Thursday, February 28, 2013

TV, Internet trounce newspapers in new poll

A new poll provides the latest example of why newspapers nowadays (including the Capital Press) are placing so much of their emphasis on their online product.

From Rasmussen Reports:
Fifty-six percent (56%) of Likely U.S. Voters say they get most of their news from TV, including 32% who get it from cable news networks and 24% who get it from traditional network news. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that another 25% use the Internet as their main source of news, while only 10% still rely on print newspapers. Seven percent (7%) get most of their news from radio. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Fifty-six percent (56%) of all voters regard the news reported by the media as at least somewhat trustworthy, but that includes just six percent who think it is Very Trustworthy. Forty-two percent (42%) don’t trust the news media, with 12% who believe the news it reports is Not At All Trustworthy.
The poll doesn't say how many within that 25 percent that gets their news on the Internet predominantly rely on newspapers' websites, which many do. Of course there's much more competition online, which can only be a good thing.

One other interesting tidbit:
Republicans are most likely to get their news from cable news networks, while Democrats are evenly dependent on both cable and broadcast TV sources the most. Voters not affiliated with either party are most dependent on the Internet, with cable news a close second.
And this:
Half (50%) of voters under 40 rely on the Internet for news, while older voters are more likely to turn first to cable news.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rep. LaMalfa on the issues

The north state's new congressman, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, has started a periodic newsletter. In the first edition he includes a welcome video and views on President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, budget bills and new gun ban proposals.

Here is the text:
The President's State of the Union Address
It was refreshing to hear the President put the focus on growing the economy and creating jobs in America. Unfortunately, the President ignored the new taxes he has imposed on every family, the vast increase in the government’s size, and the $6 trillion he has borrowed, money our children will need to pay back.The simple fact is that the President’s policies caused the economy to contract for the first time in three years, and it’s clear that more of the same will further damage to our struggling middle class. Our nation’s economic leadership is a result of letting Americans innovate and invest in their own businesses, not overzealous bureaucracies choosing winners and losers.

No Budget, No Pay
Recently, House Republicans introduced the“No Budget, No Pay Act,” which successfully passed in both the House and Senate. This legislation will take action to pressure Congress and the White House to pass a budget in a timely manner. The bill allows a three month extension in borrowing authority with the caveat that a budget must be adopted by April 15th. Budgeting is one of the most basic duties of the government. The Senate and the White House have failed to pass a budget to govern federal spending in four consecutive years. Although not ideal, this measure will allow the House and Senate to work together to produce an effective plan to tackle the fiscal challenges as nation. Read More.

New Gun Ban Proposals
Nothing in the President's new gun ban proposal would have prevented the tragic shootings in Newtown, CT or their severity. What this proposal will do is infringe directly upon the Second Amendment and strip lawful citizens of long-established rights. Restricting access to firearms and the rights of law abiding citizens will not change the tragedies of the past or prevent them in the future. I was sent to Washington not to strip rights away from the American people, but to defend our basic freedoms and ensure that our government follows the Constitution. I am very concerned that the President’s use of executive orders is not only legally questionable, but contrary to the principles of representative government which our nation was founded upon. Furthermore, this type of ban always fails to achieve any real result. A simple look at Oakland and Chicago, which have some of the strictest gun laws in the country, proves that these laws don’t work. More laws and gun bans will not stop those with a wicked heart, criminal designs or serious mental illness.
Read More.

Require a PLAN Act
House Resolution 444, the Require a PLAN Act recently passed in the House of Representatives. This bill will require the president to submit a budget that balances within ten years. It is unfortunate that it had to come to this but we must take action to pressure members in the Senate and White House to complete their job to pass a budget in a timely manner, a basic duty that has not been completed in four years. I believe H.R. 444 is a step in the right direction to balancing our budget, reducing spending, and solving the fiscal challenges that face our country.

Klamath County votes to back out of KBRA

The Klamath County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to back out of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

Reports the Klamath Herald and News:
The commissioners' decision came after hearing on Feb. 12, when more than 70 people spoke on either side of the KBRA divide, and after the commissioners received and reviewed hundreds of emails and letters on the subject. [...]

Commissioner Jim Bellet voiced concerns over the KBRA's impacts to Klamath County's economy. Commission Chairman Dennis Linthicum said he saw the lack of water storage as a big problem with the agreements. Commissioner Tom Mallams thought the KBRA did a good job bringing people together, but he said a better agreement could be reached.
More details are at CapitalPress.com.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gaines legislation would repeal fire fees



The north state's Sen. Ted Gaines has proposed a trio of bills in this session that would curb or repeal the controversial fees charged to rural residents for fire protection.

From Gaines:
‘This $150 fire tax is illegal and unfair – plain and simple,” said Senator Gaines. “My goal with these bills is to offer some hope and support to Californians who are still facing a 10-percent unemployment rate and struggling just to make ends meet.”

Senate Bill 17 would reverse the Governor’s and legislative Democrats’ decision to raise $84 million in taxes by charging rural property owners a “fee” for fire prevention services as part of the 2011-12 budget. These communities are located in “State Responsibility Areas” (SRA) designated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), even though their property taxes already contribute to the service contracts that counties have with Cal Fire.

Senate Bill 125 would exempt a property owner of a structure that is located both within an SRA and within the boundaries of a local fire protection district from having to pay the $150 tax. Many rural property owners already pay local fire agencies for protection so this legislation would eliminate the double-taxation scenario for those residents.

Senate Bill 147 would exempt any property owner located within an SRA who has an income of less than 200 percent of federal poverty level (as determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines) from paying the $150 fire tax. Many Californians fall within this low income category.

