June 5, 2023



June 10 EDCFB Annual Dinner

June 16-18 El Dorado County Fair



JUNE 10 2023 4pm

We hope to see you there. Tickets are still available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/farm-bureau-annual-dinner-tickets-634253608617

Silent Auction items are being accepted. Please call or email our office to schedule a dropoff. admin@edcfb.com

Harris Family Farm's

High Tea in the Orchard

is coming up on June 10 & 11 and July 8 & 9. Join us on our beautiful property while sipping tea or lemonade and enjoying savory and sweet treats. Tickets are available at https://harrisfamilyfarm.ticketspice.com/high-teas-2023

Lake levels as of May 24-25

Stumpy Meadows Reservoir Percent full 100%

Folsom Reservoir Percent full 95%

Union Valley Percent full 92%

Loon Lake Percent full 68%

Ice House Percent full 90%

Caples Lake Percent full 58%

Silver Lake Percent full 62%

Sly Park Percent Full 99.7%

American River Flow 3093 cfs (down from 3177)

xx% indicates - reduction xx% indicates - increase xx% unchanged


Animal Health & Welfare

AB-554, by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D–Encino), opposed by CA Farm Bureau along with a large group of stakeholders has been moved to the Inactive File and will not move to the Senate. AB 554 would have created a new right of action enabling Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAs) and their humane officers to litigate alleged violations of “any law relating to or affecting animals” in the civil courts. CA Farm Bureau had major concerns that this bill would expose our membership to unfounded charges and litigation.

Under current law, SPCAs may be incorporated once 20 CA citizens have organized and filed. This mechanism of incorporation is ripe for abuse by extremist animal rights organizations which have long sought to disrupt, harass, and even shutter California businesses engaged in the production, stewardship, conservation, and care of animals. Once established as an SPCA, this bill would grant this entity the authority to “proffer a complaint” of alleged animal abuse in civil court. Farm Bureau is opposed to animal abuse and fervently believes it should be prosecuted by the fullest extent of the law in criminal court. Allowing these groups to file allegations under their perceptions or opinions of animal abuse in a civil court would certainly be a burden to our members who are legally operating their farms under CA code. The author’s office and sponsors of the bill, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, argue that this bill is only “clarifying” current law and is not providing extremist groups the opportunity to impugn our membership. In response to these claims, our coalition offered 2 rounds of amendments to provide production livestock, fairs, and rodeos with an exemption from the language – but the language was not accepted. With the rejection of our amendments, the coalition pursued “no” votes on the Assembly Floor. After successfully securing a “no recommendation” from the Republican Caucus, and meeting with several democrats, the author agreed to hold the bill until further discussions can be had.


AB-580, authored by Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) has been held in Assembly Appropriations under Suspense and may be acted upon in 2024, turning it into a two year bill. This bill would require the commission, on or before July 1, 2024, to consult with the Department of Conservation, the Department of Food and Agriculture, and the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to assess challenges that exist when enabling farmers to repurpose their fallowed land for zero-emission energy infrastructure, and to develop best practices for navigating those challenges.

Forestry and Wildfire

AB-625, authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar Curry (D-Winters) has been held in Assembly Appropriations under Suspense and may be acted upon in 2024, turning it into a two year bill. Farm Bureau supports AB 625. As previously discussed, the bill would create the Forest Biomass Waste Utilization Program to be administered by the state board’s Joint Institute for Wood Products Innovation to develop an implementation plan to meet the goals and recommendations of, and the comprehensive framework to align with the state’s wood utilization policies and priorities and focused market strategy.

AB-54, authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar Curry (D-Winters) has been held in Assembly Appropriations under Suspense and may be acted upon in 2024, turning it into a two year bill. Farm Bureau supports AB-54.  The bill requires CDFA to conduct research to investigate accurate measurement of smoke compounds in winegrapes and wine, methods to mitigate the damage to winegrapes and wine that can occur from exposure to smoke, and methods to prevent smoke damage to winegrapes and wine.

Natural Disaster

The Assembly Committee on Agriculture and Committee on Emergency Management held a Joint Hearing on the Winter Storm Impact on California Agriculture.

Jim Houston, Chief Administrative Officer from the California Farm Bureau provided testimony. Mr. Houston focused his discussion on the financial impact to farmers directly that today, are not being reimbursed, aside from the obvious crop destruction–moving hundreds and even thousands of animals to higher, dry grounds for example, or plugging leaking levees. Other panelists that provided statewide overviews included California Office of Emergency Services, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Water Resources.

The second panel featured farmers, dairies, and farmworkers who shared harrowing stories of water that moved quickly over river and stream levees, inundating entire communities like Planada and Pajaro in minutes. The committee heard from Navarro Farms in Watsonville, Hansen Ranches in Corcoran and a Royal Oaks Farms’ farmworker, who is living on the edge of ruin due to her workplace being under feet of water and little new farm work immediately available.

