It is the height of the rainy season now - the last week of January, but the next two weeks look mostly high and dry for all of California forecasters say.
That is not good news when snow is already a no-show up and down the Sierra as the state continues to experience a warm winter. Climate scientists are predicting more of California’s winter precip will fall as rain. One does not have to look far to see it is already upon us.
The Friant Kern Canal's source, Huntington Lake, with an elevation of over 7,000 feet, has no snow on the ground this week. The water content in the upper San Joaquin River watershed is only 0.3 inches while the April 1 average should be 32.7 inches.
Not that the area hasn't seen rain - it has just been well below average. Huntington’s June to July average precipitation was 22.4 inches (by this time last year, the area had seen 32 inches) with just 9.5 inches falling this winter. The state says the San Joaquin Basin Precipitation Index is 47 percent - dry but not calamitous like the snowpack.
Scientists say rising temperatures are shrinking the frozen reservoir with winter averages up 2 degrees across the Sierra. “Rising temperatures are projected to shrink the average acreage of the Sierra Nevada snowpack by half,” says Daniel Walton, a researcher at UCLA
Western Growers to fight restrictive immigration bill
Western Growers CEO Tom Nassif says an immigration bill popular with House conservatives and authored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. would devastate western agriculture - stripping farmers of their workforce.
Nassif says “under the Goodlatte bill, all currently unauthorized farmworkers would be required to become guest workers under the H-2C program, which mandates they return to their home country before participating in the guest worker program.”
“In the coming days and weeks, Western Growers will work with the greatest urgency to prevent the Goodlatte bill from coming to the House floor while we also pursue a workable solution in Congress.”
Trucking rates move higher
Trucking rates are on the rise - affecting the movement of ag products over long distances.
Recent reports say that the reason for the rapid increase in trucking costs is the lack of availability of trucks and shortage of drivers in some areas. Other say the federal requirement to install electronic logging devices (ELDs) into all trucks to better track driver hours of service is a key factor.
The Packer ag newspaper reports that “truck rates as high as $10,000 to New York from California’s Imperial Valley were reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 16. At the same time a year ago, that trip reportedly cost $6,000 to $6,200. Two years ago, the rates were $5,800 to $6,000 to New York.”
Alfalfa fields show promise for groundwater recharge
A two-year study demonstrates that flooding alfalfa fields show strong potential for refilling groundwater supplies. University of California specialists who conducted the study flooded fields near Davis and in the Scott Valley of Siskiyou County. In each case, most of the water percolated into the water table and the practice had only a minimal impact on the crop. The university has studied similar projects in California orchards and vineyards.
UC assesses potential for elderberry production
In California, they’re grown mainly to act as a windbreak or attract beneficial insects, but elderberry plants also produce fruit - and the University of California wants to learn if elderberries could succeed as a crop. UC researchers have planted elderberries at four farms in the Central Valley to assess farming practices and market potential. Elderberries are now used in jams, syrups, wines and liqueurs, but most commercial production occurs in the Midwest.
- California Farm Bureau contributed to this article.