More on subsidized farmers no longer alive

Submitted: Aug 16, 2007

Letters to the Editor
Fresno Bee
July 27, 2007

Dear Sir or Madam,

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gets my inept federal bureaucracy of the month award for writing subsidy checks to 172,801 dead farmers totaling $1.1 billion dollars during the period from 1999 to 2005. This gives new meaning to the term "buying the farm."
All the sordid details are available in a report from the Government Accountability Office located at
Nineteen percent of the deceased subsidy recipients had been dead for seven years or more, while a whopping 40 percent had been dead for three years or more. Even more troubling, someone undoubtedly alive signed and cashed those checks given the considerable difficulty the dead have in signing checks.
There must be plenty of dead San Joaquin Valley farmers on the list given that we are the farming capitol of the nation. They must be chuckling somewhere in the Great Pasture in the Sky that they couldn't make any money while living but managed to generate some green after they were gone.

Lloyd Carter

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Work in progress

Submitted: Aug 12, 2007

I was recently asked to produce a bibliography of "essential books" on the San Joaquin Valley.


A dozen favorites leapt to mind; a few days later a dozen more; and the pleasant task began to turn into a real project destined for certain failure and remorse. It turns out not to be so easy to remember the books of a lifetime and each dive into the Internet provides more that look very useful but I haven't had time to read yet.

When one gets to a certain age it becomes difficult to remember the heroes because they are all gone and it is harder to recall that I met some of them a time or two, here and there -- for example, Fred Ross, a slim, serious man, perpetually moving purposefully around the Delano headquarters of the UFWOC; the wise, friendly Larry Itliong; or Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel on the phone correcting the spelling of her name in an article I'd written; or the voice of Art Coelho, poet and publisher of our Valley voices, from Montana, talking about burning up cowboy boots on big cats disking the west side and years wandering the West as an itinerant poet composing the best list of country poets in the West.

I remembered a call about a great farm labor leader in farmworkers rest home in Delano leading a seminar on Lenin to fellow octogenarians from the fields. We dreamed of that moment when those workers would confront St. Peter and demand to know: "What is to be done?"

I remember the face of the great, betrayed C. Al Green, director of the multi-racial AFL-CIO Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, a victim, like Chavez, of liberal perfidity that has resulted in indebted servitude in the fields today. All the political thieves of San Francisco have ever wanted from the Valley was agribusiness campaign cash, any way they could get it. "Migrants don't vote," they said. These days, it's "Illegal immigrants don't vote."

The longer I worked on it, the more holes I saw in the vista of written material on the San Joaquin Valley that stretched out before me like a vast battlefield of a war that has been going on since before the great Yojuts leader Estanislao defeated the young Lt. Mariano Vallejo. Looking at water rights issues today, sometimes it seems as if the ghosts of heroes and villains rising off the battlefield are pulling the strings of the living in a never-ending feud we call our "Valley way of life." Another way to look at it is that bioregions matter.

Every reader will find something missing in this bibliography. For example, I am frantically digging in book boxes for a good one on the Chinese in California I know I have somewhere but cannot remember the title of. Can't find it, have nothing on their enormous contribution except in various general histories like Bean's superb California: An Interpretive History.

Everyone I have talked to has added a book I've forgotten or never knew about.

So, this is a work in progress and I invite anyone to write us at, gleefully to announce what a knucklehead I was to forget their favorite, indispensible books about the Valley.

Meanwhile, apologies to the people who originally requested the bibliography -- we'll let you know when it's done.

Bill Hatch, for the Badlands Journal editorial board


Garden of the Sun, Wallace Smith (the only history to date strictly about the SJV)
Handbook of the Yokuts Indians, Frank Latta
The Stanislaus Indian Wars, Thorne P. Gray
The Destruction of the California Indians, Robert F. Heizer
Saints or Oppressors: The Franciscan Missionaries of California; In The Missions of California: A Legacy of Genocide, Rupert and Jeannette Costa
Flooding the Courtrooms: Law and Water in the Far West, by Mary Catherine Miller (a legal biography of the Miller&Lux cattle company)
Empires in the Sun, Peter Wiley, Robert Gottlieb (development of power utilities in the West)
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (DDT)
Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner
Death in the Marsh, Tom Harris (the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge ecological disaster caused by agricultural drainage containing heavy metals)
Fruits of Natural Advantage, Steven Stoll (the self-destructive economics of agribusiness)
The New California, Dan Walters
Works of Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange: Taylor was one of the first academics (UC Berkeley economist) to study farm labor, both Mexican and Dust Bowl immigrants; Lange's photographs of migrants stand alongside Walker Evans' work with James Agee as testimony to the destruction and poverty of the Depression
Factories in the Fields, Carey McWilliams
Farm workers and agri-business in California, 1947-1960, Ernesto Galarza
Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa, Jacques E. Levy
United Farm Workers website, history section
Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement, Craig Scharlin
Articles on 160-acre limitation by E. Phillip Leveen (have to do Google search for them, Leveen was the top spokesman for the 160-acre limitation for federal water during the last great war over it in the late 70s; an agricultural economist at the time, he was trained as an historian and gives the history of the whole federal water/land fraud in the Valley)
Articles by Don Villarejo, founder of the California Institute for Rural Studies, list available at (nearly 50 years of thought and research on the Valley balancing social, economic and environmental justice claims)
California Institute of Rural Studies publication catalogue
Isao Fujimoto, UC Davis emeritus, has published a number of studies on different aspects of the Central Valley -- from farm labor to environmental issues
The King Of California: JG Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire, by Mark Arax,Rick Wartzman
Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm, by David Mas Masumoto
BORDER CORRESPONDENT, Selected Writings, 1955-1970, Ruben Salazar
Mean Justice, by Ed Hume
California: An Interpretive History, Walton Bean
Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), (the Florida front line of current farm-labor organizing)

Legal and administrative decisions and discussion: The San Joaquin Valley has produced major legal contests on an array of natural resource issues; these sources will lead the reader into essential topics in Valley history; others are dealt with in the non-fiction section

Public Trust Doctrine
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Mono Lake Decision
San Joaquin Raptor Wildlife Rescue Center
Monterery Accord decision: PCL v. DWR
Kesterson Wildlife Refuge
San Joaquin River Settlement
Rapanos Decision
CEQA decisions (law firm blogs like Abbott and Kinderman Land Use Law blog offer reviews of recent decisions: San Joaquin Raptor v. County of Merced, Woodward Park Homeowners Association, Inc. v. City of Fresno, Vineyard Area Citizens for Responsible Growth Inc. v City of Rancho Cordova, Hayward Area Planning Association v. City of Hayward, City of Marina v. Board of Trustees of California State University, etc. provides current news on lawsuits, administrative decisions, essays and articles on resource law

Fiction, Poetry, Drama

Poetry of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (the greatest Dust Bowl poet, still writing about her people until shortly before she died this April)
Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle, by John Steinbeck
The Octopus, Frank Norris
The Ford, Mary Austin
Art Coehlo (Cuelho) and Seven Buffaloes Press
Gerald Haslam's works, short stories and Workin' Man's Blues (memoirs of youth in Oildale and the development of "Nashville West," Bakersfield.
Plays of Luis Valdez ("Zoot Suit," "La Bamba").
Luis is the farmworkers' Bertold Brecht.
Highway 99: A Literary Journey through California's Great Central Valley, edited by Stan Yogi, Gayle Mak, and Patricia Wakida
Fat City, Leonard Gardner

Additions since posting:

New Roots for Agriculture, Wes Jackson
Topsoil and Civilization, Vernon Gill Carter and Tom Dale
The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin

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Ol' Marse Mixed Metaphor, D-Merced

Submitted: Jul 27, 2007
"We're going to keep an eye on them," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. "The administration was in a total meltdown over this, and they were putting on a full-court press to be given a second chance."

Returning agricultural border inspectors from Department of Homeland Security to Department of Agriculture jurisdiction seemed like one of the better reforms in this year's Farm Bill, at least for the purposes of crop protection, the supposed mission of agricultural inspectors.

Cardoza, minister of propaganda for the Blue Dog Democrats, has shown in the above quote that he has mastered the nuances of Dixiecrat muddled metaphor.

Beneficiaries from exotic infestations of crop-destroying pests include chemical companies, public research higher education institutions like the University of California and finance, insurance and real estate special interests interested in cheap farm land sold by pest-distressed, bee-disadvantaged farmers.

The wannabe king toys with the majority party. The Democrats don't have the courage to govern in this grave Constitutional crisis. Before they impeach, none of their acts make sense. Every day, Nancy and her corrupt little Boys and Girls fall farther behind the American people. Instead of leading them, they hide from them, weighed down by the money. The less they lead, the richer they get.

Bill Hatch

Merced Sun-Star
Border inspectors stay with homeland ...MICHAEL DOYLE

WASHINGTON — Agricultural border inspectors will remain Department of Homeland Security employees after all, following an intense White House lobbying effort to rewrite a $286 billion farm bill.

Maneuvering behind the scenes, the Bush administration on Thursday buried House plans to transfer the plant and animal inspectors back to the Agriculture Department. The bureaucratic victory frustrates California growers and others who fear agricultural inspections are getting shortchanged.

"It's extremely disappointing," said Joel Nelsen, president of the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual. "This program has continued to be a stepchild in the whole homeland security system."

Bush won the border battle without even needing a vote, as the House began debating the farm bill. Instead, House Democrats removed from the 744-page bill language shifting inspectors back to the Agriculture Department. Lawmakers agreed they would continue monitoring the inspectors' work, possibly reviving the issue later...

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Show time

Submitted: Jul 26, 2007

At the financial market level, it is of course assumed that all local land-use authorities would automatically have to approve subdivisions funded by subprime loans, now in default, because, naturally, no local land-use officials could possibly behave with any kind of economic caution or care. In fact, elected officials in this area -- from Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, down to three county boards of supervisors and many city councils, promoted an orgy of greed that has ended in the northern San Joaquin Valley counties leading the nation in per capita mortgage foreclosures.

These days, not only have they been proven corrupt, the arrogance of these elected officials has increased and they are even more willing to try to intimidate the public by calling them "socialists" and whatnot.

But, looking at it from their point of view, what else can they do but try to slander their critics? What they did is out in front of God and Everyone. The obvious political play is to bring up the Socialist Menace. Let's forget about subsidized federal water for subsidized cotton and all the rest of Supervisor Jerry O'Banion's friends and interests. O'Banion would never be dumb enough to call anyone a socialist, given the political situation on the west side. But, would he above goading Supervisor Mike Nelson to do it?

The socialists in Merced County are rich, subsidized farmers, public employees (teachers, city and county employees, etc.) and UC Merced. We have bureaucratic oppression on the east side and the same-old feudalism on the west side.

But, don't tell the focos grupitos participating in the county general plan update process that! Perish those critical thoughts! We will reach a grand consensus (led by the adroit triple-speak of county planning staff). Don't count on Agriculture. Those people are in acute political schizophrenia: landowner v. farmer. To preserve or to sell, that is the question. It's Hamlet time.

If we are not to be guided lovingly over the cliff to San Fernando Valley by our triple-speaking public employees, it would be wise to talk among ourselves, not coagulating into some phony group, but in caucus among those we trust and who share common interests. The way the flak is drifting at the moment, people cannot find their allies because they are buying into political agendas against their self-interests, in the name of vast, utterly illusory, consensuses defined by our common grave diggers.

But, Hey, it's the California Way. Right?


Groups must develop now that can identify their own self interests and can seek and find coalitions with other groups with allied self interests against a bureaucracy in the east, which cares for nothing but more jurisdictional revenue, and the feudalism in the west, living off subsidies and cheap labor.

Bill Hatch

San Francisco Chronicle

Wall Street Plunges, Dow Falls 400 ... JOE BEL BRUNO, AP Business Writer

Wall Street suffered its second-biggest plunge of the year Thursday, leading global markets lower as investors fled stocks amid increasing uneasiness about the mortgage and corporate lending markets. The Dow Jones industrials fell more than 400 points, while Treasury yields plunged as investors moved money into bonds.
Investors who had been able to shrug off discomfort about subprime mortgage problems and a more difficult environment for corporate borrowing appeared to finally succumb to those concerns. The Dow's drop is the biggest since it plummeted 416 points on Feb. 27 after a nearly 10 percent decline in Chinese stock markets.
Feeding the selling were concerns that higher corporate borrowing costs will curb the rapid pace of takeovers that have driven major indexes this year. Investors also feared the sluggish environment for home sales and continued defaults in subprime loans would spur debt defaults and weigh on corporate earnings.
"Worries that have been out there for the past couple of years are coming to a head right now," said investment strategist Edward Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research Inc. "It's show time" ...

