Gilroy Garlic Fest got canceled. But a bigger garlic festival is coming soon to Fresno
On the day that the longstanding Gilroy Garlic Fest announced it was shutting down for the “foreseeable future,” a different garlic festival had coincidentally started its big advertising push for its upcoming event. The National Garlic Festival and Food Expo is set for May 13-15 at the Fresno Fairgrounds, and is in prime position to take over as California’s primary garlic fest. Offering more food and drink selections that feature garlic, along with music entertainment and other carnival-like attractions, the National Garlic Festival is looking to become an annual event that celebrates not only garlic but also the Fresno area. On the day that the longstanding Gilroy Garlic Fest announced it was shutting down for the “foreseeable future,” a different garlic festival had coincidentally started its big advertising push for its upcoming event. The National Garlic Festival and Food Expo is set for May 13-15 at the Fresno Fairgrounds, and is in prime position to take over as California’s primary garlic fest. Offering more food and drink selections that feature garlic, along with music entertainment and other carnival-like attractions, the National Garlic Festival is looking to become an annual event that celebrates not only garlic but also the Fresno area. “Then, we send it to Gilroy to have it processed. And that’s how they became known for garlic and their festival. We’re certainly happy to celebrate garlic anywhere. But really, the garlic movement starts in Fresno County.”
Dairy industry looks to feed supplements for faster action on greenhouse gases
After hundreds of millions of taxpayer and private dollars spent on reducing dairy emissions from manure, more attention is turning lately to greenhouse gases coming from the other end of cows. Enteric emissions — cow burps, the source of close to half of all dairy methane — have become a central focus for California dairies working to help meet the state’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals. Unlike so-called dairy digesters that require large investments to capture methane from manure and then turn it into marketable fuel, cutting enteric emissions generally involves far less expensive processes: adding a dietary supplement to cow feed or genetically selecting livestock that burp less methane — or both. Several products exist that have shown positive results in cutting enteric methane emissions. The near-term challenge for the manufacturers of these food additives is clearing regulatory hurdles, then after that, figuring out how to pay for them to achieve widespread adoption on dairies. "Those overall (state climate) goals cannot be met without enteric solutions,” said Denise Mullinax, executive director of the California Dairy Research Foundation. "Feed additives will play a central role in achieving these reductions."
Arizona’s Dry Future Begins as Colorado River Shrinks
Arizona is the first state to experience deep cutbacks caused by a drought-fueled decline in the Colorado River, one of the most important sources of water in the American Southwest. Farmers in the fast-growing state are losing most of the water they receive from the Colorado this year, and many are leaving large amounts of land unplanted, with further cuts planned for next year. The 1,450-mile Colorado River supplies drinking water to 40 million people and irrigates 5.5 million acres of agricultural land. Pinal County, an area south of Phoenix which draws the most from the Colorado River in the state, is losing about 75% of that water in 2022 and all of it next year, according to the Arizona Farm Bureau. “It is a huge cutback to one of the most essential resources Arizona needs, and it is a cutback with no soft place to land,” said farm bureau spokeswoman Chelsea McGuire. Dan Thelander, who cultivates 6,000 acres of crops on his family farm in Pinal County including alfalfa, corn and wheat, said he is leaving 3,200 acres unplanted this year because of the water cuts. To compensate, the farm plans to trim equipment purchases and may lay off about half of its 14-person staff.
Water customers demand answers
A little more than a week after North Yuba Water District and General Manager Jeff Maupin announced that there will not be a 2022 irrigation season for customers, water users staged a protest outside the district’s office on Friday in Brownsville. “I believe that the water is ours. It belongs to us,” Donna Corson, a North Yuba Water District (NYWD) irrigation customer, said. “It’s a water right. I believe that like the people of Ukraine, we need to stand up and stand for what we believe in.” Since taking over as general manager for the district, Maupin has been the focus of several complaints lodged against NYWD by customers and former board members for what they see as a complete mismanagement of the district and devastating decisions made by Maupin and the board such as the cutting of water delivery for irrigation customers. In a previous report about NYWD, Maupin said water issues that currently exist within NYWD are not a water supply problem, but a water conveyance problem. “Even though we’ve had a few storms recently, we do not have the capacity or the means to deliver an irrigation season to irrigation customers during this drought year,” Maupin previously said.
Farm, food workers in California can get $1,000 in COVID wage relief. Here’s how to apply
A state program that gives up wage relief for Sacramento County farmworkers, food processing workers, agriculture laborers and food stand vendors sick with COVID-19 ends this month. Cosecha Sana, also known as Housing for the Harvest, is designed to help food and agriculture workers isolate if they test positive for COVID-19 by providing wage reimbursement for time off. Workers can also use the funds to book a hotel to isolate from family members.
