Thursday, January 2, 2014

Big drought meeting to include top state officials

Signs of drought were ubiquitous during my short visit to the Bay Area and Central Coast this week. The normally luscious and green trees that shroud Highway 101 north of Monterey were spindly and brown. At one golf course near San Jose, players were hitting on a brown fairway. And hotels displayed signs begging their guests to conserve water.

As much of California is staring down the barrel of a virtually rainless winter, top state officials are scrambling to get ready. Many of them will be attending a five-hour session Tuesday of the Board of Food and Agriculture, which meets in Sacramento just across from the state Capitol.

From the CDFA:
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will be joined by representatives from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and State Water Resources Control Board to discuss water transfers and drought preparedness. This meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 7th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, 1220 ‘N’ Street – Main Auditorium, Sacramento, CA 95814.

“California’s farmers and ranchers need to prepare for a potentially significant drought year,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “We are looking at scenarios in which considerable land fallowing and unsustainable groundwater overdraft will occur – leading to direct impacts within our rural farming communities. CDFA is partnering with federal and state government agencies to provide further information on drought preparedness for the agricultural sector.”

In November, initial allocation levels were released for the State Water Project providing a five percent allocation for water contractors. This initial allocation is among the lowest on record, duplicating the initial allocation level following California’s most recent drought (2007-2009). In addition, nine of California‘s 12 major reservoirs are below 50 percent capacity – including Lake Shasta (37 percent), Lake Orville (37 percent), San Luis(29 percent), and Folsom Lake (20 percent). DWR reports that about half of California’s statewide precipitation occurs December through February, with three-quarters occurring November through March.

Invited speakers include: Bill Croyle, California Department of Water Resources; Tom Howard, State Water Resources Control Board; Paul Fujitani, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region; David Guy, Northern California Water Association; Jason Peltier, Westlands Water District; Luana Kiger, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Navdeep Dhillon, USDA Farm Service Agency; Randy Fiorini, Delta Stewardship Council and Thad Bettner, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District.

“We are sounding the alarm on behalf of the agricultural industry,” said Craig McNamara, president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. “With the strong potential that California is entering its third dry year, we need to start planning now to minimize long-term impacts. I remain hopefully that the next few months will bring much-needed precipitation, but planning for the future must begin today.”

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture advises the governor and the CDFA secretary on agricultural issues and consumer needs. The state board conducts forums that bring together local, state and federal government officials, agricultural representative and citizens to discuss current issues of concern to California agriculture.

This meeting will be streamed online at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/LiveMediaStream.html

Follow the board on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/Cafood_agboard
The Colusa County Sun-Herald -- where I got my start more than 20 years ago -- offers this comprehensive piece on how the drought is affecting ranchers in the central Sacramento Valley. They're reporting the same thing that ranchers have been telling me: that they're supplemental-feeding like crazy, and eventually they'll have to decide whether to trim their herds as the drought progresses.

For our coverage of the meeting and this issue, keep an eye on CapitalPress.com.

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