Huge Farm Bill Offers More of Same for Agribusiness ...Carolyn Lochhead

WASHINGTON - A prominent San Francisco patron of the arts, Constance Bowles — heiress of an early California cattle baron, widow of a former director of UC Berkeley’s Bancroft library and a resident of Pacific Heights — was the largest recipient of federal cotton subsidies in the state of California between 2003 and 2005, collecting more than $1.2 million, according to the latest available data.
That is the way U.S. farm programs are designed to work. Five crops — cotton, corn, wheat, rice and soybeans — received 92 percent of the $21 billion in federal farm payments last year. The biggest payments go to the biggest farms.
That also is pretty much the way farm programs will continue to work for the next five years under mammoth legislation scheduled today for a House vote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco has endorsed the new farm bill, produced by the House Agriculture Committee to run programs for the next five years, as a major reform because it limits annual payments to farmers who earn $1 million a year.
The income limit for a couple would actually be $2 million, because a husband and wife each could collect.
If the bill becomes law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the cap will affect just 3,100 farmers, assuming they do not use accounting tactics to reduce their taxable income. Actual payments to farmers would rise over the five years authorized by the bill. The bill is over budget, so Democratic leaders propose a $4 billion tax increase on U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies to pay for it...Pelosi is pushing for a quick House vote this week on the Agriculture Committee’s bill to give rural Democrats — especially those who won seats in GOP-dominated districts last year — something to tout when they return home for the August congressional recess...But most California farmers — and most U.S. farmers — do not grow the five subsidized crops and do not receive direct payments from the federal government. California fruit, nut and vegetable growers, who would get research and marketing aid under the new bill, mostly oppose crop subsidies and did not seek them.
Economists say the subsidies harm most farmers. That’s because they lower crop prices, raise land prices and rents, and give subsidized farmers a financial advantage that has helped drive their neighbors out of business and keep young farmers from getting started.
Many farmers, and farm state politicians of both parties, oppose large payments. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, all want to limit payments to one-quarter the size Pelosi has endorsed in the House bill.
“When you say to the biggest farms in the country, ‘The bigger you get, the more money you get from the government,’ then the farm program effectively subsidizes the destruction of family farming,” said Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska. “Most people in rural America think that is bad policy.”
The big payments would continue while prices of subsidized crops are at or near record highs, fueled by the ethanol boom. The value of this year’s giant corn crop — which would almost cover the state of California in acreage — is expected to reach $40 billion.
California’s top subsidy recipient from 2003 to 2005, Bowles, 88, of San Francisco, collected the $1.2 million in mostly cotton payments through her family’s 6,000-acre farm, the Bowles Farming Co., in Los Banos (Merced County). She could not be reached for comment.
Another family member, George “Corky” Bowles, who died in 2005, collected $1.19 million over the same period. George Bowles once ran the farm but lived on Telegraph Hill. A collector of rare books and 18th century English porcelain, he served as a director of the San Francisco Opera and a trustee of the Fine Arts Museums.
The farm is run by Phillip Bowles in San Francisco. Phillip Bowles was on vacation Tuesday and could not be reached. He told KGO television last week that he’s no fan of subsidies, but if big cotton growers in Texas get them, so should he.
“Many of these businesses are getting 20 to 30 to sometimes 40 percent of their gross revenues directly from the government,” Phillip Bowles told KGO. “I don’t have a good explanation for that. Somebody else might, but it beats me.”
Economists say they can find no rationale for the subsidies, which started in 1933 as temporary aid for small farmers devastated by the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Then, a quarter of Americans lived on farms. Today, less than 1 percent do — so few that the Census Bureau quit counting.
“The programs are just outdated,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center and a leading farm economist. “No one can think of a legitimate reason why we have these farm programs for a handful of crops in the United States.
“If the best the committee could do is say these payments are to help people in need, and we’re going to define for farm legislation that somebody’s in need if the family makes $2 million a year — a million for the husband and a million for the wife — that’s a little strange. If these are really welfare programs for the needy, we don’t normally cut those off at $1 million. It’s more like $20,000.”
Cotton ranks as the No. 1 subsidized crop in California. Federal data compiled by Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, shows that the state’s cotton, rice and dairy farmers received more than $1 billion in federal support from 2003 to 2005. During the same period, about $62 million went to farm conservation and environmental projects in California...Farm environmental programs now total $4 billion a year, far outstripping any other federal funding for private conservation. Environmentalists would like to see the crop subsidies also go to “green payments” to induce environmental protection for wildlife habitat, watersheds and the like.

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But do they still vote?

Submitted: Jul 25, 2007

USDA Paid Dead Farmers $1.1B
Report: Between 1999 And 2005, Government Made Farm Payments To More Than 170,000 Dead Farmers -- CBS News

(AP) The Agriculture Department sent $1.1 billion in farm payments to more than 170,000 dead people over a seven-year period, congressional investigators say.

The findings by the Government Accountability Office were released Monday as the House prepared to debate and pass farm legislation this week that would govern subsidies and the department's programs for the next five years.

GAO auditors reviewed payments from 1999 through 2005 in the report, which was requested by Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

"It's unconscionable that the Department of Agriculture would think that a dead person was actively engaged in the business of farming," said Grassley.

The auditors said they found that the department has not been conducting the necessary checks to ensure that subsidy payments are proper.

"USDA has made farm payments to estates more than two years after recipients died, without determining, as its regulations require, whether the estates were kept open to receive these payments," their report said.

Of the identified payments to deceased farmers' estates or businesses, 40 percent went to those who had been dead more than three years, and 19 percent went to those who had been dead for seven or more years.

John Johnson, a deputy administrator for the Farm Service Agency, said there is no indication that the payments were improper, since some rules allow estates to continue receiving money after a two-year grace period. The department is hoping to rely less on self-reporting and is working with the Social Security Administration to boost its record keeping, he said.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said the report bolsters the argument there should be lower ceilings and stricter limits on farm subsidies.

"Given extremely tight budget restraints, it is no longer tolerable to permit billions of dollars in farm bill payments to go to individuals who in instances don't even farm or are no longer alive," he said.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said he is looking into ways to stop estates from continuing to collect farm payments long after the designated recipient for them has died.

"They have plenty of people to check to make sure they aren't handing out payments to dead people, for God's sake," he said...

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California Sportfishing Protection Alliance lashes Valley agricultural pollution

Submitted: Jul 25, 2007

Water Board Report Shows that Irrigated Agriculture Has Polluted the Delta and Most Central Valley Waterways

For immediate release:
25 July 2007

(Stockton, CA) The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) has released a landmark draft report presenting the first region-wide assessment of data collected pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Program since its inception in 2003. Data collected from some 313 sites throughout the Central Valley reveals that: 1) toxicity to aquatic life was present at 63% of the monitored sites (50% were toxic to more than one species), 2) pesticide water quality standards were exceeded at 54% of sites (many for multiple pesticides), 3) one or more metals violated criteria at 66% of the sites, 4) human health standards for bacteria were violated at 87% of monitored sites and 5) more than 80% of the locations reported exceedances of general parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, salt, TSS). While the adequacy of monitoring (i.e., frequency and comprehensiveness) of monitoring varied dramatically from site to site, the report presents a
dramatic panorama of the epidemic of pollution caused by the uncontrolled discharge of agricultural wastes.

The report is posted on the Regional Board’s website at: A brief review of the report including a zone-by-zone description of many of the monitoring results is attached at the bottom of this advisory.

“The report is a searing indictment of the Schwarzenegger Administration’s failure to regulate polluted discharges from irrigated agriculture,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). “Allowing farmers to dispose of toxic wastes in our waterways without effective regulation has destroyed the biological integrity of streams, rivers and the Delta,” he said adding, “Collapsing fish populations are a direct result of failing to require agriculture to comply with routine pollution control requirements applicable to virtually every other segment society, from municipalities and industry to mom-and-pop businesses.”

California’s ambient monitoring program and scientists from the University of California at Davis collected data from 53% of the sites. The remaining sites were monitored by agricultural coalitions or individual water agencies, pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Waivers program.

Discharges of agricultural pollutants are allowable under waivers of waste discharge requirements issued by the Regional Board in 2003 and renewed in 2006. Those waivers are being contested in a lawsuit filed by CSPA and Baykeeper against the Regional Board on 18 June 2007.

The waivers require farmers to join coalitions and conduct limited water quality monitoring. However, requirements to implement pollutant control measures are voluntary. Unfortunately, the structure of the waivers precludes the Regional Board from learning the identity of specific dischargers, actual discharge locations, the constituents being discharged, the volume and concentration of discharged pollutants, whether or not BMPs have been implemented or if implemented BMPs are effective. Consequently, the Regional Board cannot document a single specific source of pollution, the implementation and effectiveness of a single control measure or a single pound of pollution that has actually been prevented from entering waterways.

Since the coalitions are legally fictitious entities shielding actual dischargers, the Regional Board is unable to employ its traditional regulatory enforcement powers against dischargers to compel compliance with the conditions of the waiver. As a result, no enforcement actions have been taken for the failure of the coalition’s to comply with the waiver’s explicit monitoring and reporting requirements. Regulation of the largest source of pollution to Central Valley waterways has effectively been delegated to the voluntary goodwill of groups of dischargers. Such an approach has never worked in the past and is not likely be successful in the future.

“The report puts to rest the repeated claims by farmers that agricultural pollution is not a problem in the Central Valley,” said Jennings, “and it graphically chronicles the bankruptcy of the Regional Board’s approach to controlling agricultural wastes.” “We cannot begin to restore the Delta and Central Valley waterways until we begin to control the massive discharge of toxic pollutants from agriculture.”

CSPA reviewed the draft report and found that it was confusing and understates the consequences of the data. Principle defects were: 1) lack of a unified framework (formats, tables and discussion rationales are different for each zone), 2) comparison of toxicity and specific constituents to total sites monitored, regardless of whether they were monitored at a particular site; 3) failure to address spatial and temporal variability in comparing water quality exceedances to total collected samples, and 4) failure to discuss the ecological and statistical significance of criteria exceedance. Despite these shortcomings, the report is the first attempt to define the extent of agricultural pollution and it presents an appalling picture of the state of Central Valley waterways.

One of the more disturbing findings in the report is the pervasiveness of long-banned pesticides like DDT and it’s degradates, DDE and DDD, that are either being remobilized by present farming practices or illegally applied. DDT is still legal in Mexico and a number of individuals have questioned whether DDT is being illegally smuggled into the state. A number of other “prohibited” pesticides were also identified at various monitoring sites.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
“An Advocate for Fisheries, Habitat and Water Quality”
3536 Rainier Avenue, Stockton, CA 95204
Tel: 209-464-5067, Fax: 209-464-1028, E:

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA)
A Brief Overview of the Draft 2007 Review of Monitoring Data, Irrigated Lands Conditional Waiver Program, 17 June 2007
Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board

Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board staff posted the Revised Draft of the 2007 Review of Monitoring Data for the Irrigated Lands Conditional Waiver Program (Report) on 13 July 2007. It is posted on the Regional Board’s web site at:

The Report divides the Central Valley into four zones:
1. Zone 1 includes the Sacramento River Watershed.
2. Zone 2 includes the Delta Region and portions of the San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras and Mokelumne watersheds.
3. Zone 3 includes the San Joaquin River Watershed.
4. Zone 4 includes the Tulare Lake Basin.

The Report presents the first region-wide assessment of data collected pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Program since its inception in 2003. Monitoring data collected from some 313 sites is identified in the Report. The irrigated lands agricultural coalitions or individual water agencies enrolled under the waiver monitored 148 sites or 47% of the total. The state’s ambient water monitoring program (SWAMP), UC Davis (under contract to the Regional Board) and others monitored the remaining 165 sites.

Monitored constituents included toxicity (fish, zooplankton, phytoplankton and sediment), pesticides (standard suites plus legacy organochlorines), metals (arsenic, boron, copper, lead, nickel and zinc), bacteria/pathogens (E. coli), field parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, total dissolved solids and/or electrical conductivity) and nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen containing compounds including phosphate, nitrate and ammonia).

Notwithstanding the structural deficiencies, inaccuracies and bias of the Report (discussed below), it is welcome first step toward identifying and quantifying the impacts of discharges from irrigated lands. It presents an astonishing and depressing mosaic of the pervasive water quality problems in the Central Valley caused by irrigated agriculture. It is a searing indictment of the Regional Board’s failed policy of exempting irrigated agriculture from water quality regulations applicable to virtually every other segment of society.

The frequency and comprehensiveness of monitoring varied significantly from site to site. Where monitored:
1. Toxicity was identified at 63% of the sites and 50% of the sites experienced toxicity to two or more species.
2. Pesticide criterion was exceeded for one or more pesticides at 54% of the sites.
3. One or more metals exceeded water quality criteria in 66% of the monitored sites.
4. Human health criteria for bacteria were exceeded in 87% of the monitored sites.
5. More than 80% of the monitored sites exceeded water quality criteria for general parameters.

The pervasiveness of identified problems is disheartening. For example, 60 of 61 monitoring sites in the San Joaquin Watershed (Zone 3) exceeded at least one parameter. Many sites reported exceedances in virtually all parameters (toxicity, bacteria, metals, pesticides and general parameters). The single site that reported no exceedances in Zone 3 was only monitored a single time for two parameters.