This fire tax has been imposed on the owners of more than 800,000 properties in the state. According to census and Cal Fire data, Senator Gaines’ largely rural district includes nearly 25 percent or approximately 200,000 of the properties whose owners are subject to the fee.

“My legislation comes at a time when Cal Fire has been accused of stashing away millions in a secret fund,” said Senator Gaines. “I hope my legislative colleagues realize that charging rural Californians a $150 illegal fire fee specifically to support Cal Fire operations, at the same time they are hiding millions provides enough justification to support these bills.”

Senator Ted Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra and Siskiyou counties.
In the photo, legislative aides Brenda Haynes (left) and Ashley Adishian prepare a sign during an anti-fire fee rally in Redding last October.

For my story on how farm groups are taking part in the fire-fee debate, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gun manufacturers to boycott police?

We've heard a lot about county sheriffs vowing to stand up the feds when it comes to their constituents' Second Amendment rights. Now gun manufacturers are joining the rebellion.

From the Christian Science Monitor via the Washington Times:
At least 50 U.S. gun makers, gun machinists and other gun-related business owners have banded together to fight what they perceive as a massive attack on the Second Amendment, with many even threatening to stop sales to police to the same degree as the government cracks down on civilians.

Some of the businesses are threatening to close up shop and move from any state that passes laws restricting the Second Amendment rights of civilians, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Others are threatening to close “the police loophole,” the Monitor reports, and refuse to sell to law enforcement the very same gear, ammunition and weapons that the government denied to civilians.

For example, New York Arms of Maine writes on its website, according to the Monitor: “Based on recent legislation in New York, we are prohibited from selling rifles and receivers to residents of New York [so] we have chosen to extend that prohibition to all governmental agencies associated with or located within New York.”
Perhaps some of them may take a look at their contracts with the city of Chicago.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lawmaker: Health bill overlooks 'economics'

The north state's Sen. Jim Nielsen cast a committee vote against California's implementation of Obamacare on Wednesday, explaining afterward the legislation "does not address the economics of health coverage."

Here is Nielsen's statement after he came out on the short end of a 7-2 Senate Committee on Health vote:
“To maintain the integrity and quality of our health care system, health care services must be competitive for the benefit of consumers. This legislation does not address the economics of health coverage - and is, therefore premature.

“Hasty, ill-conceived implementation of the ACA could wholly result in rationed and diminished as well as more costly health care.

“This bill does nothing to increase access to doctors, and has the potential to increase the cost of insurance premiums. I am particularly concerned about the potential impact for double digit premium increases for Northern Californian residents.

“The Legislature must exercise caution in obliging California to cover services that exceed those required by this federal mandate. This would result in vast new and additional costs to the state budget.

“The federal legislation and this state measure to implement the ACA will affect generations of Californians. We must proceed with deliberation and caution.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

EPA gives producers' info to activist groups

The nation's largest cattlemen's organization is complaining that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided sensitive information about producers to animal-rights groups.

From the National Cattlemen's Beef Association:
Early this week the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) was notified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the agency had been collecting information from states on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This information was requested by extremist groups, including Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and granted to them.

“When we reviewed the information submitted by the states and released by EPA, we were alarmed at the detail of the information provided on hard working family farmers and ranchers, family operations including my own,” said NCBA Past President J.D. Alexander, a cattle feeder from Pilger, Neb. “It is beyond comprehension to me that with threats to my family from harassment atop bio-security concerns, that EPA would gather this information only to release it to these groups. This information details my family’s home address and geographic coordinates; the only thing it doesn’t do is chauffeur these extremists to my house. For some operations, even telephone numbers and deceased relatives are listed.”

In January 2012, EPA proposed the Clean Water Act Section 308 CAFO Reporting rule to collect information from CAFOs and make it publicly available and readily searchable through their website. Cattlemen and women along with the Department of Homeland Security expressed concerns that this was not only a serious overreach of EPA’s authority and would create a road map for activists to harass individual families, but that the proposal would aid and abet terrorism and provide a very real threat to the nation’s food security. EPA later withdrew the 308 rule on these grounds, but NCBA has learned that the agency still intends to use this gathered data to create a national searchable database of livestock operations. EPA’s current action proves that our nation says it is concerned with national security, but does not care about personal small business security, said Alexander.

“Cattle producers won this issue with EPA’s decision to withdraw the rule and with the withdrawal we had hoped precautions would be taken by the agency to protect such information. Instead of protecting this information, EPA was compiling it in a nice package for these groups, all on the federal dole,” said Alexander. “Moreover, EPA knew, or had reason to know, this information would be readily accessible to all groups wishing to harm agriculture, through a simple and quick FOIA request. My question is, with government overspending and rumors from United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack threatening to shut down meat inspection to control spending, why is EPA using valuable government resources to do the dirty work of extremists, activists and terrorists?”

The information released by EPA covers CAFOs in more than 30 states, including many family farmers and ranchers who feed less than 1,000 head and are not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.

Nielsen again calls for oversight of parks

The north state's Sen. Jim Nielsen used a legislative audit committee hearing today on the state parks system's budgeting practices to repeat his call for more oversight.

From the senator:
Following today’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing on the inconsistent budgeting practices at the Department of Parks and Recreation, State Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), who co-authored the letter to require the audit of the department’s budgeting practices along with Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (R-Granite Bay), issued the following statement:

“This deliberate budget shell game has been going on for years in many agencies. It cannot be tolerated anymore.

