John Lindt

John Lindt 

New and expanding water resource facilities for groundwater export or conveyance of surface water will face a 45-day moratorium in Kings County with a vote this week by the Board of Supervisors.

Clearly aimed at thwarting plans by Kern County-based Semitropic Water Storage District to construct a reservoir near Kettleman City to store Kings River floodwaters, this interim urgency ordinance is needed, they say, to protect the county's groundwater. The need is urgent says a staff report, noting that a NASA study found portions of the county to be subsiding at nearly 2 inches per month. The resolution says the county will do a study of the situation but for now – "there is a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety and welfare." The ordinance required a 4/5 vote, and became effective immediately and remains in effect for 45 days. If the County’s study is not complete within that timeframe, the ordinance may be extended.

More money for dairy digester projects

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has received new funding - $99 million - to help dairymen cut methane emissions in the second round of awards to help farmers to build digesters expected next year. "We've got the money and we need to get it out the door," says a CDFA spokesperson.

This year some between $29 million and $36 million will be awarded to Central Valley dairy operators to build digesters, and in many cases, ship the renewable gas to the natural gas grid.

The announcement of the winners in the current round is expected by mid-October. Some six dairies in Kings County and 16 in Tulare County applied for up to $3 million each in matching funds.

Requests for funding are double what is available this round. But now it looks like this second round will be funded as soon as the first quarter of 2018.

Last year Jerry Brown signed a law aimed at cutting methane emissions from cattle operations, thought to be the largest source of heat-trapping methane in the state, mostly from dairy manure. The new law requires the livestock industry to cut methane emissions to a 40 percent of 2013 level by 2030. The state Air Resources Board mandates that 75 percent of the cut needs to come from the state’s dairies.

Heat wilts processing tomato crop/grapes too

Don't tell local farmers the extraordinary heat did not affect crops this summer and fall. Tomato farmers say the impacts of both the wet spring planting conditions along with abnormally hot summer have taken a toll on this year’s crop.

The heat brought plenty of stress to the summer processing tomato crop - now estimated to be over a million tons less than USDA announced in June and 2 million tons less than 2016.

Mike Montna, president and CEO of the California Tomato Growers Association, predicts the 2017 crop will weigh in at around 10.5 million tons –lower than the National Agricultural Statistics Service's June estimate of 11.8 tons, later revised to 11.5 million tons.

California Farm Bureau reports that Hal Robertson of Tracy was among those watching his plants grow old before their time. "You have a plant that's breaking down from the heat and can't transpire correctly with all that heat and then nights that aren't cooling off to give it a chance to recover," he said. "The plant is maturing sooner, because what might take normally 125 days to mature, with all the heat and the warm nights, maybe it matures in 120 days.”

Kings County acreage this year is down by 1,600 acres to 26,500 acres. Through mid-August, shipments were 22 percent lower than 2016.

It is not just tomatoes that are feeling the heat. This year’s raisin crop may be 30 percent lighter than normal, reports Fresno County raisin grower Jerry Rebensdorf, president of Fresno Cooperative Raisin Growers, in a press report.

John Lindt is an independent business reporter. He can be reached at sierra2thesea@gmail.com

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