While the Report is a welcome first step in cataloging water quality problems caused be irrigated agriculture, it is needlessly confusing and contains fundamental structural deficiencies and inaccuracies. These include:
1. Lack of a unified and consistent framework for individual zone summaries. Formats, tables and discussion rationales are unique for each zone making it difficult to compare zones.
2. Inconsistency in reported parameters. For example, Zone 2 and 3 summaries reported general parameter exceedances but general parameters were ignored in the Zone 1 and 4 sections. Again, results for metal sampling was discussed in the Zone 2 and 3 summaries but not for Zones 1 and 4. None of the zone summaries discussed nutrient monitoring results.
3. Improperly comparing toxic occurrences at sites to the total number of sites, regardless of whether toxicity was monitored. For example, the Report states that toxicity to algal species was found at 27% of the sites in Zone 1. However, algal toxicity testing in was only conducted at 59 of the 96 monitoring locations in Zone 1. Toxicity to algae was found at 26 of those sites. Consequently, 44.1% of the monitoring sites experienced toxicity to algae, not the 27% incorrectly reported. Another example is sediment toxicity in Zone 2. The Report states that 23% of the sites exhibited sediment toxicity. However, sediment toxicity was only conducted at 31 sites and toxicity was identified at 12 sites, which is actually 38.7% of the sites where sediment toxicity was measured.
4. Improperly comparing the number of exceedances to the total number of tests for a specific parameter in a zone. For example, Zone 1 includes the entire Sacramento Valley. Sampling for dormant spray insecticides would not be expected to result in detections in areas or during periods where they are not applied. Comparing monitoring results of a specific parameter to the total sampling conducted throughout the Sacramento Valley without incorporating temporal and spatial discussions is simply disingenuous. It biases the results and understates potential problems.
5. Failure to discuss the relative importance of water quality criteria exceedances. Aquatic life criteria are established as a not-to-be-exceeded more than once-in-three year standard. More frequent exceedances can result in irreparable harm to the environment. Even a single exceedance of aquatic life criteria for a synthetic or toxic constituent can be statistically significant.
6. The Report ignores sublethal and chronic effects to aquatic ecosystems and the impacts of multiple stressors simultaneously occurring.
7. Failure to place the adequacy of monitoring in context. For example, a number of sites were only monitored a single time for one or few parameters. Results from even the most rigorously monitored sites represent only a brief snapshot of actual ambient conditions. Monitoring six or twelve times a year represents 0.07 % and 0.14% of yearly conditions. Statistically speaking, given minimal monitoring, a single identified exceedance of a synthetic or toxic constituent not naturally occurring in the environment virtually guarantees that numerous undiscovered and undocumented water quality exceedances and/or toxic events actually occurred.
8. Absence of a discussion of whether the agricultural coalitions have complied with mandated requirements of the Irrigated Lands Waiver. The lack of such a discussion prevents any assessment of the adequacy of the monitoring program. For example, none of the coalitions have complied with requirements to monitor all of major drainages, 20% of intermediate drainages on a rotating basis and minor drainages when downstream impacts are identified. Nor does the Report discuss the frequent failure of the coalitions to monitor for all required parameters, comply with data collection protocols and conduct follow up monitoring where water quality exceedances are identified.

Despite these shortcomings, the Report clearly establishes that discharges from agricultural lands are a significant, if not the major contributor, to the shredding to the aquatic biological tapestry throughout the Central Valley. Coupled with the inadequacy of coalition management plans, the Report’s findings chronicle the bankruptcy of the Regional Board’s approach to controlling agricultural pollution. Especially, in light of the fact that the Conditional Waiver precludes the Regional Board from knowing the identity of specific dischargers, actual discharge locations, the constituents being discharged, the volume/concentration of discharged constituents, whether or not BMPs have been implemented or if implemented BMPs are effective. Regulation of the largest source of pollution to Central Valley waterways has been left to the voluntary goodwill of groups of dischargers. Such an approach has never worked in the past and is not likely be successful in the future.

Below is a brief summary of the Report’s findings.

Zone 1 (Sacramento River Watershed)
1. Ninety-six (96) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 43 sites. UC Davis (under contract with the Regional Board) or SWAMP (state’s Ambient Monitoring Program) monitored 53 or 55% of locations.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 84 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 45 sites or 53.6% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 16 sites or 35.6% of sites where toxicity was identified.
a. Toxicity tests for fish (Pimephales promelas - fathead minnow) were conducted at 76 sites (many of those had only one or few tests). Toxicity was identified at 6 sites or 7.9% of sites that were monitored for fish toxicity. Report incorrectly states only 6% of sites had fish toxicity.
b. Toxicity tests for zooplankton (Ceriodaphnia dubia - water flea) were conducted at 75 sites (a number of sites only monitored 1 – 3 times). Zooplankton toxicity was identified at 20 sites or 26.6% of the sites that monitored for zooplankton toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 5 or 25% were toxic more than once. Mortality exceeded 50% in 77% of the toxic events. Report incorrectly states 21% of sites had zooplankton toxicity.
c. Toxicity tests for algae (Selenastrum – algal species) were conducted at 59 sites (number of sites only monitored 2 or 3 times). Algal toxicity was identified at 26 sites or 44.1% of sites that actually monitored for algal toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 17 or 65.4% were toxic more than once. Mortality was greater than 50% in 29% of the toxic events. Report incorrectly states 27% of sites had algal toxicity
d. Sediment toxicity tests (Hyalella azteca – sediment amphipod) were conducted at 52 sites (27 monitored once, 14 monitored twice). Sediment toxicity was identified at 13 sites or 25% of sites that monitored sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity and conducted more than one test, 37.5% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states 13.5% of sites had sediment toxicity
3. Bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) were monitored at 33 sites (several had only 1, 2 or 4 samples). Public health limits (235 MPN/100 ml) were exceeded at 28 sites or 84.8% of the sites monitored for bacteria.
4. Pesticides were monitored at 57 sites (many with only 1 or 2 samples). Exceedances were identified at 23 sites or 40.4% of the sites that were monitored for pesticides (numerous sites had exceedances for multiple pesticides).
5. Metal (arsenic, boron, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, selenium and zinc) results were not reported for Zone 1 because coalitions failed to report hardness data.
6. General parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, total suspended solids and electrical conductivity) were not reported for Zone 1.
7. The Zone 1 summary contains no information on nutrient monitoring.

Zone 2 (Delta Region and portions of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras and Mokelumne watersheds)
1. Fifty-eight (58) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 29 sites and UC Davis or SWAMP monitored the other 29 locations. Twenty-one percent (21%) of the sites had more than 25 cumulative exceedances of metal, toxicity and general parameter criteria.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 52 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and/or one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 26 sites or 50% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 14 sites or 53.8%% of sites where toxicity was identified (6 sites or 27% were toxic to 3 or more species).
a. Toxicity tests for fish were conducted at 47 sites (many had only one or few tests). Toxicity was identified at 9 sites or 19.1% of sites that monitored for fish toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 3 or 33.3% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states that 17% of sites exhibited toxicity.
b. Toxicity tests for zooplankton were conducted at 47 sites (a number of sites were only monitored 3 – 4 times). Zooplankton toxicity was identified at 15 sites or 31.9% of the sites that monitored for zooplankton toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 6 or 42.9% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states 28.8% of sites exhibited toxicity to water flea.
c. Toxicity tests for algae were conducted at 37 sites (a number of sites were only monitored 1, 2 or 4 times). Algal toxicity was identified at 12 sites or 32.4% of sites that actually monitored for algae toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 7 or 58.3% were toxic more than once. Report states that 23% of sites exhibited algae toxicity.
d. Sediment toxicity tests were conducted at 31 sites. Sediment toxicity was identified at 12 sites or 38.7% of sites that monitored sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 8 or 66.7% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states sediment toxicity occurred in 23% of sites.
3. Bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) were monitored at 23 sites. Health-based limits (235 MPN/100 ml) were exceeded at 18 sites or 78.3% of the sites monitored for bacteria (of these, 39% were above 1600 MPN/100 mL). Numerous sites exceeded criteria the majority of the time. For example, Grant Line Canal and French Camp Slough both exceeded criteria in 11 of 14 samples and Lone Tree Creek exceeded criteria in 14 of 16 samples.
4. Metals were monitored at 23 sites. One or more metal exceedances were found at 12 sites or 52.2% of the sites monitored for metals. Several sites had multiple exceedances. For example, Pixley Slough exceeded criteria for copper, lead and zinc 8, 20 and 4 times, respectively. Grant Line Canal exceeded arsenic, copper, lead and nickel 2, 3, 3, and 1 time respectively (out of five tests).
5. Pesticides were monitored at least once at 46 sites. Pesticides exceedances were identified at 28 sites or 60.9% of the sites that monitored for pesticides. Several sites had 30 to 40 exceedances and a number of sites had multiple exceedances of multiple pesticides. Pesticides under Basin Plan prohibition (carbofuran, malathion, methyl parathion and thiobencarb) were detected at 9 sites. Dieldrin is illegal in California but was identified at 4 sites. DDT and it’s degradates DDE and DDD continue to be identified in Zone 2.
6. General parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, Total suspended solids, electric conductivity) were monitored at 58 sites. Water quality criteria were exceeded for one or more parameters at 49 sites or 84.5% of the sites monitored for general parameters.
7. The summary contains no information on nutrient monitoring.

Zone 3 (San Joaquin River Watershed)
1. Eighty-three (83) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 46 sites and UC Davis or SWAMP monitored 37 or 46% of locations.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 62 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 47 sites or 75.8% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 34 sites or 72.3%% of sites where toxicity was identified (16 sites or 34% toxic to 3 or more species).
a. Fish toxicity tests were conducted at 58 sites. Toxicity to fish was identified at 11 sites or 19% of sites monitored for toxicity (Coalition only data shows toxicity at 24.4% of sites). Of the sites that identified toxicity, 2 or 18.1% were toxic more than once.
b. Zooplankton toxicity was analyzed at 58 sites. Toxicity to zooplankton was identified at 34 sites or 59% of the sites monitored for zooplankton toxicity. Complete mortality of 100% was frequent (36 of 61 toxic samples) and the magnitude of toxicity was as high as 22 toxic units. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 15 or 44.1% were toxic more than once.
c. Algal toxicity testing was conducted at 56 sites. Toxicity to algae was identified at 24 sites or 43% of the sites that monitored algal toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 10 or 41.7% were toxic more than once.
d. Sediment toxicity was analyzed at 51 sites. Toxicity in sediment was identified at 29 sites or 57% of sites that monitored sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 13 or 44.8% were toxic more than once.
3. Bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) were analyzed at 45 sites. Health-based limits (235 MPN/100 ml) were exceeded at 42 of 45 or 93% of the sites that monitored for bacteria. Of the sites that identified bacteria exceedances, 36 or 85.7% exceeded criteria multiple times.
4. Metal suites were analyzed at 30 sites. Exceedances of one or more criteria occurred at 23 sites or 77% of the sites that monitored for metals.
5. Pesticide suites were analyzed at 44 sites. Exceedances of one or more pesticides were identified at 32 sites or 72.7% of the sites that monitored pesticide suites. Although banned for more than 30 years, DDT was found to be above criteria in 8% of tests and it’s degradates DDE and DDD were identified 14% and 3% of the time, respectively.
6. General Parameters
a. Dissolved oxygen was monitored at 61 sites. Exceedance of the 7mg/L (cold water) was identified at 49 sites or 80% of the sites monitored for dissolved oxygen.
b. pH was monitored at 61 sites. Exceedance of criteria was identified at 26 sites or 42.6% of the sites monitored for pH.
c. Electrical conductivity (salt) was monitored at 61 sites. Exceedance of the 700 µmhos/cm criteria (agricultural goal) was identified at 30 sites or 49% of sites monitored for electrical conductivity.
7. Nutrients were monitored at 62 sites but collected data is neither reported nor discussed.
8. Note: University of California study found measurable concentrations of DDT, DDD or DDE in 90% of sediment samples.

Zone 4 (Tulare Lakes Basin)
1. Seventy-six (76) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 30 sites. UC Davis, SWAMP or others monitored forty-six or 61% of locations.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 66 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and/or one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 49 sites or 77.2% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 20 sites or 40.8%% of sites where toxicity was identified.
a. Fish toxicity testing conducted at 57 sites. Toxicity to fish identified at 19 sites or 33.3% of sites monitored for fish toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 3 or 15.8% were toxic more than once.
b. Zooplankton toxicity testing conducted at 57 sites. Toxicity to zooplankton identified at 8 site or 14% of sites monitored for zooplankton. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 1 or 12.5% were toxic more than once.
c. Algal toxicity testing was conducted at 57 sites. Algal toxicity was identified at 33 sites or 57.9% of sites monitored for algae toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 24 or 72.7% were toxic more than once.
d. Sediment toxicity was analyzed at 39 sites (majority of sites only tested 1 or 2 times). Sediment toxicity was identified at 16 sites or 41% of sites monitored for sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 3 or 18.8% were toxic more than once.
3. Pesticides were monitored at 30 sites. Exceedances of one or more pesticide criteria were identified at 13 sites or 43% of sites monitored for pesticides. Prohibited pesticides or DDT/degradates were detected above criteria at 7 sites (23% of monitored sites).
4. There is no information in the Report on bacteria/pathogen monitoring.
5. Metals were monitored at 28 sites. However, results for metal testing were not disclosed in the Report.
6. There is no information presented on general parameters other than the observation that electrical conductivity limits were exceeded at 13 locations.
7. The Report contains no information on nutrient monitoring.

Summary: Central Valley

1. There were a total of 313 monitoring sites in the Central Valley. Coalitions monitored 148 locations. UC Davis, SWAMP or others monitored 165 sites or 53% of the total monitored sites.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 264 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and/or one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 167 sites or 63.3% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 84 sites or 50.3%% of sites where toxicity was identified.
a. Fish toxicity was identified at 45 of 238 sites or 18.9% of the sites where fish toxicity was monitored.
b. Toxicity to zooplankton was identified at 54 of 237 sites or 22.8% of the sites where zooplankton toxicity was monitored.
c. Toxicity to Algae species was identified at 95 of 209 sites or 45.5% of the sites where algal toxicity was monitored.
d. Sediment toxicity was found at 70 of 173 sites or 40.5% of sites where sediment toxicity was monitored.
3. One or more pesticides exceedances were found at 96 of 177 sites or 54.2% of the sites where pesticide suites were monitored.
4. Metal results were not reported for Zones 1 and 4. Zones 2 and 3 reported metal exceedances at 35 of 53 sites or 66% of the sites where metals were monitored.
5. Exceedance of human health criteria for bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) was identified at 88 of 101 sites or 87% of the sites where bacteria was monitored. Most of the sites had numerous violations.
6. General parameters were not reported for Zones 1 and 4. Zones 2 and 3 reported exceedance of one or more general parameters at 84.5% and 88.5% of sites, respectively.
7. There was no reporting or discussion of nutrient data with the exception Table Z3-1 for Zone 3 that reveals that nutrient monitoring was conducted at 62 sites.

