Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lawmakers urge Brown to intervene to fund levee repairs

From a news release:
Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) and Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba) today asked Governor Brown once again to directly intervene to fund urgent levee repair needs. Below is an excerpt from the letter to Governor Brown:

“In the aftermath of the recent spring storms, levees throughout the region saw significant damage. Having toured the Feather River and personally witnessed the long stretches of crumbled river banks and levees as a result of the drastically fluctuating water releases from the Oroville Dam, we can attest to the critical need for $100 million in additional funding for serious infrastructure repairs for flood control.

“A break in any of these critical repair sites along the levee system have the potential to devastate the region and require hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of emergency repairs. In addition, the state bears liability for avoidable catastrophic damage as a result of levee repairs (see Paterno v. State of California).

“The current funding, touted by your staff, is woefully inadequate. Moreover, the $50 million re-purposed from last year has largely already been accounted for.

“California’s levees protect millions of lives, farmland and wildlife habitat. With the fall rainy reason only a few months away, Northern California desperately needs an additional $100 million in funding to avert further damage to the state’s levees.

“We respectfully ask you to directly intervene and fund the bi-partisan request of $100 million in this year’s budget to shore up our levees.”

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LaMalfa calls for unity, announces 2018 re-election bid

A statement from Rep. Doug LaMalfa:
We have seen some rocky times in DC and around the country since my January swearing in and the Inauguration of President Trump. We have much to be optimistic about, but I also notice a very deep division in our country that seemed to play out today in the horrendous shooting that occurred at this mornings practice for a bi-partisan charity baseball game. I give thanks and prayerful hopes of healing for the victims of the shooting and our brave Capitol Police who were there this morning.

Hopefully we can learn from this in time to curb the division and come back to the unity that helps America to be its best. We can accomplish so much more when we are united in purpose.

I've always been results oriented. This year my focus is on water storage, highways, putting in place a health insurance system where people have choices and can afford them, improving America’s necessary military strength around the world and bringing jobs back here to Northern California.

In making my decision to run for re-election in 2018, I see so much potential in what can be achieved for the American people and the North State in parallel with the Trump White House. We are pushing a roll back of crushing regulations that are stealing our water and property rights. As well we must achieve needed tax reform so American businesses can be competitive and families can keep more of what they have worked hard to earn.

So many of you have expressed your prayers and support for me and for what my colleagues are working to achieve back in Washington DC. The optimism of January may have been tempered in some peoples minds by the headlines of the day and deep division. Yet I still hold that optimism, knowing that even if we have tough times, that we together are tougher and can push through.

For today, please know I am doing okay and will remain undaunted in pushing forward for the goals I’ve been proud to champion. Soon I’ll be calling on you for your endorsement and support I will need to move forward and seek re-election in 2018.

Thank you again for your support and encouragement. I ask also for your prayers for Congress for safety, wisdom and discernment. Please keep our law enforcement in your prayers, who protect us here at home and our Military, who protect us abroad.

God Bless America[.]

We're having a heat wave: What to expect as 100s arrive

As it appears now, the summer of 2017 will be ushered in by the first protracted heat wave of the season. Here is the outlook from the National Weather Service:
High pressure builds across northern California this week, continuing into the weekend. High temperatures Friday and into the weekend will increase heat related illnesses for those exposed to prolonged outdoor heat, especially the elderly, children, and other sensitive groups.

Impacts
Long outdoor exposures will increase chances for heat related illness, especially for sensitive groups
Heat stress to livestock with limited relief from heat overnight
Area waterways running very cold & fast, increasing risk for hypothermia, water rescues

