to the American people. We want to know where our food comes from – period.”


For my story on this issue, check CapitalPress.com next week.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

USFWS at odds with Tehama County planners

Perhaps without realizing it, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has waded into one of the north state's most heated and long-simmering controversies -- the question of whether to build subdivisions in the hills north of Red Bluff.

Four huge swaths of mostly private grasslands targeted by the USFWS for preservation include much of northern Tehama County -- and a portion of Shasta County, too.

Much of that area along Interstate 5 was opened for development in Tehama's 2009 general plan update, which also set stiffer protections of more fertile agricultural lands to the south.

Four large-scale housing projects are envisioned along the I-5 corridor north of town, including Sun City, an “active adult” Del Webb community that would include 3,700 homes on 3,100 acres.

“It’s our primary growth corridor,” said John Stoufer, Tehama County’s interim planning director. “We’re going to learn more about (the easement proposal), but we definitely want to be involved in it.”

County officials plan to voice concerns during a meeting at 6 p.m. June 14 at the Red Bluff Community/Senior Center, 1500 South Jackson St.

For my coverage of this issue and of the California Foothills Legacy Area's ramifications, keep checking CapitalPress.com.

Nielsen: Dem budget proposal 'dangerous'

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber:

Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), today issued the following statement following a hearing on the May Revise budget:

“Today’s action in budget committee was a complete façade,” said Nielsen. There is nothing in this budget ‘framework’ that is worthy of support. It assumes 58 billion dollars in tax increases imposed on hard working Californians, and has no mention of badly needed budget or pension reforms. Furthermore, it funds the Governor’s dangerous realignment program, which is guaranteed only to increase crime in our communities.

Republicans were completely shut out of this process, and instead this budget ‘framework’ was conceived behind closed doors by only Democrat members and staff. I cannot cast an Aye vote for an unfinished, dangerous proposal such as this.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

UC study: Cows, toad can coexist

From the University of California-Davis:

Livestock grazing is apparently not the culprit in the steep decline of Yosemite toads and their habitat, according to the results of an extensive, five-year study conducted by UC Davis, UC Berkeley and the U.S. Forest Service.

“A direct correlation between the intensity of cattle use and toad occupancy of meadows was not found for any portion of the grazing season — early, mid or late,” said Leslie Roche, a UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences graduate student who worked on the study.

Results from the study will impact ranchers whose grazing allotments were restricted by the U.S. Forest Service in 2001 based on the assumption that grazing is contributing to the toads’ decline. Forest Service officials will use the study to develop plans that allow grazing within appropriate standards while conserving toads.

The researchers had hypothesized that a reduction in grazing intensity would stop or even reverse the decline of the Yosemite toad but, in fact, they found no evidence to support that premise.

“Results strongly indicate that toad presence is driven by meadow wetness rather than cattle utilization,” said Roche, who is completing her doctoral dissertation on this project.

More on the study is here.

That is one ugly freaking creature. They stopped grazing to save that thing?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lawmaker to hail 'Eat Local" resolution

From the San Francisco-based Fineman PR:

ASSEMBLY MEMBER FIONA MA HOSTS SAN FRANCISCO PRESS CONFERENCE TO ANNOUNCE UNANIMOUS ASSEMBLY PASSAGE OF ‘EAT LOCAL, BUY CALIFORNIA GROWN DAY’ RESOLUTION

Resolution aims to keep billions of dollars in food sales in state by calling on all Californians to prepare meals exclusively from California-grown ingredients at least one day a week – Sundays

WHO: Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, San Francisco Agriculture Commissioner, Miguel Monroy, and Ira Brill from Foster Farms on behalf of the California poultry industry. (Ma, Monroy and Brill will be available for photos and interviews following the press conference.)

WHAT: Press conference to announce the unanimous State Assembly passage of ACR 42 – the “Eat Local, Buy California Grown Day" resolution and its potential impact for all Californians. The resolution has been co-authored by 61 assembly members and is also supported by numerous California agricultural leaders/officials and California crop/commodity organizations. It calls for Californians to prepare meals made exclusively from California-grown ingredients at least one day a week, on Sundays. The resolution is currently making its way through the State Senate.

WHEN: Sunday, June 12, 2011, 11 a.m. [...]