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Badlands replies to Commissioner Lashbrook's information and commentary

Submitted: Jul 24, 2007

To: Merced County Planning Commissioner Lashbrook

Thank you for your letter and the OTA press release. In the attachment you will find our reply.

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
Stanislaus Natural Heritage Project
Badlands Journal

Badlands replies to Commissioner Lashbrook’s information and commentary
July 21st, 2007

“We are looking for a niche,” said (Merced County Planning Commissioner) Cindy Lashbrook,
a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. “We’re
looking to be legitimized, in a way.” — Merced Sun-Star, July 12, 2007

“The word (organics) has been sullied.” Ted Simon, author, retired organic producer/distributor, Covelo CA, July 22, 2007

Badlands would like to thank Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook for providing us with a letter of commentary and a press release yesterday. We have printed her correspondence in full except for the name of the neutral party to whom a copy was sent. These people have had no part in the dialogue. We are grateful for the opportunity Lashbrook has offered to continue this public dialogue. It is about important matters.

Following Lashbrook’s letter and the Organic Trade Association press release, the editorial staff will have a few comments. in reply.

For Bill Hatch: Farm Bill Update: House Agriculture Committee Advances Organic Agriculture‎
From: Riverdance Farms (
Sent: Fri 7/20/07 2:48 PM
To: ‘William Hatch’

Hi Bill, These are the things we were in DC lobbying for, not the imaginary subsidies you pulled out of the vapors. Looks like some of the attention worked. By the way, I am on the Board of CCOF only to keep the voice of small-to-medium-sized family farmers and the original intent of the organic community in the discussion and mission of California Certified Organic Farmers. Why don’t you interview someone involved before writing your stories? When did you give up on being a journalist? Is it permanent? Hope not…
I look forward to the day when you’ll be able to look me in the eye again; Doors are never fully closed. Cindy
PS I forward my writings on to another party (neutral?) as I send them to you folks so that, when later twisted, there is a record.

Agriculture Committee Endorses Aid for Organic Farmers
OTA Executive Director Says Proposals Vital for Continued Growth of Industry
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 20, 2007) – The executive director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) today thanked the members of the House Agriculture Committee for including key provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill that will help the organic industry continue to meet growing consumer demand for organic products.
“I am delighted with the support organic agriculture is receiving in this Farm Bill,” said OTA executive director Caren Wilcox. “The House Agriculture Committee included important provisions that will fund expanded research into organic production, direct USDA to provide timely domestic and international market data on organic crops, and instruct companies selling crop insurance to provide equitable products to organic farmers.”
Wilcox thanked Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand for her leadership in establishing a program to provide cost share certification and technical assistance for farmers making the transition to organic production. Gillibrand’s amendment authorizes $50 million to provide farmers with the mentoring and technical expertise required to transition land from conventional to organic production. Transitioning land to organic production is a
three-year process.
Wilcox praised the leadership of Committee Chairman Collin Peterson. “Organic farmers across the country owe the chairman a thank you for putting the needs of the organic industry into this Farm Bill. We are also grateful for the commitment of Dennis Cardoza, chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic. We appreciate all that Chairman Cardoza has done to highlight organic agriculture and to work with us on
improving the safety net for organic agriculture.”
In addition to the Gillibrand amendment, key provisions for organic agriculture in the 2007 Farm Bill include:
1. Eliminating or reducing the 5% organic premium for crop insurance and providing compensation for crop loss at the actual price of the organic crop. Currently, compensation is provided at the price of the conventional crop. In addition, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) would be required to submit an annual report to Congress detailing progress made in developing and improving federal crop insurance for organic crops.
2. $22 million to help farmers pay for organic certification. The certification cost-share program would provide up to $750 per farmer, increased from the current $500, to help cover the costs of organic certification. Farmland is deemed organic by USDA accredited certifiers.
3. $3 million for organic price and production data. USDA collects reams of data on agriculture prices and production, and will now include data on organic prices and production. In addition, information will be used to analyze crop loss data for organic production – leading to better risk management tools for organic producers.
4. Extending the Organic Research and Extension Initiative to examine optimal conservation and environmental outcomes for organically produced agricultural products, and to develop new and improved seed varieties that are particularly suited for organic agriculture. The committee authorized $25 million per year for each fiscal year through 2012.
5. The committee also included language making loans for water and soil projects to organic producers a priority, and permitted organic transition to begin at the end of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) and gave recognition for organic farmers to have access to EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) Conservation Innovation grants. Each fiscal year, $5 million will be used for outreach to organic and specialty crop producers.
Wilcox also thanked Rep. Steve Kagen who spearheaded an effort to increase funding for organic research commensurate with the organic percentage of the marketplace. Currently, organic represents 3% of the agriculture market; Kagen proposed spending 3% of the research budget on organic research initiatives.
The House of Representatives is expected to consider the 2007 Farm Bill next week, and OTA is recommending support for the bill.
Organic Trade Association
P.O. Box 547 Greenfield, MA 01302

Our comments:

At last week’s East Merced Resource Conservation District meeting, the president brought a Costco newsletter featuring the Goodmans, handsome owners of Earthbound Farm, an organic produce corporation based in San Benito County. Earthbound was implicated in the E. coli outbreak last September that killed three and sicked several hundred. The company is the epitome of what has gone horribly wrong with organic produce production. In the EMRCD meeting, Lashbrook defended the couple, who she said she knows, as being legitimate organic growers. The chairman of the board of directors of the California Certified
Organic Farmers, on which Lashbrook sits, is Will Daniels of Earthbound Farm. Natural Selection Foods, the parent company of Earthbound Farm, is one-third owned by Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle, the largest fresh produce operation in the nation.

Getting on to the good news on the Farm Bill, rather than sending us an actual news report from a newspaper, Lashbrook sent us a press release from the Organic Trade Association. The president of OTA is Jesse Singerman of Prairie Ventures, Inc., a venture capital firm in Iowa City. The USA vice president is Julia Sabin, a Smucker executive. OTA’s Canadian vice president is Dag Falck of Nature’s Path Foods, Inc., an organic grain corporation marketing snacks, breakfast foods and pastas in 46 countries.

The actual news on the Farm Bill is far more ambiguous than the OTA press release would suggest. We will deal with that news in a later posting because it is a separate story in itself, beginning with question if the whole debate is not a sideshow concealing lethal amendments to the Iraq appropriations bill that drive us closer to war with Iran.

However, let us see how the Farm Bill, in its present form, is helping Lashbrook’s “small-to-medium-sized family farmers and the original intent of the organic community.”

1. Crop insurance. Badlands interviewed four people long known to the staff to be deeply committed to the original intent of organic gardening and farming. Betsy Bruneau is Secretary/Treasurer, Ecology Action; and Co-Manager, Ecology Action’s Bountiful Gardens International Mail-Order Service. Willits-based Ecology Action has been researching, teaching and publicizing biointensive organic gardening for about 30 years. Bruneau could not think of any customers of Bountiful Gardens who had crop insurance. One of her co-workers, a longtime organic farmer, said he hadn’t heard of it either. Both suggested we try to get in touch with large growers, which we weren’t able to do. Tom Paley, owner of Covelo Organic Vegetables, said he doesn’t have crop insurance and doesn’t know any organic growers who do. Ted Simon, retired organic farmer from Covelo, thought the idea was ridiculous.

2. Public funds to partially subsidize USDA organic certification. This one reminded us of the madman in the clown suit on TV selling his book on federal government grants. As growers who actually make a living selling at farmers markets and by community supported agriculture (CSA) repeat, it is your reputation with customers you know and who are your neighbors that is the backbone of the organic gardening/farming community. That connection and reputation were there before the multi-national corporations and will be there after organo-agribusiness corporations have folded.

Many fully organic small farmers don’t bother getting certified at all. Their customers trust their produce because they know how it is grown and by whom.

“Growing a bunch of stuff without chemicals is supposed to be organic?” Simon asked.”Their customers don’t have any connection with the people who grow their food. How many workers in these vast corporations aren’t indoctrinated in organics as we know it and just do what their bosses tell them to do? The word has been sullied.”

Simon added that his favorite perversion was in Tasmania, where natural forests were being cut down to provide growing land for mega-organic corporations when he last visited.

3. $3 million for organic price and production data. How would anyone know enough about organic prices and production to be able to assert before Congress the size and monetary value of their industry if it weren’t for the market reporting the USDA already does, and has been doing for some years, on organics? A Google search will generate more information than most readers have time for on the first page. Somehow, the organics industry has managed to grow to its present size, buying and selling, wholesale and retail, activities that would suggest that somehow supply and demand created prices in a real market.

Items #4 and #5 seemed to us to fall within the realm of underground grammarian Richard Mitchell’s “Less Than Words Can Say.” However, if one were to risk interpretation, #4 looks like a $125-million subsidy to land grant universities like University of California, and #5 looks like a $25-million pad to the USDA budget. We wonder how long it will be before a genetically engineered organic seed is created by our wonderful
agricultural research establishment for the organic agribusiness trade.

Although Commissioner Lashbrook addresses her contradictory statements to one member of the Badlands editorial staff, our reply to her is a collective effort, as usual. If we may be permitted one more observation, we notice that this county planning commissioner has a habit of treating her positions on a number of public and private boards and commissions, and of treating public funds, as opportunities for self-promotion and
self-dealing. We are pretty sure she actually doesn’t know what she’s doing. (See “Central Valley Safe Environment Network reply to a Merced County Planning Commissioner,”, July 10th, 2007)

Another fine product of UC/Great Valley Center “leadership” training, Lashbrook has emerged in public life as a bully who harasses and intimidates the public:

I look forward to the day when you’ll be able to look me in the eye again; Doors are never fully closed. Cindy
PS I forward my writings on to another party (neutral?) as I send them to you folks so that, when later twisted, there is a record.

We have entered several meetings in recent weeks where Lashbrook operated as either a board member, a staffer, or both. She has insulted us and concealed public documents from the public. We oppose a grant proposal for public funds that would provide staff salaries for, among others, Cindy Lashbrook. She has declared political war on us because we stand in the way of her agenda and money.

This business of bringing in others, who knows nothing about this controversy but are associates of ours, is a hostile abuse of public position to victimize the innocent. This county planning commissioner cannot control her emotions when opposed in public on public issues. She has turned into a politician whose primary mode of operation is the vendetta. She has now come up against people who do look her in the eye, look at what she does, look at her paper trail, and don’t blink. She has seen us do this repeatedly through the years and she has benefitted from our work. The only surprise here in Lashbrook’s behavior.

Evidently, the county political class, in promoting Lashbrook, was attempting a political bargain-basement two-fer — someone they thought would be acceptable to both environmentalists and agriculture, meanwhile doing the bidding of the political class. It is evidence of how deeply these political leaders have sunk under the influence of finance, insurance and real estate special interests, that they are now so far out of contact with their constituencies that they promoted someone largely unacceptable to either environmentalists or agriculture who, moreover, is incapable of successfully manipulating environmentalists or agriculture into supporting the agenda of finance, insurance and real estate.

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of “Eco-Justice” — the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the
protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers,
ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.

With gratitude to Commissioner Lashbrook for providing another opportunity for dialogue,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
Stanislaus Natural Heritage Project
Badlands Journal
Spinach Cycle
Latest E. coli outbreak should prompt rethink of industrial agriculture
Grist:Environmental news and commentary
By Tom Philpott
21 Sep 2006

For the ninth time since 1995, California’s Salinas Valley — the “nation’s salad bowl” — has been implicated in an E. coli scare involving salad greens. I write this, no definitive explanation has emerged for the latest outbreak, this one involving pre-washed, bagged spinach. But while the feds haven’t yet figured out how the spinach supply became tainted, they have pointed to a specific company: Natural Selection Foods, the nation’s largest pre-bagged spinach distributor, which runs a major processing plant in San Juan Bautista, near Salinas Valley. The company sells spinach under the Earthbound Farm label — a ubiquitous organic brand — as well as 33 others…Natural Selection Foods buys, processes, and packs salad greens for such giants as Dole, Trader Joe’s, and Sysco, among others. The company’s Earthbound Farm brand boasts on its website that it produces “[m]ore than 7 out of 10 organic salads sold in grocery stores” in the U.S. In
1999, Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle, the largest U.S. fresh-vegetable grower and shipper, with 40,000 acres under cultivation in the United States and Mexico, bought a 33 percent stake in Natural Selection/Earthbound…I can see why pre-washed salad greens have grown into a $4 billion industry since 1986, when Earthbound Farm first sorted out the technology for keeping them fresh. It’s undeniably tempting to pluck a sealed bag of uniform greens from the supermarket counter and dump it right into the salad bowl, ready for a lashing of pre-made salad dressing. But in doing so, you’re making huge demands on
the environment. Even assuming organic production, consider that California salad greens consumed on the East Coast must be trucked across the continent and kept cool at a constant 36 degrees Fahrenheit. “At least given the fuel burned to get it to my table,” Michael Pollan writes in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “there’s little reason to think my Earthbound salad mix is any more sustainable than a conventional salad.” Also, as someone who grows salad greens commercially on a micro-scale, I can state bluntly that pre-bagged
greens from mega-farms have zero flavor compared to the mixes small growers are producing for their local markets. One factor may be freshness. The California greens currently under recall include packages with sell-by dates of Oct. 1. Most small-scale greens growers I know distribute their product directly to customers within a day or two of picking. Finally, given the industry’s (and the federal government’s) inability to stop
deadly E. coli outbreaks from within the nation’s industrial-salad capital, our obsession with convenience bears a significant health risk. The wisest strategy for consumers might be to buy greens in season from a nearby grower whose practices you trust — or, if possible, to grow your own…

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Let them eat subsidized blueberries!

