Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thank you for visiting

Active for almost two years, this incarnation of the Jefferson Journal achieved its best month ever in terms of web traffic in February, beating the previous high by hundreds of visits. I'm now approaching the average traffic I received when I was part of the highly distinguished blogroll at the Record Searchlight.

While there, I had the good fortune to take advantage of the immense popularity of Redding.com, where people came to get up to date on the breaking news of the day and stopped by my blog to take a peak. Similarly, many of you have found me here through the link at CapitalPress.com, while others have come as a result of my Facebook postings or from other ag sites.

As I've written before, I'm just glad to be making any kind of impact in the north state for this great company that puts out such a quality news product. Of course we couldn't do it without you, who read what we publish here and on our main website every day. So thanks for coming around.

The Klamath whistleblower and political spin

Here is the top portion of former Bureau of Reclamation official Paul Houser's complaint regarding alleged biases in the way the Department of the Interior summarized and publicized the Klamath dam removal studies.
DATE: February 24, 2012

TO: Office of the Executive Secretariat and Regulatory Affairs
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Mail Stop 7328
Washington, DC 20240

FROM: Dr. Paul R. Houser
Science Advisor, Bureau of Reclamation, Washington D.C.
Scientific Integrity Officer, Bureau of Reclamation, Washington D.C.
1849 C Street NW
Washington DC 20240-0001
and
Professor, George Mason University
240 Research Hall, MSN: 6C3
4400 University Dr. Fairfax, VA 22030 [...]

SUBJECT: Allegation of scientific and scholarly misconduct and reprisal for a disclosure concerning the biased summarization of key scientific conclusions for the Klamath River dam removal Secretarial determination process.

SUMMARY: With this letter, I submit two allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct and reprisal intended to compromise scientific integrity for a disclosure concerning the Department of the Interior’s biased (falsification) summarization of key scientific conclusions for the Klamath River dam removal Secretarial determination process. These allegations violate different parts of the 305 DM 3 Scientific Integrity Policy, but are being submitted together, as their possible motivation and topics are related. In my role as Science Advisor and Scientific Integrity Officer for the Bureau of Reclamation, I provide my comments at various points during this presentation.
1. Intentional Falsification: Motivated by Secretary Salazar’s publically stated 2009 intention to issue a Secretarial determination in favor of removing four dams on the Klamath River (due on March 31, 2012), the Department of the Interior has followed a course of action to construct support for such an outcome. An example of this intentional biased (falsification) reporting of scientific results is
contained in the September 21, 2011 “Summary of Key Conclusions: Draft EIS/EIR and Related Scientific/Technical Reports” [attachment 1]. Other examples provided by third parties are provided in the attached documents.

a. Person(s) alleged to have committed misconduct:

i. Unreported author(s) of report “Summary of Key Conclusions: Draft EIS/EIR and
Related Scientific/Technical Reports”
ii. Department of the Interior officials

2) Intentionally circumventing policy that ensures the integrity of science and scholarship, and actions that compromise scientific and scholarly integrity: On September 15, 2011, I expressed concern via written disclosure relating to the scientific integrity of a draft press release on the draft environmental analysis for removing four Klamath River dams [attachments 2, 3], and via verbal disclosure about the integrity of the larger Klamath River dam removal Secretarial determination process. My disclosure was clearly made to people who had authority to fix the press release (Department Press Secretary, Department Solicitor’s Office), and people who had influence on the Secretarial decision process (Department Solicitor’s Office, Reclamation Deputy Commissioner). My disclosure was never directly addressed, and supervisors have used my probationary status to
enact reprisal for the disclosure culminating in the termination of my employment (effective February 24, 2011).

Even though some changes were in the final press release (showing I had made the disclosure to people with the authority to change the press release), the subsequent reprisal indicates that these same people questioned my commitment to Secretarial intentions to support the Klamath River dam removal. This Secretarial decision (due March 31, 2012) is reported to have a cost to the public (taxpayers and ratepayers) in excess of $1B, so a poor decision would result in gross waste
of funds.

Following my disclosure, I faced systematic reprisal that enacted a 1-year probationary period to issue threats of termination, gave a low performance rating, denied travel, denied training and executive development, denied mentoring, and terminated my position. This period of reprisal demonstrates a pattern of hindering and not being supportive or honest about the scientific integrity process; the subsequent reprisal shows intentional actions that directly compromise 305 DM 3, and
therefore constitutes a violation of rules and regulations. Finally, the expectation for employees to compromise scientific integrity in support of Departmental mission and goals, and to engage in systematic reprisal when an employee question’s the Department’s scientific integrity is clearly an abuse of authority.

a. Person(s) alleged to have committed misconduct:
i. Mr. Adam [Fetcher], Department of the Interior, Press Secretary
ii. Ms. Kira Finkler, Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs,
Bureau of Reclamation
By submitting these allegations, I request that the Department of the Interior Scientific Integrity Officer
conduct a review of the allegations and submitted materials to determine whether an inquiry is warranted.
This letter has been seized upon by dam removal critics as proof that the entire process has been rigged. I received it in an e-mail from Tom Mallams, a Klamath Basin farmer who's led a vocal opposition to the project.

We have not spoken yet to Mr. Houser, but it appears by reading his letter that, as the Karuk Tribe's Craig Tucker told the Searchlight, he's taking issue more with how the studies were presented for public consumption rather than the body of scientific work itself. Our take is that unless he or someone can point to specific instances when scientific studies were manipulated for an end result, there's really not much "there" there. Eye-catching headlines aside, the fact that a cabinet secretary's press office would spin a study for a political outcome may be something for members of Congress to keep in mind when considering funding, but it's hardly earth-shattering or unprecedented.

Further, it's not like scientists' misgivings about the project haven't been out there. As I reported back in July:
Six experts on chinook salmon hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assert the dam removals and restoration efforts planned for the river basin in Southern Oregon and Northern California would be "a major step forward."

However, the panel warned the degree of success would depend on how well numerous factors are addressed, including water quality, fish disease, the straying of hatchery salmon to wild spawning grounds and predation by redband trout and other fish.

The panel advises close scientific monitoring of the rehabilitation efforts, adding the program "will need to be funded adequately."

"(T)he uncertainties act to hinder success, although it is possible that uncertainty in some cases can also result in a larger response than planned or expected," the scientists stated in a summary of their report.

In a separate study, a half-dozen federal researchers acknowledged that "some uncertainty is inherent" in projections into the future, but added its findings "are based on reasonable projections of possible future management."
At the time, these warnings were a hit with Mallams and other critics. From my story:
Mallams seized on statements by San Francisco State University environmental researcher Wim Kimmerer, one of the six experts who reviewed the plan, that it doesn't solve the basin's water problems.

Kimmerer told the Los Angeles Times that for vegetation and stream banks to adequately absorb the phosphorus that promotes harmful algal blooms, an area equivalent to 40 percent of the irrigated farmland in the Upper Klamath Lake watershed would have to be converted to wetlands.

"That's about 200,000 acres they'd have to take out, and that doesn't work," Mallams said. "These guys are saying it's going to save agriculture. If you're going to take out 200,000 acres of irrigated land, there's nothing left here to survive."
Unfortunately, part of the blame for an administration's proclivity for spinning summaries of lengthy reports has to rest on members of Congress, who've proven their willingness to pass landmark legislation without even reading it. If that ever changed, maybe the Adam Fetchers of the world would stop bothering to try to put government reports in a politically favorable light. And while we're at it, maybe I'll be the next editor of Time magazine.

Redding Tea Party gets IRS letter

And so did dozens of other tea party groups across the country recently. As Fox News reports:
In letters sent from IRS offices in Cincinnati earlier this month, chapters including the Waco (Texas) Tea Party and the Ohio Liberty Council were asked to provide a list of donors, identify volunteers, financial support for and relationships with political candidates and parties, and even printed copies of their Facebook pages.

"Some of what they (the IRS) asked was reasonable, but there were some requests on there that were strange," Toby Marie Walker, president of the Waco Tea Party told FoxNews.com. "It makes you wonder if they do this to groups like ACORN or other left-leaning groups.”

Read the complete letter sent to the Waco Tea Party by the IRS

The chapters that received requests were registering for nonprofit status as a 501(c)4 organizations. The classification mainly differs from 501(c)3 groups in that donors cannot deduct their contributions from their taxable income. [...]

Tea Party leaders say they were particularly offended by demands that they name donors and volunteers, which is required by law, but were also asked to list any political ambitions of board members or their relatives.

Colleen Owens, a Virginia-based Tea Party activist,claims that her chapter had a similar letter sent to them just two weeks before they were to hold a local convention in which they were asked to provide nearly 500 pages in documents.