WHY: The “Eat Local, Buy California Grown Day” movement celebrates the bounty of California, our country’s most agriculturally-abundant state. California produces 400 commodities and a significant amount of food for the rest of the country, yet Californians still spend millions of dollars on out-of-state foods. $210 million is spent on out-of-state poultry alone from states as far away as Texas and Arkansas. By making a conscious decision to Eat Local, Buy California Grown on Sundays, just one day a week, Californians can support California farmers who work hard to raise healthy, high-quality food locally while potentially keeping billions of consumer dollars within the state supporting local businesses, communities and families. California consumers can also show support by signing a pledge to dedicate Sundays to eating local on the Eat Local, Buy California Grown Day Facebook page (www.facebook.com/eatlocalbuycaliforniagrown).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Poll: Majority sees government as threat

An interesting snapshot of the mood of the electorate from Rasmussen:

Over half (53%) of Americans now believe the federal government is more of a threat to individual rights than a protector.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 33% of Adults believe the government is more of a protector of those rights. Fourteen percent (14%) are not sure.

But wait, there's more...

The same survey finds that one-in-five Americans believes individual states have the right to secede from the country, although a majority doesn’t believe it will actually happen.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of voters say the federal government currently operates within the limits established by the Constitution of the United States. Forty-four percent (44%) disagree.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) are angry with the current policies of the federal government.

Just 28% of voters believe the federal government has the consent of the governed.

Almond promotion targets healthy men

The Almond Board of California has been conducting a marketing campaign aimed at physically active men.

The effort came after market research showed that “healthy men” don’t differentiate almonds from other nuts or snack foods, according to an Almond Board newsletter.

The board’s campaign featured PGA golf pro Ben Crane and Robert Yang, a registered dietitian and fitness consultant at the Titleist Performance Institute. The two gave a satellite presentation to active men last month about the benefits of snacking with almonds during a golf game.

The two also have promoted a sweepstakes for a golf outing at TPI in Oceanside, Calif., where the winner and a guest will spent time with experts and high-tech equipment to analyze their golf game.

More information is here.

Bee specialist to speak in Bay Area

From UC-Davis' Department of Entomology:

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, will speak on native bees on Saturday, June 18 at “A Celebration of the Bees” in Mill Valley.

The celebration, to be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at 221Hillside Gardens and dubbed a “bee-in,” is a community gathering to benefit the beekeeping projects of SuperOrganism: the Marin Pollen Project and the Marin Survivor Stock Queen Bee Project.

Sponsored by Savory Thymes, the event will include a talk on honey bees by master beekeeper and author Mea McNeil of San Anselmo; demonstration and learning stations presented by the Marin Beekeepers’ Association; honey tasting featuring local varieties of honey; mead (honey wine) tasting; and live Celtic music. Hors d’oeuvres will be served.

Thorp, a noted native pollinator specialist, will discuss the diversity of native bees, such as bumble bees, carpenter bees and leafcutting bees, and how residents can provide habitat for them.

He is involved in research on the role of native bees in crop pollination, the role of urban gardens as bee habitat, and declines in native bumble bee populations. He does research in ecology, systematics, biodiversity, and conservation of bees, including pollen specialist bees in vernal pool ecosystems. He is involved with the management of the Jepson Prairie Reserve, a vernal pool ecosystem.

Although he “officially” retired in 1994, Thorp maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. He monitors the adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and Campus Buzzway for species of bees; between March 2009 and July 2010, he has detected 60 different species of bees.

Since 2002, Thorp has served as an instructor in The Bee Course offered annually through the American Museum of Natural History, New York at its Southwest Research Station, Portal, Ariz. Throughout the year, he presents a number of talks. Most recently, on May 26, he delivered a talk on “Native Bees and Their Lifestyles” to the City of Davis Open Space and Habitat Commission.

McNeil will discuss sustainable populations of bees. “Beekeepers are known for being independent individuals, but some local Marin County beekeepers have joined in a cooperative effort,” she said. “Knowing they can expect high loss, they are leaving their bee colonies untreated in order to select strong surviving queens for the propagation of local stock. They are coordinating test equipment, reference materials, seminars, connections with other groups, forage plantings and a program to distribute queen cells. They are looking beyond mere survival to a gentle, productive, local resistant strain of honey bee.”

McNeil says that the bees will be “sentinels for all creatures.” A sampling of pollen from hives across Marin County will be analyzed for pesticide and fungicide content in a toxicology study in cooperation with Pennsylvania State University. “Perhaps their greatest contribution is that they will be a prototype for what can happen everywhere for our ailing bees,” she said.

Tickets are $35 per person and can be purchased from this website, http://savorythymesevents.org/invites/bee/bee_invite_2011.html. Reservations can be made with Jerry Draper at beecele@superorg.org. Children will be admitted free, but reservations are required, he said.

SuperOrganism is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering sustainable agricultural practices through research, events, publications, lectures, demonstrations, and other means. SuperOrganism takes its name and purpose from the model of a honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony where individuals work selflessly and mindfully towards the common good of the whole.