Since its inception in 2020, more than 570 people have benefited from the program in Sacramento County, according to Rachel Rios of La Familia Counseling Center, the county administrator of the state program. Last year, the program got a $24 million boost in state funding to distribute to agricultural counties in California. La Familia understands the important role that farmworkers and food processing workers play in our community and we are eager to continue to support them so they can do the work needed to put food on all of our tables,” Rios said in a statement. The Housing for the Harvest state program ends April 30, and funds are still available. Interested workers who want to apply must call 916-720-8434 before the end of the month. There is no online application portal.
Breakfast Gets Costlier as U.S. Ratchets Up Food-Price Forecasts
Diners may want to think twice about going for an American breakfast, which is poised to get pricier this year in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest monthly projections. Choosing a cereal option, or going for fresh fruits, won’t provide relief, either. Eggs are among the items seeing bigger price gains this year in the Agriculture department’s monthly outlook. The agency sees a 6% to 7% gain -- a big change from three months ago, when it predicted a range of a 0.5% rise to 0.5% drop. Cereal and bakery products have the same 6% to 7% projection, as do fresh fruits. Overall, the agency now expects food prices to rise 5% to 6% this year -- at least double the forecast of about 2.5% three months ago. Other categories with big increases compared with last month’s outlook are beef, poultry and vegetables. A year ago, the USDA forecast little inflation, or even price drops, for many food groups.
California Permitting Its Rivers More Space to Flow
Between huge almond farms and dairy fields in the heart of California’s farm country sits a property under redesign. Engineers are seeking to return the land there to what is was like 150 years ago, before dams changed the flow of its rivers. The 1,100-hectare property sits on land where the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers meet in the state’s Central Valley. It is being recreated as a floodplain. Floodplains are areas where rivers often overflow from heavy rains. They are home for whole ecosystems. The Dos Rios Ranch Preserve is California’s largest single floodplain rebuilding project. It is part of a larger national effort to reconsider how rivers should flow as the climate changes. The land it covers used to be a farm. But the owners sold the farm to the nonprofit River Partners to use for a wildlife habitat. California’s government wants to do similar projects that lower risks to property and also lead to things like improving the water supply. By removing dams, rising rivers can flow onto land that no longer needs to be kept dry. “It's giving new life ecologically but in a way that's consistent with, complementary to, the human systems that have developed over the 150 years since the Gold Rush,” said Julie Rentner. She is president of River Partners.
California desalination plant hits regulatory hurdle
A proposed California desalination plant that would produce 50 million gallons of drinking water per day failed a crucial regulatory hurdle on Monday, possibly dooming a project that had been promoted as a partial solution for sustained drought. The staff of the California Coastal Commission recommended denying approval of the Huntington Beach plant proposed by Poseidon Water, controlled by the infrastructure arm of Canada's Brookfield Asset Management. The commission's staff said the project was more susceptible to sea-level rise than was understood when it was first proposed more than two decades ago. The plant is expected to produce 50 million gallons (189.3 million liters) of drinking water per day, enough for 16% of the homes in the Orange County Water District, where 2.5 million people live.
Fourth-generation dairy farmer worried about the future of agriculture amid rising costs and labor shortages
A fourth-generation dairy farmer told Fox News on Monday that climate change-related policies and heightened economic woes could signal bad news for her family's farm and the larger agricultural community. "We’ve seen 45,000 dairy farms go out since 2003. I’m worried for my beef farmers, the processing plants… I’m worried about pretty much all of agriculture. What is our future looking like and how are Americans going to rally around our agriculture community? We must support our local agriculture. We cannot let regulations kill off our food supply," Stephanie Nash said on "Tucker Carlson Tonight." "We are facing higher farm inputs, were facing opinions from the public, we're facing regulations, we're facing drought," Nash said. "[In] California, [Gov. Gavin] Newsom passed a law that we can't drill any water right now, and California has the largest agriculture county in the United States."
California bill would pay farmworkers $1,000 a month to help endure drought, climate crisis
As worsening drought conditions in California and the West take a heavy economic toll on agriculture, state legislators are considering a plan to pay farmworkers $1,000 a month to help them cover the cost of necessities.
The bill is meant to assist farmworkers who have fewer crops to tend as climate change limits the window for each growing season and cuts the Golden State’s water supply. Introduced this month by state Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), Senate Bill 1066 would establish the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Project. Under the $20-million program, eligible workers would receive a $1,000 stipend for three years. It’s unclear how many farmworkers would qualify. California’s agriculture industry produced $50 billion in revenue in 2019, according to the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture. Hurtado’s office estimates that over 8,500 agriculture jobs were lost last year due to the drought and that the agriculture industry took a $1.2-billion hit.