The final panel discussed prevention and mitigation measures, with Monterey County Farm Bureau’s Norm Groot providing key testimony about the lengthy permitting process, needless red tape, and environmental group opposition to conducting vital river capacity maintenance. Mr. Groot focused testimony on the fact that despite being a privately owned river, landowners on the Salinas River have been frustrated for over 20 years from taking pragmatic actions to ensure the river has adequate capacity, that debris is routinely removed, and that levees are timely repaired. The result of being unable to conduct this work was the flooding of the community of Pajaro, because the river’s capacity is just a third today of what it was during the last floods thirty years ago.  You can watch the entire hearing here

Rural Broadband

AB-415, authored by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) has been held in Assembly Appropriations under Suspense and may be acted upon in 2024, turning it into a two year bill. Farm Bureau supports AB 415.  This bill would enact the Emergency Fairgrounds Communications Grant Act and would require, on or before January 1, 2025, the California Office of Emergency Services to establish a grant program to provide fairgrounds with grant funding for the purpose of building and upgrading communication and internet infrastructure on fairgrounds.


SB-701, authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) passed the Senate Floor with near unanimous support and moves to the Assembly. As discussed previously, the bill is sponsored by the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association, and allows any board of supervisors of a county to set a fresh fruit and vegetable wholesalers fee to a maximum registration fee of $500.

AB-294, authored by Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) has been held in Assembly Appropriations under Suspense and may be acted upon in 2024, turning it into a two year bill. Farm Bureau supports AB 294. As discussed previously, this bill would provide an exclusion from gross income for any qualified taxpayer for amounts received for costs and losses associated with wildfires. It would alleviate the need for bills that specify a fire event and impacted counties.

Meanwhile, two Senate bills that do specifically mention wildfire events and impacted counties are on the Senate Floor Special Consent Calendar.  SB-370, authored by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Geyersville) and SB-542, authored by Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) are both supported by California Farm Bureau.



On Friday, May 19, the Newsom Administration released several

budget trailer bills intended to improve California’s ability to permit and construct sorely-needed infrastructure. If passed with the budget, these bills would, among many others things, clear permitting and contracting hurdles for High Speed Rail, reduce the time for courts to consider challenges to projects under CEQA, and repeal the four existing statutes designating species as “fully protected” under California law. Several of these bills mirror legislation introduced by members over the past six months.


This week, several Farm Bureau-supported bills passed on the floor and moved out of their house of origin, including:

  • AB-30 (Asm. Christopher Ward, D– San Diego) to expand and support the state’s atmospheric research and forecasting capabilities;
  • SB-366 (Sen. Anna Caballero, D–Merced) to require, as a part of the California Water Plan Update, development of a comprehensive plan for addressing the state’s water needs and meeting specified long-term water supply targets; and
  • SB-651 (Sen. Shannon Grove, D–Bakersfield) to streamline CEQA requirements for surfaced or undergound storage during flood periods.

Unfortunately, a few bills Farm Bureau supported failed to advance, including SB-23 (Sen. Anna Caballero, D–Merced) to expedite permitting for diversions from rivers or streams during high-flow periods to reduce flood risk. This bill received a high level of support within the legislature but was killed because of the Governor’s Executive Order and aforementioned related trailer bills released on Friday, May 19, that effectively replicated this and other policies.

One of the water rights bills Farm Bureau continues to oppose, AB-1205 (Asm. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D–Orinda) to declare any water right purchased by an investment fund to be a waste and unreasonable use of water, also advanced.



The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Meat, Poultry and Egg Safety Branch (MPES) announces two vacancies on the Rendering Industry Advisory Board (RIAB).  The RIAB makes recommendations to the Secretary on matters pertaining to:

  • Adoption, modification, and repeal of regulations and procedures
  • Procedures for employment, training, supervision, and compensation of inspectors and other persons
  • Rate and collection of license fees and penalties
  • Acquisition and use of equipment
  • Posting and noticing changes in bylaws, general procedures, or orders
  • All matters pertaining to Food and Agricultural Code Division 9, Part 3, Chapter 5, including, but not limited to, the inspection and enforcement program, annual budget, necessary fees to provide adequate services, and regulations required to accomplish the purposes of the chapter.

The vacancies, for two industry members, was created because of upcoming term expirations. The membership terms for these vacancies will be 36 months. Applicants must be affiliated with a licensed renderer, collection center, dead animal hauler, or registered transporter of inedible kitchen grease. Board members receive no compensation but are entitled to reimbursement for transportation to and from meetings and for per diem expenses for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses. Applicants interested in being considered for this RIAB appointment should submit a resume by June 19, 2023, to:

Penny Arana

Meat, Poultry and Egg Safety Branch

1220 N Street

Sacramento, California 95814



The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will end data collection for the 2022 Census of Agriculture on May 31. Producers who have not yet returned their completed questionnaires have just one week left to respond. Federal law requires everyone who received the ag census to complete and return it. Recipients can respond online at agcounts.usda.gov or by mail.