Savory Thymes supports and educates the public about local and sustainable systems.

Friday, June 3, 2011

House panel blocks GIPSA funding

From the California Cattlemen's Association:

This week, the House Appropriations Committee voted to approve legislation that funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other agencies for fiscal year 2012 but denies money for USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) to advance and finalize a proposed rule covering livestock and poultry marketing.

The full House of Representatives will consider the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill the week of June 13. CCA will continue to monitor the bill and keep members updated as additional information is available.

For my story on reactions to the vote from cattle groups and the USDA, check CapitalPress.com early next week.

Klamath council sets Ashland meeting

The Klamath Basin Coordinating Council will hold its next meeting starting at 9 a.m. June 17 at the Ashland Springs Hotel in Ashland, Ore. Here is the agenda:

DRAFT AGENDA
KLAMATH BASIN COORDINATING COUNCIL MEETING
June 17, 2011, 9 am
Ashland Springs Hotel, Ashland, Oregon
1. Introductions and review agenda.
2. General public comment.
3. Approve summary from April 7, 2011 KBCC meeting (Ed Sheets).
4. Review status of implementing the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement
(Tim Hemstreet).
5. Update on Drought Plan (Drought Plan Lead Entity).
6. Review KBRA implementation (Sheets).
a. Status of review of KBRA cost estimates.
b. Review workplan and schedule for implementing Restoration Agreement.
7. Discuss communications and outreach plan (Craig Tucker and Glen Spain).
8. Public comment period.
9. Discuss next steps and next KBCC meeting.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rain worries cherry growers

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Rainy spring weather continues to create concerns on California farms. Storms in the Central Valley the last few days could threaten ripening cherries. The moisture can cause cherries to crack. Rain has been spotty in cherry-growing regions. Farmers say damage will be lessened by cool, breezy weather following the rains, but one grower estimates about 5 percent of his cherries have cracked because of the moisture.


The Capital Press' report on the weather's impact on the cherry crop is here.

Tehama Farm Bureau pitches golf outing

The Tehama Farm Bureau posted this on Facebook:

Do you like to golf? Come play in the Farm & Fun Golf Tournament at Wilcox Oaks in Red Bluff, Monday, June 13. Shotgun start at 1pm, dinner and awards to follow. $80 registration gets you 18 holes at this private course, range balls, cart and dinner. Proceeds go toward our ag education fund, as well as the objectives of TCFB. Give us a call if you are interested! 530-527-7882

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Farm Bureau reps go to Washington

[Photo caption:
As part of a Farm Bureau delegation from California that visited Washington, D.C., last week, Lawrence Clement, center, technical director for the Solano County Farm Bureau, and Thomas Broz, right, an organic farmer and director of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, discuss pest exclusion issues with Gregory Parham, left, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Photo courtesy of the CFBF's Ag Alert.]

The California Farm Bureau Federation's Christine Souza reports:

Farm and ranch leaders representing California Farm Bureau Federation visited the nation's capital last week, discussing with elected leaders and agency officials top issues important to the organization, including support for critical agriculture programs in light of a tight federal budget and the need for immigration reform legislation.

Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger, a Modesto walnut and almond farmer, said it became immediately clear in meetings with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials and congressional representatives that cuts to the federal budget will mean less continued funding for certain agricultural programs and will affect the development of the 2012 Farm Bill.

"The federal budget is the driver right now in Washington, D.C., and our budget message was very clear: We understand the need for spending cuts, but when deciding where to make those cuts, we shouldn't gut programs that are highly effective and critical to agriculture, such as pest and disease exclusion," Wenger said.

He said Farm Bureau members also focused on immigration and plans to introduce a mandatory electronic verification program to determine an employee's eligibility for employment, known as E-Verify.

In congressional visits, the CFBF delegation voiced strong concern that the House Judiciary Committee is considering immigration enforcement legislation without the development of an effective guestworker program. Dirk Giannini, a vegetable grower and president of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, expressed concern with pending legislation that would make mandatory the voluntary E-Verify program. That, coupled with an ineffective H-2A guestworker program that doesn't work for California, would result in serious problems, he said.

"Immigration reform is in a serious crisis right now in Arizona and California, with a tight labor force and others that cannot legally migrate to California to work," Giannini said. "In each meeting I participated in, I was able to convey that we've got to come up with a program to secure workers and if we do nothing or if just come out of here with E-Verify, we're going to fail."

More of her report is here. Farm Bureau officials discuss the importance of the trip here.