Friday, March 29, 2013

Tunnel opponents to show film

Speaking of water, opponents of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to build tunnel bypasses around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta will show a documentary, "Over Troubled Waters", at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Weaverville Fire Hall.

As Doni Chamberlain's ANewsCafe reports:
On July 25, Governor Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a plan to drill two 30’-40’ diameter tunnels 150 feet for 35 miles under California’s Delta to siphon northern California water to thirsty San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and Southern California cities, according to Stokely. Previous plans to build a “Peripheral Canal” were defeated by two thirds of California voters in 1982 during Brown’s first tenure as governor of California.

In this visually rich documentary, Ed Begley Jr. narrates the story of how the people of the Delta are fighting to protect the region they love and to encourage saner, sustainable water policies for all the people of California.

Tom Stokely of C-WIN said, “The project will harm Trinity County and Trinity River interests by drawing down Trinity Lake even more. There is absolutely no protection for Trinity River interests from this project. Water export amounts and fishery protection flows are being put off until after the project is constructed, a ‘plumbing before policy’ decision to misinform the public about the true costs and benefits. Cost estimates are significantly underestimated. While Peripheral Tunnel proponents claim that the beneficiaries of the project will pay for it, they are planning on substantial subsidies from state and federal taxpayers amounting to billions more borrowed dollars. There are much more cost effective, job-producing and locally-based ways of providing water supply reliability including recycling, conservation, stormwater capture and groundwater desalination.”
For information, call Stokely at (530) 926-9727 or 524-0315 or Bob Morris at (530) 623-5410.

March rainfall by the numbers

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

Redding: Month to date 2.2 inches (normal 4.07 inches); season to date 22.87 inches (normal 29.3 inches)
Eureka: Month to date 2.67 inches (normal 4.56 inches); season to date 27.85 inches (normal 34.04 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 0.66 inches (normal 2.56 inches); season to date 13.27 inches (normal 16.29 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 0.17 inches (normal 1.9 inches); season to date 7.64 inches (normal 11.25 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 0.37 inches (normal 2.09 inches); season to date 8.61 inches (normal 11.29 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 0.33 inches (normal 1.88 inches); season to date 5.19 inches (normal 9.76 inches)

Look for my water and weather outlook at CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Snow survey confirms dry conditions

The state Department of Water Resources' final snow survey this morning confirmed what officials already knew: Despite the deluge in November and December, this has turned out to be a dry year.

From the DWR:
Snow surveyors today reported that water content in California’s snowpack is only 52 percent of normal, with the spring melt season already under way.

“With most of the wet season behind us, this is more gloomy news for our summer water supply,”
said DWR Director Mark Cowin.

After a record dry January and February in much of the state, DWR on Friday decreased its water delivery estimate, or allocation, from 40 to 35 percent of requested amounts from the State Water Project (SWP).

The 29 public agencies that purchase SWP water requested just over four million acre-feet of water for this calendar year. Collectively, the agencies supply more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated agriculture.

Pumping restrictions imposed this winter to protect Delta smelt and salmon are another reason for the low water delivery estimate.

November and December were unusually wet, but between November 1 and February 28, fishery agency restrictions prevented DWR from pumping more than 550,000 acre-feet of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to store in San Luis Reservoir. Today San Luis – a summer supply pool for both the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project – is 63 percent full.

“This is the kind of conflict we are working to resolve through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” said Cowin.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan would reduce harm to fish from altered stream flows caused by the south Delta pumps serving the SWP and Central Valley Project. Pumping there at times causes reverse flows which may disorient or entrain fish. The comprehensive plan's large-scale habitat restoration would also improve Delta conditions for fish and wildlife.

The November and December storms built California’s snowpack water content to 134 percent of normal by January 2, when DWR and cooperating agencies conducted this season’s first manual survey. Manual surveys and electronic readings have recorded the water content decline since dry weather set in. Statewide, the season’s second manual survey on January 29 found the snowpack water content at 93 percent of normal for the date. On February 28, the season’s third manual survey found the snowpack water content at 66 percent of average

Today’s survey – finding snowpack water content at only 52 percent of normal -- is particularly significant because this is the time of year the snowpack normally is at its peak before slowly melting with warming weather. The season’s final survey on or about the first of May will check the rate at which the snowpack is melting. Snow normally provides about a third of the water for California’s homes and farms as it melts into streams, reservoirs and aquifers.
For my complete story on the water year and the weather expectations for April, check CapitalPress.com soon.

NASS issues crop plantings report

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service issued its annual prospective plantings report today. Here's what the agency says about California:
The USDA-NASS, California Field Office today released the forecasts of field crop plantings for 2013. These forecasts, of acreage planted and to be planted, are based on a survey of more than 2,500 California farmers, conducted the first two weeks of March. The impact of weather and/or market conditions since the survey began is not reflected in this report.

Barley - California farmers had planted or intended to plant 90.0 thousand acres of barley, down 25 percent from the previous year.

Beans, Dry Edible - Seeding of dry edible beans was planned for 49.0 thousand acres in California, down 16 percent from last year.

Corn - California farmers were expecting to plant 560 thousand acres of corn for all purposes in 2013, an 8 percent decrease from last year.

Cotton - California farmers were intending to plant 90 thousand acres of Upland cotton in 2013, down 37 percent from the acreage seeded in 2012. In addition, growers were expecting to seed 190 thousand acres of American Pima cotton in 2013, down 16 percent from last year.

Hay, All - California producers intended to harvest hay from 1.45 million acres, down 6 percent from last year.

Oats - Farmers in California had planted or were expecting to plant 200 thousand acres of oats, 13 percent less than in 2012.

Rice - California farmers intended to seed rice on 550 thousand acres, 2 percent below the acreage seeded in 2012. The expressed intentions were to seed 490 thousand acres of medium grain varieties, 2 percent below last year. The long grain rice acreage forecast is 5.0 thousand acres, down 17 percent from last season. The short grain rice planted acreage forecast is 55.0 thousand acres, unchanged from last season. Short grain and all rice forecasts include the intended plantings of sweet rice.

Sugar Beets - California producers had planted or intended to plant 24.5 thousand acres of sugar beets, unchanged from the acreage seeded in 2012.

Sunflower – California farmers were expecting to plant 50.0 thousand acres of sunflowers for oil, up 4 percent from last year, and 3.0 thousand acres of non-oil sunflowers, up 7 percent from 2012.

Sweet Potatoes - California farmers were expecting to plant 18.0 thousand acres of sweet potatoes in 2013, the same acreage from last year.

