Friday, March 30, 2012

Bird deaths highlight political opportunism

Today's story about the deaths of about 3,000 migratory birds from avian cholera in the Klamath Basin wildlife refuges (that's the number that biologists have actually picked up) highlights just how politically charged an atmosphere that exists right now over water use in the basin.

As I wrote in the story, both sides are eager to use current events to bolster their cause. And when it comes to environmentalists and supporters of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, their camp includes newspapers -- nine of them of various sizes which are listed as official supporters on the KBRA Equals Jobs website, right alongside tribes, government agencies, conservation organizations and commercial fishing interests. As the website explains, these organizations and others who sign on to the "outreach efforts" are sent "news, upcoming events, and opportunities to join the effort." (Hat tip: Pie N Politics)

Now while I am neutral as to whether the four dams on the Klamath River should be taken out, I admit I like at least the concept of the KBRA. Look, I remember covering Klamath farmer Steve Kandra back in 2001, and he was on the front lines of the water wars. If somebody like him can be persuaded to come to agreement about solutions in the Klamath Basin, there's a good chance that at least some of the ideas might have merit.

And my editors agree. They opined on Feb. 12, 2010:
It's refreshing to know the federal government is moving rapidly to answer big questions about removing dams from the Klamath River. It would have been a shame, given the three years of tough negotiations that went into last month's final version of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath River Hydroelectric Settlement, if the feds had set it aside until Congress took up the key legislation needed for implementation. [...]

We applaud this good faith effort by the Obama administration to go forward with the studies, and follow later with the implementing legislation if dam removal is found to be a sound decision.
However, I'm not aware of the Capital Press being included on anyone's list of "partners" in an "outreach effort" -- not that I'm really criticizing the ones that are. It's just that partisans will try to equate this bird die-off with what they see as farmers' hogging the water supply, just as the AP and other news organizations now routinely blame the salmon die-off in 2002 on farms even though the cause was very much a matter of debate. It's the season we're in, and news consumers should tailor their reactions and their opinions accordingly.

North state sheriffs to host 'Defend'-type rallies

Remember the Defend Rural America rally up in Yreka in October that caused so much consternation in certain quarters? Well, a trio of north state sheriffs is set to host similar public rallies in their counties this spring.

Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter will hold a Support Rural America Sheriff's Event on Saturday, April 21 in Alturas; Trinity County Sheriff Bruce Haney will host a rally May 19 in Weaverville; and Tehama County Sheriff Dave Hencratt will do his event at the Tehama County Fair grounds in Red Bluff on June 23 (a little heat just in time for the hot summer!) The Siskiyou water blog Pie N Politics has the details, as well as video from another event held Feb. 25 in Yreka.

As you may recall, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey (pictured above) caused a media outcry when he led a panel of county sheriffs who blame state and federal interference for their counties' high unemployment and social ills. Wyoming property rights attorney Karen Budd-Falon also spoke at the event at the fairgrounds, which was sponsored by local tea party groups. She is slated to appear at the Alturas event, to begin at noon at the Casino Convention Center, 920 B County Rd. 56.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Endless rain testing patience of some

While many of my farmer sources have been happy with all the rain, it's starting to affect some other guys' livelihoods.

I talked to a landscaper at my health club today who said he hasn't been able to work in weeks, which means he hasn't been able to make money.

Unfortunately (at least for him), the only chances for relief in the next week or so appear to be Sunday and Monday, according to the National Weather Service. AccuWeather keeps it unsettled through next weekend, at least, with warmer temperatures arriving around the second week of April.

The landscaper isn't the only person who's wishing the rain would stop. Ivar Amen of Cottonwood told me today that hay producers could use sunshine over the next couple of weeks to have a good first cutting, which will happen in about a month.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chavez grandson: Si se puede!




When Anthony Chavez was a young boy, he had no idea that the grandfather he loved to spend time with was a legend.

"He was mainly just a friendly, fun-loving grandfather," the 26-year-old Sacramento resident said. "He always had time for us grandchildren."

Chavez was in third grade when his grandfather, civil rights leader and United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez, died in 1993. A tree was dedicated to the champion of farm laborers at the boy's school, amid an outpouring of adoration that included then-President Bill Clinton's posthumously awarding the elder Chavez the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Today Latinos, farmworkers and others are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the start of Chavez' movement, which is set for Saturday, his birthday. And Anthony Chavez is working to carry on the legacy, traveling around California to speak to schoolchildren and community groups about his grandfather's cause.

"I think the message is not to forget that farmworkers are out there with human hands picking our fruits and vegetables," he said, adding that work still must be done to improve conditions. "Even though the laws may appear to be the best in Sacramento, unfortunately the rules in the field are much harsher."

A self-proclaimed "student activist," Chavez led tonight's 50th annual march in Anderson, followed by a dinner and celebration sponsored by the Northern Hispanic Latino Coalition, at which 15 first-generation college-bound students were presented scholarships. "The end of all education should be service to others," Chavez quoted his grandfather as saying.

For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com tomorrow.

More than 100 people attended tonight's gathering in the community hall at City Hall. I was impressed by Anthony Chavez; he seems humble and sincere, believes the movement he has more or less inherited is important, believes agriculture is important, and has the charisma and sense of history to lead a movement. You don't get the impression that he's simply capitalizing on his family's name, not that I expected to. In fact, you get exactly the opposite impression.

And he's not just here to be a history teacher, either. He's very much in tune with current events, supporting efforts to prevent heat exhaustion among workers, cheering a company's decision to pull methyl iodide, advocating for the AgJobs immigration reform proposal, etc. I'll get into that a bit in my story.

Oh, and in case you don't speak Spanish, "Si se puede!" means "Yes, it can be done!"

Pear producers vote to keep marketing order

From the California Pear Advisory Board:
California pear farmers demonstrated strong support for the state marketing order program representing pears in a recent grower referendum conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. With 95.24 percent of the voters representing 97.35 percent of the volume in favor of continuation, the California Pear Advisory Board will remain in operation for at least another five years.

“Last year some drastic changes were made to the California Pear Advisory Board’s programs,” said Chris Zanobini, President of CPAB. “Clearly the change was reflective of industry needs and this recent referendum indicates the new direction of the Board has widespread support throughout the industry.”

Zanobini explained that under the new structure, the Board discontinued its retail merchandising program and is now leaving promotions conducted directly with grocery stores up to individual grower-shippers. The Board continues to fund production research and also provides marketing and public relations support for the industry. Individual operations have the ability to access these tools for use in their own sales efforts.

“Projects like the very successful “Pears Care” breast-cancer awareness campaign in conjunction with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® have continued to be funded and supported by the California Pear Board,” explained Zanobini. “In addition, the Board is embarking on innovative programs to foster environmentally-friendly farming practices among California pear farmers and is addressing the concept of sustainability now at the forefront of issues faced by retailers and suppliers around the world.”

Zanobini explained that industry assessments indicate a very strong culture of sustainability exists among California pear farmers. A survey of California pear industry sustainability practices conducted in 2011 by SureHarvest, Inc. shows that California pear farmers have an exceptionally high level of adoption of sustainable farming practices. The report shows that virtually all farmers report they employ pest control advisors to scout orchards for pests before making any decisions to treat with pesticides, 97 percent use pheromone traps for monitoring key pear pests and 91 percent use pheromones to control pests. The full report can be found at www.calpear.com along with a video which summarizes the report.

“The Board is preparing for the coming pear season and staff is working to develop new programs to support industry needs,” said Zanobini. “This vote of confidence among industry members is a great sign that the Board is moving in the right direction and that we are still going strong.”

Zanobini noted the Board will continue to provide the trade with crop estimates and harvest timing information as the season approaches. He urged anyone interested in learning more about the California Pear Advisory Board to contact them directly or visit their website.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fire fee repeal bill advances in Legislature

A bill by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, that would repeal an annual fee of as much as $150 per structure for fire protection is advancing in the Legislature.

The bill passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on March 26 and is headed for the Appropriations Committee, according to a news release.