Meatpacking CEOs set to take heat from Congress amid soaring prices
The CEOs of several meatpacking companies are expected to come under tough questioning from lawmakers Wednesday at a House hearing where soaring food prices are likely to take center stage. Households are facing a 40-year-high in inflation, which has put heavy political pressure on the Biden administration ahead of the midterms. Biden and congressional Democrats have vowed to crack down on corporate consolidation and monopolistic practices in the private sector as one part of their effort to stop inflation — and the finger on Wednesday will be pointed at the meatpacking industry. Since last year, overall meat and fish prices have risen nearly 14 percent on an annual basis, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, spurred on by pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions, overall high demand, and an overabundance, some economists say, of fiscal stimulus. Ground beef was up 22 percent in March since last year, steak and sirloin were up 27 percent, and sliced bacon was up 26 percent.
Grain Traders’ Profits Rise as Ukraine War Tightens Global Food Supply
Agriculture companies are reaping big gains as the war in Ukraine tightens the global supply of crops, and consumers’ food demand stays strong despite higher prices. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted supplies from one of the world’s top grain-exporting regions, pushing up prices for wheat and corn. Bad weather afflicting other big crop-producing countries, including in South America, is also fueling the supply crunch. Meanwhile, demand remains robust for food, livestock feed and fuel made from grains, industry executives said. Those factors have helped push global food prices to record levels in recent weeks. For grain-trading giants such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge Ltd. BG +5.24% and Cargill Inc., which help direct the flow of corn, soybeans, wheat and other food commodities around the world, the crop-supply crunch and higher prices that follow have been a benefit. “These market disruptions are rerouting many traditional trade flows and contributing to crop price inflation,” Bunge Chief Executive Greg Heckman said on a call with analysts.
New research explores how farmers can help California rebuild its groundwater supply
During drought years, California relies heavily on its groundwater supply. As droughts become longer and more intense with climate change, it's becoming more important than ever to "bank" excess surface water during stormy weather patterns in order to provide some long-term insurance. That's the goal of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which was passed in 2014. In order to meet that goal, state and local water managers need to work together to search for possible methods of recharging groundwater aquifers. And the sooner the better, because there is a lot of water missing from those basins. "The amount of groundwater overdraft that we have accumulated over the last couple of decades is exceeding 160 million acre-feet, which is about 1.3 times Lake Tahoe," Dr. Helen Dahlke, a hydrology expert at UC Davis, said. Dahlke and a team of researchers recently shared findings from their study showing how California's 8 million acres of farmland could be tapped as one way to help get water back into the ground through a process called 'Ag-MAR.' "Ag-MAR stands for agriculture managed aquifer recharge. So managed aquifer recharge is a term we use for intentionally placing more water into groundwater aquifers than would naturally occur from rainfall," Dahlke said.
Corn and Soybeans Near Record Prices, Push Food Costs Higher Corn and soybeans prices have risen nearly to records, signaling higher food inflation to come. Global food prices had already reached records when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February and jeopardized big slices of the world’s grain and oilseed supplies. Poor harvests in South America, inclement planting weather in the U.S. and rising biofuel demand threaten to stretch inventories even thinner and push prices higher. The price of soybeans, which are fed to cows, chicken and salmon and crushed into oils, has gained 27% so far this year. Futures are trading above $17 a bushel for the first time since a hot, dry summer baked American farms and ruined crops in 2012. Until recently, that drought a decade ago was the only time that corn cost more than $8 a bushel. Corn futures, up 37% this year, settled Wednesday at $8.15, about 24 cents shy of the all-time high.
Masks to Contain Cow Burps Among Winners of Climate Design Award
The newest wearable technology favored by former Apple Inc. design chief Jony Ive is a mask for cows that captures planet-warming methane gas. The bovine mask designer, ZELP, is one of four winners of the Terra Carta Design Lab award announced Tuesday evening. The award was created to showcase innovative solutions to the climate crisis. Each winner receives $63,000 and mentoring from Ive, who serves as the chancellor of the Royal College of Art in the United Kingdom, and other members of the Sustainable Markets Initiative. Cow burps are a significant source of potent methane gas and most solutions have focused on developing feed additives to cut emissions. The mask developed by ZELP, which stand for Zero Emissions Livestock Project, captures methane with each burp. A catalyst oxidizes the gas and releases it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and water vapor.
Bullet-train route OK’d from San Joaquin Valley to Bay Area. How are wildlife, farms affected?