They were required to return the requested documents two days before the start of the convention.

"Most of these groups are not wealthy and they've had their applications for 501(c)4 status since 2010," Owens said. "We only had two weeks to gather everything. The timing was suspicious."
Erin Ryan told me today that the letter came after the IRS has "stalled us for two years." She said the group has been trying to work through Rep. Wally Herger's office but has gotten nowhere.

"The list of requirements will require the evaluation from my kindergarten teacher," she told me in an e-mail.

Glenn Beck had a lengthy segment on this on his online TV program last night, basically saying that this amounted to using the power of government to silence and intimidate critics. He pointed out -- correctly -- that no such letters have been sent out to the Occupy movement despite the heavy sums it receives from George Soros front groups.

Chicago-style thug politics at its finest, I guess.

Walnut referendum to move forward

California walnut growers' vote on whether to raise their potential assessment, which I advanced last month, is moving forward. From the commission:
A referendum of the California Walnut Commission will be held during the month of March. Growers in the state will have the opportunity to vote on raising the assessment cap, not the assessment, from $0.01 per inshell pound to $0.0175 cents per inshell pound. The assessment cap can only be changed by a vote of the growers, and each year the assessment itself is decided by Commission Board members. The California Department of Food and Agriculture will mail the ballots on March 2 and growers will have thirty days send in their vote.

When the Commission was established in 1987, the assessment cap was set at $0.01 per inshell pound. In the 25 years of existence, the CWC has been below the cap in 12 of those years, including the current year.

The industry faces some serious challenges to Commission programs. Marketing costs are on the rise in key markets around the world. Exchange rate fluctuations can significantly hinder the ability to implement market development programs. Also on the rise, is the cost of conducting health research. Health research has proved to be a valuable program for the industry. Over the past 20 years the CWC has established a health research program that has generated 75 published papers in leading peer reviewed journals. Research has focused on key public health issues including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and cognitive function, among others. This strong database of health research led to walnuts achieving a qualified health claim from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)[1]. Publishing papers has become very competitive and gold standard research (needed for the USDA Dietary Guidelines) comes at a higher price. Lastly, the Commission is continually working to reduce trade barriers in export markets, which now account for over 60% of the industry’s shipments, thereby increasing the scope and importance of trade relations.

Budget discussions in Washington DC raise fears about reductions or elimination of federal funding that contributes significantly to export market development. The Commission currently receives $4.5 million from the Market Access Program (MAP) and coupled with other programs, a total of approximately $5 million annually could be at risk.

In February 2011, the Commission Board voted unanimously to hold a grower referendum to increase the assessment cap from the current $0.01 to $0.0175 per inshell pound. The decision is up to the growers. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will conduct the referendum and mail the ballots March 2, 2012. Growers will have thirty days to return their ballot and should contact Kathy Diaz of CDFA at (916) 900-5018 with questions about the referendum. For questions regarding the California Walnut Commission and its activities, please contact the CWC offices at (916) 932-7070.

[1] Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased choleric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chico State introduces online master's in ag

From Chico State's College of Agriculture:
The California State University, Chico, College of Agriculture is now accepting applicants to its new online Master of Science in Agriculture Education. The program is designed for credentialed agriculture teachers and allows those with a baccalaureate to take graduate-level courses from universities across the nation to earn a Masters in Agriculture Education.

CSU, Chico is the first college in the western United States to offer an online MS in agriculture education. The new two-year master’s program is offered in partnership with AG*IDEA, a distance education forum providing students with online courses in specific areas of study. Students can conveniently access courses online that will fulfill their master’s degree through a consortium that includes Texas Tech State University, Oklahoma State University and University of Missouri, among others.

Mollie Aschenbrener, program lead and assistant professor of agriculture education, knows first-hand how important and difficult it is for working ag teachers to receive a master’s in agriculture education. Before coming to CSU, Chico she taught high school ag for 11 years. “This is a great opportunity for agriculture instructors who are busy with their students year-round and don’t have time to accomplish their goal of receiving a master’s,” said Aschenbrener. “The online curriculum will allow them to earn their degree from home at their own pace.”

Applicants can apply online at www.csumentor.edu between now and April 2, 2012 for the 2012-2013 academic year. Applicants will be informed of acceptance in early May, and courses start in June.

For more information about the master’s in agriculture education, Aschenbrener can be reached at 530-898-4568 or by e-mail at maschenbrener@csuchico.edu.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Siskiyou threatened to sue over KHSA

This just in to my mailbox from Siskiyou County Counsel Thomas Guarino:
At the direction of the Board of Supervisors, Siskiyou County Supervisors Jim Cook and Michael Kobseff traveled to Washington D.C. today and met with Ms. Laura Davis, the Chief of Staff for the Secretary of the Interior. They were informed prior to the public release of the Secretary’s statement that the decision on the Secretarial Determination would be postponed.

Recently, the County of Siskiyou had threatened suit over various failings in the Secretarial Determination process and is actively in the process of preparing that litigation. The Chief of Staff indicated that they would “comply with all applicable law and guidance.” It would appear that this would require compliance with the Council on Economic Quality Standards that mandate that agencies issuing final Environmental Impact Statements provide for full funding of all agreed upon mitigations.

The Chief of Staff indicated that, to their knowledge, the pending legislation would not waive any County ordinances. It was the impression of the Supervisors that this would mean that there would be full compliance with County ordinances, including the County’s demolition ordinance which requires full environmental compliance.

The County appreciates the Secretary’s reconsideration of the timing of his Determination and Supervisors Cook and Kobseff look forward to reporting to the Board of Supervisors and evaluating with the Board the potential impact on the threatened litigation.
Meanwhile, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who introduced the Senate version of the authorization bill, will keep plugging away, his spokeswoman told me in an e-mail today. Communications director Julie Edwards said:
Farmers, fisherman, local officials and Native American tribes worked for years to come together on an agreement to provide stability and economic opportunity to the Klamath Basin. Senator Merkley was proud to stand with them to introduce legislation to implement their proposals. We understood when the legislation was introduced that the deadline for a secretarial determination – set several years ago – would need to be postponed to give Congress time to act.

Senator Merkley continues to work with his colleagues in the House and Senate to educate members as to the importance of his bill, understanding that, for many, this is the first they have heard of the effort to end water disputes. We will continue to work with the community and the Administration to move forward on this effort.
My abbreviated story on the Salazar statement is here. For a more in-depth look at what the delay in the secretarial determination could mean for the future of the Klamath River dam removal proposal, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Tribes: Move forward on Klamath project

From the Karuk Tribe:
After years of annual crisis for both fisheries and agricultural dependent communities in California and Oregon, a coalition of irrigators, Tribes, fishermen, conservation groups and a power company negotiated a pair of Agreements (Klamath Agreements) to balance water use, potentially remove dams, enhance water security for farmers, and restore fisheries. Before implementation and after extensive environmental reviews, the Agreements call on the Secretary of Interior to judge whether or not the Agreements are in the public March 31, 2012. However, the Agreements call on Congress to give its stamp of approval before the Secretary can issue a decision.

“Folks here in the basin decided that we couldn’t wait on Washington to solve our problems, so we got together and worked out our own solutions,” said Dave Bitts, a commercial fisherman from Humboldt County, CA . “Now congress is dragging its feet while both farmers and fishermen face the risk of bankruptcy.”

Groups say that the looming drought provides an even greater incentive to pass the necessary legislation so the Secretary can act. If the agreements were in place today farmers and fishermen would be in a better position to survive the upcoming drought.

Last fall, legislation that would approve the Agreements was introduced by Senator Jeff Merkely (OR) and Congressman Mike Thompson (CA). Groups say that the next step is a Congressional Hearing.

Even if legislation is passed there is no guarantee that the Secretary will rule in favor of the Agreement, however most analysts agree that the environmental reviews show that there are many economic and ecological benefits to the Agreements.

According to Curtis Knight of California Trout, “This doesn’t disrupt the timeline of dam removal in 2020. There is flexibility built in the timeline. What we need now is congressional action. The agencies are doing their job—extensive information has been developed to help inform the Secretary’s pending decision. It’s now time for congress to act.”

“We want to get the conversation started in Washington as soon as possible. The longer we wait the more folks will suffer economically and the closer Klamath Salmon get to extinction,” said Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe.

Klamath dam removal decision put on hold

From the U.S. Department of the Interior:
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today thanked the many parties to the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) for their continued support of the Agreements and their work with the Department as it completed numerous peer-reviewed scientific and technical studies and an environmental analysis during the past year to inform a pending Secretarial Determination on whether removal of four dams on the Klamath River is in the public interest and will advance the restoration of salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Klamath Basin.

