All posts by OrangeClouds115

Government Spraying for Pests

Today I was working in the garden when – surprise! – I found a brown garden snail. A thorough check of nearby lettuce yielded three more snails. I brought them inside and put them in a jar to let the kids see them. These snails are actually the same species you pay top dollar for in fancy French restaurants. I found escargots in my salad. According to a little bit of internet research, the snails were brought to America by an enterprising Frenchman hoping to make money selling escargots during the Gold Rush, but the French delicacy didn’t really catch on. With his business idea a failure, he tossed out his snails… and they became an established pest here in the U.S.

This is rather interesting, in light of some research I’ve been doing about California’s efforts to eradicate the light brown apple moth (LBAM), an invasive pest from Australia. They were found in northern California a few years ago and the state’s Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) decided almost immediately to institute frequent aerial spraying in several counties. The CDFA’s plan runs entirely counter to science for a number of reasons. First, LBAM isn’t that serious a pest anywhere in the world – and the moths have many natural predators.  

If you ask me, the brown garden snail is a much more serious pest, and it’s also invasive, even if it’s not as recent a newcomer as the LBAM. But instead of blanketing the entire state – including densely populated urban areas – with pesticide, there’s a quick and easy solution for the brown garden snails. Actually, there are several. In my own yard, I’m releasing decollate snails, which prey on garden snails. Traps using beer to drown the snails work pretty well too. And I’d much rather suffer a bit of damage from either a moth or a snail than see the entire area where I live doused with pesticides. You could easily use the same non-toxic tactics to deal with LBAM, like creating habitat for its predators in agricultural areas.

The real question isn’t which pest is worse, but why our government gets to decide which invasive pests are serious and which aren’t, and which ones should be eradicated. Especially because scientists have shown that almost no pest has ever been eradicated in the entire world. At a talk I attended a few weeks ago, entomologist James Carey told of ONE pest he’d heard of that was successfully eradicated. It was a pest in New Zealand that was only dispersed within a half square-mile area and to get rid of it, they sprayed and sprayed and sprayed again many, MANY times.

A National Academy of Science panel found that the USDA “did not conduct a thorough and balanced” scientific analysis when it classified the LBAM as a major pest. They also did not test the safety of Checkmate, the pesticide they chose to spray, (a pesticide that is manufactured by Suterra, a company owned by Stewart and Linda Resnick, who are major campaign donors to a number of politicians within the state) and ignored previous research that found safety problems with that particular spray. And they didn’t do a very good job even making sure that the spray was evenly mixed and would be evenly dispersed in a way that would be effective on the moths. Initially, they didn’t even want to bother with Environmental Impact Reports either. When they did spray, in Monterey, they said that the spray would not effect the marine sanctuary… but it did.

As of now, aerial spraying is not planned, but spraying from the ground is, along with use of pesticide laden twist ties. Ground spraying is not as innocent as it sounds, if it will be anything like recent spraying for the gypsy moth in Ojai, CA. In Ojai, the spray crews brought cops and warrants and sprayed private property, even against the wishes of residents. In the case of Ojai, they sprayed Bt, a pesticide widely used in organic agriculture. But while state spraying is upsetting for environmentalists and gardeners (and using Bt instead of other, more toxic sprays might reduce opposition), it actually made some people sick. When the state decides to spray, they don’t care if you’ve got asthma, and they’re going to spray you anyway, even if it makes you sick. You can hear testimonies from those who were sprayed in Ojai in this video.

In a bankrupt state like California, spraying for LBAM is not just a violation of our rights and a display of the government’s flagrant disregard for science, it’s also a tremendous waste of taxpayer money.

