Monday, October 31, 2016

Radio interview covers tree nut industry

I was interviewed last week by Fred Hoffman of "The Farm Hour" on Sacramento radio station KSTE AM 650 about my recent centerpiece story on California's tree nut industry.

The program aired yesterday. Here is the podcast. I come on about 22 minutes in.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

LaMalfa blasts Cascade-Siskiyou monument proposal

From the office of the north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) today released the following statement opposing proposals to expand the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument:

“Any expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument would not only negatively impact private property rights, public access and forest management, but would occur over the objections of local residents.

“Time and time again, this administration has ignored the views of residents to impose new federal restrictions on public and private land through misuse of the Antiquities Act. Monument designations invariably restrict the public’s right to access public lands, damage property owners’ ability to access and use their land, and hurt rural economies.

“That’s why my colleagues and I passed legislation on the House floor to defund monument designations in Siskiyou and Modoc Counties and protect the rights of those who live and work in the area.

“It’s time that this administration listen to those who are actually impacted by these designations, rather than deciding that Washington knows best.”

The Interior Appropriations bill for the 2017 fiscal year, HR 5538, contains language specifically defunding any monument designation in Siskiyou and Modoc Counties (Section 453), both of which have passed resolutions opposing unilateral Presidential designations. The bill was passed by the House on a 231 – 196 vote (Roll no. 477) and is now being considered in the Senate.

LaMalfa also cosponsored HR 3389, the National Monument Designation Transparency Act, with five members of the California delegation to reform the Antiquities Act by requiring Congressional approval before designations become permanent, requiring economic analysis of proposed designations, and limiting the size of designations.
Meanwhile, Klamath County commissioner Tom Mallams reports on Thursday night's hearing in Medford:
After the one sided public hearing held at SOU in Ashland on Oct 14th, I formally requested an additional Public Hearing from Sen Merkley's office. That was politely declined and only an encouragement to send in written comments was offered.

In response to that, Jackson County Commissioners held a Town Hall public comment meeting at North Medford High on Thursday evening, Oct 27th. The tone of the meeting was extremely different than the Ashland Hearing. I estimated the full house attendance in Medford was around 400. I did not hear a more formal number. We thank the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for their quick response.

The Klamath County Board of Commissioners are also conducting an additional Town Hall public comment meeting, Tuesday evening, November 1st, at 6:00, at the Government Center, located at 305 Main Street, Klamath Falls, Oregon. We are encouraging any and all to attend and give vocal and or written comments on the proposed Cascade-Siskiyou Monument expansion.

All the citizens deserve to have the opportunity to voice their concerns and have their questions addressed.

Friday, October 28, 2016

California's almond industry is going absolutely nuts

Well so much for our speculation that the growth of California's almond acreage might be slowed some by lower prices.

From the National Agricultural Statistics Service:
There were at least 14.51 million almond trees sold by California nurseries since June 1, 2015, according to a survey conducted by USDA NASS Pacific Regional Office. Based on the Almond Acreage Survey, plantings from 2012 to 2016 were used to calculate an average trees per acre of 135. This results in almost 108,000 acres of almonds planted since June 2015. Nearly 32,000 of these acres were Nonpareils. A little over 71 percent of the total trees sold (77,000 acres) are new almond orchard acres and 25 percent (27,000 acres) replace existing almond orchards. The remaining trees sold replaced trees within existing almond orchards.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hearings to take input on planned Siskiyou monument

Commissioners in Jackson and Klamath counties in Oregon will hold hearings to gather input on the planned expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument on the Oregon-California state line.

Jackson County's hearing at 6 p.m. tonight in Medford will be streamed live and repeated several times on their community-access channel, RVTV Prime. The board typically posts archives of meetings within 24 to 48 hours; you can find archives here.

Klamath County will hold its hearing on Tuesday night. From a news release:
The Klamath County Board of Commissioners will host a town hall meeting on
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2016 AT 6:00 pm. It will be held at the Government
Center hearing room 219 located at 305 Main Street, Klamath Falls, OR.

The purpose of this town hall meeting is to take public comment regarding the
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Expansion proposal. We invite the
Community to attend this open forum.

