Monday, August 27, 2012

Prune harvest getting under way this week




The harvest of plums for prunes is getting under way this week in Tehama County and areas south. Growers say the fruit is sugaring well and holding on the trees well.

In the photos, Red Bluff grower Tyler Christensen -- another north state innovator who's under 40 -- picks and tastes a plum to check it for sweetness, and plums are abundant on one of his trees.

Watch for my story on the harvest at CapitalPress.com this week.

Fires and rangeland in latest podcast

My story focusing on ranchers' quest for federal relief in the wake of losing grazing land to wildfires is a topic of discussion in the Capital Press' latest podcast.

The podcasts appear regularly on our flagship blog, Blogriculture.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Sierra Pacific Industries suffered the most loss from the Ponderosa Fire as it has in any fire -- about 17,600 acres burned out of the 40,000 acres the company owns in the Battle Creek drainage, SPI's Mark Pawlicki told me this morning.

For that story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

'One of the most egregious bills ever authored'

A Shasta County reader of the Capital Press is upset over a bill in the Legislature that would boost the California Department of Fish and Game's ability to fine violators of state rules.

Prudence L. Miller of McArthur writes in a letter to the editor:
Your help is desperately needed to stop Assembly Bill 2179, which is one of the most egregious bills ever authored by the California Legislature. It will adversely affect every farmer, rancher, sportsman and citizen in this state.

This bill gives the Department of Fish and Game the power to impose fines up to $10,000 for each and every perceived violation of the Fish and Game Code and deprives you of your right to go before a Superior Court judge or jury.

The Department of Fish and Game becomes judge and jury and any appeal of its decision must be made to the director of Fish and Game, thereby eliminating your right to due process of law.

The constitutions of the U.S. and state of California never intended them to have these powers. This sets a dangerous precedent for other state agencies to follow with further erosion of all our rights.

Contact all Democratic senators to voice your objection to AB2179 by Googling California Senate and clicking on phone numbers or email information.

P.S., depending on your views, you might enjoy the other letter on the page, too.

Chico State dean: Put a stop to animal abuse

The associate dean of the school of agriculture at California State University-Chico says most cattlemen adhere to best-animal-care guidelines and that abuses like those shown in an undercover video at a Central California slaughterhouse shouldn't be tolerated.

From the National Cattlemen's Beef Association:
Federal regulators have suspended operation of a Central California slaughterhouse after receiving undercover video showing alleged abuse to dairy cows. Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which inspects meat facilities, suspended operations Monday at Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford, Calif. Animal care expert, Dr. Dave Daley, Associate Dean for the College of Agriculture at California State University and an active member of the cattle community issued the following statement.

“The vast majority of cattlemen stand firm in adhering to the absolute best animal care and handling guidelines established by veterinarians and other experts. We do not condone any mishandling of livestock on the farm or ranch or in the packing facility. In fact, we firmly believe that those knowingly and willfully committing any abuse to animals should not be in the business – period. The actions depicted in these videos are disgraceful and not representative of the cattle community.

“U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors have a very serious responsibility and obligation to make certain that packing plants are vigorously following the guidelines in place that ensure animal care from pasture to plate. Cattlemen put their livestock above their own needs and truly develop a bond with the land and livestock. Cattlemen work hard every day to give animals the proper care and handling they deserve and expect proper treatment to continue after they leave America’s family farms and ranches.

“This is exactly why the farmer and rancher code of conduct within Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) has been in place since 1996 and condemns the mistreatment of animals. We believe any individual who witnesses inappropriate animal treatment is responsible for making every effort to stop it immediately. Anyone who mistreats animals must be reported immediately and should be punished in accordance with the law. We must work together to put a stop to any abuse.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fruit stand business keeps growing




If you ever drive down Highway 99 between Red Bluff and Chico during the summertime, you'll notice that signs for Julia's Fruit Stand are ubiquitous. Julia is actually an eighth-grader and her parents, who are prune and walnut farmers, started the stand for a college fund when she was a baby. Now it feeds the college funds of all three of James and Kathy Brandt's children, and the business just keeps growing.

In the photos, from the top: Kathy Brandt points out how she's able to store heirloom tomatoes in the shade of the dense trees on their farm; Brandt looks at freshly picked cantaloupes being unloaded for sale at the fruit stand; and workers load cantaloupes onto a truck to be taken to a farmers market.

Watch for my story on the fruit stand at CapitalPress.com soon.

Poll: Media a worse problem than lobbyists

From Rasmussen Reports:
Most voters continue to believe it is not possible to run for the presidency without help from lobbyists and special interest groups. A narrow plurality, however, continues to believe that media bias is a bigger problem than big campaign contributions.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 22% of Likely U.S. Voters believe it is possible to run for president in today’s world without having ties to any lobbyists and special interest groups. Fifty-seven percent (57%) disagree and say it is not possible to seek the presidency without ties to lobbyists and special interest groups. Twenty-one percent (21%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Hat tip: Media Research Center via Facebook.