Wheat - Acreage seeded to Winter wheat is forecast at 610 thousand acres, unchanged from last year. Another 90 thousand acres have been seeded to Durum wheat, 36 percent below the amount planted in 2012.
I just got back from visiting with Cottonwood hay producer Ivar Amen at Shasta Farm and Equipment about the upcoming hay crop. I also stopped and talked with Redding-area wheat and walnut farmer Greg Hawes, owner of Hawes Ranch and Farm Supply, about how his crops are responding to the lack of rainfall. For those stories and for more on the plantings report, keep checking CapitalPress.com.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Above-average precip in next 2 weeks

The federal Climate Prediction Center shows an above-average chance of precipitation for northern and parts of central California over the next two weeks. On a longer-term basis, though, the pattern appears to switch back to dry.

The National Weather Service is predicting a series of days much like today, lasting at least until the middle of next week. Its brief narrative for Northern California is here.

Snow survey set for Thursday

California water officials are set to do another check of the Sierra Nevada snowpack tomorrow, which could portend a tight water year for farmers and other users.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
When surveyors visit the Sierra on Thursday for their monthly reading of the mountain snowpack, they'll likely see only half of average snow for the end of March. Remote sensors measure the snowpack at 54 percent of average now. Weather watchers say the first three months of this year may set records for lack of moisture. The state's two largest water projects announced last week they will cut water deliveries to farms and cities as a result.

The tea party and the media

There's been a lot of comment on the Internet about the Redding Tea Party's decision Monday night to close certain portions of its meeting with Rep. Doug LaMalfa to the press. For the record, I didn't attend the meeting and didn't try to speak to LaMalfa on Monday, although he has recently accommodated us for stories here, here and here.

I suppose the right thing for LaMalfa to do would have been to hold a series of town halls at open venues such as Redding's City Hall, as Rep. Wally Herger did during his tenure. Or, barring that, perhaps he could have accommodated the local media by stopping by their offices during the day or at least holding a brief presser before the tea-party event. Certainly he could have persuaded his friends at the tea party to make a room available.

All of that said, the idea of an elected official holding private meetings with supporters is not new. I can remember several times that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Redding fundraisers (or sent his then-wife, Maria Shriver) and we reporters weren't allowed in. I remember one occasion standing outside the Holiday Inn trying to catch luncheon attendees on their way out and asking them what went on inside.

As others have pointed out, the Redding Tea Party is a private organization that was meeting at a private place, and they're fully within their rights to let the media in or not let them in. These people tend to be very wary of the news media at all levels, and not without good reason. In general, the MSM's coverage of the tea party across the country has not been good, nor has it been fair. And if LaMalfa made the same complaint about some of his own coverage over the last few months, it would not be entirely without merit.

What'll be interesting to see is if LaMalfa pays any kind of a price in terms of public opinion for "shutting the media out." My hunch is he won't. That should bother our local news organizations even more than getting shut out of a meeting.

UPDATE: LaMalfa apparently did stop by the KRCR studios on Tuesday. Their very informative report on his DHS inquiry is here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

AFBF warns of rise in food prices

As consumer confidence continues to lag despite all the manufactured hype over a supposed recovery, the nation's largest farm organization is again warning of food price increases brought on by sharply escalating fuel costs.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Recent food-price trends show a mixed picture, according to analysts for the American Farm Bureau Federation. While food price inflation stood at a very low level last year, fuel prices have risen nearly 10 percent in the early months of 2013. That puts a crimp on farmers and food producers. The Farm Bureau says if it continues, food prices may rise as well, to help offset the higher costs for the many aspects of food production linked to fuel costs.

New farmers get tips on loans



This morning I went to Orland for a financial readiness and business planning workshop for new and beginning farmers and ranchers, sponsored by the Northern California Regional Land Trust.

In the photo, Nanci Souza, the Red Bluff-based assistant vice president for Northern California Farm Credit, explains how to prepare to apply for loans.

Keep an eye out at CapitalPress.com for my story.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bullet buy explanations questioned

The Investors Business Daily is joining the north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa and others in questioning why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has purchased 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition, and it's not satisfied with other media outlets' explanations of the matter.

From an Investors.com article that made the Drudge Report (HT: Erin Ryan):
As we have noted, DHS has been buying lots of ammo, enough by one calculation to fight the equivalent of a 24-year Iraqi War.

Peggy Dixon, spokeswoman for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., told the Associated Press that the training center and others like it run by the Homeland Security Department use as many as 15 million rounds every year, mostly on shooting ranges and in training exercises.

The massive purchases are said to be spread out over five years and due simply to the best practice of saving money by buying in bulk what comes down to five rounds of ammo for every man, woman and child on the U.S. That's a lot of practice and training.

A good portion of the 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition are being purchased by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal government's second-largest criminal investigative agency. Yes that's the same ICE that is releasing detained criminal illegal aliens onto our streets because of sequestration cuts.

Jonathan Lasher, the Social Security Administration's assistant inspector general for external relations, explained the purchase of 174,000 hollow-point bullets by saying they were for the Social Security inspector general's office, which has about 295 agents who investigate Social Security fraud and other crimes.

When they say they're cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse, they apparently mean it.

However, as former Marine Richard Mason told reporters with WHPTV News in Pennsylvania recently, hollow-point bullets (which make up the majority of the DHS purchases) are not used for training because they are more expensive than standard firing range rounds .

"We never trained with hollow points, we didn't even see hollow points my entire 4-1/2 years in the Marine Corps," Mason said.

LaMalfa offers one theory that's less sinister than some: The federal government is simply trying to corner the market on ammo and restrict what's available to the American people as part of its gun control efforts.
As they're prone to do, some media outlets have rushed to the administration's defense, asserting that escalating gun owner purchases are more responsible for any ammunition shortages than is the federal government. That may or may not be true, but it still doesn't answer the question of why the agency that was ostensibly formed to prevent 9/11-style terrorist attacks by the likes of al Qaida would purchase enough bullets to fight more than two Iraq Wars here on American soil. In the not-so-distant past, more so-called journalists would be asking those questions instead of running interference for their friends in high places.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Industry folks weigh in on bill



I've been getting industry reaction today to a bill in the Legislature that would affect undercover animal abuse videos, which I first reported on here. I've talked with Max Olvera of the Turlock Livestock Auction Yard, who supports AB 343. He says his operation has nothing to hide, although he'd like to see undercover videos outlawed like they're trying to do in other states because animal activists try to distort what's going on in facilities. However, California Cattlemen's Association officials say they wouldn't support an outright ban.

In any event, the Capital Press is trying to do what the knee-jerk MSM won't do, which is to do some actual research and talk to people who are affected.