Questions can be directed to the Commissioners’ Office at 541-883-5100.
I'm still gathering reaction from ranchers, timber folks and others. Keep an eye out at

Company that owns the RS posts $24.2 million loss

Gannett Co., the multinational corporation whose more than 100 newspapers includes Redding's Record Searchlight, posted a third-quarter loss of $24.2 million, it was announced today.

The company whose motto is (get this) "Local Is National" is responding by laying off 2 percent of its employees, or about 380 jobs nationwide, including an undisclosed number in the Redding office. Yet the Wall Street Journal reports it has sweetened its offer to gobble up Tronc Inc., another mega-company whose holdings include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

Pretty soon there's going to be one national newspaper. Gannett will own all the dailies, and then it'll be interesting to see what they start doing with all these little local papers that are looking more and more like miniature versions of USA Today.

Cattlemen's group opposes monument expansion

The Oregon Cattlemen's Association is fighting the efforts of its state's two Democratic senators to expand the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument on the Oregon-California state line.

From the OCA:
Oregon’s Democratic U.S. Senators have proposed an expansion to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument that is overwhelmingly opposed by Oregon’s ranchers that make their full-time living off their ranches.

Designated June 9th, 2000 by President Bill Clinton, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was described as a “home to a spectacular variety of rare and beautiful species of plants and animals” in Proclamation 7318. The loss of cattle grazing down the native grasses, as a result of no public land grazing permits issued, will result in increased wildfire fodder in an already dry, hot, and wildfire prone area. An unpredictable and well-fueled wildfire in this area could quickly lead to private, non-monument lands.

Within the current 66,000 acres that is the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, 19,000 of these acres are privately owned by timber and cattle-related businesses. The proposed expansion includes an additional 34,095 acres more of private property. Enthusiasts for the monument expansion claim that those who own private lands within the monument designation will not be affected by the designation and can carry on as they did before.

This is where they are wrong.

Past history has shown that those with private timber and grazing lands within a monument designation will quickly be pressured to sell to the federal government through a variety of manipulative tactics. If roads are not immediately cut off, they eventually become unusable due to limited infrastructure improvements and loss of basic maintenance. Many of these private land owners find the only way that they will be able to keep their land is through the assistance of a law firm to fight their ongoing battles for their land; a leisure most do not financially have. The end result is the sale of their private land to the Federal Government.

The loss of these private lands is even greater than the loss of generations of family-owned ranches or forest lands. The shift of privately-owned lands to government-owned lands in Jackson County results in a loss of taxable income injuring the local economy.

What does the doubling of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument really mean?

It means a loss of grazing lands, timber production, jobs, and an injured economy. It will hurt the local ranchers that have been managing these grounds for generations, private landowners and the general public. Thomas White, the Secretary for the Jackson County Stockmen’s Association, says he “hope[s] others will join in opposing the expansion of the monument and keep the land open for all to access.”

White states that “the expansion of the monument would likely result in the involuntary retirement of at least four additional grazing allotments… Allotments that some of these ranchers have maintained for generations and rely on for their summer grazing.”
I'm reaching out to affected ranchers and timberland owners for their comments. Look for my story at soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Listen for me on the radio

I was just interviewed by Fred Hoffman, the host of "The KSTE Farm Hour With Farmer Fred," for his radio show, which will air at noon Sunday on KSTE AM 650 in Sacramento.

The topic of the interview was my centerpiece story this week on the state of California's tree nut industry.

The podcast will be available sooner. I'll post a link when it is available.

Monday, October 24, 2016

NorCal congressman offers help to Guard enlistees

From Northern California's Rep. Tom McClintock:
The reports that the California National Guard is demanding repayment of bonuses offered as enlistment incentives is one of the most outrageous injustices I have ever seen. These men and women acted in good faith and responded to incentives that were promised them in small compensation for their service. For the government now to renege on that promise is dishonorable, despicable and shabby.

If the administration refuses to stand by the promises it made when these soldiers enlisted, immediately forgive these debts and make the soldiers whole, I expect Congress will demand it – and hold accountable the officials responsible for this outrage.

I urge any constituents who are in this position to contact my district office at 916-786-5560. I will stand by them and do everything I can to see this injustice corrected.