Because Congress has not enacted legislation necessary to authorize a Secretarial Determination under the terms of the KHSA, there will not be a decision by March 31, 2012 on potential removal of the dams. In light of this, the Secretary’s Chief of Staff Laura Davis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor and Special Advisor to the Chief of Staff John Bezdek consulted with several of the parties to the Agreements on next steps.

“The Department of the Interior, working with our partners at NOAA and the U.S. Forest Service, has upheld our commitments in these agreements that are so important to strengthening the health and prosperity of those that depend on the Klamath River for their way of life,” said Secretary Salazar. “I am proud of the work of our team of experts who have completed more than 50 new studies and reports that are providing significant new information on the potential effects of Klamath River dam removal as part of a transparent, science-based process.”

Two years ago, Secretary Salazar, Under Secretary of Commerce Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Klamath Basin farmers, fishermen, conservation groups, American Indian tribes, the governors of Oregon and California, and the CEO of PacifiCorp – the owner of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River – announced the completion of the KBRA and the KHSA. The signing of these documents marked the beginning of a period of analysis of potential dam removal and the need to work with Congress to authorize a Secretarial Determination. At the time of the signing, Secretary Salazar hailed the importance of this comprehensive, locally-driven solution to one of the nation’s most bitter and longest running water disputes.

Under the terms of the KHSA, the Secretary agreed to use “best efforts” to make a decision by March 31, 2012; however, Congressional action is required to pass legislation authorizing the Secretary to make a Secretarial Determination, which will result in either the removal of the dams eight years from now, or require PacifiCorp to continue its application for a new hydropower license for the dams.

The KHSA stipulates that three key conditions must first be met before a Secretarial Determination can be made:

The Interior Department must conduct additional studies in order to provide a clear and accurate description of the costs, benefits, and liabilities associated with dam removal (expected to be released in final form this spring);
Oregon and California must identify a source for financing their share of the dam removal costs (Oregon has done so, and it is expected that California will confirm details of its share very soon); and
Congress must authorize a Secretarial Determination (legislation was introduced last November, but there has been no further action).

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) was published late last year describing the potential environmental effects of dam removal and the KBRA. The Draft EIS/EIR evaluated several different alternatives including two options for leaving the dams in place. Scores of meetings and briefings with the public, stakeholders, tribes and local governments have been held throughout the Klamath Basin and beyond to gather input and seek feedback from the communities that will be most affected by the Secretarial Determination. More than 3,200 comments on the Draft EIS/EIR were received during the public comment process.

In addition, the studies released in September 2011 were peer-reviewed by independent experts and have been summarized into a single draft “overview report” that is currently undergoing an additional peer review.

“The reports tell us that removal of the dams has the potential to support thousands of additional jobs in the Klamath Basin, including new fishing and recreational opportunities, while providing increased water delivery certainty to Basin farmers and wildlife refuges and would increase the harvest opportunity for salmon and steelhead in the river,” added Salazar. “We will continue our collaboration with states, tribes and local communities to finalize the scientific studies and environmental analysis, and we will continue to work with Congress on legislation that would authorize a decision to be made.”

Although a Secretarial Determination will not be made by March 31, the final studies and environmental analysis will be released this spring.
The Klamath Water Users Association responds:
Irrigators on the Klamath Project urged elected officials to move forward with a legislative hearing for the Klamath Basin Economic Restoration Act. The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) said that today's announcement from the Department of the Interior that they will take more time to complete the final Klamath Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) does not mean the process isn’t moving forward. Congress can act now on the Klamath legislation that’s been introduced in the House and Senate.

"Water levels are very low this year and another water shortage is pending,” said Greg Addington, KWUA Executive Director. “While the Interior Department completes the final EIS it’s the perfect time for a meaningful legislative hearing in Congress to solicit input from proponents and opponents alike on the Klamath legislation, which has many important benefits for agriculture – especially in drought years. We could be doing more to support one of the main economic engines for Klamath communities in Oregon and California.”

Addington emphasized that in Klamath County and the lands served by the Klamath Reclamation Project in Modoc and Siskiyou Counties, agriculture contributes more than $600 million annually to local economies. He said the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) is the best, and only, solution on the table with mechanisms that avoid the cyclical ups and downs and uncertain dependence on emergency crisis funding during water shortages.

“Agriculture is a business and we can’t operate effectively without clear and more predictable water deliveries. The Klamath legislation reduces risk that will help farmers better do their jobs, support their families and contribute to the community. We have an opportunity to prevent problems from getting worse and we believe our elected officials should be acting on this right away.”

Addington added that there was flexibility built into the Settlement Agreements that can accommodate an extension of the secretarial determination yet still keep the timeline for important activities on track.

Coast biologists arrested for bilking Yurok Tribe

The Eureka Times-Standard reports:
[Sean] McAllister and [Ron] LeValley were arrested Thursday on $1 million warrants accusing them of burglary, embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a crime. The Del Norte County District Attorney's Office is alleging that the two biologists participated in an embezzlement scheme headed by former Yurok Tribe Forestry Director Roland Raymond that bilked the tribe out of nearly $1 million over the course of more than one year.

Though a warrant was also issued for his arrest, Raymond remained at large as of Saturday afternoon. [...]

The Del Norte District Attorney's Office is alleging that, under the direction of Raymond, Mad River Biologists billed the tribe for almost $900,000 of northern spotted owl surveying work on tribal lands that was never performed. An affidavit in support of a search warrant filed by district attorney investigator A.C. Field indicates there is a long paper trail supporting the allegations, complete with checks from the tribe cashed by McAllister, receipts of large cash withdrawals, transfers to LeValley's personal account and checks sent from LeValley to Raymond.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Scientists take aim at bovine pneumonia



I used to have an editor who wouldn't let me use the phrase "take aim at" because -- horror of horrors -- it was a reference to guns. My current editors let me use it, so I like to use it every so often (but not too often). But I digress.

In the photos, University of California Cooperative Extension biotechnology specialist Allison Van Eenennaam holds a baseball cap that draws attention to the effort to combat bovine respiratory disease (uh-oh, combat, a war reference!); and (from left) Cottonwood veterinarian Bill Gray, Van Eenennaam and UC-Davis large animal veterinarian John Maas prepare for a talk on BRD, also referred to as pneumonia or shipping fever.

Van Eenennaam is part of a nationwide, mult-university study funded by the USDA to find the genetric traits for BRD resistance in cattle so they can be bred into herds. The multi-year project is about halfway finished.

Her presentation was one of numerous experts' talks on cattle health last night at the Shasta Livestock Auction Yard in Cottonwood, which I attended.

For my story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New district maps to go to voters

Breaking news from the Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert (HT: Erin Ryan):
A Republican-backed referendum to overthrow California's newly drawn Senate districts qualified Friday for the November statewide ballot. The secretary of state's office announced that 511,457 of the 711,307 referendum signatures submitted by the group were those of registered voters, more than the 504,760 needed to qualify.
More here.

The GOP 'will simply become the old party'

...unless it adopts libertarian principles. So asserts the author of this sobering video that aptly explains the point I made this morning about small-L libertarianism being the future of the conservative movement.

Much of the video deals with how both President Obama and Ron Paul have tapped into the Millennial generation by using social media and by articulating an understanding of the plight of young people today. My hunch is with regard to Paul, it's not so much the man but the idea of personal liberty that most appeals to today's up-and-coming generation, which, as the video points out, will be the largest voting bloc by the 2016 election.

Look, anyone who read my blogs when I was at the Record Searchlight knows what a culture warrior and support-the-troops guy I've been. But the fact is we have a new crop of voters who grew up in a different culture than we did, watched a bunch of their friends go away to war and not come back, and entered the job market during one of the most abysmal and prolonged economic downturns in our country's history. And these folks are not listening to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.

We have a choice in this country -- we can either continue down the path to total government control or we can come to terms with the newest and most modern expression of the constitutional principles on which this nation was built.

If Mitt Romney recognizes this, then it's no wonder he's being so nice to Paul. In fact, any candidate who ends up winning the GOP nomination would do well to make use of this movement that one could call the New Right, or they'll fail to do so at their peril.

California wines help industry break record

From the Wine Institute:
U.S. wine exports, 90% from California, reached a new record of $1.39 billion in winery revenues in 2011, an increase of 21.7% compared to 2010. Volume shipments were up 5.8% to 455.7 million liters or 50.6 million nine-liter cases.

