Some 12 proposed water storage projects shared the stage at a recent California Water Commission meeting with all vying for some share to be apportioned from the same $2.7 billion pot of money available through the Proposition 1 water bond.

Kings County Board of Supervisors Chairman Craig Pedersen attended the meeting and found the presentation by advocates of the Temperance Flat project above Fresno to be the most compelling. “It was just terrific "showing how the new dam’s benefits were widespread," he said.

“I know some environmental groups offered negative comments, but I would be very surprised if the project does not get commission funding.”

The state agency has said it would make a decision by June. Peterson, like many in Kings County, is a strong supporter of Temperance Flat and a fierce critic of another storage project seeking funding - Semitropic Water Storage District’s Kettleman Reservoir. On the edge of the historic Tulare Lakebed, Semitropic could bank up to 120,000 acre-feet a year of Kings River floodwaters - water which would be conveyed from there via the California Aqueduct to the Semitropic Water Bank in Kern County.

California Farm Bureau’s Director of Water Resources Danny Merkle, speaking to the commission said: "California will continue to face intense water challenges.

“Now more than ever, California's water system needs a more flexible, environmentally friendly and sustainable solution for diverting and storing water during periods of excess flows for human and environmental uses during dry periods."

Steve Worthley, San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority president and Tulare County supervisor, described the serious water situation the San Joaquin Valley faces, especially in light of new requirements under SGMA - the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

"Without new water sources, (coming into compliance under SGMA) is quite simply an impossibility. Farmers are very efficient with their use of water, but at the end of the day, we are going to lose perhaps millions of acres of agricultural land. We need this opportunity to recharge our groundwater," Worthley said.

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- CFB contributed to this segment.

Milk prices slide - too much of a good thing?

CME milk prices are down again this week to $13.61 for February. They were up around $16 per cwt as recently as October. Especially hard hit is the non-fat dried milk (NFDM) spot prices now - down to 64.75 cents as of Wednesday. That is the lowest of the year. A huge portion of the nation’s NFDM supply comes through the big California dairy co-ops with many Kings County members, who feel the pain in their milk checks.

In January, NFDM prices were above $1. Milk Producers Council recently told its members that the world is awash in milk, especially NFDM. “Warehouses in the U.S. and Europe are bursting with powder, and driers are running hard for the holidays.” Demand is good for butter but when you make butter - you make more dried milk powder as well.

If there is just too much milk across the U.S. there is some hope now that Wisconsin dairyman will not be using as much rBST to boost their milk supply in 2018 when close to 90 percent of the state’s milk will be rBST free.

For now, the U.S. milk supply continues to grow. USDA estimates milk production in the 23 major U.S. milk states increased 1.5 percent in October, compared to 2016. But not here. California milk production decreased 1.5 percent compared to 2016 (with 13,000 fewer cows and 15 fewer pounds of milk per cow.)

The growth hormone rBST, when injected into a cow, could cause a 10-25 percent increase in milk production says a UC Davis study. But it also tends to balloon the milk supply and arguably that lowers prices when demand is not there.

Consumers are pressing processors to ban the stuff with California dairymen already pretty much there. In California, all the big processors require the milk they receive be rBST free.

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

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