DiFi is a Whore For CA Big Ag Money

Fiji Water is bad news, but did you know that its owner (Stewart Resnick) is a major campaign donor to CA politicians like Dianne Feinstein? And they don’t just own Fiji – they also have Paramount Farms, which owns 118,000 acres of heavily irrigated California orchards. Here’s how DiFi thanked him for his campaign contributions:

On Sept. 4, Resnick wrote to Feinstein, complaining that the latest federal plan to rescue the delta’s endangered salmon and shad fisheries was “exacerbating the state’s severe drought” because it cut back on water available to irrigate crops. “Sloppy science” by federal wildlife agencies had led to “regulatory-induced water shortages,” he claimed.

“I really appreciate your involvement in this issue,” he wrote to Feinstein.

One week later, Feinstein forwarded Resnick’s letter to two U.S. Cabinet secretaries. In her own letter, she urged the administration to spend $750,000 for a sweeping re-examination of the science behind the entire delta environmental protection plan.

The Obama administration quickly agreed, authorizing another review of whether restrictions on pumping irrigation water were necessary to save the delta’s fish. The results could delay or change the course of the protection effort.

To environmentalists concerned with protecting the delta, it was a dispiriting display of the political clout wielded by Resnick, who is among California’s biggest growers and among its biggest political donors.

Hat tip to blogger Rossi on for this story.

Barbara Boxer Goes to Bat for Factory Farms

Barbara Boxer, whose reputation is just to the right of Bernie Sanders, has gone to bat for factory dairy farms. The landscape of the dairy industry is such that the traditional dairy states like Wisconsin, New York, and Vermont are home to smaller farms (on average) than states like California and Idaho, where the dairy industry has been locating enormous factory farms with tens of thousands of cows in recent years. And right now all farms, big and small alike, are in trouble financially. The price of milk is below the cost of production and farms are therefore LOSING money for every gallon they produce.

Congress is on the verge of passing legislation to give money to help struggling dairy farmers, and Senators from traditional dairy states like New York want the money to favor small farms. That would send the money disproportionately to their states, but I don’t have a problem with that at all. The dairy culture in places like Wisconsin and Vermont is tangible when you visit those states. Loss of those farms would result in further moving the dairy industry west and with it would go a part of those states’ culture. The same could not be said of the enormous farms out west. Furthermore, enormous farms benefit disproportionately from the low-cost labor of undocumented workers, which rigs the market against smaller, family operations in which dairy farmers attempt to earn a living wage without breaking the law. I’ll be writing Barbara Boxer an email, asking her to quit shilling for factory farms. If you live in California, please join me in doing the same (if you live elsewhere, you can call Boxer’s Senate office at (202) 224-3553.

Our State’s Broken System

Our financially broke State of California has impacted my life in a number of ways in the past year. No doubt I’m one of many, but I’d like to share my story to illustrate that the cutting of services or whatever else the state is doing to keep itself financially solvent is hurting real people.

The prologue to my story is my short stint working for UCSD. I had previously consulted for them (when another company wrote my paychecks but my day to day job was working with UCSD staff) and I had a VERY positive experience. I liked UCSD so much, in fact, that I moved to San Diego to pursue a full time job with them.

A little over a year later, I was offered the job. Because it took them so long to hire me (it took 6 months from my first interview to my first day of work) I had gotten another job to pay the bills. The position UCSD offered me was for $30,000 less than what I was making in my other, identical position. But I took the UCSD job anyway, figuring that I could always quit later if it didn’t work out.

The UCSD job was short-lived, however. I found out that people who were less skilled than me were making more than me, for one thing. And our team was constantly understaffed because few other sane, rational people would accept a job that paid tens of thousands of dollars less than it should. Clearly the losers in this equation were the people of California, who had our team at UCSD constantly handicapped and less able to do our jobs by our shortage of qualified employees.

Between the money and the frustration of working on an understaffed yet overworked team, I left the job after a few months. I took another identical job with a private company, this time for $30,000-$50,000 (depending on bonuses) more than UCSD had been paying me. The job was mostly good – with one major problem: my boss.

I was hired by a wonderful woman, who turned out to be my boss’s boss. She loved me. Her immediate subordinate, my boss, hated me from the first day she laid eyes on me. Well, maybe the second day. But it didn’t take her very long. Ultimately she fired me for unfair and perhaps illegal reasons. That’s a long story that doesn’t need to be told here.