“The quality, diversity and value of California wines have propelled us to another record year for wine exports,” said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, Wine Institute President and CEO. “Our success in removing trade barriers and opening new markets as well as significant marketing investments by our wineries will allow us to reach our goal of $2 billion in exports by 2020.”

“Our global Discover California Wines campaign with its link to California’s iconic and aspirational lifestyle resonates with consumers, media and trade throughout the world,” said Linsey Gallagher, Wine Institute’s International Marketing Director. “We have significantly increased our focus on and investment in the China market over the past year in this top priority market. Our goal is to connect the lifestyle that is associated with our state with the understanding of California as a world class wine producing region.”

“Wine Institute’s work with the U.S. government and key international organizations such as the World Wine Trade Group, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and FIVS continues to have a valuable impact in facilitating trade. Export growth in 2011, however, reinforces the need to continue eliminating unreasonable trade barriers, particularly in the Pacific Rim where wineries are burdened by protectionist tariffs and duplicative regulations costing Asia-Pacific economies close to $1 billion per year,” said Wine Institute’s International Trade Policy Director Tom LaFaille.

Thirty-four percent of U.S. wine exports by value were shipped to the 27-member countries of the European Union, accounting for $478 million of the revenues, up 10% from 2010. Volume shipments to the EU reached 28 million cases in 2011, edging up 1.4% from the previous year. Other top markets were: Canada, $379 million, up 23%; Hong Kong, $163 million, up 39%; Japan, $105 million, up 39%; and China, $62 million, up 42%.

“California wines continue to grow in popularity with both trade and consumers in the Canadian market,” according to Rick Slomka, Wine Institute Trade Director for Canada. “Some of the recent growth comes from new brands with eye-catching labels and clever names. Also contributing to this growth is the ongoing strength of the Canadian dollar which has made California wines more competitive compared to wines from other major wine regions. Our continued success with premium wines in the Quebec market and in LCBO VINTAGES, indicates that Canadian consumers see good value in California at all price points,” said Slomka.

“In a challenging economy, the UK wine market does not stand still, and new sectors and opportunities have arisen. California has been responsive to these, and has built on the bedrock of its major branded wines with successes in the independent retail sector and on-trade outlets. Growth in these areas introduces our wines to new audiences, and enables California to demonstrate its diversity at higher price points. This growth is by no means exhausted, and augurs well for the future here,” said John McLaren, Wine Institute Trade Director for the United Kingdom.

"California wines fared well in most European countries. In Sweden for instance, sales growth of California wines were the highest of all wine supplying countries in Sweden. The story was similar in Germany, where California again experienced the highest growth rate of all wine exporting countries. However, a significant portion of California wine imported into Germany is re-exported and actually sold in other European markets. Additionally, as a word of caution, the 10% change in the Euro/Dollar exchange rate of the past few months may have an effect on exports to Europe in early 2012,” said Paul Molleman, Wine Institute’s Trade Director for Continental Europe.

“The outlook in the world’s emerging wine markets remains positive as most markets continued to post strong gains in 2011. Hong Kong remained California’s third largest export market by value, although growth slowed to 39% from 150% in 2010 compared to 2009. China’s growth remained buoyant at 42% compared to 2010 and is now the fifth largest export market by value, up two places from last year. Vietnam posted the strongest year-over-year gains (+266%) among the top 25 markets. Elsewhere, there is significant optimism in South Korea due to the recent ratification of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and in Mexico where the 20% import tax on California wines was repealed in late October 2011," commented Eric Pope, Wine Institute’s Regional Director, Emerging Markets.

“U.S. bulk wine exports to Japan have been growing as major Japanese importers are now importing popular-priced California wine brands in bulk and bottling in Japan. This reduces the burdensome import duty to a certain extent and makes inventory control easier. As per bottled U.S. wine, Japan is now importing more expensive California wines than in the past. Unlike other new world wine exporting countries, California wine is well represented at high-end restaurants because of our successful annual restaurant promotion,” reported Wine Institute Trade Director in Japan, Ken-ichi Hori.

Since 1985, Wine Institute has served as the administrator of the Market Access Program, an export promotion program managed by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, see: www.wineinstitute.org.

Explaining Ron Paul's disdain for Santorum

The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin aptly does so in her column today. The upshot:
What the press is missing, however, is the degree to which Gingrich, Santorum and their staffs have acted in ways that the Paul camp would justifiably perceive as dismissive and rude. When I asked Brabender for reaction to the accusation that he was practicing the art of distraction, he e-mailed, “It sounds like something the Romney campaign told the Paul campaign to say.” It is precisely this sort of denigration — that Paul and his staff are unable to think on their own or advance their own interests — that has fueled Paul’s desire to skewer Santorum. The source close to the Paul camp responded, “Once again demonstrates the total lack of respect for Ron Paul, his supporters, and his campaign team held by Santorum and his top advisor. When you build coalitions and treat your fellow Republicans the Santorum-Brabender way you end up losing in the general by double digits in the swing states like Pennsylvania.” You get the picture now?

It has been going on for some time now. Santorum publicly called Paul “disgusting.” Gingrich has been telling others to get out of the race for months. In the debate, an eye-rolling Santorum couldn’t contain his disdain for Paul, who returned the favor with blow after blow to Santorum’s self-image of a “courageous” conservative warrior (wasn’t that self-definition by Santorum an unintentional moment of Newt-like ego?) .
The future of the conservative movement lies in small-L libertarianism, not in the old neocon cold warriors who tend to dominate talk radio and the rightward blogosphere and are manifested in Santorum and Gingrich. While the bulk of Paul's views may still be outside of the mainstream (I think a lot of people would be eager to join a Ron Paul-like movement if it weren't for Ron Paul), go to any tea party meeting and they're not talking about contraception; they're talking about constitutional principles and liberty.

I believe some in the Republican Party understand this. Others who don't are destined to go the way of the Whigs -- or the party itself will.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rangeland Trust gets new chairman

From the California Rangeland Trust:
Scott Stone, a partner in Yolo Land & Cattle Co. in Woodland, Calif. took the reins from Steve McDonald as the new chairman for the California Rangeland Trust Board of Directors at the organization’s recent annual meeting.

A member of the Rangeland Trust board of directors since 2002, Stone said, “I decided to increase my involvement in the Trust because of the ongoing need in the State to work with ranchers to preserve working rangelands and to educate the public about the benefits of livestock grazing to the health of the state’s ecology and economy.”

In 2005, Yolo Land and Cattle Co., which has been owned and operated by the Stone family for over 36 years, completed a conservation easement with the California Rangeland Trust. The family raises Angus cattle, sells 100% all natural grass fed Angus beef and their own line of beef jerky­, all while preserving the natural beauty and diversity of the rangeland through their management practices.

“Scott brings a lot of experience and creditability to the table. He has years of involvement at Rangeland Trust, and 25 years of experience as a ranch broker,” said California Rangeland Trust Director and past Chairman Devere Dressler. “I look forward to working with a leader like Scott. He has a positive can-do attitude, and a genuine passion for rangeland conservation and the beef industry in California.”

A Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo alumnus, Stone earned a bachelor degree in Agriculture Business Management and is also a graduate of Class 28 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. Stone is also in a western swing and bluegrass band, the “Plainfield Pickers” that play throughout the state and occasionally at California Rangeland Trust events.

Stone is not the only Cal Poly, SLO alumnus at CRT, nor the only California Agriculture Leadership Program graduate with the Rangeland Trust. Chief Executive Officer Nita Vail is a fellow Cal Poly, SLO Alumni and a California Agriculture Leadership Program Class 21 graduate. Chief Operating Officer Michael Delbar is a graduate of Class 24 of the California Agriculture Leadership Program.

'Strange new version of right-wing populism'

Firebrand columnist Ann Coulter calls out Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others in the conservative chattering class for complaining about Mitt Romney (whom she supports). Whatever you think of the candidates, she nails it on the head with this:
But instead of popping Champagne corks over our final triumph over Rockefeller Republicanism, some conservatives are still fighting old wars, rather like an old cold warrior prattling about the Soviet Union after the rest of us have moved onto the war on terrorism.

This strange new version of right-wing populism comes down to reveling in the feeling that you are being dissed, hoodwinked or manipulated by the Establishment (most of which happens to oppose Romney) the same way liberals want to believe that "the rich," the "right-wing media" and Wall Street Republicans (there are three) are victimizing them.

It's as if scoring points in intra-Republican squabbles is more important than beating Obama. Instead of talking about the candidates' positions -- which would be confusing inasmuch as Romney is the most conservative of the four remaining candidates -- the only issue seems to be whether "They" are showing respect for "Us."

