Friday, May 25, 2012

Aanestad: Obama raised as a Muslim

Former state Sen. Sam Aanestad, a candidate for the retiring Rep. Wally Herger's seat, has said twice in the past week he believes President Obama was raised as a Muslim.

From the AP via the San Francisco Chronicle:
The Chico Enterprise-Record ( ) reported Thursday that former state Sen. Sam Aanestad made the comments during an interview with Chico radio station KZFR last week.

The Grass Valley politician said Obama may be a Christian now, but his father was a Muslim and he was raised in a Muslim culture.

Aanestad repeated the claims about the president's religion at a press conference Monday.

Obama has written that by the time he was born, his father had become an atheist. His father divorced his mother when he was 2, and he rarely saw his father when he was growing up.

Innovator improves land for hunting

This morning I went to Granzella's in Williams to meet Gordon Long, whose business, Multiple Use Managers, helps ranchers and other landowners improve wildlife habitat on their properties so they can augment their income with hunting.

He said many ranchers are initially reluctant to the idea of allowing people on their property to hunt, but enough money can be made from the private hunts to make it worth their while.

Long will be the subject of my next Western Innovator feature. Look for it at in early June.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Top U.S. trade officials highlight FTAs

Today I attended a forum on trade agreements in Chico hosted by Rep. Wally Herger, a past ranking member of the House subcommittee on trade. The meeting featured Islam Siddiqui, the chief agricultural negotiator for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, as well as officials from the International Trade Administration, the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association, the Small Business Administration and other agencies and organizations.

In the photos, from the top, Herger talks with Siddiqui; Siddiqui speaks with Gregory Kelley of California Olive Ranch; and Richard Wilbur of the Yuba City-based Wilbur Packing Co. tells his company's success story as Michael Rue of Rue and Forsman Ranch in Olivehurst listens.

The speakers all voiced optimism that the recently implemented trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama would be a boon for U.S. agriculture, particularly in California, which already trades abundantly with those three nations. I spoke during one of the breaks with Vilma Patton, a representative of an international firm from Colombia who was looking for opportunities to match companies here with partners in South America.

For my complete story, check soon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Group rips USDA over mad cow rule

A ranchers' group is saying a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule meant to curb the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, doesn't go far enough.

From the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America:
Contrary to meatpacking industry claims, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) proposed rule regarding bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) eliminates key protections contained in current regulations that are designed to prevent the introduction and spread of BSE into the United States from foreign countries.

Current USDA regulations require that bone-in beef imported from BSE-affected Canada be derived only from cattle "that have been subject to a ruminant feed ban equivalent to the requirements established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. . ."

That requirement is in addition to the requirement that the beef also be derived from cattle that have had all specified risk materials (SRMs) removed at slaughter.

"Under USDA's newly proposed BSE rule, bone-in beef from Canada will no longer be required to be derived only from cattle subject to a ruminant feed ban, meaning beef from older Canadian cattle born before the effective date of Canada's feed ban could be freely imported into the United States," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

"Not only that," he added, "USDA intends to open our borders to countries that have had over a thousand cases of BSE, such as Ireland, France, and the United Kingdom; and to countries that have had hundreds of cases of BSE, such as Portugal, Spain, and Germany, and USDA would not require the beef from any of those countries to be derived only from cattle that have been subject to a ruminant feed ban."

Bullard said many of the countries from where USDA wants to begin importing beef continue to detect new BSE cases and no one, including the USDA, can explain why those new cases persist even after those countries have purportedly adopted all recommended mitigation measures.

"USDA's proposed BSE rule is reckless. If it is adopted, the risk of introducing BSE into the United States from foreign countries will increase," Bullard concluded.

North state GOP infighting is not new, silly

We're entering the silly season for north state political campaigns, as charges and counter-charges fly and jockeying proceeds in the final days before California's June 5 primary. In that spirit, I was amused when the always intrepid Bruce Ross, in a blog post titled, "Why do north state Republicans feud", made notice of this rather funny snippet of a Chico Enterprise-Record endorsement of Assemblyman Dan Logue in the newly redrawn Third District:
The other candidate is Bob Williams, a Tehama County supervisor who was recruited by the David Reade/Doug LaMalfa/Jim Nielsen machine. Those three aren't fond of Logue because he was endorsed by Rick Keene, who once battled LaMalfa, and who once failed to endorse Bernie Richter, who was Reade's father in law ... and so on.

Williams even uses some of the old Reade/LaMalfa dirty tricks, like parking a moving van near Logue's appearances to make light of the fact that Logue moved to establish residency in the redrawn district.
Really? Parking a moving van near your opponent's campaign events constitutes a dirty trick? I wonder what this editorial writer would have thought of the Clinton campaign's classic man-in-a-chicken-suit at Bush rallies in 1992.

It's sort of an oddity in the language of politics in America. Your guy's backers are a campaign; the other guy's are a "machine." When your candidate comes up with a clever idea, it's a strategy; when the other guy does it, it's a "dirty trick." Really, the most egregious dirty-trickster political machines I've seen are news organizations working behind the scenes to promote a certain slate or style of candidates while pretending to be impartial, but that's an argument for another day.

In truth, this feuding among north state Republicans has been going on for 10 years at least. The area's GOP activists and lawmakers have been butting heads since Dick Dickerson and Maurice Johannessen privately feuded during their years in the Legislature in the late '90s and early 2000s, and their feud came to a boil during the nasty 2002 Senate primary between Dickerson and state party-backed Sam Aanestad.

Interestingly, Aanestad made headlines late in that 2002 primary by leveling a dirty-tricks charge against Dickerson; something about a flier the Dickerson people purportedly sent out that questioned Aanestad's medical credentials, if I recall correctly. Sound familiar? Aanestad ended up winning that primary, although i suspect it was mainly because voters were upset with Dickerson for siding with Democrats in the previous state budget. This time, Aanestad may ride publicity over his charges against LaMalfa to a slot in the fall runoff.

As those who were in the area back then remember, the bitter fallout from the Aanestad-Dickerson bloodbath lingered for a few years. Not long after the contest, I can remember covering a spat involving the Shasta County Republican Central Committee, where slates of conservatives and moderates were competing for seats in an upcoming election. The fact is that factions of Republicans have been battling for the soul of the party since the Goldwater-Rockefeller days, and not just in the north state. And based on what we've seen in this year's presidential campaign, they're not likely going to stop.

The feuding certainly wasn't started by Doug LaMalfa or Jim Nielsen or David Reade. To infer or imply that it was is, well, fodder for Comedy Central.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Red Bluff project called a national model

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has named the newly completed fish screens and water pumping station in Red Bluff among 10 model projects in the West to "conserve and restore key rivers."

From the Department of the Interior:
The 10 river projects are part of a list of 51 ongoing projects that the Secretary is highlighting nationwide, one in each state and the District of Columbia. Ranging from the Elwha River Fish Passage Project in Washington to the Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park in Nevada, today’s projects were selected to provide examples for how communities across America can restore and reconnect with the rivers in their backyards.