Stormy weather to continue into next week

Winter in the north state is off to an early start. From the National Weather Service:
Slick roads
High elevation snow with possible impacts for seasonal mountain pass travel & Lassen NP
Wind may make driving difficult, loose objects may blow around

Forecast Confidence
High for cool and wet Conditions
Low for precipitation amounts and timing

Timing and Strength
First System: Today through Wednesday Morning
Rain: 1-2 inches in the northern mountains, .10 to 1.00 inches for the Valley
Snow levels: mainly above 7500 feet
Wind: Valley winds 25 mph gusting to 35-40 mph this afternoon, 40 to 55 mph over higher Sierra elevations at times through Wednesday
Max temps: 5-10 degrees below normal
Second System: Thursday into Early Next week
Rain: See Precipitation graphic
Snow levels: mainly above 7500-8000 feet
Wind: Periods of southwest wind gusts 40 to 55 mph over higher Sierra elevations
Max temps: 5-10 degrees below normal

Weather Summary
The first system is moving through today and tonight, with a cold front bringing a period of rain and gusty winds today into early Tuesday, and additional showers continuing into Tuesday night. Rain is still forecast to lift north of the area on Wednesday. A few inches of snow are possible over seasonal passes and Lassen National Park through Tuesday.

Another moist system arrives Thursday, with a series of disturbances bringing periods of wet weather through the weekend and potentially into early next week. Exact timing of these systems remains uncertain. Snow levels are expected to be fairly high at this point, with snow over higher mountains.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sites Reservoir leaders celebrate project's progress

Today in Maxwell, political leaders pushing for the Sites Reservoir project celebrated the vast growth of its coalition and the passage of a bill in the Legislatute to help the project forward.

Agencies and organizations supporting the project have grown from 14 to 34, including from the Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley, said Jim Watson, the Sites Authority's new GM.

The leaders also marked the passage of AB 2551, which gives flexibility in construction methods to expedite completion of the project.

Applications for Sites and other major storage projects will go before the state Water Commission as it hands out $2.7 billion in Proposition 1 bond funds.

For my full story, check soon.

Silence in the face of corruption is killing journallism

No matter who wins the presidential election, what it has shown us about our major media will have ramifications that will last a generation or longer. If good people within the profession don't start shoring up its reputation and soon, historians may even look back at 2016 as the year journalism itself died as an industry.

The state of American journalism has long been a tale of two cities, or perhaps a big city and a small town. For a long time it has seemed that the Big Media -- as in the major TV networks, news magazines and national newspapers -- don't seem to abide by the same rules most of us do in flyover country. For instance, local journalists don't normally go "on background" with their city officials or local businesspeople for run-of-the-mill stories, but it's done routinely in Washington, D.C., even for such benign stories as the USDA handing out specialty crop block grants.

But now, it appears that much of Big Media is playing by no rules at all, and this has grave implications for public perception of the industry itself -- especially if journalists who have integrity remain silent about what is happening.

Many on the right have long accused the major news media of having a liberal bias, and these complaints tend to grow louder during elections. But what we've seen in the past year has gone well beyond simple bias. As Ken Kurson writes in the New York Observer:
It is no secret that the mainstream media has decided that the threat presented by a possible Donald Trump presidency is so grave that it has suspended even the illusion of objectivity. Writing in The New York Times, media columnist Jim Rutenberg granted permission to his fellow journalists “to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career.”

The Observer and others have detailed the ways in which traditional media companies and even tech companies have colluded to maximize negative coverage of Trump and minimize negative coverage of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. But it doesn’t end there. As Rutenberg described, many journalists feel the need to “move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.”

That opposition has extended into new and uncharted territory. In the coordinated effort [...] the mainstream media has taken not just to bashing Trump but to extracting a price even from those who support him.
Rutenberg wasn't the only one to advise other journalists to, in the words of Newsmax media analyst James Hirsen, "jettison their ethics" and take sides in the campaign. Emmy Award-winning former CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson told of attending a journalism awards dinner in Washington, D.C., where an ex-bureau chief urged reporters to "step outside of their role" to sway the election results -- and received a standing ovation.

CNN was caught fabricating a story about the Secret Service supposedly warning Trump to tone down his gun-rights rhetoric. A Telemundo journalist was caught on video staging a protest at a Trump rally. The Associated Press has been caught colluding with the Clinton campaign on how best to report on the email scandal. Just this week, video footage captured a top Clinton aide feeding questions to reporters, including NBC's Andrea Mitchell, to ask Clinton during a post-debate presser.