The photos are from today's auction at the Shasta Livestock Auction Yard in Cottonwood. Officials there say they basically agree with Olvera but they didn't want to make comments for a news article, fearing it might invite the activists to come and try to trip them up.

For my story on industry representatives' reaction, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

LaMalfa, NCBA back compromise

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa voted in favor of the continuing budget resolution for the remainder of fiscal 2013 this morning and also supported Rep. Paul Ryan's bill to establish spending levels for fiscal 2014 and beyond.

From LaMalfa:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa today voted for the House Republican budget plan (“Ryan Budget”), which balances the federal budget within the next ten years. The Ryan budget, H. Con. Res. 25, saves billions by eliminating spending caused by the Obama health care takeover, reducing bureaucracy and protecting defense funding.

“We took action today to move our country toward responsible, long-term budgeting with a plan that actually balances. The Ryan budget rolls back the President’s health care takeover, putting health decisions back in the hands of individuals and families,” said LaMalfa. “It is simply irresponsible and immoral to continue piling up debt that our children will be forced to pay back, and this budget plan takes the first step to lifting that burden from future generations.”

“Despite raising taxes by $1 trillion, the Senate Democrat budget never balances and the President has dismissed the very thought of balancing spending to revenue as ridiculous,” added LaMalfa. “I didn’t think it was ridiculous when President Clinton worked with a Republican House to balance the budget in the 1990s, and neither do the millions of Americans who’ve seen their share of the national debt grow by half in just four years.”

The House also passed H.R. 933, known as the Continuing Resolution, which funds government operations through the end of the fiscal year while reducing spending by $85 billion dollars and protecting defense funding from automatic cuts.

“The continuing resolution makes smart reductions in spending, prevents new spending for the President’s health care takeover, maintains a strong military and ensures the government continues to provide essential services,” LaMalfa stated.
Among those applauding the fiscal compromise is the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which notes that the bill includes needed funding for meat inspectors.

From the organization:
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) applauds the action of the House and Senate as this morning the House passed H.R. 933, the continuing resolution which contained a similar amendment to that which passed the Senate yesterday. The amendment, authored by Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Mark Pryor of Arkansas would shift $55 million from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) accounts to pay Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors through Oct. 1, 2013, when the new fiscal year begins. The bill now heads to the President’s desk for his signature.

“This is great news for every segment of American agriculture,” said NCBA President Scott George a cattleman from Cody, Wyo. “With this shift of finances, Congress was able to avoid the crisis created by the administration and keep FSIS inspectors in the plants where they belong. While cattlemen and women were disappointed Secretary Vilsack threw in the towel on his agency’s 107-year-old duty to provide federal food safety inspections, we sincerely thank Senators Blunt and Pryor for ensuring the nation’s food supply will not be limited by politics.”

Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and related legislation, all meat, poultry and egg products produced here in the United States or imported must be inspected by a federal food safety inspector and that service must be paid for by the federal government. Without the inspection, no product can be sold or shipped interstate.

“Had inspection been halted, this would have resulted in a backlog of animals, shortened supply of beef to market, higher prices and harm to the futures markets,” said George. “By the Secretary’s own estimates, this would have equated to $10 billion in production losses and $400 million in lost wages, only compounding the issues faced by ranchers dealing with the worst drought in fifty years.”

Under sequestration the FSIS was expected to take a total cut of $52.8 million, or 5 percent of its budget. In that event, furloughs would have been required of all 9,212 employees of the FSIS, including 8,136 meat inspectors and others on the front line such as lab technicians. The furloughs were expected to be taken one day per week between July and the end of the fiscal year in September.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Energy bill gets committee's nod

A bipartisan bill coauthored by Rep. Doug LaMalfa that seeks to protect ratepayers in Redding and other cities served by public power entities has made it out of committee, which marks a first for the north state's freshman congressman.

From LaMalfa:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) today announced that the Agriculture Committee had passed the first bill he has sponsored as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 1038, the “Public Power Risk Management Act of 2013”, preserves the ability of public power utilities to purchase energy for future needs at cost-effective rates. The measure passed with unanimous support and is cosponsored by bipartisan lawmakers from around the nation.

“At a tough financial time for our country, the last thing we need is for electrical bills to go up. Today’s vote moves forward a bill that protects 49 million Americans from rate increases that would otherwise be caused by red tape and over-regulation,” said LaMalfa. “While I first heard of the problems current laws cause some of our local utilities, we rapidly found that public power utilities across the country were affected. I’m pleased that this bill has received such widespread bipartisan support, and we’ll continue working to ensure that public power utilities have adequate access to energy sources.”

The Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation was intended to protect the nation from another financial crisis. However, the bill’s provisions inadvertently placed an excessive regulatory burden on public power utilities and limited their ability to purchase energy for future needs. While private utilities may purchase up to $8 billion worth of energy for future needs without falling under new reporting and compliance costs, the threshold for public utilities was set at $25 million. The added costs associated with selling future energy supplies to public power utilities scared away many sellers, artificially constricting the market and increasing costs to ratepayers.

The bill has been widely supported by public power utilities around the nation:

“This will put our members on a level playing with other power utilities and will help ensure that they can adequately plan for the future and continue to provide reliable service and affordable rates to our customers,” said Mark Crisson, president of the American Public Power Association

"This legislation provides the necessary balance to ensure that the ratepayers continue to receive a stable and cost-effective fuel and energy supply," said Ronald Nichols, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

"Unfortunately, the application of these rules to municipal utilities has significantly increased our exposure to commercial risk by severely restricting the number and types of counterparties we can do business with," Northern California Power Agency General Manager James Pope added.

"Perhaps the burden on public power in New York State was not clearly understood when these regulations were enacted, but now that the negative effects are plain, we need Congress to act," stated New York Municipal Power Agency General Manager Tony Modafferi.

CCA officials defend cruelty bill

There's been some media attention recently to a bill in the Legislature that would require people taking photos or video footage of animal cruelty at agricultural facilities to share the information promptly with law enforcement.

Assembly Bill 343 by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, is coauthored by the north state's Assemblyman Brian Dahle and Sen. Jim Nielsen, who are both farmers.

The California Cattlemen's Association is backing the bill. Here is a statement from Justin Oldfield, the CCA's vice president of government relations, and Margo Parks, director of government relations. The emphasis is theirs.
The California Cattlemen’s Association is proud to sponsor AB 343 authored by Assemblymember Jim Patterson. AB 343 demonstrates the ongoing commitment made by farmers and ranchers to provide the highest level of treatment for the animals in their care and further highlights their recognition that the humane treatment of farm animals is not just a job but an obligation. This bill strikes an important balance between allowing time for a witness to document evidence of animal abuse and provide that information to law enforcement to prevent further harm to animals or food safety.