Submitted: Jul 14, 2007
"We are looking for a niche," said (Merced County Planning Commissioner) Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. "We're looking to be legitimized, in a way." -- Merced Sun-Star, July 12, 2007

Happy Bastille Day.

If it hadn't been for Dan Morgan's article in the Washington Post today, noting that hundreds of lobbying groups have been going to Washington to state their case for the Farm Bill, we would not have had a clue what was going on in a July 12 story from McClatchy on a group of local organic growers in Washington. Whatever coherence the story may have had was ruined by the quote from Commissioner Lashbrook. But UC/Great Valley Center leadership training doesn't stress coherence. Self-dealing self-promotion is highly prized, however. In passing Morgan's book, The Great Grain Robbery, is an unforgettable classic in agricultural investigative reporting.

Why are organic growers "desperate" if their segment of the market is the fastest growing in the land? Perhaps, these days, land prices and debt prohibit farming in California.

We need to traipse through a little recent history to try to understand what this story is could be about. We won't get beyond tentative suggestions.

In November 2006, the reign of the Pomboza (representatives RichPAC Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced) ended when Democrats regained a majority in Congress. The Pomboza was unable to gut the Endangered Species Act (although the Bush administration has attempted to do it by fiat since), the House Resources Committee, on which they served (Pombo as chairman) was restored to its former title, House Natural Resources Committee, and Cardoza was assigned a seat on the House Rules Committee. This committee is an exclusive committee. According to Democratic Party House rules, members who serve on exclusive committees cannot serve on other committees. However, Cardoza was given a waiver to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture because of his district and because it is a Farm Bill year that will define federal support for agriculture for the next five years.

Cardoza is a member of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, which makes sense because his district includes the center of the California poultry industry, the administrative center of the dairy industry and because Merced is the second largest dairy county in the nation. Cardoza's top individual contributor is Gallo Cattle Co., owner of the largest dairy in the US.

However, Cardoza is also chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture. Although his name does not appear in this story it is rumored that Cardoza is one of the leaders of the opposition to a Farm Bill favoring the large commodities -- rice, cotton, corn and milk -- and we think that somehow his office was involved in this little piece of fluff, which reminds us of the aluminum foil designed to confuse incoming missiles.

What's missing from the story is any mention of commercial rather than organic fruit, nut, vegetable and grape grower groups. Merced is the top producer of almonds in the world. The centers of organic production in California are in coastal counties.

Cardoza represents the largest wine company in the world, the largest dairy in the nation, the largest cheese factory in the world and the largest commercial almond area in the world.

However, all is not well in these giant agribusiness concerns. The largest cheese factory in the world, having polluted its area's groundwater to the point that even the regional water board dared to fine it, is building a new plant in Texas and will soon be gone, taking dairies with it. A French-owned gourmet cheese plant recently relocated from Turlock to Wisconsin. The Totally Illegal 42-inch Ranchwood Sewer Line from Livingston runs through the middle of property owned by the largest dairy in the nation and is headed toward the headquarters of this dairy, whose owner is planning an entire new town, having recently finished a strip mall and a truck stop on Highway 99. The largest dairy in the world is also planning a large residential subdivision near UC Merced. The almond industry is facing an uncertain future due to crashing populations of Honey Bees, required for pollination. Finally, the word in the real estate markets is that one viable sector left is farm swaps, by which developers wishing to buy farmers' land locate comparable acreage in other states for them to move to.

So, although the chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture must appear to support the themes of his subcommittee, cotton, poultry, dairy and wine interests will control his voting on the next Farm Bill as they have controlled his agricultural votes throughout his political career. However, the theme of real estate is dearest to Cardoza's heart since he began his political career. No state legislator or House representative did more to promote the speculative real estate boom in his districts in the north San Joaquin Valley, for which reason his present congressional district contains the highest per capita rate of mortgage foreclosure in the nation.

Farmers are landowners. In periods of real estate speculation as reckless as what recently occurred in Cardoza's congressional district, farmers are more landowners than production agriculturalists. Any news, even about organic agriculture, is preferable to more news about the financial hemorrhage going on in the 18th Congressional District of California.

Nevertheless, the public has limits on the amount of inanity it will accept from the press at the behest of congressmen. Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook transgresses these limits by making the absurd connection between legitimacy and a subsidy of public funds. While Lashbrook is probably sincere in her belief (she has declared war to acquire public funds for self-dealing and self-promotion despite public opposition), many of the Valley's better farmers have always resisted growing subsidized crops in the belief it is not really as legitimate as Lashbrook suggests. They will do it, but it isn't their first choice. The media from the local to the international level have been increasingly critical of farm subsidies, particularly in cotton. In fact, Lashbrook was the moderator of a meeting kicking off a campaign for an anti-growth initiative, which featured author Mark Arax, who signed and sold copies of his expose of the Boswell subsidized cotton kingdom. Would she have felt differently if Boswell had been growing subsidized blueberries in the Tulare Lake all these years? The whole thing is ridiculous and makes you think of Joseph Heller's great entrepreneur, Milo Minderbender, feeding chocolate covered Egyptian cotton to the troops. We aren't dealing with rational thought processes here. We are dealing with public-funds grubbing.

At least until the most recent speculative real estate boom, organic farming has been about the only sector of California agriculture where entry without a fortune has still been possible and its market has steadily grown on the hard work of its farmers, steady improvement of soil quality, and the quality of its produce, for which consumers have been willing to pay a premium. If Lashbrook is still looking for a niche in organic agriculture, one imagines she will never find it because the niche has been there and growing for 30 years and has had recognized USDA federal standards for about a decade. USDA market reporters even report organic produce prices these days. If she hasn't found it yet, her chances are slim at this point.

The present problem in organic agriculture is corporatism -- perhaps a business response to land values. For example, the e-coli outbreak from San Benito County last year was produced not by family organic growers on small, orderly plots, but by a rapidly growing organic produce corporation, which clearly lost control of its quality and safety systems. Corporatism will be the death of organic agriculture, because organics is founded on small farming, greater attention to quality and safety, and modest lifestyles that do not include cruising the halls of Congress. In fact, organic farming is more accurately called organic gardening, because all if its significant techniques emerged from very small plots, few achieving the size of truck gardens, using styles of horticulture begun in ancient Rome and perfected by Parisian market gardeners during the Napoleonic period. These techniques were brought to California in the 1970s by Alan Chadwick of Covelo and UC Santa Cruz and popularized in this country and others by John Jeavons of Willits and J. Mogodor Griffith of Chicago. Nationally, the books of Garden Way Publishing, Rodale Press, and magazines like Prevention and New Farm, from Pennsylvania, for decades have formed the background and underpinnings of the organic movement in the US.

It is not about subsidies to agribusiness corporations that poison people with mass-market produce labeled "organic." Sales, marketing and distribution started small. Organic produce has been the backbone of the growing farmers' market and community supported agriculture movements throughout the nation. Next came regional cooperative markets, a few wholesale stands in places like Jerrold Street, SF and the LA Terminal Market, and companies like Veritable Vegetable and Mountain People Warehouse that frequently grew out of regional cooperatives.

One Badlands staffer has spent decades in and around organic agriculture. In the long complaint that he has heard from organic growers about weather, bugs, water, labor and markets, he has never ever heard an organic gardener or farmer complain to the government about "legitimacy," in any way at all. He’s never known an organic grower with a legitimacy problem. He reasons that organic agriculture would only develop a legitimacy problem when corporations overwhelmed the cooperative roots of the organic movement.

The idea of organic growers whining to Cardoza for legitimacy is unwholesome and against the tradition of organic production and distribution. Once again, Commissioner Lashbrook is ripping off a tradition of great integrity and history for self-dealing and self-promotion or else has been absorbed by an organo-agribusiness campaign for subsidies. But, beyond noticing that that is what is apparently going on, what can you say? Perhaps, one can say that "organic agriculture" as presented by Lashbrook and Cardoza, has cut itself off from its roots so far that it is now lost in the halls of Congress, where all the decent things go to die.

Badlands editorial staff

Merced Sun-Star
Merced second in nation in foreclosures...J.N. Sbranti, Modest Bee

About $925 million worth of mortgages have been foreclosed on since January in the northern San Joaquin Valley, and 2,575 homes have been auctioned off on courthouse steps in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties. Sean O'Toole, who owns ForeclosureRadar, a research firm based in Discovery Bay has been tracking the rapid rise in foreclosures throughout California. "Foreclosure sales now represent about 16 percent of all home sales in California,"..."Lenders are building a significant inventory (of repossessed homes),"..."Since Jan. 1, 2007, a total of 29,696 California properties have been returned to the lender for an astonishing total loan value of $12 billion. This is unprecedented." The situation may get worse before it gets better. RealtyTrac, another foreclosure property research firm...northern San Joaquin Valley leads the nation when it comes to mortgage defaults...calculated that San Joaquin County had the highest rate of homes in the process of being foreclosed — 1 in 103. Merced County ranked second-worst, with 1 in 121 homes in the foreclosure process. And Stanislaus County ranked fourth-worst, with 1 in 131 homes. For California as a whole, 1 in 315 homes were in the foreclosure process. The nationwide rate was 1 in 704 homes. Traditionally, most homeowners who receive notices of default have been able to refinance their mortgages, catch up on payments or sell their houses before lenders force a foreclose auction. But as home prices fall, mortgage lending requirements tighten and loan interest rates rise, avoiding foreclosure has become more difficult.

Local growers in Washington to push farm bill...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON...on Capitol Hill, the House Agriculture Committee is poised in coming days to divvy up billions of dollars in a new farm bill... With the House panel planning to write its farm bill over the course of three days next week, Teixeira and several dozen other organic farmers are taking a desperate stab at changing the course of federal agricultural policy. So far, success is elusive. Existing cotton, rice, wheat and corn subsidies would stay essentially the same, under the current bill written by the agriculture committee chairman, Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn. Federal crop subsidies totaled about $17 billion last year. The politically vocal American Farm Bureau Federation likewise supports Peterson's stay-the-course approach to traditional subsidies, as does the National Milk Producers Federation. California at Davis agricultural economist Dan Sumner allies himself with California's fruit and vegetable growers, who seek a bigger share of the farm bill. The bill coming before the House committee next Tuesday does boost some specialty crop funding. Even so, specialty crop advocates — and organic growers in particular — complain the current House bill shortchanges the fastest-growing sector of U.S. agriculture. "We are looking for a niche," said Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. "We're looking to be legitimized, in a way."
Hear an audio interview with Merced County farmer Cindy Lashbrook about the proposed Farm Bill.

Houston Chronicle
July 13, 2007, 11:55PM
Public support for Congress at lowest in a year By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Too much bickering and not enough legislating.
That, in just a few words, explains why public approval of Congress' job performance has fallen 11 points since May, to 24 percent, its lowest level in a year, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll finds.
That's lower than for President Bush, who isn't exactly "Mr. Popularity," either ...

Washington Post
Democrats divided over Farm Bill changes...Dan Morgan

When freshman Ohio Democrat Zack Space replaced veteran Republican Rep. Robert W. Ney after the 2006 elections, groups lobbying for a major revamping of farm subsidy programs were elated. House Democrats, with their base in urban areas and coastal regions, were not beholden to programs weighted toward large commercial farmers in the grain and cotton belts. And Space's eastern Ohio district of small and medium-size farms was far down the list of those receiving government farm payments. But, as the House Agriculture Committee prepares to take up a new five-year farm bill on Tuesday, Space, one of nine freshmen Democrats on the panel, is opposing major changes in the traditional price and income support programs that in 2006 paid farmers $19 billion. Space's resistance to change highlights the struggle within the Democratic Party as the farm bill moves to center stage on Congress's legislative agenda. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) have told Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) that they will not support a "status quo" bill. A coalition of Democratic-leaning environmental organizations, anti-poverty groups and church organizations are pushing to redirect some subsidies to conservation, wetlands preservation, rural development and nutrition. But top Democrats are reluctant to push too hard for changes that could put at risk Democratic freshmen from "red" states, which backed President Bush's reelection in 2004 and where the farm vote is still a factor in close elections. At stake in the new farm bill are billions of dollars affecting the fortunes of farmers, as well as groups that include soft-drink manufacturers using corn sweeteners and poor families relying on food stamps. In 2006, more than 475 organizations reported lobbying on agricultural issues, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Peterson, whose northwest Minnesota district grows wheat, corn, soybeans and sugar beets, has vowed to protect the traditional programs... Peterson's draft has been criticized by fellow House Democrats representing farming interests that receive little direct help. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, complained that the bill would provide $465 million in new money over five years to support fruit and vegetable growers. "That's not even a crumb," he told reporters, adding that unless improvements are made the bill will face a battle on the House floor. The debate over subsidies is coming in the midst of nearly unprecedented prosperity in U.S. farming. Farm income and the value of farmland and farm assets have been rising, spurred by strong exports and a boom in the demand for corn, which is used to make ethanol.

| »

Three pieces of good news

Submitted: Jul 12, 2007
This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan tstand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation ofthese exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs, July 11, 2007

Three pieces of good news:

1) No biowarfare lab for Livermore Lab Site 300 near Tracy. One San Joaquin County reporter said today that he'd heard the decision was actually made in June, as scheduled, but only announced now. Possibly, the consolation warpork prize for Livermore Valley was a head-trauma clinic for Iraq veterans.

