Monday, April 30, 2012

Siskiyou water trial postponed a week

Pre-trial motions were heard today in the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau's water lawsuit against the Department of Fish and Game, resulting in the judge's reluctant decision to put off the start of the trial for a week.

Superior Court Judge Karen Dixon allowed the state to introduce more documents into the case and agreed to let the trial begin at 9 a.m. May 8 in Yreka. The trial was set to begin tomorrow.

Dixon handed the plaintiffs a victory when she ruled that Fish and Game Code Section 1600 -- the source of all the controversy -- is ambiguous, said Darrin Mercier, attorney for the Farm Bureau. That means he can enter the testimony of people who are affected by the rule; the state wanted the judge to simply make a decision based on the language of the code itself, Mercier said.

For the latest developments in this issue, keep checking

Fair to put people in happy 'mooood'

Today I visited with Chris Workman (pictured) of the Shasta District Fair for a story I'm doing on fair funding issues. Fairs are having to get creative to keep going in light of a lack of funding from the state. The Siskiyou Golden Fair, for instance, plans a consignment auction this weekend.

While we're on the subject, Collin Raye will highlight the Shasta District Fair on June 13-17, which is moving forward in earnest with the theme, "In the MooOOd for Fair". My wife and I saw Raye at the Intermountain Fair a few years back; he puts on a good concert.

Here is the full schedule.

For my story on fair funding, check soon.

Vote set to raise California's Beef Checkoff

Cattlemen in the Golden State are about to be asked to decide whether to raise the assessment on cattle sold in the state from $1 to $2 a head.

The California Cattlemen's Association explains in its legislative newsletter:
Upon the recommendation of the California Beef Council, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is preparing to conduct a vote of California beef producers to determine whether or not there is support to raise the check-off rate from $1.00 to $2.00 per head. If approved, the increased rate would take effect on January 1, 2013.This proposal is supported by the CCA Board of Directors.

The additional dollar raised would stay in California for the promotion of and education about cattle raising in California. CDFA will send out ballots to certified beef producers. In order to vote, you must certify your eligibility. You will either receive a certification form in the mail which you must then fill out and return, or, preferably, certify online by visiting / and completing all sections of the online form.

Wind farms may be big, green loser

From Steven Hayward, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute and author of the Almanac of Environmental Trends:
Fierce competition for this week’s Power Line Green Loser of the Week Award. It might have to be a group award for all the wind power wind bags, for lo—it turns out that wind power may cause global warming! So says a new study out in Britain, reported in The Telegraph (“Wind farms can cause climate change finds new study”):
On huge wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the air higher in the atmosphere that is warmer, pushing up the overall temperature. Satellite data over a large area in Texas, that is now covered by four of the world’s largest wind farms, found that over a decade the local temperature went up by almost 1C as more turbines are built. This could have long term effects on wildlife living in the immediate areas of larger wind farms.

That would be the wildlife that isn’t driven off by the construction and footprint of the wind mills themselves (wait—you didn’t think wildlife was only disturbed by oil and gas wells, did you?), or the winged wildlife chopped up by these Cuisinarts of the Sky. Brilliant.

As I like to remind people, there is only one form of energy that doesn’t have an environmental trade off of some kind: the bicycle the Professor built Gilligan on the Island. (And even that deciwatt generator might be said to be banana-powered.)
Read more at Power Line.

Friday, April 27, 2012

State forest fuel reduction bill advances

As federal officials have cited a high fuel load as one of the reasons they're bracing for what could be a dangerous wildfire season, the state Legislature appears to be preparing to tackle the problem.

Senate Bill 1541 by Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, which maintains an exemption for smaller property owners from timber harvest plan requirements and allows them to harvest smaller trees in order to pay for fuel reduction, faces a May 7 hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee after passing the Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday with unanimous support.

LaMalfa explains in a news release:
“This exemption has allowed thousands of acres to be made fire-safe at little or no cost to property owners or taxpayers,” said LaMalfa. “Cutting red tape and enabling property owners to make their lands fire-safe themselves is a much better approach than simply raising taxes on rural residents.”

LaMalfa originally authored the Forest Fire Protection Exemption in 2004 in the form of Assembly Bill 2420, but the exemption is set to expire in January of 2013. The exemption allows the harvest of smaller trees in order to fund the removal of dead trees, brush and other debris that would fuel a forest fire’s spread. Property owners using this option are exempted from filing cumbersome Timber Harvest Plans, which generally cost thousands of dollars to prepare.

“The state should be working toward smart forest management practices that promote forest health and fire safety, not the default approach of increasing taxes,” LaMalfa added. “In addition to fire prevention benefits, allowing trees to be cut for lumber and other uses helps fuel our state’s economy. California still needs wood products, and we simply can’t import them all from other states or even other countries.”

Day of Prayer activities to begin Monday

Local activities leading up to next week's 61st annual National Day of Prayer are set to begin Monday at Redding's city hall.

The Rev. Jim Wilson of PrayNorthState offers some observations about the Day of Prayer on his blog. Here is the upshot of what's going on:
This year National Day of Prayer will celebrate the privilege of repentance. In Redding we gather in the breezeway at City Hall to speak aloud the whole Word of God from April 30 through May 3 - around the clock - and enjoy the peace of God that always falls when we do this. We will gather in the City Hall Plaza at 7 PM on Wednesday, May 2, to praise our Lord, pray for people who come into the prayer tents dotting the plaza, and praise God for what He does as we hear people tell what He has done. We will gather again at Noon on Thursday, May 3, as leaders from many spheres of interest and influence ask God's blessings on our community, state and nation. The Day is not about protesting anything, or lobbying for anything. It is about blessing those for whom Christ died - that's everybody - and about repenting on behalf of the people who claim His Name. That's all she wrote.

WEST Act includes measures to help farms

Two U.S. senators introduced a package of jobs bills this week that include measures to prevent stricter on-farm dust regulations and provide water reliability to growers in the San Joaquin Valley.

From a Senate Western Caucus news release:
U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) today introduced legislation focused on strengthening the economy and creating jobs in the West. The Western Economic Security Today (WEST) Act incorporates several pieces of legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that ARE awaiting action in the U.S. Senate. The House-passed bills were all featured in the Western Caucus Jobs Frontier report jointly issued by the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses last fall. Barrasso is the Chairman of the Senate Western Caucus and Hatch is the Chairman of the Senate Western Caucus’ Public Lands Subcommittee.

“Time and time again, this White House and its liberal allies in Congress have chosen to stand in the way of job creation across America, and the development of abundant natural resources in the West,” Hatch said. “The Department of Energy claims there is more than 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in oil shale in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado alone, but this White House has chosen to close off much of this land to development. Then this week the Senate Majority Leader said he is ‘not going to help in any way’ to move the Keystone Pipeline project forward, which would create thousands of jobs and lower gas prices. The House of Representatives has taken action to lower gas prices and create jobs utilizing the vast resources in the West. It’s time the Obama Administration and its liberal allies in the Senate follow suit by taking up this critical job-creating legislation.”

“For too long, the Obama administration’s anti-American energy policies have strangled western job creators,” said Barrasso. “Through the WEST Act, western Republicans have laid out a clear path to energy security and job creation. By removing harmful EPA and public lands regulations, our legislation encourages American energy production and economic growth. It will also help decrease energy prices for Americans. If President Obama and Senator Reid really are serious about increased energy security and job creation in the West, they should support this bill immediately.”