AB 343 seeks to require an individual who is knowingly taping or photographing farm animal cruelty to provide that evidence to local law enforcement within 48 hours. We strongly encourage that this information be shared with the livestock owner as well however it is not mandated. AB 343 will ensure that corrective actions are taken immediately, preventing additional suffering that might otherwise have occurred.

California’s livestock producers have no tolerance for animal cruelty and have been some of the first to publicly condemn the actions of individuals committing farm animal abuse. In some situations, individuals abusing livestock have been documented on video for sometimes weeks on end without having been reported to the proper authorities. Any video or photographic evidence should be used to take immediate corrective actions. There is no reason why animal cruelty should be concealed for any amount of time after it has been witnessed and documented.

In 2008, a video was released depicting despicable acts of cruelty by employees at a livestock harvesting facility in Chino. This footage was compiled over a six week period in the fall of 2007 and released the footage to the media in January of 2008. If this footage had been turned over to management and law enforcement immediately, corrective actions would have instantly occurred, preventing the suffering of additional cattle.

AB 343 also protects employees and does nothing to infringe on the rights of “whistle blowers” already protected under California law. AB 343 does not criminalize or forbid further videos from being taken, nor does it require the confiscation of any videos or photographs; the bill simply requires those videos to be used to help end any further abuse. The adoption of this bill does not, in any way, enable a business to terminate an employee based on compliance with the mandatory reporting provisions established under AB 343. In doing so, a business would be committing in violation of Labor Code Section 1102.5.

AB 343 dramatically improves animal welfare and will more expeditiously hold those responsible for farm animal abuse accountable. We hope you can join us in supporting AB 343. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Look for my story on the bill at CapitalPress.com soon. It'll be fair and balanced, as they say on Fox News.

Whatever the merits or faults of this particular bill, it strikes me that a lot of these folks who write such knee-jerk articles and editorials based on pithy sound bites from groups such as the Humane Society of the United States probably wouldn't know what BQA was if it hit them in the face. These same individuals who so cavalierly impugn the motives of cattlemen are nowhere to be found at producer workshops like the one I covered in November at Shasta College, where food safety and animal health were the key topics of discussion.

And make no mistake -- the HSUS' strategy is to use willing editorial boards in rural areas to fight this bill. I just got off the phone with Paul Shapiro, the group's spokesman, who seemed to mention "normally ag-friendly editorial boards" in every other sentence. I would hope that said editorial boards would keep this in mind as they do the Humane Society's bidding.

Rainfall should help pastures

It's finally raining again in the Central Valley, and while most areas recorded less than a quarter-inch of precipitation yesterday, today's shower will add to the total.

From the National Weather Service:
Areas of light to moderate rain continue to move east this morning across interior Northern California valley and foothill locations with some slushy snow above the 5000 foot elevations.
Redding and Sacramento netted 0.15 inches of rain yesterday while Red Bluff saw only 0.07 inches, according to the weather service. Granted, it's not much. But any wet weather will help ranchers who've been concerned about their grasslands.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Cattle ranchers in Northern California say grasses are slow to grow this year, leading to challenges finding enough forage for their herds. While last year saw a dry fall and wet spring, this year has included the opposite pattern—a wet fall and dry spring. Ranchers report seeing pastures starting to dry out as grasses die. They say this typically happens six or eight weeks from now, and they are concerned about whether more rain will come to replenish the range.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wildfire policies aired in Redding



I've just returned from an all-day symposium being held at the McConnell Foundation, where officials from the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, Cal Fire and other agencies were engaged in a lengthy and lively discussion of the government's sometimes controversial management decisions during wildfires. Officials mostly gave a spirited defense of the use of fire to promote forests' long-term health, even as residents in nearby communities complain about the smoke.

In the photos, retired Forest Service official Jay Perkins gives some opening remarks; and (from left) the USFS' Carl Skinner, UC-Davis' Malcolm North and the USFS' Jay Miller hold a panel discussion.

For my complete (and exclusive) story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Govt. collecting data on weasel

Another obscure creature that roams the north state and the West could be headed to the federal endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Yreka is collecting data on populations of the fisher, a small forest animal in the weasel family.

From a government news release:
The US Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the opening of an information collection period regarding the status of the fisher throughout the range of its West Coast Distinct Population Segment (DPS) in the United States.

About the size of a large house cat, fishers are in the weasel family and occupy mixed conifer-hardwood forests. They once occurred throughout much of Canada, northeastern United States, Rocky Mountains, and the western United States. Today’s announcement relates to the West Coast population of fishers in California, Oregon and Washington.

Fisher populations have declined primarily due to fur harvest, predator control, and loss of habitat from timber harvest activities and urbanization. In the western United States and Canadian Provinces, the number of fishers has been greatly reduced and their populations fragmented.

The West Coast fisher has been a “candidate species” since 2004. Candidates are species for which the agency has determined that a proposal to list as a threatened or endangered species is warranted but precluded by higher priority actions.

“The objective of the status review is to determine whether or not the West Coast population of the fisher should receive Endangered Species Act protections,” said Erin Williams, Field Supervisor of the Service’s Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office. “This determination will be made based on the best available scientific and commercial data available, and we encourage our industry and conservation partners and the public to participate in this data gathering process.”

The Service is interested in information on the fisher’s historical and current population status, threats to the species and its habitat, and scientific and commercial data to assist in development of any potential critical habitat designation.

If the fisher is proposed for listing, critical habitat would be proposed at the same time, so the Service is also interested in learning about any foreseeable economic impacts that may result from such a designation.

The Service is particularly interested in any potential impacts on small entities, and the benefits of including or excluding areas from a proposed critical habitat designation.

Critical habitat will only be designated if ESA protections are warranted. Critical habitat identifies geographic areas that contain features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations.

A designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge or preserve. It does not allow government or the public access to private lands. A critical habitat designation has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

An information collection period is open from March 19, 2013 to May 3, 2013. Comments will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov. Comments may be submitted via email to FisherWestDPS@fws.gov or via website at: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2013-0054.

In addition, the public may submit information via mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R8–ES–2013–0054.; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

For additional information and guidance about submitting comments please see the Federal Register Notice regarding this announcement The FR Notice is available at www.fws.gov/yreka.

Friday, March 15, 2013

More info needed on nitrogen



A University of California-Davis study asserts that more information is needed about how farmers apply nitrogen fertilizers before the state imposes potentially harmful regulations.