“Public officials, whether they are state employees or elected officials, are trusted stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.

“That’s why I continue to call for more oversight of state agencies and departments by the Legislature. I ask for zero based budgeting and for more legislative time to be devoted to formal agency oversight.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

USDA staffers: 'The pilgrims were illegal aliens!'

A watchdog organization has released video footage of USDA staffers who were forced to attend "cultural sensitivity" training, bang on tables and chant, "The pilgrims were illegal aliens!"

From Judicial Watch:
The sensitivity training sessions, described as “a huge expense” by diversity awareness trainer and self-described “citizen of the world” Samuel Betances, were held on USDA premises. The diversity event is apparently part of what USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack described in a memo sent to all agency employees as a “new era of Civil Rights” and “a broader effort towards cultural transformation at USDA.” In 2011 and 2012, the USDA paid Betances and his firm nearly $200,000 for their part in the “cultural transformation” program.
The organization has the videos here.

Meanwhile, the USDA has been working to dispel undocumented immigrants' concerns that going on food stamps will hurt their chances of becoming U.S. citizens. (HT: Drudge)

Tehama FB leader: Donation effort 'fantastic'

Tehama County Farm Bureau manager Kari Dodd told me this morning that taking part in the organization's nationwide Harvest for All program was a great experience.

"It's fantastic -- there's no other way to put it," she said. It's such a good feeling, but also knowing that you're helping the communities and helping everyone with the resources that we have, it's great to give back."

Watch for my story on the program at CapitalPress.com soon.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Nielsen: Taxpayers 'fleeced' by parks system

The north state's Sen. Jim Nielsen says he will "aggressively examine" a State Auditor report on accounting problems in the state parks system, which you can read here.

The senator's statement:
“For years, top officials at the Department of Parks and Recreation have ignored established accounting guidelines in its reporting to hide money from the public.

“With nearly 4,000 employees and a budget of $574 million, State Parks officials still cannot tell the public how much it costs to operate a specific park.

“Last year, top-ranking officials arbitrarily selected 70 parks for closure. They cannot ‘justify the reasonableness of the selections.’

“This is yet another blatant example of budget gamesmanship. I have tried to correct these accounting gimmicks during my tenure as Vice Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. Top bureaucrats continue to thumb their noses at taxpayers, incapable of reforming the practices of their departments.

“I will aggressively examine these accounting manipulations in the budget hearing process to bring an end to these abuses in government that are costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.”

Snow level drops below average at Scott River

The lack of rainfall appears to be starting to take its toll on the snowpack, as snow levels have dropped below average in the Scott River Watershed.

From the California Department of Water Resources:
The February 1st snow survey results for five snow courses in the Scott River Watershed have been measured and compared to data from previous years. These measurements are part of the statewide California Cooperative Snow Survey program, which is operated by the California Department of Water Resources.

The survey shows that the snow depth and water content are below average at 82% of normal compared to historical values for February (see Table 1). Low precipitation has contributed to the current snowpack conditions. However, many months of winter remain, with most locations usually reaching their annual maximum by late March or early April.

The snow surveys are measured monthly during the winter and spring months (February - May). Employees from the Salmon and Scott River Ranger District travel to pre-determined sites to collect information about snow accumulation in the mountains west of Scott Valley, located in the Klamath National Forest. The measuring sites are established locations used to quantify snow depth and water content. Access to these snow sites vary; some are located closer to forest roads while others require hours of travel by snow shoes or snowmobile.

The snow depth and water content are measured and calculated with a specially designed and calibrated aluminum tube. The depth of snow is recorded, and the water equivalent of the snow core is derived by weighing the snow sample. This information is used to help the State of California forecast the amount of water available for agriculture, power generation, recreation, and stream flow releases later in the year.

For more information, go to the California Department of Water Resources Website: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/snow or contact Verna Yin on the Salmon and Scott River Ranger District at (530) 468-1241.
Watch for my story about how rangelands and crops are doing around the state at CapitalPress.com next week.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Where to go for news on the papal transition

Speaking of media distortions, commentator Hugh Hewitt offers tips on how to avoid them if you're following the succession to Pope Benedict over the next month or so.

Noting that the Roman Catholic Church "has legions of foes spread throughout major media," Hewitt blogs:
Those critics will surface repeatedly between now and the selection of the new pope to use the occasion to sling their stones. It is a fun time, really, since they know almost nothing of which they speak, and their agenda journalism is of so little consequence unlike the MSM's recent interventions in the presidential election.

There are very good commentators on the Church and the proceedings at the Vatican, and they include Father Robert Barron, Father Joseph Fessio, Father C.J. McCloskey, Father Robert Sirico, Father Robert Spitzer and Benedict and John Paul II biographer George Weigel to name just six. There are others, though these scholars and very savvy media commentators are at the very top echelon of Americans who can offer genuine insight and commentary on this extraordinarily important moment in the life of the Church and the world it serves. Many protestant leaders, like Dr. Albert Mohler, can offer very informed judgments on the roie of the Church in the world.

But do beware of lefty, ill-informed, or simply outright anti-Catholic "journalists" dressing up their agendas as "reporting," and attach zero importance to location of the byline being Rome.
Hewitt also recommends John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter for factual reporting. I would add EWTN's The World Over with Raymond Arroyo to that list, as well as other programs on that network. For opinion, check out Patrick Buchanan's latest column on Benedict, which is titled, "A Godly Man in an Ungodly Age."

The "journalists" of which Hewitt speaks appear on the networks you know and write for wire services that run in the newspapers you know. Editors and TV news producers tend to think religion doesn't belong in the newspaper or on the broadcast at all, and if they have to cover it, they'll do so begrudgingly and exact their pound of flesh. That's their attitude.

