Slow Flow of Immigrants Already Impacting California Farms?

By Elena Shore and Jonah Most

The number of immigrants illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico has declined according to a new study, and some California farmers are already seeing the effects on their crops.

“We’ve seen in the valley this year a reduction of labor that we haven’t seen for five or six years,” said Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno, Calif.

“There could be crops that could go down as being damaged because they cannot be harvested fast enough. Many of the vegetables growing in the valley are going to be in competition for the labor as well,” he said. “You’re going to see rotting.”

Fighting for Fair Treatment for Farmworkers

By Mitch Seaman
California Labor Federation

A common refrain from anti-union politicians and pundits across the country is that workers “no longer” need unions. That unions outlived their usefulness by winning minimum wages, 8-hour days and OSHA, and that the right to collectively bargain for safe and humane working conditions is an outdated relic of a more dangerous time. Try telling that to the friends, family and loved ones of María Isabel Vásquez Jiménez.

Three years ago this Monday, María Isabel Vásquez Jiménez collapsed and died after spending 9 hours pruning grapevines in Farmington. She was 17 years old, engaged and two months pregnant. This tragic loss, however, was far from accidental.

Better Foods Coming to a State Agency Near You

By Assemblymember Holly Mitchell

As part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently unveiled new healthy food service guidelines. The Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations promotes a healthier workforce by making healthy food options more accessible and affordable.

California can be quick to capitalize on this exciting opportunity, with legislation to help lead the effort in creating healthier environments by adopting a similar food procurement strategy for the state’s cafeterias, office buildings, and vending machines. 

New Report Targets Unreasonable Water Use in California

By Dan Bacher

Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson will present a highly anticipated report to the State Water Resources Control Board on January 19 suggesting that a particularly contentious area of California water law, the California Constitution’s “Reasonable and Beneficial Use Doctrine," be applied more broadly.

In his report, Wilson recommends that the State Board employ this doctrine to promote agricultural water use efficiency. The doctrine states a water right does not include the right to waste water and mandates that “the water resources of the state be put to beneficial use," according to the Planning and Conservation League Insider.

A small percentage of increased agricultural water use efficiency adds up to significant water savings in California, according to Wilson. The report recommends that the State Board convene a "Reasonable Use Summit" to develop specific actions to improve efficiency and create a “Reasonable Use Unit” within the Division of Water Rights.

Obama Administration Releases Report Announcing Support for Peripheral Canal

By Dan Bacher

On December 15, the Obama administration officially announced its support for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build a peripheral canal/tunnel, a project opposed by fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmentalists, family farmers and Delta residents.

A coordinated report issued by six federal agencies calls for the construction of a "new water conveyance system" - the peripheral canal/tunnel - to move water from north of the California Bay-Delta to corporate agribusiness on the side of the San Joaquin Valley and to Southern California water agencies.

AB 301: Schwarzenegger’s Last Chance to Have a Positive Impact on California’s Water Future

By Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes and Mark Schlosberg

For the past two years, water issues have dominated political debate in Sacramento and throughout the state, however there is one water bill on the Governor’s desk that we should all be able to agree on – AB 301 (Fuentes).

AB 301 would give Californians the right to know how much of their communities’ water is being bottled for sale and where that bottled water comes from. With water scarcity being a top concern, this modest bill is an important step towards better managing our water.

The Big Con: New Report Exposes The Real Beneficiaries Of Proposition 18

By Elanor Starmer
Food&Water Watch

The legislature reconvened on Monday with a hefty set of tasks ahead of it. Passing a budget will clearly be the most painful, but let’s not underestimate the intensity of the battle over the fate of Proposition 18, the massive water bond currently on this November’s ballot. The legislature’s decision – widely believed to be forthcoming before August 20th – on whether to postpone, scrap or leave untouched this controversial measure is actually a referendum on who should control water in California. Legislators have an opportunity to weigh in in favor of the public by voting to permanently remove the bond from the ballot.

Tribal Prayer Ceremony Held to End Suffering of Eel River

By Dan Bacher

The Eel River Prayer Ceremony and Summit, a historic 2-day event was held on the banks of the Eel River near Willits, California on July 17-18.

“We will not sit idly by," was the central message of the event, hosted by the Round Valley Tribes of Covelo and Friends of the Eel River (FOER), which drew concerned Eel River supporters from San Francisco to the Oregon border, including biologists, hydrologists, fishermen and leading environmental groups. It was the first time in 100 years, since traditional spiritual ceremonies were banned among tribal governments, where members of the Round Valley Tribes of Covelo; and their spiritual leaders and tribal dancers, guided a sacred prayer ceremony for the relief of the long-suffering Eel River.

Of Lions and Lines

Scott Morrison
The Nature Conservancy

Back when the line was drawn to separate California from Baja California, I bet few imagined how significant that border would become for wildlife. Today, the contrasts in conservation status across the U.S. – Mexico border are pretty stark.

North of the border is an extensive – albeit incomplete—network of public and private conservation lands that offers some protection for an extraordinary diversity of coastal, montane and desert species. South of the border there are only a few, isolated protected areas.

But unlike on the more intensively developed California side, there are still vast regions of northwest Baja California that are remarkably intact. The Sierra Juarez mountain range, for example, just south of San Diego County, is one of the few true wilderness areas remaining in the globally imperiled mediterranean biome of North America.

Legislative Round-Up: Heading Into The Final Stretch

By Traci Sheehan
Planning and Conservation League

The environmental community started the month of July with great optimism. During the past few weeks, the majority of the environmental and public health bills we were supporting received the votes necessary to move forward. This week marked the deadline for these bills to pass their respective policy committees.

Here's a round up of the environmental bills that will move forward just as soon as the Legislature reconvenes after July recess. These bills would advance the protection of our ecosystem, promote conservation of our natural resources and reduce waste in landfills.