Ag & Climate News Round-Up: Week of June 22, 2014

California Cherry Crop Down 63%; Lowest since ’98

We’ve known for a while that this year’s California cherry harvest would be light, but numbers released this week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service are still stunning. According to the NASS survey conducted in the first two weeks of June, California sweet cherry production will be down 63% from last year, with the smallest harvest since 1998. The culprit? A warm, dry winter, with reduced chilling hours. Poor pollination is also believed to have played a role. Scientists have been saying for a while that cherries will be particularly hard-hit by climate change impacts, with average annual crop loss close to 20% projected by 2050. This year’s devastating crop failure may, unfortunately, become a more common experience for the state’s cherry growers.

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Risky_Business_Climate_ChangeReport Highlights Climate Threats to Agriculture

A major new report outlines the multiple and severe risks to U.S. agriculture under climate change. ‘Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States’ highlights agriculture as both a particularly vulnerable and an eminently adaptable industry. The analysis finds that an increase of 33 to 70 days per year over 95º F could have significant implications for the health and productivity of agricultural laborers in the Southwest. Decreased water availability is expected to be the most significant impact on California’s agriculture. The report suggests that in some cases, particularly for commodity crops grown in the Midwest and Great Plains regions, crop switching may be the only viable adaptation response.

The report’s close attention to agriculture as a sector is perhaps due to the influence of Risky Business Project co-chair Tom Steyer, whose TomKat Ranch is pioneering rotational grazing and carbon sequestration practices. TomKat hosted a CalCAN field day in summer 2011.

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20140624_ca_noneCalifornia Drought Update

With summer officially begun, we took a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor again to check the status of California’s ongoing historic drought. As of June 24th, nearly one-third (32.98%) of the state’s area is officially in an ‘Exceptional Drought’ — the highest category of drought there is. Another 43% of the state is under ‘Extreme Drought’ conditions. Meteorologists say their dire categorization of over three-quarters of California’s land is due to the cumulative effects of three consecutive years of dryness and drought. The largest contiguous swath of the state under ‘Exceptional’ drought conditions stretches from Merced to Santa Barbara and encompasses practically all of the agriculture-rich San Joaquin Valley.

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CARB, CDFA Meeting on Cap-and-Trade & Agriculture

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has announced that it will host a meeting on July 1st to discuss the state’s Cap-and-Trade program and “other environmental market opportunities for farmers”. The meeting will take place from 10am – 3pm at the CDFA Auditorium in Sacramento, and will also be streamed online. Just last week, the state’s Air Resources Board released a Discussion Draft of its updated Rice Protocol. If approved, the protocol would enable rice farmers to receive financial compensation for cultivation practices that result in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. For context, check out CalCAN’s Policy Brief, ‘A Sustainable Agriculture Perspective on the California Carbon Market’.

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