The WEST Act includes the following pieces of House-passed legislation:

· HR 1229 Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act
Would end the Administration’s de facto moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico in a safe, responsible, transparent manner by setting firm time-lines for considering permits to drill. It reforms current law by requiring the Secretary to issue a permit to drill and also requiring the Secretary to conduct a safety review.

· HR 1230 Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act
Would require the Administration to move forward promptly to conduct offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Virginia that the Obama Administration has delayed or canceled.

· HR 1231 Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act
Would lift the President’s ban on new offshore drilling by requiring the Administration to move forward in the 2012-2017 lease plan with energy production in areas containing the most oil and natural gas resources. The bill sets a production goal of 3 million barrels of oil per day by 2027, which would reduce foreign imports by nearly one-third.

· HR 2021 Jobs and Energy Permitting Act
Would eliminate confusion and uncertainty surrounding the EPA’s decision-making process for air permits, which is delaying energy exploration in the Alaskan Outer-Continental Shelf (OCS). It is expected to create over 50,000 jobs and produce 1 million barrels of oil a day.

· HR 1837 San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act
Would promote water policies that facilitate the delivery of California’s abundant supply of water, as well as support the implementation of an economically feasible and environmentally sustainable river restoration of the San Joaquin River.

· HR 872 Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act
Would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to ensure that National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are not needed for the application of pesticides that are currently registered and regulated under FIFRA.

· HR 1633 Farm Dust Prevention Act
Would stop the EPA from imposing more stringent dust standards for one year. Additionally, it would afford states and localities the flexibility to address any rural dust issues before the federal government would have the authority to do so. If unregulated at the state, local or tribal level, the EPA could not regulate this type of dust unless it finds that the dust causes substantial adverse health effects and that the benefits of rural dust regulation outweigh economic costs in the local communities. Further regulation of dust could result in lost jobs in rural America.

· HR 910 Energy Tax Prevention Act
Would prohibit the Administrator of the EPA from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change using the Clean Air Act.

Key trade deal is going unnoticed

From Josh Rolph, director of international trade, farm policy, taxation and plant health for the California Farm Bureau Federation:
The last two decades have been marked by a flurry of activity in global trade. Markets have opened for California producers and created promising and beneficial trading relationships. California agricultural exports are expanding and buoying up the state's otherwise struggling economy.

There is no doubt agricultural trade has played an important role in the economy. During the last 10 years, for example, U.S. farm exports have more than doubled—even growing by leaps and bounds during the recession. This holds true for California, where agricultural exports continue to be a bright spot in the state's economy.

The U.S. has engaged in multiple trade agreements during the last two decades that have resulted in new foreign partners and markets for California's agricultural production. Recent deals between the U.S. and Panama, Colombia and Korea have demonstrated our nation's commitment to this cause. President Obama's National Export Initiative, announced in his State of the Union address in 2010, aims to double exports by the end of 2014.

Market access is the only way to reach that goal.

In almost every case, trade agreements prove contentious, and we at Farm Bureau have attempted to influence negotiations by representing the interests of each of our commodities. As our policy states, "we believe that trade must be based on principles of fairness." At times, however, there are trade agreements that seem to fly under the radar of most groups because they are less controversial. That may well apply to a potential agreement that, if anything, is getting almost no attention at all: the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Read more in Ag Alert.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Various measures afoot to prevent wildfires

In the photo, Redding area students walk through a forest near Shingletown during a Sierra Cascade Logging Conference-sponsored education day last May.

In today's news conference, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and others made several references to the high fuel loads that are putting public forests all the more at risk of catastrophic fire (which also threatens private forest lands like that in the photo).

“The fact that we have forests that were for many years not adequately or fully managed properly with reference to the fire hazard and we now have a full stock of hazardous fuels … creates a really dangerous circumstance, and with the dry conditions, that exascerbates it,” Vilsack said.

So I asked the USDA afterward what specific steps the agency is taking to reduce the fuel load, and here is how a Forest Service spokesperson responded in an e-mail:
The US Forest Service is currently embarking on Accelerated Restoration programs nationwide.

“Our restoration efforts are guided by a continuous cycle of assessing, implementing and adapting based on information from inventory and monitoring efforts,” Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said. “This strategy will yield a variety of forest products and restore the structure, function, composition, and processes of healthy, resilient ecosystems across the nation.”

The agency proposes to restore or sustain 2.6 million acres on National Forest System lands, provide 2.8 billion board feet of timber, decommission over 2,000 miles of road, and restore or enhance 2,750 miles of stream habitat, Tidwell said.

Restoration work, which includes essential levels of research in high-priority and strategic program areas, also creates healthy communities, Tidwell said.

“The nation depends on the Forest Service to take proactive measures to reduce the threat of wildfire,” he said. “By working proactively to re-establish fire-adapted ecosystems, we can reduce the severity of large wildfires. Fire management resources are directed toward the highest priority areas. We are ready to protect life, property and community, and public safety.”
Look for my story soon.

As wildfire season approaches, U.S. ready

As you read this, I am in a conference call with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other government officials discussing their readiness for this year's wildfire season, which is expected to be horrific.

The officials say some 15,000 local, state and federal firefighters stand ready for whatever comes their way.

From their news release:
The Secretaries described federal capability to respond to wildfires that are becoming more complex, particularly in areas where urban populations are situated near forested and rangeland areas. Firefighting capabilities are available to handle the fire season, they declared, with more than 15,000 firefighters available in 2012, including permanent and seasonal federal and state employees, crews from tribal and local governments, contract crews, and temporary hires.

"We are ready to meet the challenge," said Secretary Vilsack. "The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy provides a strong, new blueprint to ensure community safety and the restoration of ecosystems to benefit all Americans, especially those who live in the urban-wildland interface areas. Our concern does not stop at the border of federal lands, but rather a strategy that is an all-lands approach for safety and wildfire management.”

On average the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior bureaus respond to more than 20,000 wildfires per year, suppressing all but a small percentage of them on initial attack.

“Regions across the country face serious risks of extreme wildfires this year because of the mild winter and low precipitation levels in many areas,” said Secretary Salazar. “Knowing the risks and preparing for the wildfire season is a key part of a successful fire response, and Interior will continue to coordinate closely with federal, state, local and tribal partners to ensure we are ready for any fire scenario. Our thousands of firefighting men and women stand ready to suppress wildfires as early as possible to minimize human safety risks and prevent damage to the environment and our economy.”

Much of the 500 million acres of public land managed by the Department of the Interior is in the low-elevation rangelands in the West, where grasses and shrubs provide an abundant wildfire fuel source – especially after mild winters. DOI’s wildfire prevention and suppression funding availability for fiscal year 2012 is $736 million; the Department employs 3,500 firefighters among its bureaus.

“We urge citizens in at-risk areas to take necessary precautions,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “That means stay informed and make a family plan. FEMA’s Ready Campaign provides more information at,” he added.
For my story, check soon.

Palin wades into on-farm child labor issue

Sarah Palin has waded into the issue of proposed stricter enforcement of labor rules that agricultural groups feared would prevent children from working on family farms.

She wrote in a Facebook post yesterday:
The Obama Administration is working on regulations that would prevent children from working on our own family farms. This is more overreach of the federal government with many negative consequences. And if you think the government’s new regs will stop at family farms, think again.

My family is a commercial fishing family, and commercial fishing in Alaska is much like the family farm (but the year 'round farmers no doubt work harder than we do!). I guarantee fishing families wouldn’t stand for this nonsensical intrusion into our lives and livelihoods, and, as a former 4-H member, I don’t believe farm families will either. Our kids learn to work and to help feed America on our nation’s farms, and out on the water.

