Tuesday, March 31, 2009

California water update: March 31

Here's where it stands:

March rainfall
Here’s how selected California cities finished the month and where their precipitation totals stand for the season, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of Tuesday, March 31:
Redding (airport): month to date 1.15 inches (normal 5.03); season to date 18.51 inches (normal 28.65)
Sacramento (airport): month to date 2.09 inches (normal 2.74); season to date 13.30 inches (normal 16.12)
Modesto: month to date 0.70 inches (normal 2.25); season to date 6.90 inches (normal 11.48)
Salinas: month to date 1.79 inches (normal 2.25); season to date 10.91 inches (normal 11.55)
Fresno: month to date 0.24 inches (normal 2.15); season to date 6.39 inches (normal 9.80)
Bakersfield: month to date 0.36 inches (normal 1.38); season to date 4.13 inches (normal 5.65)

Reservoir levels
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight Monday, March 30, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 49 percent
Shasta Lake: 63 percent
Lake Oroville: 56 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 80 percent
Folsom Lake: 76 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 53 percent
Lake McClure: 39 percent
Millerton Lake: 75 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 35 percent
Lake Isabella: 25 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 49 percent

Monday, March 30, 2009

Visitors are coming to town this week

Capital Press reporters from four Western states will converge on Salem this week. We will be holding our annual news staff meeting on Thursday and Friday, April 2 and 3.

The people who report on agriculture happenings around the region, the nation and even the world will be gathering to talk about what we do and how we do it.

The Capital Press is a bit unusual as a news organization in that we have as many of our full-time staff members based outside of our main newsroom as we have working in it. Eight of our reporters work our of field offices in California, Idaho and Washington. Two reporters, a photo coordinator and 4 editors work out of an office in Salem, Ore.

During our annual two-day meeting is the only time all of our full-time staff members get an opportunity to actually see each other and interact as a group without the use of telephone line or computer chat software or e-mail or other means to communicate.

If you have an comments or question you would like our staff to be aware of as we sketch out our plans for the future, feel free to comment here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Farmin' & Fiddlin' in Yoncalla

I met Rudi Booher at the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers Association competition today in Salem, Oregon. He is the 1990 Weiser Idaho National Grand Champion Fiddler Contest Winner. His eight year old son Miles competed this week in the PeeWee division and played four songs for his stage performance.

Rural farm folk often it seems have more than their fair share of home schooled children. Rural property owners save time time and resources from having to bus or commute their children to school. Rudi mentioned that one of the cool added values to home schooling is "there is more time for extra curricular activities, including music lessons."

The Booher Farm is also host to Booher Music Camp on their acreage every July. Acoustic musicians come to Oregon from all over the country there to camp out, make new friends and take in music classes . "We feed everybody gourmet quality food at the camp, so it's a great time for everybody."

Rudi Booher of Yoncalla is a avid reader of Capital Press Ag Weekly, and raises goats and chickens in Yoncalla, Oregon.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The son of an EEEVIL cattle baron shoots poor, defenseless dog

As you get to know me, you'll probably discover a few of my pet peeves. One is shoddy, biased journalism, which I believe is one reason people are abandoning large general-circulation newspapers in droves.

The latest exhibit is a story in today's Sacramento Bee about a rancher who shot a dog in El Dorado County. The local sheriff's department determined that the shooting was justified; it's legal for ranchers to shoot animals who are threatening their livestock.

But the lead sentence gave a telling clue of what the article was going to be like.

On his 23rd birthday, Greg Sutter held his best friend in his arms and watched him die.

Along with the story ran a submitted photo with the caption, "Greg Sutter with his best friend, Buddy." How heart-tugging can you get?

The article went on to pointedly note that the shooter was the "son of cattle baron Dan Russell". A cattle baron. Oooooh.

It seems the young man and his dog were walking on a rural hillside trail when the dog was shot. The shooter told authorities the dog was chasing his colt and wouldn't stop even after he called out, although the dog's owner disputes the rancher's story.

In the midst of talking to the dog owner, the dog owner's father, the dog owner's brother and two nearby dog-owning residents, the Bee got around to telling us that "efforts" to reach the rancher "were unsuccessful". What efforts? Did they call him? Did they go out to his ranch? Did they call his cattle baron father? Did someone go upstairs to the Bee's cafeteria at lunchtime and announce, "If anyone here is named Dan Russell, please raise your hand"?

One interesting tidbit comes in the 15th paragraph.

Sutter did not witness the shooting itself, according to the deputy's report [ ... ]

So he wasn't close enough to his dog to see him get shot, but he's sure the dog wasn't chasing a colt?