Ponderosa Fire: new updates

Here is the very latest, according to CalFire:
Last Updated: August 22, 2012 11:40 am
Date/Time Started: August 18, 2012 11:37 am
Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Tehama-Glenn Unit
County: Tehama / Shasta Counties
Location: Off Ponderosa Way, southeast of Manton
Acres Burned: 24,323 acres
Containment 24,323 acres - 50% contained
Structures Destroyed: 50 structures destroyed
Threatened: 200 residences, 10 commercial properties and 30 outbuildings remain threatened.
Evacuations: Evacuations for the following areas in Manton, Shingletown & Viola:

Canyon View Loop north of Hwy 36.
Forward Rd at Graham to the C Line
Forward Mill Rd from Rock Creek Rd to Forward Camp Rd
Rock Creek Rd from Manton Rd to Long Hay Flat Rd
All of Long Hay Flat Rd and Woodcutter Way
Southside of Highway 44 from Viola to Brush Oak
Northside of Hwy 44 from Viola to Alward
Hazen Rd area and South Power House Rd south of Manton
Hwy 44 at Brush Oak east to and including Viola, Plateau Pines, Starlight Pines and Lake McCumber area
South side of Hwy 44 from Viola to Brush Oak and on the north side of Hwy 44 from Viola to Alward.

Evacuation warnings have been issued for Hwy 36 from Ponderosa Sky Ranch to Lassen Lodge communities.

An Evacuation Warning was issued to the residents in the area of Hwy 36 at Oasis Springs Road to Lassen Lodge on both sides of the Highway, which includes Ponderosa Sky Ranch and Lassen Lodge of potential threat to life and property.

An expanded evacuation warning is being issued for the areas on Hwy 36 from Lassen Lodge east to, and including, the community of Mineral. These warnings are being initiated due to the eastward spread of the fire in the Battle Creek drainage. Fire Information personnel are available in the community of Mineral to answer any questions citizens may have about the fire. An evacuation warning considers the probability that an area will be affected and prepares people for a potential evacuation order.
Injuries: 2
Cause: Lightning
Cooperating Agencies: CAL FIRE, Tehama and Shasta County Sheriff, CHP, CDCR, CAL TRANS, SPI, PG&E
Total Fire Personnel: 2,134 (911 CAL FIRE)
Engines: 278 (73 CAL FIRE)
Fire crews: 38 (26 CAL FIRE)
Helicopters: 11
Dozers: 53 (21 CAL FIRE)
Water tenders: 39
Conditions: The fire is burning in an East and Northeast direction in the Battle Creek drainage, extending into the Blue Ridge area. Water supply infrastructure for the community of Manton was damaged. Resources are still being ordered to strengthen fire efforts. Steep and rugged terrain is making access difficult for fire crews. Firefighters are working aggressively to build approximately 11 miles of line and strengthen existing containment lines. Structures damaged or destroyed continue to be assessed. As additional resources arrive, firefighters will continue to diligently defend structures, construct containment lines and build bulldozer perimeter lines.

Traffic on Highway 36 is intermittently impacted east of Paynes Creek to Ponderosa Way due to fire suppression operations. Please use caution while driving in this area.

Closures: Highway 44 from Brush Oak to Viola; Forward Road at Manton Corners and Wilson Hill Road at Digger Creek.

Forward Road is now open from Manton Road to Yuen-Veritas Lane. Forward Road residence previously evacuated west of Yuen-Veritas Lane, are being allowed to return to their homes.

Manton School, Black Butte School in Shingletown, and Plum Valley Elementary School in Paynes Creek have been closed until further notice.

The public can stay up to date on the Ponderosa Fire by visiting the CAL FIRE website at www.fire.ca.gov or on twitter @CAL_FIRE.

The Red Cross has opened up an Evacuation Shelter at Big League Dreams - 20155 Viking Way - Redding.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ponderosa Fire, Day 4

Here is the latest on the Ponderosa Fire as of 7:15 a.m. today, courtesy of CalFire's incident information page:
Date/Time Started: August 18, 2012 11:37 am
Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Tehama-Glenn Unit
County: Tehama / Shasta Counties
Location: Off Ponderosa Way, southeast of Manton
Acres Burned: 19,627 acres
Containment 19,627 acres - 35% contained
Structures Destroyed: 7 structures destroyed
Threatened: 3,065 residences, 20 commercial properties and 300 outbuildings
Evacuations: Evacuations for the following areas in Manton, Shingletown & Viola:

Forward Rd at Graham to the C Line
Forward Mill Rd from Rock Creek Rd to Forward Camp Rd
Rock Creek Rd from Manton Rd to Long Hay Flat Rd
All of Long Hay Flat Rd and Woodcutter Way
Southside of Highway 44 from Viola to Brush Oak
Northside of Hwy 44 from Viola to Alward
Hazen Rd area and South Power House Rd south of Manton
Hwy 44 at Brush Oak east to and including Viola, Plateau Pines, Starlight Pines and Lake McCumber area
South side of Hwy 44 from Viola to Brush Oak and on the north side of Hwy 44 from Viola to Alward.