Striking a pose as the only true fighter for real Americans may be fun, but this is no way to win elections. This is Sharron Angle on a national level.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Biotech a topic at cattle health workshop

The annual University of California Cooperative Extension-sponsored workshop on cattle health will be held Friday in Maxwell and Cottonwood. The series of talks at the Maxwell Inn begins at 10 a.m., and the same lineup of presentations will be given at the Shasta Livestock Auction Yard beginning at 5 p.m.

Here is the agenda for the Cottonwood event, sponsored in part by the Tehama County Cattlemen's Association, Hawes Farm and Ranch Supply, Shasta Farm and Equipment, and Pfizer Animal Health.
5:00 pm Introduction and Welcome

5:10 pm Integrated Program for Reducing Bovine
Respiratory Disease in Beef
Allison Van Eenennaam,
UCCE Biotechnology Specialist

5:45 pm Biotechnology Use in Feedlots
Dr. Ben Holland – Assistant Professor/
Feedlot Specialist North Dakota State
University

6:30 pm Treating and Managing Pneumonia
John Maas, DVM, UC Davis School of
Veterinary Medicine
Bill Gray, DVM, Cottonwood Veterinary
Clinic [...]

7:45 pm Artificial Insemination for Beef Cattle-
Costs and Benefits
Dan Drake, Siskiyou Co. Cooperative
Extension

8:15 pm Mineral Supplementation Check-up
Larry Forero, Josh Davy, and
Dr. John Maas UCCE
A dinner is being served, although RSVP's were requested by last week. For information, call the Tehama County Cooperative Extension office at 527-3101.

Californian wins collegiate discussion meet

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Following a discussion about the need for social media strategies that accurately portray the experience of farmers and ranchers, a student from California State University, Fresno, won the American Farm Bureau Federation Collegiate Discussion Meet in Grand Rapids, Mich. Tino Rossi, a Fresno State freshman from Bakersfield, won the national contest Sunday during the AFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference.

The Discussion Meet is a contest designed to elicit constructive criticism, cooperation and communication while discussing agricultural issues. During the final round, Rossi was asked what strategies could be implemented to expand interaction between farmers and consumers.

In response, he described successful social media programs that create interest and draw consumers into real-life agricultural activities. When looking ahead to the future of interaction on social media platforms, Rossi said he sees blogs and quick-response codes as opportunities to help create social media buzz for farmers and ranchers.

Rossi qualified for the national competition by winning the California Collegiate Discussion Meet, held last December at the California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Sparks, Nev. In the national competition, Rossi progressed through multiple discussions, eventually competing in the Final Four round against students from Colorado, Florida and Missouri.

As winner of the Collegiate Discussion Meet, Rossi earned $2,500 from the CHS Foundation. After he completes his undergraduate degree in agricultural business at Fresno State, Rossi said he plans to pursue a master's degree in agriculture leadership development.

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 6.3 million Farm Bureau members.
Also, former California Department of Food and Agriculture official Rayne Pegg has been named manager of the CFBF's National Affairs and Research Division.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Haymakers ready for Roundup Ready




In the photos, from the top, UC-Davis alfalfa and forage specialist Dan Putnam talks about whether conventional and Roundup Ready alfalfa can coexist (they can, with certain caveats); Hay market expert Seth Hoyt (left) talks to a hay farmer; and a truck hauls a load of hay on Interstate 5.

Today I went to a crops seminar in Yreka sponsored by the UC Cooperative Extension. Much of the discussion centered on alfalfa, which is a key crop in Siskiyou County.

The use of genetically enhanced alfalfa figures to take off again now that a federal judge has rejected allegations by biotech critics that USDA violated environmental laws by fully deregulating transgenic alfalfa. Putnam described conditions under which that growers can use it and keep it from contaminating nearby conventional and organic fields.

Hoyt predicted hay prices will hold steady in 2012, buoyed by strong exports, although the dairy industry's overproduction of milk at the moment could put downward pressure on demand.

For my two stories from the seminar, check CapitalPress.com soon.

How do you know what a pig's thinking?

Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst, a former hog farmer who now grows corn, soybeans and flowers, takes issue with Chipotle Mexican Grill's factory-farm ad. He writes in the New York Times:
According to Chipotle’s Web site, the company uses only “happier” pigs. It doesn’t say how it measures a pig’s happiness, and I can’t help but picture porcine focus groups, response meters designed for the cloven of hoof. We can all agree that production methods should not cause needless suffering, but for all we know, pigs are “happier” in warm, dry buildings than they are outside. And either way, the end result is a plate.

The ad is a cartoon and easy to caricature. But its ideas have real effects on America’s farmers. The day after it ran, McDonald’s announced that it would require its pork suppliers to end the use of gestation crates. These crates do restrict pigs’ movements, but farmers use them to control the amount of feed pregnant sows consume. When hogs are grouped in pens together, aggressive sows eat too much and submissive sows too little, and they also get in violent fights at feeding time. The only other ways to prevent these problems are complicated, expensive or dangerous to the pigs.

Since we can’t ask the pigs what they think, we know only one thing for sure about the effects of scrapping our most efficient farming systems: the cost of bacon will rise. Wealthy consumers will reward farmers who are able to pull off the Chipotle ad’s brand of combination farm/tourist attraction and are willing to trade efficient animal husbandry for political correctness. Many big multistate operations will also be able to afford to make the changes, or will at least have the political sway to resist them. But the small farmers now raising hogs will be pushed out of the industry.

Adults in the room

When it comes to GOP presidential politics, there aren't many, to be sure. But one of them is Hugh Hewitt, who scoffs at any notion of a brokered convention. He writes:
A “brokered convention” in the Tea party era which is all about participation in politics and an outcry against elites?

A new candidate able to raise a third of a billion dollars much less three times that much that is really necessary to beating the president in the fall? Donors would flee such chaos, and rightly so.

The nominee will be one of the three who has won a primary or a caucus to date, and it is overwhelmingly likely to be Romney.
Hewitt blames the latest brokered-convention buzz on "the Manhattan-Beltway media culture’s obsession with being relevant to a process to which most of them are at best remotely connected." He is right -- partly. The notion has been given legs among Republicans by right-wing media elites, including some writers at the National Review, HotAir and elsewhere. These are many of the same folks who supposedly want a true-blue conservative as their standard bearer but keep latching onto people who really aren't all that conservative (but have big mouths). But I digress.

Of people on the right who keep floating the idea of a brokered convention, Tina Korbe at HotAir (another adult in the room) asks:
Do these dissatisfied Republicans want Obama to win? A late entrant would be sure to lose, as all his past missteps would be illuminated at just the right time to benefit Obama. If that is what these discontent GOPers desire, there’s an easier way. They can stay home in November, let Obama win and come back in four years to nominate a hero then. The rest of us will recognize that the GOP frontrunners are solid alternatives to Obama, vote enthusiastically for whoever secures the nomination and support him and the hopefully Republican Congress as they tackle the real work of taming the debt and rebooting the economy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dam removal opponents to protest Salazar

Opponents of the proposed removal of four dams from the Klamath River plan to hold what they're calling a "peaceful protest" during a visit to Medford tomorrow by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The protest is slated for 9:30 a.m. at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management office on Biddle Road.

Salazar is in town to promote a local forest restoration pilot project, the Medford Mail-Tribune has reported.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Logging education in latest podcast


In the photo, Walt Page of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo takes part in a chopping contest at last weekend's Sierra Cascade Logging Conference in Anderson.

My story on the efforts that conference organizers take to educate the public about the forest products industry is a subject in this week's podcast on the Capital Press' flagship blog, Blogriculture. To listen, click here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hay a topic of Siskiyou crop seminar

Hay price trends and Roundup Ready alfalfa will be topics of discussion during a crop seminar Tuesday, Feb. 21 at the Holiday Inn Express, 707 Montague Rd., Yreka.

The agenda from UC-Davis' Ag and Natural Resources department:
1:00 pm
Making the Best Fertilizer Decision
Steve Orloff, Farm Advisor, Siskiyou County

1:30
Getting the Most Value from Your Soil, Plant Tissue or Hay Quality Test
Dirk Holstege, Director UC Davis Analytical Laboratory

2:00
Hay Price Outlook for 2012
Seth Hoyt, Editor, The Hoyt Report

2:30
Understanding Hay Quality & Can Conventional and RR Alfalfa Coexist?
Dan Putnam, Alfalfa and Forage Specialist, UC Davis

3:00
Break with some great deserts

3:20
Should You Grow Roundup Ready Alfalfa?
Steve Orloff, Farm Advisor, Siskiyou County

3:50
How an Alfalfa Variety is Made and Exciting New Developments on the Horizon
Peter Reisen, Director of Plant Breeding, Forage Genetics, Int.