I was in a big-city sports department a little more than 20 years ago when one of the reporters, on hearing some news about a priest in Central America who granted asylum to some political figure, blurted, "I knew there was a reason I hate Catholics!" I've heard comments like this in newsrooms way more than once in the course of my career. This hatred influences how stories are written, edited and selected, all the way down the line.

Whether you're Catholic or not, the church still has a lot of influence around the world, and the ascension of a new pope is still a big deal internationally. In these perilous times in which we live, now is not the time to be ill-informed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

LaMalfa: 'What America needs is a real plan'

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa said after tonight's State of the Union speech that President Obama's policies of "bigger government, higher taxes and more borrowing" won't turn the country around.

Here is LaMalfa's statement:
It’s refreshing to hear the President finally ask how to create new jobs in America, and a great start would be to roll back the 5,000 pages of costly new regulations he’s released in the last forty days. Unfortunately, the President ignored the new taxes he’s imposed on every family, the vast increase in the government’s size and the $6 trillion he has borrowed, money our children will need to pay back.

The simple fact is that the President’s policies caused the economy to contract for the first time in three years, and it’s clear that more of the same will further damage to our struggling middle class. Our nation’s economic leadership is a result of letting Americans innovate and invest in their own businesses, not overzealous bureaucracies choosing winners and losers.

Addressing the root causes of crime with a growing economy and opportunities for good jobs will improve safety far more than simply limiting Americans’ constitutional rights. The ineffectiveness of restrictions on the Second Amendment is apparent in the President’s hometown of Chicago, where it is illegal to buy a gun and yet over 500 murders occurred last year.

What America needs is a real plan to get our government back on track and stabilize our economy. Unfortunately, what we heard tonight was the President’s default solution to every problem: bigger government, higher taxes and more borrowing.

Young farmers donate 10 million pounds of food

Young farmers and ranchers from the north state and throughout California led the nation last year by donating more than 10 million pounds of food to families as part of the Harvest for All program.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Throughout the year, regional Young Farmers and Ranchers organizations in California participated in gleaning and collection activities, sometimes following harvest crews through fields to gather fresh fruits and vegetables to be donated to Harvest for All. The food, supplied by farms, ranches, processors and packinghouses, arrived at food banks for distribution to families in need.

"With one in six Americans currently living with food insecurity, the Harvest for All program is more important than ever," said Danielle Oliver, California Farm Bureau Federation director of leadership development. "We're proud of the part young farmers and ranchers have taken through these donations to help hunger-relief efforts."

Since the Harvest for All program was formally launched in 2003 as a partnership between the American Farm Bureau Federation and Feeding America, more than 83 million meals have been served. Farmers and ranchers also donate money and volunteer hours to the program.

Report: Politicians, media distort economic data

A new report painstakingly details how some politicians and their media allies deliberately distort employment and other economic data for political purposes.

Katy Grimes writes in the California Political Review:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of the U.S. labor force “that is employed” has continually fallen since 2006.

But it gets worse.

The number of Americans “not in the labor force” more than tripled during Barack Obama’s first term in office. This number is particularly interesting because it is larger than the increase in the number of Americans “not in the labor force” during the entire decade of 1980-1990.

The mainstream media have been giddy reporting 157,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in January. But it’s the “non-seasonally adjusted” numbers — the number of Americans with a job — which actually decreased by 1,446,000 between December and January, according to Michael Snyder, an economist, attorney and author of the Economic Collapse blog. These numbers are even more important.
The situation is even worse here in the Golden State. Writes Grimes:
California’s poverty rate of 23.5 percent is the highest in the nation — much higher than the national average of 16.1 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
If California's 23.5 percent poverty rate represents the state as a whole, you have to figure the rate in many rural areas is much higher. But what local news outlets have done recent stories detailing the plight of the more than one in four people in their communities who are poor?

I can recall that stories about folks who've been "hurt by this economy" were all the rage back in 2007 and 2008, but we don't seem to see them nowadays, and there's a reason. They don't fit the narrative.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why 'God made a farmer' was so great

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan sums up why the "So God Made a Farmer" ad during the Super Bowl was so refreshing in today's cultural landscape.

She writes:
Here are some reasons it was great: Because it spoke respectfully and even reverently of others. We don’t do that so much anymore. We’re afraid of looking corny or naive, and we fear that to praise one group is to suggest another group is less worthy of admiration. So we keep things bland and nonspecific. Harvey wasn’t afraid to valorize, and his specificity had the effect of reminding us there’s a lot of uncelebrated valor out there. It would be nice to hear someone do “So God Created Firemen,” or “So God Created Doctors,” but I’m not sure our culture has the requisite earnestness and respect. We do irony, sarcasm and spoofs: “So God Created Hedge Fund Managers.” Anyway, it was nice—a real refreshment—to hear the sound of authentic respect.
HT: Power Line.

Honey bee shortage worries almond growers

Shortages of honey bees are alarming almond growers in the north state and throughout California as pollination season nears, a University of California-Davis entomologist says.

From Kathy Keatley Garvey at UC-Davis:
California almond growers may not have enough honey bees to pollinate this year’s crop of 800,000 acres, says Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. He attributes the difficulty to winter losses and less populous hives.

“We need 1.6 million colonies, or two colonies per acre, and California has only about 500,000 colonies that can be used for that purpose,” he said. “We need to bring in a million more colonies but due to the winter losses, we may not have enough bees.”