Farm groups have assailed the planned fee, which were set as part of the 2011-12 budget package and aims to raise $50 million to offset cuts to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Jeffries and other Republicans argue the fees are unfair because many residents pay local taxes for fire protection on top of services provided by Cal Fire.

For more information on the bill, click here.

USDA warns of fraudulent letter

From the California Cattlemen's Association:
USDA officials have been notified that additional fraudulent letters and at least one fraudulent phone call have been received by individuals in a number of states.

The phone call was received by an individual in Indiana, and letters are being sent by FAX to individuals and businesses in a growing number of states. The letters and call purportedly come from a USDA procurement officer and seek personal information. These letters are false and in no case should a recipient respond with personal and financial information.

The fraudulent letters bear USDA's logo and seal and are signed by an individual identified as "Frank Rutenberg" using a title of "Senior Procurement Officer". Recipients should not respond and should not supply the requested information. USDA is investigating this matter through the Office of the Inspector General. USDA first learned that the letters were being circulated on March 16, 2012.

If you suspect you have received such a letter or have been called by someone representing themselves as being from USDA seeking personal information, please contact USDA at:

procurement.policy@dm.usda.gov or call 202-720-9448.
One of our Oregon reporters is working on the story as I write this. Check back at CapitalPress.com.

California to dry out next week?

That's what National Weather Service forecaster George Cline told me this morning -- that a high-pressure ridge like the one that kept us dry for most of the winter is making a comeback in early April. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center is noncommittal beyond the next week or so, and AccuWeather foresees another shot of rain returning late next week, although Cline says that system may fizzle before it leaves the Pacific Northwest.

“Even if we get normal precipitation in April, it's not a lot,” Cline said.

Here are the March and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of today:

Redding: Month to date 4.8 inches (normal 3.87 inches); season to date 18.37 inches (normal 29.1 inches)
Eureka: Month to date 6.49 inches (normal 4.56 inches); season to date 27.75 inches (normal 33.74 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 2.65 inches (normal 2.43 inches); season to date 8.35 inches (normal 16.16 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 2.38 inches (normal 1.8 inches); season to date 5.95 inches (normal 11.15 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 2.2 inches (normal 1.98 inches); season to date 7.94 inches (normal 11.18 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 2.04 inches (normal 1.77 inches); season to date 5.74 inches (normal 9.65 inches)

For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Planned closure already affects mail service

Though it may not happen until mid-May, the planned closure of the mail sorting center on Churn Creek Road is already having an impact on mail delivery in the north state, or so I've heard.

At a private mail-and-fax business yesterday, a couple of the clerks said mail in the area is already being delayed by several days. For instance, if you're in Redding and you send a letter to Red Bluff, it has to go to Sacramento's big sorting center first.

Now someone tell me -- how does diverting mail bound from Redding to Red Bluff via Sacramento add efficiency or even save a lot of money in the long run? Did they consider all the extra money they're going to spend on fuel and vehicle maintenance while they're not eliminating jobs because of their union contract? That's government for you -- spend a dollar to save a dime.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tehama resident honored in state Assembly

From the office of Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:
Today Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) honored Leslie A. Lohse, a Tehama county resident, as the 2012 Woman of the Year for the 2nd Assembly District. Lohse was given a framed resolution during the annual ceremony in the Assembly Chamber at the State Capitol. Leslie Lohse has served as Tribal Council Treasurer of the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians of California since 1998. Leslie currently serves on the California Native American Heritage Commission, National Indian Health Services Budget Committee, Tehama County Girls, Inc. and serves as the Chairwoman for California Tribal Business Alliance.

“Leslie is a passionate and dedicated citizen who ably serves her revered and historic Nomlaki tribe, her community and her state through her selfless leadership,” said Nielsen. “Her energy and abilities have ensured a bright future for generations now and yet to be born in the north state.”

During her time with the Paskenta Tribal Council, Lohse participated in putting together the Paskenta Band’s purchase of over 2,000 acres in Tehama County. She was instrumental in bringing about the construction of a 70,000 square-foot casino that includes three restaurants. Her tribe has been successful in bringing about two new hotels and a John Daly Signature link style Golf Course and a private hunting club to the tribal lands. The Tribe recently opened the Rolling Hills Clinic to provide medical services for the people of Tehama County.

“I am very grateful and humbled because there are so many wonderful women in our area and throughout the state,” said Lohse. “Assemblyman Nielsen has been greatly supportive of our community and women, for which we are most thankful.”

Lohse has chaired and sat on numerous committees over the years, including the US Bureau of Indian Affairs Central California Agency Policy Committee, National Tribal Budget Advisory Committee, Pacific Region Representative to name just a few.

Held every March during Women’s History Month, the Woman of the Year ceremony celebrates 80 extraordinary women from California, one from each Assembly district. Started in 1987, the ceremony has become an annual celebration of community service and outstanding contributions by women in California.
The photo is courtesy of Nielsen's office.

Cattle group praises appeal of WTO decision

From the U.S. Cattlemen's Association:
The U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) says it is pleased with the U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) decision to appeal a World Trade Organization's (WTO) Dispute Settlement Panel ruling against the U.S. country of origin (COOL) law. On March 23, the USTR notified the WTO of its decision to appeal the Dispute Settlement Panel's ruling issued in November 2011.

USCA President Jon Wooster noted that while the Dispute Panel's findings took issue with certain implementation rules, the panel affirmed the right of the U.S. to label food products with country of origin. "USCA was pleased with this particular aspect of the Dispute Panel's findings. However, we disagree with the panel's assessment that the law offers less favorable treatment to meat products imported from Canada and Mexico and USCA membership feels strongly that those aspects of the ruling should be re-examined by a higher authority."

"Recent reports show that exchange rates have affected trade flows in beef and cattle from Canada," continued Wooster. "The CME Group published an analysis titled 'Feeder Cattle From Mexico Aid U.S. Supplies' on March 21, 2012. This analysis provides evidence that COOL is not a deterrent to imports. According to the report, in 2011 the U.S. imported about 1.4 million head of feeder cattle from Mexico, up about 190,000 head or 15% more than the year prior. It's notable that neither Canada or Mexico have referenced this fact in the COOL debate."

"The USTR has a strong appeals case and it is USCA's intention to support the appeal," said Wooster. We also appreciate the efforts of Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), along with 17 other U.S. Senators who sent a letter last Fall urging the USTR to appeal the ruling and to continue supporting the consumers' right to labeling. We look forward to working with Congress and the USTR to ensure that COOL is defended and remains the law of the land."

Established in March 2007, USCA is committed to concentrating its efforts in Washington, DC to enhance and expand the cattle industry's voice on Capitol Hill. USCA has a full-time presence in Washington, giving cattle producers across the country a strong influence on policy development. For more information go to www.uscattlemen.org.
For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Live from the heart of Politi-land

Record Searchlight editor Silas Lyons penned perhaps his most entertaining column to date for Sunday, offering up a glossary of terms used by folks in Politi-land (a dreamworld where every word has at least two meanings). I found it interesting, seeing that I'm an outraged American hero waging a war on elites' radical agenda (not to mention the lamestream corporate media).

A few examples:
Socialist: Democrat.

Fascist: Republican.

Sexist: Someone who disrespects a female law student who testifies before Congress. Or, someone who disrespects Michele Bachmann. But not both, not in Politi-land.

Agenda: Policy goal, except it sounds scarier, doesn't it?
He's looking for more, so I'll chime in:

RINO, moderate, squish: Anyone who's not as conservative (or at least not as bombastic) as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.

Friday, March 23, 2012

U.S. to appeal WTO meat labeling ruling

Reuters reports (HT: California Cattlemen):
The United States said on Friday it would appeal a World Trade Organization ruling against a law requiring country-of-origin labels on all meat sold in grocery stores, a move that disappointed Canada and Mexico, both of which want the law changed. The meat labels became mandatory in March 2009 after years of debate.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association doesn't like the appeal. From a press release:
The office of the U.S. Trade Representative today March 23, 2012, opted to appeal the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President Bob McCan issued the following statement.