4:20
Tailwater Revealed: Uncovering how agricultural run-off impacts water quality in the Shasta River and what to do about it.
Lisa Unkefer, AquaTerra Consulting and Tim Beck, Shasta Valley Rancher

After great prices in 2011, what’s in store for the hay market this year? The most knowledgeable person on the hay market in the West, Seth Hoyt, will present his forecast and discuss the factors that influence hay price. Fertilizer and commodity prices (hay and grain) have been more volatile than ever. That makes selecting the most cost-efficient fertilizer program even more difficult than usual. Fertilizer recommendations for alfalfa, pasture and grain will be discussed. Wise fertilizer decisions are based on accurate laboratory analyses. Have you been frustrated with confusing or conflicting laboratory results? Dirk Holstege from The UCD Analytical Lab will suggest ways to get more consistent and reliable results for your lab samples. There is always considerable confusion regarding hay-quality test and what they mean. Forage specialist Dan Putnam will discuss forage quality analyses and make some suggestions on where we should go from here. Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa is back. Is RR alfalfa right for you? Factors you should take into consideration when making this decision as well as how can RR and conventional alfalfa fields coexist will be discussed. You have been growing alfalfa for decades. Ever wondered how breeders develop new varieties? There are some very exciting new alfalfa traits that are right around the corner that will dramatically improve the plant. These will be discussed by one of the most prominent alfalfa breeders in the country, Peter Reisen. Agricultural tailwater is under close scrutiny by regulatory agencies. Lisa Unkefer from AquaTerra and local rancher Tim Beck will discuss the effects of tailwater and management practices that can be employed to mitigate any negative effects. No need to pre-register . . . Just show up! Hope to see you there. Contact Steve Orloff at (530) 842-2711 with questions or for more information.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chipotle explains factory farm ad

This week I have a Page One story on reaction within agriculture to Chipotle Mexican Grill's Grammy Awards debut of its two-minute "Back to the Start" ad, which has gone viral on the Internet. The ad depicts a family farm that slowly evolves into a factory.

Here is the conversation I had with Chris Arnold, Chipotle's spokesman, in a series of back-and-forth e-mails:
What has been the public's reaction so far?
Overwhelmingly positive. We have people writing or calling us saying they loved it, some saying we stole the show.

Have you heard any feedback from people within agriculture, either from organic/natural growers who liked the message or conventional farmers/groups that complained?
Sure. The natural/organic farms love it and are supportive of the message. The others don't necessarily agree. And that's ok.

An NCBA official told me he was disappointed because the ad seemed like a hit "from inside the family", so to speak, because Chipotle does use a small amount of conventionally grown meat as well as natural/organic. What say you to this?
All of our meat is naturally raised now, but that's beside the point. The film depicts the ideal we have been working towards for more than a decade. We have never professed to being perfect but have been working to find more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use. This film, in fact, tracks the arc of suppliers we work with.

An organic beef producer I talked to today said she believes there's room for all types of production and that conventional producers don't deserve to be painted "with a negative brush". How would you respond?
There is more than one way to produce food. We choose to work with like-minded suppliers who share our vision and values. But we certainly recognize that others choose different paths, as is their right. Just as it is our right to make choices we make.

Do you have a third-party auditor who checks the quality/authenticity of the meat that you use? Who are they, and what are the results of the audits?
We do internal audits and third party audits to be sure suppliers are adhering to our protocols.

The American Society of Animal Science says this about the ad:
Some may think the Chipotle advertisement represents organic farming. In
reality, Chipotle uses few USDA-certified organic products. Instead,
Chipotle purchases pork from producers who follow Chipotle’s own
“naturally raised” guidelines. Even in these systems, producers do give
their animals medications, though not antibiotics, and pigs do not roam
free. Chipotle did not reply to requests for comments, but according to
Chipotle.com, “naturally raised” is “the way animals were raised 50
years ago before huge factory farms changed the industry.”
How do you respond?

Contrary to the ASAS assertion, pigs that provide pork for Chipotle are raised on pasture or in deeply bedded barns, and without the use of antibiotics or other growth promoting drugs. (If a pig is sick and needs to be treated with antibiotics, it certainly is, but it is then removed from our program).

The farm in the film is not necessarily organic, but is a small family farm that grows and becomes more industrial in nature, before returning to its roots. It is a story that tracks with farms that actually supply our restaurants.

With regard to our use of organic ingredients, we use organically grown beans and herbs in our restaurants (information that is available on our website), but we do not claim to use anything that's organic beyond that. None of our meat is organic and it never has been.

The link below [here] is to a little documentary vignette we shot at Paul Willis' farm in Iowa. Paul runs the Niman Ranch hog operation, and has been a supplier of ours for more than a decade. It's a great illustration of the kinds of farmers we work with and is pretty clear in its depiction of how pigs are raised under our program.
Reaction among bloggers to the ad has been swift. Chris Goode says, "I'll take one burrito, hold the lies." Crystal Cattle says, "Chipotle, your Grammy commercial still doesn't change my mind." The National Cattlemen's Beef Association's Beltway Beef says, "Food with integrity requires marketing with integrity."

My take: First of all, it was a catchy ad, but I don't know the degree to which ads like that change people's minds about whether to eat natural vs. conventional meat (although many of my sources in the livestock industry would say they're devastating). The foodie movement has been around for a few years now and beef and pork demand is holding its own, to say the least. Secondly, I've always liked Willie Nelson's music and my dad is a lifelong fan. But to the extent he ever had a voice to begin with (which is debatable), it's seriously shot.

Olives contribute to state's economy

From the California Olive Committee:
California’s ripe olive growers have a significant impact on the state’s economy, yielding nearly $493.6 million in annual economic activity – or nearly $1.4 million dollars each day of the year – as a result of grower spending, according to a newly released report commissioned by the California Olive Committee (COC) and conducted by Dennis H. Tootelian, Ph.D., Tootelian & Associates.

“California is the source for America’s best ripe olives,” said COC’s Executive Director Alexander Ott. “The research clearly demonstrates the important role California ripe olive growers play in strengthening the economic climate of our state simply by doing what they love; growing the best olives for consumers.”

The research found that about 3,555 jobs are created by growers as a result of their business activities and spending in a variety of farming and non-farming sectors.

Additionally, more than $135 million in labor income is generated as a result of their activities. These are dollars going to wages and salaries for new employment as well as for the expanded incomes of those already in the labor force – a portion of which is reinvested throughout California’s economy to pay for an array of goods and services.

The report states that nearly $14.7 million in tax revenue and other business licenses and fees are generated from the economic activity created by ripe olive growers, amounting to more than $40,000 each day of the year. Depending on how these funds are used, they can help pay for state and local programs that further benefit the communities where ripe olive growers live and work. For example, the business tax dollars ripe olive growers create could be used to help pay for nearly half of the California Wildlife Conservation Board’s 2010-2011 fiscal budget.

The annual impact is based on an average year that was created by using historical and industrial operating statistics from the 2008 through 2010 production years. Olive trees are by nature an alternate-bearing fruit, meaning they produce a big crop one year and a smaller one the next. Therefore, an average year was created to account for variations in ripe olive crop revenues and expenditures due to fluctuations in production, climatic, pest, and other conditions.

“Even though we took a very conservative approach to measuring the olive grower data, the findings demonstrate how important a role California ripe olive growers play in strengthening the economic climate of California – touching nearly every aspect of life in the state,” said Tootelian, who is also Director of the Center for Small Business at California State University, Sacramento.

Inputs for the study included grower surveys and interviews and industry statistics. That data came from sources such as the Census of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Agriculture; California Department of Food and Agriculture’s California Agricultural Production Statistics 2010-2011; and, University of California Cooperative Extension’s Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Table Olives.

All of the data was then analyzed through the IMPLAN model. The IMPLAN model examines economic relationships among businesses and between those businesses and consumers. Ultimately this impact analysis measures changes in economic variables on an entire economy.

The full economic impact report and related fact sheet can be found at www.calolive.org.

Editor’s Note: It is important to recognize that this study understates the economic impact of the California ripe olive industry. Because there are only two processors of ripe olives in the state, financial statistics for these non-public companies were not obtained. Accordingly, this study focuses only on ripe olive growers and does not consider the economic impact of processors.

California olives have seen some light crops of late, caused by unfavorable weather conditions at inopportune times. Olive Committee director Alex Ott told me the study had two purposes: to educate the public about the industry and to reassure growers that they still make a difference.

For my story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Newt Gingrich, birther?

