Richter AG

an association of agricultural companies

We are a family owned and operated, vertically integrated rice growing operation based in Northern California.

707 Main St - Colusa, CA 95932

Help Wanted: Accounting For The Ag Labor Shortage

Watching our Operations Manager waste away in his office while prospective job candidate after prospective job candidate fail to show up for their scheduled interviews, has become a spring tradition that’s as reliable as trees blossoming and bees buzzing.  As is the case with most farming businesses, there’s an annual need to staff up on seasonal employees for planting and harvest.  Our farm outfit is blessed with a team of talented, hard-working, and reliable people who come back to work for us year after year.  But we always need a few extra people. Nothing extreme, just three or four more people.  For the last few years, finding those extra few has become a frustrating process, but not because we have unreasonable standards, or offer poor wages. Simply put -- we can’t even get people to show up for an interview.

You wouldn’t expect this to be a problem in an area like Colusa County, where it was recently reported that unemployment is worsening, reaching a 12.1 percent unemployment rate.   How can it be that in an area that has the worst unemployment rate in the region, we can’t even get one of these unemployed people to show up for a job interview?  Let’s come back to that.

Over the last several seasons, our process for recruiting new employees has been very consistent. Each spring, we post multiple job listings, some for part time work, some for full time work, at multiple help wanted locations.  Those include the One-Stop offices for Colusa, Sutter, and Glenn counties. Additionally, we advertise available positions on Facebook, including posts we pay for as sponsored ads.  Between all of those listings, we receive dozens of inquiries.  Of those, about 75 to 80 percent have the qualifications and background that make us interested in the candidate.  Shortly after paring down the list, we make phone calls and schedule interviews with everyone.  When the hour arrives for those scheduled interviews, only about 4 percent even bother to show up.  And, we end up hiring nearly all of those people.  Unfortunately, we still come up short on what we need every time we go through this charade, and we rarely open a season with a full staff.  

It wasn’t until after the first year of interview no-shows that we realized most of these applicants are not legitimately interested in working.  Our theory is that the majority of them are waltzing through the formalities that allow them to maintain their state unemployment income.  It becomes fairly obvious when we get applications from the same people every six months, schedule interviews with those applicants, and watch the clock tick past their interview appointment time, in the end checking the no-show box.  

Prior to concluding that the unemployment system is being manipulated in a manner that allows people to maintain the benefits of the program, without making legitimate efforts to find work, I sincerely believed that state oversight made this level of fraud impossible.  I could not have been more wrong.  This spring I contacted a high-ranking individual at a local county One-Stop office, who told me that the state makes zero effort to confirm that people on unemployment are actually showing up for the job interviews they schedule.  All the applicant is required to do is fill out the paperwork, which includes the name of the company at which they applied for a job, what the open position is, when the interview allegedly took place, and who their contact is within the company.  Once that paperwork is filled out and submitted, no further action is taken, other than a continuation of unemployment benefits, so long as the unemployed person is physically able to work and representing as if they’re actively seeking work. Getting taxpayer money for nothing has never been so easy.

That brings us back to the point I made earlier about unemployment rates in Colusa County.  If you go by what you read in the newspaper, Colusa County has a higher unemployment rate than anywhere else in the state.  And in the article this phenomenon is directly tied to an absence of job opportunities.  To that I say- hogwash.  Every single Colusa County farmer I ask has shared with me their woes in putting together a seasonal staff.  The agriculture labor shortage is getting worse every year, and has gotten to the point where it’s making national headlines.  Stories have been published in the LA Times and Washington Post about vegetable crops rotting in the ground, and fruit rotting off of trees because no one is available to pick them. Meanwhile, articles about high unemployment rates fill the pages of city newspapers all over the state.  Both of those circumstances can’t be true.  That is, not unless there’s a third variable, which is government provided welfare incentivizing people to not work, and making it very easy for them to do so, with a system that has zero accountability. 