Forecast Confidence
Medium

Timing and Strength
Near to above normal across interior northern California Today-Thursday.
High temperatures going much above normal with increasing risk for heat related illnesses late this week and into the weekend.
Valley highs reaching the 100 degree mark Friday, hotter Saturday-Monday
Very warm overnight temperatures, 70 or above for many locations
Farmers are being advised to prepare. Bryan Little, director of employment policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation and chief operating officer of Farm Employers Labor Service, advises that CalOSHA will be enforcing the Heat Illness Prevention standard for outdoor employment. According to Little, the standard includes the following requirements:
--Water must be "fresh, pure, suitably cool" and located as close as practicable to where employees are working, with exceptions when employers can demonstrate infeasibility.
--Shade must be present at 80 degrees, and must accommodate all employees on recovery or rest periods, plus those on site who are taking meal breaks.
--Employees taking a "preventive cool-down rest" must be monitored for symptoms of heat illness, encouraged to remain in the shade and not ordered back to work until symptoms are gone. Employees with symptoms must be provided appropriate first aid or emergency response.
--High-heat procedures, triggered at 95 degrees, have been tightened. Employers must ensure "effective" observation and monitoring, including a mandatory buddy system and regular communication with employees working by themselves. In a provision exclusive to agriculture, employees must be provided with a minimum 10-minute cool-down period every two hours during high-heat periods.
--Emergency response procedures must include effective communication, response to signs and symptoms of heat illness, and procedures for contacting emergency responders to help stricken workers.
--Acclimation procedures must include close observation of all employees during a heat wave—defined as temperatures of at least 80 degrees. New employees must be closely observed for their first two weeks on the job.
As I reported yesterday, the heat wave may hasten snowmelt into reservoirs that are in many cases already more than 90 percent full. Shasta Lake, for instance, is at 95 percent of its capacity and 113 percent of its historical average.

Keep watch at CapitalPress.com for updates on weather impacts as the summer gets going.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Public meetings to discuss Shasta Dam fish passage

From a news release:
The Bureau of Reclamation will hold two public scoping meetings to gather information from other agencies, interested parties, and the public on the scope of alternatives for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Shasta Dam Fish Passage Evaluation (SDFPE) project. The SDFPE project evaluates the near-term actions of reintroducing Federally-listed endangered winter-run Chinook salmon and potentially spring-run Chinook salmon to tributaries above Shasta Dam. The near-term goal is to increase the geographic distribution and abundance of the listed fish. The long-term goal is to increase abundance, productivity, and spatial distribution, and to improve the life history, health, and genetic diversity of the target species.

The public scoping meetings on the EIS are scheduled for:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825, Federal Building, Cafeteria Room C-1001.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., 20814 Mammoth Drive, Lakehead, CA 96051, Lakehead Lions Club.

The EIS will assess impacts associated with the implementation of the near-term activities identified under Action V in the National Marine Fisheries Service Reasonable and Prudent Alternative from the 2009 Biological Opinion and Conference Opinion on the Long-term Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. Action V includes a Fish Passage Program to evaluate the reintroduction of Federally-listed Chinook salmon and steelhead to three dams operated by Reclamation: Shasta, Folsom, and New Melones.

In 2016, Reclamation released a Draft Pilot Implementation Plan. This Pilot Plan provided a general overview of winter-run Chinook Salmon reintroduction to historical habitats in the Study Area. In 2017, Reclamation prepared a Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment as part of the planning process to evaluate and disclose potential environmental effects associated with the SDFPE’s implementation of a Pilot Study to assess the feasibility of the reintroduction of Federally-listed Chinook salmon in tributaries above Shasta Lake. These documents can be found at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/BayDeltaOffice/shasta-dam-fish-pass.html.

Written comments are due by close of business Friday, July 28, 2017, and should be sent to Carolyn Bragg, Bureau of Reclamation, Bay-Delta Office, 801 I Street, Suite 140, Sacramento, CA 95814. You can also submit public comments at the public scoping meetings, email cbragg@usbr.gov or faxed to 916-414-2439. For additional information, please contact Bragg at 916-414-2433 (TTY 800-877-8339).

Farm Bureau takes a look at Sites Reservoir proposal

The California Farm Bureau Federation's AgAlert is doing a three-part series on water projects applying for Proposition 1 funds. This week, reporter Christine Souza highlights the planned Sites Reservoir. She writes:
In the middle of a severe drought in November 2014, California voters approved Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond that set aside $2.7 billion for the public benefits of new water storage projects. Now, project proponents have less than two months to finalize applications for bond funds, which can be used for attributes such as ecosystem improvements, water quality improvements, flood control, emergency response and recreation.

Among the projects competing for bond funding is the proposed Sites Reservoir, an offstream storage project that has been studied for close to 40 years. To be located west of Maxwell in Colusa and Glenn counties, Sites would provide a storage capacity of 1.8 million acre-feet of water and an annual yield of 500,000 acre-feet—additional surface water for cities, farms and the environment that proponents say would also help relieve pressure on groundwater. It carries an estimated construction cost of $4.4 billion.

Project proponents say Sites Reservoir offers a number of advantages.