Those winter losses-- still being tabulated-- and the resulting fewer bees per hive could spell trouble for almond growers, he said.

“Last year was not a good year for honey production in the United States,” Mussen [pictured below] said, “and it could be one of the worst honey production years in the history of nation, although it’s been pretty rough in some of the previous years. Usually when we’re short of nectar, we’re short on pollen, and honey bees need both. So, 2012 was a bad year for bee nutrition.”

Malnutrition is one of the stressors of colony collapse disorder, the mysterious malady first noticed in the winter of 2006 that has decimated one-third of the nation’s bees every year. Some beekeepers have reported winter losses of 90 to 100 percent.

In CCD, the adult bees abandon the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, brood and food stores. Bee scientists think CCD is caused by a multitude of factors, includes, pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress.

“We don’t know how many more bees will be lost over the winter,” Mussen said. “We consider the winter ending when the weather warms up and the pollen is being brought into the hives.”

“Many, many colonies are not going to make it through the winter,” said Mussen, an apiculturist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976. “We won’t have as large a bee population as in the past.”

In other words, fewer colonies will be available for the almond growers and the colonies that are available aren’t going to be as populous, he said.” Almond growers usually want at least eight frames of bees per hive,” Mussen said, “but this year they may be lucky to get six. That’s one-third less bees per hive to pollinate the orchards.”

Mussen estimated a good solid hive with eight frames amounts to 2000 bees per frame or 16,000 bees.

Already brokers are getting calls from beekeepers saying “I can’t fulfill the contract. I’m going to be short.”

Mussen said it may all work out well in the end as “bees pollinate almonds on a community basis. The strong colonies will make up for the weak colonies. The strong colonies will clean the orchard of pollen by early afternoon and then go down the street and grab food from nearby orchards.”

San Joaquin almond orchards are already starting to bloom, “but it’s going to be late up here in the Sacramento Valley,” he said. Kern County grows more almonds than any other county in the state.

“If we hit abnormally warm stretches that push out all the bloom at once, that will be good,” said Mussen. “It’s likely that cross-pollination will be better if we have a steady period of warm weather, instead of a warm-cold fluctuating period.”

Although the almond growers are paying a lot of money for their pollination services –an average of $150 per hive—there’s no guarantee it will be a good nut set, Mussen warned. “If it’s too cool, fertilization may not occur. The pollen tubes won’t grow all the way down to the base of the flower to the ovum. The good nut set occurs within the first three days of pollination or at the most, within five days.”

On the other hand, if the weather is too hot and dry, the tissue dries out, he explained. “So we need nice warm weather that’s not too hot or too cold to get good fertilization and nut set. It’s not always the bees’ fault if the nuts fail to grow.”

Many beekeeping operations truck in thousands of colonies to pollinate California’s almonds. One beekeeping operation used to bring 16,000 colonies, Mussen said, “but that 16,000 could be half that this year.” The bees are trucked here from all over the nation.

Around Feb. 14 the average almond orchard in California is in full bloom, but some orchards bloom earlier or later, depending on the cultivar and the weather. An almond orchard blooms a total of about two weeks, he said, pointing out that “the season is short.”

“Around March 7 to the 10th is the last pollination period for almonds in California,” he said. That means that some beekeepers can do double duty with their bees , first pollinating orchards in early February and then heading off to other orchards for the last blooms of the season.”

Almonds are California's biggest export. This year the National Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting a record-breaking 2.10 billion meat pounds, valued at approximately $3 billion. Eighty-percent of the global supply of almonds is grown in California, and about 70 percent of California’s crop is marketed overseas.
In the top photo, courtesy of the university's entomology department, a honey bee is on an almond blossom on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC-Davis.

Watch for more on this at CapitalPress.com this week.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ag-emissions rule to be confined to SJ Valley

A state air-quality official shocked an audience at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference this morning by pledging that new ag-specific diesel regulations to be written this year will apply only in the San Joaquin Valley.

California Air Resources Board pollution specialist Timothy Hartigan (pictured, left) added that even producers there won't notice much of a difference because they'll be given credit for steps they've already taken to reduce emissions.

"We tend to look at it region by region," Hartigan said, explaining that diesel emissions from tractors and other ag machinery represent about 1 percent of the Bay Area's pollution while making up 15 percent of emissions in the San Joaquin Valley.

His announcement comes as farmers and ranchers throughout the Golden State have been girding for the state's push for them to replace older, less efficient equipment. The ARB plans to begin workshops on the In-Use Off-Road Mobile Agricultural Equipment Regulation next month, and the board is slated to vote on a final rule by December, Hartigan said.

The promise that the new rule will apply only within the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District's boundaries was "a bombshell," said Theodore Hadzi-Antich, attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation.

But Hadzi-Antich cautioned the roughly 75 people who crammed into the Shasta District Fair grounds' horse-betting facility not to take Hartigan's word for it. He noted that nothing has been put in writing, and he urged farmers and ranchers throughout California to stay engaged throughout the decision-making process.

"I'm sure these are fine people, but I'll believe it when I see it," Hadzi-Antich told me in an interview. "It was a bombshell, but I've just heard too many promises from our government."

The regs for ag-specific equipment represent the third round of diesel emissions controls the air board has enacted under the 2007 state implementation plan under the Clean Air Act.

Rules for trucks and buses are already in place, and restrictions on non-agricultural off-road equipment are set to phase in beginning next year pending a required waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which Hadzi-Antich said is typically a formality.

