- Author: Brenda Dawson
Reduced water allowances for farmers could mean layoffs and other economic impacts, says an article in the Wall Street Journal by Jim Carlton.
The article reported that some farmers have been told to expect just 30 percent of their allotments. In response to water cutbacks, many farmers must reduce planting and leave some fields fallow.
The article referenced a UC Davis study, co-authored by Richard Howitt, of 2009 water cutbacks that resulted in "285,000 acres going fallow and the loss of 9,800 agricultural jobs, for a $340 million loss in farm-related revenues."
Before the new law took effect, the water board asked landowners for estimates, said Allan Fulton, a University of California Cooperative Extension advisor who serves Colusa, Glenn and Shasta counties. Fulton is an irrigation and water resources expert.
"There is a statewide effort at trying to more precisely understand and quantify how water is being used," he said.
UC Cooperative Extension will host a workshop March 31 to discuss the new requirement.
"I've had enough questions that I thought we ought to organize something," said Larry Forero, a UCCE director and advisor in Trinity County who specializes in livestock and natural resources.
Agritourism generates income, promotes farms
Tim Hearden, Capital Press
Agritourism, or activities and products offered on working farms to generate extra income from visitors, is a growing movement in California.
A recent UC survey determined that about 2.4 million visitors came to California farms in 2008 to enjoy some facet of agritourism, which could include lodges and cabins, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, "U-pick" operations and special events such as weddings and conferences.
"I think it really does help" farms, said UC agritourism coordinator Penny Leff. "It helps their name recognition if they're selling at the farmers' market or local stores. It helps in general for people to understand what farming's about, that food comes from farms."
The California water news blog Aquafornia posted a video on YouTube today featuring Cass Mutters, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Butte County who specializes in rice, winter cereals and turf.
In the video, Mutters explains that UCCE has for years been engaged in reducing the amount of water needed to grow rice in the Central Valley. He gave two examples:
Variety development. A generation ago, it required 160 days to grow a variety from seed to maturity. New varieties require 140 days. This has resulted in a 15 percent reduction in water use.
Precision leveling of land. Laser leveling of land allows farmers to apply water very precisely and maintain a uniform depth of water in the field of about 4 to 5 inches. This technology has reduced water use by an additional 15 percent.
Residents around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta feel left out of the decision-making process over a local water conservation plan, University of California researchers learned by conducting "conversations" in five counties last year. Tim Hearden of Capital Press spoke to two of the UC Cooperative Extension advisors involved in hosting and evaluating the conversations, Jodi Cassell and Shelly Murdock of Contra Costa County.
Residents repeatedly said experts and policymakers gave their points of view at public meetings about a water conservation plan that could include a peripheral canal, but they didn't seem to absorb the public's perspective.
"I'm a scientist and I work on ecological things ... but you really have to work with the communities to get their buy-in to the lands you want to restore," Cassell said. "When you go to a public meeting and there are maps on the table or documents showing your property ... it gets people's dander up."
Germination occurred as a result of the season's first rains in October, but it didn't hold in some pastures because of the lull in precipitation, Davy said.
"This ought to get it up and going," Davy said of the rain that fell before Thanksgiving. "It usually takes between half and 1 inch in a week to get it sparked up and going, and we have definitely had that."
California farmers efficient, study finds
Tim Hearden, Capital Press
A Fresno State Center for Irrigation Technology research report says California farmers are more efficient in managing their water supplies than they're sometimes given credit for. As a result, large volumes of "new water" cannot be developed through agricultural water conservation.
The Fresno State irrigation experts' yearlong study aimed to update a 1982 University of California Cooperative Extension report, "Agricultural Water Conservation in California with Emphasis on the San Joaquin Valley." The new study says the 1982 report correctly framed the potential for agricultural water-use efficiency.