From the UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources:
Assessment research documents that while there are many pathways through which nitrogen can enter the environment, inorganic fertilizer use is responsible for the largest fraction of new nitrogen introduced into California annually. Currently, over 600,000 tons of nitrogen fertilizer are sold in the state each year.

Information on fertilizer sales, however, is not an accurate indicator of fertilizer application, and authors found that fertilizer use data is not easy to come by — either because it is not tracked at relevant scales or because data sources are inconsistent.

"We found ourselves with very limited information to understand an issue with sweeping implications for California agriculture,” says Todd Rosenstock, the article's lead author. "We dug deep to create an accurate picture of fertilizer use in the state, but the remaining gaps will require attention.”
To read more, click here. The study is here.

I have calls into the study's authors. For my story, check CapitalPress.com next week.

Bill seeks to protect ratepayers

A bipartisan group of California lawmakers have teamed to back a bill in Congress that seeks to protect ratepayers in Redding, Shasta Lake and other cities served by public power entities.

The lawmakers include the north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa as well as two other Republicans and two Democrats.

From a LaMalfa news release:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) today announced the introduction of H.R. 1038, the Public Power Risk Management Act, which will protect public power ratepayers from cost increases by increasing the sources from which public power entities may purchase energy for future needs. The bill will eliminate red tape and limitations inadvertently imposed on public power entities by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in 2010. Northern California communities that could benefit from the bill include Redding, Biggs, Shasta Lake, Susanville, Roseville, Sacramento and others.

“The Public Power Risk Management Act will keep electrical rates from increasing by giving public power agencies greater flexibility to purchase power at lower costs. The Dodd-Frank financial reform bill inadvertently limited the ability of public power entities to purchase energy from other producers and, if uncorrected, will lead to higher electrical rates,” said LaMalfa. “A financial reform bill aimed at Wall Street should never result in higher electrical costs. This is an issue that affects not only millions of Californians, but public power ratepayers across the nation.”

The bipartisan measure is cosponsored by Rep. Denham (R-CA), Rep. Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Rep. Costa (D-CA), and Rep. Garamendi (D-CA). Public power entities serve over 49 million customers across the nation, and the existing rules have drastically limited the ability of many smaller entities to purchase power for future needs.

The bill was widely supported by public power providers, who are already seeing the negative impacts of the Dodd-Frank requirements:

"Unfortunately, the application of these rules to municipal utilities has significantly increased our exposure to commercial risk by severely restricting the number and types of counterparties we can do business with," Northern California Power Agency General Manager James Pope said.

"Perhaps the burden on public power in New York State was not clearly understood when these regulations were enacted, but now that the negative effects are plain, we need Congress to act," added New York Municipal Power Agency General Manager Tony Modafferi.

"This legislation provides the necessary balance to ensure that the ratepayers continue to receive a stable and cost-effective fuel and energy supply," said Ronald Nichols, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

As an issue of national importance, LaMalfa’s bill will be discussed during a House Agricultural oversight hearing tomorrow, March 14, 2013, at 10:00 AM EST. The hearing may be streamed live at the following link: http://agriculture.house.gov/news/live-audiovideo

Thursday, March 14, 2013

No damage to oranges from freeze



Both navel and valencia oranges in the Central Valley made it through the winter's freezes unscathed, industry officials are reporting.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Winter freezes appear to have spared most of the California crop of Valencia oranges. A forecast from the U.S. Agriculture Department says the crop appears to be progressing well and avoided widespread damage during freezing temperatures. Forecasters expect the state's Valencia groves to produce about 25 million cartons of oranges, a slight decrease from recent years. The forecast is created by randomly surveying more than 500 groves across the state.
Bob Blakely from California Citrus Mutual told me this afternoon that navels, too, made it through the January cold snap without sustaining damage. Growers are a little more than halfway through their harvest of navels, which typically finishes up in July.

For my full update on oranges in California, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Argentinian in Rome

Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina is now Pope Francis I, or more appropriately Papa Francisco Primero. For the best running commentary on who he is, what he stands for and how people of faith (and the media) are reacting, click here.

Klamath board makes it official

The Klamath County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday formally voted to opt out of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

Here is the resolution they approved:
WHEREAS, the Klamath County Board of County Commissioners (as it was then constituted) signed the Klamath Basin Rastoration Agreement (KBRA) in February 2010; and

WHEREAS, the Klamath County Board of County Commissioners (as it was then constituted) signed the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) in February 2010; and

WHEREAS, none of the current members of the Klamath County Board of County Commissioners were sitting on the board at the time the previous board of commissioners entered into the KBRA and KHSA agreements; and

WHEREAS, an amendment to the KBRA was presented to the board of commissioners, which consisted of two previous board members and one existing board member in November 2012; and

WHEREAS, an existing board member, Dennis Linthicum, voted against signing the amendment as he opposes the KBRA with its amendments; and

WHEREAS, the amendment was signed by the two board members on November 20, 2012; and

WHEREAS, the Klamath County Board of County Commissioners has an ongoing responsibility to represent the citizens of Klamath County when determining county policy; and

WHEREAS, the Klamath County Board of County Commissioners held a public meeting to receive comment concerning whether the county should continue to participate in the KBRA and KHSA on February 12, 2013; and

WHEREAS, the Klamath County Board of County Commissioners received approximately 800 verbal, e-mail and written comments concerning whether the county should continue to participate in the KBRA and KHSA; and

WHEREAS, the Klamath County Board of County Commissioners held a public meeting February 26, 2013 to discuss and deliberate whether the county should continue to participate in the KBRA and KHSA;

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Klamath County shall immediately withdraw from participation in the KBRA and KHSA.

LaMalfa supports Ryan's budget



The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa voiced his support this morning for the Republican fiscal plan crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

The Richvale rice farmer joins other GOP members in asserting the plan would balance the federal budget in the next decade. From his office:
“I commend Chairman Paul Ryan for putting forth a budget that outlines a responsible plan, balances the budget in a decade, and returns America to a fiscally sustainable path,” said LaMalfa. “The proposed budget, which cuts all spending for the Obama health care takeover, shows the only way to balance the budget without crippling taxes is to repeal the health care takeover. This budget is a step in the right direction toward repealing that law and allowing individuals and families to regain control over their own dollars and health decisions.”

While Rep. Ryan’s budget will balance the budget in 10 years and rein in the growth of federal spending by $4.63 trillion, Senator Patty Murray’s new budget plan calls for nearly $1 trillion in new taxes.