For more on this, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Conference starts with FFA meet, education day




This week's Sierra Cascade Logging Conference started in earnest this morning with a kickoff program. Thanks to the conference organizing committee for inviting the media to a really great breakfast.

Elsewhere on the Shasta District Fair grounds, an FFA competition of forestry knowledge was being held, and hundreds of schoolchildren were learning about the logging and resource agencies at a station-to-station education day.

In the photos, from the top: John Nicoles, a retired forester from Oakland, tells kids about an old steam donkey engine; Trinity High School students and FFA members Jonny Bayinthovong, Travis Palermo, Wyatt Rivas and Bailey Carpenter quiz each other before the competition; and FFA member Elizabeth Trent of Orland takes a map-reading test.

Check CapitalPress.com for our continuing coverage of the conference.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Logging conference under way, welcomes guests

The Sierra Cascade Logging Conference is this week. It began yesterday with a forklift certification training course, continued today with a Media Day lunch and competition (which I missed) and starts in earnest tomorrow with a kickoff breakfast.

Here is a message of welcome from conference president Joe E. Miller of Trinity River Lumber:
On behalf of the Board of Directors, Committee Members, and all our devoted volunteers it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 64th annual Sierra-Cascade Logging Conference. This years conference will be filled with lots of fun events, continuing educational opportunities for our members, a history lesson or two, and most important of all helps us continue to educate teachers and students about the wise use and management of this amazing resource and industry we hold so dear.

With our country divided and seemingly at a crossroad of social and economic values it has become paramount that as an industry we must do all we are capable of doing to insure our rights and freedoms are passed to the next generations.

Keeping that in mind is how I chose the theme for this years conference. “All for One, One for All”. It’s as simple as that. It can be your family, a youth sports team, a logging crew, forest managers, or a sawmill operation. We must ALL work together to reach a common ground on a variety of very complex issues that in the end are sustainable for generations to come. Our resource continues to grow and provides us with that capability.

I am humbled and very proud to be a small part of a group of volunteers that works so hard to bring you this conference. We have a full program for our members to enjoy. The highlight of which is the history of the “Red River Lumber Company” and the mill town of Westwood. College logging sports exhibition, backhoe rodeo, log loading skills, truck driving skills, and as always wild things for the kids.

So come on down to the Shasta District Fairgrounds for a day of fun. Catch up with old friends, kick a few tires, watch all the competitions, maybe even win a gun or two.

Can’t say it enough, Thank you everyone for all your support and we’ll see you there
Tomorrow's breakfast speaker will be Barnie Gyant, deputy regional forester for resources for the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Region. Here is a brief bio, courtesy of conference publicity director Mike Quinn:
He oversees the areas of Program Development and Budget, Ecosystems Management, Ecosystems Planning, Information Management, and Tribal Relations. Mr. Gyantwas previously the Deputy Director of Ecosystem Management in Region 5 from September 2009 to June 2012. Barnie successfully completed a temporary promotion to Director, Ecosystem Management for four months in 2010 and for five months in 2011. He has an extensive background including work assignments as Forest Supervisor, Deputy Forest Supervisor, District Ranger, Deputy District Ranger, and Resources Program Manager.

Early in his career, he was a Fisheries Biologist. Barnie has extensive experience as a line officer and natural resources manager for the past 20 years working on eight different national forests and in four different regions. Barnie earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from East Carolina University. Key strengths include a strong background in natural resources and ecological restoration and strong communication and collaboration skills.
The conference and equipment expo runs through Saturday at the fairgrounds in Anderson. Tickets are required for the breakfast and some other events. The full schedule is here.

Watch for my coverage at CapitalPress.com.

Gov. Brown, CDFA chief visit farm show




In the photos, from the top: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to an attendee of this morning's Colusa Farm Show breakfast, where he spoke; Brown talks with California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary Karen Ross; and Ross talks with Colusa fairgrounds CEO Susan Clark.

I continue to be impressed with how real and down-to-earth Governor Brown is when compared to his silly action-figure predecessor. I mean, what other governor would make a fart joke? I was able to introduce myself when he was making his rounds in the room and told him we had met before when I was with the Searchlight. I really didn't get a chance to ask him questions.

I was able to interview Karen Ross, who was very cordial in giving me all the time I needed and was armed with lots of information, as people named Ross often are.

My story from today is here. For the AP's version, click here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Nielsen, others seek fire fee repeal amid scandal

State Sen. Jim Nielsen and other Republicans have sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown seeking a repeal of the recently enacted rural fire fee after it was reported that a California fire account hidden from state lawmakers paid for such things as a conference in Pismo Beach.

From the senator:
In light of CAL FIRE’s diversion of settlement funds that should have gone to the state general fund, Republicans ask that the Governor repeal the State Responsibility Area (SRA) tax, return the monies that have already been collected and conduct an audit that would investigate how CAL FIRE utilizes the taxpayers’ money.

Below is a copy of the letter Republicans sent to Governor Brown on Friday, February 1, 2013.
February 1, 2013

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Governor of California
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Brown:

Recent news reports about the budgeting practices of state departments are undeniably disturbing, from the hidden slush funds at the State Parks to the blatant diverting of CAL FIRE settlement monies collected from businesses.

It has come to our attention that the State Attorney General authorized the transfer of $3.6 million in CAL FIRE’s settlement monies to an outside organization since 2005. This subterfuge money has been spent on a wide array of questionable expenditures that has nothing to do with reimbursing the state for firefighting costs, including $33,000 at a luxury resort in Pismo Beach and the purchase of 600 digital cameras.