USDA NASS is reminding ag census recipients that if they produced and sold $1,000 or more of agricultural product in 2022, or normally would have produced and sold that much, they meet USDA’s definition of a farm. However, landowners who lease land to producers, those solely involved in conservation programs, and even those who may not have farmed in 2022 are still required to respond.

The ag census differs from other USDA surveys. Beyond being conducted just once every five years, it provides important demographic information and data on certain commodities, such as horses, bison, and Christmas trees, that would not otherwise be available. The Census of Agriculture collects information on nearly every aspect of American agriculture for a complete picture of the health of the industry. Changes to the 2022 questionnaire include new questions about the use of precision agriculture, hemp production, hair sheep, and updates to internet access questions.  Federal law under Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113 requires that USDA NASS keep all submissions confidential, use the information for statistical purposes only, and publish aggregate data to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation.

For assistance filling out the ag census, recipients can call 888-424-7828. NASS will release the ag census data in early 2024. To learn more about the Census of Agriculture, visit nass.usda.gov/AgCensus. On the website, producers and other data users can access frequently asked questions, past ag census data, special study information, and more.



Safe shelter, kitchen and sanitation facilities – among other upgrades – will improve fairgrounds’ utility for evacuees, emergency responders

To help support people and communities during disasters, like evacuations caused by flooding, CDFA’s Fairs and Expositions Branch announces the awarding of $89 million in grants as part of the Fairgrounds Resilience Centers Program.  The grants will support infrastructure projects such as additional safe-shelter space, kitchen and sanitation facilities, showers and related improvements that will protect and comfort people and families in times of need. The same improvements will also expand services and capabilities for many other events throughout the year, adding value to these community assets. The funding for the grants program was appropriated as part of the 2021-2022 California general fund budget.

The resilience centers will enhance emergency preparedness capabilities, particularly in response to climate change. Funding will be used for infrastructure that supports emergency evacuation and shelter of people, pets and livestock, and it will also fund facilities and tools to improve how responders can use these sites as base camps during emergency events. The projects and sites that have been selected were also evaluated to consider their potential to provide spaces that the community can use outside of contingency times. The grants will equip facilities and provide spaces that can be used year-round to offer services and activities geared to strengthen local communities through civic, social, educational, and economic development programming. Business incubation centers, satellite college campus facilities, and telemedicine centers are among the viable concepts.

“This program is a prime example of the value of California’s fairgrounds,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “These grants will provide more than 460,000 square feet of new space for emergency sheltering, and they will position fairgrounds to offer their communities additional resources during climate-related disasters or other emergency events. The enhanced fairgrounds will also provide a unique opportunity for their communities to engage in the use of the facilities for other services and activities throughout the entire year.”

A committee of fairgrounds stakeholders conferred to identify criteria that would assist in the selection of the Fairgrounds Resilience Centers awardees. Criteria included the fairgrounds’ ease of access and egress during an emergency event, the level of climate resiliency of the sites, and whether they would be able to serve severely disadvantaged areas.  The committee consisted of CDFA, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), and representatives of the fairgrounds industry (including California Construction Authority, the joint powers authority in charge of construction at fairgrounds).  Planning and construction work related to the Fairgrounds Resilience Centers is expected to begin in late summer 2023. The complete list of grant awardees and summaries of their projects can be found at: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/FairsAndExpositions/fcrcp/



The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Meat, Poultry and Egg Safety Branch (MPES) announces two vacancies on the Egg Safety and Quality Management’s (ESQM) Shell Egg Advisory Committee Board (SEAC).  ESQM monitors egg quality at production, wholesale, and retail levels. The goal is to provide California consumers with eggs that are wholesome, properly labeled, refrigerated, and of established quality, while maintaining fair and equitable marketing standards in the California egg industry.

These vacancies are due to upcoming term expirations. The membership terms for these vacancies will be for 36 months. Applicants for the industry members must be registered egg handlers, or representatives of registered egg handlers, in the State of California.  Board members receive no compensation but are entitled to reimbursement for transportation to and from meetings and for per diem expenses for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses.  Applicants interested in being considered for these SEAC appointments should submit resumes by August 21, 2023, to:

Penny Arana

Meat, Poultry and Egg Safety Branch

1220 N Street

Sacramento, California 95814


Job Opening? For Sale? Place your free add here. admin@edcfb.com

The California Farm Service Agency (FSA) is hiring four (4) full time County Executive Director Positions. Applications must be completed through USAJOBs no later than close of business March 28th, 2023.

