California ‘Overlooking’ Ways To Save Water, Study Suggests

California may be overlooking simple ways the state could save water supply, a new study has found. The state is one of the most important for agriculture in the U.S. A third or more of the country’s vegetables, as well as three-quarters of the fruits and nuts, are grown in the state, the Department of Food and Agriculture reports.

California’s Idle Crop Land May Double as Water Crisis Deepens

California’s historic drought may leave the state with the largest amount of empty farmland in recent memory as farmers face unprecedented cuts to crucial water supplies.

The size of fields intended for almonds, rice, wine grapes and other crops left unworked could be around 800,000 acres, double the size of last year and the most in at least several decades, said Josue Medellin-Azuara, an associate professor at University of California Merced.

Water Efficiency Grant Deadline Extended

Through this program, resource conservation districts, non-profit organizations, University of California, California State University campuses, California community colleges, and California and federally-recognized tribes are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in funding to provide technical assistance to California farmers.

Virtual Meeting Addresses Asian Citrus Psyllid Finds in Fallbrook

A Jan. 12 virtual meeting addressed the finds of Asian citrus psyllids in Fallbrook. The meeting was hosted by the state’s Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program, which is funded by California growers and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

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Imperial County Agencies Deliver 500,000 Face Masks to Agriculture Workers

The Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has taken the lead in distributing more than 500,000 face masks to all sectors of the agriculture industry in the Imperial Valley.

“This was a positive result of the state understanding our need,” said Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz. “They heard us.”

Agriculture is one of the essential sectors critical to health and safety in California during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since May, 566,000 face masks have been distributed to 126 agricultural-based businesses, including growers, farm labor companies, pest control, feed lots, trucking companies, hay presses and the dairy industry. Face masks have also been provided to agencies that work with farm workers, including Campesinos Unidos and Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo.

State, local agencies collaborate for worker safety

The distribution of face masks to the agricultural community was part of a joint statewide effort of the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association together with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Pesticide Regulation. The California Office of Emergency Services provided 824,000 face masks.

Ortiz said there is a rewarding feeling that comes from working with a team to respond to a local need.

“The fact we have received these masks from the state points to how critical agriculture is as an essential service to keep food on the table, especially during these challenging times,” said Ortiz. “Everyone in agriculture deserves praise for the work they are continuing to do.”

A survey was first sent to the Imperial Valley agricultural community, and there was an overwhelming response that personal protective equipment, starting with face masks, were a critical need.

“The reaction to the survey let the state know there was an immediate need,” said Ortiz.

The county will also be receiving special N-95 respirator masks, that will be distributed to agriculture workers that handle applied pesticides which require special respirator equipment, according to Ortiz.

Face masks ‘vital’

J Rollins, Vice President and Operations Manager of Rolling R Enterprises, a local family-owned custom harvesting and hauling company, said his company received face masks for his employees at a time that masks were very difficult to find through normal retail or wholesale avenues.

“Aside from our sanitation protocols, the masks we received from the Ag Commissioner’s Office was vital in keeping our workforce healthy, especially at the peak of our operations,” said Rollins.

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In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Imperial Valley vegetable farmers took additional precautions during the Spring 2020 harvest. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Timely delivery of face masks

Along with mask distributions, the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has provided masks to individual farm workers and crews while doing field inspections.

“You are trying to focus on what else you can do to get the face masks to those who need them,” Ortiz said.

Imperial County Farm Bureau Executive Director Brea Mohamed said she was grateful for the mask distribution, adding the masks are helping growers ensure the safety of their employees and crews.

When the pandemic hit Imperial County, growers faced heavy costs to purchase such personal protective equipment, which placed further strain on their operations at a difficult time. It was also a challenge to find enough face masks to serve the local need of agricultural, she said.

Despite the coronavirus, agricultural work had to continue, said Mohamed.

“This hit right at the end of the produce harvest and just as we were starting to harvest corn, then came onions and melons,” she said. “Plus the feedlots and forage crops are year-round.”

Going forward, Mohamed said she is hopeful there might be additional help with other personal protective equipment, like hand sanitizers and sanitizers for farm equipment.

Taking a Cooperative Approach to Issues such as Water

California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross highlighted the importance of taking a more cooperative approach to address important issues in lieu of an ‘us-versus-them’ mentality between environmental and agricultural interests.  While often the two groups are on opposing sides of a particular issue, both are working toward a sustainable future.  Ross noted that the framework for variable flows is the first step in getting environmentalists and producers on the same page to protect the state’s water.


District Helps Make Desert Bloom

The Coachella Valley Water District faces hefty challenges each day: providing water for more than 1,200 ag customers on 65,000 acres in a desert environment.

The water district serves San Diego, Imperial and Riverside counties and nine cities.

“I would say managing our water on a long-term basis, optimizing our Colorado River water and groundwater and using them as efficiently as possible are major priorities for us,” said Katie Evans, director of communications for the district.

The Coachella Valley’s farmland is one of the largest contributors to the local economy, known for its dates, citrus fruit, grapes and bell peppers. More than two-thirds of local farmland is irrigated in part with Colorado River water delivered via the Coachella Canal.

Opinion: Why Desalination Can Help Quench California’s Water Needs

If you’ve ever created a personal budget, you know that assigning your money to different investment strategies is a crucial component to meet your financial goals. When you stop dipping into your savings account each month, savings can begin to build.

Understanding why desalination is so critical to California’s water future is a lot like building a personal budget. With a changing climate, growing population and booming economy, we need to include desalination in the water supply equation to help make up an imported water deficit.

The California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture recently released the Water Resilience Portfolio. In it, officials highlighted the importance of diversifying water supplies through the introduction of new water sources and preparing for new threats, including more extreme droughts.