The time has come for the California State Senate and Assembly to build stronger oversight and higher standards into this process.The state agencies charged with policing the masses on unemployment are showing a complete lack of integrity in the monitoring of how taxpayer money is distributed via the unemployment system. This is allowing people to sit at home and collect a check, while companies who need workers, suffer from empty corridors of interested candidates. In the world of Ag, the labor shortage has swelled to the point of being a major statewide issue. The system is fixable, and can be made better by state agents cracking down on scammers within the system, who have run rampant within the loose boundaries those programs provide. Ag is suffering, and the lack of available labor is forcing farmers to look for alternatives, including technological advancements which will ultimately make these jobs obsolete, and lead to a true job loss, which once gone, will never return.

Rice Radio

thumb_IMG_4368_1024.jpg

In August of 2017, I launched a Podcast called Rice Radio.  

What's a Podcast?

Think of it as a radio broadcast available on-demand, online.  I post episodes monthly, covering a variety of topics, ranging from California Rice... to water... to environmental topics... new regulations... to life in the Sacramento Valley.  The intention of the Podcast is to be informative and entertaining, but also to get the truth out on these topics, from a farmers point of view.  Please take a moment to give Rice Radio a listen.  You can find on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, or (for you non-Apple folks), you can check it out here.

Thanks for listening.

The Absurd Actions of the SWRCB

Late Wednesday, the State Water Resources Control Board declared emergency water conservation regulations will remain in place for another 9 months.  This declaration comes at a time when 50 of the 58 counties in California are experiencing flooding.  This declaration comes at a time when the spillway at the Oroville Dam has developed a massive hole, likely caused by the incessant rain California has seen this winter.  This declaration comes at a time when 9 of the state’s 12 reservoirs sit well above historical averages, having to dump water for flood protection.  Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

“As glorious as the first half of the season has been, we know that weather can change quickly”, says SWRCB Chair Felicia Marcus.  Meanwhile, saturated California is being targeted by 3 more massive storms.  Additionally, California has the healthiest and wettest snowpack the state’s seen in more than a decade. 

What exactly is the SWRCB protecting here?  Given the current conditions, I find it a little hard to believe they’re legitimately concerned about water scarcity.  The reservoirs are taking in more run-off than they can handle, and dumping water into the system to help adjust.  “It’s pretty hard to argue to the public, the citizens of California, that we are now in an emergency.”  Senator Jim Nielsen stated prior to Wednesday’s meeting.  So why keep the emergency regulations in place?

The Water Board wants everyone to believe this ultra-conservative approach is to protect California’s water supply.  But, that pill is a little hard to swallow, when just 3 months ago the SWRCB declared they want to ramp up the unimpaired flow programDo we need to be conservative, or not? 

The obvious conclusion here is that the Water Board doesn’t want to keep regulations in place in the spirit of conserving water.  As Senator Ted Gaines pointed out in a statement, “We are flush with water, and they know that, but this lays bare their ‘permanent drought’ plan that will let them limit and control water use forever to meet their own environmental agenda.” 

The Water Board’s actions on Wednesday only further justify the bill recently introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray, which calls for a complete reorganization of California water management.  “Water management at the state level is broken,” says Gray.  “State agencies act as their own prosecution, judge, and jury.”  In the proposed bill, AB 313, Gray calls for a significant reduction of control by the SWRCB.  And, after the board’s actions on Wednesday, it’s easy to see why limiting their control makes sense.

Many of us in agriculture have previously suspected/discussed the actions of the SWRCB as being influenced by political leanings.  Bureaucratic agencies are not supposed to be partisan, or agenda based in their decision making.  On Wednesday, the Water Board showed everyone in the state that they're not even trying to be subtle with their political agenda anymore.

Look at Shasta Reservoir compared to the notoriously wet 1982-83.  The state's largest reservoir is nearly full, with releases being dumped into an already swollen river.  If this winter won't get us out of drought status, nothing will; which only further proves Senator Gains' point, and only further justifies Assemblyman Gray's proposed bill.  

Something needs to change.  Either the power of the SWRCB needs to be diminished, or board members need to be replaced with different people.  Because after Wednesday, I don't see how anyone any reasonable person could consider a state that's faced weeks of flooding, to be mired in a drought.