"Sites Reservoir is well placed to provide significant benefits both to the Sacramento Valley in terms of our agriculture economy, as well as provide public benefits to the fisheries such as to the Sacramento River for our four runs of salmon and water for wildlife and birds in the Pacific Flyway," said Thad Bettner, general manager for the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District.
Her full story is here.

Here is my latest update on the state's process for vetting proposed water bond projects.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Industry applauds as U.S. beef trade with China finalized

From the USDA:
As part of the U.S.-China 100-Day Action plan announced on May 11, 2017 by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin, the Trump Administration today has taken important steps toward commercial shipment of U.S. beef and beef products to China for the first time since 2003. These shipments are results of the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue co-chaired by Secretary Ross and Secretary Mnuchin for the United States and Vice Premier Wang Yang for China. Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reached agreement with Chinese officials on final details of a protocol to allow the U.S. to begin the beef exports to China. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the posting of technical documents related to the beginning of shipments.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement:
“Today is a great day for the United States and in particular for our cattle producers, who will be regaining access to an enormous market with an ever-expanding middle class. Since he was elected, President Trump has brought momentum, optimism, and results to American agriculture families that we haven’t seen in years and this agreement is a great example. I commend the hard work of Secretary Ross, Secretary Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and our USDA representatives. Without their dedication and persistence, this would have not been possible. I have no doubt that as soon as the Chinese people get a taste of American beef they’ll want more of it.”

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross issued the following statement:
“President Trump is doing more to improve the U.S.-China relationship than any president in decades, and this final beef protocol agreement represents even more concrete progress. As we clear away long-standing issues like this one, focusing on near-term, verifiable deliverables, we are building a sound foundation for further discussions. I look forward to engaging with our Chinese counterparts as we address more complex issues to the benefit of both our nations.”

Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin issued the following statement:
"The ‎reopening of China's market to American beef is an example of the results-oriented approach this Administration has taken in our engagement with China. We will continue to work toward a more fair and balanced economic relationship with China by expanding opportunities for U.S. workers and businesses."

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer issued the following statement:
"I welcome China taking this important step to start allowing U.S. beef imports after shutting them out over 13 years ago. The President's firm commitment to fair trade that benefits the United States has made this new U.S. beef export opportunity possible. I encourage China and all countries to base their requirements on international standards and science. America's ranchers are the best producers of beef in the global economy, and they can compete and succeed wherever there is a level playing field."

Background:
The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posted the requirements for its Export Verification program for U.S. establishments shipping to China, which will enable packers to apply for approval to export to China. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has also updated its online Export Library specifying China’s requirements for certifying U.S. beef being shipped there.

China has emerged as a major beef buyer in recent years, with imports increasing from $275 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016. However, the United States has been banned from China's market since 2003. The United States is the world’s largest beef producer and was the world’s fourth-largest exporter, with global sales of more than $5.4 billion in 2016. Until the ban took effect, the U.S. was China’s largest supplier of imported beef, providing 70 percent of their total intake.
Beef industry groups are pleased. From the National Cattlemen's Beef Association:
Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), today released the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) announcement that it has reached a final agreement with Chinese officials on a deal that will allow U.S. producers to begin beef exports to China for the first time since 2003:

"NCBA commends the leadership of President Trump and our skilled negotiators who were able to restore U.S. beef access to China, something that has been a top priority for NCBA for 13 years. NCBA worked closely with USDA throughout the entire process. In recent years, China has become one of the largest import markets for beef, and these terms are a reflection of China's trust in the safety and quality of U.S. beef. We hope that by getting our foot in the door we can develop a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with China."
From the U.S. Cattlemen's Association:
The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) concluded its annual fly-in to Washington, D.C. this week. With over 30 producers from across the country making the trip out to discuss issues of importance to the U.S. cattle industry, a main talking point throughout the week’s meetings was trade, notably the importance of reestablishing trade with China.

Today’s announcement by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a significant moment for producers across the country. Market access to China, for chilled or frozen beef, processed under the age of 30 months, has now been granted.

The provisions of the agreement include specific mention to hormones, trace residue, and overall herd health; and a mandate on origin information for any product entering the market. U.S. producers and the industry must work together to ensure these criteria are met, thereby securing this needed market access for years to come.

USCA President Kenny Graner commented on the news, “We were briefed by the Administration during our fly-in on the status of the agreement and it comes as welcome news to all producers that we have once again secured this important market.”

