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)

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.