Early Rain & Late Harvest

Rice harvest in California is still going for many of us.  This can be traced back to various complications, but the number one cause has been early rain.   According to KCRA Meterologist Eileen Javora, California just experienced the 4th wettest October in recorded history.  That's pretty significant considering the drought conditions we've been experiencing in the past several years.

So how's the unharvested rice doing in all this rain?  Watch the video and see for yourself.

World Water Day Wars

Today is World Water Day, which I suppose serves the purpose of drawing the world’s attention to the importance of water, and the diverse array of needs it meets.  If you live in Flint, Michigan, the importance of clean drinking water immediately comes to mind.  If you live in Anytown, California, the importance of water supply immediately comes to mind. 

Water supply is the conversation de jour all over California, day after day after day after day.  The dialogue pertains to agriculture, urban, rivers, streams, reservoirs, or the ever controversial Delta.  Water needs in California are so vast and diverse, it has been fought over for years, and will be fought over forever into the future.

For the last 5 years, California has been in a drought, and many have suffered as a result.  But the drought has also spawned action.  In 2014 the people of California passed a massive water bond that has the potential to help farm, city, and environmental needs be more manageable during water short years.  2.7 billion dollars of that bond was earmarked for storage projects.  The on-going process to dole out that money is time consuming, and slathered in bureaucratic red tape; nothing new in California.  Regardless of the lengthy process, Prop 1 has been a beacon of hope for many Californians.

Sometime last year I heard about a new plan to increase water storage in California.  The concept in this case was to pull the 8 billion dollars of high speed rail funds, and repurpose them to additional water storage.  At the time, I thought woohoo!... that makes so much sense!  Months later I hear the initiative is drafted and petitions are circulating to get it on the ballot.  Again, I think woohoo!  Not long after that I hear more details, and I think wait, what?! Why?! Why did they do that!?

In short, the authors of this proposed ballot measure don’t want to just take bullet train money, they want to take Prop 1 money.  They also want to rewrite the state Constitution to re-prioritize water rights in California, which would lead to a water world war, fought out in the courts for who knows how many years.

Why? Why did they do that?!

It’s a question only they can answer.  

The upshot of this brazen attempt takes this ballot measure from something that might have had wide-ranging support, to another one of those California water fights.

A breakdown of this initiative can be found in the video below.  Please watch... and share... and don't sign those petitions.

Butte County Yield Contest

What better way to liven up a rice season than to add in the spirit of competition?  The University of California Cooperative Extension did just that this past rice season with a yield contest in Butte County.  We happily entered the fray, and are very proud to announce:  we won!

Our winning entry recorded a 126.9 cwt (that’s adjusted to a 14% moisture).  Keep in mind, that was our contest yield, not the yield for the whole field.  The yield for the contest was measured by 3 passes across one particular check (minimum of 10 acres).  Headlands and levee edges are removed from the equation.  It was all very carefully measured and weighed by UCCE staff.

Despite the floater seeds, algae blooms, and ever looming threat of army worms, we were confident the field would be competitive.  It’s historically been a high yielding field for us, and generally looked good from seeding to harvest this past season.

It was an honor to win the UCCE contest, and we look forward to an expanded version of the contest in the coming season.

For more details, check out Bruce Linquist’s article on the contest in Rice Farming Magazine.

A Wasted Opportunity

If there’s any silver lining to the brutal drought we’ve faced these last several years, it’s that wasteful water practices and insufficient water storage infrastructure has been exposed to the public at large.   One glaring example of this is the lack of water storage between Shasta Reservoir and the Delta.  There’s roughly 300 miles of river between the two bodies of water.  During rain events, that’s 300 miles of run-off that can’t be captured and held.  Right now, in these very wet El Nino storms, there’s about 40,000 CFS of Sacramento River water running through the Delta, and into the ocean.  That’s nearly 1 acre/foot per second, lost into the ocean, which is a terrible shame.  What’s makes it all worse is that there’s a solution, which has been passed over for decades.  The solution is the Sites Reservoir Project.

