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 …

U.S. appeals court rejects injunction against California’s ‘cage-free’ Prop 12

In a ruling hailed as a victory for farm animals, the U.S. appellate court in San Francisco denied a meat industry request for an injunction against California's voter-approved Proposition 12, which guarantees more space for hogs, calves, and chickens to move about. The meat industry contends that Prop 12 and similar state laws violate the so-called commerce clause of the Constitution, though they have failed repeatedly to persuade the courts.

Nitrate-tainted drinking water plagues California farmworker towns, study shows

California officials have long known that pollution from the state’s $50 billion farming industry fouls drinking water sources in poor Latino communities where many toil as farmworkers. Now a review of state and federal data shows the problem is getting worse. More than 5 million people in California’s largely Latino communities have nitrate levels in their drinking water at or above federal standards, says an analysis by the Environmental Working Group released Wednesday. (No paywall)

Wildfires rake California’s wine country

The Glass fire “burned rapidly…through Napa Valley’s fame Sliverado Trail, known for its wineries” and claimed the four-decade-old Chateau Boswell Winery northwest of St. Helena, California, said the Los Angeles Times. The wildfire swept over 11,000 acres and threatened thousands of structures as of midday Monday. “Ash could be seen falling from the sky throughout the region.”

Picking grapes during California wildfires

As California suffers through its worst wildfire season in modern history, agricultural workers are still going to work, risking heat, smoke, and Covid-19 to pick grapes and harvest strawberries, according to FERN's latest story, broadcast on KQED's WorldAffairs show. Teresa Cotsirilos reports that activists in Northern California worry that 2020’s historic combination of disasters is also fueling labor abuses.