Relying on birds to battle farm pests

In California, farmers are building nesting houses for birds, attracting swallows, Western blue birds, and barn owls to combat pests, rather than relying on pesticides, according to FERN's latest story by Lisa Morehouse, produced in collaboration with KQED's The California Report. No Paywall .

Supreme Court rejects challenge of California animal welfare referendum

The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Monday to hear a meat industry challenge to California's voter-approved Proposition 12, which requires farmers to give sows, veal calves, and egg-laying chickens more room to move about and bans shipments of pork, veal, and eggs produced outside of California if the animals are housed in conditions that do not meet California's standards.

Rethinking wildfires at the start of a potentially devastating fire season

California experienced more wildfire last year than any previous year on record, but the severe drought currently strangling nearly three-quarters of the American West threatens to make the 2021 fire season even worse. And while many state and federal agencies are taking extraordinary measures to prevent the further loss of life and property – including prescribed burns, thinning and the deployment of the largest firefighting force in California’s history – some question the efficacy of these increasingly costly measures. (No paywall)

As drought limits irrigation in Klamath Basin, feds offer aid

Growers in the Klamath Basin, in the Pacific Northwest, will receive the smallest amount of water ever from the federal government due to unrelenting drought, said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday. The water will be available around June 1, weeks later than usual.

California orange crop nearly as large as No. 1 Florida

Thanks to a huge decline in the Florida crop this season, California is running neck and neck with the Sunshine State as the top orange-producing state with the harvest season in its final weeks, said the USDA. California has expanded production in recent years while output in Florida, hit by the tree-killing citrus greening disease, has fallen steeply over the past two decades.

A California water fight pits pistachio growers against the U.S. Navy

A legal dispute over water rights in California's Mojave desert has growers for The Wonderful Co. on one side and a town reliant on a sprawling naval base on the other. As Brent Crane reports in FERN's latest story, published with Bloomberg Green, the case offers a glimpse of the coming water wars in California, as the state's all-powerful agriculture interests increasingly square off against thirsty communities over a dwindling supply of fresh water. (No paywall)

Some states tougher than OSHA on coronavirus workplace outbreaks

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been heavily criticized for its handling of workplace Covid-19 outbreaks, California and a handful of other states have implemented more rigorous workplace safety regulations that experts say better protect food and farm workers from the virus. (No paywall)

Organic agriculture sales up 31 percent in three years

While still a small sector of U.S. agriculture, organic agriculture is booming, reported the USDA on Thursday. Sales totaled $9.9 billion in 2019, an increase of 31 percent in three years, and 29 percent of organic farmers say they plan to expand production. There are more farms and more land in organic production — 16,585 farms and 5.5 million certified acres — than ever before.

Book: Climate change and the looming crisis in U.S. food production

In his new book Perilous Bounty, Tom Philpott takes a deep look at perhaps the two most important farming regions in the country, California and the Midwest, and finds that both face what might be called an under-appreciated existential crisis. In California, recently engulfed in wildfires, the …