Federal government: get your own house in order and stop interfering in ours.
For the record, the government has said it is backing off such enforcement, at least for now.

Romney camp is about to meet its match

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Erin Ryan of the Redding Tea Party titled "What Are You Doing?" She was sending to those in her address book a message from someone named Tom -- presumably a tea party guy who had signed on to help President Obama just to see what the opposing camp was up to. (For those of you saying to yourselves, "Hmmmm, I see, Hearden's on the tea party's mailing list," I get e-mails from Craig Tucker and Glen Spain, too.)

Tom had this to say to his fellow activists:
As many of you know I have signed up as a Obama Supporter. Well, guess what just happened. A young lady 25-35 just called me to find out if she could count on my support for Obama. I told her my income has dropped over the last 3 years and I was not sure. She continued with her script which was to get me to make phone calls for Obama. As a last resort she asked if I wanted to meet for coffee at Starbucks and discuss the job Obama is doing. Well we are meeting Wednesday at 2:30pm. Anyone want to join me.

The bottom line is that I was getting ready to go watch a lame show on TV and today I passed on calling on my neighbors because I thought I had something more important to do. The Obama supporters are not watching TV, they are making calls and setting up appointments with strangers, so they can convince them to vote for Obama.

We are going to lose big time if we don’t realize we are in a battle for the future of our country.
First of all, Romney should be heartened that tea party folks are rallying one another to get busy on his behalf this early in the general election campaign, considering all the talk that the former Massachusetts governor would have a tough time getting tea partiers excited on his behalf.

But the letter also serves as a warning to those in the Romney camp who've been lulled into complacency by the candidate's fund-raising and organization superiority over two badly disorganized primary opponents, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. To Romney supporters, the message is clear: Obama will have as much or more organization as you and as much or more money as you. If you're going to win this election, it's going to be on message.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

LaMalfa rips panel's passage of hunting ban

State Sen. Doug LaMalfa is unhappy with the Senate Natural Resources Committee for passing a bill yesterday that would make it illegal to chase down bears or bobcats with dogs.

From a news release:
The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee held a two hour hearing today on Senate Bill (SB) 1221, which would ban hunting for bears and bobcats with hounds.

“Hunting is part of the rural way of life and something that needs to be protected,” explained Senator LaMalfa. “Assaults on the second amendment and hunting from urban legislators who neither understand nor live with the consequences of their votes need to take time to learn the impact of their actions.”

There were upwards of 600 people from throughout California that took time out of their day to drive to Sacramento to be sure their voice was heard.

Unfortunately, proponents of the bill were successful in passing SB 1221, even though the opposition, which included California Houndsmen for Conservation and the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance, provided sound science proving that hunting with hounds can help control bear and bobcat populations in California.

“The debate was not based on sound science or fact. There were numerous misrepresentations made regarding hunting with hounds which must be corrected,” stated Josh Brones, President of California Houndsmen for Conservation.

“Today’s vote was about partisan politics,” continued LaMalfa. “The Legislature is trying to restrict liberty and change the rural lifestyle of many Californians.”

Video dramatizes plight in Siskiyou

As Pie N Politics reports, Debbie Bacigalupi and Dave Spady have sent out their first YouTube video featuring what they see as the drastic issues facing Siskiyou County as the Klamath River dam removal debate rages.

The video features an interview with Paul Houser, the former Bureau of Reclamation official who claims he was fired after bringing concerns about the way the Feds were promoting the project to superiors.

The 9-minute video is here.

CDFA chief says safeguards protect food

California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said late yesterday the report of an incidence of mad cow disease in central California shows that measures to control such outbreaks are working.

Here is her statement:
“The detection of BSE shows that the surveillance program in place in California and around the country is working. Milk and beef remain safe to consume. The disease is not transmitted through milk. Because of the strength of the food protection system, the cow did not enter the food or feed supply. There are numerous safeguards in place to prevent BSE from entering the food chain.

“The atypical BSE designation is important because this is a very rare form of BSE not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed. CDFA veterinarians are working with the USDA to investigate this case and to identify whether additional cows are at risk. Feed restrictions in place in California and around the country for the last 15 years minimize that risk to the greatest degree possible. We will provide additional information about this case as it becomes available.”
In the photo, courtesy of the USDA, biologist Larry Stanker (standing) and chemist David Brandon review results of a rapid immunoassay. They are developing new technology for sensitive detection of BSE, surrogate markers, and risk factors.

City is letting library supporters down

A decade ago, I was hip-deep in covering a big community push for a new library in Redding. As I reported for the Record Searchlight in 2007, hundreds of tireless fundraisers and volunteers spent years envisioning, planning and conjuring up money for what is now the 56,000-square-foot library at Parkview Avenue and Grape Street near the Redding Civic Center.

In December of 2002, I was in Sacramento when local leaders made their pitch for funds from a state library bond that passed in 2000, and the commission that was distributing the funds turned them away. The leaders went back for the next round of grants in October 2003, buoyed by 542 letters the panel received from Redding advocates. By a 4-2 vote, Redding's proposal won $12.2 million in bond money. Fundraisers by the citizens' group New Library Now made up the lion's share of the difference between that and the library's $20.6 million price tag.

This is all worth remembering and revisiting in light of the library's five-year anniversary, which just passed in February. Because it sometimes seems the city of Redding, which gladly took over the library system from Shasta County and hired a private firm to run it, has a hard time remembering the work that went into that building.

Not long after it opened, problems started to become evident. I blogged about my experience a month after the opening when we visited the library on a weekend and found it strewn with trash. Not long after that, my wife went to the library on a Saturday and had to walk through a obstacle course of kids on skateboards darting in and out between cars, cussing and bragging about how they threatened some other kid's mom that they were going to kick her son's you-know-what if he ever showed up there. Nowadays my wife and I mostly go to the library for the used book sales, which happen on Saturday mornings, and it's not uncommon to see homeless people sleeping on benches in front when we arrive.

Now we come to discover, thanks to the fine work this week of the Searchlight's newest reporter, Jenny Espino, that homeless people like to sleep inside the library, too. They take daytime naps on the couches that the library advocates so proudly showed us when we went on that first walk-through, when the place was sparkling and new. The restrooms are a place for vagrants to wash up, and the front lobby has become a hangout.

The city says it has increased security and it is requiring a library card for people who use the study rooms. That's good. But I had to love the quote from Kim Niemer from the city. "We do not log complaints. We rarely receive them," she told the paper. It sort of reminds me of the clerk at a post office who once told a patron, "We don't have a box for complaints. We get fewer complaints that way."

Look, there's an easy solution to this. Whether you have a home or not, if you're at the library to read or use the facility as it's intended, you're welcome to stay. If you're there to hang out, do drugs, be "boisterous", sleep or have a sink-bath in the men's room, it's time to leave. I'm as compassionate for the homeless as anyone, but the library is not a homeless shelter. We were all sold on the library as a place for families with children. In fact one of the selling points for the current location was that the property next to City Hall and the ballfields was better for families than downtown. We were told this place would have a Barnes and Noble-type atmosphere. You don't see many vagrants sleeping on couches in the bookstore, do you?

Either clean it up, city officials, or don't expect your library to get a lot of patronage from the families that pay your salaries -- or students looking for a place to study. And the next time you come around with hat in hand looking for donations for that next big project, don't be surprised if many in this community tell you, "Sorry. This time I'll pass."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Groups: U.S. beef is safe despite BSE case

The U.S. Meat Export Federation, which markets American beef, pork and lamb overseas, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association sought to reassure consumers around the world that U.S. beef is safe despite today's USDA report of a case of mad cow disease in California.