So here’s where my complaints about the State of California and its inability to serve its citizens begins. Following my untimely job loss, I filed for unemployment. That was March 5. I received a letter in the mail that I would have an interview on March 18 at 8am. This is the part where I screwed up. I accidentally spaced out and went for a lovely hike in the mountains on March 18 at 8am. I missed the interview.

I tried calling EDD repeatedly. You CAN NOT get through. If you call, the message tells you that due to high call volume, you can’t talk to anyone. Then it hangs up on you. If, by some lucky chance, it doesn’t hang up on you, then you go through all of the button pressing and options until it offers to transfer you to a human being. And THEN it tells you that due to high call volume nobody can talk to you – and it hangs up on you.

If you call on a Saturday, you can get through. But, what’s funny is that the people who answer the phones on Saturday don’t have access to the computer system so they can’t actually help you.

Ultimately, I received a letter rejecting my claim and offering me an appeal. I filled it out immediately and sent it in. It was received weeks later, on April 20. I was promised a hearing, but I heard absolutely nothing from EDD for a long, long time.

In the meantime, I was instructed to continue filling out the forms and sending them in every other week, reporting whether or not I was able to work, whether I looked for work, and whether I had worked. In Wisconsin, these forms are filled out online. In California, we use snail mail. I filled out the first four week’s worth of forms and sent them in. One of the weeks was the last week that I worked, March 1-7, so I can’t expect any money for that week. I should get $450/wk for the other 3 weeks.

Then I got the next 2 weeks worth of forms – and I lost it. Oops. I thought that it was just $900 down the drain and that the state would send a form for the next two week period when the time came. No forms came, however. Finally, in late May, I sent EDD an email asking where the forms were, and could they please send them to me.

Again, I got a snail mail letter promising me a phone call on a given time and date. This time I was home for it. The person asked me why I didn’t fill out the form that I lost, and I told him I lost it. He asked why I took so long to contact EDD and I said that I thought they would automatically send more forms every 2 weeks, and I didn’t get in touch until I realize the forms weren’t coming.

A few days later I got a letter. They began sending me the forms again, starting with the date of my email. I couldn’t get any forms for the weeks before that, nor could I get any unemployment money for those weeks. If I wanted to, I could appeal. Are you kidding? I was already waiting on appeal #1! How many times do I have to go through the same miserably slow process? So I didn’t appeal.

Around this time, I found a short term temporary job. It paid $500/week – a mere $50/week more than unemployment would pay – but because I had no guarantee that I would win my appeal and my Visa bills were adding up, I took the job. That’s part of my complaint with our slow system. After you win a hearing, you may get back pay but the state won’t do anything to help you with whatever credit card interest you may have accrued during the time you were without unemployment.

So, two more forms (each for two weeks) arrived in the mail. I filled both out. I should get $900 for two of the weeks. During the other two weeks, I was working. I noted that it was a short term job and requested that they continue sending the forms. EDD did not continue sending the forms.

On July 22 I had my appeal – nearly 5 months after I lost my job and applied for unemployment, and 3 months after my appeal was officially received. I won. The judge agreed that my boss was an evil bitch who fired me for no good reason, although he didn’t quite use those words. He promised me a decision in the mail within two weeks, which now takes us into August before I begin receiving money that has been owed me since March.

Today, I got an email from EDD in response to my request that they continue sending me forms. My short term job has ended as of a week or two ago, and I would like to continue receiving unemployment. I’m broker than broke and I’ve got a $2000 Visa bill. I can’t afford my car insurance so I’m uninsured right now. Forget health insurance. I’m paying for some of my prescription drugs out of pocket, I’m just not taking some, and I got some for free from Planned Parenthood. I don’t really know how I’m paying the next month’s rent or car payments. This is all very scary.