Evacuation warnings have been issued for Hwy 36 from Ponderosa Sky Ranch to Lassen Lodge communities.
Cause: Lightning
Cooperating Agencies: CAL FIRE, Tehama and Shasta County Sheriff, CHP, CDCR, CAL TRANS, SPI, PG&E
Total Fire Personnel: 1,886 (937 CAL FIRE)
Engines: 223 (87 CAL FIRE)
Fire crews: 38 (26 CAL FIRE)
Helicopters: 6 helicopters
Dozers: 47 (17 CAL FIRE)
Water tenders: 33 water tenders
Conditions: Access to previously inaccessible areas of the fire will allow a more thorough damage assessment to take place. Fire has expanded to the east and south in the Battle Creek drainage

Road Closures:
Hard road closure on Hwy 44 from Brush Creek Rd to Viola and Forward Rd at Manton Corners.
Rock Creek at Wilson Hill Rd off of Manton Rd.
Manton Rd and all roads leading out of Manton have been closed at Hwy 44 at Brush Oak.
Hwy 44 in Shingletown and Viola areas and all roads south are in controlled traffic mode.
Highway 299 should be used as an alternate route, due to Highway 44 closures.

The Red Cross has opened up an Evacuation Shelter at Big League Dreams - 20155 Viking Way - Redding.

Manton School and Plum Valley Elementary School in Paynes Creek have been closed until further notice.

Nielsen natural-disaster bill signed into law

A bill by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, that would enable excavation or grading of lands affected by natural disaster has been signed into law.

From a news release:
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) announced that Assembly Bill (AB) 2509 was signed into law on Friday by Governor Brown. This bill allows for an exemption in the State Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA), specifically allowing for the excavation or grading of lands affected by a flood or natural disaster.

“We appreciate the governor signing AB 2509 into law,” said Nielsen. “This will ensure that farmers can continue to farm land that has been affected by floods, and it will also be good for flood protection for people throughout the valley.”

“I would like to thank Assemblyman Nielsen for his hard work and interest in this important piece of legislation for the people of Sutter County and throughout our watersheds,” said James Gallagher, Sutter County Supervisor. “The passage of AB 2509 affirms that with effective leadership the legislative process in Sacramento can work for citizens.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fire puts livestock, rangeland in harm's way




In the top photo, 4-H member Rebah Heino of Manton watches over her goats at the Tehama District Fair grounds in Red Bluff. In the bottom two, firefighters using the fairgrounds as a base camp prepare to fight the Ponderosa Fire, which had burned over 15,000 acres between Manton, Shingletown and Viola as of this afternoon.

Large animals were part of the evacuations of the area, and the Red Bluff fairgrounds was one of the holding points for livestock. However, not all livestock made it out. Kari Dodd of the Tehama County Farm Bureau -- who was watching the fire from her property in Paynes Creek -- told me as many as 1,000 head of cattle may be lost in the flames.

For my story on the fire's impact on livestock, grazing and timberlands and on the smoke that has some farmers concerned about their crops, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Can eating walnuts enhance male fertility?

The California Walnut Commission is touting a UCLA scientist's study that suggests it can. From a news release:
Research published in the recent issue of Biology of Reproduction Papers-in-Press reports that 75 grams (approximately 2.5 ounces) of walnuts consumed per day improved sperm vitality, motility, and morphology (normal forms) in a group of healthy young men between 21-35 years of age. These findings are of particular interest to the 70 million couples worldwide who experience sub-fertility or infertility. In fact, 30 – 50% of these cases are attributed to the male partner, and in the United States the prevalence of men seeking help for fertility is estimated at ~3.3 – 4.7 million.

This research suggests that walnuts provide key nutrients that may be essential in male reproductive health. According to Professor Wendie Robbins, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., who led the research at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Nursing, “the positive finding of walnuts on sperm may be a result of their unique nutrient profile.” Walnuts are the only nut that are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, and this study reported higher amounts of ALA provided by walnuts correlated with less frequent aneuploidy or abnormal cell sperm chromosome numbers which can result in genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

In addition to ALA, walnuts have high antioxidant content, along with numerous micronutrients that Dr. Robbins thinks may work together synergistically.
For my story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

'Constitutional sheriffs' to rally again

North state sheriffs are set to hold another in their series of rural property-rights meetings tomorrow in Ukiah.

From Liz Bowen at Pie N Politics:
Constitutional Sheriffs continue to discuss issues critical to rural counties during Town Hall meetings held throughout the North State. On Aug. 18th, sheriffs from California and Oregon will share the podium looking for solutions at the Support Rural America Event held at the Redwoods Empire fairgrounds in Ukiah. Time is 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman will host this sixth in a string of 2012 Sheriff Events, which began up in Siskiyou County in February. Like-minded sheriffs are learning from each other and citizens are standing up in support of these elected sheriffs. In fact, the citizens are enthused by the fortitude of these men who are standing on the Constitution as the law of the land.