From WND, one of the last holdouts on the whole birth-certificate issue:
Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich encouraged California attorney Orly Taitz to continue her campaign to question Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility to hold office in a Southern California campaign appearance.

Taitz, who has filed several lawsuits aimed at securing Obama’s certified birth certificate and introducing evidence of his ineligibility for office, rose to her feet to address Gingrich in Pasadena. She suggested his lagging campaign could only be lifted by raising the issue publicly.

“It could help your campaign like it did Donald Trump,” Taitz said.

Gingrich responded by saying Taitz was better equipped for the role.

“That’s a project you should pursue,” he said.
WND makes it sound like Newt commissioned this guy to go after the birther issue, but it looks to me like he was simply punting.

Flood insurance for farmers proposed

From Rep. John Garamendi:
Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove, CA), a former Insurance Commissioner and a life-long rancher, has introduced the bipartisan Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of 2012, H.R. 4020.

The bill addresses a serious problem for farmers who produce crops and raise livestock in floodplains. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues its studies of the levee systems that protect agricultural land, many of the levees have been downgraded. Until the levees are improved, farmers in many places are unable to build new or upgrade existing agricultural structures necessary to conduct or increase production and business. (For more on this problem, read “Remapped flood zones mean new restrictions,” an article in the November 2011 edition of Ag Alert, a weekly newspaper for California agriculture.)

The Flood Insurance for Farmers Act would help remedy this situation by allowing farmers to continue to farm, build necessary agricultural structures and provide a solid economic base for their region. The bill would also allow farmers to obtain subsidized flood insurance on existing and new agricultural structures in these zones. Furthermore, the legislation would establish a task force to conduct a study on legacy community flood insurance issues nationwide.

“Many farmers in my Delta community have personally asked me to help fix this problem,” said Congressman John Garamendi. “I am proud to take their voice to Washington, so American farmers have the freedom to grow their businesses and grow the products this country needs.”

“I genuinely appreciate the work Rep. Garamendi has put into the Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of 2012,” said Charley Mathews Jr., a Rice Farmer in Marysville, CA. “In particular, this legislation addresses many concerns expressed by the California rice industry. As a rice farmer, I am particularly concerned about existing farm structures such as those used for grain storage which have become incredibly expensive to insure. I applaud the work of Representative Garamendi and look forward to collaboratively working to advance this legislation.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romney and the Raging Right

Michael Medved makes some salient points about the state of the GOP vis-a-vis the presidential campaign. Examining why the former Massachusetts governor is having such a hard time in this cycle gaining acceptance from his party's base, Medved writes:
It wasn’t that he suddenly committed the unpardonable sin of Romneycare: that controversial program was actually enacted in 2006 before Mitt left the governorship and ran for president, so it was a far more recent (and relevant) memory in the 2008 campaign.

On no significant issue has Romney moved to the left or to the center over the last four years; his platform of 2012 offers a program of conservative reform far bolder and more substantive than any ideas he put forward in 2008.

Mitt’s precise problem came into focus for me with an email from an angry listener to my radio show who upbraided me for my open support of Romney as the most electable candidate against Obama. “We remember what you did to us last time, and we won’t let you get away with it again!” she wrote. “This time you’re trying to ram the RINO, Romney, down our throats and last time it was McCain. It was because of people like you that we got stuck with McCain, when we could have had a real conservative who would have beaten Obama!”

And who would have been that “real conservative” back in the distant days of 2008?

None other than … Mitt Romney, the “conservative’s conservative” eagerly endorsed by Sen. Jim DeMint and nearly all of my talk-radio colleagues, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, and many more.

That Romney no longer counts as a “real conservative” doesn’t reflect any ideological shifts on his part, but it does suggest a significant movement of the entire GOP toward the enraged and indignant right. The far lower turnouts in Florida, Nevada, Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri all indicate that this tectonic movement hardly counts as a positive development for the Republican Party. Healthy political organizations attract more participants than ever before; troubled, self-destructive movements drive out people who’ve taken part in the past.
On that last point, he's absolutely on the money. I may have more to say on the state of the conservative movement in the weeks ahead, but the upshot is this: The movement of Goldwater and Reagan has in the past 15 years become the movement of Limbaugh and Gingrich, and the results haven't been pretty.

As for the campaign, for all the talk we heard about Romney learning from his mistakes in 2008 and improving as a campaigner, I thought he ran a better campaign in 2008 than he has with his pandering, play-it-safe, coast-to-the-nomination strategy in this cycle. I agree with those who say he should get bolder and start coming up with ideas for governing rather than just sticking with his stale stump speech and running attack ads against his opponents. This isn't the year to be conventional, and Romney has been very conventional.

But that said, if the GOP somehow succeeds in nominating Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, I believe it could very well set the party and the movement back a generation at least. When the Right pushed Goldwater to the nomination in 1964, he won only six states and we got the Great Society as a result. If the Right nominates Santorum or Gingrich this time, the result will be government-run health care.

(I repeat, I'm a registered independent, so I make these observations from outside the GOP.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Glenn Beck tackles Agenda 21

If you subscribe to Glenn Beck's TV network, his news program is doing something today about an issue that has come up in debates over water and planned growth in the north state.
Real News from The Blaze: Do you know the truth behind the United Nations program known as Agenda 21? The panel discusses the controversial, 20-year-old program and other stories missed by the mainstream media live at 7pm ET (or on demand) only on GBTV.

Water board to discuss irrigated lands

From the California Cattlemen's Association:
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has scheduled the first meetings of the subgroups within the Stakeholder Advisory Group to develop a water quality compliance program for discharges for Irrigated Lands in the North Coast Region. A list of the first round of sub-regional meetings is listed below. CCA encourages members in these areas to attend these meetings. [...]

Del Norte, Humboldt, & Trinity
Date: Feb. 17
Time: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Location: Wharfinger Building
1 Marina Way
Eureka, CA 95501

Scott, Shasta, & Upper Mid-Klamath
Date: Feb. 28
Time: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Location: Holiday Inn Express
707 Montague Rd
Yreka, CA 96097

Tulelake and Butte Valley
Date: Feb. 29
Time: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Location: Tulelake Fairgrounds, Arts and Crafts Bldg.
800 S Main St
Tulelake, CA 96134

Friday, February 10, 2012

Uncertainties cloud carbon offset program

Forestry's recognition as a carbon-friendly industry could provide lucrative opportunities for timberland owners in the emerging world of carbon credits.

However, uncertainties in California's upcoming cap-and-trade regulations could make it costly and risky for companies to sign up with forest projects, industry insiders told a gathering today.

Critical details of the program set up by Assembly Bill 32, the state's global warming law, have yet to be worked out, they say. The state may skim as much as 10 percent off the top of carbon-offset fees paid by emitters, with some money perhaps going toward a controversial high-speed rail project.

And enrolling a swath of forest land in the program to offset emissions elsewhere could cause the land to be tied up for as many as 150 years – a major disincentive for small landowners, said Ed Murphy of timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries.

“It's not for the faint of heart,” Murphy said during a workshop at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference. “It's not exactly an opportunity yet.”

For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

How you vote with your dollars

From Erin Ryan of the Redding Tea Party:
Election Cycle political donations, as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Shopping

Price Club/Costco donated $225K, 99% went to Democrats

Rite Aid donated $517K, 60% went to Democrats

Magla Products (Stanley tools, Mr. Clean) donated $22K, 100% went to Democrats

Warnaco (undergarments) donated $55K, 73% went to Democrats

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia donated $153K, 99% went to Democrats

Estee Lauder donated $448K, 95% went to Democrats

Guess, Inc. donated $145K, 98% went to Democrats

Calvin Klein donated $78K, 100% went to Democrats

Liz Claiborne, Inc. donated $34K, 97% went to Democrats

Levi Straus donated $26K, 97% went to Democrats

Olan Mills donated $175K, 99% went to Democrats

WalMart donated $467K, 97% went to Republicans

K-Mart donated $524K, 86% went to Republicans

Home Depot donated $298K, 89% went to Republicans

Target donated $226K, 70% went to Republicans

Circuit City Stores donated $261K, 95% went to Republicans

3M Co. donated $281K, 87% went to Republicans

Hallmark Cards donated $319K, 92% went to Republicans

Amway donated $391K, 100% Republicans

Kohler Co. (plumbing fixtures) donated $283K, 100% Republicans

B.F. Goodrich (tires) donated $215K, 97% went to Republicans

Proctor & Gamble donated $243K, 79% went to Republicans

Spirits

Southern Wine & Spirits donated $213K, 73% went to Democrats

Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons (incl. beverage business + considerable media interests) donated $2M+, 67% went to Democrats

Gallo Winery donated $337K, 95% went to Democrats

Coors & Budweiser donated $174K, 92% went to Republicans

Brown-Forman Corp. (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Korbel wines - as well as Lenox China, Dansk, Gorham Silver) donated $644 K -- 80% went to Republicans

Hungry?