The email from EDD said that my claim was closed because I had taken the short term job. If I wanted to re-open it, I must fill out an online form. They provided a link to the form, which I clicked. I answered a few questions and clicked Continue. The next screen told me I couldn’t fill out the form online – I had to call EDD. And, of course, you can’t call. Well, you can, but not if you want to talk to a human.  

Endocrine Disruptors and the CA BPA Ban in the Assembly

Want to be flame retardant? Eat meat. Apparently, chicken and red meat consumption is linked to a higher body burden of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – a chemical used as a flame retardant in consumer products. Unfortunately, while that might be a handy trait if possessed by a human, that’s not what you get from eating a lot of PBDEs. Instead, what you get is endocrine disruption.

Endocrine disruptors was the subject of a recent column by Nicholas Kristof who encourages us to learn from the frogs. Amphibians seem to be the canaries in the coal mine for endocrine disruptors. The frogs are showing up with all kinds of genital abnormalities. One such chemical that appears to affect frogs, atrazine, is such a popular pesticide that it contaminates drinking water in some parts of the country. Some countries ban atrazine, but it’s perfectly legal in the U.S.

Another endocrine disruptor is BPA (Bisphenol A) which JayinPortland has been reporting on regularly on the blog La Vida Locavore.  

BPA is used in everything from baby bottles to canned foods. One recent headline was that BPA stays in our bodies longer than previously thought. Then we found out what the FDA was doing about it: Nothing. In fact, worse than nothing. They were siding WITH the pro-BPA lobby.

There are a few bills in Congress to ban BPA, and there’s a lot of money going into lobbying against those bills. (You can take action here.) The version of the food safety bill that just passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee included a provision requiring the FDA to study the safety of BPA, which – if it passes in the final bill – will essentially just stall any ban on BPA. In other words, calling for an FDA study is WORSE than doing nothing, because it puts off any ban on BPA that might have otherwise passed.

California, Maryland, Connecticut, and Minnesota also have BPA bans in the works. Minnesota was the first to ban BPA, although they only banned it in baby bottles and sippy cups. Connecticut followed suit soon after. California just passed a BPA ban (in food and drink containers designed for kids 3 and younger) through the Senate so now we’re waiting on the Assembly – and the signature of the Governator. You can take action here.

Of course, BPA is not the only endocrine disruptor out there – it’s just the one that’s in the news, and that we’re closest to getting rid of. The question we should be asking ourselves is how we came to legalize so many harmful chemicals in the first place, and how we might reform our system so that we can prevent doing so in the future.

A New Radio Station for San Diego

I’ve got a big announcement! A year and a half after San Diego lost its only liberal talk radio station, it’s getting a shiny NEW liberal talk radio station on 1700 FM. Why is this such big news? Well, because it’s not Air America or one of the usual Clear Channel affiliates. We are no longer depending on conservative companies to bring radio shows from liberal talkers to liberal listeners. We go on the air TOMORROW at 3pm with the Jon Elliott show.

But there’s more that you should know. This new radio station – which will be an important part of the 2010 election for governor, the CA-50 race, and whatever ballot initiatives we’re voting on – WILL NOT EXIST WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT. The original plan was to get the station off the ground with advertising. It was totally going to work… and then Bush went and broke the economy. So we’re going with a hybrid model. As much advertising as we can get + $10/month from anyone willing to be a member. Members get podcasts and other benefits (invites to events & more). Sign up at

Last, this new station is not just San Diego news. We intend to use this model to start up liberal talk stations all over the country. But first we need to get this first station off the ground. It’s a solid business plan, and I’m thrilled that my liberal radio will not be vulnerable to the whims of Clear Channel. Please consider becoming a member to support us.


With California in Crisis Due to Drought, Some Want to Solve It By Seceding

Check out the New York Times article about two Californias:

“Those Hollywood types don’t have any idea what’s going on out here on the farms,” said Mr. Rogers, a retired dairyman from Visalia, the county seat in a Central Valley region where cows far outnumber people…

“They think fish are more important than people, that pigs are treated mean and chickens should run loose,” said Mr. Rogers… “City people just don’t know what it takes to get food on their table.”