“We are the watch keepers,” said Sheriff Allman, “not because we think we are, but because the Constitution gives us that authority.” Both the sheriffs and the encouraged citizens echo his next words: “We believe our country needs some help.”

Sheriff Allman participated in Trinity, Tehama and Del Norte County SRA Events in May, June and July. So far, 12 sheriffs are involved in the Support Rural America Events and crowds 600-strong have roared their approval.

Sheriffs attending Support Rural America Events include: Siskiyou Co. Sheriff Jon Lopey; Modoc Co. Sheriff Mike Poindexter; Trinity Co. Sheriff Bruce Haney; Tehama Co. Sheriff Dave Hencratt; Del Norte Co. Sheriff Dean Wilson; Plumas Co. Sheriff Greg Hagwood; Humboldt Co. Sheriff Mike Downey; Shasta Co. Sheriff Ton Bosenko; Glenn Co. Sheriff Larry Jones; and in Oregon Sheriff Glenn E. Palmer from Grant Co. and Josephine Co. Sheriff Gil Gilbertson.

Each sheriff is committed to the oath taken after their election -- to defend the Constitution and his citizens. Their rural economies are hurting and public safety issues have exploded, but the public funds to provide public services are diminished, because of poor economies. It has become a vicious circle.

Sheriff Allman sees many problems, but claims they are not insurmountable. He said sheriffs have expressed concerns, individually, with California Governor Jerry Brown. So far, the governor seems to be supporting law enforcement. But, unencumbered policy-making by some bureaucratic agencies is causing economic havoc.

“I have the legal right to know when a road is going to be closed on federal lands,” said Sheriff Allman, referring to issues with the U.S. Forest Service. “Or when a cattle lease is being canceled,” he added.

There is “fear” that some strong government agencies are running afoul. These sheriffs are throwing out the red flag questioning escalating regulations affecting livelihoods of everyday workers and families in rural areas.

Joining Sheriff Allman on Aug. 18th in Ukiah will be Siskiyou Sheriff Jon Lopey; Tehama Sheriff Dave Hencratt; and Del Norte Sheriff Dean Wilson. Oregon’s Josephine Co. Sheriff Gil Gilbertson will also attend.

For more information on past events and youtube videos, go to Support Rural America.com or call Liz Bowen 530-467-3515 or Erin Ryan at 530-515-7135.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fire fees impose 'double payment for coverage'

You know a state plan is dubious when editorial writers in San Francisco pan it. From the Chronicle's Tuesday editorial on the controversial $150-per-structure fee for fire protection in rural areas:
There's additional unfairness in the fees. Many rural residents already pay for local fire districts, making the new fee essentially a double payment for coverage. To partly answer this, the state is allowing a $35 discount for those already paying a local tax for coverage. [...]

Local fire departments aren't sold on fees. That's because the charges undercut future bond measures and initiatives tailored to nearby needs. Who is going to vote for these needed improvements just after a $150 bill lands in the mailbox, fire districts ask?
Hat tip: Bruce Ross.

You can't make this stuff up

McDonald's is hiring in California. So they want potential applicants to go to their website, McCalifornia.com.

McCalifornia. What an apt name for the job market here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Obama 'seeks to inflate meat prices' for ethanol

That's the take of the Washington Examiner editorial writers, who explain:
Thanks to the ethanol mandate, more than 40 percent of the nation's corn crop now goes into the production of a useless fuel that hardly anyone would buy if the government didn't require it. That's up from just 17 percent in 2005, before the mandate went into effect. Only 36 percent of the corn crop now goes for feed, and 24 percent goes for food.

Obama could solve this problem instantly by suspending the federal ethanol mandate -- something his EPA actually can do unilaterally and legally. Instead, Obama will buy up meat -- a move that meat producers say won't help them much anyway. "It doesn't solve the problem of having enough affordable corn next summer," industry analyst Steve Meyer told Reuters. "Without changing the ethanol program, nothing can be done," he said.

The higher corn prices caused by the mandate and the drought have also driven up the price of ethanol by 33 percent since May, which means -- again, thanks to the mandate -- higher gas prices at the pump. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of gas rose 16 cents in July, an all-time record hike for that month. Prices rose an additional eight cents just last week. Gas is already more than four dollars a gallon in California and is expected to go higher.

Hailing from the corn-producing state of Illinois, Obama has always been a supporter of special government benefits for ethanol producers. But even environmentalists rejected ethanol long ago, when scientists established that it actually increases carbon and smog emissions.