“Across the country, we are working hand in hand with states, tribes, local communities and other partners to revitalize our nation’s rivers and expand the opportunities for people to fish, swim, boat, and otherwise connect with the great outdoors,” Salazar said. “These on-going projects demonstrate how the federal family can be an effective conservation partner for community-led efforts to improve our rivers, which are the lifeblood of our communities and our economies.”

A map and more detailed descriptions of the river initiatives highlighted by Salazar can be accessed here. Additional river projects across the nation will be announced in the coming days.

The projects identified today are:

Alaska: Kenai River – Kenai River Restoration and Protection Project
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with many federal, tribal, state and local agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private landowners to restore fish passage, improve riparian habitat, and support the community Stream Watch program on the Kenai River, which is one of Alaska's premier recreation destinations for tourists and residents.

California: Sacramento River – Red Bluff Fish Passage Improvement Project
The Red Bluff Fish Passage Improvement Project is a partnership between Bureau of Reclamation and the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority. It is the culmination of over 40 years of efforts by various stakeholders to find a balanced solution that improves fish passage and continues to deliver irrigation water to high-value cropland that produces over $250 million in crops per year and contributes $1 billion annually to the regional economy.

Colorado: Dolores River – Dolores River Tamarisk Removal Project
The Bureau of Land Management is working with the Dolores River Partnership - a two-state, citizen driven partnership – to improve fish habitat, restore riparian habitat, increase stream flows, reduce wildfire risks, develop education and stewardship opportunities, and expand opportunities for youth employment.

Hawaii: He’eia River – Lower He’eia Stream Restoration Project
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Federal agencies are working with many state and local agencies, and non-governmental organizations to restore the biological, socioeconomic, and cultural productivity of the lower He‘eia watershed, which contains the highest numbers and greatest diversity of fish, marine invertebrates, and native marine algae on the island.

Idaho: Yankee Fork – Yankee Fork Rehabilitation Project
The Bureau of Reclamation along with other federal, tribal, state and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private corporations are creating spawning habitat for Chinook salmon, as well as steelhead and other native fish, along a section of Yankee Fork that was drastically altered by mining and dredging activities.

Nevada: Colorado River – Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park and Trails
The Bureau of Reclamation and other federal, state, and local agencies, and non-governmental organizations are collaborating on river restoration, trails and access, picnic sites, shade shelters, fishing piers, equestrian facilities and other projects on a 1,191 acre public park serving the states of Nevada, Arizona and California.

Oregon: Sandy River – Sandy River Basin Restoration Project
The watershed-scale partnership of federal, state and local agencies and non-governmental organizations, including the Bureau of Land Management, are working to expand environmental and recreational opportunities, and protect critical habitat on the Sandy River, which will benefit the one-third of Oregon’s population that lives within 30 minutes of the project, and the federally-listed spring Chinook, winter Steelhead, and winter Coho.

Utah: Escalante River – Escalante River Watershed Partnership
The Bureau of Land Management, other Federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations are cooperating on recreation, riparian restoration, and species recovery projects that utilize Youth Corps and other volunteers, and will benefit 200 species of migratory birds and several rare fish along the Escalante River.

Washington: Elwha River – Elwha River Restoration
The National Park Service and other federal, tribal, state and local agencies are working to reopen more than 70 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat for five species of Pacific salmon on the Elwha River, with salmon populations predicted to swell from 3,000 to 400,000 – returning the Elwha River to the Pacific Northwest’s most productive salmon streams.

Wyoming: North Platte River – Trappers Route Special Recreation Management Area
The Bureau of Land Management is working with state and local agencies to enhance wildlife habitat through invasive species control and reforestation, and to improve public access along the North Platte River, which offers spectacular fishing, paddling, waterfowl hunting and wildlife observation opportunities.

As part of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers, Interior Department agencies – including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – will work with states and communities to advance river restoration and recreation by providing technical and other assistance through existing programs and staff, and by leveraging non-federal investments.

“America has more than 3.6 million miles of rivers and streams, and nearly every American lives within a mile of a river or stream, making them some of the nation’s most important recreational and ecological assets,” Salazar added. “America’s Great Outdoors Rivers will help fulfill President Obama’s vision for healthy and accessible rivers as we work to restore and conserve our nation’s treasured waterways.”

Rivers are economic engines for many local communities, supporting recreation and tourism industries by providing opportunities for boating, fishing and hunting, hiking, camping, swimming, and numerous other outdoor activities. Salazar noted that the outdoor industry creates an estimated 6.5 million jobs in the United States and pumps an estimated $730 billion a year into our nation’s economy.

Salazar unveiled America’s Great Outdoors Rivers in January as part of President Obama’s overall America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to work with communities across the country to establish a conservation and recreation agenda for 21st century and to reconnect people, especially young people, to the great outdoors.

The goals of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers include protecting and restoring America’s rivers for people and wildlife and enhancing river recreation that supports jobs in tourism and outdoor recreation.

Under the initiative, Salazar issued a Secretarial Order in February establishing a National Water Trails System, creating a network of designated water trails on rivers across the country that will help facilitate outdoor recreation, especially around urban areas, and provide national recognition to existing, local water trails. He designated the Chattahoochee River Water Trail, which encompasses 48 miles of river within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia, as the first National Water Trail.

In March, Salazar, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Secretary of Commerce John Bryson signed a memorandum of understanding implementing the National Fish Habitat Action Plan to assist state and local governments, landowners, and community groups in protecting and restoring waterways and fisheries.

Siskiyou water trial to resume next Tuesday

As I mentioned in my Dwinnell Dam story, the trial to determine the fate of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau's water lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Game is set to resume May 29.

From the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau:
Trial is scheduled to resume May 29 in a lawsuit filed by Siskiyou County Farm Bureau to challenge the California Department of Fish and Game’s new interpretation of a 51-year-old law. The first week of trial included testimony from farmers and ranchers who said DFG actions threaten farmers’ ability to provide water to their crops.

The case centers on a new DFG interpretation of Section 1602 of the California Fish and Game Code. This section requires individuals to notify and potentially obtain a Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement from DFG before conducting certain activities that alter a streambed. Since Section 1602 became law in 1961, DFG has required such permits for activities including gravel mining, the annual construction of push-up dams, installation of new headgates and other construction projects that physically alter streambeds.

But in 2010, DFG began enforcing a fundamental change in how the statute was applied, when it informed farmers in the Scott and Shasta river watersheds that they would be required to obtain streambed alteration agreements simply to exercise their longstanding water rights by opening an existing headgate or activating an existing pump in order to irrigate their crops. Water rights are already managed by the courts and a separate state agency, the State Water Resources Control Board. This new interpretation would require water users to obtain a permit from DFG to exercise existing water rights.

Siskiyou County Farm Bureau members Jim Morris, Jeff Fowle and Joe Hurlimann testified during the first week of trial, describing the impacts the new layer of requirements would have on their ability to irrigate their crops.

“It was important for our farmers and ranchers to provide real-world examples of how the new interpretation is affecting them,” Siskiyou County Farm Bureau President Rex Houghton said. “The new requirements jeopardize both water rights and property rights for farmers and ranchers, creating a situation with a constant threat of enforcement action, additional burdensome fees and the time and expense of obtaining the annual permits.”