From a news release:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today confirmed that, as part of its ongoing monitoring of livestock in the United States, an atypical case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has been detected in a dairy cow in central California. The animal was not presented for slaughter for human consumption, and never posed a risk to the food supply or human health.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is continuing to investigate the case, which was confirmed late Monday, April 23, but preliminary results indicate that this is an atypical case of BSE. According to USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, this indicates that the case is unrelated to consumption of animal feed.

This latest finding will not have any impact on the United States’ “controlled risk” BSE classification through the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and should not affect access for U.S. beef products in international markets.

“The most important message is that U.S. beef is safe,” said Philip Seng, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) president and CEO. “We are already reaching out to our trade contacts around the world to reassure them that this finding is an indication that the system to safeguard the wholesomeness and safety of U.S. beef is working. The U.S. Government is providing this same information through its channels to all of our trading partners.”

The United States maintains a vigilant system of interlocking safeguards to protect human and animal health against BSE. Those include the removal of all specified risk materials (SRMs) during processing, USDA’s ban on any use of SRMs in both human or animal food, and constant monitoring of livestock to ensure that no higher-risk non-ambulatory (or “downer”) animals are processed for consumption.

Global BSE cases peaked at 37,311 in 1992, but steps taken by countries around the world have dramatically reduced new cases to a minimum. Of the four cases identified over the years in the United States, one animal was traced back to Canada. The other two earlier cases were both classified as atypical.
NCBA Cattle Health and Well-being Committee Chairman Tom Talbot -- a Central California veterinarian -- issued this statement about the case:
“USDA confirmed this afternoon a positive test result as part of its targeted surveillance program to test cattle for BSE. USDA has confirmed this dairy animal was discovered at a rendering facility and was never presented for human consumption and poses zero risk to human health. The bottom line remains the same – all U.S. beef is safe.

“America’s cattle producers’ top priority is raising healthy cattle. As such, the U.S. beef community has collaborated with and worked with animal health experts and government to put in place multiple interlocking safeguards over the past two decades to prevent BSE from taking hold in the United States. This effort was recognized in May 2007 when the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the leading international body for animal health, formally classified the United States as a controlled risk country for BSE. The controlled risk classification recognizes that U.S. regulatory controls are effective and that U.S fresh beef and beef products from cattle of all ages are safe and can be safely traded due to our interlocking safeguards.

“USDA’s ongoing BSE surveillance program tests approximately 40,000 high-risk cattle annually, bringing the total of tested animals to more than 1 million since the program began. BSE is fast approaching eradication worldwide. According to USDA, there were only 29 cases of BSE worldwide in 2011, which is a 99 percent reduction since the peak in 1992 of more than 37,300 cases.

“We commend USDA and animal health experts for effectively identifying and eliminating the potential risks associated with BSE.”
The story by Capital Press dairy reporter Carol Ryan Dumas is here. To watch video from the USDA press conference, click here. For the latest developments on this case, keep checking

UC, CSU to join forces on ag research

Scientists from California State University-Chico and the University of California-Davis will join a collaborative effort between the two systems to try to learn more about various issues related to agriculture.

From UC-Davis' Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources:
Researchers and educators from the University of California and California State University have received funding for joint projects on priority issues such as urban residential water demand, restoring pollinator communities, and estimating alfalfa’s impact on nitrogen and nitrate leaching in the Central Valley.

Leadership of California’s higher education systems made the funding available to jointly address issues in agriculture, natural resources and human sciences. Project criteria include collaborative research, teaching, or course development; development of student internship opportunities; and workshops, conferences, and symposia. Eight projects totaling more than $79,500 were selected from 30 proposals submitted.

“These research projects will help leverage limited resources to produce quick results on important issues in California,” said Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. “They are also building stronger connections among researchers throughout the state and providing hands-on learning opportunities for students.”

Researchers involved in this year’s projects are from UC Davis, UC Berkeley and California State University campuses at Chico, Fresno, Humboldt, Pomona, Sonoma, San Marcos and San Luis Obispo.
Among the projects:
· “Modeling the costs of hazardous fuel reduction thinning treatments and removal of woody biomass for energy” — Researchers from Humboldt State University, UC Davis, and the U.S. Forest Service will develop a model to estimate the costs of removing hazardous wildland fuels with different equipment and systems over a wide range of forest stand, site and road conditions. (Han-Sup Han, Bruce Hartsough)

· “Restoration of pollinator communities and pollination function in riparian habitats” — Researchers from California State University, Chico, and UC Davis will characterize native pollinator communities at restored riparian habitats within the Central Valley and test whether successful restoration of pollinator communities also leads to restoration of pollination. (Christopher Ivey, Neal Williams)
Reports on project outcomes are expected in December, the universities say.

Klamath bird deaths overblown, blogger says

Liz Bowen, editor of the Siskiyou County-based Pie N Politics blog and a Scott Valley Protect Our Water activist, asserts that news reports about a bird die-off in two wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin are overblown.

She writes:
Contrary to all the news articles, I didn’t see one dead bird on my drive through the Lower Klamath Refuge on my way to Tulelake.

And there were lots of live birds. All colors and sizes.

I was shocked, cuz the news articles make it sound like they are all dead.

Oh, there was also lots of water. At least the birds I saw were floating on a sufficient amount of water.

Didn’t see any birds wading in ankle-deep water.
As I've written before, 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. That's why it's best to wait until you've seen multiple reports about something before judging.

Lawmaker urges letters for vets' home

A north state lawmaker is urging citizens to write to Gov. Jerry Brown to encourage him to open the Redding Veterans' Home quickly.

From a news release:
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) announced today that by accessing his State Assembly web site, Northern Californians can now write Governor Brown directly and urge him to make the opening of the Redding Veterans Home a priority.

“I encourage veterans, families, friends and neighbors, and all those who believe the opening of the Redding Veterans home should not be delayed, to access my web site and write to the governor,” said Nielsen. “Our veterans have waited a long time for a better living situation, and the governor needs to keep his promise, the promise that we made to these men and women who have served the country so bravely.”

Warm weather pushes crop development

Last week's warm-up around California is a boon for the state's wheat fields as well as fruit and other crops, according to the latest crop weather report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

From the report:
Plum, peach, apricot, and nectarine fruit developed. Cherry bloom was complete. Prunes were
leafing-out in Sutter and Yuba Counties. Weed treatments and bloom sprays continued in stone fruit
orchards. In the San Joaquin Valley, recent hail storms resulted in damage to apricot, peach and cherry
orchards. Grape and kiwi vines were in the shoot elongation stage. Pomegranates and persimmons
continued to leaf-out. Apples were blooming and leafing-out. Olive groves were pruned. Orange and
avocado trees were in bloom in early locations as bees were moved into citrus groves in preparation of
full bloom. Navel oranges, tangerines, tangelos and lemons continued to be harvested and packed for
export. The harvesting of late variety navel oranges and early Valencia oranges began to pick up.
The full report is here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Capital Press is becoming a daily

Not the printed paper, but the website,

During our editorial department's annual meeting up in Salem earlier this month, our editors expressed a goal of further ramping up our online presence, constantly updating our website with new material. While we were making an effort to keep our website fresh before, now we are pushing even harder to make it the go-to place for the very latest in news and information relating to Western agriculture. We're basically approaching it as we would a daily newspaper, while also being diligent at posting breaking stories at all hours of the day.

