From the Fields® - February 22, 2017
By Larry Massa, Colusa County diversified grower
The stock ponds are full, the creeks are running and we have green grass for the cattle on the Massa Ranch. Shasta Lake is filling, so it appears that we may have irrigation water for the crops to be planted this spring.
What a stark contrast to the several years of drought that we experienced in California recently. The welcome wet weather has delayed our calf branding, and travel on the ranch is difficult due to the mud. However, many years ago after a drought, I decided that I would never complain of muddy, wet weather. Now, if only prices of our commodities would rise.
In the Colusa Basin, where our rice operation is located, some of the rice fields have been inundated with floodwater for several weeks, so field activities are at a standstill. The abundant waterfowl has been the winner in this scenario.
We have plenty of time and more wet weather to come before we consider field work. So, our crew will spend the coming weeks attending commodity meetings, performing maintenance on equipment and facilities, and complying with the mundane regulations.
By BJ Van Dam, San Bernardino County dairy farmer
For the last quarter of 2016 and the first few months of 2017, we have had steady milk prices partnered with steady hay and grain prices, which have made it easier for us to manage things financially.
The one financial aspect that has really been experiencing peaks and valleys as of late has been the beef market. Thankfully, we don't rely on the income from our beef to sustain the dairy.
The wet winter has put water in our ponds for the first time in about two years. The water is definitely needed, but the amount of water that we are getting all at once has caused some frustration. We are right on the city limits and we are surrounded by construction with new housing developments being built. Every time it rains, our road turns to a muddy pond.
The construction and increase in population near the dairy are also causing their share of fun. Surveyors and construction company employees have been found wandering in pastures with cows and calves (even with bulls) and have even pushed open locked gates with "No Trespassing" signs on them.
People driving by will stop and walk up to the cows and try to feed them. "No Trespassing" and "BioSecurity" signs are posted in multiple locations on the property (definitely more than what is required) and most of the time when we catch these people, they are standing right next to one of the signs.
By Frost Pauli, Mendocino County winegrape grower
For most of the North Coast, we are averaging 40 inches of rainfall for the season so far. Some places have had much more than that. Needless to say, things are very wet.
As a result, most producers are behind schedule on pruning and spraying. Bud break has also been postponed due to the cold and wet weather, and the delay in pruning. It should definitely be a later bud break than the record early season we saw in 2016.
The other great news is that all of the reservoirs are full. As producers start to gear up for frost season, they are feeling good about the prospects of plenty of water for frost protection and beyond.
There was minor storm damage along the Russian River in Mendocino County and some of the larger tributaries. Fortunately, no major damage has been reported, with the majority being minor erosion and lots of debris cleanup. The forecast looks to continue with wet weather for the rest of the month.
By Joe Zanger, San Benito County diversified grower
Overall, things were good last season. We had enough water and labor and while quality and quantity were fairly good, prices were sufficient. This was pretty much true for most of the county for most crops.
There is hand-wringing regarding well water levels as the creeks are flowing. We all do our part to minimize runoff, leaving the row crop and orchard acreage with some berm work and cover crops to maximize soak-in.
Standing well water is now at 28 feet, while just a few months ago levels were 60 feet lower. We are fortunate to have the Pacheco Creek border our property.
The mouth of the Pacheco drains into San Felipe Lake just three miles downstream of us. There was some flooding there in January, due primarily to large flows and levee failure. As it was a slow national news weather day, friends from across the country were inquiring if we were dry when the Pacheco made the news.
Now, it's a wait to dry things out and get the pruning done.
By Dan Errotabere, Fresno County diversified grower
Right now, the bees are going into the almonds. The trees are starting to push bud and are around the corner from popping.
We planted some more garbanzos. We have some that are planted in the fall and some in the spring, and those are the beans we are planting right now.
We are getting our tomato ground prepped for planting sometime in mid-March. It has been difficult to get in and out of fields to do anything because it has been so wet. So when we have three or four dry days, we need to get a lot of stuff done in a very short period of time before the next storm comes through. This is something that is kind of new, being that the last four years have been dry. This is a good thing overall, but it does create some challenges for us.
We are pruning some of our pistachios right now. And we will be planting cotton probably around the end of March, so we are getting the ground prepped for that.
I think I will be able to plant more acreage this year than in the past three or four years. The outlook is promising, but we won't know the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's final allocation until the end of April and maybe as late as May. We need to watch the dynamics of the winter play through to get a firmer picture, but right now it looks good.
The problem with the water system in this state is that we still have the regulatory components to it, and this makes it very difficult to predict our deliveries. We have additional planting in our plans and if things happen favorably, we will plant additional fields, most likely into pima cotton. But if we can't, then it will be fallowed again.
By Joe Turkovich, Yolo County walnut grower
The Winters area continues to receive abundant rain from each storm that passes. Despite delays in pruning orchards and other winter chores, no one is complaining.
Groundwater levels should see a nice boost from this good fortune. News from the Yolo County Flood Control Agency indicates Clear Lake and Indian Valley water conditions are improving nicely. Lake Berryessa water level is expected to reach the famed "Glory Hole" spillway for the first time in a decade!
Almond orchards are just starting to pop with bloom and crop dusters are out spraying protective fungicide sprays.
Wheat is showing signs of Septoria disease due to the wet conditions.
Farmers are using this time to catch up on ever increasing office work, attend Cooperative Extension meetings, farm shows and so on.