If the California Water Commission ultimately awards Prop 1, Chapter 8 bond money to the Sites Reservoir Project, much of this excess rain water could be captured, held, and reinjected into the Sacramento River (and ultimately the Delta) at a more appropriate time.  All this water flowing through the system right now provides no tangible benefit to fish, birds, farmers, and cities.  But come May, June, July, August… it would be liquid gold.

Earlier this week, I sat and watched the Sacramento River swell, and felt incline to document this situation with a short video.  

Building Sites, Chapter 2

After the Prop 1 Water Bond passed in 2014, a cloud of mystery washed over the state of California.  Who gets the money?  How do they get it?  When do they get it?  In time, details emerged of the lengthy bureaucratic process that would dictate how the billions of dollars in bond funds would be doled out.  Not surprisingly, it was not welcomed news for many people in the state who wanted to spring to action on various projects, including Sites Reservoir.  

In Chapter 2, we explain the details of that bureaucratic process, and how Sites fits into the application criteria set forth by the California Water Commission.

Building Sites

One year ago, Californians passed a $7.5 billion dollar water bond, also known as Proposition 1.  When I voted yes on the bond, it was in hopes that the bond money allocated to storage would be put towards a new off-stream reservoir in Sites.  Now that a full year has gone by, it doesn't feel like we are any closer to the dream of Sites Reservoir becoming reality.  

It's for those reasons that I decided to start tracking the work toward building Sites with an on-going video series.  This is part one of the series... Where are we?  And how did we get here?


California Rice Abroad

In California, we grow japonica rice; short and medium grain kernels which are glutinous (sticky) in nature.  In other words, we grow the kind of rice that is heavily consumed in Japan, and key to making a good roll of sushi.  What we grow is sold all over the United States, and exported around the world.  

The video below is a brief analysis of the importance of international markets for California Rice, and how our rice respected abroad.

Special thanks to the California Rice Commission , Aji Japanese Bistro, and the Port of Oakland in helping me produce this video.

Assessing VICE

In recent years VICE has emerged as a new voice in the world of broadcast journalism. Their popularity online stemmed from a short lived appearance on HBO, a widely seen series on ISIS, and ground level reporting on the riots in Ferguson, Missouri.  Their gritty style and causal appearance immediately made them a popular news source for young people, who largely translate their no frills approach as raw truth. Now they've branched off with a news reporting division which covers a wide variety of sensational topics, both overseas and here in the United States.  It's no surprise that a VICE NEWS crew landed in California this summer to cover the drought.

Their 12 minute piece on the California drought, and how farmers are operating within the drought, is packed with errors, misleading information, and slant.  Below I'll list some of the "truths" stated in the piece, and offer another point of view.

California Is Predominantly Desert
So stated a woman from The Oakland Institute as pictures of flooded rice fields and almond orchards stream across the screen.  Yeah, sure... there's desert in California:  Joshua Tree, Mojave, Tehachapi, but those areas are far from anywhere food is grown.  Part of what makes California great is the diversity of its landscape.  Beaches, Mountains, Lush Valleys, and yes, some Desert. In the VICE NEWS story it is implied that rice and almonds are grown in the desert. It's a ridiculous notion to us locals, but accepted as truth to the unknowing viewers in Chicago, London, or Moscow; places that don't know any better and trust VICE to tell the truth. The truth is that these crops are grown in the Mediterranean climate of the central valley, where soil is fertile, and water is typically in abundant supply from the many rivers and creeks which flow through the region.

Farmers Use 80% Of The State Water Supply

This stat has been floating around for about a year now, and it's dead wrong. As stated by the Northern California Water Association, agriculture uses 41% of the states water. 49% is allocated to environmental use, 7% of which is simply dumped into the Sacramento River Delta and flushed out into the ocean.  

In the same breath the reporter inaccurately declared 80%, she pointed out that Ag makes up 2% of the states economy.  While this is true, it's misleading to compare Ag's water use to it's economic contribution.  It naturally leads the viewer to think that all areas of the California State Economy are water dependent (which they aren't), and that Ag is hoarding water at the expense of another industry (which it isn't).  It's also worth noting that the 2% they're referring to adds up to more than 40 billion dollars.  VICE, of course, uses the smaller sounding number to diminish its value and force the unknowing viewers support away from Ag.