Much of our efforts revolve around a daily e-newsletter with summaries and links to stories that have just been posted online. You can subscribe to the newsletter here and start receiving in your inbox a dozen reports a day from our news staff stationed in four Western states. We also have weekly e-newsletters specific to California, livestock and other topics.

In addition, our company has launched a new national classified advertising site called, in which farmers, ranchers and other agriculture industry professionals can find equipment, livestock, ag services and related products being advertised in leading U.S. ag publications. "With the addition of a national online site which will house classifieds from respected ag publications around the U.S. there will be a unique national marketplace for ag commerce," said Capital Press publisher Mike O'Brien in an article we ran about the site's launch.

With this new push, I thought it would be an excellent time to bring even more of a news focus to the Jefferson Journal. As you can see, I've added the daily weather report and replaced the canned business news features with live RSS feeds from the Washington Times, and While you'll still see some of the commentary and analysis you've grown used to here, this blog will aim to complement the Capital Press California page with news and information relevant to rural Northern California.

We hope you will find the changes useful, and we appreciate your readership and support.

Cattlemen pan ban on hunting with dogs

California's largest cattlemen's organization has signaled its opposition to a bill that would prohibit using dogs for hunting in certain situations.

The California Cattlemen's Association explains in its legislative newsletter:
This week, CCA drafted and sent a letter to Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) in opposition to his bill, SB 1221. SB 1221 would make it illegal to hunt or chase bears or bobcats with dogs which is currently a common practice used by hunters, houndsmen and landowners seeking to manage property damage from the ever-growing population of bears.

CCA’s letter outlined that not only would SB 1221 limit ranchers’ ability to responsibly manage the land and resources in our care, but it would also further harm the ability for to protect cattle from wildlife. Bears are known culprits of calf death losses to ranchers and just the presence of predators near a cow herd is known to cause undue stress on the cattle. The bill has been scheduled to be heard in the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, April 24. CCA will be in attendance and testify against the adoption of SB 1221 at the committee hearing.

Group peddles U.S. meat to Korean bloggers

In the photo, courtesy of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, Leann Saunders addresses Korean consumers and bloggers about American beef and pork.

Beef cattle and hog farmers in the north state and elsewhere who rely on customers overseas are getting another boost from a key trade-promoting organization, which is touting the benefits of American beef to influential South Korean bloggers and consumer leaders.

From the USMEF:
A group of 22 South Korean consumers, including 11 food-oriented bloggers, got a unique opportunity to enjoy a U.S. beef and pork cooking demonstration while hearing personal insights from American industry leaders in Seoul earlier this week.

Korean consumers are very interested in understanding the sources of their food, so a presentation by Leann Saunders, a Colorado wife and mother who also happens to be a rancher, businesswoman and secretary/treasurer of the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s executive committee, was very timely.

Saunders explained for the consumer group that she grew up on a ranch where her father and grandfather still work. She spoke on behalf of the U.S. beef industry, and discussed the commitment her family shares with other ranchers to do their best to protect natural resources and produce high quality, safe beef.

"It was fascinating meeting with Korean consumers and these trusted bloggers,” said Saunders. “It is very obvious that while we speak different languages and come from different cultures, we all want the same thing when it comes to our food choices and feeding our families. We all want safe, healthy, cost-effective alternatives. Consumers worldwide want transparency, authenticity and more information about the families behind their food."
For more on the project, click here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sunshine bathes tourists at Shasta Dam

In the photos, from the top: Tami Corn, the tour supervisor at Shasta Dam, stands by a rail on the dam; Mino Anderson (front) leads a group from the Chico Elks Lodge on a tour at the foot of the dam; a circa-1950s turnstyle demonstrates that the dam used to charge for tours after it first opened; and William Johnson (left) of Arcata looks out on Shasta Lake with his mom, Michelle Johnson of northern Virginia.

Today I had a chance to follow one of the tours of the dam and take some pictures for a big centerpiece story on the state's water system that is set to appear in the Capital Press next week. Special thanks goes to Ms. Corn, who took more than an hour out of her schedule to accompany me and make sure I got whatever opportunities I needed; and to Bureau of Reclamation PR specialist Sheri Harral for setting this up. If you haven't taken a dam tour lately you might want to; they've expanded it in the past year to include a walk through the powerhouse and into an old railroad tunnel that also served as a bypass for the Sacramento River.

We couldn't have picked a better day to do this; the temperature is currently 88 degrees, according to my handy-dandy new weather display courtesy of AccuWeather. As you can see, temperatures are expected to top 80 degrees each day through Monday.

On farms, every day is Earth Day

The head of one of the nation's largest agricultural groups is using environmentalists' favorite day to highlight the ecological benefits of farms.

From a news release:
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in observance of Earth Day, which is Sunday:

“NFU is pleased to see a continuing trend of people becoming more environmentally aware and actively working to reduce their carbon footprint. In a nation that is often plagued by political gridlock, one issue we can all agree on is the importance of preserving our natural resources and being good stewards of our environment.

“Earth Day serves as an important reminder of the need to create policies that assist in this mission. This includes programs like the Rural Energy for America Program and Biomass Crop Assistance Program. We also need to focus on ethanol and other energy sources, which displace millions of barrels of oil with clean, renewable energy.

“We should also use this time to reflect on the contributions of America’s family farmers and ranchers to preserving our resources and our environment. They are the original environmentalists, working to preserve our soil, water, and wildlife while providing us with the safest, most affordable, most abundant food supply in the world.

“Every day is Earth Day for America’s family farmers and ranchers.”

Wolves' impact on livestock discussed

In the photo, Liz Bowen of Scott Valley Protect Our Water testifies at a Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors hearing in January about the arrival of the first gray wolf in decades to California.

Wolf expert Carter Niemeyer will discuss their potential threat to livestock and wildlife during a meeting next month in Yreka (hat tip: Pie N Politics).

The presentation, sponsored by the Siskiyou County Agriculture Department, will take place at 6:30 p.m. May 10 at the Miners Inn Convention Center.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dairymen encounter rising costs, enviro laws

This morning I interviewed Frank Martins, co-owner of the Martins Family Dairy in Orland, for a special section the Capital Press is publishing on dairies later in the spring. Frank and his brother, Mario, are the second generation of a family of dairymen who emigrated to the U.S. from Portugal.

Like most farmers who work with livestock, Frank Martins laments the high cost of feed and blames the ethanol industry for driving up the price of corn. However, more than most commodities, dairy farmers in California must grapple with environmental regulations that force them to spend hours away from their animals doing paperwork. Martins makes the point that while urban lawmakers like the idea of the small dairy farmer milking his own cows, the regulations they pass creates a market that favors large-scale producers that have enough cows and land to justify the cost of such things as EIRs that can run a quarter of a million dollars.

The Martins' farm is one of more than a dozen around the West that we'll be profiling for a section themed "We Are Dairy". Stay tuned.

Tribes declare win in Klamath adjudications

Tribal leaders in the Klamath Basin are claiming victories in adjudications over the rights to water from the Klamath Lake and Klamath River -- and using the issue to call anew for enactment of the hotly debated agreements that would include removing four dams from the river.
From a Klamath Tribes news release (courtesy of Craig Tucker of the Karuk Tribe):
April 16, 2012 marks another important milestone in the lengthy Klamath Basin Water Rights Adjudication, with two new legal rulings handed down in favor of the Klamath Tribes’ water rights, this time in the Klamath River and Klamath Lake. These rulings add to six earlier victories achieved by the Tribes in December of last year concerning their water rights in the Williamson, Sycan, Sprague, and Wood Rivers, and many of the rivers’ tributaries, as well as the Klamath Marsh and springs scattered throughout the former Klamath Reservation.