Look, maybe the rancher did overreact. And I have no general animosity toward the Bee, which hired me out of college as a news and sports correspondent 20 years ago.

But they had three reporters on this story -- a main writer, another writer and a researcher. They couldn't find anybody from the cattle baron family to talk to? They couldn't find anybody from the livestock industry or from UC-Davis to give some insight into dogs' behavior around other animals, or the importance of keeping a close eye on your dogs in the woods?

Heck, they could find somebody like "lowjake", who commented at the bottom of the story:

I grew up in the country and we had our beloved dog killed very like this, except that "Cinder" escaped and did what dogs naturally do, namely "run" cattle, horses, colts, etc. and he was shot. We were carelessly in the wrong, our dog was doing what would have killed the rancher's animals. We didn't pay for the birthing, feeding of, caring for, etc. this man's animals, but our dog was trying to kill his animals. Dogs, especially repeat visitors, get tuned unto "running" bovines, etc. We didn't see it even though it happened close by. The suburbanites are clearly in the wrong and too ignorant and careless of their responsibilities toward others to admit it.

Nope, apparently not. But they did have quotes from the dog owner calling it "straight up murder" and saying "I want this guy prosecuted."

Unfortunately, I've witnessed this kind of mentality at general-circ newspapers with my own eyes, not at the Bee but in other newsrooms. When you see someone go into a story with a preconceived point of view, it isn't hard to imagine the story you'll get. It's not new in journalism, and it probably isn't going away. It's just disappointing to see it apparently happening with more and more frequency at once-great newspapers like the Bee.

[Note: The views expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Capital Press as a whole.]

It's up to 5 percent ...

... at least if you're north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

That's the result of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's latest forecast of water allocations for California's Central Valley Project contractors.

For the bureau's latest release (in PDF format), click here.

Check Capital Press' website later for details.

Does White House garden help or hurt agriculture's cause?

First lady Michelle Obama is breaking ground today — on National Agriculture Day — on a White House vegetable garden.

It's a nod to healthy eating, which is a good thing. And it may instill some appreciation in the first family of the challenges to growing food (although they will likely have plenty of staff help too). And it draws attention to the local foods movement, which will undoubtedly help some farmers.

But, as a whole, the local foods movement may do as much harm as good for American agriculture. The whole local foods discussion seems to bring with it disparaging comments about commercial agriculture and use of terms like factory farms and corporate farms. People who know agriculture know that a lot of family farms are incorporated. Creating a corporation provides for things like transferring ownership or separating and protecting the family's assets from the farm's creditors. And America's and the world's people rely on farmers who grow more food and fiber than they personally use so others can eat.

The White House vegetable garden won't satisfy all the food needs of the Obamas, it will merely supplement their menu. If they have bread, they will still need to rely on the wheat — likely grown in the Plains or Pacific Northwest — that become the flour. Citrus? California or Florida will likely have to supply that. Perhaps a bottle of wine for the state dinner? That might come from California too, or the Pacific Northwest, or some other part of the country. Rice? That's gonna come from a sunny, southern state. Want some animal protein in the diet? Cattle or sheep rancher or fishermen will need to produce that. And what about the clothes they wear? Where will the fabric come from?

People would be mindful to realize what benefits our nation, and the world, have enjoyed from commercial agriculture as our society has become more urbanized. Americans are not hunter-gatherers or predominantly farmers anymore. Life is no longer only about finding or growing enough food to feed yourself or your family. Farmers and ranchers are specialists that provide the food and fiber, there are in many cases other specialists who distribute it or process it and get it to other people who are specialists at other things. We all rely on each other to meet our collective needs.

A law student at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., did an interesting personal experiment over about nine months. Justin Rothboeck decided to eat exclusively local grown foods and he kept a blog about his experiences on what he called The Salem Diet. He learned that eating local became very time consuming. He found out that while eating was good when foods were in season, he also had to learn to preserve some of that bounty so he would have stuff to eat beyond the harvest.

Reading about his experiences reminded me when I was a kid and all the work my grandmother (and the rest of the family) put in every summer in her garden and preserving all the stuff she grew there. Sure, it was great to have fresh sweet corn and cucumbers and watermelon, but after a while I grew tired of cucumbers with every meal. And then there was the hours and days devoted to canning. I loved her home-made pickles, but beyond that the canned foods were not appreciated by my young, finicky palate. Heck, I didn't like the green beans when they were fresh, let alone canned. Maybe snapping beans til my hands ached affected my taste buds too.

My grandmother's garden and caring for the chickens that supplied eggs and meat for the table was a full-time job.