"We are very disappointed in this decision. Instead of working diligently to bring the United States into WTO compliance, our government has opted to engage in an appeal process, which jeopardizes our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of U.S. beef. An appeal is the wrong answer and a waste of valuable resources. This appeal will do nothing but escalate tension with our valuable trade partners and will prolong an issue that could be resolved quickly. We should be working toward a solution instead of creating a bigger problem.

"NCBA will engage with Canada and Mexico in order to prevent any retaliatory action that could occur from this unfortunate decision made by the U.S. government.

"Cattlemen deserve a government that fights for and protects our opportunities. We need a government that not only demands WTO compliance of our trade partners but one that ensures the United States is abiding by these same guidelines."

When is it too hot for prunes?




In the photos, from the top: Cyndi Gilles of the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Red Bluff tags a plum blossom; a gauge records temperature and humidity; and Gilles talks with UCCE farm advisor Rick Buchner.

Multiple Cooperative Extension offices up and down the valley are involved in a multi-year study to see what happens to blossoms of plums grown for prunes if they get too hot. So far, it looks like 80 degrees is the cutoff; any warmer and the flowers dry out and the fruit doesn't set. The prune industry has had three disappointing crops in the last 10 years because of unseasonably warm temperatures during the bloom, although that doesn't seem likely to happen this year.

For my story, check CapitalPress.com early next week.

Tehama resident is Woman of the Year

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) will honor Leslie A. Lohse, a Tehama County resident, on Monday, March 26th as the 2nd Assembly District 2012 ‘Woman of the Year’. Nielsen will present Lohse a resolution celebrating the contributions and dedication of her long and honorable community involvement. Leslie Lohse has served as Tribal Council Treasurer of the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians of California since 1998. Leslie currently serves on the California Native American Heritage Commission, California International Relations Foundation, and Tehama County Girls, Inc.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nielsen seeks transparency in budget

From the office of Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:
Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) today strongly criticized majority Democrats for passing 37 so-called budget “spot” bills which contain no substantive details and will be passed on to the Senate where amendments can be adopted and brought back to the Assembly with no right to amend, but only vote on them.

“How ironic, last week we had transparency week and today we have all these bills that are the antithesis of transparency,” said Nielsen. “By voting for the 37 spot bills that mean absolutely nothing, the Democrats have disgraced the peoples' legislative process.”

During Thursday’s Assembly session, Democrats passed 37 empty budget spot bills to the Senate. The Senate passed a similar number of bills over to the Assembly, amounting to 80 spot bills. The proposals did not contain any specific language, but will be amended at a later date to reflect the majority party’s budget proposal.

Nielsen said that the current process of passing budget spot bills empowers majority Democrats on the Budget Conference Committee to drop their own budget plans at the eleventh hour. This does not allow for committee hearings to be held, nor does it give the public the opportunity to review or weigh in on the plan before the entire Legislature is asked to cast a vote.

“All of these spot bills are new venues for all kinds of games that will be played and things will be introduced that we don’t know anything about,” said Nielsen during today’s floor speech. “There will be no in-depth policy committee discussions on these issues; what we’ve got here is governing in the dark of night.”

Despite Nielsen’s urge to the Democrats “If ever there was a time for you to take a stand for the integrity of this public process, do it now,” they passed the 37 empty spot bills on a party-line vote. “The public should be outraged, the media should be outraged,” said Nielsen.

To watch and download Assemblyman Jim Nielsen’s comments on the floor today click here.

Is the CIA spying on you?

Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey judge-turned-Fox News judicial analyst who has perhaps emerged as the premier voice of libertarianism in cable news (now that Glenn Beck is gone), believes it could be.

He reasons:
When Congress created the CIA in 1947, it expressly prohibited the agency from spying on Americans in America.

Nevertheless, it turns out that if your microwave, burglar alarm or dishwasher is of very recent vintage, and if it is connected to your personal computer, a CIA spy can tell when you are in the kitchen and when you are using that device. The person who revealed this last weekend also revealed that CIA software can learn your habits from all of this and then anticipate them.

Acting "diabolically" and hoping to "change fingerprints and eyeballs" in its "worldwide mission" to steal and keep secrets, the CIA can then gut the Fourth Amendment digitally, without ever physically entering anyone's home. We already know that your BlackBerry or iPhone can tell a spy where you are and, when the battery is connected, what you are saying. But spies in the kitchen? Can this be true?

Who revealed all this last weekend? None other than Gen. David Petraeus himself, President Obama's new director of the CIA.

I wonder whether he knows about the Fourth Amendment and how the Supreme Court has interpreted it and that federal laws prohibit his spies from doing their work in America. I wonder whether he or the president even cares.

Do you?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is the USDA dabbling in real estate?

They apparently have some to sell. From a Farm Service Agency news release:
California’s USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Val Dolcini, announced that a recently acquired rural Amador County ranch property is available for sale. As a standard cost efficiency practice, FSA, like other agricultural lenders, offers properties acquired from borrowers through public announcement and real estate listing.

“We periodically acquire rural properties and make them available for public sale,” said Dolcini. “These are typically prime agricultural locations, some with dwellings and outbuildings on the property.”

Currently, a 110-acre Amador County open range property is available with no dwellings or outbuildings. The rangeland acres are suitable for livestock grazing and ranching activity.

Eligible socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers and ranchers are given first priority to purchase these properties at the appraised values provided the property meets FSA program guidelines. Purchase offers will be accepted in a sealed bid process, with a minimum bid amount provided. Properties may be in various stages of preparation for sale. FSA will contact potential bidders when the properties are available.

To place your name, phone number and email address on the contact list, please contact your local Farm Service Agency office to register your contact information. FSA offices can be found in the white pages under the U.S. Department of Agriculture or FSA offices in California can be found on the agency’s website at www.fsa.usda.gov/ca .

For further information about these properties, call the FSA California State Office Farm Loan Program staff at 530-792-5520. Interested parties can access the property descriptions at the USDA Real Estate website www.resale.usda.gov .

Redding Tea Party to join IRS lawsuit

The Redding Tea Party is joining a lawsuit by the American Center for Law and Justice against the U.S. Internal Revenue Service over what it believes is harassment by the agency, Erin Ryan told me yesterday.

"We are throwing in with the IRS as a class action," she said.

The ACLJ, which focuses on constitutional law, says it is representing nearly 20 tea party organizations nationwide against what it calls "a coordinated attempt ... to intimidate and silence these organizations in this election year."

The legal organization explains in a news release:
The ACLJ says IRS information demands sent to Tea Party groups include probing questions that violate the free speech and freedom of association rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

"This appears to be a coordinated attempt to intimidate Tea Party organizations by demanding information that is outside the scope of legitimate inquiry and violates the First Amendment," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. "These organizations have followed the law and applied for tax exempt status for their activities as Americans have done for decades. The problem here is the IRS has gone beyond legitimate inquiries and is demanding that these organizations answer questions that actually violate the First Amendment rights of our clients. The IRS is demanding that groups reveal the internal workings of their organizations - including the identification of members, how they are selected, who they associate with, and even what they discuss. This intimidation campaign is as onerous as what the IRS did to the NAACP in the 1950's and is simply unacceptable. We will aggressively defend our clients and are prepared to take the IRS to court if necessary."

The ACLJ says the IRS information demands sent to the Tea Party groups are not in response to complaints of wrongdoing, but instead in response to applications by the organizations for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.

Sekulow, who served as a trial lawyer with the Office of the Chief Counsel for the IRS earlier in his career, said many of the questions are simply inappropriate and fall well outside the scope of legitimate IRS inquiry. A sampling of the problematic questions are posted here.

The ACLJ is also calling for Congressional oversight hearings on this issue. In just two days, the ACLJ has heard from more than 30,000 Americans urging Congress to conduct hearings concerning the IRS actions in this matter.

Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), focusing on constitutional law, is based in Washington, D.C.
As I reported here last month (and as has gone largely unreported elsewhere locally), the Redding Tea Party was among dozens of groups that got letters from the IRS demanding such things as lists of donors, volunteers, financial support for and relationships with political candidates and parties, and even printed copies of their Facebook pages.