“We welcome these rulings as part of the Adjudication process and the Basin resource picture,” said Jeff Mitchell who leads the Klamath Tribes’ Negotiating Team. “These rulings reconfirm the role that the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement can play in resolving Basin resource issues. The Tribes will continue to work with others in the Basin to determine the best path from here on.”

The most recent rulings again point to the wisdom of the Basin community pursuing a negotiated, mutually-beneficial settlement instead of challenging water rights in lengthy and expensive litigation. “With the results of the adjudication process becoming more clear, now is the time for Senator Wyden and Representative Walden to join Senator Merkley in supporting KBRA legislation and press forward with Senate hearings,” said Mitchell. In each of the eight Tribal water right cases the judge has ruled in favor of quantification of the Tribal water rights in the amounts sought by the Tribes.

“These rulings are definitely a victory for the fish and all the water dependent resources that are important to the Klamath Tribes,” said Tribal Vice-Chairman Don Gentry. “But while the Adjudication deals only with determining quantities of water, the KBRA provides for comprehensive habitat restoration critical to restoring Klamath Basin fisheries and aquatic resources. The KBRA also includes other elements that not only benefit the fisheries, but all water users in the Basin. The Tribes will continue support of the negotiated KBRA and KHSA settlements because we believe they provide the most viable solution to resolving long-standing disputes over water and fisheries management affecting the economic stability of our Klamath Basin community.” Added Gentry, “It is disappointing, however, that while we have made much progress here in the Basin to resolve these important issues, the anti-tribal and anti-KBRA themes of candidates like Tom Mallams, Doug and Gail Whitsett, and others have created a difficult environment for those seeking a balanced solution.”

The rulings are welcomed by the Tribes who, despite having faced untold challenges, have continued to fight tirelessly for the recognition and protection of their treaty rights for many decades. The Tribes’ commitment to the health of the Basin fisheries and water bodies is explained by Mr. Mitchell: “The Klamath way of life continues to this day and will continue for generations to come, so long as the water and treaty resources are protected. That is why we fight for the water; to protect and restore the treaty resources. The very essence of who we are is interconnected to the animals, birds, fish, and plants, to the land, and to the water.”

The Oregon Water Resources Department Adjudicator is expected to issue a final order resolving all Adjudication claims by early next year. If OWRD follows the judge's rulings in the Tribal water right cases, the Tribes’ water rights are expected to become enforceable in the 2013 irrigation season.
The photos are from competing rallies outside a meeting on the Klamath restoration proposal held in Klamath Falls in October.

Sheriffs urge you to 'Support Rural America'

A half-dozen north state sheriffs -- and one from eastern Oregon -- are gearing up for the first in a series of "Support Rural America" rallies, to be held Saturday in Alturas.

An announcement forwarded by Erin Ryan of the Redding Tea Party:
Sheriffs’ Event

Saturday, April 21, 2012
2 p.m.
Alturas, CA.
Casino Convention Center
901 County RD 56

Hosted by Modoc Sheriff Mike Poindexter

----- Constitutional Sheriffs -----

Panel of 7 County Sheriffs will speak including:

Siskiyou Sheriff Jon Lopey
Del Norte Sheriff Dean Wilson
Trinity Sheriff Bruce Haney
Lassen Sheriff Dean Growden
Plumas Sheriff Greg Hagwood
Oregon’s Grant County Sheriff Glenn E. Palmer

Special Guest:
Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen

Admission is FREE
Doors open at noon

Sponsored by Modoc Independent Tea Party

For more info: Doug Knox 530-233-3599 or Liz Bowen 530-467-3515
As I have reported, the sheriffs plan to hold similar rallies May 19 in Weaverville and June 23 in Red Bluff.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Panel restores funding for Redding vets' home

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, who is vice chair of the lower chamber's budget committee, says he pushed to restore half the funding for the Redding and Fresno veterans' homes so they could open "as soon as possible."

He explained in a news release:
In the last year’s budget an agreement was broken and under the governor’s proposed budget plan these veterans homes would sit vacant until January 2014. This important issue was brought up for a vote and was passed with bi-partisan support in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 4 to be included in the 2012-13 Budget.

“This is but the first step to ensure the homes in Redding and Fresno areas are open by July 1st, 2013,” said Nielsen. “The budget has a long way to go before it’s finally passed and we need the veterans to continue as they did today in Sacramento, to show members of the Legislature and the Governor’s Administration that they will do everything to ensure our veterans will begin to live in these veterans homes without delay.”

“When veterans stand together we can accomplish any mission,” said Lieutenant Colonel Carl Bott, USMC (Ret), a former Second Assembly District Veteran of the Year. “This is just the opening battle in a long war.”

North state farm advisor to retire

William Krueger, the University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Glenn County whose specialties include olives and other tree crops, is retiring in June.

"I've been doing this job for 32 years," Krueger told more than 100 growers this morning during an olive seminar at the Corning Veterans Hall. He said he will continue with some of his research projects after he retires, but not his day-to-day duties.

Krueger is only the latest in what is expected to be a wave of retirements among farm advisors and specialists in the UC system. For my look at what that could mean for growers and others who rely on their expertise, check soon.

Round-Up Week continues with poetry, mixer

In the photo, a mascot entertains attendees of a rodeo-themed festival on the street in front of the Tehama County Courthouse on Saturday.

Activities surrounding the 91st Red Bluff Round-Up rodeo continue today with a cowboy poetry reading at the Tehama County Library and a mixer tomorrow night at Reynolds Ranch and Farm Supply.

A pancake breakfast will take place at the Elks Lodge on Gilmore Road starting at 6 a.m. Saturday, then the 55th annual Red Bluff Round-Up Parade begins winding its way through downtown streets at 10 a.m.

All the festivities kicked off last Saturday with a chili cook-off, car show, live entertainment, craft and food booths and a 4-H dummy roping event, which we covered.

The rodeo itself begins today with timed event slack, and the main events are at 7 p.m. Friday, 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Country artist Tracy Lawrence will perform Saturday night.

For ticket information, click here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Watermaster bill advances in Legislature

A bill that could provide some relief to water rights holders in Shasta, Siskiyou and other counties that have been floored by skyrocketing watermaster fees is gaining ground in the state Senate.

The California Cattlemen's Association explains:
The week of April 9th marked a small step towards success for CCA sponsored bill SB 1247, authored by Senator Ted Gaines (R- Rocklin). The bill, which would reestablish a critical funding pathway for the state’s Watermaster Program, passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support.

“The Program is vital to the success of California’s farmers and ranchers and I thank the Committee for recognizing the importance of this bill,” said Gaines. “Allowing for partial funding of the Program provides not only a benefit to the water users, but it also helps to prevent the waste or unreasonable use of water – one of our most precious resources.”

The DWR is required by law to divide the state into watermaster service areas in order to distribute water according to certain water right determinations. Beginning in 2011, the state’s water rights holders were mandated to pay 100 percent of the costs associated with the administration and distribution of water. Prior to 2011, the DWR had funded at least 50 percent of the Program. Without the DWR’s assistance, costs to waters users have skyrocketed with some paying increases of up to 800 percent over previous costs.