Houghton noted that farmers and ranchers along the two rivers have taken a number of voluntary actions to benefit salmon, and said DFG already has many other ways to assure protection of the fish.

The majority of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau case was presented to the judge during the first week of trial. Siskiyou County Farm Bureau will finish its case and DFG will present its case following the current recess in the trial.

“The Siskiyou County Farm Bureau would like to thank the local farmers and ranchers, as well as county Farm Bureaus throughout the state for their support,” Houghton said. “

In support of the action taken by Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, a number of local organizations, in addition to individual ranchers and farmers, have come forward with donations.

Jim Wilson, a representative of Save Our Scott and Shasta (S0SS), sent $7000 and a statement to the Farm Bureau: “Due to inactivity (by this organization) in the ongoing fight for water rights, we propose that SOSS cease its current operations and transfer the remaining funds in our treasury to the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, to assist in the lawsuit challenging the California Fish and Game’s new interpretation of 1602 permits. We feel the lawsuit is consistent with SOSS’s original mission statement.”

Gail Jenner, President of Siskiyou County CattleWomen, presented Rex Houghton with a $5000 donation. “We are committed to assisting our local Farm Bureau in this fight, which is a fight to preserve our adjudicated water rights. Though SCCW’s primary purpose is to provide scholarships and promote beef, without the right to use water as approved and provided for by the court, there is no agriculture. Little do most consumers realize that the backbone of this country, which is agriculture, is cracking under the weight of over-reaching regulations, increased fees and delays, and intimidation by state and federal agencies, in addition to rising costs and expenses.”

Jenner added, “We hope anyone who cares about agriculture or protecting individual rights will step forward. Our government has already imposed regulations and permitting processes aplenty.”

According to Cliff Munson, Siskiyou County Cattlemen’s President, “Siskiyou County Cattlemen applaud the efforts put forth by the Farm Bureau and the other organizations in Siskiyou County that wholeheartedly support the Farm Bureau lawsuit. Our legislature passes bills, and three or four individuals create a set of regulations, and those regulations are then interpreted by whoever is in charge of our various state agencies. We have reached a point where regulation and interpretation is destroying our way of life.” The cattlemen have also made a $5000 donation.

Munson continued, “We had a revolution in this country, which was settled in 1776, but when people start going hungry because of the lack of food, we will probably have another. It is great to see the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, the Protect Our Water Organization, Save our Scott and Shasta, the Siskiyou County CattleWomen, and the Cattlemen all join together to help this cause. ”

Mark Baird, of Protect Our Water (POW), also joined in with a donation. “POW supports the Farm Bureau wholeheartedly. We will stand with you ‘til the bitter end. Water rights are integral to agriculture and many of these rights go back more than a hundred years. That the government can step in and impose its own authority when these rights have been adjudicated by the court, is outrageous. It’s time we take a real stand. Enough is enough.”

Mario Burch, 2nd Vice President for Siskiyou County Farm Bureau said. "This is a regulation we must defeat and a case we must win. It's good to see the various groups unified in support of, and with us in our fight against misused government regulation."

“Siskiyou County Farm Bureau thanks each of the donors for their contributions,” Houghton said . “We look forward to getting back into the courtroom for the conclusion of the trial and the judge’s ruling on the new interpretation of Section 1602.”

The Siskiyou County Farm Bureau is a voluntary membership organization that works to protect and promote agricultural interests through Siskiyou County and to protect and improve the availability of food and fiber through responsible stewardship of resources.

Photo: From L-R: Jim Wilson, of SOSS; Cliff Munson, President of Siskiyou County Cattlemen; Mark Baird, of POW; Gail Jenner, President of Siskiyou County CattleWomen; Rex Houghton, President of Siskiyou County Farm Bureau; and Mario Burch, 2nd VP of Siskiyou County Farm Bureau. Courtesy Jodi Burch.

A campaign on the verge of change?

From Clark S. Judge: managing director of the White House Writers Group and chairman of the Pacific Research Institute:
Here’s a shocker. Judging by this morning’s top line polling data, almost nothing in the presidential race has changed since mid-January.

Think of it.

The first three-day Rasmussen head-to-head tracking poll in 2012 (taken January 19-21) found 46 percent of voters supporting President Obama to 43 percent supporting Governor Romney, a three-point spread.

In Rasmussen’s most recent May 18-20 poll, 47 percent favored the president, 44 percent the governor, also a three-point spread – zero change in four months.

I am not saying that Mr. Obama has been ahead throughout. Since March 1st, the race’s lead position has switched sixteen times. Today the president is ahead. Last week Mr. Romney was. But almost all this movement has been within polling’s margin of error.

But even if nothing has changed, signs are that everything is in the process of changing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 almond crop to equal last year's

Almond growers in the north state and throughout California expect a 2012 crop that is roughly equal in size to last year's, according to a government report.

From the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Sacramento:
The initial subjective forecast for the 2012 California almond production is
2.00 billion pounds. This is 1 percent below last year's production of 2.03 billion
pounds. Estimated bearing acreage for 2012 is 780 thousand. This forecast is based
on a telephone survey conducted April 20 - 30 from a sample of almond growers. Of
the 458 growers sampled, 283 reported. Acreage from these reports accounted for 27
percent of the total bearing acreage.

The 2012 almond crop is shaping up nicely. February was warm and dry across the
State, creating favorable bloom conditions for almond trees. While the bloom period
was shorter than last year, the excellent weather made up for the shorter overlap and
bloom load was high. Chilling hours were plentiful. An early March frost resulted in
some spotty damage in southern San Joaquin Valley and an early April hailstorm
affected orchards in Merced County. Weather in the Sacramento Valley has been near
ideal. A heavier than normal drop was reported in the San Joaquin Valley. Low
disease and insect pressure were reported.
Dave Baker of Blue Diamond Growers told me today that sharply escalating demand for almonds is depleting carryover supplies, which could very well mean higher prices for almonds. For my story, check soon.

Judge: Obama must obey Constitution

From blogger Doug Book (HT: Erin Ryan):
In a considerable setback for a president eager to ravage the due process rights of the American people, Federal Judge Kathleen Forrest granted a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, striking down those sections of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012 which sought to provide Barack Obama the power to indefinitely detain citizens without benefit of their 5th Amendment rights.

Signed very quietly into law on New Year’s Eve, the controversial Act has been roundly criticized as unconstitutional by groups on both the political left and right. Of greatest concern was Section 1021, which grants the United States military authority to exercise police powers on American soil. Upon order of the president and at his sole discretion, agents of the military are empowered to detain “until the end of hostilities” anyone the president believes to have “substantially supported” al Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces.”
Read more at the Western Center for Journalism.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nielsen: LAO is right about Brown's budget

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, the vice chairman of the lower chamber's budget committee, said today he agrees with the Legislative Analyst's Office's assessment of Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget.