Ryan told me then that the letter came after the IRS has "stalled us for two years" in the RTP's attempt to apply for status as a 501(c)4 organization, which, as Fox News pointed out, differs from a 501(c)3 organization in that donors cannot deduct contributions from their taxable income. "The list of requirements will require the evaluation from my kindergarten teacher," Ryan told me in an e-mail.

President Obama-sympathizing media on both the national and local levels have mostly ignored this dispute. But what other countries can you think of that use official arms of the government to intimidate opposition groups in election years? Russia, maybe? Venezuela, perhaps? These are not countries known for valuing personal freedom and civil liberties, and their citizens cannot be considered free people.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is agritourism the new fad on farms?



Today I attended a University of California-sponsored workshop on agritourism -- the practice of farms including some tourism component in their operations. This could be any mumber of things, including lodges and cabins, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, “u-pick” operations and special events such as weddings and conferences. If you've ever been to Hawes Farms or Nash Ranch at Halloween or attended one of the numerous Farm Bureau-sponsored ag days in Tehama County through the course of the year, you're an agritourist.

In the photos, Kathy Landini of Elk Creek (left) and Robyn Rominger of Winters talk about their horseback riding ventures; and Kirsten Staggs (left) of Chico-based Farrell Design Group and University of California agritourism coordinator Penny Leff prepare a presentation on website design. The workshop was held at the Farm Bureau office in Orland.

Agritourism is growing in California as farms look to boost their income or market their products, Leff says. A UC survey determined that about 2.4 million visitors came to California farms in 2008 to enjoy some facet of agritourism.

In my story, I take a look at one such venture -- the Elk Creek Buckarettes, an annual all-women ranch ride created by a trio of north state co-owners of cattle operations.

Look for it at CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

CCA: Group wants wolf listed in California

From the California Cattlemen's Association:
Last week, CCA held a conference call to talk about the wolf in California. Since the call, several noteworthy events have taken place.

This week, an important decision was handed down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court found that Congress acted legally when it ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the endangered species list.

The court found that when Congress last year ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove protection for that distinct wolf population, lawmakers were amending the law and not violating the separation of powers doctrine.

The decision means wolves in the Northern Rockies will continue to be managed by states in the region, which had an estimated 1,774 wolves in 287 packs as of the end of last year. Animals outside of that area, including the lone male that has been prowling back and forth over the California-Oregon border, remain protected.

The lone OR-7 wolf, currently bouncing back between the California and Oregon border, is the target of a new effort by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to add to the list of endangered species in California.

CBD, along with several other conservation groups have filed a petition with the Fish and Game Commission requesting that the grey wolf be listed under the California Endangered Species Act. In their press release, the need to protect the wolf as it reestablishes habitat, and the need for a “science based management plan” are emphasized.

CCA will keep a close eye on the CBD petition as it is forwarded to the Fish and Game Commission, and encourages members to stay engaged on the issue and begin to think towards management plan strategy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Klamath report discussed in podcast

My story on the peer review of the Klamath dam removal overview is a topic of discussion in our latest podcast, which appears weekly on the Capital Press' flagship blog, Blogriculture.

You can listen by clicking here.

The Romneyfication of the GOP?

It's a word I just coined. It means to not necessarily focus on ending or cutting federal government programs, but making them better and more cost-efficient.

Case in point: this story from OneNewsNow about Sen. Rand Paul's ideas for fixing Medicare:
A group of Republican senators are pushing a bill they say not only fixes Medicare, but saves money and enrolls all seniors into the same healthcare plan as members of Congress.

The Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act (CHCSA) (S. 2196) was created by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). At a press conference Thursday, Paul said senior citizens in the U.S. deserve a "world-class health care system" that will not eventually bankrupt the country.

"This plan would give every senior citizen the congressional health care plan that we enjoy," he explained. "In doing so, it would save over a trillion dollars over 10 years. It means-tests the benefits and gradually allows the age of eligibility to go up. Millionaires would have to pay ... the full price."

The average U.S. citizen currently pays in $100,000 over their lifetime in Medicare taxes, but receives over $330,000 worth of benefits.
There's a certain degree of pragmatism that's trying to make a comeback in Washington, although it's being fought tooth-and-nail by the True Believers on both sides of the political spectrum. Standing up for principles is fine, but so is finding ways to make things work better.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Glenn Beck's new enemy: television

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Glenn Beck's new online operation with a feature that begins like this:
Glenn Beck still rails against his usual enemies, from the "hardcore socialist left" to "extreme Islam." Now there is a new target: mainstream television.

After parting company with Fox News last year, Mr. Beck took his message of outrage and self-reliance online. He launched an Internet video network called GBTV, where he is on air for two hours a day, alongside six more hours of shows, from "Liberty Treehouse," a history and news program for children, to the reality program "Independence USA," where a family explores life off the grid.

Ultimately, Mr. Beck said GBTV will become a 24/7 network, ...
Unfortunately, that's where you have to stop unless you have a WSJ online subscription. (Dang papers and their pay walls, just who do they think they are anyw -- oh that's right, never mind.)

However, Beck offers some snippets of the article on his website.
“We’re taking on the big guys,” Mr. Beck said in a recent interview at the Manhattan production studio of GBTV in the basement of a skyscraper. The conservative talk-show host had just flown in from Dallas, where he now lives—”away from the suits,” as he put it.

Driving Mr. Beck’s subscription-based network is a belief that television is going through an existential crisis, with the rise of online video outlets like Netflix Inc. and Google Inc.’s YouTube threatening to lure away viewers.

“The political and pop culture personalities going directly to their public is definitely a phenomenon that is starting to break,” said Michael Hirschorn, the former head of programming at VH1 who co-founded the entertainment company IconicTV, which is creating three channels for YouTube. But that notion of stars going straight to their fans online is still mostly uncharted. “We have yet to prove the business model out, but it feels inevitable” Mr. Hirschorn said.

Mr. Beck is intent on keeping his Fox fans while also capturing the younger Internet-surfing generation. “When the audience of 65 and over dies off,” he said, “then TV is in trouble if they haven’t found a new way to connect with the next vibrant and mobile generation.”

In contrast to traditional TV, which depends on people buying big bundles of channels, GBTV is available as an individual channel and must be watched on Internet-connected devices.

“We are on the edge of something that is bigger than industrial revolution,” Mr. Beck said of the industry changes. “How do you survive? What will people want?”
The writer at GlennBeck.com adds:
Since leaving FOX News, Glenn has attracted more than 300,000 subscribers to GBTV. These numbers dwarf cable news networks which have been on TV for years, such as CNBC “which drew an average of 189,000 viewers over the course of the total day in February, according to Nielsen.”

What do these 300,000+ subscribers get with GBTV that they aren’t getting anywhere else? After all, viewers are going outside the traditional mainstream media in order to seek out this programming – it must be something.

Not only does GBTV offer Glenn’s primetime daily show, it has a slate of original programming as well. Taking a cue from successful premium networks like HBO, the network does not focus on a single genre of television but instead has a mix of news, comedy, reality, and children’s programming. The model is different than traditional cable news, but it offers a way from fans of Glenn to find entertaining shows that share a similar set of values all based around the network’s model “The Truth Lives Here”.

GBTV is also more mobile and accesible that traditional cable news networks. Outside of being available on TV via a Roku, the full network can be accessed on iPhones, iPads, Boxee, the web, and more. Such availability makes it possible to access GBTV from anywhere, not just the confines of ones own home.
I think Beck is right about us entering a revolution of sorts when it comes to video content, although obviously it's not just because of him. It's not a stretch to say that 90 percent of my TV viewing now is online, with free services such as wwiTV offering literally hundreds of stations that stream online, with subscription services such as Sky Angel and Netflix (and yes, GBTV) and with live and archived games from MLB, the NHL and NFL.

I think the appeal of watching television online is, first of all, I have more of a choice of what to watch and when. But secondly, I get much less exposure to the trashy commercials that dominate broadcast and cable TV. Case in point: I was watching a ballgame the other night on the MLB Network, and some skanky blonde in a skimpy dress came on and asked the viewers if they "want to get inside", meaning some promotion. I don't need it, and I don't get it from the video services I use online.

But wait, I supported that bill!

