The news media made the trek to Hanford yesterday to take the opportunity we offered to meet researcher Thomas Harter, who is initiating an extensive groundwater study at dairies in Kings and Tulare counties. Harter studied the groundwater at dairies in Stanislaus and Merced counties in the late 90s and found groundwater with six-times and more than the limit set for nitrates in drinking water. The South Valley's groundwater is much deeper and the soil contains more clay, which Harter says may reduce groundwater contamination, though he doesn't expect to find groundwater there to be pristine.
The KMPH 10 o'clock news covered the event with a story during the first 15 minutes of the broadcast. The story can be found on its Web site. The Fresno Bee sent reporter Eric Lacayo of the South Valley bureau, who likened the dairies' participation in the study to motorists inviting the Highway Patrol into their vehicles.
"We're kind of putting the speedometer on them and the Highway Patrol is waiting," Lacayo quoted Harter. "We're going to see whether you're speeding or not."
There might have been more coverage of the dairy event had it not conflicted (coincidentally) with another ag groundwater story that played out closer to most TV stations' offices and came complete with demonstrators carrying placards with slogans such as "Where food grows, contaminants flow" and "No More Favors, End Ag Waivers." The Fresno Bee also covered this story.
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors has taken preliminary steps to buy about 92 acres of farmland off Highway 99 near Selma to build a Center for Agriculture and Food Safety, according to an article published in the Fresno Bee today. The proposed new center would house the county Department of Agriculture, UC Cooperative Extension and other ag-related agencies. Officials also are reviewing other property and exploring the prospect of placing the center on the Fresno State campus.
Also in the plans is a demonstration/research farm geared toward the study of new and specialty crops, water conservation and sanitary handling practices. According to the article, UCCE director Jeanette Sutherlin said the farm would complement existing research operations in Fresno County -- such as UC Kearney Research and Extension Center near Parlier -- and offer farmers a chance to learn about new ag opportunities.
Over the years, several other Valley counties have consolidated UCCE, departments of agriculture and other ag agencies at modern facilities, including Kern, Tulare and Stanislaus counties.
"I think Fresno County ag ought to be on the map with a facility that's worthy of the importance of that industry," Supervisor Judy Case was quoted in the article.
Due to unforeseen computer problems, I was not able to post to the blog during the Society for Environmental Journalists conference last week. But I did save a few random tidbits to share here today.
"I think of farmers in the Midwest as government-employed tractor drivers." -Organic strawberry farmer
"I don't go to meetings anymore where they try to define 'sustainable.'" - Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation
"The food system is the No. 1 point of human impact on the planet. If you change the food system, you leverage all other systems." - Mike Demmock, Roots of Change, which is aiming to create a sustainable food system by 2030.
"(The term) 'Peer-reviewed study' is not used in broadcast." - Jeff Burnside, WTVJ NBC News 6 in Miami
"Global warming of the last 150 years is unequivocal." - Stephen Schneider, Stanford University climatologist
"We (humans) don't make the weather. We intensify it." - Schneider
"Scientists tend toward obsessive-compulsive. Journalists tend toward ADD." - audience comment
"You have to move the (global warming) story forward. Scientists must stick their necks out a little more," Rick Rodriguez, Sacramento Bee editor
"For California's big water projects, decisions were made 70 years ago. It was a different world." - Frank Michny, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of Interior
Milk is truly an American staple food. Producing, marketing and pricing are just some of the aspects of milk that make news. The California milk industry as given us such cultural icons as "Got milk" and "Great milk comes from happy cows." Today, the California Milk Advisory Board announced that it is introducing the "Real California Milk" seal, which certifies that dairy products bearing the seal are made exclusively with California milk, according to a press release published on Business Wire and picked up widely in the media.
Coincidentally, also today, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about the milk pricing formula, which it proclaimed in its headline "grates on state's cheese makers," pun intended, of course.
"Cheese makers claim that the current formula, changed four years ago when dairies were struggling with low milk prices, could drive smaller plants out of business because it raises the cost of making cheese in a competitive market where it is hard to recoup the added expense," according to the article.
For comment, writer Jerry Hirsch went to UC Davis ag economist Leslie Butler.
"This is your basic fight over who gets the change that's left on the table," the Times quoted Butler.
Butler predicted the next phase of the pricing issue: "We will have a hearing and everyone will argue and the CDFA will decide. There is no guessing which way it will go."
On the production side, a major research project is being undertaken in Tulare and Kings county aimed at gaining an better understanding about what is happening to groundwater beneath dairies. A media advisory is being distributed this week. UCCE is inviting the media to a dairy in Hanford on Sept. 13 to get details about the research project.
The rest of this week I will be at the Society for Environmental Journalists conference in Palo Alto. Look for ANR-related developments from the SEJ conference here in the coming days.
I don't want to scare anyone from speaking to the the media, in fact, that's something our office generally encourages. But it is interesting to see how long comments can stay alive when they are published on somebody's Web page.
Back in October 1997, nearly 10 years ago, Andrew Goldsmith of FastCompany.com wrote an article about an expression commonly used in business to suggest one might as well shoot for easier targets before striving for what's out of reach. The idiom: "pick the low hanging fruit."
Goldsmith cleverly decided to inquire with orchard experts to see if the cliché holds water. He contacted UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in San Joaquin County Joe Grant.
"When growers send pickers to the field, they don't advise them to pick the low-hanging fruit first," Grant is quoted. "They tell them to pick what's ready to pick. And the first fruit to ripen is what's high up and well exposed to the sun."
Today, the Hartford (Conn.) Courant used Grants' comments in his "Word Watch" column. I guess quote recycling is par for the course in the information age.