"Homeowners are forced to let their lawns go brown, but farmers get to flood their fields."
This mind boggling comment was stated by reporter Nilo Tabrizy as an example of how farmers are hoarding water and hanging citizens out to dry. I would love to hear her explain exactly what she was implying by including this line in her script.  Does she think farmers should discontinue farming, providing jobs, and providing food to the world so citizens can have green lawns?  Certainly if pressed on this point she would pull back and say she was suggesting nothing of the sort.  Still... she said it, and when intermixed in the piece at large, it serves as an indictment against farmers and their water use, and again helps push the viewer away from supporting Ag.

The Powerful Ag Lobby
In the video it is suggested by the reporter that farmers get an unfair distribution of water because of the powerful Ag Lobby. They reference tens of millions of dollars in campaign donations and imply that those donations somehow buy influence.  Assuming that's even true, it doesn't come close to the wealth and power of the Environmental Lobby.  The Natural Resources Defense Council alone spent $119.4 million in 2014 (numbers taken from their own website NRDC.org).  The Ag Lobby, if there even is one, doesn't even come close to matching the  financial power and influence of the Environmental Lobby.  But did VICE mention this?  Of course not.

Final Assessment

Clearly VICE came into this piece with a fixed agenda:  paint farmers as the villains of the water crisis, and lay the blame for the drought at their feet.  Even with all of this misinformation and slant, the most damning tactic VICE takes is omitting key information which would absolutely change the attitude of the viewer.

The video fails to mention that farmers water allocation has been cut for two years.  Some farmers were cut 25%, some 40%, some 100%.  It's not even close to the free-for-all portrayed in the video.

The video fails to mention the the precision farming methods sweeping the industry.  Utilizing the latest in GPS technology, farmers are able to till, plant, irrigate, and harvest with pinpoint precision, so that waste is minimized, and often eliminated altogether.

The video fails to mention that water use in Ag has not significantly restricted or compromised water use of any other industry, or entity.  In fact, other than lawn watering restrictions, I know of no other water restrictions in Northern California, other than the restrictions imposed on Ag.

The video fails to mention the water conservation methods farmers have adopted in recent years.  Drip irrigation technology, no spill policies, and rotating to less water consumptive crops are just a few of the measures farmers have taken in the interest of saving water.

The video fails to mention the priceless habitat that flood irrigated rice fields provide to the environment.  Millions of local and migratory birds use flooded rice fields for nesting, feeding, and resting.  Without such agriculture, the birds would have limited options, and wildlife populations would suffer.

The video fails to mention the recent well drilling moratoriums.  I don't know how many counties have already put these in place, but in Colusa County, Glenn County, and the Paso Robles Water Basin, drilling new wells has been halted.  I'm sure there are many others, and more will soon follow.

I could go on, but I think the point is made.  VICE is another news source who can't be trusted to tell a story without bias.  They have proven it with their blatant attack on California Agriculture.  But we farmers will move on past the unfairly bad P.R. and continue to do what's in the best interest of the land, natural resources, and the State Economy.  It's what we've done for generations, and will continue for generations to come.

 

Drain Days of Summer

It's August, which means the rice fields are starting to look like rice fields.  It's when you start to see fully formed heads, tipped heads; as green becomes yellow, and grains become solid.

As we creep into the mid-point of August, it also means that we are about a month away from harvest.  I'm sure every grower handles the final month before harvest differently.  Some growers are tuning up their harvesters, while others are off fishing, or golfing.  One thing every grower is doing this time of year:  shutting off water and draining fields.  

Why do we drain?  There's one obvious and prevailing reason we drain our fields before harvest:  so we can get our combines into the field to harvest the rice without getting stuck in the mud.   After saturating the ground for several months, it takes about a month to dry the soil out for the machinery we run through the field.