2) The House Natural Resources Committee is looking into the revolving door policy at the Department of Interior, by which Jason Peltier, a top water official, is leaving to become assistant general manager of Westlands Water District. Committee questions to Interior Secretary focus on projects Peltier has been involved in that would have benefitted Westlands.

3) Hank Shaw, capital reporter for the Stockton Record, reported yesterday on his blog that Section 123 has been removed from the Farm Bill. The section would have prohibited states or local jurisdictions from banning cultivation of genetically engineered crops within their borders. Four counties in California have such laws and others are working on them at the moment. Shaw said he confirmed the news with several reliable sources among Agriculture Committee members and committee staff. It would appear he's scooped the nation on his blog, but he hasn't written the article for his newspaper yet, nor have either the news services or (the indespensible anti-GMO clipping service) yet picked up the story.
We'll see ...

Bill Hatch

For more information:
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Loulena Miles, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Bob Sarvey, Business Owner and opposition leader in Tracy, (209) 835-7162

Activists and Business Owners Rejoice as Dept. of Homeland Security Rejects
Livermore Lab Application for National Bio and Agro Defense Facility
(NBAF); Claim Public Opposition Tipped the Scales

TRACY - Following a year of community outreach, meetings with elected officials, neighborhood "house parties", door to door petitioning, Tracy City Council action, and other escalating opposition, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) apparently got the message. There is no "community acceptance" for a bio-warfare agent research facility in Northern California.

Today, elected officials leaked the names of the 5 finalist locations for the Dept. of Homeland Security's National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, or NBAF. Livermore Lab's Site 300 is NOT on the list, despite heavy lobbying by the Lab and the University of California, which manages Livermore Lab
and submitted its NBAF application.

The NBAF will be one of the largest and most dangerous biodefense facilities in the world. Reportedly, the "finalist" contenders to house NBAF are located in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Local grassroots organizing carried the day in eliminating Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range from consideration. Tri-Valley CAREs, a watchdog group that monitors Livermore Lab, and its allies
generated more than 7,000 calls and letters to the Department of Homeland Security opposing a bio-warfare agent research facility at Site 300.

The group collected more than 2,000 paper petitions against the bio-facility, many of them distributed from neighbor to neighbor and through Bob Sarvey's shoe store in Tracy. In addition, the group's members
wrote numerous letters to the editor and spoke out at Tracy City Council and other key meetings.

On Tri-Valley CAREs' behalf, Working Assets Long Distance asked its local customers if they would be willing to pay a small fee to send a letter-gram telling DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to stop the bio-lab from locating at Site 300 -- and more than 3,000 did so. Hundreds more made phone calls.

A colleague organization, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, sponsored an Internet forum that enabled nearly 2,000 people to send their email messages opposing the facility to DHS.

And, following advocacy from community members, the Tracy City Council, Site 300's closest neighbor, voted in January 2007 to oppose the bio-lab. The City of Tracy then sent a letter to DHS announcing its opposition.

According to Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs, "The community opposition was impressive. So many bright lights came out to oppose this dangerous bio-warfare agent research proposal. I believe it was public outcry that caused Homeland Security to eliminate Site 300 from consideration."

Kelley continued, "I am ecstatic that we were able to achieve this victory and I salute all the community members who spoke out."

The proposed NBAF will cover 520,000 square feet, roughly the size of 5 Wal-Mart stores. It will house the most lethal pathogens on Earth, with both BSL-3 and BSL-4 capacity.

Biosafety Level-3 facilities experiment on infectious or exotic pathogens that are potentially lethal, such as live anthrax, plague and Q fever. Biosafety Level-4s are reserved for extremely exotic biological agents for
which there is no known cure, such as Central European tick-borne encephalitis. The biological research at NBAF will spread across a minimum of 30 acres to test on large animals, according to the DHS request for
proposals in the federal register.

Local businessman and resident Bob Sarvey said today, "I am glad that we in Tracy will not be subjected to both increased bomb testing at Site 300 and live anthrax, plague, bird flu and other pathogens. I am celebrating this victory while continuing opposition to further bomb testing with depleted
uranium at the site. The end goal is to obtain cleanup of existing contamination and safe research at Site 300."

Moreover, building this research lab at Site 300 would have meant collocating bio-warfare agent research with nuclear weapons, sending the wrong signal to the rest of the world. "Building this facility at Site 300
would have weakened the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)," stated Loulena Miles, the staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. "Today, there exists a bright line, with no country locating its advanced biological warfare
research in classified nuclear weapons facilities. I am particularly joyful that the rejection of Site 300 by DHS preserves this clear and important distinction."

Miles elaborated, "If the line is ever breached, collocating 'bugs and bombs' will raise suspicions worldwide about the intent of the U.S. biodefense program. This will have a corrosive effect on universal acceptance of the BWC." The Biological Weapons Convention is the international treaty to prevent the spread of bioweapons.

Additionally, the NBAF is part of what many community groups are calling an unnecessary and dangerous "biodefense building boom."

Tri-Valley CAREs and its allies have asked Congress and the Bush Administration for a national "needs assessment" to be undertaken. This logical first step would provide the government and the public with an
accurate picture of what biodefense capabilities presently exist in the United States, and what if any additional capability is needed.

Stated Kelley, "It is shocking that no such overarching assessment exists and that each federal agency is moving forward willy-nilly with its own proposals for more labs."

This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan to stand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation of these exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles.

Homeland Security will make the final site selection for NBAF by October 2008. The Environmental Impact Statement process, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, is now slated to begin immediately.

Tracy Press
Tracy dropped from bio-lab list...Rob L. Wagner

Tracy didn’t make the cut to host a $450 million national lab where killer germs like anthrax, avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease will be studied, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday...the federal government has selected finalists from five other states for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. The decision eliminates the potential to bring hundreds of highly skilled jobs to the city but is considered a victory by many residents who were troubled by the secrecy and possible threat posed by the project. When federal officials whittled down the list, it eliminated Tracy, the only bidder west of the Rocky Mountains. The five that are left are Flora Industrial Park in Madison County, Miss.; Texas Research Park in San Antonio, Texas; Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.; Umstead Research Farm in Granville County, N.C.; and the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. It’s likely Tracy didn’t make the cut because of its lack of community acceptance. Earlier this year, the City Council voted to oppose the project. In a Feb. 9 letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Lawrence Livermore officials and other federal officials, City Manager Dan Hobbs cited both the proximity of Site 300 to the city and residents’ public health and environmental concerns. Perhaps equally important was the lack of answers from federal officials about specific testing at the proposed facility, Sarvey said...more than 4,000 signatures and about 2,000 letters were sent to Homeland Security in opposition to the proposed project. Chris Harrington, spokesman for the University of California, which is associated with Lawrence Livermore on the project, said, "The University of California is disappointed that its proposal for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility was not selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for further review and consideration." He also said that while UC’s proposal is no longer under consideration, university officials hope Homeland Security will not rule out options to place a bio- and agro-defense facility in California in the future.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC out of the running for controversial biodefense lab...David Perlman

The University of California lost its bid Wednesday to build a huge new biodefense lab where scientists would study highly dangerous microbes at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's property near Tracy, federal officials announced Wednesday. UC officials had lobbied strongly for selection of the Livermore lab as home for the new facility. Livermore scientists had planned to locate the lab at the Site 300 property near Tracy -- well away from the main Livermore campus. But local opposition may have helped derail the plan. Tri-Valley Cares, the activist organization that has long been a thorn in the side of the Livermore lab's nuclear weapons work, vigorously lobbied against locating the new biodefense facility anywhere near Tracy or Livermore. More than 3,000 petitions and 2,000 e-mails from Tracy residents, plus 2,000 paid telephone messages carried by the Working Assets Long Distance phone service, opposed the new lab, according to Marylia Kelley, a leader of the organization formally known as Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment. The Tracy City Council also voted to oppose the lab... The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is planned as a huge, heavily shielded structure covering more than 500,000 square feet -- larger than five average Wal-Mart stores. Within the building, under a variety of high-tech containment labs, scientists and technicians would study the effects of the world's most dangerous microbes on animals and seek new ways to protect both humans and domestic animals against the germs, according to homeland security planners. A statement from UC's Washington office said the university "is disappointed" that it was not selected and added that it is "a leader in the field of biotechnology and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the area of biosecurity research. We will continue to apply our premier scientific and technological expertise to the homeland security work of our nation."

Tracy Press
Tracy's dropped from bio-lab list...Cheri Matthews

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has just announced that Tracy was cut from its list of proposed locations for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility.
The list was narrowed from 18 sites to five. The sites under consideration are in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Kansas gears up effort to win bio lab
The Kansas City Star

“…We can make a very strong case that we are the best possible location.”
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

Kansas officials aim to blend scientific strengths with political savvy after the state emerged Wednesday as a finalist for a $450 million federal biodefense laboratory.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security leaders included a proposed location on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan among spots in five states that now will undergo an intensive review. Officials plan to name a winner by the fall of 2008 for a substantial lab complex that will employ hundreds of scientists and bring a boost to the bioscience prestige and economy of the successful region.
Kansas is vying with Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi for the 500,000-square-foot facility that is to develop new measures for detecting and countering foot and mouth disease, various strains of swine fever and other pathogens with the potential to devastate the nation’s food supply.
Another Kansas site in Leavenworth County and one in Missouri near Columbia were trimmed from 17 locations across the country under consideration for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Federal officials intend to move the scientific work from an animal disease lab at Plum Island, N.Y., that is viewed as inadequate because of its aging facilities.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, viewed Wednesday’s much-anticipated announcement as a big win for his state and said he was optimistic about its prospects.
“There is still much work to be done, but our state can be proud that we are considered one of the premier centers of biological and agricultural research, businesses and education,” Roberts said. “The merits are on our side" ...

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
UGA on short list for national bio-defense facility

The University of Georgia is a finalist for a major new bio-defense facility dedicated to combating contagious human and animal diseases.
The state's top university was among five sites chosen Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security as potential homes for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, according to Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The research facility, part of the national strategy to combat terrorism, is intended to counter threats to the nation's food supply and limit the chances of animal diseases spreading to humans.
The state of Georgia has proposed investing up to $154 million to land the project, including $10 million to attract researchers to the university system and $120 million in new UGA facilities.
"Just being on the short list is a very big win for Georgia," said Mike Cassidy, president of the Georgia Research Alliance, which supported UGA's bid. "We're thrilled" ...

M-U no longer finalist for National Bio and Agro-Defense facility
by Julie Harker

The University of Missouri-Columbia has been dropped as a potential site for a new national bio and agro-defense research facility. The Homeland Security Department narrowed its list on Wednesday to five potential sites: in Georgia, Kansas, Texas, Mississippi and North Carolina.
The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association recently came out in opposition to the Columbia location, saying it was too risky to animal and human health to have the level-four facility in such a populated area.
Other ag groups, including the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Pork Producers Association, supported the location.

Rep. Miller News--New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Depart ment
Thu, 28 Jun 2007 13:31:15 -0400
Lee, Danielle
Miller, George


To: Interested Parties
From: The office of Congressman George Miller
Date: 6/28/07
Re: New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Department

-- California water
-- Lobbyists / "Revolving Door"
-- Interior Department

Senior members of the House Natural Resources Committee wrote to the Interior Department today to request information on Administration officials' use of the "revolving door" and its possible impact on federal policymaking. The letter follows below.

For more information, please contact Daniel Weiss at (202)225-2095.


Jason Peltier once ran the Central Valley Project Water Association, an organization that lobbies on behalf of federal water contractors in California. He then became one of the Bush Administration's lead officials on Western water policy, apparently overseeing projects and policy decisions that directly affected his former clients. He most recently served as the Interior Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.

This week, he accepted a job with the largest irrigation provider in the country and one of the largest water customers of the Interior Department, the Westlands Water District, despite having been directly involved in a number of federal decisions that may impact Westlands.

Mr. Peltier was profiled last year in an article in the New York Times ("For Thirsty Farmers, Old Friends at Interior Dept."), questioning his role in influencing water policy decisions. The Westlands Water District recently revived a lawsuit against the United States charging that the government should be using less water to restore the environment under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

The congressional letter comes at a time when the Bush administration's Interior Department faces increased scrutiny. Yesterday, the Washington Post revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney's political interference led to a decision to withhold water from salmon, leading to a massive fish kill with devastating consequences for the Pacific Northwest ("Leaving No Tracks"). Earlier this week, the former second-ranking official at the Interior Department, J. Steven Griles, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Today's letter

The congressional letter sent today calls for an accounting of the decisions Mr. Peltier made as an Interior official that would affect his new employer, and requests an explanation for, and documentation of, the steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in the case, as well as in a similar earlier case.

The request was sent by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the Committee.

The full text of the letter to Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, is below. The letter was copied to Earl Devany, the Department's Inspector General.