To recap, government is driving up the cost of food, animal feed and gasoline, and Obama's solution is to drive up meat prices as well. Obama could eliminate the entire problem overnight and reduce carbon emissions were he to waive the ethanol mandate in a time of drought. Instead, he is creating a new spending program to mollify livestock producers, who, were it not for the ethanol mandate, would be able to make an honest living without his help.
Meanwhile, economists say the market impact of USDA's plan to buy $170 million worth of meat to "relieve pressure" on drought-stricken livestock producers will likely be minor and short-lived, the Capital Press' Mateusz Perkowski reports today.

A fair question

OK, so InfoWars.com is the baby of Internet and shortwave radio talk show host Alex Jones, who is undoubtedly the biggest conspiracy theorist on the planet. But the site made the Drudge Report this morning by raising a serious question that no one else in the media is asking.

What is the Social Security Administration doing purchasing 174,000 rounds of bullets? As Alex Jones himself might ask, are we really going to have an election in November?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More selective reporting from the AP?

I just finished filing a story that gauges reaction over a Kansas rancher's lawsuit that seeks to block any funds from the Beef Checkoff from going to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The rancher, Michael Callicrate, and his Organization for Competitive Markets got a considerable amount of help from the Humane Society of the United States, which is a frequent thorn in the side of animal agriculture.

From my story, which you'll find at CapitalPress.com soon:
Humane Society president and CEO Wayne Pacelle told the Capital Press the group isn't trying to dismantle the checkoff but wants to make sure its funds aren't used for lobbying. He said the NCBA has been fighting egg-industry reforms sought by HSUS.

“Talk about staying in your lane,” Pacelle said. “I don't understand why the NCBA is trying to prevent the egg industry from passing legislation to protect that industry for the next generation. We're trying to have improvements for 285 million laying hens. That's an animal welfare issue, and we don't want to see checkoff dollars used for lobbying against that.”

NCBA chief executive Forrest Roberts responded that the group has opposed an amendment in the 2012 Farm Bill that would codify HSUS' agreement with egg producers on cage sizes, but that the activities weren't funded by checkoff dollars.

“For the first time, it would take any animal care guidelines out of the hands of experts and put them in the hands of the federal government,” Roberts said. “It's not the right approach for animal agriculture. While this amendment only pertains to egg production, there's absolutely no assurance whatsoever that this will not be used as a blueprint for the entire livestock community.”
Callicrate's use of the HSUS for what Pacelle described as legal research and information was instantly seized upon by the NCBA and drew a rebuke from the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, an NCBA rival. The HSUS' involvement is also mentioned in stories by the Kansas City Star, Meat and Poultry, the Daily Yonder and Farm Futures.

Yet incredibly, a lengthy story about the lawsuit by the Associated Press made no mention of HSUS. What, did the reporter not do her homework? Did she not think the involvement of a national group that's been behind numerous livestock industry reform efforts and ballot initiatives is relevant? After all, it's not as if Wayne Pacelle wouldn't have called her back. He knows exactly what the Capital Press is and has probably read our editorials, yet he returned my call within the hour and has always been friendly and gracious in our interviews.

Look, the Capital Press uses AP, and I occasionally post their stories online. But if you get your news from an organization that relies on the wire service as its sole source of national stories, you really have to wonder if you're always getting the whole story. Or whether a given report has been scrubbed for political purposes.

The impact of the Romney-Ryan ticket

Commentator Hugh Hewitt has long been in Mitt Romney's corner, so it's not a surprise that he likes the selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. But in his latest column, he makes three salient points that I think are right on the money.

There's this:
A campaign about first principles is ahead. Either you built your business or you didn't. Either the private sector is doing fine or it isn't. Either the president and the Pelosi-Reid congressional Democrats are serious about cutting spending or they are not.
And this:
Not much remarked upon this weekend is the longer-term consequence of Mitt Romney's bold selection: Whether Romney yields his leadership of the GOP in 10 weeks or eight years, his almost certain successor will be Ryan, which means another generation of serious, committed conservative leadership. The party is now firmly and wholly committed to reform. What few Old Guard remain in the committees of the Hill know their days are numbered. The party of the appropriators is truly finished.
And this:
It is reassuring to know that Ryan learned his way around the Beltway from Bill Bennett and Jack Kemp, men not just of excellent ideas but of enduring faith in the American experiment -- a faith Romney wholly shares.
Whoever wins the presidential race in November, the last few years have shown that the country is hungry for reform of the way things are done in Washington. That is sure to be reflected in our politics and by our politicians.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Some words of advice about polls

The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin offers a few:
A word about the latest national poll from Battleground Poll/Politico showing the race in a statistical dead heat. As a poll of likely voters, it is in line with daily tracking polls from Rasmussen and Gallup. It’s a far cry from CNN and Fox polls of registered voters in which the Democratic portion of the electorate was much higher. The Romney team’s own polling analysis, not surprisingly, mirrors the surveys from Battleground /Rasmussen/Gallup. The pro-Obama media has leapt on the CNN and Fox polls, spinning a storyline that Romney is in all sorts of trouble.