When do we drain?  Everyone seems to have their own idea for what the best system is for drying out a field.  30 days before harvest, 24 days after 50% heading, when Mars can be seen in the east and Venus in the west...   No one system is better than another.  It's really a matter of what each grower likes, and what works best for them and their ground.

So what's our system?  Generally speaking we adopt the 30 days before harvest method.  One variation we add to the mix is shutting our water off 5 to 7 days before we pull boards and drain the field.  

Why do we do that?  Simple answer:  water conservation.  While 6 days of running water may seem like small potatoes in the big picture, it can add up to a lot of water when you multiply thousands of gallons per minute, being pumped across thousands of acres of rice.  Every drop helps.  Especially in the water short drought days we currently live in, it's a small gesture than can save tens of thousands of gallons of water.  It also adds up to cost savings for growers.  It takes power to pump that water, be it electric or diesel powered pumps and wells.  The costs add up fast, and trimming out 6 days of expenses related to that can add up as fast as the gallons of water we allow to float on by our fields.

As the last days of summer tick away, we will follow a carefully planned shut off and drainage schedule.  About a month from now we will be dropping  harvesters into these fields for some smooth sailing across hardened ground.

El Nino Dreams

One can’t predict the weather more than a few days in advance.
— Stephen Hawking

Many farmers would argue the weather can't be accurately predicted one day in advance, but that doesn't stop meteorologists from slinging weather news faster than a paperboy.  The latest bold prediction is that a large El Nino is brewing in the Pacific, which might not only bring heavy rains, but drought busting floods too.   Is it okay to be excited about possible flooding?  Because the prospect of flooding sounds pretty exciting right now.

The news of this pending El Nino does feel like deja vu all over again.  This time last year we heard similar tales of a wet winter pattern, which seemed to be coming to fruition during a soaker of a November.  Then sometime in December, the faucets were shut off and it was a long, dry winter the rest of the way.

Now here we are again... Meteorologists claiming another, bigger, real-deal El Nino is primed to blast us into another dimension.   "This year is different... This is a much stronger El Nino... It will be 1997 all over again... But worse!"   All of that sounds really exciting, but it's hard to get too excited when these predictions so often turn out to be wrong.

I will admit, the across the board confidence the forecasters have this time around has made me optimistic.  And seeing maps like this...

...showing the massive disparity between warm water and cold water leads me to believe this may be a drought busting winter after all.  So maybe it's okay to get excited this time.  Maybe this will be the one.  They say all great droughts end in great floods.  Perhaps the waters will rise along with our hopes of an end to this 100 years drought nonsense we've been fed by the sensational media.

I've decided to allow myself to be hopeful, given the overwhelming evidence that a wet winter is on deck.  It's hard to not let a smile creep over your face at the prospect of full reservoirs, replenished aquifers, and 100% water allocation announcements rolling in from the local irrigation districts.

Delta Smelt Dialogue

On a whole, the value of Social Media is certainly debatable.  Sites like Twitter and Facebook are a balance of useful information, useless information, and misinformation. Instagram, the one Social Media site I enjoy participating in, is apparently no exception.

Earlier this morning I was quickly scanning through my feed when I stumbled upon this picture.

Posted by National Geographic's excellent account, it's a photo of the controversial Delta Smelt.  The caption states that the photo was taken at a "four-day spring trawl" back in 2005.  This fish represents the only fish caught in those four days.

What follows the photo's short caption is a stream of more than 1,600 comments.  Should you bold enough to attempt reading these comments, you will find yourself sludging through a sea of opinions, information, and misinformation.  Is the Smelt a vital part of the California Delta ecosystem?  Some say yes, others no.  Is the Smelt a native species or invasive species?  Both stances were asserted in the comments.   Are the populations even at risk, as Nat Geo asserted?   Some says yes, while others argue a flawed counting system is to blame.