< <20070628MillerRahallDOILetter.pdf>>

The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Kempthorne:

We write today expressing great concern over the imminent departure of the Department of Interior's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science-Mr. Jason Peltier-who is leaving the Department to become the Chief Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, the largest irrigation district in the country and one of the largest customers of the Bureau of Reclamation. While serving at the Department for the past six years, Mr. Peltier has played a major role in a number of California-related water issues that impact his prospective employer.

As members of Congress and Committees with oversight of the Department of Interior and its stewardship of the nation's natural resources, we are deeply troubled by the potential impact Mr. Peltier's use of
the "revolving door" will have on the Department's policymaking.

Although we have been advised that Mr. Peltier may have removed himself from decisions on some California-related water issues, former Secretary Gale Norton once described Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Peltier as dealing "frequently with California water issues" on behalf of the Department. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing Mr. Peltier's involvement with California water, the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project, and the Westlands Water District, including Mr. Peltier's:
* role in implementing the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the CALFED program;
* participation in the development of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan;
* policymaking role regarding the Central Valley Project, including the renewal and awarding of contracts for Westlands and other CVP water users; and
* involvement in Trinity River matters.

In addition, it is our understanding that Mr. Peltier is actually the second official from the Department of the Interior to have joined the Westlands Water District within the last year. We have learned that Ms. Susan Ramos, the former Assistant Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation, presently represents the interests of Westlands in negotiations with her former office, the Bureau of Reclamation.

In light of these facts, we request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in these two cases, especially regarding litigation between Westlands Water District and the United States. Specifically, we request:
1 a full-accounting of Mr. Peltier's and Ms. Ramos' efforts to negotiate their new employment, and an explanation of the actions taken to ensure that their exit plans did not and will not impact federal policymaking;
1 information demonstrating that these former government employees' new positions with Westlands Water District will not violate federal statutes prohibiting conflict of interest or "switching sides," including 18 USC §207; and
* any advice, counsel, or opinions the Department prepared on this matter.

We appreciate your prompt attention to our request, and would appreciate your response by July 27 of this year. Please coordinate the production of the requested information with Jeff Petrich, Chief Counsel, Committee on Natural Resources at (202) 225-XXXX.



Member, Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Natural Resources Committee

CC: The Honorable Earl Devany, Inspector General, Department of the Interior

Environmental New Service
Bush Administration Drops Appeal of CalFed Challenge

SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 27, 2002 (ENS) - The Bush administration is dropping its appeal of a federal judge's ruling that environmental groups say could harm a widely supported California water plan.
At stake is the state-federal CalFed plan, which is designed to restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta and improve water supply reliability for California. Congress is now considering legislation to authorize funding for the CalFed plan.

But in February, a federal judge in Fresno ruled that federal regulators improperly allocated water to fish and wildlife. If upheld, the decision will reduce the amount of water available for protecting the environment.

In May, the Department of Interior appealed the judge's ruling, which came in a suit filed by Central Valley agribusiness interests in an attempt to weaken the CalFed plan. Last week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton withdrew the government's appeal, a decision that environmentalists say undermines the cornerstone of the CalFed plan.

"Secretary Norton is walking away from CalFed, even though she had pledged to support it," said Barry Nelson, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "This is another environmental rollback by the Bush administration, and it has serious consequences for California."

Norton's key staffer on CalFed issues is Jason Peltier, who previously served as a longtime lobbyist for Central Valley agricultural interests. For more than a decade, as the head of the Central Valley Project Water Association, Peltier led efforts to oppose federal water reform.

Despite Peltier's efforts, President George Bush Sr. signed into law the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) in 1992. The CVPIA was a major overhaul of the federal project that delivers water to farmers and other California water users. It guaranteed that water would be made available for environmental protection.

The Department of Interior wrote rules to implement the CVPIA, which serve as the foundation of the CalFed plan.

On October 31, 1992, the day after CVPIA became law, Peltier pledged in the San Francisco Chronicle, "We'll do anything and everything to keep from being harmed. If that means obstructing implementation [of the bill] so be it."

"We call on Secretary Norton to explain the role of former water lobbyist Jason Peltier in this decision to capitulate to his former clients," said Nelson. "If Peltier is behind this, then it means he is finally delivering on his decade old promise to block implementation of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Industry special interests should not be charged with protecting the environment."

NRDC and other environmental groups are appealing the ruling to the Ninth Circuit court of appeals.

Water facilities transfer isn't easy
Cleaning up drainage raises complex tangle of legal, finance issues.
By Michael Doyle and Mark Grossi / The Fresno Bee

Serious political and pragmatic obstacles block a new proposal to shift vast San Joaquin Valley irrigation facilities into farmers' hands.

Capitol Hill skeptics hold key leadership positions. Congress is already booked up with another big Valley water plan to restore the San Joaquin River. Technical solutions are complicated.

And history, if it's any guide, suggests it's extremely hard to transfer federal water projects -- especially ones serving California.

"A proposal like this will always face challenges," Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, conceded Friday. "This is not a unanimous consent item."

Costa, nonetheless, said he finds promise in the new notion to deliver into local control the San Luis Reservoir and more than 100 miles of canals and associated pumping plants. He represents much of the 600,000-acre Westlands Water District.

Under the proposal, Westlands would join with the San Luis Water District and other districts in taking over the federal facilities.

The state of California also would play a role.

The water districts would become responsible for resolving the irrigation drainage problems now afflicting almost 400,000 acres of the Valley's west side.

In exchange, the federal government would forgive the districts' $489.6 million construction debt.

"This is an attempt, I think, to think out of the box," Costa said.

Supporters consider the proposal aired this week better than other drainage options estimated to cost as much as $2.6 billion. The government'spreferred drainage option was supposed to be announced Friday, but officials delayed it to discuss the new proposal.

Environmental critics question whether the new idea will really save taxpayer money. If the government remains liable for drainage, irrigation districts would eventually have to repay the federal Bureau of Reclamation for a drainage fix.

Bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken responded that taxpayers still would be providing the upfront funds. The government would allow interest-free payback over 50 years. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy.

"The reimbursement wouldn't begin until after the facilities for drainage are complete," McCracken added.

But even the 20-page conceptual paper now circulating on Capitol Hill acknowledges numerous difficulties.

Area lawmakers like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, still must get their potential concerns addressed.

The feds and the farmers, for instance, concede they don't yet agree on the "full scope" of how the government might be shielded from future lawsuits. The farmers originally sued over the government's failure to provide
promised drainage.

Without drainage, selenium-tainted farm runoff has accumulated -- most infamously during the 1980s in the poisoned Kesterson Reservoir in western Merced County.

The written proposal acknowledges other uncertainties, including:

Efforts to understand the financial implications of the transfer are "ongoing," while identifying the dollar value of the water and facilities is "a difficult question to answer."

Farmers and federal officials disagree over the "outstanding" issue of who is responsible for dam safety.

The potential effect on California bond and credit ratings "has not yet been addressed."

Impacts on pumping plant operations are "highly dependent" upon final negotiations.

And then there's the salt.

Many millions of tons of salt have come to the western San Joaquin Valley in irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is where the ocean meets the state's two longest rivers.

"Where will all this salt go?" asked Clovis resident Lloyd Carter, an attorney and environmentalist.

The salt will eventually damage the land unless there is some way to remove it, experts say.

Simply changing the owner won't remove the salt.

"Is this new plan really in the best interest of the taxpayers?" asked Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

Miller's skepticism is telling. He is one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's chief lieutenants. Her chief of staff, John Lawrence, formerly handled Western water issues for Miller. Her chief administrative officer, Dan Beard, likewise worked for Miller and then ran the Bureau of Reclamation during the Clinton administration.

All were around the last time California farmers and their congressional allies tried to seize the Central Valley Project.

In 1995, lawmakers led by Rep. John Doolittle, R-Granite Bay, sought to sell the CVP as part of a larger budget bill. That proposal to sell off the entire Redding-to-Bakersfield water network was far more ambitious than the
new idea. Still, its fate is instructive.

One of the big proponents of the 1995 sell-the-CVP idea was Jason Peltier, then representing Central Valley Project customers.

Peltier now is a senior official in the Interior Department, which helped craft this week's proposal.

The 1995 idea eventually died, with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein cautioning then that "there are a lot of points that I think need a major hearing." This week, Feinstein said she needs time to analyze the new

Congress this year is already being asked to approve an ambitious plan to restore the San Joaquin River, raising questions of how much California water out-of-state lawmakers are prepared to deal with.

Farm Bill: Genetically modified food piece excised
Hank Shaw Blog, Stockton Record

Lawmakers in Congress will not be debating whether to pre-empt local rules governing genetically modified foods, the consumption of foie gras or other controversial food items in this year's Farm Bill. The original draft included a provision known as Section 123, which barred any locality (i.e., Sonoma or Mendocino) from banning anything already given the vaguely papal gesture of the USDA. This provision had organic farmers in an uproar because they fear that the Monsantos and Syngentas of the world will contaminate their crops with GM crops (this happened in Oregon). Some local governments, mostly in California and New England, have banned farmers from growing these "frankenfoods" as a way to stop their spread.
Adding the GM debate to an already contentious Farm Bill battle was just too much for lawmakers, my sources say. House Agriculture Committee spokeswoman April Slayton said she doesn't know what committee chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, thinks about Section 123. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said last month he was concerned about it, especially since he is the chair of the committee's panel on organic agriculture. Is this Dennis at work? We'll see...

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Extinction no solution to water pollution -- Felix Smith

Submitted: Jul 04, 2007

When one looks seriously at the probable extinction of the Delta Smelt, the only thread in the history is the one most denied in the San Joaquin Valley: the systematic, long-range, politically rigged destruction of Public Trust law and natural resources by agribusiness lords and by the aggressions of water agencies led by Wetlands Water District. The entire violation of public trust exploded in Merced County in 1983 at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, where it was discovered that agricultural drainage piped from the south San Joaquin Valley with its highly concentrated amounts of Selenium, sickened, deformed and killed living beings -- people, livestock, and aquatic and avian species. Through more than 20 years of government propaganda denying it, coverups, harassment of government staff, ranchers, farmers, environmentalists and journalists that have told and continue to tell the truth, the destruction has continued to unfold.

Badlands is honored to publish these remarks sent to us by former US Fish & Wildlife Service biologist, Felix Smith, before a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on July 2 in Vallejo on the Delta. Smith has never stopped doing his duty as a federal wildlife biologist by speaking the uncomfortable, officially denied truth, since at Kesterson he held the first deformed bird in his hands. The best account in book form of what Smith and others went through to reveal this painful truth, describe its origins and predict its consequences, is available in Tom Harris' Death in the Marsh. Other books include Reisner's Cadillac Desert and The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire, by Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman. The best reporter and commentator on the subject is Lloyd Carter.

The worst newspaper coverage of the Kesterson disaster was by the Merced Sun-Star, on top of the story but, judging by its archives from the time, running away from it as fast as it could.

Badlands editorial staff

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power,

Hearing on

“Extinction is Not Sustainable Water Policy: the Bay-Delta Crisis


Implications for California Water Management”,

July 2, 2007 at Vallejo, California.

To Chairwoman-Representative Napolitano and other members of this subcommittee.

My name is Felix E. Smith. I appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments. Please include these comments into the record of this hearing.

I held the first deformed migratory bird, an American coot hatchling, found at Kesterson NWR in 1983. At that time I was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist recently assigned to look into the emerging issues involving agricultural drainage and wastewater. That experience impacted my life. Some of my concerns regarding Selenium contamination of the lands and waters and associated resources, uses and values are described in my article, “The Kesterson Effect: Reasonable Use of Water and the Public Trust”, published in the San Joaquin Agricultural Law Review, Volume 6, Number 1 - 1996. I submit this article for the hearing record by this reference.

Water is the environment in which fish and other aquatic resources must carry on all their life processes. Such resources, associated uses and values are inextricably tied to the physical, chemical and biological aspects of that aquatic environment. Healthy and diverse aquatic populations are indicative of good water quality conditions (flow, temperature, oxygen and chemical parameters). Good water quality allows for near optimum use of water as an M & I supply, an irrigation supply and as an environment for fish and other aquatic life. For healthy and sustainable fish populations to exist (also wildlife populations), the total aquatic environment (the water, the bed, the riparian vegetation and associated insect life, the food web) all interact and therefore must be suitable for aquatic life at the individual, population and community levels.

The Federal Clean Water Act, as amended, and the Public Trust embrace affirmatively and positively that the people are to be protected against all unwise and unreasonable uses of Federal and State waters. Uses of water can be considered unreasonable because they pollute; because they offend our sense of aesthetics or natural beauty; because they interfere with the right of the public to enjoy a natural resource of state or national significance; because they threaten in a harmful way to upset the ecological balance of nature, or because to allow this unreasonable use confers a valuable privilege which is inconsistent with protecting the public trust.

Agencies like the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California’s EPA were established to protect the public interest and quality of the Nation’s lands and waters. Such agencies are not to squander clean air, allow the pollution of our rivers, streams and groundwater, allow the pollution or other degradation of our land leaving a degraded legacy for our grandchildren or allow the pollution of the body’s of our children, our fish and wildlife resources or our food supply. These same agencies should not look like shills for corporate farms or massive water districts (Boswells Farms, Westland Water District).