From a news release:
“Today’s report by the nonpartisan LAO underscores what Republicans have said all along – classroom funding, local public safety programs and the priorities of working families are threatened when the Governor and the liberal majority refuse to embrace permanent and realistic budget solutions such as a spending cap, a reserve and much needed pension reform,” said Nielsen.

“We take seriously the Analyst’s warning about the danger of relying on tax revenue that may never materialize in these uncertain times,” said Nielsen. “Now more than ever, Democrats and Republicans must embrace honest, realistic budget choices if we are going to make any real progress in closing the deficit.”

Nielsen said that revenues will grow this year as a result of Republicans fighting for tax relief last year, however, it doesn’t help that the Governor continues to push a massive tax hike while increasing spending. He said that Republicans have put forward a roadmap that will enable our state to prevent the Governor’s painful education trigger cuts and tax increase. For more information about the Republican Roadmap, visit the “California Budget Fact Check” website.

“We can make education the priority it should be, but it requires the Governor and Democrats to summon the political will to do so. Parents and taxpayers deserve better,” said Nielsen.

California table grapes reaching consumers

California's table grape season, which I reported on a couple of weeks ago, started in the first week of May and is going strong.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Fresh grapes from the Coachella Valley are making their way to consumers as the harvest kicks off. Farmers in the Coachella Valley will harvest grapes into July, and other regions in the state will supply consumers with table grapes into early 2013. California produces nearly all of the US-grown fresh grapes. The California Table Grape Commission says nearly half of the crop will be sold around the world to consumers in more than 60 countries.
More from the commission:
“The climate in California’s table grape growing regions is ideal for growing quality table grapes,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. “The climatic conditions, combined with the rich experience and commitment of California’s table grape growers, continue to produce the grapes that consumers have grown to love and prefer.”

Commission research shows that 99 percent of consumers prefer California grapes over imported.

The commission’s trade and consumer marketing campaigns will run throughout the 2012 season, with a strong focus on the health attributes and versatility of usage of California grapes. The goal is simple: to maintain preference and increase consumption, giving both consumers and retailers more reasons to ask for grapes from California.

Working with celebrity chef and registered dietitian Ellie Krieger, the commission will implement numerous programs and contests to promote grapes from California as the “original super snack”. Super as in simple, flavorful, nutritious and portable. Consumers will be reached through blogger, magazine and newspaper outreach, a season-long Hispanic program, and expanded communication through online media, including a mobile website accessed via quick response codes.

For the third season, the commission is partnering with the Food Network. This includes full page ads and adjoining chef advertorials in Food Network Magazine, a “Fresh Picks for Grapes” landing page on, and TV ads showcasing chefs and how they use grapes from California.

The commission will be exhibiting at regional and national produce tradeshows and targeting signed promotion agreements with retailers. Other trade marketing initiatives include tagged banner ads and print ads through Food Network, traffic radio and trade advertising.

Rounding out the domestic campaign is foodservice marketing, which includes menu developer outreach, foodservice editorial, and the sponsorship of school salad bars. The commission will also continue to support California’s table grape growing community, offering numerous scholarships and grants for both teachers and students.

Finally, with more than 40 percent of the crop exported to over 60 countries around the world, key export markets will be supported with retail promotions, merchandising, point-of-sale materials and consumer research. Multinational retailers and in-country chains in select markets will receive additional in-store grape sampling days and retailer tagged advertising in both print and online media.

Nave concludes, “There’s a strong story to tell about grapes form California. The programs planned for 2012 will ensure that trade and consumers around the world hear that story and continue their support for California grapes.”

The California Table Grape Commission was created by the California legislature in 1967 to increase worldwide demand for fresh California grapes through a variety of research and promotional programs.

'How did the mainstream media miss this?'

From Dr. Tim Stanley, a British historian of the United States:
Whatever you think of’s punishing vetting process, it has exposed just how little work the mainstream media did in investigating candidate Obama back in 2008. Not all of Team Breitbart’s revelations have been election-deciders, but they have often been stuff that a simple Google would have uncovered. If they revealed tomorrow that he’d had his own cross-dressing-themed sitcom on primetime TV in the 1980s, I wouldn’t be surprised.

The latest find is a fascinating inversion of the birther conspiracy. has discovered that in 1991 Barack Obama’s literary agent (who also represented New Kids on the Block) published a booklet that included a biography of the future President. The audience was “business colleagues” in the publishing industry and it was designed to promote Obama’s anticipated first book (later abandoned) called Journeys in Black and White. Here’s how it describes the author’s origins.
Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. The son of an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister, he attended Columbia University and worked as a financial journalist and editor for Business International Corporation.
The key phrase here is “was born in Kenya" – and this bio line was apparently being used as late as 2007.
Read more in the Telegraph.

I've always been reasonably convinced that Obama was born in the United States, and thought the whole birther conspiracy was a silly waste of time and energy by his opponents. The interesting thing about this story is that Obama bears at least some of the blame for this controversy lingering because he apparently fostered the idea that he was born in Kenya in order to sell books.

But we've got a dangerous situation brewing in this country when there's this little vetting of a candidate for president when he happens to share the worldview of the people who are supposed to be doing the vetting. There is no free press in this country if what we recognize as "the press" chooses not to exercise its freedom in hopes that it can become part of the power structure.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nielsen flood recovery bill passes Assembly

A bill by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, that would ease landowners' ability to excavate or grade their properties after a flood or natural disaster passed the Assembly unanimously today.

The legislation allows for an exemption under the State Mining and Reclamation Act. From a news release:
“In times of excessive flows, vast deposits of debris, silt and snags clog our critical flood control facilities such as bypasses,” said Nielsen. “AB 2509 is a common sense, public safety bill that ensures our flood control channels can retain capacity to prevent levee breaks and flooding.”

This bill also specifies that excess soil caused by these high flows can be removed and sold by land owners to offset costs associated with returning the land to its productive condition prior to such flooding or natural disaster.

“I am grateful to Assemblyman Nielsen for introducing this bill and Sutter County looks forward to seeing this legislation continue through the process,” said James Gallagher, the Sutter County Supervisor. “This bill ensures the Sutter bypass remains viable for the dual goal of agricultural production and flood protection.”

AB 2509 now moves to the State Senate where it will be referred for consideration by a policy committee in the coming weeks.

Group follows through with suit over dam

The environmental group Klamath Riverkeeper has made good on its threat to sue the Montague Water Conservation District over the operation of Dwinnell Dam -- and a north state tribe signaled its intentions to join in.

From a Karuk Tribe press release:
Today Klamath Riverkeeper (KRK) filed an Endangered Species Act citizen suit over a dam and series of water diversions operated by Montague Water Conservation District (MWCD) on the Shasta River in Siskiyou County. The Karuk Tribe also decided today to file its own 60-day notice of intent to litigate on the same grounds.

The legal filing by KRK follows a 60-day notice period during which KRK offered MWCD an opportunity to negotiate a settlement outside the courtroom. The action effectively calls on the irrigation district to remedy its impacts to salmon runs verging on extinction there.

"We simply have to better manage limited water resources to benefit everyone in the watershed. We hope to resolve this issue in a way that will restore endangered coho salmon while preserving a viable agricultural economy in Siskiyou County," said KRK Executive Director Erica Terence.