Sonic Corporation donated $83K, 98% went to Democrats

Triarc Companies (Arby's, T.J. Cinnamon's, Pasta Connections) donated $112K, 96% went to Democrats

Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (chicken) donated $366K, 100% went to Republicans

Outback Steakhouse donated $641K, 95% went to Republicans

Tricon Global Restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell) donated $133K, 87% went to Republicans

Brinker International (Maggiano's, Brinker Cafe, Chili's, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, Crazymel's, Corner Baker, EatZis) donated $242K, 83% went to Republicans

Waffle House donated $279K, 100% went to Republicans

McDonald's Corp. donated $197K, 86% went to Republicans

Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze) donated $121K, 89% went to Republicans

Heinz Republicans $64,000 Democrats $21,300!!!!! John Kerry's wife's company!!!

Traveling and/or dining

Hyatt Corporation donated $187K of which 80% went to Democrats

Marriott International $323K, 81% went to Republicans

Holiday Inns donated $38K, 71% went to Republicans

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rancher meets ag's critics in the middle

On Jeff Fowle's Facebook page, a list of his favorite songs includes Diamond Rio's “Meet In the Middle.” That's fitting.

Fowle, 41, lives in the eye of a political storm – in more ways than one. An Etna, Calif., rancher and hay producer, he is on the front lines in the battle against misconceptions about animal agriculture, while also being in the thick of Siskiyou County's water conflicts.

A few years ago, the fourth-generation rancher was among the pioneers who started a veritable social media revolution within the farming community. Staying positive is the focus of Fowle's latest endeavor – a movement called Just Farmers, which encourages people to get back to the old virtue of speaking respectfully to those with differing views. It's a virtue he believes has been missing in Siskiyou, where landowners have been up in arms over state regulation of their water use.

“It's a challenge for me when I see local people I have great respect for struggle with the simple idea of having a conversation,” he told me in an interview today after giving the keynote addresss at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference. “There's a lot of passion in agriculture. If the passion could be tempered and we could stop talking at people … I know good things can come.”

You can read my entire story at CapitalPress.com here.

Fowle's speech -- and my interview of him afterward -- were among many things that happened today at the logging conference. About 800 elementary school students -- mostly fourth-graders -- toured the grounds this morning as we were inside having breakfast. I was able to slip out and snap this photo of Shasta College heavy equipment instructor John Livingston explaining to a group of students how an excavator works. Also, I sat in on an interesting panel discussion on the havoc that marijuana plantings are having in the woods.

I'll have stories on these issues up online in the coming days.

Farm leader seeks immigration solutions

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Focusing on the lack of a workable, effective program to allow immigrant workers to earn legal authorization to work on U.S. farms and ranches, the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation told Congress today that without such a program, passage of a proposed employment-verification rule would severely disrupt harvests of locally produced food.

California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger testified in Washington, D.C., at a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. Congress has been considering a proposal to require all employers to check employees’ work status with a database known as the E-Verify system. Farmers rely on an immigrant work force and say many of their employees might not qualify to work under E-Verify, even though the employees have worked in this country and become part of their communities.

“E-Verify without a workable, economical way to ensure a legal agricultural work force will be a disaster for American agriculture,” Wenger told the committee, adding that experience has shown that “there is no realistic prospect of a domestic work force for agriculture, even with current high unemployment rates.”

As the U.S. labor force has grown older, more urban and focused on year-round jobs with predictable work hours, Wenger said, “our native-born seek other jobs outside the agriculture sector.” That means that farms and ranches rely on hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers—and experts estimate many do not have legal authorization to work in the U.S.

“The daunting reality is that a true solution must be capable of converting or replacing these workers with legally authorized workers,” Wenger said, noting that the existing immigration program for agriculture, known as H-2A, has proven inadequate. Less than 5 percent of the current agricultural work force is employed through H-2A.

“We support improving the H-2A program, but that cannot be the only solution,” Wenger said. “The closer a new program comes to replicating the way the farm labor force needs to move among employers and crops based on seasons and the weather, the more likely it will be able to meet the needs of farmers and farm employees.”

While a workable agricultural immigration program must succeed for farmers who grow perishable crops, he said, it must also benefit dairy farms, livestock ranches, nurseries and other employers with year-round needs, and must accommodate the large, experienced work force already employed on farms and ranches.

“Any solution must be practical and allow current workers to step out of the shadows to do the work that is so important to feeding our nation and the world,” Wenger said, especially long-tenured and highly skilled employees and those with close family members who are U.S. citizens. A workable agricultural immigration program, he said, must recognize that “many of our work force want and need the ability to come to the U.S., work on our farms and ranches, and return to their home country.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.

Orchard blooms to begin soon

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
February typically marks the beginning of the annual blossom showcase in California orchards. A University of California farm advisor says he has not seen many almond blooms yet in Northern California, but notes that buds are forming on schedule. Crop reports show that farmers are irrigating, pruning and planting orchards, just as some blooms begin to appear on fruit trees such as peaches and plums. Bloom-time weather helps determine how large a crop the trees will produce.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Logging meet to go big on education

Look for education to be a key component of this week's Sierra Cascade Logging Conference in Anderson. Hundreds of area fourth-graders will tour the fairgrounds tomorrow morning as the first souls to check out the equipment expo. In addition, universities from throughout the region will send teams for logging sports exhibitions (here's a story I did on them three years ago). Also, I've heard Shasta College and other area colleges are setting up booths.

For the past 15 years, organizers of the conference have put on a springtime education day for elementary school students at working logging sites.

"That's the biggest thing that we're about is educating the public and the world about what we do as an industry," conference chairman Mark Lathrop told a bunch of us media types during a luncheon today.

For some insight into tomorrow morning's keynote speaker, Jeff Fowle, here is his blog.

I'll be spending two full days at the fairgrounds tomorrow and Friday, covering the conference to the hilt for the Capital Press. And just for the fun of it, my wife and I may go back Saturday. It's an entertaining and enlightening event that showcases an industry that was once the north state's economic driver, and still contributes plenty of jobs to the area.

Media silence and the Catholic controversy

Brent Bozell of NewsBusters smacks the national media for ignoring the Obama administration's much-criticized insurance mandate on Catholic institutions. He writes:
The bishops have protested with an outrage louder than this Catholic has ever heard. For weeks now, the Catholic faithful have heard priests and their bishops pronounce from the pulpit that the Obama administration cannot be obeyed on this intrusive mandate. “We cannot – and will not – comply with this unjust law,” protested Virginia bishops Paul Loverde and Francis DiLorenzo in a letter read in churches on February 5. The Catholic Church is under attack, and it’s sounding like it’s ready for civil disobedience. [...]

Team Obama’s hostility went even further. On February 3, it was revealed the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent an e-mail to senior Army chaplains advising them not to read Archbishop Timothy Broglio’s hard-hitting letter from the pulpit. In the letter, Broglio insisted "It is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle."

John McHugh, Obama’s Secretary of the Army, agreed before Sunday masses that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter, but the line “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” was removed at McHugh’s suggestion. [...]

The Obama administration’s hostility to religious liberty isn’t limited to Catholics. Last fall, the Department of Justice filed a brief at the Supreme Court against a Lutheran school’s attempt to fire a teacher. Cheryl Perich had sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church said Perich violated church tenets by bringing her grievance to the federal government rather than appealing to the church to win reinstatement.

Ed Whelan of National Review declared DOJ’s position was “even more hostile” to the Lutherans “than the amicus brief filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU.”

On January 11, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of the Lutherans.
The bottom line:
Journalists claim to be zealots for the First Amendment. But when it comes to the state ordering around the Catholic church – from banning the reading of bishops’ letters and then “compromising” by censoring sentences – sounds like they'd be comfortable with some kind of Potemkin Catholic Church akin to the one in communist China – an official church that bows to the state.
Bozell was directing his ire at the likes of the television networks and the New York Times, but of course they're not the only ones who have been silent about the Catholic controversy. Heck, if I had a local news outlet, I would, I don't know, maybe contact the local Catholic hospital and Catholic schools to see how this new HHS policy would affect them (or how they would work around it), find out whether local priests read letters from the bishop from their pulpits (which they did at my dad's church), and generally try to gauge how people within my audience felt about what is quickly becoming one of the defining issues of this election year. That is, if I were truly curious.