Today, on Ag Day, I'm glad there are farmers who make growing food and fiber their full-time job so I can sit at a computer and play a role in telling their story and use my paycheck to go to a store, or restaurant, or farmer's market to buy the things they grow when I need them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dead zone

David Harsanyi of the Denver Post writes:

This cockamamie populism in Washington really hit its stride when Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), suggested that AIG execs who earned bonuses should "follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, 'I'm sorry,' and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide."

C'mon. If suicide were a proper penalty for piddling away taxpayer dollars, the National Mall would look just like Jonestown--after refreshments.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Could your farmer's market become a 'Saturday morning DMV experience'?

Victor Davis Hanson posts at NRO's The Corner:

What are progressives thinking when they hear of these trial ballons from the Democratically-controlled congress and administration about taxing health-care benefits, making veterans first draw on their own health-care plans for postbellum injuries or stresses, and, now, regulating farmers' markets in a way that would increase costs and turn them into, well, a sort of Saturday morning DMV experience? I think we can expect some very illiberal ideas coming forth from now on for two good reasons. One, there simply are not enough rich around to squeeze to pay off a $1.7 annual deficit that is fueling a $11 trillion national debt that is growing hourly, and so the voracious federal timberwolf is coming down from the estates of the rich still hungry, and looking for prey anywhere he can find it; and, two, when two liberal creeds collide — like big government and always-growing federal-subsidized bureaucracies versus the little-guy family farmer trying to make a buck outside of the corporate agricultural nexus — the richer and more powerful always win.

California drought update: Rain on the way?

Here's what's been happening:

Rain on the way?
The National Weather Service predicts another rainstorm is headed for parts of California on Saturday, March 21, and Sunday. Here’s what we’ve received for the month as of Tuesday, March 17:
Redding (airport): month to date 1.07 inches (normal 2.92); season to date 18.43 inches (normal 26.54)
Sacramento (airport): month to date 2.05 inches (normal 1.66); season to date 13.26 inches (normal 15.04)
Modesto: month to date 0.49 inches (normal 1.30); season to date 6.69 inches (normal 10.53)
Salinas: month to date 1.48 inches (normal 1.31); season to date 10.60 inches (normal 10.61)
Fresno: month to date 0.18 inches (normal 1.26); season to date 6.33 inches (normal 8.91)
Bakersfield: month to date 0.20 inches (normal 0.80); season to date 3.98 inches (normal 5.07)

Reservoir levels
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight Monday, March 16, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 46 percent
Shasta Lake: 57 percent
Lake Oroville: 50 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 73 percent
Folsom Lake: 67 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 84 percent
Lake McClure: 36 percent
Millerton Lake: 68 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 32 percent
Lake Isabella: 24 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 46 percent

Monday, March 16, 2009

It rained so hard today . . .

... that they're boating down the street in Redding, Calif. (Hat tip: Bruce Ross)

The two faces of a congressman

How do you define wanting to have it both ways?

Loading a bunch of pork into the federal omnibus spending bill and then voting against the bill when you're sure it's going to pass.

Idaho ag reporter wanted

The Capital Press is looking for an Idaho-based reporter to cover agriculture issues in the state and throughout the West. See the job posting here on JournalismJobs.com.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Is California's drought man-made?

Columnist Thomas D. Elias says that it is. He writes, in part:

[Judge] Wanger's decision was one reason many California reservoirs neared their lowest levels ever last summer and fall. Yes, 2007 and 2008 were dry years, but this drought did not approach record levels. Wanger's ruling made things far more severe by depriving the state Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) of about one-third of the water their reservoirs would ordinarily have gotten.


Now a series of February and March storms has restored the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, ultimate source for most water in the Delta, to normal or near-normal levels.


But the new Fish and Wildlife regulations will stop the pumps even longer times than did Wanger's order. The idea is to idle them during the entire smelt spawning season, essentially from January to June.


So supplies will be low for farms and cities this spring and summer. Perhaps not as low as indicated by the federal Bureau of Reclamation before the late-winter storms, when it warned many farmers to expect no water at all from the CVP. But still far lower than if the pumps were operating normally.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Global warming is 'exaggerated'

So opines 41 percent of respondents in the latest Gallup poll.

Would 'card check' affect you?

Capital Press' Cecilia Parsons reports today that a coalition of California agriculture-related organization is opposing the federal "card check" regulation, which would prevent employers from being able to demand a secret ballot when their workers decide whether to unionize.

The National Review's blog, The Corner, offers a link for you to find out if the card check legislation could affect your job.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Illinois Legislature considers bill to ban tail docking

Looks like there is a bill to ban tail docking of dairy cattle in Illinois, similar to one in California.