KRK's complaint, filed in federal court in Sacramento, outlines how Dwinnell Dam and MWCD diversions from Dwinnell Reservoir, nearby Parks Creek and Little Shasta River have harmed endangered coho salmon populations in the Shasta River.

Because MWCD operates without an incidental take permit, the District is violating the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), KRK contends in its filing. To comply, MWCD needs to consult the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) about the impacts of its operations on endangered coho runs and implement adequate measures to mitigate those damages.

Many well documented water quality and fisheries problems stem from Dwinnell Dam and MWCD's water diversions, including toxic algae blooms, elevated water temperatures lethal to fish, blocked access to valuable upstream habitat, and habitat fragmentation due to dewatering caused by diversions.

Irrigators constructed Dwinnell Dam in the 1920s, and created an extensive canal system to transport Shasta River water east to irrigate crops and serve cattle ranches surrounding the town of Montague. Dwinnell Reservoir (sometimes called Lake Shastina) also supplies domestic water for the Shastina and Montague municipalities. In many years, nearly the entire river is siphoned out of the reservoir for irrigation, lowering Lake Shastina dramatically and reducing river flows to just 10 percent of historic levels.

"We're talking about some of the best coho salmon habitat anywhere in the Klamath watershed or the Western U.S. It has been choked and polluted for decades by Dwinnell Dam and Montague diversions, and now it's time to take some big steps to restore it," Terence said.

The consequences of doing nothing about the impacts of MWCD's operations are dire, Terence pointed out. Just nine adult coho were counted in the Shasta in 2009, only

44 coho returned to spawn in 2010, and 45 swam home in 2011, according to video fish counts conducted by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG).

Siskiyou fourth-graders attend ag day

This morning I braved the cold and rain in Siskiyou County (actually it was more cool and drizzly) to attend the annual ag education day at the fairgrounds in Yreka, where hundreds of fourth-graders learn all about the commodities in their unique county.

In the photos, from the top, Yreka FFA leaders Harley McEwen and Whitney Schack, both 18, give a primer on raising sheep; College of the Siskiyous instructor Angelina Cook shows the kids a bottle from a horseradish farm in Tulelake; and COS program director Marian Murphy-Shaw explains that eight out of 10 employed adults inj the county work for a small business.

For my story on today's activities, check soon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Millville parade to feature tractors, horses

While I was at Shasta College yesterday for my sustainability story, a woman was passing out entry fliers for the Old Millville Day parade, which will be held on June 2.

Entries are being taken for categories that will include equestrian, tractor, horse-drawn vehicles and classic vehicles. The 10 a.m. parade will start at the corner of Brookdale and Whitmore roads; entrants will be asked to line up at 9 a.m.

The route will run from Brookmore Road to Whitmore Road to Old 44 Drive to Rock Street to Twin Avenue and back to Brookdale Road.

The entry fee is $5 and entries must be received by May 25. For information, call Pam Williams at (530) 515-3101.

Budget to levy lumber tax, lengthen harvest plans

The revised budget Gov. Jerry Brown submitted this week includes a new tax on lumber along with provision to lengthen the time for which timber harvest plans are in effect.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
The new budget proposal includes additional reductions of $2.5 million to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and changes to timber harvest plans that couple administrative reforms with a new assessment on retail sales of wood products. [...]

The May revise also included what the administration called a reform package to change the process of creating timber harvest plans. The goal, the proposal said, is to shorten and streamline permit processing times for timber harvest plans, while extending the effective date of the plans.

Current timber harvest plans remain effective for three years, with two extensions of one year each. The proposal would extend the plans to five years, with one two-year extension.

To support regulatory activities for timber harvest plan review, the administration proposed a "lumber assessment" that it said would be applied "to retail sales of certain wood products sold in California." The administration said the assessment would provide a long-term funding stream for regulatory agencies, provide opportunities for forest restoration and "increase timber production."

The governor's revised budget proposal now goes to the Legislature, which will work with the administration to craft a final state budget.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shasta College farm all about sustainability

In the photos, from the top: Bruce "B.J." Macfarlane, Shasta College's farm lab coordinator, explains how the farm refurbished a 1960s-era milling machine for chopping hay and grinding other grains to feed livestock; the window of a 1980 harvester (also refurbished) shows Macfarlane with ag instructor Trena Kimler-Richards; and Macfarlane and Kimler-Richards talk about a schedule for taking the harvester out on a fairly regular basis to keep it running smoothly.

I took the photos during a visit to the farm today, where the two instructors told me of the college farm's refocused commitment on sustainability. The farm grows all of its own feed and rebuilt the old machines to avoid the expense of buying new ones. The sustainability efforts help the college control costs while also conveying what instructors believe is a positive message to students -- the importance of making the best use of resources.

For my complete story, check soon.

Another rural sheriff's gathering to be held

North state sheriffs will be holding another of their rural America rallies this Saturday in Weaverville.

From Erin Ryan:
Trinity County
Support Rural America Sheriffs’ Event

May 19, 2012
2 p.m.
(Doors open at noon, seating limited to 400)
MT. Chapel Church, Martin Road,
Weaverville, CA
Hosted by
Trinity Sheriff Bruce Haney
Attending County Sheriffs will speak in PANEL on local issues

Guest Speaker:
Otero County New Mexico, Chairman of Commissioners:
Ronny Rardin

Admission is Free

Sponsored by Trinity County Patriots and the 24 Hour Patriots
Contact: Herk Shriner 530-623-6883
or Liz Bowen 530-467-3515

For more information, go to:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Red Bluff fish screens, pumps nearly finished

Today I took an extended tour of the Red Bluff Fish Passage Improvement Project, a nearly $200 million replacement to the old diversion dam which was put out of service when its gates were raised for the last time in September. This project -- a fish screen and pumping station along the Sacramento River that provides water for nearly 150,000 acres of Sacramento Valley farmland -- is already pumping water but is set to be more or less fully operational by next Tuesday.

In the photos, from the top, Jeff Sutton of the Tehama Colusa Canal Authority expresses excitement at the project's being nearly completed as he watches water being sent through the pumping canal; Jerry Grover, one of the construction managers, uses a left-over fish screen to show how small the individual holes are; workers make sure each of the motors that run individual pumps in the pump house are functioning correctly; construction crews put in a dredge line; and Sutton and Grover discuss the project.

The fish screens and pumping station will keep water flowing to farms and other water users after a Fresno judge several years ago ordered the dam raised to enable endangered fish to reach spawning grounds. For my full story on the fish passage project's completion, check soon.

George Lucas' Marin County NIMBY revenge

From Steven Hayward, an author and fellow at the Pacific Research Institute and American Enterprise Institute:
Star Trek changed everything, as William Shatner once reminded us in a classic routine about Star Wars, but one thing neither sci-fi world could change was the NIMBYism of Marin County, California. Despite the fact that George Lucas is perhaps Marin’s pre-eminent citizen, prolonged local opposition to his proposal to build a new film studio on his large ranch land has led him finally to let out a Wookie-howl and abandon the project and build it somewhere else. The local Marin NIMBYs have been blocking Lucas’s expansion plans at every turn for more than 20 years, despite concessions and modifications to minimize the impact his studio facilities would have, such as permanently preserving 95 percent of his land as open space, and spending multiple millions to restore a local stream.