The point debated in the comments section that most piqued my interest was regarding water diversions for the Smelt.  In case this story is unfamiliar to you:  In order for the Delta Smelt to survive, the salinity of the California Delta must be kept in check.  To accomplish that, especially in drought conditions, surface water (rain and melted snow pack) must be dumped into the Delta to offset the encroaching salt water from the Pacific Ocean.  The reason this action is controversial is because that same surface water is needed to irrigate the millions of acres of farm land in California.  It's also the bulk of the water supply for urban and township use.  

The heart of the Smelt debate lies in the tug and pull between both interests.  Who is more deserving of the water?  The endangered Delta Smelt, or the people and crops of California?  Some comments asserted that saving the Smelt should be priority number one.   "Everything has a purpose in life..." one woman asserted.  "Extinction of an entire species has consequences..." another chimed in.   

To me, the real consequences lie in allowing these diversions to continue.  As it is, the vast majority of California water is dedicated to environmental use.  According to the Northern California Water Association, 49% of California Water goes to instream flows, wild and scenic rivers, managed wetlands, and required Delta outflows.  Those outflows alone add up to 7% of the State's entire water supply.  If you look at the numbers for just the Sacramento Valley, Delta outflows make up 24% of the entire water supply.  Nearly a quarter of the water applied to the Sacramento Valley gets dumped into the ocean in the name of one tiny little fish.  Meanwhile irrigated agriculture gets only 41% of the State's water supply.

Now... Don't get me wrong.  I am by no means asserting that nature and wildlife aren't entitled to the world's resources.  Clean water, fresh air, open spaces... this is important stuff which must be maintained properly.  But in the case of the Delta Smelt, particularly during this drought, things are going too far.   California has somewhere between 25 and 27 million acres of farm land.  The crops those farms grow are vital to the nation's food supply and the California economy.   For two consecutive years, farmers water supply has been cut.  Ground sits fallow, orchards have died and been uprooted, and the labor force which maintains all of this has been scaled back.  People are hurting.  Meanwhile the Smelt get their guaranteed allocation.

Ask anyone in agriculture about this topic, and you will likely get a passion filled critique of these diversions to the Delta.  The Instagram photo was riddled with such comments.  How this will all play out long term is unclear.  The one thing which is clear to me:  something needs to change, be it a new attitude about water use and what's truly important in this state, or a new weather pattern.  Which of the two comes first is anyone's guess.

Making The Best Of It

You don't need to work in the Ag industry or live in California to know that our state is mired in a historic drought.  Farmers are facing their second consecutive  year of water cuts.  And more cuts loom on the horizon for senior water rights holders.  

Despite these circumstances, we as farmers have a job to do.  So here we are, off and running on another rice season, doing what we can to make the best of things.  We are about two months into the season.  All the acres we could get water for are now planted.  Things have developed slowly so far, mostly due to unseasonably cool temperatures, but warmer weather is on the horizon, so we expect things to start picking up soon.

Years like this illustrate the importance of precision farming practices, particularly the use of GPS leveling equipment.  The flatter the field, the more efficient we are with our water use.   Every acre/foot we pump is heavily monitored and accounted for, which means accurately leveled fields are becoming less of a luxury and more mandatory.

As we press on into the season, it's difficult to know what the future will hold.  In the meantime we will continue to do what we always do:  grow bountiful crops of California Rice, while implementing as many conservation practices as we can.  

 

 

 

 

 

New Land Formation Tool

This past spring, we were one of three local rice growers to use a GPS scraper that hit the market this year.  It's called the Swingblade, and it's made by IronTree Solutions, who operate out of Williams.

We covered an average of 100 acres per day with the Swingblade, including the transport time between fields.  The speed at which this implement can go in and out of transport mode was one of the biggest selling points for us.  Gone are the days of 30-40 minute work stoppages, to put the scraper into transport mode.  With the Swingblade the whole process takes two or three minutes.  

You can see  how fast the process really is, and learn other selling points about the Swingblade in this video.

We've kept our Swingblade running into the summer, pulling levees and re-leveling several of our fallow fields.  It's a great tool, that works fast and effectively.

A new season is near

Another rice season is right around the corner.  It won't be long before ag pilots will fill the skies over Northern California.  Here is a unique look at the rice planting process, filmed and edited during the 2013 rice season.