California avoids the SNAP snafu engulfing farmers markets

California offers an example of how to avoid the electronic equipment snarl that threatens SNAP sales at 40 percent of farmers markets across the nation, says The New Food Economy. "Their method? Creating a system partially, if not fully independent of the federal system."

U.S. cropland values flat for fourth year

With a nationwide average of $4,130 an acre this year, the value of U.S. cropland is nearly unchanged from the 2014 average of $4,100 an acre, according to an annual USDA survey of producers.

In a win for the industry, California bans soda tax referendums for 12 years

California’s legislature rushed to pass a last-minute measure that bans cities and counties from passing soda taxes until 2031. The bill was passed to stave off a ballot initiative backed by the soda industry that would have made it much harder for municipalities to hike any type of tax.

Napa voters lean toward limit on vineyard development

Voters in the heart of California wine country, by a slim, 42-vote margin, would restrict the planting of new vineyards in order to protect oak trees and waterways, according to the unofficial results of a Napa County referendum.

Farm bill debate: Eggs, animal welfare, and the ‘free trade zone’ of America

California’s animal welfare regulations, among the strictest in the nation, have spawned a series of court challenges. This week, those regulations became part of the farm bill debate. No paywall

In California, rice farms become a home for wildlife

In California's Sacramento Valley, farmers and conservationists are working together to create habitat for wildlife, trying to mimic wetlands that were once plentiful in the state but have shrunk to one-tenth of their historic size. The focus of their work is the rice industry, which ranks second in production after the Mississippi Delta. The effort is paying off.  One farmer pointed out "egrets and herons, Sandhill Cranes, curlews, ibis, and countless ducks and geese filling whole sections of rice fields," reports Lisa Morehouse in her latest story for FERN, in collaboration with KQED's California Report. No paywall

USDA to establish milk-marketing order in California

USDA announced Friday that it will likely establish a Federal Milk Marketing Order for the state of California. The agency will have a referendum for California dairy producers from April 2 to May 5, during which two-thirds of producers have to vote in favor of the FMMO for it to become official.

Drought returns to California, spreads in southern Plains, says forecast

Little precipitation has fallen during California’s traditional wet season, so drought is likely across the state during the spring, said the National Weather Service. Drought was also expected to expand in Texas and the southern Plains, a key region for winter wheat.

After $40 million, California fish hatchery shows little success

After spending $40 million over 35 years, a California plan to restore wild stocks of white seabass has failed to produce much in the way of results, according to a study released this week. “The program had increased white seabass populations by less than 1 percent — a stunningly low success rate,” Clare Leschin-Hoar reports in FERN’s latest story, with NPR. (No paywall)