Siskiyou County: USAJOBS - Job Announcement

Fresno/Tulare/Glenn County: USAJOBS - Job Announcement

El Dorado County https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/edcgov

Placerville City https://www.cityofplacerville.org/jobs

El Dorado Ag In The Classroom has opportunities on several committees: Program, Finance, Development, and Marketing. If you have interest in serving as a volunteer on one of these please send an email here.
Let us highlight your business in a future edition of Farm Bureau This Week. Business Spotlight Interview
Is there a story you'd like to share with our members? Let us know at admin@edcfb.com

California providing $95 million in storm relief to undocumented residents ineligible for federal aid [San Francisco Chronicle]

After months of pressure from advocates and flood victims, California will provide disaster relief to undocumented residents who were impacted by the state’s severe winter storms and are ineligible for federal aid. The Storm Assistance for Immigrants Project will provide $95 million to undocumented immigrants who were affected by the series of powerful storms that pounded the state from December 2022 through April 2023, said Scott Murray, a spokesman for the California Department of Social Services, which is running the program. The funding is available through May 31 of next year or until all funds are claimed. “The goal of this program is to help people with the recovery process by providing funding for food, shelter, and basic needs,” Murray said in a statement.



Grazing goats used to prevent wildfires may be out of business with new labor law for herders [KCRA-3 Sacramento]

With Northern California under the threat of wildfires and grass fires as warmer days are ahead, many businesses and cities are turning to goats to get rid of the dry brush. But now that's under threat by a new labor law.

Soon, it will be more expensive to manage the four-legged firefighters, with the goat herders getting a big raise: $4,000 to over $14,000 a month. The state labor commission recently reclassified goat herders from sheep herders, who both are paid monthly since they watch over the animals 24/7. Now the goat herders will receive overtime and be paid like farmworkers, a move the labor movement applauds. "If we are investing this as firefighting of the future, we should invest in the workers," said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, with the California Labor Federation. The California Farm Bureau said if the new rule goes into effect, the state will have to find other ways to prevent wildfires and grassfires. "It wouldn't surprise me to see a lot fewer goats for just petting zoos and things like that," said Bryan Little with the California Farm Bureau. "It seems like it's more like a wrinkle, an unintentional wrinkle in the regulations on how agriculture workers are paid in California."



L.A. has taken water from iconic Mono Lake for 82 years. Will California stop it? [CalMatters]

As trickling snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada slowly raises Mono Lake —  famed for its bird life and outlandish shoreline mineral spires — advocates are pressuring state water officials to halt diversions from the lake’s tributaries to Los Angeles, which has used this clean mountain water source for decades. Environmentalists and tribal representatives say such action is years overdue and would help the iconic lake’s ecosystem, long plagued by low levels, high salinity and dust that wafts off the exposed lakebed. The city of Los Angeles, they argue, should simply use less water, and expand investments in more sustainable sources – especially recycled wastewater and uncaptured stormwater. This, they say, could help wean the city off Mono basin’s water for good. In December, the Mono Lake Committee, the basin’s leading advocacy group, sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board requesting an emergency pause on water diversions from the lake. The water board hosted an online workshop to discuss the matter in February, and it is now considering further actions to restore the naturally saline lake.



The farmers dealing with water shortages even before historic Colorado River deal [The Guardian]

Nancy Caywood worries about water constantly. Water – or the uncertainty of it – has kept the 69-year-old Arizona farmer awake at night since supplies began dwindling about two decades ago due to chronic overuse and drought in the American west. During one particularly low point in late 2021, every field on the 255-acre family farm was either fallow, shrivelled or dormant. “The canal was dry, the reservoir was empty, it was raining at the wrong times … the farm was 100% unproductive and we were using savings to pay bills,” said Caywood, a third-generation farmer in Pinal county who grows mostly alfalfa and cotton – two of the most marketable and water-guzzling commodity crops. “My dad started using the S-word, it was devastating, but we didn’t want to sell to solar,” added Caywood whose farmland is now surrounded by fallow fields, tumbleweed and solar farms. In 2022, the Colorado River water allocated for farmers in central Arizona – the state’s tri-county urban and agricultural heartland – was cut by 65% overall, but most Pinal county farmers lost 80% or more. This year the allocation is virtually zero, as the river’s complex priority system means farmers in central Arizona currently bear the brunt of the state’s reduced allocation. This was the case even before this month’s historic deal in which Arizona, California and Nevada agreed a plan which would cut their Colorado water consumption by 13% over the next three years – if adopted.



Water concerns prompt new limits on growth in Arizona [Los Angeles Times]

Arizona’s governor has announced plans to limit new construction in parts of the Phoenix area after a state analysis found there isn’t enough groundwater to support all the planned growth in the coming decades. The announcement Thursday by Gov. Katie Hobbs represents a major shift for one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country and is expected to hinder development in some suburbs that have been springing up in the desert around Phoenix. State officials analyzed groundwater in the Phoenix area and determined that the area’s groundwater wasn’t sufficient to supply all the projected water needs over the next 100 years. As a result, Arizona water regulators plan to stop issuing approvals for new developments in areas that depend entirely on groundwater pumping. The announcement comes as Arizona also deals with cuts in water supplies from the Colorado River, which is over-allocated and has been sapped by more than two decades of drought worsened by climate change.