“Perhaps most striking is that while the Ryan budget balances government spending to income, the Senate prepared a budget with $1 trillion in tax hikes on American families,” added LaMalfa. “The “No Budget, No Pay Act” is already proving its worth by forcing the Senate to reveal their unbalanced tax-and-spend budget plan, something they have hidden for nearly four years.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ranchers to target cattle rustling

California's largest ranchers' organization is getting behind an effort to tackle a problem that's been around since the days of the Old West -- cattle rustling.

From the California Cattlemen's Association:
Members of the California Cattlemen’s Association are pleased to sponsor and support Assembly Bill 924, introduced last week by Assemblymember and longtime rancher Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), to increase penalties for livestock theft. As California’s livestock owners have experienced for decades, the financial loss from animal theft can impact a family ranching operation tremendously and can mean the difference between ending up in the red or in the black in any given year.

“As cattle have become more valuable in recent years, we have seen the problem of theft grow significantly.” said CCA President Tim Koopmann, a Bay Area cow-calf producer. “CCA couldn’t be more eager to throw our support behind this important legislation in hopes that the passing of this law will make criminals think twice before stealing from hardworking livestock producers. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Assemblymember Bigelow for his attention to this important matter and are proud to partner with him as the sponsor of the bill.”

AB 924, if passed, would provide penalty enhancements for those convicted of livestock grand theft based on the total value of the livestock stolen. For example, theft of livestock exceeding a value of $15,000 will enable a District Attorney to add an additional term to a criminal sentence. The bill will also limit probation for repeat offenders and provides flexibility for a prosecutor to mandate limit jail time for repeat offenders to a minimum of 30 days. The bill would also establish a fine to be paid to the Bureau of Livestock Identification (CDFA) to provide additional funding for future investigations involving livestock theft.

The increasing value of livestock has exponentially increased the rates and severity of cattle rustling. Recent cases have involved grand theft equating to nearly $40,000. In most cases, those convicted of livestock grand theft receive little to no punishment. This bill will provide the necessary tools for prosecutors to properly penalize persons convicted of livestock theft, especially those with previous convictions.

“As a lifelong rancher and advocate for rural California, I’m honored to partner with the California Cattlemen’s Association to protect cattlemen and other livestock producers from livestock theft,” Bigelow said. “Since my first day in Sacramento I’ve been committed to making sure we focus on real world solutions to real world problems and this legislation does just that. I look forward to broad bi-partisan support for this solution-oriented bill and I’m confident it will move successfully through the legislative process.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gun rights advocates laud Nielsen

At a recent gathering in southern California, members of the California Rifle and Pistol Association named the north state's Sen. Jim Nielsen their Legislator of the Year.

From Nielsen:
“The right to bear arms is a fundamental right bestowed upon the people of this country,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) “Responsible gun ownership is not only for sport but a matter of public safety.”

Nielsen added, “Convicted criminals are being let out earlier under the state’s public safety realignment. And local law enforcement officials lack the resources to fully protect our families and our property from these dangerous criminals.”

The California Rifle and Pistol Association’s President Jim Shea applauded Nielsen’s strong commitment to protect the rights of gun owners, remarking on the key role he plays in the Legislature.

“Sen. Nielsen has a reputation for taking a very principled approach to his work in the legislature. We appreciate his understanding of our principles and for fiercely fighting to protect our rights.”

Founded way back in 1875, the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) is an organization of sportsmen dedicated to the preservation of our American heritage. In this age of constant political attacks on the rights of law-abiding citizens to own and use firearms for legitimate purposes, the CRPA is the state organization dedicated to protecting firearm freedoms and promoting shooting sports solely in the State of California.

The CRPA is a non-profit corporation, independently controlled by its own Board of Directors. CRPA’s members include: law enforcement officers, prosecutors, professionals, firearm experts, the general public and loving parents.

Historically, the CRPA has played an important role in promoting the shooting sports by conducting state championship matches for adults and young shooters, teaching firearms safety, and supporting state teams to the national championships each year.

Introducing Trini Campbell



On Friday I spent the day traveling to the Capay Valley town of Guinda, where marital and business partners Trini Campbell (pictured) and Tim Mueller operate Riverdog Farm. The 500-acre operation is one of the more successful CSA's in the Bay Area-Sacramento region, and Trini recently gave the keynote speech for a women's conference in Washington state.

Here's what my colleague, Steve Brown, wrote when he covered the conference:
The theme of the conference, "Growing Your Successful Farm Business," built on a keynote presentation webcast to each location. Trini Campbell, owner of Riverdog Farm in Guinda, Calif., shared her experiences of beginning a farm in the Napa Valley in 1990 by renting two acres and sharecropping. She now owns a diversified 500-acre organic farm in the Capay Valley, an agricultural area west of Sacramento.

Campbell described her challenges in managing labor, planning finances, dealing with crop loss and market instability, and maintaining a work-life balance with her family.
My feature on Campbell will be part of our Western Innovator series. You'll find it at CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Major step in Klamath adjudication

Oregon's Water Resources Department today delivered what it calls "an historic document" to the Klamath County Circuit Court, completing the first phase of the ongoing process to determine senior water rights in the Klamath Basin.

According to the Klamath Falls Herald and News, the document's thousands of pages fill 11 stuffed binders and represent the next step in a process that began Dec. 23, 1975.

The agency's final order of determination was driven Wednesday night from its offices in Salem to the Klamath County Courthouse, setting in motion the final process for legally determining local water rights, the newspaper reported.

Details are in a press release here. For frequently asked questions about the process, click here. The water department's adjudication page is here.

Workshop counsels small farmers



One of the cool things about being the Capital Press' Northern California field reporter is that it occasionally takes me back to Colusa, where I more or less got my start more than 20 years ago as a full-time staff reporter for newspapers. That Colusa County Sun-Herald job in the winter, spring and summer of '91 was sort of a lifeline and a fresh start after some previous professional disappointments. (So, too, was the Capital Press, albeit for different reasons.) Colusa was also my first real exposure to small-town America, which I've loved and admired ever since.

Anyway, I went back there this morning for a Colusa County Resource Conservation District-sponsored workshop that provided marketing and other tips for new and beginning small farmers and ranchers, which is not to be confused with the now-controversial California Small Farm Conference next week in Fresno. The upshot of the experts' advice: Diversify (but not too much), and make sure you have all your operational ducks in a row.

In the photos, from the top: Penny Leff of UC-Davis' Small Farm Program stands outside the meeting hall in the Colusa Industrial Park; Mary Fahey of the CCRCD (left) helps county health official Suzie Dawley prepare a presentation; and UC Cooperative Extension advisor Cindy Fake lectures on the "Top 10 Things to Know to Run a Viable Business."

As always, for my complete coverage of events that I attend, check CapitalPress.com regularly.