Who’s right? We don’t know and won’t know until we get closer to the election and all the polls start using a likely voter screen. In the meantime, this once again demonstrates the fallacy (and laziness) in spinning “analysis” based solely on polls that may have nothing to do with the reality of the race. For now, watch local polls and coverage in battleground states and check the split in the Democratic-Republican electorate used by pollsters. And then forget it. All of the data will change once the impact of the Ryan selection is felt and both sides hold their conventions. Unfortunately, you’re not going to find such sober restraint in most of the campaign coverage.
No doubt Rubin felt restrained from reminding how untrustworthy her own newspaper has been when it comes to polls. But be that as it may, commentator Hugh Hewitt had similar advice last week in targeting a horribly weighted New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac poll:
To get results useful to predicting how a state will go in the fall, the sample must reflect some "best guess" about turnout. As confirmed on my show last week by Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown, these pollsters don't do that.

RealClearPolitics' Sean Trende argues it is too early to trust state polling anyway, and perhaps he's right. But no one should be calling a state red or blue based on such ludicrous indifference to likely turnout.
As many people consider this to be the most important election in our lifetimes, it's important that people remain well informed from accurate sources and not be duped by duplicitous ones. The polls I'm paying attention to this cycle are the daily tracking polls from Rasmussen and Gallup, two independent polling firms with the best track records for being right. Most media polls tend to be garbage, as do political polls from most universities and quasi-advocacy groups such as Pew. For an excellent explanation of this, read "Mobocracy: How the Media's Obsession with Polling Twists the News, Alters Elections, and Undermines Democracy," by Matthew Robinson.

Look, if you believe that Democrats will enjoy a 10-percentage-point edge in turnout this November as CNN recently suggested with its poll, then you're welcome to your fant .. er, opinion. But if you're in a media organization, understand that most of us have figured out the game and refuse to play.

Cattle group slams Humane Society lawsuit

The U.S. Cattlemen's Association, which professes to take a middle ground among industry groups in their ongoing power struggles, is blasting a Humane Society of the United States-backed lawsuit filed late last week against the Beef Checkoff.

From a news release:
The U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) responded today to the announcement by the Organization For Competitive Markets (OCM) that it has filed a lawsuit in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) and the Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC) seeking an injunction to halt the flow of beef checkoff funds to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). OCM leadership announced its lawsuit on Thursday, August 9, citing audits that have uncovered the misappropriation of checkoff funds as well as an Inspector General's report that found fault with USDA's administration and oversight of commodity checkoff programs. The Inspector General is expected to release in the near future a separate audit report examining specifically the beef checkoff, its contractors and checkoff oversight.

"USCA will not support OCM's willing involvement of HSUS, a known opponent of U.S. ranchers and animal agriculture, in this lawsuit partnership," said Leo McDonnell, USCA Director, Columbus, MT. "We doubt that HSUS has any true concerns about how checkoff dollars are administered and, in fact, if the organization's long-term goal is to eliminate animal agriculture, then the complete demise of commodity checkoffs supports that plan. While cattle producers have serious concerns about the beef checkoff, these issues would be better handled within the industry and by the industry itself."

"Unfortunately, language in the Beef Act and Order requires that checkoff work be conducted by industry organizations through contracts with the CBB, rather than allowing the CBB to contract directly with service providers for promotion, research and education about beef," noted Jon Wooster, USCA President. "USCA has worked diligently over time to facilitate changes in the law so the program is more responsive to a changing beef industry, more efficient and more transparent. In fact, today USCA will be involved in ongoing meetings with other national groups and USDA officials in Denver about accomplishing exactly that."

"We are disappointed that OCM has felt the need to work cooperatively with The Humane Society of the United States, an organization that reportedly already faces charges under RICO statutes on racketeering, obstruction of justice and malicious prosecution in a law suit brought by Ringling Brothers Circus' parent company Feld Entertainment, Inc.," continued Wooster. "HSUS has been increasingly questioned on their fund-raising programs that apparently misrepresent their efforts and accomplishments and we are disappointed than OCM has chosen to align themselves with this group which has certainly demonstrated their animosity to animal agriculture and cost our industry countless dollars.

"USCA urges the CBB and USDA-AMS to react to this lawsuit proactively by moving immediately to develop short-term plans that will ensure a seamless continuation of current checkoff programming by other contractors in the event the plaintiffs in this case successfully obtain the injunction they are seeking from the court," said Wooster. "We must move forward with a solution-oriented approach in order to achieve the sort of meaningful revisions to the overall program that will finally restore producer trust and confidence in beef checkoff. USCA stands ready to work with the CBB and USDA as this process moves forward.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Kids get ag-venture at Siskiyou fair




The Siskiyou Golden Fair, which is running in Yreka through Sunday, has a new feature this year. It's AgVentureland, in which kids can do mock farm chores and ride "tractors" through a maze of hay stacks. It's part of the fair's ever-present ag theme, which is all the more important as fairs are having to make do without state funding.