Mendocino County vineyard manager ordered to pay $159,000 in farmworker back wages, penalties [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

A Ukiah-based company that manages about 1,500 acres of vineyards in Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma counties has been ordered by federal labor regulators to pay almost $159,000 in back pay and penalties. Noble Vineyard Management Inc. was cited by for not paying contract wages to workers with agricultural temporary visas and not compensating U.S. workers at the same rate as those employees with such H-2A visas, the Labor Department announced Thursday. That amounted to $92,067 in back wages for 148 workers and $66,530 in civil penalties. Noble CEO Tyler Rodrigue didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Noble’s was among three actions the agency announced Wednesday, involving just over $129,000 in back pay for 353 agricultural workers and civil penalties of nearly $232,000. Another of the three California companies cited was farm labor contractor Next Crop of Los Banos. It was order to pay $36,764 in back wages to 105 employees and assessed $99,067 in penalties. Next Crop was operating farmworker transport with the unlicensed driver for Pebble Ridge Vineyards & Vine Estates LLC, grower of about 850 acres of grapes in San Benito County sold for brands such as Kendall-Jackson, J. Lohr and Robert Mondavi. Pebble Ridge was assessed $66,282 in penalties.


Grazing goats prevent California wildfires. New salary rules may jeopardize industry [Los Angeles Times]

Increasingly in recent years, Californians have put goats’ voracious and almost indiscriminate diets to work, minimizing fuel for wildfires across the state — a method that has been heralded as sustainable, economical and effective at reducing underbrush that can become dangerous in the hot summer months. But goat ranchers worry a recent change in state labor requirements for herders could jeopardize the future of the industry. Goat herders were recently reclassified by California labor regulators, differentiating them from sheep herders — a new distinction that means goat herders will no longer be eligible for a monthly herders’ compensation, set at a minimum of $2,755 plus required overtime. Instead, employers will be required come Jan. 1 to compensate goat herders at an hourly rate, now set at $15.50 for farmworkers, plus required overtime. And given the nature of a goat herders’ job, which is considered on-call 24/7, industry leaders and the California Farm Bureau estimate that change would come out to almost $14,000 a month. “Goats are particularly well-suited to wildfire fuels control,” Bryan Little, director of employment policy for the California Farm Bureau, wrote in a recent post about the issue. “While they will graze dry grasses like sheep, goats also devour highly flammable taller brush that sheep don’t notice.” Little and others in support of goat-grazing businesses recently backed Assembly Bill 1099, which would keep the current compensation requirements for goat herders.



Can retiring farmland make California’s Central Valley more equitable? [High Country News]

The people of Fairmead, California, in the Central Valley, have struggled to gain reliable access to drinking water for years. The unincorporated community of around 1,300 — “mostly people of color, people of low income, people struggling and trying to make it,” according to Fairmead resident Barbara Nelson — relies on shallow wells to meet its needs. But in recent years, the combination of drought and excessive agricultural pumping has caused some domestic wells to go dry, and one of the town wells is currently very low. Last year, Fairmead received a grant to help plan for farmland retirement in order to recharge groundwater under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. But the community’s vision for the future is bigger than that: The locals also want to see improved air quality, a community center and reliable domestic wells. The West is not just facing an energy transition, it is also at the beginning of a major transition in land and water use. In California’s Central Valley, groundwater regulations will require retiring between 500,000 and 1 million acres by 2040. But while groundwater sustainability is SGMA’s focus, it’s not the only thing on Central Valley residents’ minds: They also need jobs, as well as clean air and water. For many Central Valley residents, the biggest question concerns jobs, wondering how they’ll make a living once farmland is retired. Transitioning away from agriculture is “a hard pill to swallow,” said Eddie Ocampo, director of the organization Self-Help Enterprises.



Central Valley flooding offers birds bountiful water; Will it also poison them? [Los Angeles Times]

After struggling through years of punishing drought, California waterfowl and flocks of migrating birds are now enjoying a rare bounty of water as winter storms and spring snowmelt submerge vast tracts of Central Valley landscape. But even as birders celebrate the return of wet conditions along portions of the Pacific Flyway, experts worry that this liquid bonanza could ultimately poison tens of thousands of the avians as temperatures rise and newly formed lakes and ponds begin to evaporate. The concern: botulism. “Botulism occurs naturally in the soil and in the Tulare basin,” said John Carlson, president of the California Wildfowl Association. “When the water temperature heats up during the summer and gets stagnant, the botulism really kind of booms, and you can have multi-thousand-bird die-offs.” That grim prognosis has added to the emotional whiplash bird lovers and wildlife officials have experienced in recent years as extreme climate variability has gripped the West Coast, alternately parching and starving waterfowl and providing them with a surfeit of habitat.



California to send $95 million to undocumented flooding victims – months after promising ‘rapid response’ [CalMatters]

California will send $95 million to flood victims in a long-awaited program to assist undocumented residents suffering hardship and damage from the recent months of storms. The money will be available in many affected counties starting in June, according to the state’s Department of Social Services. The announcement comes two months after Gov. Gavin Newsom promised flood victims that help would come from the state’s Rapid Response Fund. Since then his office provided few details despite repeated queries and criticism.  Alex Stack, a spokesperson for Newsom, said state officials were trying to ensure the program would be accessible to a population that is often hard to reach, while also protecting taxpayer funds from fraud. The funds would be available to residents living or working in counties that were federally designated major disaster areas and that were approved for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Originally the Legislature allocated $175 million to that fund for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, to assist with migrants at the Southern California border and to fund other needs. Now state grants are expected to go to nonprofit organizations to provide financial assistance to people recovering from floods or storms, the governor’s office said.