While millions of taxpayers’ dollars have been hidden in this secret fund, cash-strapped local fire safe councils are scrambling to find money to provide preventive services such as fuel reduction and forest thinning. In the Northstate, the Shasta County Fire Safe Council, for example, is looking at selling firewood just to remain solvent in order to meet local service needs.

According to the budget you submitted to the Legislature, CAL FIRE will not be using the State Responsibility Area (SRA) fire tax revenue solely on fire prevention as was its stated statutory purpose; but on administration and other bureaucratic costs which will not provide the promised prevention benefit to SRA taxpayers.

In the 2013-14 budget, CAL FIRE asked for permission to use part of the approximately $90 million collected from the SRA tax to pay for 10 permanent staff positions to support the Civil Cost-Recovery Program, the very program from which the hidden funds derived. This will take away $1.7 million from fire prevention purposes. While we still believe this tax is illegal, at a minimum the money should be used for its stated purpose – preventing wildfires.

It is clear that the state has not been judicious in its use of taxpayer dollars. The state must stop these outrageous duplicitous tactics. To ensure the public’s trust, it is imperative that you make a request of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California to have this investigation referred to his office.

Public perception as well as the public’s trust in the ability of CAL FIRE (as with most state agencies) to provide basic public safety and fire prevention has already been severely tarnished. Reports of hidden slush funds have led us to this conclusion: that we must restore the public’s trust by repealing the tax, returning the monies that have already been collected and conducting an audit of the way in which CAL FIRE utilizes the taxpayers’ money.

Such situations are not unique. They are historic, pervasive and endemic in many state agencies. It is time for concerted action to weed this abuse and possibly illegal activity from the fields of California government.

Respectfully and with regards,

Jim Nielsen
Bob Huff
Connie Conway
Don Wagner
Curt Hagman
Kirstin Olsen
Frank Bigelow
Scott Wilk
Eric Linder
Marie Waldron
Rocky Chavez
Tom Berryhill
Brian Nestande
Mike Morrell
Ted Gaines
Jim Patterson
Melissa Melendez
Mark Wyland
Brian Jones
Tim Donnelly
Jean Fuller
Steve Knight
Mimi Walters
Bill Emmerson
Beth Gaines

Cc: Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg
Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez
Gov. Brown and CDFA Secretary Karen Ross are slated to be in Colusa tomorrow morning for a leadership breakfast, so hopefully I'll get a chance to ask him about the lawmakers' letter.

While I'm at it, I'l see if I can ask Secretary Ross for her opinion of legislation that seeks to bring California's milk-pricing formula for milk going to cheese vats more in line with prices paid for similar milk across the country.

Colusa vendors report brisk businesws




I am in Colusa today and tomorrow for the annual self-proclaimed "granddaddy of farm shows." Today I've been focusing on large-equipment vendors, who are telling me that sales in the past couple of years have been brisk as commodities prevalent in Northern California have done extremely well.

In the photos, from the top: Matt Dixon of Valley Truck and Tractor talks with a customer on the phone; 3-year-old Wyatt Bell of Yuba City gets the feel of a John Deere backhoe; and Dane Denlinger of Flory Industries in Salida, Calif., talks about sales.

There are lots of people here; organizers say it's been like a Wednesday crowd, which is usually the biggest day.

Watch for my coverage at CapitalPress.com.

January's (lack of) rainfall, by the numbers




In the photos, ranchers are seen warming up their horses for a judging contest during the recent Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale at the Tehama District Fair grounds. As you can see, the sun was out after it had recently rained -- one of the few periods of showers we had in the month.

Here are the January and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of Dec. 31:
Redding: Month to date 0.95 inches (normal 5.96 inches); season to date 20.09 inches (normal 19.72 inches)
Eureka: Month to date 2.57 inches (normal 6.5 inches); season to date 23.4 inches (normal 23.55 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 0.96 inches (normal 3.64 inches); season to date 12.25 inches (normal 10.26 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 1.27 inches (normal 2.62 inches); season to date 7.15 inches (normal 6.97 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 1.04 inches (normal 2.6 inches); season to date 7.65 inches (normal 6.71 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 0.58 inches (normal 2.19 inches); season to date 3.97 inches (normal 5.85 inches)

For my complete weather outlook, check CapitalPress.com soon. And if you're headed to the Colusa Farm Show today, chances are I'll see you there.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Proponents happy with federal Klamath report

Proponents are pleased with a final federal report claiming the Klamath dam removal and restoration project would produce a big increase in salmon harvests and boost farm revenues.

From the Karuk Tribe:
The Department of Interior has just released the final Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report for the Secretary of the Interior: An Assessment of Science and Technical Information. The Overview Report is a key document that the Secretary will rely on when considering whether or not removing Klamath River dams is in the Public Interest, a determination required by the Klamath Agreements as a prerequisite for their implementation. However, under terms of the Agreements, the Secretary is precluded from issuing such a determination until congress acts. Over 6,000 pages of peer reviewed scientific analyses informed the report.

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) are products of years of negotiation and research by Klamath River Tribes, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, conservation groups, state and local governments. The Agreements address a century or more of conflict over water use in the Klamath Basin that has often pitted neighbor versus neighbor in the most hotly contested water war in the West.

According to a February 1, 2013 letter issued by Dennis Lynch, Klamath Secretarial Determination Project Manager, “The peer review of this Overview Report was completed in 2012 by a panel of six subject-matter experts from across the nation. This panel identified several areas where the report could be improved. Since then, members of a multi-agency Federal team considered and responded to each of the peer review comments and made appropriate changes to the final report.”

