California

A historically Black California town fights for water

In the Central Valley, Allensworth holds the distinction as the first town in California founded by African Americans, but it has been battling for water access for more than a century. Now, initiatives are underway that may finally ensure it has access to safe drinking water, reports Teresa Cotsirilos in FERN's latest story, produced in partnership with KQED's The California Report.

Gov. Newsom signs a fast-food labor bill but takes a measured approach toward ag

As he prepares for a possible presidential run, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has burnished some of his progressive credentials with a flurry of new legislation. On Monday, he rattled the fast food industry by signing a bill that could increase fast food workers' minimum wage to as much as $22 an hour, and he has made national news for his aggressive new policies to address the climate crisis.

In wine country, Sonoma tightens limits on farm work during wildfires

After a year of raucous protests and stakeholder meetings, Sonoma County announced it had standardized and reformed its "ag pass" program, which allows farms to bring workers into evacuated areas during wildfires when other residents have been told to flee.The county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to preserve the program, but also imposed limits on when and how farmers could use it. No paywall

Gov. Newsom won’t support farmworker union voting bill

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday he “cannot support” a bill that many farmworkers say would prevent their employers from intimidating them during union elections, disappointing the United Farm Workers union, which had launched a weeks-long march to the state capitol in support of the legislation.(No paywall)

In Newsom’s long-term water strategy, ag makes a fleeting appearance

Faced with the worst drought in 1,200 years and a dwindling water supply, Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined a new, long-term water strategy for California at a press conference on Thursday. His plan, he said, would prepare the state for a hotter, drier future.

Report: Nut farmers expanded as drought deepened in California

As California declared multiple drought emergencies and imposed mandatory water restrictions on residents in recent years, the state’s almond farmers expanded their orchards by a remarkable 78 percent, according to new research by Food & Water Watch.

Valadao leads Trump acolyte in California primary

With most of the votes still to be counted, California Rep. David Valadao, who voted to impeach President Trump in 2021, was 1,100 votes ahead of the former Fresno city councilman who vowed vengeance for the former president on Wednesday morning. Democrat Rudy Salas held 48 percent of the vote in the "jungle" primary and was assured to advancing to the general election.

Few vote early in Trump-tinged primary in Central Valley

Although the former president stayed out of the race, his name might as well have been the first words uttered by Chris Mathys, a conservative challenging Rep. David Valadao in the Republican primary in a U.S. House district in the Central Valley. "I will do everything in my power to defeat Congressman David Valadao, who voted to impeach President Trump," says Mathys on his campaign website, while Valadao offers "strong, practical leadership in Congress" on his.

As historic drought worsens, Californians increase water use

So far, 2022 is California’s driest year on record — but that hasn’t stopped residents from watering their lawns. According to the state’s Department of Water Resources, Californians used almost 19 percent more water last March than they did in March two years ago, despite the state’s deepening drought and increasingly strapped reservoirs. Residents also used more water last March than they have in any March since 2015. (No paywall)

California weighs farmwork in wildfire areas

As California braces for another brutal fire season, farming communities across the state are weighing what it will take to save their harvests — and who, exactly, should bear the brunt of the risks. In places like Sonoma County, those risks are increasingly shouldered by low-wage immigrant farmworkers who pick grapes and milk cows inside the county’s evacuated areas during wildfires. Their work is facilitated by Sonoma’s “ag pass” program, which allows farmers to bring workers into areas that other residents have been told to flee. (No paywall)

‘The truth is California does not have enough water’

California’s San Joaquin Valley is getting drier, hotter and more polluted as climate change intensifies, and its communities will need to embrace more equitable agricultural strategies in order to survive, according to local experts and political leaders.(No paywall)

Report: Drought drained $1.2 billion from California ag in 2021

Drought cost California’s agricultural sector $1.2 billion and 8,750 full- and part-time jobs last year, according to a new report prepared for the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture. It is the  latest evidence that climate change is upending the country’s most productive agricultural region. 

As drought conditions worsen, California braces for ‘worst-case scenario’

Some of California’s agricultural areas are bracing for water cuts later this year after the chair of the state’s Water Resources Control Board said escalating drought conditions will require the state to prepare for the “worst-case scenario.”

Native American food sovereignty means ‘rebuilding our nations and our food systems, one taste bud at a time’

When Covid-19 hit, intensifying hunger rates and limiting food access across the country, tribal communities drew on ancestral knowledge to mount a resilient response, said A-dae Romero-Briones, who directs Native agriculture and food systems programs at the First Nations Development Institute. “These long-buried behaviors would come up, and it was like honoring our ancestors,” she said. “To me, it was a renaissance.”

The new California gold rush into anaerobic digesters

There's money in manure for California dairy farmers with anaerobic digesters that capture methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from their cattle's manure. Each cow on a farm with a digester can generate $2,827 a year in air pollution and biofuel credits for methane that would otherwise go into the atmosphere, calculated Aaron Smith, a professor at UC-Davis.

Experts urge overhaul of California’s ‘antiquated’ water laws

As California enters its third year of drought, pressure is mounting for lawmakers to update the state’s antiquated water laws. On Thursday, a coalition of legal experts and retired state officials released a report with a list of suggested reforms, which they say would make California’s water politics more equitable and sustainable as climate change gets worse. If implemented — a major if — many of the reforms would provide a check on the state’s massive agricultural industry, which sucks up some 80 percent of all the water used in California.

White House announces $1.36 billion for wildfire recovery

The Biden administration will spend $1.36 billion on wildfire recovery, including $600 million in California, said Vice President Kamala Harris during a visit to a fire station in San Bernardino, 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who joined Harris for the announcement, said the USDA would put more than $48 million into projects to reduce the risk of wildfires where federal forests and grasslands meet privately owned land in the West.

Study: Nearly 400,000 Californians lack safe drinking water, often due to ag pollution

Drinking water for more than 370,000 Californians is contaminated with arsenic, nitrate, and other chemicals, according to an extensive analysis by researchers at UC Berkeley and UCLA. In many cases, the state’s agricultural industry is to blame. (No paywall)

California has sufficient pork supply, says state agency

Some hog farmers plan to expand their operations with Proposition 12 in effect, said California agriculture officials in the "Planting Seeds" blog as the voter-approved law took effect over the weekend. "Additionally, we believe there is sufficient product already in the supply chain to carry through for a number of months."

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