It was the most controversial land-use debate in Napa history. Now, Walt Ranch has been sold [San Francisco Chronicle]

The most contentious land-use debate in Napa Valley’s history has come to a close following a shocking change of heart. On Wednesday, the Land Trust of Napa County finalized the purchase of Walt Ranch from its previous owners, who endured a relentless, 17-year battle against environmental groups in order to plant a vineyard in Napa’s rural Eastern Hills. Last July, owners Craig and Kathryn Hall — who own Hall Wines in St. Helena and Walt Wines in Sonoma County — received final approval from Napa County to move forward with developing their land. But six months later, the Halls suddenly announced a new plan: They had offered the property to the land trust, and at a steep discount of $18 million.  The couple had been “in conversations” with the land trust since they purchased the property regarding required conservation easements, according to a written statement from Hall Winery President Mike Reynolds. Those discussions ultimately “led to this acquisition” he wrote. The land trust accumulated the $18 million through donations and loans in order to close on the 2,300-acre property; it’s one of the largest acquisitions in the organization’s nearly 50-year history according to Doug Parker, president and chief executive officer of the land trust.



Judge dismisses criminal charges against California energy company in 2020 fatal wildfire [Associated Press]

A California judge on Wednesday dismissed all charges against Pacific Gas & Electric in connection to a 2020 fatal wildfire sparked by its equipment that destroyed hundreds of homes and killed four people, including an 8-year-old. The utility also reached a $50 million settlement agreement with the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office, officials from both announced in separate statements. The wind-whipped blaze began on Sept. 27, 2020, and raged through rugged terrain and small communities west of Redding, killing four people, burning about 200 homes and blackening about 87 square miles (225 square kilometers) of land in Shasta and Tehama counties. In 2021, state fire investigators concluded the fire was sparked by a gray pine tree that fell onto a PG&E distribution line. Shasta and Tehama counties sued the utility, alleging negligence. They said PG&E failed to remove the tree even though it had been marked for removal two years earlier. The utility says the tree was subsequently cleared to stay.


Why Insurers Are Fleeing California [Wall Street Journal]

State Farm General Insurance Co. last week became the latest insurer to retreat from California’s homeowners market. The culprit isn’t climate change, as the media claims in parroting Sacramento talking points. The cause is the Golden State’s hostile insurance environment. The nation’s top property and casualty insurer on Friday said it won’t accept new applications for homeowners insurance, citing “historic increases in construction costs outpacing inflation, rapidly growing catastrophe exposure, and a challenging reinsurance market.” In other words, State Farm can’t accurately price risk and increase its rates to cover ballooning liabilities. Other property and casualty insurers, including AIG and Chubb, have also been shrinking their California footprint after years of catastrophic wildfires, which are becoming more common owing to drought and decades of poor forest management. Wildfires in 2017 and 2018 wiped out two times the underwriting profits that insurers had accrued over the prior 26 years. Yet state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara won’t let insurers raise premiums to account for increasing wildfire risks. California is the only state that requires insurers to set premiums based on historical experience.



This California town was already dying. Then the state moved to close its prison [CalMatters]

Two things bring people here, prisons and water, and this tiny desert town is losing both. The locals interested in keeping Blythe afloat have ideas: They’ll build a logistics center, or they’ll develop better recreation opportunities on the Colorado River, or they’ll reopen their soon-to-be shuttered state prison as an immigration detention center. But they don’t yet have answers. The city’s latest disappointment came in May, when the governor’s proposed budget kept Chuckawalla Valley State Prison on the list of prisons Newsom wants to close. Then there’s Blythe’s water, which feeds fields of alfalfa taken out of town by the truckload as bales of hay, and is increasingly going to large farm conglomerates. The Metropolitan Water District, which sends water to Los Angeles and other Southern California cities, pays Blythe farmers to leave their fields fallow as competition for Colorado River water gets increasingly desperate.



Westlands Water District lets bounty of flood water flow to the ocean instead of maximizing groundwater recharge [SJV Water]

Groundwater recharge – or the lack of it – was a driving force behind the sweep of new board members who took over the behemoth Westlands Water District last fall. “Urgently develop groundwater recharge,” was the top plank in the platform of four candidates who won election in November. And the district has, indeed, built a 30,000-acre network of grower-owned recharge ponds with enough capacity to recharge, or absorb, 3,300 acre feet a day into the overtapped aquifer. So, it was surprising that the district showed it was only recharging a total of about 572 acre feet per day through April 30, according to a report at Westlands’ May 16 board meeting. A map presented at the meeting shows only a small fraction of recharge ponds in use. Westlands Board President Jeff Fortune agreed the district had missed recharge opportunities in the past but said he’s proud of the progress the district has made. “I think we’re doing a fantastic job,” he said. “We’ve gone from 0 to 100 miles per hour awfully fast. You could say we should have been more prepared but no one saw this weather pattern coming.”