Now, I agree that the “Hollywood-types” I saw in Beverly Hills who were watering their lawns with scarce water on a rainy day are pretty darn clueless when it comes to farming, but the CA secessionist quoted here said Prop 2 was his last straw. That was the proposition that passed last November to ban some of the cruelest livestock practices used on chickens, pigs, and veal.

As for me? I’m no Hollywood-type. I’m from Wisconsin. I hang out with farmers. And I think that pigs are treated mean and chickens should run loose. So do the farmers I hang out with, and those farmers are pretty confident that they are producing superior chickens, eggs, and pork because of it. And the Central Valley – the area these secessionists call the “real” California? It’s polluted like nobody’s business due to all of the agricultural chemicals. As a consumer, I don’t want that on my food but I also don’t want to force farmers to raise their children in that environment!

Rather far down the article, they present the other side:

Some farmers are also suspicious of the political direction in Sacramento, the state capital. In January the Senate Agriculture Committee was renamed the Food and Agriculture Committee, signaling a broader, more consumer-oriented approach to agricultural policy. The committee’s chairman, State Senator Dean Florez, Democrat of Fresno, finds the secession effort emblematic of larger tensions between food consumers and producers.

“Rather than split California, come sit at the table with consumers,” Mr. Florez said. “The agricultural industry is in this mode that says, ‘You will eat what’s put in front of you,’ and that’s a very condescending view of consumers and eaters. If customers are changing their preferences, the industry needs to change its ways.”

Food and animal rights activists here agree with Mr. Florez. “It’s unfair to say consumers don’t care about farmers,” said Rebecca Spector of the Center for Food Safety. “With the increase in food-borne illnesses, all eaters, both urban and rural, have the right to demand food that is grown in a safe and healthy way.”

I’m just shaking my head. I don’t see this effort going anywhere, but I was waiting for news of people getting pissed off with the new (wonderful!) direction the Senate Food and Agriculture Committee is taking under the leadership of Florez.

Why Don’t San Diegoans Participate in Food Stamps?

When you look at food stamp (now called SNAP) participation rates, California as a state ranks 4th from the bottom. And if you look at the food stamp participation rates of the 24 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, San Diego ranks dead last. This means hungry people don’t eat, but it also means that San Diego county loses $144 million annually. And that’s $144 million in the form of the very best economic stimulus the government can give us – each dollar of food stamps generates about $1.80 in economic activity.

Let’s take a look at San Diego as a case study: Why aren’t San Diegoans getting food stamps? And what can we learn from San Diego that might help us increase the participation rate nationally.

First up, those eligible for food stamps don’t all participate at the same rate. Take a look at this:

Food Stamp Participation in 2003

56% of total eligible population

74% of eligible children

28% of eligible elderly individuals

62% of individuals in households with no earnings

47% of individuals in households with earnings

Source: Sources of Variation in State-Level Food Stamp Participation (PDF)

So when you see the HUGE discrepancy between the 89.5% of eligible food stamp recipients who participated in Missouri in 2003 and the miserably low 29% of those who participate in San Diego, that explains part of what’s going on. If San Diego’s eligible population is made up of demographics that are less likely to participate, then naturally San Diego’s participation rate will be lower as a result.

That explains SOME of the discrepancy but not all. Another possible explanation is that differing state policies make it more or less likely for those eligible to apply or receive food stamps. For example:

  • Certification period – How frequently must an applicant reapply (between 3-12 months)
  • Reporting requirement – Are applicants required to report any changes in income? (And if so, how frequently?)
  • Categorical eligibility – Is any group of people automatically eligible for food stamps if they are eligible for another government program?
  • Fingerprinting – Are applicants subject to fingerprinting, which might discourage some from applying?
  • Application page length
  • Work requirements – Are able bodied adults required to work?
  • Number of visits required to apply
  • State outreach – Does the state engage in any outreach activities?