Ryan Sabalow has an interesting read in today's Searchlight about state Assembly members' ability and propensity to switch or add their votes on bills as it gets closer to election time. A snippet:
North state lawmakers Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber and Dan Logue, R-Marysville, Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, are no exception.

According to the Assembly Daily Journal, from Jan. 17 to Feb. 23 of this year, Nielsen added his votes to 13 bills after he'd missed sessions in which his fellow lawmakers voted for their passage or failure. Logue added votes to nine bills.

Chesbro added votes to three. He's the only north state lawmaker to actually change his vote during that time period.

Chesbro originally voted for a bill that forbids prison administrators from retaliating against inmates who participate in media interviews.

He later switched his vote. Chesbro couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.
He also mentions that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger blasted the practice in 2010, which I personally find hilarious considering Schwarzenegger was basically two governors before and after his reform initiative debacle.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nielsen, LaMalfa to unveil fire tax repeal

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) will join other Republican colleagues in a press conference to introduce legislation he has co-authored to stop a tax increase on rural property owners. Assembly Bill 1506 would reverse the Governor’s and Democrats’ effort to raise $84 million in taxes on residents living in rural areas. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will be attending the event and provide updates regarding the legality surrounding the fire tax.

WHO: · Assemblymember Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber)
· Senator Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale)
· Jon Coupal, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
· Craig Maxwell, Rural Resident, Owner, Sugar Pine Ranch in Groveland
· Other Senate and Assembly Republicans

WHAT: Press conference announcing legislation to repeal fire tax and end the double taxation on rural residents.

WHEN: Thursday, March 15
10:30 a.m.

WHERE: State Capitol, Room 12
CREDENTIALED MEDIA ONLY

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

What scares libertarians about Santorum?

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post posed that question to David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, who responded:
Being philosophically minded, what scares me most about Rick Santorum is not his specific policy mistakes but his fundamental objection to the American idea of freedom. He criticizes the pursuit of happiness! He says, “This is the mantra of the left: I have a right to do what I want to do” and “We have a whole culture that is focused on immediate gratification and the pursuit of happiness . . . and it is harming America.” And then he says that what the Founders meant by happiness was “to do the morally right thing.” He really doesn’t like the idea of America as a free society, where adults make their own decisions and sometimes make choices that Santorum disapproves. In practice, I worry that he would continue and intensify Bush’s big-government conservatism, a federal government committed to reshaping individuals according to a religious-conservative blueprint.
Read the Q&A here.

Obama to pals: We're losing to Romney!

Matt Rhoades of the Mitt Romney campaign somehow got a hold of a letter that Obama-Biden campaign director Jim Messina sent to donors. It read:
Tonight, some combination of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum will give victory speeches after the next round of Republican primaries.

All you really need to know: According to a new poll, if the general election were held today, we would lose to Mitt Romney.

Now, many other polls put the President on top, but all point to the same reality: We're looking at a race that will be tighter than you think. And the other side has groups ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to tear down President Obama.

I know that March doesn't feel as urgent as September or October will. But we're running a grassroots campaign -- that means we're building this organization one donation at a time. It's not the easy way to do it, but it's the right way. And we know we'll be up against someone with a virtually unlimited supply of cash to attack us and President Obama.

If you can't imagine a scenario in which Mitt Romney defeats Barack Obama, just look at the numbers. It's a real possibility, and we have to start acting like it.

If you've been waiting to give, now is the time to do it. Donate $3 or more today
It's funny to see the president's much-ballyhooed billion-dollar machine begging people for $3 donations. But it certainly appears they're quaking in their boots over Romney. They're certainly not afraid of Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, who scare many conservatives more.

Meanwhile, I had to love this discription of how Romney carried American Samoa yesterday, which put him over the top in terms of delegates for the day:
About 70 Republicans in the U.S. territory located 2,300 miles south of Hawaii met at Toa Bar & Grill to discuss the candidates and select delegates for the Republican National Convention in August. At the end, the six delegates chosen and the three superdelegates who will accompany them to the convention all said they would support Romney.
All these Southerners are going to the polls and the candidates are criss-crossing the states, and out in American Samoa some guys meet in a bar, and that helps Romney win the night. Hilarious.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thumbs up, with a caveat

Redding.com's Bruce Ross points out that the peer review of the draft overview of the Klamath dam removal studies did urge the government not to gloss over uncertainties about the project, particularly when it comes to benefits to fish. The review states:
Recommendation: Edit the Overview Report to clarify the distinction between responses known with high certainty versus those that have, and always will have, high uncertainties associated with them. This is particularly critical for the discussion of expected responses of fish populations to restoration.
The uncertainties were a key topic in a study by six experts on chinook salmon hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The panel warned in their report last summer that 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.

Bruce writes:
You know, life is uncertain. Nature is not a test tube. There's no way we can know with precision how dynamic systems will respond to change --- even when that change aims to help.

At the same time, dam removal would be an easier (not to say easy) sell if it were just more clear that, after spending a billion dollars on the river, we'd be relatively certain to meet our goals.
A good point, although some would say we're not totally blind as to what would happen if the dams were gone. We have the record of history, after all. There was a river for thousands of years before there were dams, and there were salmon, too. There weren't the farms we have today, but what good are dams when the farmers in the area are receiving zero water as they did in 2001?

There are unknowns, to be certain. I guess that's why they've taken two-plus years and employed hundreds of people who are way smarter than me to try to figure all of it out.

Are 'Jehovah's' really a 'cult'? (updated)

The buzz today is that twice as many liberals as conservatives have blocked or "unfriended" a social-media contact because of political statements they've made. The inference, of course, is that the Left is less tolerant than the Right when it comes to differences of political opinion. That may be true, although I wouldn't fault a Facebook or Twitter user for 1) having the freedom to choose his or her friends, and 2) wanting to avoid reading things from their "friends" that tick them off. I have plenty of left-of-center friends on Facebook who see all my links to this blog, and nobody to my knowledge has "unfriended" me. Argued with me, yes.

But what gets me more about online intolerance is the slime that people fling in forums and in, say, comments on news stories -- and the cavalier attitudes about them among Web hosts who ought to know better.

Take, for instance, this comment underneath the RS' Ryan Sabalow's able reporting on Klamath Riverkeeper's threatened lawsuit over Dwinnell Dam and the apparent shrug that it has received by the site's moderators.
I`m evaluating which cult angers me more. The Jehovah`s or the Enviro`s. If these guys got together. Lock up the women and children gentlemen.
Now I've certainly had my moments of saying "No thank you" to Watchtower-peddling solicitors at my door, and I even engaged one in friendly debate. But if I were a Jehovah's Witness, I'd be deeply offended by the suggestion that my faith is a "cult" that presents a danger to women and children. Or maybe the commenter meant to insult all Christians; it's hard to be sure.

Now I don't mean to just single out Redding.com; I've seen plenty of the same types of offensive remarks by commenters on Fox News, sports blogs and the like -- all of which present themselves as inclusive. But think of what would happen if somebody posted, "I don't know who makes me angrier, the Jews or the Enviros." Or, "I don't know who makes me angrier, the blacks or the enviros." These comments would have been deleted within the hour, and depending on the site, the poster would be banned. But apparently if you happen to believe in Christ, or Jehovah, it's open season on you.

UPDATE: The comment in question at Redding.com has been deleted, as Bruce Ross explains below. Now if we could only get the folks at Fox News and the other sites to read my blog ...

Peer review of Klamath report available

In the photo, provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the sun rises over the Klamath River in Oregon.

From the agency, released today:
The Department of the Interior today publicly released the results from an independent peer review panel that evaluated the accuracy, clarity, thoroughness, and objectivity of the scientific findings in the draft Klamath Overview Report. The panel’s detailed findings and recommendations will help inform the rigorous and transparent scientific process concerning the potential removal of four privately owned dams on the Klamath River.

The peer review panel found generally that the report “connects to the sound science that underlies its conclusions, provides a depth of coverage suitable for the anticipated audience, and provides clearly stated concepts and conclusions,” and further finds that the “science appears to be reliable for a Secretarial Determination.” The panel also makes recommendations for how the final report can be edited to improve its effectiveness.