The California Issue: First Drought, Then Flood. Can the West Learn to Live Between Extremes? [New York Times]

In recent years, it is the dry side of California that has captured headlines: dwindling reservoirs where boat ramps lead only to sand, almond orchards ripped up for lack of irrigation water, catastrophic wildfires that rage through desiccated forests and into towns. In the longer view, though, the state’s water problems have come just as often from deluge as from drought. Other parts of the country can count on reasonably steady precipitation, but California has always been different, teetering between drenching winters and blazing summers, between wet years and dry ones — fighting endlessly to exert control over a flow of water that vacillates, sometimes wildly, between too much and too little. As we’ve learned more about how humans are transforming the planet’s systems, these swings have grown only more pronounced, leaving experts to wonder how the state will face a future balanced ever more precariously between wet and dry. Can it find ways to better handle — to steward, even — the overwhelming water when it does come? And will those measures be sufficient for it to withstand the times it doesn’t? These questions matter not just to California and those who live there, but to anyone who eats the food the state produces, who is affected by the fluctuations in its economy or who lives in a place trying to manage its own climate-fueled “extremification” — in other words, all of us.



Facing sweltering summers, California’s Newsom floats plan for state to buy energy [Associated Press]

For most of the year, California’s quest to rid itself of fossil fuels seems on track: Electric cars populate highways while energy from wind, solar and water provides much of the power for homes and businesses. Then it gets hot, and everyone in the nation’s most populous state turns on their air conditioners at the same time. That’s when California has come close to running out of power in recent years, especially in the early evenings when electricity from solar is not as abundant. Now, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to buy massive amounts of renewable energy to help keep the lights on. The idea is to use the state’s purchasing power to convince private companies to build largescale power plants that run off of heat from underground sites and strong winds blowing off the coast — the kinds of power that utility companies have not been buying because it’s too expensive and would take too long to build. Demand for electricity in California has increased as the state takes step to move away from fossil fuels, including banning the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. California will need to add about 40 gigawatts of new power over the next 10 years, according to the California Independent Systems Operator, which manages the state’s power grid. One gigawatt is enough to power about 750,000 homes.



Oroville olive rancher will speak at state ag board meeting [Chico Enterprise-Record]

Grants of approximately $33 million from the federal government will be the topic of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture’s meeting Tuesday. The board will discuss the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure grant program at the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s main auditorium at 1220 N St. in Sacramento. The meeting is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Invited speakers include Jamie Johansson, an Oroville olive grower who’s also president of the California Farm Bureau Federation; Tricia Kovacs, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service; Trish Kelly, Valley Vision; Tim Johnson, California Rice Commission; Emily Rooney; Agricultural Council of California; Michael Dimock, Roots of Change; Paul Towers, Community Alliance of Family Farmers, and other invited speakers. The RFSI will assist states in building resilience in the middle-of-the-supply-chain and strengthen local and regional food systems by creating new revenue streams for producers.


Supreme Court scales back clean water protections. What does it mean for California? [Los Angeles Times]

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision scaling back federal protections for many wetlands and streams has drawn criticism from scientists and environmental advocates, who say the gutting of safeguards will jeopardize water quality throughout the arid West. California’s water regulators say the ruling will be harmful for protections nationwide, but the more stringent state protections of wetlands won’t be affected. The Times spoke with Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, about the potential effects of limiting federal protections under the Clean Water Act and how the board will continue to regulate wetlands and streams under the state’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act. Esquivel stressed that because more than 90% of California’s wetlands have already been drained and destroyed, strong protections for those that remain are vital. He said California’s stringent protections will continue to safeguard wetlands and streams, even as the court’s decision narrows the authority of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. One of the biggest areas of concern is the Colorado River, he said. The ruling will put at risk water quality in intermittent streams and wetlands that feed the river. That could affect quality — and treatment costs — for one of Southern California’s major water sources.



California overtime law threatens use of grazing goats to prevent wildfires [Associated Press]

Hundreds of goats munch on long blades of yellow grass on a hillside next to a sprawling townhouse complex. They were hired to clear vegetation that could fuel wildfires as temperatures rise this summer.

These voracious herbivores are in high demand to devour weeds and shrubs that have proliferated across California after a drought-busting winter of heavy rain and snow. Targeted grazing is part of California’s strategy to reduce wildfire risk because goats can eat a wide variety of vegetation and graze in steep, rocky terrain that’s hard to access. Backers say they’re an eco-friendly alternative to chemical herbicides or weed-whacking machines that are make noise and pollution. But new state labor regulations are making it more expensive to provide goat-grazing services, and herding companies say the rules threaten to put them out of business. The changes could raise the monthly salary of herders from about $3,730 to $14,000, according to the California Farm Bureau. Companies typically put about one herder in charge of 400 goats. Many of the herders in California are from Peru and live in employer-provided trailers near grazing sites. Labor advocates say the state should investigate the working and living conditions of goatherders before making changes to the law, especially since the state is funding goat-grazing to reduce wildfire risk.



