Nevada sets alfalfa/hay grower drought workshops

With the 2014 drought looming, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is offering workshops to give the state’s agricultural producers, particularly alfalfa and grass hay producers, information to help them prepare for the drought. Topics will include water availability, recommended irrigation practices, insurance options and an outlook on prices.

According to Nevada Cooperative Extension, 100% of cropland in Nevada is irrigated, and more than 90% of it is used to produce hay.

“There are things producers can do in terms of irrigation methods and scheduling to maximize their crops under these conditions,” said Cooperative Extension’s Jay Davison, an alternative crops specialist who conducts research related to irrigation efficiency, as well as alternative crops that use less water.

Davison will discuss soil texture, water-holding capacity, irrigation scheduling, the relationship between evapotranspiration and crop yield, how to determine evapotranspiration in the field, plant response to drought, and irrigation strategies that result in maximum yields under conditions of limited irrigation water. 

In addition, Cooperative Extension’s Staci Emm, Mineral County Extension educator, will provide an overview of risk management crop insurance programs for agriculture producers. Agriculture Economist Mike Helmar, from the University’s Center for Economic Development at the College of Business, will provide an outlook on alfalfa and grass hay prices. Finally, local irrigation district officials and others will provide information on water availability, including irrigation updates.

Dates and locations include:

• March 20, 6 p.m., Churchill County Cooperative Extension Office, Fallon, Nev. This session will also be available at the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Office, Caliente, via videoconference. Call 775-945-3444, ext.12.

• April 1, 1 p.m., Eureka County Courthouse, Eureka.

• April 14, 1 p.m., Walker River Paiute Tribe Learning Center, Schurz.

• April 14, 6 p.m., Lyon County Cooperative Extension Office, Yerington.

• April 29, 6 p.m., CVIC Hall, Minden. This session will discuss irrigation practices only, and is part of the Agriculture Innovation Series Forum, where small-acreage equipment and services will also be discussed.

Those attending are encouraged to preregister by calling 775-945-3444, ext. 12 or emailing to ensure ample space and educational materials are available. Persons in need of special accommodations or assistance should call at least three days prior to the scheduled workshop they will be attending.

The workshops are part of Cooperative Extension’s Herds and Harvest Program that helps farmers and ranchers develop agricultural entrepreneurship, implement sustainable agricultural marketing strategies and improve profitability.


Costa introduces bills to increase California water storage

U.S. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) introduced legislation calling for new federal and state investment in California’s water infrastructure, and expediting construction on existing storage projects to improve water reliability across the state. The current drought has highlighted the dire need for long-term water solutions, especially increasing the state’s storage capacity.

Costa’s legislation would authorize construction at Shasta Dam, San Luis Reservoir and Temperance Flat.

“Every region and political interest in the state agree that we must expand our storage capacity,” said Costa, a member of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committees. “After three dry years, the case for this is being made every day as our reservoirs statewide are turning into mud pits during this drought. Our grandparents’ foresight has carried us for decades, but the bill has come due for our state to again invest in storage.”

The expansion of the three projects is part of a coordinated, state-wide effort to help California prepare for future dry years. Cost of construction would be split between the federal and state governments along local water users.

The three bills would:

• Expand San Luis Reservoir to increase storage capacity by 130,000 acre feet of storage with an approximate annual yield of 40,000 acre feet. The total cost of the project would be an estimated $360 million, with approximately $240 million of that already being invested for seismic improvements.

• Raise Shasta Dam to add an additional 634,000 acre feet of storage to the dam and increase annual yield by 76,000 acre feet and add 76,000-133,000 acre feet to the system during dry years. Estimated for the total cost of the project is $1.1 billion.

• Construct Temperance Flat (Upper San Joaquin River Storage) to create 1.3 million acre feet of storage with an annual yield of 60,000-75,000 acre feet and in dry years an additional 103,000-254,400 acre feet would be added to the system at a cost of around $2.5 billion.


Water issues topic of Ag Council of California meeting

Stormy weather was a welcome travel inconvenience for the more than 160 cooperative leaders and farmer members gathering for the 95th Annual Meeting of the Agricultural Council of California, held in conjunction with CoBank’s Pacific West Customer meeting.

California’s historic drought was a key topic during the meeting, and was a primary focus of the organization’s advocacy work during the past year, according to Ag Council President Emily Rooney.

“Given the state’s water crisis and the many pending regulations surrounding ground water, the top issues facing our membership heading into the coming year are related to water—both quality and quantity,” she said during her annual address. “Proposed increases in several fees associated with water use have the potential to be very challenging to our members’ food production businesses.”

California’s drought has meant that Ag Council is also focusing a significant amount of its legislative efforts on water issues, said Tricia Geringer, vice president of Ag Council while addressing members during the group’s Delegate Body Meeting.

“The only silver lining to the fact that we are facing the driest year on record since the state first began keeping track in 1885, is that water shortages are touching every California resident personally,” said Geringer. “That means, as in the words of Governor Jerry Brown during his remarks to our members at the World Ag Expo in February, ‘the drought seems to have been a wake-up call to people regarding how critical water is to our state’s prosperity.’”

After declaring a drought State of Emergency in January, Governor Brown on March 1 signed legislation (SB 103 and SB 104) to help address immediate water shortages faced by several communities and to provide funding to increase local water supplies.

 “This is only the beginning of water-focused legislation that we will see in this session,” said Geringer.  “The Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act is an $11 billion water bond measure that is certified to be on the November ballot. Many believe the bond is too expensive to pass and contains too many earmarks for specific projects. As a result, there are currently nine pending bills that have been introduced in the legislature to replace the existing bond.”

Ag Council, along with other stakeholders, supports the effort to reduce the total bond amount, but is also seeking a $3 billion continuous appropriation for water storage projects. Geringer said that the organization will emphasize a strong storage component in the water bond during its advocacy work because it is imperative to better prepare California for future water demands and potential shortages.

“Nearly one-third of legislators were freshman members in 2013, so our work in familiarizing law makers with the agricultural industry and its importance in California’s economy is a constant priority,” added Geringer.

More information about Ag Council’s advocacy efforts can be found in the 2013 Impact Report (