“USCA would like to thank the Administration and staff at USDA who have remain committed to securing this access for producers since the ban was put in place in 2003. The individuals who have led on these negotiations have never wavered and for that, U.S. cattle producers will now enjoy the potential of an ever growing, and ever demanding marketplace for U.S. beef.”

“Today’s announcement serves as a fitting end to a week spent in Washington, D.C. bringing issues from the industry to the Hill and Administration. Market access affects the bottom line of all producers and USCA thanks the work of all of those in the previous and current Administration who worked so diligently to make beef access to China a reality.”

For more information on specific export requirements, please click HERE.
Here is our latest report on the negotiations. For more details and reactions, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Lawmakers to push measure to reorganize state Senate


Two Assembly members are reportedly moving forward with a proposed state constitutional amendment to reorganize the state Senate to provide more rural representation, which I blogged about in February.

Republican Assemblymen James Gallagher of Yuba City (top photo) and Brian Dahle of Bieber want to create eight Senate districts statewide based on region, with five senators from each district. As it is now, there are a dozen senators from Los Angeles County alone.

Gallagher and Dahle want to push a bill through the Legislature to put such a measure on the ballot.

Dahle unveiled the plan during a panel discussion at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference in Anderson. Asked then how he plans to get the bill passed, Dahle said he and Gallagher will appeal to lawmakers and their constituents from places like the Inland Empire, the Central Valley and the Bay Area, which would get more representation under their proposal, and hope enough voters from coastal Southern California agree that a more equitable system is needed.

He points to the makeup of Congress, where House districts are based on population but two senators are chosen from each state.

The proposal was to be rolled out in February but was tabled because Gallagher, who is leading the effort, was busy dealing with the Oroville Dam situation.

Interestingly, Dahle was asked during the panel discussion if he supported the State of Jefferson movement, and he said he didn't believe such a break from California was possible. But I wonder if it would be more possible for the Jefferson region to achieve statehood, perhaps as a tradeoff for District of Columbia statehood, than for it to persuade Los Angeles to give the region five of its state senators.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Exodus from the old bundled cable TV model escalates

Evidence continues to come in showing more and more people are walking away from the Big Media's bundled cable TV model and are instead paying for content from streaming services that they actually want to watch.

First, from Rasmussen Reports:
Americans still watch a lot of television, but they’re doing more of it through streaming services these days.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 56% of American Adults say, in a typical week, they watch television every day or nearly every day. That’s pretty much unchanged from 2016, but has been on the rise from 52% since 2013.
People are rediscovering television because they're now finding things they want to watch. For instance, amid a news release about the streaming service PureFlix hiring a new executive, there's this:
The hiring comes amid continued growth for the streaming service, whose subscriber base continues to rise along with the number of titles available to subscribers. As of early June, more than 6,500 titles are available, including original content like the "Pure Flix Comedy All-Stars," movies, documentaries and kids programming.
I have at least a dozen apps on Roku that specialize in streaming family-friendly, faith-based or classic movies, and they're all in the mix as more and more consumers divest themselves of the major corporate media's narrow, agenda-driven offerings.

Corn growers' group likes Trump's infrastructure push

A corn growers' group is praising President Donald Trump's infrastructure push, presumably because it could improve conditions for shipping. From a news release:
The National Corn Growers Association applauded President Trump’s pledge today to make rebuilding America’s infrastructure a national priority and committed to work with his Administration on the issue.

“It's time to recapture our legacy as a nation of builders, and to create new lanes of travel, commerce, and discovery,” President Trump said at a speech in Cincinnati on the backdrop of the Ohio River.

Ken Hartman, chair of the NCGA Market Access Team, thanked the President for calling attention to infrastructure issues.

“Farmers rely on our national infrastructure every day to get our products to market quickly, safely, and efficiently. Waterways, roads, and bridges are central to farmers' efforts to feed and fuel the world, and we must invest in all of them,” said Hartman, a farmer from Waterloo, Illinois.

In his remarks, President Trump specifically called for upgrading the nation’s aging system of locks and dams—making him the first modern president to focus on this critical piece of the infrastructure puzzle.

“These critical corridors of commerce depend on a dilapidated system of locks and dams that is more than half a century old, and their condition… is in very, very bad shape. It continues to decay,” Trump said.

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. grain exports are transported to port via the U.S. river system, but most of the nation’s locks and dams have outlived their intended 50-year lifespans. Breakdowns in the river infrastructure add to transport costs, some of which are passed on to farmers. Meanwhile, rural areas rely disproportionately on federal funding for infrastructure projects, underscoring the need for robust federal investment.