Fire symposium coming to Redding

Experts will discuss fire management in the national forests of Northern California during an all-day symposium March 19 at the McConnell Foundation in Redding.

The 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. meeting will be titled, "The Future of Fire, Fuels, and Forest Management: Implications of emerging science in southern Cascade and Klamath mixed-conifer forests".

From the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources:
Making sense of new research on fire severity

In the last couple of years, a wealth of new research has come out on fire regimes and fire severity in northern California forests. However, the management implications of these studies are not always clear, and the science can be complex and difficult to fully understand. This event will include presentations by the scientists who are doing this research, a diverse panel of land managers who will discuss specific management implications, and facilitated discussions to address the questions, concerns, and ideas of the audience.

Who should attend?

All interested individuals and groups are invited to participate in this event. The topics will likely be of particular interest to public, private, and tribal lands managers in northern California, as well as students, community and non-profit groups, and researchers, among others.

Registration:

Please register by March 14th online at http://ucanr.edu/future of fire/ or send a check payable to UC Regents to UCCE-Humboldt County, 5630 S. Broadway, Eureka, CA 95503. Please include “Redding Fire Event” on the memo line. The cost is $15/person and includes lunch.

Agenda:

For a detailed agenda, please download the workshop flyer: Future of Fire_Symposium Redding 3-19-2013
A similar symposium will be held March 21 at Humboldt State University in Arcata.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

LaMalfa votes to avoid shutdown

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa voted with the majority today for a budget bill he asserts would avert a government shutdown while fully funding the military.

From the congressman:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) today voted in favor of H.R. 933, which funds the federal government’s operations for the remainder of the year while maintaining the $85 billion in spending reductions imposed by the sequester. The bill passed on a 267-151 vote and reduces annual spending, but also provides full funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military.

“This bill prevents a government shutdown, properly funds defense and veterans affairs and at the same time reduces government spending,” said LaMalfa. “The alternative to this bill is a shutdown of the government, threatening our national security and essential services.”

Other provisions of the bill prohibit ACORN-related entities from receiving federal funds, ban federal agencies from lobbying for or against legislation and require federal contractors to use the E-Verify system to ensure employees are in the country legally. Additionally, the bill does not include funding requested by the President to implement the healthcare takeover.

“This bill makes smart, targeted spending reductions, rather than the across-the-board cuts that even the President referred to as ‘dumb’ and does so without increasing taxes on every American. It fully funds the Border Patrol and prevents the release of thousands illegal immigrants already convicted of crimes, increases security at our embassies overseas and maintains FBI staffing,” added LaMalfa. “I look forward to the Senate adopting this measure so that Washington can avoid another manufactured crisis.”
Video footage of LaMalfa's comments is here.

Shasta supe to attend meat summit

Shasta County Supervisor Pam Giacomini will be among the speakers at the 2013 California Meat Summit later this month in Placerville, where a key topic will be improving small beef producers' access to slaughter facilities.

From the UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources:
The 2013 California Meat Summit will be used to review results from a Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) received by the High Sierra Resource Conservation and Development Council in 2011. We will have project presentations by Pam Giacomini, Morgan Doran, Shermain Hardesty, Dan Macon, and myself on project results. We will spend the afternoon discussing implications of the project results and next steps.

Agenda

10:00 am to Noon

1. Welcome and Introductions

2. RBEG Project Reports
Regulatory Streamlining White Paper – Pam Giacomini, Hat Creek Grown
Implementation of Small and Very Small Niche Meat Harvesting and Processing Facilities in California – Dan Macon, Flying Mule Farm
Determining Demand for USDA-Inspected Beef Slaughter in an 18-County Region of California – Morgan Doran, UCCE County Director and Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, Solano County
Mapping Project of Slaughter and Processing Facilities in California – Shermain Hardesty, UCCE Specialist, Agriculture and Resource Economics
Facilitation between Existing USDA inspected Processor and Niche Meat Producers for Improved Communication and Collaboration – Roger Ingram, UCCE County Director and Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor
Producer Value-Added Meat Economic Analysis Template - Dan Macon, Flying Mule Farm
12:15-1:00 PM Lunch

1:00 - 3:300 PM

3. Identify top 3 prioroities and break into discussion groups

4. Discussion group reports

5. Develop action plan of next steps

Registration Due by March 22

Seating limited. $10 fee includes lunch and handouts.

Click here to register. Fees can be paid on-line with credit card or mailed in by check.

Or download Meat Summit Registration form and mail in.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Obama 'purposefully' doing harm

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa today accused President Obama of trying to inflict maximum pain on the American people through his sequester cuts, and the congressman proposed measures he asserted would actually help curb the deficit.

From LaMalfa:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) issued the following response to the Obama Administration’s apparent insistence on choosing the most painful sequester cuts possible in an effort to increase support for tax increases:

“It has become clear that the President and his administration are purposefully choosing to do harm to the American economy and people to achieve their political goal of higher taxes,” stated Representative LaMalfa. “The President and top administration officials have been a flying circus criss-crossing the country to scare the public, rather than fixing his sequester plan and minimizing its impact on public services. As recently as Monday, internal USDA emails demonstrated a clear intent to impose the most painful sequester cuts in order not to ‘contradict the administration’.”

The across-the-board sequester cuts were originally proposed by the Obama White House as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act, reducing the amount of additional government spending by $85 billion or 2.3% in 2013. Even with the reduction, federal spending is projected to increase $30 billion over 2012 levels.

“House Republicans have twice proposed sequester replacements with realistic reductions in spending that protect our national defense and cut waste, yet neither the Senate nor the President has acted,” continued LaMalfa. “President Obama imposed the largest tax hike in decades this January, yet he insists on further increases and refuses to rein in waste. Unfortunately, the President and his administration seem more interested in making these minor reductions as much of an inconvenience as possible, rather than being serious about governing.”

Ready alternatives to the President’s sequester include the following:

· Reduce Improper Payments: In 2011, by its own estimates, the federal government made $115 billion in improper payments. These are instances where people receive benefits or payments they are not entitled to receive or for which proper documentation hasn’t been provided.

· Reduce Duplication: According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, the federal government administers 94 federal initiatives to foster green building; 15 significant financial literacy programs across 13 agencies; 173 STEM education programs across 13 agencies; and 47 job-training programs. Consolidating these programs would improve their effectiveness and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

Reduce Government Waste: The federal government wastes billions of taxpayer dollars every year, including the following:

· Free Cell Phones: This program spent $2.2 billion providing free phones in 2013 alone, with at least a third of recipients found to be ineligible.

· Obama Healthcare Takeover Promotion: The federal government spent $51.6 million last year promoting The Obama Healthcare takeover and paying public relations firms.