I can imagine that if your state makes it a real pain in the butt to apply for food stamps, you might just give up. Especially if you wouldn’t receive very much in benefits anyway. Maybe you’d make that first trip to apply but if subsequent visits were required, they want your fingerprint, and the application’s long, maybe you don’t bother. Or maybe you bother the first time, but three months later when they want you to re-certify, it’s just not worth the hassle.

The USDA crunched the numbers to see if the make-up of the population accounted for the differences in participation rates (it did some, but not too significantly), or if different state policies explained the discrepancies. The answer? Well, they couldn’t find any statistically significant difference in participation rates based on the policies.

However, they also say that they doubt that the variation in participation rates is totally random. And it’s hard to believe that a state that makes its application process difficult and obnoxious wouldn’t have any effect on its participation rate.

The USDA suspects that their inability to account for differences in participation may be due to lack of sufficient data or overly imprecise data, or perhaps similar policies are implemented differently, making statistical comparisons between them impossible. (For example, if two states had an identical policy but implemented it differently. When the USDA does its number crunching these states would be lumped into the same category but in reality food stamp applicants in either state would have very different experiences.) Another possibility is that “aggregate measures may mask meaningful local variations.” Last, perhaps state procedures – how the states actually do what they do – are more important than state policies.

I’m glad the USDA is looking into this, and I hope they can find an answer that explains why 70% of those eligible for food stamps in San Diego do not receive them.

Participation Rate (%) by State (2003)

Missouri 89.5

Oregon 85.7

Tennessee 83.1

Hawaii 79.1

DC 74.3

Oklahoma 73.0

Maine 69.9

Kentucky 68.9

Mississippi 67.9

Georgia 67.5

Louisiana 66.2

South Carolina 65.9

Ohio 65.2

Michigan 65.1

Arizona 65.0

West Virginia 64.9

Indiana 63.6

Minnesota 63.1

Alaska 61.5

Vermont 60.8

Illinois 60.6

Nebraska 60.5

Arkansas 60.1

North Dakota 57.8

Iowa 57.2

Delaware 54.8

South Dakota 54.3

Idaho 54.2

Alabama 54.1

Pennsylvania 54.0

Connecticut 53.8

Wisconsin 53.3

Kansas 53.0

New Mexico 53.0

Rhode Island 51.9

Virginia 51.5

Washington 51.4

Utah 50.9

New York 50.2

New Hampshire 49.7

Wyoming 49.2

Florida 48.9

New Jersey 48.7

Maryland 48.1

Texas 47.4

Colorado 45.5

North Carolina 45.4

California 45.3

Montana 44.6

Nevada 41.0

Massachusetts 40.1

A Little Truth in Marketing About California Milk

Happy cows may produce better milk, but most cows in California aren’t happy cows. They are factory farmed cows, like these ones here:

Compare that picture with this one, from the “Real California Milk” ad campaign:

In 2007, California had 2165 dairy farms with an average of 850 cows apiece. This represents significant consolidation since 2002, when they had 2793 dairy farms with 589 cows apiece. In 2007, over 90% of the cows lived on dairy farms that had more than 500 cows. In fact, the largest group of dairy farms – farms with over 500 cows – had an average of 1656 cows apiece. I can promise you, those cows were NOT grazing in pasture for the simple reason that it’s impossible.

Yet yesterday I passed a billboard for California milk showing a picture of a handful of cows grazing in pasture! What??? How about some truth in advertising, California?

Statistics are from the 2007 Ag Census. Pictures are from the Cornucopia Institute.

Another dairy feedlot – this one’s in Nevada

Calves at a dairy farm in Arizona

Let’s see how California stacks up against the U.S. as a whole and against other dairy states:

Overall in the U.S., the average dairy farm has 133 cows. 52% of all cows live in dairy farms with 500 or more cows, and the average of those “500+ cows” dairy farms has 1481 cows.