Check out the link from Feedstuffs. Here's the link to the proposed bill in Illinois, Senate Bill 1336. Here the link to the proposed bill in California, Senate Bill 135. Any other states have tail docking bills out there?

It's doubtful these are the only two.

Thanks to Sara Long on Twitter @rosamyst for the head's up on the Illinois bill.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Getting past the terrible 2s in a blog's life

Can you believe it? The Capital Press has been blogging for three years. On March 15, we will mark the three-year anniversary of Blogriculture.

I can't believe it's been that long. And, obviously, when we started this thing in 2006 we weren't even sure it would last, as my first official post here indicated this was a trial transplanting. I was afraid it wouldn't last a month, let alone three years.

Now look at us. The number of Capital Press websites continues to grow. We have another blog, back4d.com, that is building steadily. Another new website, Ag Directory West, allows ag-related businesses to create their own entries so their customers, current and new, can find them and the services or equipment they offer.

Sometime this week, we will reach 30,000 visitors to Blogriculture. It's certainly not the draw our main website is, which attracts averages about 30,000 visitors a month. But then again, it's probably 30,000 visitors who may not have found us any other way. The posts here are unique to this site. We may touch on the some of the topics the Capital Press news staff reports on, but we don't do it in the same way here. So, we appreciate the blog visitors.

I may even appreciate them more today than I did when we started this venture, as there are a lot more websites and online agriculture related resources available to people today than there were in 2006.

Before the official launch of Blogriculture, I wrote an item on the Capital Press website and moved it here. It was titled: "Do farmers blog?" The answer, I know know, is a definitive yes, there are some farmers and ranchers who have blogs. And there are a lot of agriculture-related businesses with blogs too. Now, you can even follow farm-related topics on Twitter (which also launched in 2006) using the hashtag #farm.

As we learned from the 2007 Census of Agriculture, America's farms have gotten smaller (and we also learned this year that rural broadband access has improved). You might say there are a lot of micro farmers out there. Those folks are the focus of our back4d.com blog. But I've become more of a micro farmblogger, posting ag-related updates and links more frequently through our Twitter profile than the Blogriculture website. Using that tool, which I didn't even know about at Blogriculture's birth, I can share some of my warped view of the farm world as well as post updates from both blogs and news updates to the Capital Press website.

Since Blogriculture began, the Capital Press has planted its flag on the video services YouTube and Brightcove. We've got a Facebook page. And some members of the blog team here have changed. Our newest member, Tim Hearden covers agriculture issues from his Northern California perch near Shasta Lake. He has quickly become our most prolific poster here. And small farmer and marketing guru Kay Marikos keeps things humming along with help from Editor Joe Beach, among others, at www.back4d.com.

We even had a podcast for a while, but it has been retired, at least for now, while the principle podcaster (yea, that would be me) focuses on other things.

Thinks keep evolving, changing and growing in the multimedia world, and we are evolving too at the Capital Press and at Blogriculture. Thanks for stopping in and sharing some of the ride with us.

State bill to restrict antibiotic use in cattle

From the California Cattlemen's Association:

Senate Bill 416 was introduced last week by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter), and, if passed, would prohibit schools from serving meat treated with antibiotics; prohibit the registration of any antibiotic preparations; prohibit use of antibiotics for non-therapeutic and prophylactic use in any animal raised for the human food supply, and; require state and local governments to give preference to meat supplies produced without medically important antibiotics as feed additives.

This bill, in conjunction with the Florez-chaired Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture’s March 17 hearing entitled Addressing the Public Health Impacts Resulting From the Non-Therapeutic Use of Antibiotics in Our Food Supply: Are We Creating a “Superbug?has understandably precipitated industry-wide concern.

CCA is working very hard with other animal agriculture groups to ensure a scientific approach to this policy issue, as well as a solid scientific basis for our arguments against claims (predominantly Humane Society claims) that agriculture is in any way responsible for antibiotic resistance in humans.

CCA will continue to apprise producers on the status of this issue. Should you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Dawn Clover at dawn@calcattlemen.org or (916) 444-0845.

Update 3/12/09: For the Capital Press story on the bill proposed by state Sen. Dean Florez, click here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Supreme Court forestry decision lauded

From the Pacific Legal Foundation:

SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 3, 2009 — Ruling in agreement with arguments submitted by Pacific Legal Foundation, the Supreme Court today restricted environmental organizations from challenging forest clean-up plans when the environmentalists cannot show they have suffered any direct harm.