A proposed route between the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area for California’s bullet-train system received final approval Thursday from the California High Speed Rail Authority. The agency’s board of directors, meeting in Sacramento, voted to certify a massive four-volume report of environmental and social impacts that the route would have on communities, farms, parks and wildlife habitats along the 89-mile stretch of the line from San Jose through Gilroy into Merced County. That vote set the stage for a second action that formally approved the preferred route, filtered out over a years-long process from among four options involving crossing the Diablo Range via Pacheco Pass west of Los Banos. Among four major alternatives identified by planners more than 13 years ago, the chosen option involves the fewest displacements of homes, businesses and farm structures, and would permanently take about 1,033 acres of “important farmland” out of production, mostly in the San Joaquin Valley.
Megadrought Threatens California Power Blackouts This Summer
The historic drought that’s choked off rivers and reservoirs from the Rocky Mountains to the California coast is threatening to strain power grids this summer, raising the specter of blackouts and forcing the region to rely on more fossil fuels. Many reservoirs that should be brimming with spring snowmelt show bathtub rings of dry dirt instead, including the largest one in the U.S., Lake Mead, which fell this week to a record low. Hydropower dams feeding off those reservoirs won’t be able to pump out as much electricity as they should, if they keep operating at all. After the drought last summer shut down the hydro dam at Lake Oroville, California’s second-largest reservoir, for five months, officials warn that’s no longer a distant possibility.
Why the Great American Lawn is terrible for the West's water crisis
As California plunges even deeper into its multiyear megadrought after an alarmingly dry winter, officials are eyeing what experts say is one of the leading culprits in the crisis: water-guzzling grass lawns. Residents and businesses in the counties around Los Angeles were told this week that they would need to limit outdoor water use to one day a week starting June 1. It's the first time water officials have implemented such a strict rule. The Great American Lawn has historically been a status symbol and portrayed as a place of leisure and comfort. But they require exorbitant amounts of water to maintain -- water that is rapidly running out. Grass was the single largest irrigated "crop" in America, surpassing corn and wheat, a frequently cited study from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found. It noted that by the early 2000s, turf grass--mostly in front lawns--spanned about 63,000 square miles, an area larger than the state of Georgia. Keeping all that front lawn grass alive requires up to 75% of just one household's water consumption, according to that study, which is a luxury that California is unable to afford as the climate change-driven drought pushes reservoirs to historic lows.
White House seeks $500 million for farmers to grow more wheat, pay for market loans
The Biden administration is asking Congress to approve $500 million for the farm sector, in a bid to woo U.S. wheat producers to double-crop their fields, and boost how much the federal government will spend on short-term loans to farmers who grow certain food crops. The request is part of President Joe Biden's broader $33 billion requests on Thursday to lawmakers to support Ukraine, a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for the war with Russia. The effort comes as global grain prices have surged, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine which disrupted shipments of corn and wheat from those key suppliers. Meanwhile, food inflation is surging worldwide. The request aims to increase the production of U.S. food crops - particularly wheat - which are experiencing a global shortage due to the war, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture official.
Train Delays Bog Down U.S. Farm Sector
Congestion on America’s railroads is disrupting operations for farmers and agriculture companies, industry officials said, potentially pushing up food prices. Delayed trains and scarce railcars are impeding crop shipments this spring, causing grain storage facilities to fill up, backing up fertilizer shipments and temporarily shutting down production at ethanol producing plants, company executives said. Railroad operators said they are working to fix the problems but struggling to find enough workers. The railroad slowdown has grain companies looking for other ways to move farm commodities across the country, leading to higher transportation costs that company officials said will ultimately increase food prices for consumers. Weekly grain train speeds are down 6% from the same period a year ago for major freight railroads, according to an April 21 report from the Department of Agriculture. Dwell times, which measure how long a car remains at a terminal, are up 22%, and the number of grain cars not moved in over 48 hours is up by nearly one-third, the report said. The delays make shipping more expensive.
How California is frantically trying to protect endangered salmon from extinction in drought
Critically endangered adult salmon are again swimming above a century-old dam in this remote corner of far Northern California in the shadow of the Mount Lassen volcano. But this isn’t a habitat-restoration success story — at least not yet. For the past two weeks, state and federal fisheries managers have begun hauling the winter-run Chinook nearly 50 miles by truck from the dangerously warming Sacramento River to a stretch of the north fork of Battle Creek and releasing them, a handful at a time, into the creek’s icy waters. It’s part of a frantic effort to save the few naturally spawning Chinook from a massive die off this summer in the third year of California’s latest crippling drought. But the fact that trucking fish is needed at all above Eagle Canyon Dam on Battle Creek, a 2 ½-hour drive northeast of Sacramento, points to a larger systematic failing in California, as state and federal leaders try to stave off a long-brewing ecological collapse hastened by a rapidly warming climate.