On several occasions, journalists have urged their colleagues to suppress information. A New York Times tech columnist called on Google to hide health information on Clinton, and Google complied. The Washington Post published an article titled, "Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton's health now?" After NBC News published a five-paragraph brief about a coughing spell that Clinton had last month, he was attacked on Twitter by former Newsweek editor Jonathan Alter and others. CNN abruptly canceled Dr. Drew Pinsky's television show on the HLN network after he speculated about Clinton's health on a local radio show.

Think this is just happening because of Trump? Think again. A lot of this activism started during the Democratic primary, to the detriment of Bernie Sanders.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, "(a)bout 430 people who work in journalism have, through August, combined to give about $382,000 to the Democratic nominee." In April, Politico's chief White House correspondent, Glenn Thrush, cleared part of an article about the primary through Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta before it was published. Donna Brazile, then a commentator for CNN, gave Clinton the questions she would be asked at a CNN town hall in March. Staff at the Boston Globe coordinated with the Clinton campaign to maximize her "presence" during her campaign against Sanders. A-listers in the national media dined and partied with top Clinton aides days before the rollout of her campaign in 2015, in "fully off-the-record" gatherings "designed to impart the campaign's messaging".

This is corruption on a grand scale, and it's diametrically opposed to everything most of us regular folks in journalism were ever taught and have ever practiced. Reporters at the Capital Press or the Daily Astorian or the Feather River Bulletin wouldn't even consider donating to a city council or congressional candidate's foundation and then advocating publicly for his or her election while covering the campaign. Yet there's a strange code of silence that prevents otherwise conscientious reporters, editors, publishers and TV producers from speaking out against this activity when they see it at the national level, and this silence is a danger to our industry.

There are two reasons for this. First of all, most people don't differentiate between Big Media and small, or responsible media and irresponsible. People don't say, "Well that's the news media, except for community papers and niche publications like Capital Press." In an American Press Institute survey of more than 2,000 adults this spring, only 6 percent said they have "a great deal of confidence" in the press, while 41 percent said they had no confidence at all. A Gallup survey last fall found similar results. These folks aren't saying they don't trust the media "except for our local TV station," they just say the media. So if we who try to do things right say nothing about our industry's worst actors, how are people to know we're any different?

This will affect all of us in a multitude of subtle and not-so-subtle ways, from the growing number of businesses that decide to spend their limited resources on marketing directly to customers rather than advertising through the media -- any media -- to the growing number of people who'd just rather not make time for reporters. You may think your community weekly is more well-liked than the dailies, but they won't have any time for you, either.

The second, more important reason: Within a few years, the only resumes editors will receive will be from recent journalism-school grads who haven't a clue how to do anything but be activists. After all, that's how they see journalism practiced on TV. And they're not likely to get much help in today's journalism schools. Not when professors at some of the nation's most prestigious, such as Columbia University and New York University, make excuses for the unbalanced coverage or scream for more of it.

I understand some may find it difficult to denounce this media activism without appearing to defend Trump, who's brought some legitimate bad press upon himself. Trump picks fights with journalists, and as Mark Twain once advised, one shouldn't pick fights with those who buy ink by the barrel. And local editors within major-media corporations may not wish to criticize things that people in their own companies may be doing, whether they agree with them or not.

But I was always taught to do my job well regardless of what a source called me, and there is precedent for small and niche media outlets calling out Big Media on its reporting.

In 2009, the president of the National Newspaper Association, which represents 2,400 of the nation's daily and weekly community newspapers, urged other news organizations to stop referring to the H1N1 virus as swine flu. Pork industry groups and even U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had chided media outlets for referring to the virus as swine flu, arguing that it was inaccurate and unfairly harmed pork producers.

At the Capital Press, my editors have defined our role clearly for readers so that they don't get the mistaken impression we won't cover all sides of issues because we're a "farm newspaper". "While we work hard to cultivate friendly working relationships with all of our sources," Editor Joe Beach wrote in 2011, "our watchdog role and professional obligation as journalists can put these relationships to the test."

Those of us who care about the future of our industry can't afford to keep our heads down and pretend that what's going on in Big Media won't affect us. If a rising tide lifts all boats, then certainly the opposite is true. So more of us had better start bailing and rowing before we, too, scrape bottom.