In Wisconsin, the average dairy farm has 88 cows. Only 21% of cows live in dairy farms with 500 or more cows, and the average of those “500+ cows” dairy farms has 946 cows.

In Vermont, the average dairy farm has 115 cows. 32% of all dairy cows live in a farm with 500 or more cows, and the average of those “500+ cows” dairy farms has 842 cows.

In New York, the average dairy farm has 110 cows. 34% of cows live in dairy farms with 500 or more cows, and the average of those “500+ cows” dairy farms has 985 cows.

In Pennsylvania, the average dairy farm has 66 cows. Only 10% of cows live in dairy farms with 500 or more cows, and the average of those “500+ cows” dairy farms has 815 cows.

Drought in California to Suck Worse Than Ever This Year

( – promoted by Robert in Monterey)

(This is cross-posted from my site La Vida Locavore, which covers food politics and all news related to food. Stop by and check us out if you’re ever wondering what Tom Vilsack’s up to, what really happened to all the peanut butter, or where California milk REALLY comes from… hint: not the happy cows in the pictures.)

The news in California is bad. Well, mostly bad. After all, the Oscars are tomorrow. But the budget’s a mess, the economy sucks, and on top of that there’s a drought. What’s next, an earthquake?

To manage water in the face of the drought, the federal government is cutting off water to many California farms for at least three weeks in March. The amount of time without water will depend on whether we get rain in the next few weeks. In the San Joaquin Valley, the drought will cause an estimated $1.15 billion (with a B) in lost agriculture-related wages and 40,000 lost jobs in farm-related industries. And if that ain’t bad enough, the New York Times reports that the problems go beyond food in affected towns:

Across the valley, towns are already seeing some of the worst unemployment in the country, with rates three and four times the national average, as well as reported increases in all manner of social ills: drug use, excessive drinking and rises in hunger and domestic violence.

California farms receive 80% of their water from federally-managed supplies and the rest from the state. The feds are turning off the tap, but farmers may still receive some water from the state. Unfortunately for the farmers, some of the water may be legally unavailable to them due to laws or rulings protecting endangered species.

(Meanwhile, in the parts of the state where I hang out – San Diego and Los Angeles – I’ve seen idiots who let their automatic sprinkler systems water their already wet lawns on rainy days recently.)

Over at Natasha Chart asks if a recovery is even possible on a planet headed for environmental collapse? That’s an answer I wish I knew. Natasha’s been covering the water story regularly with a post about Colorado’s fights between Big Oil and Big Water, a post about agribusiness and water use, and a post I highly recommend reading (even though it scares the shit out of me) called “We don’t have to choose a dustbowl

My own environmentalist hippie foodie answers to the water problem begin as follows:

  1. Why is it still legal to have lawns in California? Seriously. Somebody should outlaw watering your lawn. If we weren’t in such a budget crisis I’d add that the city should provide native drought resistant plants to residents who want to make their yard beautiful and able to survive without water.
  2. California growers need to go organic ASAP. It’s not a fix that will help them this year, and it will reduce their productivity in the next few years but in the long run, it will make all of their crops more drought resistant because the soil will store more water.
  3. We’ve gotta do something about animal agriculture. It uses a TON of water. If factory farms are something we have to have, then they shouldn’t be located in California. Period.
  4. We need to expand fruit, nut, and vegetable (so-called “specialty crop”) production in the other 49 states to plan for decreased production in California and to reduce energy needs for shipping food across the country. Right now there are actually laws preventing farmers who grow commodities to switching over to grow specialty crops instead. You can’t even buy land from a farmer who used to grow commodities there and grow specialty crops on that land! The USDA is dabbling in changing that policy but only in a very small pilot program.

These things are expensive – either for the farmers or for the state that mandates it and compensates the farmers (or offers financial incentives to make it happen without mandating it). But we bailed out the banks even after they screwed up and got us into this mess. Why can’t we bail out our farmers? After all, we need to eat.