Any effort at maintaining sustainable water quality, agriculture and wetland ecosystems (fish and wildlife resources) must involve an understanding of the interaction between the soil and the flow of water over, through, and under the soil well beyond the point of application. Preserving soil fertility is critical to sustaining its productivity. Preserving and maintaining water quality is critical to the productivity of water as an ecosystem and as a commodity for domestic and industrial uses. Unlike soil, which can be built up over time, water can’t be built or enhanced. A river can be lost to a farmer; to a species of fish or to fish resources; lost as a place to recreate or as a water supply. It can be diverted, polluted, misused or over appropriated. Aldo Leopold’s Round River makes the principles of ecology clear and vivid, suggesting that nature is a “Round River”, like a stream flowing into itself, going round and round in an unceasing circuit, going through all the soils, the flora and fauna of the earth while supporting many resources, beneficial uses and values. Destroying one part can destroy it all and all its benefits to society.

A use of the lands and waters of a watershed that so degrades the sustainability of a downstream ecosystem or a component of that ecosystem to make it unsuitable for sustaining viable agriculture, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life, or which makes fish unsuitable for human consumption, or which is a hazard to other fish and wildlife, or which degrades ecological, aesthetic, recreational uses, small craft navigation, and scenic values, is inconsistent with public trust protection, the reasonable use of water is therefore a nuisance. When chemicals enter the bodies of children, or enter the domestic or wildlife food supply to toxic levels without our consent, it is a trespass.

Here is an example brought to you in part by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation and the Central Valley Project.

It was known for a long time that the soils of the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley were derived from parent material formed in an old seabed. The California Department of Water Resources Bulletin No. 89, Lower San Joaquin Valley Water Quality Investigation – 1960, discusses concerns about the chemicals and various salts in the soils and drainage from the area. The soils and parent material extend throughout the Westside, south to the end of the Valley. The sodium ion was a major concern along with a variety of sulfates, boron and numerous trace elements. Even at that time drainage was believed to be a serious and emerging problem. Drainage from the Panoche area was highly concentrated from a quality standpoint and “unusable for beneficial purposes” (see pg. 95 of DWR –Bull. No 89). At that time the San Joaquin River was already seriously polluted from agricultural drainage and wastewater.

The observation “that the drainage was highly concentrated from a quality standpoint and unusable for beneficial purposes”, sparked little attention. With the application of vast quantities of Bureau of Reclamation water to the highly saline / seleniferious soils, the need for drainage works quickly become apparent. Surface waters and the San Joaquin River showed additional evidence of pollution.

By 1982 some people, including a few Grassland duck club owners, believed that something was wrong in the northern Grasslands. They had noticed sick and dead birds in 1981 and 82. In 1983 the first deformed young of migratory birds were found on Kesterson NWR by researchers from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Kesterson Reservoir (NWR) was the then terminus of the San Luis Drain. People were disturbed by the pictures of dead and grossly deformed waterfowl and shorebirds obtained from Kesterson Evaporation Ponds that were appearing on the nightly television news at dinnertime. Selenium (Se) in the agricultural drainage accumulated via the food chain to high levels in their tissues resulted in dead adults, dead and deformed young. Several species of fish had elevated Se levels in their tissues.

In September 1984, California’s State Board, in its Agricultural Water Management Guidelines for Water Purveyors, stated, “Failure to take appropriate measures to minimize excess application, excess incidental losses, or degradation of water quality constitutes unreasonable use of water” (Emphasis added).

The State Board followed with its Order WQ 85-1(February 1985). The State Board found that agricultural drainage and wastewater reaching Kesterson Reservoir “is creating and threatening to create conditions of pollution and nuisance” (Emphases added). The Order then warned “If the Bureau closes Kesterson Reservoir and continues to supply irrigation water to Westlands Water District without implementing an adequate disposal option, continued irrigation in the affected area of Westlands Water District could constitute an unreasonable use of water” (Emphasis added).

From 1986 to today (2007), Selenium contamination is sufficient to cause deformities and threaten reproduction of key species within the area of the greater Grasslands, in the San Joaquin River to the Bay-Delta estuary. Deformed migratory birds have been found in every year field investigations were conducted for such evidence. Selenium concentration was also high in eggs that were sampled, which in turn could have lead to deformities. Fish resources continue to show high levels of Se because of a Se -contaminated food chain. Selenium has been found in what is usually called edible tissues and in reproductive organs of birds and fish.

Human health advisories have been issued against consuming Se contaminated edible tissues of fish (bluegill and largemouth bass) and of migratory birds (ducks and coots). Women of childbearing age and children are cautioned against eating such tissues. State Board reports indicate that in the Bay-Delta, surf scoter, greater and lesser scaup and particularly white sturgeon appear to be the most at risk to Se toxicity because they feed on filter feeders (i.e. bivalves). Concentrations Se found in 62 white sturgeon muscle samples and 42 liver samples far exceed tissue thresholds for reproductive effects. Recent findings add the Sacramento splittail to the list of species exhibiting elevated Se levels.

The USGS report (Report) ”Forecasting Selenium Discharges to the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary; Ecological Effects of a Proposed San Luis Drain Extension” by Drs. Samuel N. Luoma and Theresa S. Presser –2000), indicates that the reservoir of Se on the Westside of San Joaquin Valley is sufficient to provide loading at an annual rate of about 42,500 pounds of Se to the Bay-Delta disposal point for 63 to 304 years at the lower range of its projection. This is with the influx of Se from the Coast Range curtailed.

Selenium bioaccumulation is a major water quality problem. The combination of California’s climate, hydrology, Se loading, Se reactivity, and Se bioavailability poses a significant threat to the aquatic ecosystem of the Lower San Joaquin River and Bay-Delta. Selenium contamination is damaging beneficial uses, degrading food sources of humans and wildlife, aesthetic, recreation and ecological values. Risks to fish and bird reproduction could lead to extinction via contamination of the invertebrate food supply. Filter feeders are great concentrators of Se. Aquatic insects were the primary food item of shore birds. The Report concludes that bivalves appear to be the most sensitive indicator of Se contamination in the Bay-Delta. In the Bay-Delta and the lower San Joaquin River tidal action will increase the resident time of Se, exposing all aquatic organisms and increasing the ability of food organisms to accumulate greater amounts of Se and pass it up the food chain to predators.

Studies indicate that the highest concentrations of Se (12 to 23 ppb) were measured in green sunfish (lepomis cyanellus) from the San Luis Drain where seleniferous drainage is most concentrated. The second highest concentrations of Se (7.6 to 17 ppb) were measured in green sunfish (lepomis cyanellus) and 14 to 18 ppb Se in bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) taken from North Mud Slough. The high levels (body burden) of Se could be related to the Se sequestered in the sediments and benthic organisms that is mobilized by the detritus–based food chain. (USGS, Biological Resources Division “Effects of an Agricultural Drainwater Bypass on Fishes Inhibiting the Grassland Water District and the Lower San Joaquin River, California” by Saiki, Michael J., Barbara A. Martin, Steven E. Schwarzbach, and Thomas W. May. In North American Journal of Fisheries Management, Vol. 21:624-635, 2001.

One can conclude that water borne Se is the single most predictor of pollution, that it can and continues to have an adverse affect on the aquatic ecosystem, associated fish and wildlife resources, uses and values (Saiki, et al-2001)

The bottom line is that saline / seleniferious soils of the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley contain a reservoir of Se, other trace elements and a variety of salts, that with irrigation, will continue to leach from the soils to the shallow groundwater for years and years to come. This Se leachate / drainage will continue to degrade down slope lands, surface and groundwater, fish and wildlife habitats and other beneficial uses of the receiving waters including the San Joaquin River and Delta.

Today we have the longest Selenium hazardous waste site know to man, extending from at least the Mendota pool and the Grasslands (near Los Banos), downstream via the San Joaquin River to the Delta, Suisun Bay and adjacent marshes. This involves 130 miles of San Joaquin River, miles of waterways in the Delta and 1,000s upon 1,000s of acres of San Joaquin Valley lands and aquatic ecosystems.

With the above information one could allege that the continued irrigation of saline / seleniferious soils of the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley and Se contaminated discharges to the San Joaquin River constitute a waste and unreasonable use of the State’s water, and a nuisance.

This Committee or a court should review the drainage issue and associated impacts to determine if such a use of water is both beneficial and reasonable within the context of continuing shortage of water, the broadened meaning of beneficial use of Section 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 and the contemporary equal priority setting of CVPIA, Section 3406 (a) (3) and the Clean Water Act, as amended.

To me this irrigation use of water, associated drainage, Selenium and other impacts is just as inconsistent with reasonable use and public trust protection as is the filling of tidelands (Mark v. Whitney 6 Cal, 3d 251 -1971); as is allowing mining waste and debris that impacted water quality and impede navigation (Woodruff v North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Co. (Fed Rpt. Vol. 12 – 1884) and People v Gold Run Ditch and Mining Co. (4 Pac Rpt at 1152 – 1884); as is a ranch or farm which allows animal wastes and other filth to contaminate the waters of a stream which impacts the water supply and beneficial uses of downstream users (People ex rel Ricks Water Co. v Elk River Mill and Lumber Co. (40 Pac Rpt 486 –1895); as is the deposition of mill wastes and other debris which destroys aquatic life and a fishery ( People v Truckee Lumber Co.(16 Cal 397, 48 Pac 347 - 1897) , and as is the diversion of water which destroys numerous uses and values protected by the public trust reaffirmed or clarified in Audubon (National Audubon Society v Department of Water and Power, City of Los Angeles (33 Cal 3d 419, 658 P 2d 709, 189 Cal Rpt.346; cert denied 464 U.S. 977 – 1983).

The point made by the Elk River Court that if the conformation of the defendant’s land is such that he cannot carry on a dairy without putting such filth directly into the water, then he must find some other use for the land (emphases added). This rational thinking of over 110 years ago is particularly relevant to today’s Se, salt, drainage and wastewater issues associated with the irrigation of selected lands in the San Joaquin Valley. Following the thinking of the Elk River Court, if the Westside farmers cannot carry on their operations without polluting the local ground and surface waters, then they must find some other use for the land. And there is no taking issue for a use that is deemed unreasonable and a nuisance (Audubon).

Some Suggested Actions

Control of agricultural pollution also might be achieved by instituting best management practices, land retirement, and by economic incentives (substantial fines, forfeiture of all or a portion of appropriated water rights or contract allotments). Land retirement is an important option. Removing Federal irrigation water from being use on the Se source lands. Taking the land out of production that is the source of the majority of the salt and selenium problems should have quick and positive results and many public benefits. This can be attained by direct purchase of land or the irrigation rights, leasing land, purchasing the irrigation water allotment to such lands while prohibiting the use of groundwater on those lands.

Retiring lands containing significant levels of selenium or other toxic materials would have just a one time cost. A long term lease might also work, for there would be little if any maintenance costs. Land not needed for conservation purposes such as restoring native grasslands and related fauna of the San Joaquin Valley, could be sold, with title restrictions, for selected compatible uses such as dry land farming, grazing, etc. Within the Westlands Water District problem soils have been estimated at 100,000 to 275,000 acres (USBR, April 1991).

At a cost of $1,000.00 per acre it would cost $100,000,000.00 to retire 100,000 acres or $275,000,000.00 for the 275,000 acres. Lands acquired should be purchased with today's realities in mind. This includes limited or poor ground water, extensive selenium and sodium sulfate problems. Any value added to the price of land should not be based on speculation, the availability of Federally subsidized water, or on the potential construction of a Federal drainage facilities. A reality is that problem soils without water are just about worthless.

For each acre of irrigated land retired, there would be commensurate saving of about 2.0 to 3.5 acre feet of water per acre (depending on crop) or about 200,000 to 350,000 acre feet for each 100,000 acres taken out of irrigation. This water is firm yield water imported from northern California. For each irrigated acre taken out of production there would be a reduction of 20 to 60 pound of pesticides (active ingredients) plus 80 to 250 pounds of carrier materials, (oils, etc.) not applied to the soils. There would be a reduction of the amount of drainage and wastewater generated of about .6 to .8 acre feet per acre of land retired or 60,000 to 80,000 acre-feet for each 100,000 acres retired. There would be a saving in electrical energy by not having to pump water from the Delta. There should be benefits to fish resources and associated fisheries as up to 600,000 to 900,000 acre-feet would not have to be pumped from the Delta.

The water savings could be used to restore or otherwise benefit fish resources and fisheries throughout the waters of the Bay-Delta watershed. Any remaining water could be sold for municipal uses.

Economic incentives may be effective because of the existence and potential threat of law suits using the public trust doctrine, waste and unreasonable use, and the State's enforcement powers. A finding of a waste and unreasonable use of water by a court or the State Board or a finding based on the public trust could bind all entities discharging selenium, boron and sodium sulfate laden drainage and wastewater in to state waters.

Based on the State Board's 1984 (Agricultural Water Management Guidelines for Water Purveyors) and 1985 State Board Order WQ 85-1 definition of what constitutes an unreasonable use of water, the effects from irrigating saline, seleniferious soils are such that this use must be considered a waste and unreasonable use of water and the resultant drainage and wastewater a nuisance. This violates Article X, Section 2, of the State Constitution. The premise of the Federal Clean Water Act, as amended, is violated. The impacts violate Section 8 of the 1902 Reclamation Act, which requires compliance with State laws. Section 8 also says; Provided, That the right to the use of water acquired under the provisions of this Act shall be appurtenant to the land irrigated, and beneficial use shall be the basis, the measure and the limit of the right.

Thank you.

Felix E. Smith

4720 Talus Way

Carmichael, CA 95608


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