But as Trek taught us, revenge is a dish best served cold, and Lucas is going to let his land revert to its original zoned purpose—residential development. But not just any residential development: low-income housing. That should put a few foul bubbles in Marin hot tubs. (These are the folks, after all, who opted out of the BART rail transit system back in the 1970s because You Know Who rides the subway.)
Read more at Power Line.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Palo Cedro ranch to host vernal pool workshop

The Vaca Creek Ranch on Golden Lane will be the site of a workshop on vernal pools tomorrow involving experts from various resource agencies.

From the University of California Cooperative Extension:
Local experts from the US Fish Wildlife Services, California Fish and Game, Western Shasta Resource Conservation District, and the University of California Cooperative Extension will conduct a FREE field workshop at Vaca Creek Ranch, near Anderson, California on Saturday, May 12, 2012. This session will begin at 9:00 a.m. and will conclude at 11:00 p.m.

Come spend a spring morning learning about these unique ecological systems. Vernal pools are sometimes called “Rangeland Oasis.” These systems are teeming with invertebrates and wildflowers. This is an opportunity to spend a morning with experts in the field. Topics will be lead by resource experts and will feature range management, vernal pool invertebrates, vernal pool plants and the importance of livestock grazing and maintaining these systems.

To get to the site, travel east on Dersch Road, past Hawes Farm and Ranch to Golden Lane. Take Golden Lane to the north about 1/4 of a mile, cross the cattle guard and travel on the ranch road to the site (about 1 mile). Please drive slowly. If you have any questions, please contact Larry Forero at 530-224-4900

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Expert decries 'sensationalism' over wolves

Carter Niemeyer, a retired federal wildlife agent who is arguably THE premier expert on wolves in the West, decried what he called the "hysteria" and "sensationalism" surrounding the animal during a talk tonight in Yreka.

The 65-year-old former trapper who was involved with the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho gave more than an hourlong lecture on how ranchers can tell whether the dead calf or sheep on their property was actually killed by a wolf.

He said a tiny percentage of cattle kills in the West were actually done by wolves, but wolves tend to get blamed by worried landowners.

"They're here," he told about 100 people at the Miners Inn. "You're going to have to live with them. It's not a threat, it's just the way it is. An act of Congress brought them here, and it would take another act of Congress to make them go away."

Niemeyer came at the invitation of the Siskiyou County ag department, and his appearance was good timing considering the (rather silly) wolf-banning ordinance proposed this week to the county Board of Supervisors.

Here's a big feature we ran on Niemeyer about a year ago, courtesy of Portland's Oregonian.

For more on his speech and the reaction from county officials, look for my story at late tomorrow morning.

Farm Bureau sues over high-speed rail

Two local Farm Bureau boards in the San Joaquin Valley are suing the state over the high-speed rail proposal.

From a news release:
The Madera County Farm Bureau Board, jointly with the Merced County Farm Bureau, have voted to sue the California High Speed Rail Authority (Authority) on the grounds that its environmental review is woefully deficient and harmful to the Farm Bureau's members. The Board environmental study inadequately and improperly analyzes the full effects the Project will have on agricultural production in the Central Valley.

The two Boards felt strongly that this Project is to the detriment of the enormous agricultural economies in their respective counties and that the Authority, on numerous occasions, has stepped over the line in not being responsive to the concerns of the agricultural community. As the leading agricultural advocacy organizations county-wide representing thousands of members -it was incumbent upon the Boards to act in a manner necessary to garner responsiveness by the State.

"As a Farm Bureau, we have to honor our mission to protect agriculture and our membership base in Madera County. The Route selected by the Authority is severely detrimental to our bedrock ag economy," said Madera County Farm Bureau President, Tom Rogers."

This action comes after the Authority approved the environmental report that selected a route through Madera and Merced Counties that impacts approximately 1,500 acres of prime and important farmland, along with an estimated 150 agri-businesses. The environmental document failed to analyze a variety of substantial resources in the area, including bee pollination impacts and water supply impacts.

In addition, the two Boards do not accept the agricultural mitigation measures in the environmental document as being adequate or truthful and that a project's impacts cannot be fully analyzed for agricultural and local impacts north and south, when the east and west project areas are not defined or analyzed.

Nielsen honored by veterans group

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen was named Legislator of the Year for 2011 by the California Association of County Veterans Service Officers (CACVSO).

From a press release:
“I feel honored to receive this award,” said Nielsen. “Veterans and the respect and care we accord them are always on my mind as a policy maker. I hope to inspire other Legislators and the Governor in also making them a priority when budget decisions are drafted— they have earned it.”

“California has over two million veterans and there are thirty thousand young men and women discharging from the current conflicts into this state each year,” said Charles Hunnicutt, the President of the CACVSO. “Helping these veterans is the job of CVSOs and we can’t do our job without the dedicated support of legislators like Assemblyman Nielsen. He understands the challenges faced by veterans seeking to gain access to the care and services they earn by virtue of their military service.”

“Assemblyman Nielsen is a friend to the veterans and has championed the cause of our Veterans Home as well as other veteran-related legislation,” said Bob Dunlap, Shasta County Veterans Service Officer.

The California Association of County Veterans Service Officers was established in 1945 to provide services to returning World War II veterans at the local level. The Association is made up of CVSOs located in 56 of 58 California counties. As county employees, CVSOs annually help California veterans obtain over $285 million in federal benefits, many of which would otherwise be paid by the state general fund. CVSOs are highly trained professionals who adhere to the highest standards of education and training, while providing dedicated service to California’s 2 million veterans as well as their dependents and survivors.

More fruits, vegetables enjoyed at work

More American workplaces are bringing in fruits and vegetables fresh from local farms, according to a new report.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
An apple a day keeps the workplace healthy, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. It reports a trend in businesses participating in “community supported agriculture” programs, with fresh produce delivered directly to the workplace. Farm Bureau says this “workplace wellness” trend provides employees with fresh fruits and vegetables and opens new marketing avenues for farmers. One California-based company provides boxes of fruit to thousands of American businesses.

The tea party and the 2012 elections

From Hugh Hewitt, author and nationally syndicated radio talk show host:
Surviving incumbency in the Age of the Tea Party is not easy for long-serving senators. Orrin Hatch seems to have made it through the gauntlet, but Bob Bennett didn’t two years ago. Dick Lugar fell to a challenger who, like Mike Lee in Utah, presented genuine credentials backed by a statewide organization, and Richard Mourdock will make a fine general-election candidate. Lisa Murkowski battled back and held on to her seat despite a loss in the primary to Joe Miller.

The “Tea Party” is short hand for everything and nothing, but mostly it means those voters who are disgusted with D.C. dysfunction. When that digest can get organized, get traction, and get a target, it is a powerful shaper of election results but its support is not by itself a sufficient guarantee of victory. It is a movement, not a party, but it is a powerful impulse within the party.