The Peer Review released last March stated, “the [Draft] Overview Report connects to the sound science that underlies its conclusions, provides a depth of coverage suitable for the anticipated audience, and provides clearly stated concepts and conclusions.” The review goes on to highlight specific areas where the Overview Report could be improved upon including greater details on sediment transport and more thorough explanation of potential risks associated with dam removal.

These issues were addressed in the Final Overview report. However; changes made to the Final Overview Report did not alter any major conclusions, such as dam removal costs, likely long-term or short term changes to fish populations and fisheries, effects on economics, tribal resources, jobs, or real estate.

“In other words, the revised report overwhelmingly argues that dam removal and the implementation of the Klamath Agreements is in the public interest,” said Leaf Hillman, Director of the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources.

The peer review report, the Federal team’s response to the peer review report, all 50 underlying Secretarial Determination reports, are all available at www.KlamathRestoration.gov.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Power outages, 49er surges and God's farmer

Thank you to The Well, the Sunday evening service at Neighborhood Church of Redding, for putting on such a great Super Bowl party today. The surroundings not only enabled us to watch the Big Game on a movie-theater-sized screen, but it also gave me an opportunity to gauge reactions from the 20-somethings who populate The Well to various pop-culture fixtures of our annual national ritual.

So here are a few quick, random thoughts.

1) The better team won tonight, but 49er fans should feel nothing but pride at how the team's young quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, overcame what looked like some early jitters to have an absolutely monstrous second half. Keep in mind that this was only his 10th professional start, so he'll do nothing but continue to improve, as will his team. I suspect we'll watch Kaepernick on a few afternoons in February before it's all over.

2) My wife and I walked outside during halftime festivities, as did a great number of the 150-ish other attendees of the party. The organizers set up a field where kids could act out a few of their own gridiron dreams, and the rest of us watched. We didn't see Beyonce's mini-concert, so I couldn't tell you if it looked like she lip-synced or not.

3) I know the NFL likes to hold the Super Bowl in New Orleans because it's one big party. But today's 35-minute power outage ought to make a few top league officials wonder about the wisdom of holding their biggest spectacle in a 40-year-old building.

4) The commercials were, well, the commercials. Not much to say about most of them. Among the young people around us, some of them watched, a few of them laughed at the slapstick and most of them just took the opportunity to talk. For all the money spent by companies to buy the spots, it's not as if members of their most coveted demographic were riveted on the screen.

There was one incredible exception, though -- the Ram Trucks commercial. OK, I may be biased because I work for an ag publication, but that was the best Super Bowl ad I've seen in at least a decade. It was the only commercial that drew applause from people at our party. I'd say it won the day hands down.

5) Good riddance, Ray Lewis.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Walnut production, demand keep increasing



This morning I was in Red Bluff for the University of California Cooperative Extension's annual Walnut Day growers' workshop.

In the photos, from the top: California Walnut Commission CEO Dennis Balint (right) answers a question from the audience as the commission's Jennifer Olmstead listens; and Balint, Carl Eidsath and Olmstead talk afterward about how their presentation went.

Walnut production, demand and prices are all rising, Balint told more than 100 producers at the Elks Lodge.

"We are seeing more of an increase in price than we are in production," he said. "That's a very favorable situation, It's scary favorable."

For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

LaMalfa bill may require approval for regs

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa says he is considering introducing a bill that would require congressional approval for all major regulations.

He made this suggestion in light of today's mixed news on the economy, which included another rise in the national unemployment rate.

From the congressman:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) today commented on the release of two key economic indicators, both of which showed continued weakness in the US economy. The January unemployment report found that national unemployment had increased to 7.9%, while the national economy shrank for the first time in three years, by 0.1%.

“It’s clear that while families are struggling, government is the only segment of the economy the President’s policies are helping,” said LaMalfa. “While Congress passed just 87 laws in 2011, the administration enacted over 3,800 new regulations, many without public input. In just the past month the President’s administration has introduced 5,706 pages of costly new regulations. That’s why I’m cosponsoring legislation requiring Congressional approval of all major regulations, putting the brakes on job-killing red tape created by unaccountable bureaucrats.”

“It’s no wonder that the economy shrank when Washington spent the entire month of December arguing over how much more of Americans’ paychecks to take,” LaMalfa added. “Washington needs to let the American people succeed by getting out of the way and not continually pushing the failed policies of the past. Tax, spend, and over-regulate policies will only drive us further in debt and hamper any chance at a real economic recovery.”

Gov. Brown, CDFA secretary to visit north state

Gov. Jerry Brown and California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary Karen Ross are slated to be in the north state next week.

From the CSU-Chico Colege of Agriculture:
[Brown and Ross] are scheduled to appear at the 11th Annual Colusa Farm Show Breakfast on Wednesday, Feb. 6. The event will take place in Saint Bernadette’s Hall, 745 Ware St., in Colusa, Calif., at 7 a.m. Hosted by alumni of the CSU, Chico College of Agriculture, California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, and Alpha Gamma Rho, the event has raised more than $170,000 for scholarships and leadership programs in its 11-year history.

The keynote speaker for the breakfast will be Vernon Crowder, senior vice president and agricultural economist for Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory (FAR) group. Crowder and his team analyze and conduct market research on California agribusiness as well as the North American fresh fruit and produce sectors. Crowder is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Program.

Sponsorships are still available, and tickets can be purchased in advance for $25 by contacting the College of Agriculture Office at 530-898-5844. The ticket price will rise to $30 at the door. All proceeds go to the CSU, Chico College of Agriculture and the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation.
Watch for our coverage at CapitalPress.com.