“We especially appreciate the President's interest in inland waterways and in the unique infrastructure challenges facing rural areas,” said Hartman. “We look forward to working with the Trump Administration to invest in our nation's waterways, roads, and bridges, and we thank the President for making this issue a top priority.”

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

NWS forecast: Rainy season isn't quite over yet

From the National Weather Service:
High pressure will bring warm and dry conditions for northern California through Wednesday, with Valley highs in the 90s today. Wet weather returns starting Wednesday evening [...] with precipitation spreading across the area through Thursday afternoon and continuing into Friday. Confidence is high that this will be relatively wet system for June, but the system is looking weaker and rainfall totals have decreased. Possible afternoon/evening thunderstorms on Friday, mainly in the mountains and foothills. Valley high temperatures will drop into the 70s for the Valley by Thursday and continue below normal through the weekend.

Impacts
Slick roads late in the week will bring longer commute times Thursday into Friday morning

Forecast Confidence
High for cool, wet pattern change
Medium for rain amounts and for thunderstorms

Timing and Strength
Wet weather returns late Wednesday and into Friday, potentially into the weekend
Heaviest precipitation Thursday into Friday morning
Snow levels well above pass levels
Thunderstorms possible Friday afternoon and evening

Karen Pence installs beehive to boost bee awareness

Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, is drawing attention to the plight of pollinators in the United States. From the USDA:
Second Lady Karen Pence and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today unveiled a newly-installed beehive on the grounds of the Vice President’s residence, drawing attention to the plight of pollinators whose numbers are in decline. Together, the two urged Americans to do their own part to help reverse the population trend among the creatures, which are essential to producing much of the nation’s food.

“All types of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, birds and bats, are critical to providing our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine,” Mrs. Pence said. “However, our beekeepers have been losing colonies for many years. This presents a serious challenge to our ability to produce many of the agricultural products that we enjoy today. The bees at the Vice President’s Residence will provide an added bonus to the vegetable and flower gardens by making them well pollinated and taste even better at harvest.”

Perdue released a proclamation he has signed declaring June 19-25, 2017 as “National Pollinator Week” (Proclamation can be viewed online here). Perdue noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency led efforts to create a National Pollinator Health Strategy. The two agencies are working with a number of other federal departments to implement that strategy, which includes significant USDA research.

“Most farmers and consumers have no better friends and few harder workers than the honey bee, as more than one-third of all U.S. crop production requires insect pollination,” Perdue said. “But our honeybee population has been losing ground at an alarming rate. The problem represents a diverse mix of challenges requiring a wide range of solutions. And at USDA we are leading the way in research to help out our pollinator friends.”

Honeybees are the nation’s primary pollinators, adding at least $15 billion a year in value to about 90 crops by increasing yields and helping to ensure superior-quality harvests. Those crops include nuts, fruits, berries and vegetables, which add color, taste and texture to our diet.

The number of honeybee hives in the U.S, has declined from 6 million during the 1940s to only about 2.5 million today. Those losses have been attributed to a number of factors, ranging from a syndrome known as “colony collapse disorder” to stress caused by factors such as parasites and pests, transportation of bees, sub-lethal exposure to pesticides, and poor nutrition.

Mrs. Pence and Secretary Perdue pointed out that a lack of supportive habitat near hives also contributes to the declines. Even if people don’t set up their own hives, they can help by planting bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in their yards and gardens. Honeybees particularly love wildflowers, lilacs, poppies and Black-eyed Susans, as well as herbs and vegetables like mint, sage, squash, tomatoes, oregano, and rosemary. In addition, bees get thirsty, and that placing birdbaths and small basins of water could help relieve their thirst.

Mrs. Pence installed a beehive in the Indiana governor’s residence in 2014, when Vice President Mike Pence served as the state’s governor. She said more than 80 percent of the land in Indiana is dedicated to agriculture, and its crops are very dependent upon pollinators.

The hive unveiled today is located on the grounds of the Vice President’s Residence. It is a triple-deep “Langstroth” beehive that holds traditional frames and was obtained from Eco Honeybees of Falls Church, VA. The hive contains almost 20,000 bees and continues to grow.
Here is the AP story at CapitalPress.com. Perhaps all those bees buzzing around his house will prepare Mike Pence should he ever become president and have to deal with the Washington press corps.