Audit finds California water agency not adequately considering climate change in forecasts [Los Angeles Times]

The state auditor has issued a report strongly criticizing the California Department of Water Resources, saying the agency has overestimated the state’s water supply during drought and continues relying on forecasts that don’t adequately factor in the effects of climate change. The report by State Auditor Grant Parks said the Department of Water Resources has “made only limited progress” in improving its water-supply forecasts to account for climate change, despite acknowledging more than a decade ago that it needed to improve its forecasting methods. The audit also concluded that DWR “has not developed a comprehensive, long-term plan” for the State Water Project, the system that delivers water from Northern California to Southern California and supplies almost 27 million Californians, to proactively respond to more severe droughts. The auditor said that in 2021, amid the driest three-year period on record, DWR significantly overestimated the state’s water supply.



California’s largest property insurer halts new home policies due to wildfire risk, rising costs [San Francisco Chronicle]

State Farm, California’s largest property and casualty insurer as of 2021, stopped issuing new home, business and casualty insurance policies in the state Saturday, citing wildfire risks and rising construction costs. In a statement issued Friday, the company said it made the decision “due to historic increases in construction costs outpacing inflation, rapidly growing catastrophe exposure, and a challenging reinsurance market.” The state has suffered increasingly massive and destructive wildfires in recent years, leading to scarcer and more expensive insurance policies in wildfire-prone zones. California has banned insurance companies from dropping homeowners in certain ZIP codes and issuing non-renewals for policies following wildfire emergency declarations as the state is scrambling to preserve insurance for its residents. The state also doubled coverage limits under the Fair Plan, the state’s insurer of last resort for homeowners and renters who can’t get coverage elsewhere, to $3 million in recent years.



They were designed to be safer: How de-horned cows created at UC Davis were doomed [San Jose Mercury News]

Every year, millions of beef cattle are born without horns, a trait that naturally emerged in Scottish pastures in the 16th century and has since spared many lives from goring. But when UC Davis created horn-free dairy cattle — through gene-editing, rather than generations of routine breeding — federal regulators did not welcome the new bovines to the herd. Under rigorous federal rules established in the early years of the genomic revolution, and upheld during the Obama administration, genetically modified animals are considered to be a new type of veterinary pharmaceutical, needing FDA approval. Without it, meat and milk can’t enter the food supply. As a result, the nine cows — and the experiment — are now dead, burned, at a cost of $1,200 each. “It was a waste. There wasn’t any risk,” said animal geneticist and professor Alison Van Eenennaam of UC Davis, who spent seven years on the project. “Basically, they were an unapproved drug.” Charged with protecting consumer health, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine requires that anything that potentially affects the structure or function of a food animal, including a genetic change, be considered a veterinary drug. The rule applies even if the trait improves animal welfare, exists in other animals of the same species, and creates animals that are indistinguishable from ones created by conventional breeding.



Judge says fire retardant drops are polluting streams but allows use to continue [Associated Press]

The U.S. government can keep using chemical retardant dropped from aircraft to fight wildfires, despite finding that the practice pollutes streams in western states in violation of federal law, a judge ruled Friday. Halting the use of the red slurry material could have resulted in greater environmental damage from wildfires, said U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen in Missoula, Montana. The judge agreed with U.S. Forest Service officials who said dropping retardant into areas with waterways was sometimes necessary to protect lives and property. The ruling came after came after environmentalists sued following revelations that the Forest Service dropped retardant into waterways hundreds of times over the past decade. Government officials say chemical fire retardant can be crucial to slowing the advance of dangerous blazes.



2022/2023 Board of Directors

President . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mike Ranalli

Secretary . . . . . . . . . . . . . Maryann Argyres

Treasurer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gordon Helm

Jim Davies

Chuck Bacchi

Bill Prosser

Carolyn Mansfield

Norm Krizl

Shamarie Tong


Managing Director . . Barb Kildow   admin@edcfb.com 530-622-7773 530-620-8292 (cell)

El Dorado County Farm Bureau News is a weekly publication for its members. Dues for membership are $185 for agricultural members, $150 for Business Ag Support, $72 for Associate members and $25 for Collegiate. Non-profit postage paid at Placerville, CA. Postmaster: Send changes to 2460 Headington Road, Placerville, CA 95667 El Dorado County Farm Bureau does not assume responsibility for statements by advertisers or for products advertised in El Dorado County newsletter, nor does Farm Bureau assume responsibility for statements or expressions of opinion other than in editorials or in articles showing authorship by an officer, director or employee of El Dorado County Farm Bureau or its affiliates.
A private nonprofit organization serving El Dorado County agriculture since 1917.

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