Senator Lugar is no doubt loved and admired by a strong majority of Indiana voters, and there is a lot more sorrow than anger in many votes to replace him. His age would have been an asset in an era of Ike-like steadiness, but not in the turbulent second decade of the new century, one that is going to get even more unmanageable, one that is defined by anger at the Manhattan-Beltway elites who have so failed the country. Expertise on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea isn’t an asset when Israel and Iran are on the brink of war. Long and distinguished service isn’t a calling card when the house is on fire.
Read more in the National Review Online.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shasta College to retrofit hog barn

In the photo, from left, students Cain Madrigal, 22, of Modoc County, Maigen Matteucci, 20, of Orland, and Garrett Wallis, 19, of Arcata look at piglets inside a gestation tube at the Shasta College farm.

Instructors at the college have an eye on the trend of consumers preferring their eggs and pork to come from cage-free sources. The farm is small enough that it doesn't have to comply with Proposition 2, but the college is using grant funds to re-do its hog barn, replacing its small gestation tubes with European-style free stalls, agriculture instructor Trena Kimler-Richards said.

The community college also allows chicks in a feed trial to roam around in pens rather than keeping them in cages. When watching consumer sentiment evolve, Kimler-Richards believes there's a bright side to Proposition 2.

“I think for our California poultry producers meeting that guideline, to me that's a bonus for them,” she said. “If you look at the downside, it changes production and adds cost. But the upside is there's a market.”

For my story on the cage-free trend, click here.

Council taking comments on lands projects

The Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, which is charged with deciding the fate of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. lands, is taking comments on various proposals in Shasta County and elsewhere.

From the council:
The Stewardship Council invites you to review and comment on the Land Stewardship Proposals (LSP) that have been submitted to the Stewardship Council by qualified organizations seeking a donation of fee title to PG&E watershed lands. An LSP describes an organization’s qualifications and plans to preserve and enhance the beneficial public values on PG&E watershed lands it would receive via a donation.

The Stewardship Council Board will soon be considering fee title recommendations regarding the planning units, or portions of the planning units [ ... ]

Comments on proposals for Battle Creek, Butte Creek, Eel River, Fall River Mills, Fordyce Lake, Lake Britton, Oroville, Kerckhoff Lake, and Willow Creek are wanted by July 18. Send comments by e-mail or write to:

Stewardship Council
1107 9th Street, Suite 501
Sacramento, CA 95814
Attn: Allison Henderson

'Top two' changes primary election ballgame

From Casey Gudel, manager of political affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation:
The campaign advertisements and mail pieces are starting to hit, signaling the June primary election is right around the corner. By now, you have likely received your sample ballot or vote-by-mail ballot and may have noticed that things don't look quite the same.

The upcoming June 5 election marks the first time in California in which the "top-two," open primary is in place. Proposition 14, a measure supported by Farm Bureau and passed by voters in 2010, replaced the traditional ballot that listed candidates according to party with a new system that places every candidate on the primary ballot, regardless of party affiliation.

The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will advance to the general election.

Unlike local elections, even if one candidate earns 50 percent or more of the primary vote, that candidate will still face the second-place candidate in the general election.

Farm Bureau supports the "top-two," open primary as a way of changing the face of government at the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C. All too often, we see partisan bickering get in the way of making the decisions needed to jumpstart the economy and get our fiscal house in order. The new primary system allows voters to choose candidates who will best represent their district.
Read more in Ag Alert. (The photo is courtesy of CFBF.)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'Cover your hide' by attending CCA conference

California's largest ranchers' group is taking reservations for its annual summer convention in June.

From the California Cattlemen's Association's legislative newsletter:
The 2012 Silveus 'Cover Your Hide' CCA/CCW Midyear Meeting will take place June 14-15 at Harris Ranch Inn, Coalinga. Registration materials have been mailed to all current CCA and CCW members and online registration is also available at Rooms reservations can be made by calling Harris Ranch Inn at (800) 942-2333. Request California Cattlemen's Association for the special rate of $120 per night. Reservations and registration must be completed by May 23.

This year's featured speakers include Ron Gill, Ph.D., from Texas A&M University presenting "BQA's Role in Us Controlling Our Own Destiny." As part of Thursday's lunch, Gill's presentation will qualify as a Beef Quality Assurance re-certification.

Gary Sides, Ph.D. from Pfizer Animal Health will speak on Friday morning and share his presentation, "Defending Modern Agriculture in a Facebook Culture."

Cover your hide by attending this year's meeting to catch up on current issues and participate in directing your organization's policy.

Pink shirts, pink ties and 'pink slime'

From Jeff Fowle, an Etna rancher:
I own and wear a pink shirt. I even have and wear several pink ties. However, this post isn’t about apparel…sorry.

“Pink Slime” has hit the media yet again [ ... ] Several of my friends in social media have inquired what my thoughts were on a number of videos and news reports: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution ‘70% of Americas Beef Is Treated With Ammonia,’ Fox News Report ‘Pink Slime in 70% Of Ground Beef,’ and ABC News ‘Where You Can Get Pink-Slime Free Beef,’ were the three most cited.

Can you imagine taking fresh picked fruit, misting it with ammonia hydroxide to eliminate bacteria, sticking it in a blender, cooking it, putting it in a jar and then selling it for human consumption? Most of us do, by purchasing jelly and jam to go with our peanut butter.

Can you imagine taking fresh picked lettuce or spinach, misting it with ammonia hydroxide to eliminate bacteria, putting it in a package, selling it, buying it, opening it, adding croutons, tomato and ranch dressing and then eating it? Many of us do, purchasing prepackaged salad to eat before supper.
Read more on his blog Common Sense Agriculture.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Houser calls dam removal 'extreme' alternative

Paul Houser, the former U.S. Bureau of Reclamation senior science advisor who claimed he was fired in February after voicing concerns about the Klamath dam removal process to his superiors, spoke to about 200 people tonight at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds in Yreka.

Houser tipped his hand a bit with regard to his opinions about the dam removal project, saying removing the dams should be an "extreme" last resort provided that other alternatives have been studied thoroughly, which he doesn't think they have been. Houser also suggested his whistleblower and scientific-integrity complaints were a reason Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced he was postponing his feasibility determination indefinitely. At the same time, he told me beforehand he didn't want his complaint to be used to further the agendas of others, including the anti-dam removal and tea party folks who were ubiquitous at the meeting.

My impression of Houser was he seemed like a sincere and even-handed guy who perhaps unwittingly (at least in the beginning) ran afoul of a very political situation, and feels he has a legitimate reason for going public now. Whether he has a legitimate beef with his former superiors will be ultimately up to federal mediators, and also pursestring-holding members of Congress, to decide.

For my story on tonight's meeting, check soon.

Are Republicans happier than Democrats?

For what it's worth, a new poll suggests Republicans by and large are happier in their lives than Democrats.