In the photos, from the top: 11-year-old Cheyenne Copeland of Grenada in Siskiyou County saddles a mock horse; Lilly Hughes, 3, and her brother, Landon, 5, of Yreka try their hand at milking a fiberglass cow; and Landon Hughes practices his roping skills.

My story will be up at CapitalPress.com soon.

Lawmakers blast state over fire fee bills

State Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, and Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, are unhappy that California is sending out bills to collect its controversial fees for fire protection in rural areas.

From a press release:
Senator Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) and Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) commented today on the announcement that the state will begin mailing bills to residents in State Responsibility Areas, widely known as the fire tax. Put forward by Governor Brown, the proposal will charge rural Californians as much as $150 per habitable structure, though most will not receive any additional services funded by the tax.

“The fire tax is simply another effort to blame rural Californians for the danger the state has caused through mismanagement of public lands. Most of the Californians getting hit with this tax won’t receive any benefit at all, and many already pay local taxes for fire services,” Said LaMalfa. “In fact, the state is spending millions of dollars and hiring 50 new workers to collect a tax that has a strong chance of being overturned in court.”

"The goal of this measure is more taxes to fund an out-of-control state government and a broken budget,” said Nielsen. “The tax will be expanded and applied to more and more structures on our properties to fund bureaucracy without increasing \otection of our lives or property. Citizens must launch a firestorm of demands to repeal this tax to legislators throughout California and further support Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association lawsuit against this tax."

LaMalfa and other rural lawmakers have coauthored Assembly Bill 1506 to repeal the fire tax, which was passed with a simple majority vote and may violate Proposition 26, the voter-approved measure requiring that all tax increases receive a two-thirds vote of the legislature.7

Farmers markets and food stamp fraud

The USDA is cracking down on fraud in its nutrition-assistance program, and farmers markets could be among its targets.

Ag Under Secretary Kevin Concannon yesterday rolled out new tactics for fighting abuse of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which include tougher financial sanctions for retailers and new safeguards required of states in enrolling recipients.

Concannon said he wasn't aware of instances of fraud at farmers markets that accept electronic-benefit transfer (EBT) cards. But he said the markets will be under the same scrutiny as retailers.

“We'll be watching their redemption experience,” Concannon told the Capital Press during a conference call with reporters. “We have ways of watching and profiling locations.”

The government can carefully monitor transactions, tracking their frequency and redemption amounts, he said. “There are a lot of factors … that raise the flag for us,” he said. The agency also has about 100 undercover workers in targeted areas around the country, he said.

For more on this story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Student carries the mantle for beef




The pictures are of Katie Stroud, a 19-year-old Adin cattle rancher and incoming California State University-Chico sophomore who was chosen in April as California's Beef Ambassador. She'll be competing in Sacramento next month to be the national Beef Ambassador.

I talked with Katie and her mom this morning. She has a distinct passion for going toe-to-toe with the likes of PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, whose mission often seems to be to put ranchers out of business.

For my profile of her, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ABC slammed over 'pink slime' reporting

ABC news is having its ethics questioned over its reporting on the use of lean, finely textured beef, which was termed "pink slime" by a former USDA meat inspector.

Jack Fowler of National Review Online observes:
Over at his “Warning Signs” blog, media critic Alan Caruba takes on ABC News for violating the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics via its scare-mongering report on “pink slime” beef. Caruba reports the ABC story has destroyed 650 jobs. Pink slime may not kill, but the liberal media sure does. From Caruba:
The most troubling trend in recent times has been a steady erosion of journalism’s integrity.

In particular, the latest example has been ABC’s lax ethics that visited devastation on a company with a thirty-year history of safe operation, Beef Products, Inc. The company pioneered the provision of lean, finely textured beef which is blended with fattier hamburger to make it more learn and nutritious. It also protects it against pathogens with a process that won the coveted 2007 “Black Pearl” award from the International Association for Food Protection.

ABC reporter Jim Avila, in hot pursuit of a journalism award, wrote a series of reports claiming that BPI was producing “pink slime” with the network hyping the term by using it 52 times in a two-week period in March. Any reporter investigating BPI would have swiftly found a mountain of evidence exonerating the company from any hint of the allegations made against it.

Avila’s reporting put BPI in jeopardy of closing down entirely, forcing the suspension of business at plants in Texas, Kansas, and Iowa, while the headquarters plant in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, struggles to continue operations. So far 650 employees have lost their jobs with several thousand more jobs at risk at companies that relied on BPI, affecting their families and communities.

The company’s founder, Eldon Roth, wrote in a March The Wall Street Journal ad that “Before last summer, we could not have imagined the personal, professional, financial and spiritual impact of the campaign of lies and deceit that have been waged against our company and the lean beef we produce.”
Just in case Food Safety News isn’t on your “favorites” list, it ran a lengthy story that made a mockery of the ABC report.
The Capital Press' Carol Ryan Dumas has done some fine reporting on the fallout from the "pink slime" controversy, some examples of which you'll find here and here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

RTP: State ag bill becomes anti-gun bill

The Redding Tea Party is labeling a bill in the Legislature as "the worst gun confiscation bill in the last 20 years."