"This ruling is a victory in the fight to prevent catastrophic forest fires, because it makes it harder for environmental groups with an ideological agenda to block responsible forest-management plans to clear away dead and rotting timber," said PLF Litigation Director James S. Burling.

"The Supreme Court's decision also protects basic principles of representative government," Burling continued. "Judges aren’t lawmakers and the judiciary isn't a policy-making forum. You must be directly harmed by a policy before you can bring a lawsuit against it. If you can't show real harm, the place to air your grievance - in a democracy - is Congress or the state legislature, not the courts."

PLF is the nation's leading legal watchdog for property rights and a balanced approach to environmental regulation.

The case decided today is Summers v. Earth Island Institute. It concerns a timber salvage plan for a portion of the Sequoia National Forest that had been damaged by fire in 2002. The Forest Service had established rules that expedited salvage and restoration activities for very small – less than 250 acres – sections of previously burned forest.

Although their members visited only one particular area in the Sequoia, the environmentalists claimed the right to challenge the rule as it applied nationwide.

The Forest Service settled with the environmentalists, agreeing not to salvage the Sequoia plot. Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit went on to throw out two of the expedited nationwide1 rules – even after the settlement and even though the environmental plaintiffs had not shown that their members were affected by any similar salvage plans elsewhere in the United States.

Today, the Supreme Court held, 5-4, that the environmental groups lacked standing to litigate the issue before the Ninth Circuit because, after the Sequoia salvage plan had been dropped, the plaintiffs could not claim any real harm or concrete interest in the regulations.

More about the decision here.

California water: where things stand

It's still raining off and on where I live, the reservoirs are filling up noticeably, and a National Weather Service forecaster told me today the rain should keep falling through this weekend. Here's where we are in the War On the Drought:

Final February rainfall
Here are the totals in selected valley towns for February rainfall, seasonal rainfall and comparisons to normal years, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are through Saturday, Feb. 28:
Redding: 8.94 inches (normal 5.49); season to date 17.33 (normal 23.62)
Sacramento: 5.07 inches (normal 3.54); season to date 11.21 inches (normal 13.38)
Modesto: 2.39 inches (normal 2.38); season to date 6.20 inches (normal 9.23)
Salinas: 3.52 inches (normal 2.48); season to date 9.12 inches (normal 9.30)
Fresno: 2.43 inches (normal 2.04); season to date 6.15 inches (normal 7.57)
Bakersfield: 1.71 inches (normal 1.16); season to date 3.78 (normal 4.22)

Valley rainfall
In some parts of California, the rain just keeps falling. Here are the rainfall totals for the following cities from Wednesday, Feb. 25 through Monday, March 2, according to the National Weather Service:
Redding: 1.21 inches
Red Bluff: 1.07 inches
Marysville-Yuba City: 1.50 inches
Napa: 0.90 inches
Sacramento (downtown): 1.16 inches
Modesto: 0.26 inches
Salinas: 0.67 inches
Merced: 0.35 inches
Fresno: 0.02 inches
Hanford: 0.13 inches
Bakersfield: 0.0 inches

Reservoir levels
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight Monday, March 2, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 44 percent
Shasta Lake: 47 percent
Lake Oroville: 41 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 63 percent
Folsom Lake: 47 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 50 percent
Don Pedro Reservoir: 60 percent
Lake McClure: 32 percent
Millerton Lake: 59 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 29 percent
Lake Isabella: 23 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 41 percent

Sierra snowpack
Here are the average snow water equivalents and percentages of normal for this time of year in the Sierra mountains as of Tuesday, March 3, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Northern Sierras: 23 inches, 86 percent
Central Sierras: 22 inches, 83 percent
Southern Sierras: 20 inches, 84 percent
Statewide average: 22 inches, 84 percent

Monday, March 02, 2009

It's No Cussing Week in LA

From the AP via CNS News:

Pay no attention to that eerie silence in the nation's most populous county this week; it will simply be the sound of 10 million people not cussing.

At least that's the result McKay Hatch is hoping for once his campaign to clear the air is recognized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

On Tuesday, the board is scheduled to issue a proclamation by Supervisor Michael Antonovich making the first week in March No Cussing Week.

That would mean no blue language from the Mojave desert, where it gets hot as $&# in the summer, to the Pacific Ocean, where on a winter's day it can get colder and nastier than %$#!

If they really want to keep people in LA from cussing, better not draw the citizens' attention to their city's finances.

Drought isn't just California's problem

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor's map, most of Capital Press' coverage area is either abnormally dry or in some stage of a drought.

Ag in the West social media watch

Capital Press videos on YouTube

Our most popular videos