Senate Bill 1247 seeks to provide some monetary relief to water users by allowing the DWR to again pay up to 50 percent of the Program costs should the funding be available up until January 1, 2014.

Senator Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) who serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water supported the bill and expressed his appreciation to Senator Gaines for carrying the measure that impacts constituents in his North State district.

“Excessive state mandates are the reason watermaster rates have shot through the roof, so providing funding for the Program is a common-sense step forward,” said LaMalfa. “Senator Gaines’ bill will help relieve the pressure on family farmers and other rural water users, but we must remain vigilant against intrusive government agencies and mandates.”

Senate Bill 1247 now moves to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The hearing date is pending.
For my story on the progress of this and other ag-related legislation, check soon.

Klamath 'whistleblower' to appear in Siskiyou

Paul Houser, a former U.S. Bureau of Reclamation science advisor who claims he was fired after raising concerns about the way his supervisors were characterizing aspects of the Klamath dam removal project to the public, will make several appearances in Siskiyou County next month.

Among his appearances, according to the Siskiyou County Water Users Association (hat tip: Erin Ryan):

Sun. May 6, 2012 – Klamath Falls at 5 p.m.

Mon. May 7, 2012 – Yreka, CA Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds 6 p.m.

Tues. May 8, 2012 – Dr. Houser will address the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors TBA in Yreka, CA

Tues. May 8, 2012 – Speak at Yreka TEA Party at 6:30 p.m.

Blue Diamond to add processing capacity

Blue Diamond Growers, a cooperative whose growers include many in Tehama County and other parts of the north state, has broken ground on a new manufacturing plant.

The first phase of the project in Turlock will provide about 200,000 square feet for manufacturing and delivering new almond products and is scheduled to be completed in May 2013, according to a news release.

The three-phased project will eventually take up about 500,000 square feet of building space on the 88-acre property, the release stated.

Blue Diamond made its last major investment in 1968 with its Salida plant. Since then, California's almond production has increased from 140 million pounds to about 2 million pounds annually, officials from the cooperative explained.

Monday, April 16, 2012

State Farm Bureau backs LaMalfa for Congress

The California Farm Bureau Federation is supporting Richvale rice farmer and California state Sen. Doug LaMalfa's bid for the retiring Rep. Wally Herger's congressional seat.

The CFBF opines:
As a state senator, Doug LaMalfa has remained true to his roots as a fourth-generation rice farmer and stood up to protect California's farmers and ranchers, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation. Citing LaMalfa's work to protect private property rights and increase the state's water supply, CFBF endorsed LaMalfa today in his candidacy for the U.S. Congress.

After serving in both the state Senate and Assembly, LaMalfa, a Republican, seeks election in the 1st Congressional District representing all or part of Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama counties.

"Doug LaMalfa has always recognized the value agriculture brings to the economy and the environment," California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger said. "As a farmer, he knows the importance of efficiency and running an economically viable business, one that he can pass on to future generations. In these tough economic times and in a contentious political environment, Doug stands up for what he believes in and knows how to get things done."

Wenger added that LaMalfa's understanding of important issues facing farmers and ranchers has become invaluable.

"With Doug LaMalfa in Congress, I know that there will be another voice of reason when burdensome environmental regulations or shortsighted views of property rights threaten the ability for family farmers and ranchers to do what they do best," Wenger said. "Washington, D.C., could use a dose of clear thinking and solid work ethic from this California farmer."

Citrus growers are expecting smaller crops

Growers of navel and valencia oranges, grapefruit, lemons and tangerines are all expecting smaller production numbers this year than their bumper crops in 2011. From the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service:

The latest survey, conducted during the last week of March and the first week of April, included the following commodities:

Navel Oranges -- The 2011-12 Navel orange forecast is 88.0 million cartons, unchanged from January, and an 8 percent decrease from last season. With more than half of the crop harvested, demand remained good as the 2011-12 navel orange harvest continued in California.

Valencia Oranges -- The 2011-12 Valencia orange forecast is 28.0 million cartons, unchanged from March, and down 3 percent from last season. Some early Valencia oranges were picked as the navel crop continued to dominate the domestic market. The harvest is expected to pick up in the coming months.

Grapefruit -- The 2011-12 California grapefruit forecast is 6.80 million cartons, up 3 percent from the January forecast, and down 21 percent from last season’s crop. Two different Asian citrus psyllids were found in the Ventura area at the beginning of the citrus harvest. Quarantine has been a big concern for citrus growers in that region. Weather has been favorable this year.

Lemons -- The 2011-12 lemon forecast is 39.0 million cartons, unchanged from the January forecast, and down 5 percent from last season. The California lemon harvest was completed in the desert region, while it continued in the San Joaquin Valley and along the southern coastal region.

Tangerines -- The 2011-12 tangerine forecast is 19.6 million cartons, down 5 percent from the January forecast and down 1 percent from last season. The Satsuma harvest was completed in January, while several other varieties were harvested including Fairchilds, Royal Mandarins, Dancy tangerines, and Minneolas. Two nights of frigid temperatures in mid-January across portions of California's Fresno and Madera counties caused some frost damage to the 2011-2012 mandarin crop. In early February, the Clementine harvest was winding down in Central California, while Shasta Gold mandarins were being harvested. Minneola tangelo harvest was completed in the Desert Region in early March. Harvest of Shasta Golds, Pixies, and Gold Nuggets continued in the San Joaquin Valley in March.

Fruit has good size, color, and flavor. Production forecasts are released on a monthly basis and do not reflect final production estimates. The next production forecast will be issued May 10, 2012.
For my story, check soon.

Kids try their hands at the rope

In the top photo, 5-year-old Hunter Maxwell of Los Molinos throws a rope over a dummy calf, and in the bottom two, Cheyenne Pilger, 11, of Los Molinos teaches Alyssa Perry, 8, of Red Bluff how to handle a rope, and Alyssa finally ropes the fake calf.

The photos were taken at Tehama County 4-H clubs' annual dummy roping competition on Saturday in front of the old courthouse in Red Bluff. It's a way to introduce city kids to things that are done on a ranch, although many ranching kids showed up to test their skills with ropes.

The event was part of a week-long series of activities leading up to the Red Bluff Round-Up. For my story, check later today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Young marketing pro helps family farm

In the photos, Katie Bianchi (wearing the dark jacket) talks with her sister, Becky Klinesteker, while walking in their family's walnut orchard in Los Molinos.

The 25-year-old Bianchi is another of those unsung Under-40 go-getters, returning home after being the marketing director at Lucero Olive Oil in Corning to help run the new shop at her family's Bianchi Orchards. She'll be my next Western Innovator feature subject; you can look for the story next week at

After today, my blog and Facebook postings will take a brief hiatus over the next few days, as I'm heading up to Salem for our annual company meeting. My next assignment in the north state will be Saturday, when I'll be attending the 4-H dummy roping and other events in front of the courthouse in Red Bluff (part of the run-up to the Red Bluff Round-Up). See you there.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Klamath growers to get most of their water

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has established an operations plan for the Klamath Basin in which project water users will get an estimated 310,000 acre-feet of water for the 2012 season.

That's more than 75 percent of the estimated demand of 400,000 acre-feet, noted Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association in our conversation this morning.

Conditions have improved dramatically with persistent rain and snow in the past three weeks, he said. Before that, the situation was looking "dire", he said.

For my story on where growers in the Basin and in California's Central Valley stand in terms of water availability, check soon.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Where the AP is really coming from

Anyone who has any question about where the Associated Press stands in terms of politics should take a look at this campaign-style introduction of President Obama by none other than Dean Singleton, the chairman of the wire service's board.