Jennifer Harper reports in the Washington Times:
“Republicans have higher levels of well-being than do Democrats,” says a huge Gallup health survey of 405,000 U.S. adults that tallies a half-dozen “well-being” indexes that include physical and emotional health, positive behaviors and workplace perceptions. Even the pollster acknowledges that religion could have something to do with it.

“Republicans enjoy at least modestly higher scores than Democrats on five of the six sub-indexes. Democrats score slightly higher on the ‘life evaluation’ index. This difference could reflect the political impact of having a Democrat in the White House,” says the three-month survey, which was conducted from Jan. 2 to March 31, 2011, but just released Friday.

“Political identification in the United States today is highly intertwined with many aspects of American social and economic life … Republicans have the highest well-being, above and beyond what would be explained by differences in well-being by demographics,” the survey concludes.

“Why this is the case is not known for sure, although one possibility may relate to religion; Republicans are more religious in general than independents or Democrats, and Gallup has shown in previous analyses that religiosity has a significantly positive relationship to well-being.”

Gun owner group plans Anderson dinner

The Gun Owners of California will hold a fundraising dinner for the Redding-Anderson area this Friday beginning at 5 p.m. in the Shasta District Fairgrounds' Fusaro Hall.

Cost is $70 per person, $110 per couple, $40 per junior and $800 to sponsor a table for eight, which also includes GOC memberships and various goodies for those participants.

The evening includes a prime rib banquet catered By Lots’ of Java Catering, a raffle and auction.

To make reservations, call Julie Benson at Gun Owners of California, (916) 984-1400 or 916-367-9926. (HT: Erin Ryan)

The Trayvon Martin case and the lynch mob

From the Rev. Jim Wilson, author and president of PrayNorthState:
Trayvon Martin should not have died. No seventeen-year-old should die - whatever the circumstances. No parent should have to live through the death of a child - whomever may be at fault and however many faults there may be. I know because I have. Nothing will ever make it okay before hell freezes over. But a question remains to be answered, and the answer determines whether we make it worse than it already is or whether we make it less likely to happen again on our watch. The question is, "What do we - as a culture - what do we - as the gaggle of parents and children that we are - learn from this tragedy of Trayvon Martin so we don't have to repeat it?"

As a culture we yearn for justice and we are ready to sacrifice to achieve it - as we should be. But there are many in our culture whose yearning trumps their reasoning capacity and - at their worst - they become willing to substitute what feels like justice for the reality. Such people will always know that OJ did it, for example. The fact that police planted evidence - they too "knew" that OJ did it - and forever contaminated access to the truth - does not sway them. They know that they know. We can thank God that we have a system that requires absolute proof. When the evidence is fatally tainted we would rather risk letting a guilty party go free than the condemnation of the innocent. We will likely never know whether OJ did it; under our system that means not guilty. Those who know that they know need to let it go if we would live together in the freedom of reason rather than the slavery of impulse gone wild which is properly called lynch law.
Read more on his blog at

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Nearly 400 youngsters at 4-H Field Day

In the photos, from the top, Cottonwood 4-Hers Joseph Trimble (left) and Sarah Roe, both 12, wait to show their meat goats; Cameron Pella (left), 14, of Palo Cedro 4-H and Logan Theobald, 13, of Whitmore 4-H take a test of their knowledge of raising goats; and Rebecca Peconom, 16, of Shingletown tries her hand at decorating a cookie. The photos were taken this morning at the 4-H Field Day at the Shasta District Fairgrounds.

Nearly 400 kids -- mostly from the Redding basin -- attended today's field day and took part in a wide range of contests involving large and small animals, home economics, agricultural technology and gardening. This year was the first time all the disciplines had their field days together, which gave kids a chance to see what youngsters in other facets of 4-H are doing.

"Normally I do sheep and poultry projects, but I decided to come in here and do something different," said Peconom, a Black Butte 4-H member who went into the home economics building to see what the other members were up to. "I'm not in the baking projects, so it's really fun to do something like this. The whole day is really fun because you get to see things you didn't really know exist."

For many of the children, today's showing events and contests were a last shot at qualifying for the Shasta District Fair, which is next month.

For more on today's activities, look for my story at on Monday.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tribe plans to do war dance over ceremony

The Winnemem Wintu Tribe is planning a war dance to protest what it sees as the U.S. Forest Service's foot-dragging on its request to close a section of Shasta Lake for a girls' coming-out ceremony this summer.

From a press release forwarded by Craig Tucker, the Karuk Tribe's Klamath coordinator:
U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Forester Randy Moore has missed his May 1 deadline to respond to the Winnemem Wintu’s request for a mandatory river closure to protect their Coming of Age ceremony this summer. The tribe has had not received any intention of Mr. Moore to respond in a timely fashion, and because the government's legal process is clearly a dead end, the Winnemem will now hold a H'up Chonas, or War Dance, in the near future to defend their cultural rites in a traditional way.

Previous Coming of Age ceremonies have been disrupted by drunken recreational boaters motoring through the site and heckling the tribe with racial slurs.

"I am saddened that Moore does not have the courage to do what's right," Sisk said. "We lost all our land when they built Shasta Dam, and now all we want is four days of peace and dignity for our ceremony, which is vital to the social fabric of our tribe. A peaceful ceremony is our right, and we are not accepting anything short of that."

The tribe is placing a call to action. During the War Dance, the tribe, hundreds of tribal members from around the west coast and allies will gather in solidarity to ensure their sacred ceremony will proceed unhindered as it has for thousands of years before the Forest Service existed. For more information, contact the tribe at: Details will be on the Winnemem Wintu web site soon.

Shasta, other fairs discussed in podcast

My story this week on the fiscal challenges of the Shasta District Fair and other fairs around the state is among the topics of discussion in the Capital Press' latest podcast, which was posted today.

The podcast appears each week on the newspaper's flagship blog, Blogriculture. In this week's edition, editors and reporters also discuss the Labor Department’s U-turn on child labor regulations, an upcoming court hearing on genetically modified sugar beets, and a new development in a lawsuit challenging an international agreement on the softwood lumber trade. To listen, click here.

Here is a transcript of what I said:
California's 79 local fairgrounds are entering their fifth month without any funding from the state after Gov. Jerry Brown zeroed out the $32 million that goes to fairs each calendar year. So fairs are having to find creative ways to make ends meet. For example, at the Shasta District Fair in Anderson, a recently created boosters' club is selling raffle tickets for free kids' rides and plans to operate a beer booth to support the festival in June. At the Siskiyou Golden Fair in Yreka, operators are holding a consignment auction Saturday to raise funds. And the little fair in Tulelake, decided just to ask for donations at the gate rather than charge admission - and it made more money. Lawmakers are trying to restore at least some of the money. State Sen. Doug LaMalfa is carrying a bill that would create an eight-character vanity plate and use the proceeds for various rural needs, including fairs and the Williamson Act tax break for agricultural land. And another bill by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma would create a new commission to govern fairs and help them develop ways to generate revenue. Either way, fairs are having to try to get by with less.
You can track the LaMalfa bill's progress and read analyses of the bill by clicking here.

(Pictured is Chris Workman, CEO of the Shasta District Fair.)