Central Valley

Report: California paraquat use concentrated in poor, Latino communities

Between 2017 and 2021, 5.3 million pounds of the herbicide paraquat were sprayed on California fields, with 66 percent of it in five Central Valley counties whose residents are predominantly poor and Latino, according to a new Environmental Working Group analysis.

In California’s Central Valley, the ‘Big Melt’ might be less catastrophic than feared

California’s historic snowmelt is refilling the Central Valley’s Tulare Lake Basin and reviving what was once the largest lake west of the Mississippi, but state officials now expect the flooding will be less devastating than previously feared.

A California peach farmer rediscovers his family’s past

David "Mas" Matsumoto says he farms with ghosts, says producer Lisa Morehouse. On his family’s organic peach, nectarine and grape farm south of Fresno, he points out pruning scars from long-time workers, and walks down rows of trees he planted with his father. He says the labor and lessons of his ancestors are in the soil and the grapevines and orchards, and he’s passing these on to the next generations, Morehouse says in FERN's latest audio report produced in collaboration with KQED's The California Report. No paywall

California’s water scarcity upends politics of powerful farm district

For decades, the Westlands Water District in California — the largest district in the nation — has led the fight against environmental rules that restrict the flow of water from California’s rivers to its farmers. It sued the government, lobbied friendly politicians and took on critics wherever …

Study: In California’s Central Valley, repurposing farmland could save communities

As the water crisis in California’s Central Valley intensifies, farmers are fallowing fields, slashing jobs and hemorrhaging money. But according to a study released this week, some rural towns might be better off abandoning agriculture entirely and repurposing farmland to create better-paying jobs, ease water usage, decrease pollution and preserve landowners’ revenue streams.

California’s San Joaquin Valley looks to solar, not farming, as climate change worsens

California’s San Joaquin Valley will become increasingly difficult to farm as climate change intensifies. But with the right regulations and policies, the state’s multibillion dollar agricultural belt could become something else — a clean energy powerhouse that the state desperately needs. At a panel event on Tuesday, energy professionals and community leaders gave a glimpse of the valley’s potential future — one where alfalfa fields give way to solar farms and carbon is sequestered beneath fallowed orchards. They also acknowledged how daunting an economic transition it would be. No Paywall

A historically Black California town fights for water

In the Central Valley, Allensworth holds the distinction as the first town in California founded by African Americans, but it has been battling for water access for more than a century. Now, initiatives are underway that may finally ensure it has access to safe drinking water, reports Teresa Cotsirilos in FERN's latest story, produced in partnership with KQED's The California Report.

In Newsom’s long-term water strategy, ag makes a fleeting appearance

Faced with the worst drought in 1,200 years and a dwindling water supply, Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined a new, long-term water strategy for California at a press conference on Thursday. His plan, he said, would prepare the state for a hotter, drier future.

Few vote early in Trump-tinged primary in Central Valley

Although the former president stayed out of the race, his name might as well have been the first words uttered by Chris Mathys, a conservative challenging Rep. David Valadao in the Republican primary in a U.S. House district in the Central Valley. "I will do everything in my power to defeat Congressman David Valadao, who voted to impeach President Trump," says Mathys on his campaign website, while Valadao offers "strong, practical leadership in Congress" on his.

California fights an invasive rodent that poses threat to farms

Nutria, invasive and elusive rodents that weigh up to 20 pounds and were once thought to be eradicated from California, have made a comeback and are posing a threat to agriculture, according to FERN's latest story with KQED's The California Report. Lisa Morehouse and Angela Johnston report that a few of the rodents were first spotted last year in Merced, but are spreading. (No paywall)

Ag district refuses to pay for California’s twin-tunnel water project

The board of the largely agricutlural Westlands Water District voted 7-1 against taking part in Gov. Jerry Brown's twin-tunnel project "to remake the fragile estuary that serves as the hub of California's water delivery network," reports the Sacramento Bee. The decision, by the first water agency to vote on the project, is "a potentially fatal blow" to the $17-billion project.

Heitkamp starts re-election drive for Senate seat she won narrowly in 2010

Casting herself as a centrist, North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp announced she is running for a second term in the Senate, potentially an uphill race in a state won by landslide margins by President Trump last November. Heitkamp told the Fargo Forum that she believes there is an …

In the Central Valley, separating salt from agriculture

The four-year drought in California has heightened attention to a long-running problem for irrigated agriculture in the Central Valley: the salt that accumulates in the soil over the years from the crop-sustaining water, says Environmental Health News. Options range from draining away briny subsoil water to retiring land altogether because crops can no longer grow on it.

Immigrant farmworkers in Central Valley ‘terrified’ of future

In today’s uncertain climate for immigrants, undocumented workers in the farm communities of California’s Central Valley are terrified of what may come next, says Jesus Martinez of the immigrant rights group, CIVIC. “There’s a generalized fear about how the anti-immigrant policies can impact them, to the extent that even permanent residents are fearful about how their status might be revoked without any justification,” Martinez told FERN’s Ag Insider.

Farmers oppose larger flows on three California rivers

More than 900 people packed a Modesto hearing, "most of them determined to stop the state's plan" to roughly double the flow on the lower Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers from February to June each year, says the Modesto Bee. "Farmers and wataer managers said the plan would put people out of work while doing little for fish."

Valadao vs. Huerta race heats up in California

The race between Republican David Valadao, a second-term Republican, and Democrat Emilio Huerta for a U.S. House seat in the Central Valley of California is becoming more competitive, says the political handicapper Sabato's Crystal Ball. Valadao serves on the House Appropriations subcommittee in charge of the USDA and FDA budgets and is a target for defeat by the food movement.

More rain expected to ease drought in the Northwest

"A parade of Pacific storms will march on through the weekend," says the Weather Channel, concluding one of the wettest Octobers on record in the Pacific Northwest and bringing additional relief to parts of drought-hit California. The heaviest rainfall is expected in Northern California and southwestern Oregon, with some rainfall in Los Angeles.

In Central Valley race, ‘the drought drives everything’

On paper, Republican Rep. David Valadao should be at a disadvantage, running for re-election in a U.S. House district that is 57 percent Latino and where Democrats have a 17-point advantage in voter registration. Yet, in the Central Valley of California, "the nation's most productive agricultural region, the drought drives everything," says the Los Angeles Times.

If it’s a bad night for GOP, Dems may have a chance in Central Valley

Two Republican-held House seats in the heavily agricultural Central Valley of California could be ripe for picking by Democrats if voters are riled by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's criticism of Hispanics and immigrants, says the Los Angeles Times. Rep. David Valadao, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees USDA and FDA funding, represents a district that is 71 percent Latino, and Agriculture Committee member Jeff Denham has a district that is 26 percent Latino.

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