· IRS TV Studio: The IRS has a full-service TV production studio which costs $4 million annually to operate.

· Vacation Getaways: The 183 Conferences paid for by federal agencies over the last several years cost taxpayers more per attendee than the infamous October 2010 GSA conference in Las Vegas, NV.

· Property Maintenance: The federal government spent $1.7 billion in 2010 to maintain property that is not in use or underutilized.

· EPA Grants to Foreign Countries: The EPA has given more than $100 million in grants to foreign countries over the last ten years.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District including, Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.

Experts: Don't prune so much



Today I went to a University of California Cooperative Extension-sponsored field day at the Nickels Soil Lab near Arbuckle, where farm advisors gave an update on their long-term experiment to see what will happen to walnut trees if you prune them more or less aggressively or don't prune them at all. Their message again this year: Don't prune so much, if at all.

In the photos, UC farm advisor Janine Hasey (top) and UC-Davis pomology specialist Bruce Lampinen are shown speaking to the 60 or so farmers who were in attendance.

For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, March 4, 2013

February rainfall by the numbers

Here are the February and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of Feb. 28:

Redding: Month to date 0.55 inches (normal 5.51 inches); season to date 20.67 inches (normal 25.23 inches)
Eureka: Month to date 1.75 inches (normal 5.63 inches); season to date 25.18 inches (normal 29.18 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 0.36 inches (total 3.48 inches); season to date 12.61 inches (normal 13.73 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 0.32 inches (normal 2.38 inches); season to date 7.47 inches (normal 9.35 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 0.56 inches (normal 2.49 inches); season to date 8.24 inches (normal 9.2 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 0.89 inches (normal 2.03 inches); season to date 4.86 inches (normal 7.88 inches)

A little help may be on the way this week. From the weather service:
A strong cold front will bring widespread rain and mountain snow to Northwest California beginning early Tuesday morning. 1 to 2 inches of rainfall is expected. Snow levels will begin around 4000 feet and then fall Tuesday night into Wednesday to around 2000 feet. In the mountains of Trinity County heavy snow will be possible and a Winter Storm Watch has been issued for elevations above 4000 feet beginning late Tuesday morning into Tuesday night. Snow showers will continue Wednesday and Thursday. An unstable air mass will bring chances of showers and isolated thunderstorms Wednesday into Thursday near the coast with the strongest showers or storms capable of producing small hail. Stay tuned to the forecast for updates by visiting weather.gov/eureka or following us on Facebook or Twitter @NWSEureka.
Watch for my complete story at CapitalPress.com.

Friday, March 1, 2013

This month at the Tehama District Fair grounds

Here is a rundown of March events at the Tehama District Fair grounds in Red Bluff.

March 1 & 8 Ishi Archery Club
5:00 p.m. Ron Knight Youth Ag
Center 515.8861

March 1, 7, 14, 21,
& 29
Shasta Team Penning Association -
2 Man Ranch Sorting Series
5:00 p.m. Bull Sale Arena
529.3101

March 2 Tehama Firefighter Burn & Benevolent Fund
Crab Feed
6:00 p.m. Auditorium/Cafeteria
200.3263

March 2 Go-Kart Races-Last Point Race
Gates Open
Practice & Q-Heats
Trophy Dash
10:00 a.m.
12:00 p.m.
6:00 p.m.
Pauline Davis Pavilion
567.5286
www.rboutlaws.com

March 4, 12, & 22 North State Barrel Racers 5:30 p.m. Sign Ups
7:30 p.m. Racing
Bull Sale Arena
526.4210

March 6, 13, 20
&27
Brewer Roping
6:00 p.m. Bull Sale Arena
384.2587

March 5, 12, 19, &
26
Connections Fellowship 6:00 p.m. Cafeteria
736.1124

March 8 & 9 Go Kart Races- Winter Nationals
Friday Gates Open -
Practice & Qualify -
Saturday Gates Open -
Practice & Qualify -
3:00 p.m.
5:00 p.m.
8:00 a.m.
10:00 a.m.
Pauline Davis Pavilion
567.6286

March 10 Northern-Cal Appaloosa Association
Open All Breed Buckle Series
7:00 a.m. Bull Sale Arena
357.4503

March 16 & 17 Run 2 Win Productions - Barrel Race 8:00 a.m. Pauline Davis Pavilion
520.4846

March 16 & 17 Richard Day Productions Gun Show 9:00 a.m. Tyler Jelly Building
529.6965

March 21 SERRF Highlight Show 6:00 p.m. Audit/Café/Tyler Jelly Bldg
528.7393

March 23 North State Barrel Association Barrel Race
Spring Classic Barrel Race
9:00 a.m.
Events Continued on
Pauline Davis Pavilion
526.4210

March 30 Poultry Show 8:00 a.m. Tyler Jelly Building
953.7475

March 30 Calvary Chapel Easter Services 10:00 a.m.-
12:00p.m.
Pauline Davis Pavilion
527.8219
ALL

Early spring brings vibrant almond blossom



In the photos, taken today, almond trees blossom in an orchard just east of Red Bluff.

Despite last month's concerns about a possible shortage of honey bees, the nearly ideal weather we've been experiencing these days has made for a vibrant almond bloom, industry and University of California Cooperative Extension experts are telling me.

Whatever shortage of bees there might have been in some orchards, the warm weather is giving the bees plenty of time to move from tree to tree.

Almonds are typically the first of the blossoms to show up in the northern Sacramento Valley. Other fruits and nuts won't be far behind; in fact their blossoms are already going strong in the San Joaquin Valley, the Fresno County Farm Bureau reported this week.

Here's how to tell them apart, according to the Farm Bureau:
Almond Blossoms have white petals. Two or more varieties may be planted in the same orchard for cross pollination by bees. Harvesting, usually done mechanically, runs from late August to early October.
Plum Blossoms are white. At least two varieties will be planted in an orchard for cross pollination. Over 200 varieties are grown commercially. They are harvested in mid to late September.
Apricot Blossoms have pink petals. Fewer than 12 varieties are grown commercially. Harvest season lasts two to three weeks during mid-to-late May.
Peach and Nectarine Blossoms feature pink to red petals and bloom at the same time. Over 100 varieties are grown commercially. Harvest runs mid-May to October.
Apple Blossoms have white petals. Up to six varieties are grown commercially in Fresno County. Harvest is August to November.
Citrus Blossoms are white with an aromatic fragrance. Navel and Valencia oranges, mandarins and lemons are the most common citrus grown locally.
For my report on the blossoms and how the weather might shape up in March, check back at CapitalPress.com.