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)

Coastal states sue EPA over WOTUS delay

Ten states on the East and West Coasts sued the EPA for its decision to delay until 2020 a clean water rule issued during the Obama era, saying the suspension was hurried into effect "with inadequate public notice, insufficient record support and outside their statutory authority." The original rule was a prominent part of President Trump's campaign for regulatory relief.

California snowpack ‘far below average’ as wet season winds down

With one month left in what are California’s three wettest months of the year, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is at 27 percent of average for the start of February, said the state Department of Water Resources.

Climate change could kill half of California’s vegetation

Research by UC-Davis says that half of California’s vegetation is at risk of dying from global warming by the end of the century, reported Capital Public Radio.

In California, looking in the hedgerow for a cash crop

Four farmers in California's Central Valley are part of a two-year project to see if elderberry bushes, commonly grown in hedgerows along the boundaries of a field, can be a profitable crop. The blue elderberry, a native plant in California, produces clusters of small, bluish-black berries with a sweet-tart flavor, says the University of California's agriculture and natural resources division.

Snow drought in western U.S. raises concerns about water supply

Snowpack in parts of the Rocky Mountains is at record lows because of warmer than usual weather, “raising concerns about water supplies and economic damage,” says Inside Climate News.

California’s farm guestworker program continues to grow

Growers and contractors in California recruited 14,252 foreign guestworkers last year, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Labor. The figure was up 28 percent from the previous year.

Forecast: Hard freeze in portions of Florida citrus belt

Hurricane Irma pummeled Florida’s citrus crop in September, and now a hard freeze is possible in the northeastern portion of the citrus belt, says weather consultancy Radiant Solutions.

Worker shortage brings big changes to California fields

As farmworkers become harder to find, California growers are providing better pay and benefits, attracting some U.S.-born workers. Still, experts say, mechanization will be the long-term answer.