From the RTP:
Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco now trying to ban and confiscate more so-called "assault weapons."

Originally, Senate Bill 249 was a quiet agriculture bill that passed in the California Senate back in May. With sneaky back-door tactics, Senator Yee turned the bill into a gun ban monster.

SB 249, as amended, would make a small but profound change to the definition of what constitutes a detachable magazine for a semiautomatic firearm. By doing so, hundreds of thousands of semi-automatic rifles, which were legally sold in California over the last decade, would become illegal on July 1, 2013.

The existing definition of detachable magazine was used by Governor Brown's administration for the four years he served as Attorney General.

Senator Yee's bill has no provisions to allow permitting, licensing or reimbursement for the loss of valuable property. Worse yet, the bill doesn't require a public notice program to advise owners of this change in state law.

Thousands of owners could be arrested for inadvertent violations. If you own an affected firearm, your only choices would be to destroy it, surrender it to a law enforcement agency, sell it out of state or have it confiscated at the time of your arrest! Which option would you prefer?
State Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, opposes the bill.

More farmers markets in north state, California



In the photos, from the top: Karen Mills (left) and her daughter, Marissa, of R and K Orchards in Corning fill boxes of peaches for what was a long line of customers at Saturday's farmers market at Redding's City Hall; and Brenda Kearns of B and B Country Farms in Anderson arranges cucumbers.

California again leads the nation in the number of farmers markets, which have nearly doubled since 2004, according to the USDA's updated nationwide directory of farmers markets. And the Redding area has helped fueled the growth, organizers of the City Hall farmers market told me Saturday.

Check out my Capital Press story on the trend of direct-sale markets, and some reasons their popularity is taking off, by clicking here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Is the government reviving Wild Lands?

In case you hadn't noticed, I've been on a sort of summer hiatus from the social media world, namely Facebook and blogging. But with vacations mostly over, I'm sort of gradually getting back into the swing of things. For starters, it looks like the government is using a back-door means of writing its controversial Wild Lands proposal into law even after it was soundly rejected by members of Congress.

From the Congressional Western Caucus:
Bureau of Land Management guidance manuals recently discovered by Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) show that the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) has resurrected the controversial Wild Lands policy killed by Congress in April 2011. Included in the manuals is language directly lifted from Secretarial order 3310 and its supporting documents, known as the DOI’s Wild Lands memo, illustrating how BLM employees are to identify and manage lands with wilderness characteristics. Congressman Rob Bishop and Senator Orrin Hatch, along with other Senators and Representatives from the West, today issued a letter to Secretary Ken Salazar outlining concerns and questions about the DOI’s efforts to re-establish Wild Lands through the new guidance manuals. [links to manuals found within first two footnotes of summary]

Background:

On December 22, 2010 Secretary Salazar and the Bureau of Land Management unveiled a new type of land designation known as Wild Lands, which allowed the DOI to identify and manage de-facto wilderness areas without having to go through the necessary and open congressional process. On April 15, 2011, President Obama codified a Congressional defunding provision prompting DOI Secretary Ken Salazar to table the new Wild Lands initiative, which was widely opposed by a broad range of congressional members and almost all western public lands states.

Despite far reaching opposition to previous attempts to establish de-facto wilderness areas, the DOI is yet again looking for ways to apply strict land management practices to federal lands without officially the lands being identified and designated through regular order. In the new guidance manuals, the DOI has carefully outlined how BLM employees should apply new land management practices that essentially create de-facto wilderness areas. Many of the directives use language taken directly from the controversial and widely opposed Wild Lands initiative and unfairly stack the deck against multiple-use management.

"Once again, the Obama Administration shows its ‘Washington knows best’ mentality,” Hatch said. “Even though these proposals have already been overwhelmingly rejected, the Administration is attempting to administratively put these policies in place. This proposal will give Washington bureaucrats more control over the lands in Utah and across the West. It’s wrong, and the Interior Department needs to stop trying to keep the public off public lands,” said Senator Hatch.

“I am troubled and angered by similarities found between the contents of the hand books and the defunct Wild Lands proposal. This is clearly an effort to establish ‘Wild Lands 2.0’ and abandons all previous commitments Secretary Salazar made to me and many other western Members to work openly and collaboratively on new land management practices. Excerpts within these handbooks clearly depict a thinly veiled effort on behalf of this Administration to further limit access to our nation’s public lands. I expect a prompt response from Secretary Salazar and will continue to pursue this issue to ensure that the livelihoods of westerners are protected,” said Congressman Bishop.
This sort of thing is why organizations like the National Cattlemen's Beef Association refuse to take the government at its word on issues such as farm dust regulations.