The peer-review report and its recommendations are available at www.KlamathRestoration.gov.

“These peer review recommendations will make for a more robust and effective report. That is exactly what is wanted out of a peer review process - a better science product, along with increased public confidence in the findings that come from our analyses,” stated Dennis Lynch, the U.S. Geological Survey Program Manager overseeing the science process for the Klamath Secretarial Determination.

The draft Klamath Overview Report, initially released January 2012, is one part of the overall multi-step science process for the Klamath Secretarial Determination. One step was the development of 50 federal science reports - all of which were subjected to a rigorous review, including, in many instances, peer review - completed in September 2011. Over 150 federal, state, and other subject-matter scientists, engineers, and technical experts were involved in conducting the studies and preparing the federal science reports.

A second step involved four independent expert panel reports on Klamath River fisheries that were published between January and July 2011. These expert panels, which were administered by Atkins North America, an independent consulting firm specializing in peer reviews, conducted their own assessment of the potential impacts of dam removal on the Klamath River fisheries.

The final step is the preparation of the draft Klamath Overview Report, which for the first time combines the findings and analyses of the 50 federal science reports and the four expert panel reports with other relevant reports, to provide a comprehensive scientific assessment of potential dam removal and implementation of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement on local communities, Indian Tribes, and the environment.

Facilitated by Atkins North America, a panel of six independent subject-matter experts from across the nation conducted the peer review of the draft Klamath Overview Report being released today.

Over the next few months, the federal agencies will finalize the Overview Report, taking into account the recommendations from the peer review panel. The Overview Report will provide foundational scientific information to inform a Secretarial Determination as to whether dam removal would advance salmon and steelhead fisheries in the basin and would be in the public interest.

The final Overview Report, the public comments, the panel peer review report and responses to all the peer review comments on the draft Overview Report will be available at www.KlamathRestoration.gov.
Dam-removal proponents including the Karuk Tribe, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the Klamath Tribes and Trout Unlimited seized on the news with this release:
Today an independent panel of scientists released the Peer Review Panel Report on the Draft Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report for the Secretary of the Interior (2012). The Overview Report reviewed is a key document that the Secretary will rely on when considering whether or not removing Klamath River dams is in the Public Interest. Over 6,000 pages of scientific analyses informed the report.

According to reviewers, “the Overview Report connects to the sound science that underlies its conclusions, provides a depth of coverage suitable for the anticipated audience, and provides clearly stated concepts and conclusions.” (p.11) The review goes on to highlight specific areas where the SDOR could be improved upon including greater details on sediment transport and more thorough explanation of potential risks associated with dam removal.

According to several Parties to the Klamath Restoration Agreements, the scientific scrutiny and public involvement in the analysis of dam removal is both unprecedented and welcome. “This process goes far beyond what is required by law. We have now seen three separate tiers of independent expert review and all the data and reports are available online to anyone that wants to review it. We think this is good for the process,” said Glen Spain, Northwest Director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.

The Secretary’s Overview Report is designed to be a synthesis of all the relevant data and reports related to the Klamath Agreements. The Overview Report is one of several information sources that will be considered by Secretary Salazar as he judges the pros and cons of implementing the Agreements. If implemented, the Agreements could lead to the removal of the lower 4 Klamath dams in 2020 as well as the implementation of a water sharing agreement between agricultural and fishing communities, significant fish habitat restoration, and increased water storage in the Basin. Implementation requires a decision by Secretary Salazar as to whether or not they are in the public interest as well as congressional authorization. The Klamath Basin Economic Restoration Act has been introduced in the Senate by Jeff Merkley (OR) and in the House by Mike Thompson (CA – Helena).

The rigor of the process is particularly appreciated by those downstream of the dams. According to Leaf Hillman, Director of the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources, “It is critical to get the science right. The Karuk Tribe and everyone else downstream of the dams want to be as confident as possible that dam removal is safe and will aid the recovery of our fisheries.”

The Peer Review Panel Report on Draft Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report for the Secretary of the Interior (2012) is available at www.klamathrestoration.gov.

According to the Report, “The peer review is also required to fulfill the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance to federal agencies for a rigorous peer review process for Highly Influential Scientific Assessments (Office of Management and Budget 2004) and the White House Memorandum on Scientific Integrity (White House Memorandum 2009). …The credibility and public acceptance of a report increases with a rigorous review process in an open and transparent fashion that includes public participation.”
For the latest in Klamath-related news, keep checking CapitalPress.com.

Beef, pork exports maintain hot pace

From the U.S. Meat Export Federation:
U.S. red meat exports have a tough act to follow after a record-setting year in 2011, but the early indications for 2012 are good. January pork exports jumped 28 percent in volume and 43 percent in value while beef exports were even in volume but rose 14 percent in value, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

“There is a challenge to follow a very successful year like 2011 and sustain the momentum,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The good news is that there are opportunities to expand the presence of U.S. red meat by exploring new market niches as well as increasing access with several key trading partners.”

Several key measurements also showed continued growth: export value per head and percentage of total production exported. For pork, January’s export value equated to $59.44 per head of commercial slaughter compared to $43.59 a year ago, and 29.6 percent of total production (including variety meat) was exported in January versus 24.2 percent last year. For just muscle cuts, 25 percent of production was exported this January compared to 20 percent last year.

Beef exports equated to $197.95 per head of fed slaughter in value compared to $170.10 last year. The percentage of production exported – 12.3 percent for beef and variety meats and 9 percent for just muscle cuts– remained the same.

Pork exports up to key targets
Sales jumped in double or triple figures with the top key pork trading partners, surging 21 percent and 27 percent respectively in volume and value to Mexico; 88 percent and 158 percent to China; and 17 percent and 28 percent to Japan.

For the month, the U.S. exported 211,457 metric tons of pork valued at $566.9 million, increases of 28 percent in volume and 43 percent in value. While it’s early in the year, it is encouraging that these increases are coming on the heels of a year that saw 2011 pork exports top 2.25 million metric tons valued at more than $6.1 billion.

“In some markets, such as Japan, we are reaching into new secondary markets and niches like the sozai (deli) segment,” said Seng. “In others, like South Korea, we’re focused on sustaining the progress we made last year and preparing for the imminent implementation of the Korea-U.S. FTA. Korea has made significant progress in rebuilding their hog inventories so we expect total imports to decrease this year but the U.S. will also gain a competitive edge against other suppliers through the FTA.”

Top pork export markets in January were:

Mexico: 60,737 metric tons (up 21 percent) valued at $110.3 million (up 27 percent)
Japan: 41,697 metric tons (up 17 percent) valued at $170.8 million (up 28 percent)
China: 36,175 metric tons (up 88 percent) valued at $75.1 million (up 158 percent)
Canada: 19,167 metric tons (up 47 percent) valued at $65.7 million (up 52 percent)
South Korea: 18,173 metric tons (up 38 percent) valued at $51.5 million (up 61 percent)

Beef exports maintain record pace
After a record-setting 2011 that saw the U.S. export nearly 1.3 million metric tons of beef valued at more than $5.4 billion, the industry maintained the pace in January with equal export volumes (89,454 metric tons) while value jumped 14 percent to $405.9 million.

“Market diversification remains a key for beef in 2012,” said Seng. “We’re aggressively pursuing new opportunities in the Middle East, which has grown to be the No. 2 volume market. The Central/South America region (Chile, Peru and Guatemala) is another where the growth (73 percent in volume and 79 percent in value in January) justifies our intensified focus on the retail, food service and processing sectors there.”

Russia is another market where USMEF has focused its efforts with offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg. An expanded tariff rate quota (TRQ) there – up to 60,000 metric tons from 41,700 last year – creates new opportunities for U.S. beef. American beef muscle cut exports to Russia in January jumped 84 percent to 2,129 metric tons.

In addition, Seng noted that the U.S. beef industry remains optimistic that Japan will expand access for its products during 2012. Currently, the U.S. only can export to Japan beef from animals under 21 months of age, severely limiting opportunities in a country that was the No. 1 beef export market in 2003 prior to BSE.

