From the Fields® - May 18, 2016

By Terry Munz, Los Angeles County hay and grain farmer

We haven't had much rain this year. I grow a forage mix for the horse market—mainly grain and hay. I'm cutting it right now. I'm probably going to cut about half of what I planted. It's pretty poor, even that.

Last year wasn't too bad, but for the last five years, it's been really tough. When you dry farm and you only get 6 1/2 inches of rain, nothing grows very well. I average about 12 inches here, but I haven't seen that in six years. All this talk of El Niño—the northern state did pretty well, but not the southern state.

A little bit west of me, a flash flood went through in mid-October and it brought another couple of inches of rain. And the fields I have up there are a little bit better; they're worth cutting—maybe half to three-quarters of a ton an acre. That's not saying much, when my average here is about a ton and a quarter, but I don't know what average is anymore. That's what I'm cutting now.

About half I'm going to abandon and just put my cows on it. But I don't have many cows anymore. I used to have about 30 head about five years ago, but I've been selling them off to pay for feeding the rest of them. I'm barely hanging on here; it's really changed my operation a lot.

I have a lot of old vehicles and buildings around, so film crews do some filming here on the property. In fact, I'm waiting on a film scout to show up any minute now. They do commercial shoots and fashion shoots. I'm on a film guide and a lot of people who've been here know about me. Word of mouth is a lot of it. I maybe do half a dozen things a year.

I had a Honda Ridgeline commercial here a couple of weeks ago, and they were here for four days. That pays the bills for a few months and helps me out. I've had four things this year—actually, in the last couple of months. There was an AT&T commercial they did. During production, there'll be 80 to 100 people here, and then you see the commercial and it'll be a two-second shot.

By Jim Spinetta, Amador County winegrape grower

The recent spring rains have the Sierra foothills flourishing, from the green grass swaying on the pastures to the marching rows of winegrapes. Sporadic areas were affected and harmed by regional thunderstorms and hail, but overall we're looking at an above average 2016 vintage.

So far the cluster counts are bountiful, with doubles and wings prevalent. As we are now entering bloom and no rain on the horizon, the flowers should be able to set into fruit-producing clusters.

After five years of drought, we were finally able to have enough precipitation to do some needed replanting this year. In hindsight, it was a blessing for us all to get our tractors stuck in the mud, and post the dilemma on Facebook.

In the regulatory realm, we're looking forward to Farm Bureau protecting us from overburdensome regulations and laws.

Here's a toast to pushing the plow with our fellow farmers, family and friends, and to bountiful harvest in 2016.

By Robert Vlach, Glenn County cattle rancher and Colusa County rice farmer

On the beef, our winter ground is in western Glenn County and this spring has been pretty good. We've received a lot of rain. All the stock ponds are filled up. The cattle look really good coming off the winter range.

We're shipping them right now to Bieber, which is in Northern California, for summer pasture. The feed up there looks pretty good as well. All and all on the grass side of things, we're in pretty good shape.

Calving percentages are good. We're leaving a little feed behind to come back to the following year, which is always a good thing. There's hardly anything to complain about.

On the rice, everything is planted or just about planted. Fortunately, we were able to get in early and get things planted prior to the rainstorms, so that worked out really well for us, considering the late rains we had in May. I know a lot of people in Glenn and Colusa counties are still trying to get everything done. For us, planting went really smoothly and the ground worked up really well.

On the water side of things, all the irrigation districts in our part of the world are getting 100 percent allocations. I imagine across the valley everything will be planted, which is a good thing.

By Tony Toso, Mariposa County beef producer

The rain/feed year has, for us in Mariposa County, been better than we have seen in some time. There is water in the stock ponds, the cows are in belly-deep grass and the calves are on track to meet or exceed our weight projections.

The fly in the ointment this year is pricing. The market for our calves here in California is marginal at best, compared to prices received last year. However, some perspective needs to be placed on that statement.

Prior to the 2014 and 2015 marketing seasons, the prices we received for our calves were very good and well received. That said, last year a light six-weight steer "roughly" commanded prices in the mid-$2-per-pound range, while this year a 600-pound steer calf is bringing right around $1.50 to $1.65 per pound based upon recent video-market pricing.

This is due primarily, but not limited, to basic supply-and-demand factors, while the stocker and feedlot sectors of the industry are still licking their wounds from suffering some pretty significant losses starting in the late summer/fall of 2015 and proceeding into the current market.

By Mike Jani, Mendocino County forester

We're moving in to the beginning of logging season. It appears that at least redwood prices are a little bit better than they were last year.

Among all forestland owners in the county, there's a great deal of consternation because of the state Fish and Game Commission and its deliberations over whether to list statewide the spotted owl, which has been listed for years at the federal level. That is probably going to be discussed at the next commission meeting. What effect that will have on operations is unknown at this time.

A county voter initiative called Measure V has qualified for the June ballot. It would declare dead-standing hardwood trees, the most prevalent of which is the tanoak, as a fire hazard and public nuisance. The initiative actually says "purposely killed" trees. What that's all about is that in the forest in Mendocino County, hardwood trees have in many cases taken over the forest and when we do restoration forestry to try to get the redwoods planted back in, we inject herbicide into these hardwood trees to kill them. We leave them standing out in the forest so when they decompose, they add nutrients back into the soil.

We're got a group of activists out on the coast and their only interest is in stopping herbicide use in the county, and so they're using this fire hazard thing as a surrogate. It would seriously curtail the ability of forest landowners to control hardwood and therefore set a precedent for expansion possibly into other parts of the agricultural industry in the county, which is something that's been overseen by the state for decades. Our county Farm Bureau is actively involved in opposition to the measure and is trying to get information out to our members.