A snippet, courtesy of the Weekly Standard:
As president, he inherited the headwinds of the worst economic recession since the great depression. He pushed through congress the biggest economic recovery plan history and what a government reorganization of two of the big three American automakers to save them from oblivion. He pursued domestic and foreign policy agendas that are controversial to many, highlighted by his signature into law of the most comprehensive health care legislation in history. The budget plan's proposed by the president on the one hand and republicans on the other hand are not even on the same planet. Many democrats believe his agenda doesn't go far enough and many republicans believe it goes way too far. While we fought be to doubt -- while we thought the 2008 white house race was rough and tumble, the 2012 race makes it look like bumper cars by comparison our country has become even more polarized. The 1 percent and the 99 percent are at each other's throats. Campaigns are now funded by secretive, multimillion-dollar super PACs. The only thing anybody seems willing to compromise on is -- I can't think of anything. [laughter] really, who would want this job in the first place?”
The culture that's fostered by the AP's chief permeates through the organization as well as the newsrooms of many of its contributing members. When it comes to politics, these people are not impartial amd cannot be trusted to give a balanced account, period. If you're reading an AP story about the campaign or goings-on in Washington, it's best to keep in mind the point of view from which the news organization is coming.

Community journalist back where she belongs

Debra Moore, who kickstarted the Sunday supplement Tehama Today for the Record Searchlight back in 2007 and was my boss when I inherited the Red Bluff bureau office later that year, is back in the field she loves -- community journalism in a small town.

Debra is holding down the Plumas County News' fort in Portola, reporting on school boards and other happenings. Long after she gave up the Tehama Today office and took a promotion in the Searchlight's main newsroom and later became a freelance journalist, Debra spoke longingly of her days meeting with friends and mingling in shops in Red Bluff's rustic downtown. Now she's in Portola's rustic downtown, meeting new friends and finding new shops. Further, she's back with a company she spent well over a decade with before she was lured to the north valley.

I've always felt that amid all the uncertainty surrounding newspapers, the ones that celebrate their readers (rather than trying to convert them to a cause) and cover their communities like a glove are the ones that will survive. The Plumas County News (and the Capital Press) understands this, and so does Debra. It's good to see her back where she belongs.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tribes, enviros sue DFG over gold mining

Some familiar players in the ongoing water drama in Siskiyou County are at odds over another issue -- suction dredge mining for gold. And their dispute appears to be headed to court.

A joint news release from the Karuk Tribe, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and other groups:
Today a coalition of organizations concerned about the health of California Rivers and commercially valuable salmon fisheries moved to block newly approved regulations for the controversial practice of suction dredge mining. The litigation is the latest development in the battle between fish dependent communities and recreational gold miners.

“Until the moratorium was passed, gold miners were still allowed to destroy our rivers, our fisheries, and our culture,” according to Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe. “Fish and Game will let them resume the destruction in 2016 unless the new regulations are dramatically improved.”

Suction dredges are powered by gas or diesel engines that are mounted on floating pontoons in the river. Attached to the engine is a powerful vacuum hose which the dredger uses to suction up the gravel and sand (sediment) from the bottom of the river. The suctioned material is sifted in search of gold. Dredging alters fish habitat by altering the contour of the river bottom and often reintroduces mercury left over from historic mining operations to the water column threatening communities downstream. These machines can turn a clear running mountain stream into a murky watercourse unfit for swimming or fishing.

The new regulations were developed in response to a 2005 court order resulting from a lawsuit by the Karuk Tribe. The Tribe charged that the regulations failed to prevent ‘deleterious’ effects to fish as required by state law. The court agreed and ordered Fish and Game to develop new regulations. Since the 2004 suit, the California legislature approved a temporary moratorium on dredging which sunsets in 2016. This means the new regulations won’t take effect until then. However, state law requires that any legal challenges to the regulations must be filed within 30 days of their approval.

The groups’ allege that the new regulations were not developed in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, fail to mitigate identified impacts, and are inconsistent with existing state law. “In short, these regulations will give recreational suction dredgers a license to pollute some of the most scenic and ecologically sensitive rivers in California,” according to Steve Evans of Friends of the River.

Other regulatory agencies have urged Fish and Game to simply continue the current moratorium instead of allowing the practice to resume. The California Water Board stated that, “a continuation of the current suction dredging moratorium, would provide the best water quality protection at no cost to the State."

The issue has implications for the economy as well as the environment. “For our members, this is about protecting jobs and family owned businesses which rely on healthy salmon fisheries,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the west coast’s largest trade association of commercial fishing families, which is a plaintiff in the case. Under these new regulations, suction dredge mining will continue to harm fisheries, continue to stir up toxic mercury which is a human health hazard and continue degrading California’s rivers at taxpayer expense. This makes no sense.”

The case was filed in today in Alameda County Superior Court. The coalition is represented by attorneys from the Environmental Law Foundation, Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Federation of Fisherman’s Associations, and Friends of the River.

More LaMalfa on farm subsidies

Ryan Sabalow gives an interesting recap in today's Record Searchlight about last night's congressional candidates forum, at which several opponents reportedly made the rice subsidies accepted by farmer and state Sen. Doug LaMalfa an issue.

I talked to Sen. LaMalfa at some length about the subsidies last summer for a package of stories that we at the Capital Press were doing. It was a reluctant interview about a touchy subject, to be sure. In fact some members of the California Rice Commission were so ticked off about my article that they didn't talk to me for months afterward.

I expanded on LaMalfa's views on a blog post at the time, which you can read here. He defends the subsidies vehemently, adding that even if he were to decide not to take the money for political reasons, it would put his farm at a severe competitive disadvantage because everyone else in the industry does make use of the program.

Farm subsidies haven't been much of a factor in LaMalfa's campaigns for the state Legislature, but they're a little more relevant to a congressional campaign because, after all, a congressman LaMalfa would be voting on future farm bills. Whether the issue is enough to sink him, however, remains to be seen. And I have my doubts, considering that a lot of conservatives secretly like big government as long as their palms are the ones being greased.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Honey production drops dramatically from 2010

From the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service's latest report:
California’s 2011 honey production, at 17.8 million pounds, was 35
percent lower than 2010. Honey producing colonies totaled 370
thousand, down 10 percent from the previous year. The yield per
colony averaged 48 pounds, compared with 67 pounds per colony in

Honey prices increased to a record high during 2011 to 172.9 cents
per pound, up 7 percent from 161.9 cents per pound in 2010. U.S. and
State level prices reflect the portions of honey sold through
cooperatives, private, and retail channels. Prices for each color class
are derived by weighting the quantities sold for each marketing
channel. Prices for the 2010 crop reflect honey sold in 2010 and 2011.
Some 2010 crop honey was sold in 2011, which caused some
revisions to the 2010 crop prices.

Honey production in 2011 from producers with five or more colonies
totaled 148 million pounds, down 16 percent from 2010. There were
2.49 million colonies producing honey in 2011, down 7 percent from
2010. Yield per colony averaged 59.6 pounds, down 9 percent from
the 65.6 pounds in 2010. Colonies which produced honey in more
than one State were counted in each State where the honey was
produced. Therefore, at the U.S. level, yield per colony may be
understated, but total production would not be impacted. Colonies
were not included if honey was not harvested. Producer honey stocks
were 36.8 million pounds on December 15, 2011, down 18 percent
from a year earlier. Stocks held by producers exclude those held
under the commodity loan program.