Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.

Poison once flowed in America’s waters. With Trump, it might again

As a scientist working for decades on national and global water and climate challenges, I must speak out against what I see as an assault on America’s water resources.

I grew up in New York in the 1960s hearing about massive Polychlorinated Biphenyl – a toxic chemical used as a coolant – contamination in the Hudson River and the threatened extinction of bald eagles and ospreys from eating contaminated fish.

I remember watching on television Ohio’s Cuyahoga River burning. I remember scientists warning about the death of the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay from uncontrolled industrial pollution. I remember not being able to swim at beaches polluted with raw sewage.

And I remember the public debate and bipartisan enthusiasm for federal action to clean up our waters – enthusiasm that led to passage of one of the nation’s foundational environmental laws, the Clean Water Act, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972.

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Source:  Peter Gleick, The Guardian, August 14, 2017


‘The devil’s rope’: How barbed wire changed America

Barbed wire

Late in 1876, so the story goes, a young man named John Warne Gates built a wire-fence pen in the middle of San Antonio, Texas.

He rounded up some of the toughest and wildest longhorns in all of Texas. That’s how he described them.

Others say the cattle were a docile bunch. And there are those who wonder whether this particular story is true at all. But never mind.

John Warne Gates

John Warne Gates – who would become known as “Bet A Million Gates” – took bets from onlookers as to whether the powerful beasts could break through the fragile-seeming wire. They couldn’t.

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Source:  Tim Harford, BBC news, August 7, 2017.

Dairy Farm Manages Water and Manure with Simple Techniques

Earlier this week, KRCB North Bay Bountiful visited the orchards of Torrey and Lucy Olson on a Climate Smart Agriculture tour, to learn about soil management techniques and the challenges of farming as the climate warms. Today KRCB North Bay visit a local dairy farm with an eye to learning about manure and water, and how effective management can benefit both farmers and the environment. The visit was organized by the California Climate and Agriculture Network.

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Source:  Steve Mencher, KRCB North Bay Public Media, August 2, 2017

Straus Family Creamery powered by cow gas


With barely a sound, the red and white International Harvester feed truck unloaded a mix of silage, barley and rice to a dozen pregnant cows, releasing a sour, grassy aroma into the foggy morning at Straus Family Creamery in Marshall. The all-electric feed truck is entirely powered by methane gas that was released by the farm’s 280 cows, or rather, their poop.

“I like to say the cows are powering the truck that feeds them,” said owner Albert Straus, whose organic dairy is perched on the edge of Tomales Bay in Marin County.

The truck, which went into service this month, had a timely debut. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation extending cap-and-trade regulations, AB398, part of the state’s effort to cut greenhouse gases 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Methane gas heats up the atmosphere as much as 20 times as quickly as carbon dioxide, and a big source is cow manure and burps.

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Source:  Tara Duggan, San Francisco Chronicle, July 25, 2017

House Budget Committee’s Spending Proposal Could Derail Farm Bill

Image result for farm bill infographic

Late in the evening of July 17th, following over twelve hours of debate and markup, the House Budget Committee passed its budget parameters for fiscal year (FY) 2018. The budget, which was voted out of Committee along partisan lines (22 Republicans voting in favor and 14 Democrats against), includes an immediate $10 billion 10-year cut to farm bill food and agricultural programs – a move that promises to cause problems, if not wholly derail, the upcoming farm bill negotiations.

The Committee’s budget proposal sets the blueprint for both discretionary (appropriated) and mandatory spending through resolution. As expected, the budget provides “reconciliation instructions” for tax cuts as well as instructions for 11 authorizing committees to cut at least $203 billion in mandatory funding over the coming decade. The authorizing committees would be required to write legislation to achieve those cuts and report that legislation back to the Budget Committee by October 6th.

Included within the $203 billion in cuts to mandatory spending is a $10 billion cut to food and agriculture programs within the farm bill. Though theoretically the Agriculture Committee could cut any program within their jurisdiction, the explanatory materials provided by the Budget Committee make plain that the target is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly referred to as food stamps. The severity of such a cut, its potential political impact on the feasibility of passing the next farm bill, and the consequences such a funding loss would have for American low-income and rural communities cannot be understated.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, July 20, 2017.

To Till or Not to Till

Source:  Eric Brennan, USDA ARS

No-till & conservation tillage agriculture is GROWING & has many BENEFITS over conventional till BUT also has challenges. Eric discusses this COMPLEXITY with COLORFUL examples & images, cutting-edge SCIENCE, and RESEARCH efforts to develop cover crop-based reduced-tillage methods for VEGETABLE production in California’s tillage-intensive Salinas Valley, (America’s Salad Bowl). Can these CARBON-FRIENDLY practices help sequester soil carbon and reduce CLIMATE CHANGE? Do no-till systems yield more? Should high-value organic & conventional vegetable farms eliminate or reduce tillage or should other LOWER HANGING fruit to increase agricultural sustainability be addressed first?

Eric Brennan’s Tillage Reading List of Scientific Literature…
The pdf files of these 10 paper can be obtained here from this 6MB zipped file… or use this 25MB zipped file link… to get pdf files of all papers noted in this reading list (i.e., the 10 in mentioned in the video and many others).

This information was first presented at the Ecological Farming Association Conference in January 2017 and at the California Climate and Agriculture Summit in February 2017, organized by the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN).


The Numbers Behind the Farm Bill: A Little-Known Factor for the Fate of Sustainable Ag Programs

Image result for carrots us capital

Editor’s Note: This is the third of a four-part series explaining the background budget information that will be used to craft the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill. In this post we look in more detail at the smaller, more innovative programs that receive direct farm bill funding but will need to have their funding renewed in the next farm bill. In part four we will give more attention to the bill’s Nutrition Title. In an effort to simplify the complex subject of farm bill funding, we will present these blogs in FAQ format.

This series was inspired by the late June publication by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of a new 10-year budget baseline projection for the farm bill. The CBO baseline provides the backdrop for farm bill spending decisions, since it establishes farm bill program costs assuming no changes are made to existing policies. As policy changes are made by Congress as part of the crafting of the farm bill, each change will be “scored” against the baseline to determine if the policy change increases or decreases farm bill spending, and by how much.

Why Do Some Farm Bill Programs Lack Permanent Funding? Why Does it Matter?

In part one and two of this series, we discussed farm bill nutrition, commodity, crop insurance, and conservation programs, all of which have “permanent” baseline. That is to say, they have a large cost and are assumed by CBO to continue on past the expiration of the current farm bill. As was mentioned, if Congress did nothing but simply extend the current farm bill, the programs, which combined make up nearly 99 percent of farm bill costs, would continue to exist and continue to spend billions of dollars.

However, there is another category of programs, that are very important, though significantly smaller. These programs are scattered throughout the farm bill, including the research, rural development, energy, horticulture, and miscellaneous titles of the bill. A few of the programs for fruits and vegetables (Specialty Crop Block Grants; Specialty Crop Research Initiative) and renewable energy (Rural Energy for America Program) gained permanent baseline in the 2014 Farm Bill, so now, like the bigger farm bill programs, they will continue to exist and provide funding on into the distant future even if Congress were to simply extend the current farm bill.

But most of the programs that make up the one percent do not have permanent baseline. They were provided mandatory funding in the 2014 Farm Bill (and in many cases, earlier farm bills as well), but will need to be provided with new funding in the 2018 bill to continue on into the future. These programs include, for example, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501), Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, and Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. (See our blog from March for a full list.)

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, July 14, 2017