Top beef export markets in January were:

Mexico: 19,850 metric tons (down 2 percent) valued at $87.1 million (up 16 percent)
Middle East: 13,047 metric tons (up 12 percent) valued at $29 million (up 14 percent)
Canada: 12,582 metric tons (down 3 percent) valued at $72.7 million (up 15 percent)
South Korea: 11,697 metric tons (down 2 percent) valued at $51.9 million (up 6 percent)
Japan: 9,688 metric tons (up 2 percent) valued at $59.6 million (up 26 percent)

Lamb exports edge up
The positive news continued for U.S. lamb exports as well in January. Top destination Mexico (accounting for 74.5 percent of total lamb exports by volume and 54.6 percent by value) raised its purchases 31 percent in volume to 1,021 metric tons and 25 percent in value to $1.1 million.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Legal actions highlight environmental battles

From the environmental group Klamath Riverkeeper
:Today Klamath Riverkeeper (KRK) filed a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue the Montague Water Conservation District (MWCD) for ongoing operation of Dwinnell Dam and associated diversions in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The Notice provides an opportunity for the District to propose measures to settle the claims before initiating a judicial proceeding.

“Coho once numbered in the thousands in the Shasta River,” noted KRK Executive Director Erica Terence. “Today fewer than 50 return most years.” In 2009 only 9 endangered coho salmon (all male) returned to spawn in the Shasta River according to the California Department of Fish and Game.

Montague Water Conservation District owns and operates Dwinnell Dam and Shastina Reservoir on the Shasta River. A large part of Parks Creek, a key Shasta tributary is also diverted to the Reservoir. From there water is diverted through a large ditch over 20 miles to grow hay and irrigate pasture.

Fisheries biologists have long noted that despite being in a relatively dry area, the Shasta is historically one of the most prolific salmon producing streams in the West. The Shasta River is fed by spring water that originates on the slopes of Mt. Shasta. These numerous springs provide a stable supply of water at the optimal temperature for salmon. The water is also rich in nutrients that in turn grow the insects that salmon feed on. However, since the 1920’s, much of the Shasta’s pristine waters have been diverted by Montague Water Conservation District without any stipulations on how much water must be left in-stream for salmon. According to the KRK Notice of Intent, that is no longer legal.

“We want to balance water use in the Shasta so that both farm and fish dependent communities can thrive,” said Terence. “The two are not mutually exclusive but we have to learn how to better share the resource.”

If MWCD fails in the next 60 days to demonstrate adequate, good-faith efforts to comply with legal requirements for permits to kill endangered coho salmon, KRK may consult fisheries experts and seek a court order to remedy the devastating impacts of the MWCD's dam and diversions.
Meanwhile, the Pacific Legal Foundation sent us this:
Pacific Legal Foundation, after years of delay by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in delisting Valley elderberry longhorn beetle (VELB) from the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, today filed a lawsuit to “stop the federal bureaucrats’ foot-dragging.” The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a coalition of California landowners, businesses, farmers, and flood control districts harmed by the unnecessary and unjustified federal regulations.

Today’s lawsuit follows PLF’s petition to delist the beetle in September, 2010. PLF attorney Brandon M. Middleton says that while the Endangered Species Act requires the Service to have provided a final response to PLF’s delisting petition 12 months after the petition was filed, that deadline has long since passed.

“The clock has run out on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act. Property owners, flood control and reclamation districts, and all American taxpayers are paying the price for the agency’s utter failure to follow its own recommendations to drop the unnecessary protections,” Middleton said. “Our lawsuit sends a clear and loud message to regulators — it’s time to stop the foot-dragging.”

The one-inch beetle is found up and down Central California, from Redding in the north to Bakersfield in the south. Its listing as “threatened” under the ESA since 1980 has hampered the productive use of land and the building and maintenance of flood-control levies.

A 2006 study sponsored by FWS itself found that the VELB no longer needed special protections and should be taken off the ESA list. But the agency failed to act, and the beetle stayed on the list. And while the Service provided an initial response in 2011 to PLF’s delisting petition, it has let the 12-month deadline for providing a final determination expire.

“It’s been nearly six years since the Service recognized the beetle’s recovery, and 18 months since PLF petitioned the Service to delist the species,” Middleton said. “Because of the agency’s continued delay, we are left with no other option but to take the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to court and obtain a court order that the Service respond to our petition.”

The parties to PLF’s lawsuit include:

Reclamation District No. 784
Levee District One
North Sacramento Land Company
Sacramento Valley Landowners Association
Butte County Farm Bureau
Solano County Farm Bureau
Yolo County Farm Bureau

A final shot of winter on the way?

Just as I'm writing a story about the bloom. Here is the warning from the National Weather Service:
...HEAVY SNOW EXPECTED LATE MONDAY NIGHT INTO EARLY WEDNESDAY...

.A SERIES OF WEATHER SYSTEMS WILL MOVE THROUGH INTERIOR NORTHERN
CALIFORNIA THIS WEEK BRINGING PERIODS OF PRECIPITATION. THE FIRST
STRONGER SYSTEM WILL MOVE INTO THE AREA MONDAY NIGHT RESULTING IN
SIGNIFICANT PRECIPITATION ACROSS THE AREA ALONG WITH GUSTY WINDS.
SNOW LEVELS ARE EXPECTED TO BEGIN AROUND 2500 FEET IN SHASTA
COUNTY TO AROUND 4000 FEET OVER THE NORTHERN SIERRA EARLY
TUESDAY...GRADUALLY RISING TO AROUND 3000 FEET NORTH OF REDDING
AND ABOVE 6500 FEET IN THE NORTHERN SIERRA BY EARLY WEDNESDAY.

ADDITIONAL WEATHER DISTURBANCES ARE EXPECTED FOR THE REMAINDER OF
THE WEEK BRINGING CONTINUED PRECIPITATION TO THE AREA. SNOW
LEVELS MAY LOWER INTO THE FOOTHILL ELEVATIONS BY NEXT WEEKEND.

CAZ063-122315-
/O.EXT.KSTO.WS.W.0005.120313T0600Z-120314T0000Z/
MOUNTAINS SOUTHWESTERN SHASTA COUNTY TO NORTHERN LAKE COUNTY-
207 AM PDT MON MAR 12 2012

...WINTER STORM WARNING NOW IN EFFECT FROM 11 PM THIS EVENING TO
5 PM PDT TUESDAY ABOVE 4500 FEET...

THE WINTER STORM WARNING ABOVE 4500 FEET IS NOW IN EFFECT FROM
11 PM THIS EVENING TO 5 PM PDT TUESDAY.

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS: 3 TO 6 INCHES ABOVE 4000 FEET WITH 1 TO 3
FEET POSSIBLE ABOVE 6000 FEET.

* ELEVATION: ABOVE 4500 FEET.

* TIMING: SNOW WILL BECOME MODERATE TO HEAVY LATE MONDAY NIGHT
INTO TUESDAY.

* LOCATIONS INCLUDE:

* WINDS: SOUTH TO SOUTHWEST WINDS 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO
50 MPH OVER THE EXPOSED RIDGES.

* IMPACTS: HAZARDOUS DRIVING CONDITIONS POSSIBLE DUE TO SNOW
AND BLOWING SNOW CREATING POOR VISIBILITIES. DIFFICULT BACK
COUNTRY TRAVELING CONDITIONS. TRAVEL DELAYS POSSIBLE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE
EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. STRONG WINDS ARE ALSO POSSIBLE. THIS WILL
MAKE TRAVEL HAZARDOUS.
AccuWeather shows persistent cold rainfall and low snow levels in Northern California over the next two weeks, but the U.S. Climate Prediction Center sees the chances of above-average precipitation as diminishing by a month out and later in the spring.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cattlemen want to give input on wolves

California's largest cattlemen's group wants a seat at the table if and when state agencies start planning in earnest for wolves' migration into the state.

In a conference call last night, more than a dozen members agreed that the California Cattlemen's Association should be part of the discussion even though it opposes reintroduction of wolves here.

“We decided we are going to be a stakeholder” in the development of any management plan, CCA associate director of government affairs Margo Parks said in an interview after the call.

For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

That figures

So PETA has named its West Coast headquarters after a game-show host.

