California

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)

Despite heavy rain and snow, California braces for another dry year

An onslaught of rain and snow has pulled most of California out of exceptional drought, but experts warn that the state’s dry spell is far from over. Officials issued emergency water regulations this week — including a controversial exemption for agriculture — even as the northern part of the state braced for possible flooding from winter storms.(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."

Calfornia is late with rules for Prop 12, ‘world’s strongest’ animal welfare law

More than three years ago, California voters approved Proposition 12, guaranteeing sows, veal calves and egg-laying hens more room to move about and barring the sale of eggs, veal and pork from farms, even in other states, that do not comply with the new standards. The law went into effect on Sunday, although state officials were still working on a final set of regulations.(No paywall)

California ag exports down by $2.1 billion due to ‘Containergeddon’

The cargo pileup at West Coast ports may have had a greater impact on farm exports from California than the Sino-U.S. trade war did, said three economists on Wednesday. They estimated losses of $2.1 billion in foreign sales during a five-month period because of port congestion, comparing that to economic losses of about $500 million for California agriculture during the first year of the trade war.

California isn’t going green fast enough to meet goals

California’s getting greener, but it needs to pick up the pace. The state won’t meet its 2030 emissions goals until 2050 unless it takes aggressive action, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Next 10 called the 2021 California Green Innovation Index.

As drought worsens, California will halt nearly all water deliveries in 2022

In response to the West’s historic drought, California officials warned on Wednesday that cities and farms won’t get any water from the State Water Project next year unless it’s an emergency. The unprecedented decision will affect 27 million residents and 750,000 acres of farmland. Unless a rainy winter offers a reprieve, officials say the state’s urban residents should also brace for mandatory water cuts.

The farmworkers in California’s fire evacuation zones

In 2020, as thousands of residents fled Sonoma County because of wildfires, hundreds of farmworkers stayed behind and continued working under a little-known government "ag pass" program, Teresa Cotsirilos reports in FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and the radio show World Affairs. No Paywall

California studies what a carbon-neutral future means for its lands

In a carbon-neutral future, California’s farmers could plant water-conserving crops enriched by composting, the result of widespread carbon farming. Socially disadvantaged farmers could become more empowered. Farmworkers could be healthier and better paid. An ambitious report from the California Natural Resource Agency proposes major potential changes to the state’s agricultural sector in response to climate change. (No paywall)

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