That's sort of fitting.

Nielsen, LaMalfa target high-speed rail

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen and state Sen. Doug LaMalfa are touting a state report that indicates their measure to prohibit borrowing for a high-speed rail project would save the state over $21 billion.

From Nielsen:
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) released the following statement today regarding a recent report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) which found that a proposed measure repealing state borrowing for high-speed rail would save California over $709 million every year for 30 years. The LAO’s report highlights the need for Senate Bill (SB) 985, authored by Senator Doug LaMalfa and coauthored by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen. The bill puts the High Speed Rail project back on the ballot for reconsideration by California voters.

“Californians across the state are struggling with limited family funds, and the government is struggling to ensure core government functions, such as education and public safety,” said Nielsen. “The $709 million per year expense for this dubious rail project represents a continuing drain on our economy we simply cannot afford."

“Senator LaMalfa and I have taken action, with SB 985, to guarantee voters have a chance to reevaluate the High Speed Rail project in light of all the financial facts that have now been exposed to the light of day,” said Nielsen. “Under the latest $100 billion price tag, I am convinced that the vote of the people will repeal this luxurious boondoggle.”
From LaMalfa:
Senator Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) today commented on a report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office finding that a proposed measure repealing state borrowing for high-speed rail would save California over $709 million every year for 30 years. The LAO’s report focused on a ballot measure mirrored by LaMalfa’s Senate Bill 985, which places a proposition on the ballot allowing voters to reconsider the project’s rapidly growing price tag.

“This report should be an eye-opener for Californians impacted by Governor Brown’s cuts to core state services,” said LaMalfa. “The $709 million a year some would spend on high speed rail could more than offset last year’s cuts to the University of California, California State University or state community colleges.”

The LAO found that the project’s $709 million in annual debt payments would further damage already fragile state finances and increase state debt service by nearly 10%. The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group recently advised the Legislature not to fund the project, and the Field Poll found nearly two-thirds of Californians want to reconsider the $100-billion price tag.

“With California facing another multi-billion dollar deficit, does adding another $21 billion in debt really sound like a good idea?” the Senator asked.

LaMalfa also noted that revelations that at least one High Speed Rail Authority board member received over $10,000 from a project contractor raised serious questions about the Authority’s allegiance.

“High speed rail’s supporters are prioritizing a consultant-driven boondoggle over the state’s true needs, such as education, public safety and deficit reduction,” said LaMalfa. “Is the Rail Authority working for California, or the project contractors they’ve received thousands of dollars from?”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

USDA to help California homebuilders

An election-year sop, to be sure. From the USDA:
Working under the guidance of Visalia, California, based Self-Help Enterprises (SHE), 174 California families will soon begin building their own homes. The families, which will participate in USDA’s Self Help Housing Program, are the latest in a growing group of income-eligible Americans to use the program to achieve the dream of homeownership. Today, during a trip to California to attend the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager announced that USDA has approved funding support for SHE to recruit families, oversee home construction, and assist in loan packaging and related activities.

“The USDA Self-Help Housing Program provides an opportunity for limited-income families to build their own equity and improve their quality of life,” said Tonsager. “Working together, helping each other, prospective homeowners build safe, affordable dwellings and develop skills that will provide benefits to their families and to society.”

Under the Self Help program, groups of up to a dozen families and individuals work together to build their own homes under the direction of a supervisor hired by a non-profit housing developer. They work on their own home as well as those of their neighbors, and are required to complete 65 percent of the work themselves. No one moves in until all the work is completed. The labor they provide becomes their “sweat equity” in the homes at closing. The Self Help program was started by USDA in the 1960’s.

SHE was the first self-help housing provider in the nation, and oversaw construction of the first three self-help homes built in Goshen, Calif. in 1963. SHE is currently working on a new subdivision 5 blocks from the original homes, and will receive a $5 million Technical Assistance Grant to oversee construction and completion of the new homes. Eligible counties for home construction projects under the grant include Merced, Madera, Kern, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Mariposa and Stanislaus.

One owner who recently completed building her home through the Self Help program is Edith Arreguis, a single mother of a five year old son. Working with others, Arreguis spent about a year building her new home in Goshen. Following the birth of her child, she struggled to find a suitable, affordable place for them to live. Although the process of building a home under the supervision of SHE required months of sacrifices and 14-hour work days, with help and support from friends and family Arreguis was able to finish her home. Building her own house through SHE enabled her to provide a secure home for her son, and helped her continue toward her career goals.

The Self Help Technical Assistance Grant announced today is funded directly by the Government. These grants provide financial assistance to non-profit organizations to provide technical assistance to low- and very low-income households to build their own homes in a rural area. Funds may be used to pay salaries, rent, and office expenses of the non-profit organization.

Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $165 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The right way to prune your trees



In the photos, taken this morning at the Nickels Soil Lab in Arbuckle, Janine Hasey (top) and Carolyn DeBuse (bottom) of the University of California Cooperative Extension discuss pruning techniques for walnut trees.

Tests of different tree-trimming strategies have thus far confirmed what the experts suspected last year -- that many walnut growers in the Sacramento Valley over-prune their young walnut trees.

For my story on this morning's workshop, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Testicle Festival arises again

It's that time of year again. From the Oakdale Cowboy Museum:
Organization members of the Oakdale Rotary Club and the Oakdale Cowboy Museum are preparing for the 31st Annual Oakdale Testicle Festival, on Monday, March 26, at the FES Hall in Oakdale from 6pm-10pm. This event continues to bring attention to our unique ranching community and has been a topic on late night comedy shows like Jay Leno and David Lettermen. “We take numerous calls and answer a lot of questions about this event this time of year, says Oakdale Chamber of Commerce CEO and Rotarian Mary Guardiola. They want to make sure that what they’re reading is correct and of course they’re curious about the taste. After a few chuckles they ask where can I buy a ticket?”

The Oakdale Testicle Festival draws about 500 attendees. It’s one of kind, a must attend at least once in your life and the only event that guarantees, “You’ll have a ball!” Tickets are $50 in advance and include dinner, a hosted bar, a raffle and live auction. Tickets are available at the Oakdale Cowboy Museum or the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce. Souvenir merchandise and tickets can also be purchased on line at www.oakdaletesticlefestival.com. The Oakdale Rotary Club and The Oakdale Cowboy Museum are non-profit organizations and all proceeds see their way back to the community.
Yee-haw!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lawmaker aims to help farms go organic

From Assemblyman Michael Allen:
Assemblymember Michael Allen (D – Sonoma County) has introduced legislation to help California farmers who want to transition their farmland to certified organic status.

California farmers who wish to transition their farmland to certified organic face a number of financial roadblocks. For starters, a transitioning farmer is not allowed to use conventional fertilizers or pesticides on the transitioning farmland for three years, a fact which must be documented and certified by a certifying agency paid for by the farmer.

During this three-year transitional period, the farmer is restricted to using typically more costly certified organic fertilizers and pest control practices. At the same time, the farmer is not yet allowed to sell the produce from the farm as certified organic to reap higher returns. California additionally requires certified organic farmers to pay extra registration fees.

These extra expenses, including inspection, certification and registration fees, have had the unfortunate effect of discouraging many California farmers from accomplishing their goal of transitioning to certified organic.

“AB 1625 will provide a measure of reimbursement to California farmers who transition their farmland to certified organic,” Allen said. “To accomplish this, AB 1625 creates a new state fund, the Transition to Organics Fund, to be administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.”

The fund will receive voluntary contributions form industry and citizens who are supportive of assisting California farmers in transitioning to organic. The fund will not receive any money form the state general fund. California farmers who transition their farmland to certified organic will be eligible to receive a reimbursement of 25% of the costs associated with obtaining organic certification, including inspection, certification and registration fees.

The California State Grange is a strong backer of Allen’s bill.

“AB 1625 helps California farmers, and I am pleased to support it,” said Bob McFarland, president of the California State Grange. “AB 1625 will preserve and create California farm jobs and help California farmers expand their national leadership in organic farming.”

Allen currently represents California’s 7th Assembly District, which is comprised of Napa County plus portions of Solano and Sonoma Counties.