Stephanie Strom, NEW YORK TIMES
Hens in California are living the good life. Many can now lay their eggs in oversize enclosures roomy enough to stand up, lie down — even extend their wings fully without touching another bird.
Hens in most other states don’t have it so good. Their conditions, as the head of California’s egg trade group explained, are “like you sitting in an airplane seat in the economy section all your life.”
So if you’re a hen, you want to live in California. Short of that, you want California-size leg room. And that’s precisely what lawmakers in California are demanding of out-of-state farmers who sell eggs in California — setting off a feud over interstate commerce that has spilled over into the farmyard at large.
The Missouri attorney general has filed a lawsuit to block the California egg rules, and at least three other states are considering doing the same. The beef and pork lobbies are also lining up against the California rules in an effort to prevent any new restrictions on raising livestock.
New rules require egg layers to have more capacious cages. Credit Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
via Wishing They All Could Be California Hens – NYTimes.com.
Kerry Benefield, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Four Santa Rosa schools are scrambling to find land to continue their farm and garden programs after losing a long-term lease negotiated through a nonprofit group.
Students from Montgomery and Cardinal Newman high schools, as well as Village Charter School and Roseland Collegiate Prep, have in some cases spent years planting and harvesting crops on about two acres of land on Angela Drive near the former Ursuline High School in Santa Rosa.
The deal, coordinated through the nonprofit Cultivating Impact program, gave students access to a certified organic farm while allowing some stud
via Santa Rosa, school garden, Cardinal Newman, Cultivating Impact | PressDemocrat.com.
Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Four years after Cloverdale voters approved the eventual extension of city limits southward to Asti, the debate continues as to whether the city overreached.
The Urban Growth Boundary approved by voters in 2010 — the last for all cities in Sonoma — extends to the small community of Asti, about two miles south of Cloverdale, taking in the site of the historic Italian Swiss Colony winery.
The new growth boundary was supported by 57 percent of the voters, who put aside fear of sprawl and loss of agricultural lands if the city spread that far south.
via Cloverdale, Urban Growth Boundary, Asti, Sphere of Influence | PressDemocrat.com.
Lori A. Carter, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A state appellate court on Friday rejected on all counts an appeal by the city of Petaluma and environmental groups that challenged county approval of the Dutra Materials asphalt plant just south of Petaluma.
The unanimous ruling, signed by a three-judge panel from the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco, affirms the 2011 judgment of Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau, who ruled that the county’s environmental analysis was adequate and that open meeting laws had been followed.
The court fight extended what has been one of the county’s most high profile land-use battles over the past decade.
via Court rejects lawsuit over Petaluma asphalt plant | The Press Democrat.
Panel report on using tertiary treated wastewater for livestock consumption
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Organic dairy farmers greeted proposed legislation to use treated wastewater for livestock consumption with skepticism Thursday, saying it risks the health of their animals and could jeopardize their businesses.
“I’m not going to risk our animals or our customers to an idea that’s not tested,” said Albert Straus, president of Straus Family Creamery in Marshall.
Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, authored AB 2071 ostensibly to provide drought relief to California ranchers as supplies of potable water dwindle from lack of rain. But Levine mainly heard doubts about his proposal at a public hearing Thursday at Petaluma City Hall.
via Farmers question bill offering treated wastewater to cows | The Press Democrat.
Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Healdsburg’s offer to help grape growers and farmers weather the drought by offering them reclaimed water was welcomed by the agricultural community.
But two weeks after the City Council took action in a special meeting to start making millions of gallons of highly treated wastewater available, the spigot remains turned off.
via Healdsburg use of reclaimed water delayed | The Press Democrat.
Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Caltrans contractor likely filled in a wetland without the proper permits during construction work along Highway 101 south of Petaluma, Sonoma County officials said, an action that could trigger state and federal fines or efforts to restore the damaged environment.
The apparent violation — stemming from activity that began in late 2012 — has put a much-needed stockpile of construction materials essentially on hold pending environmental study, and could delay or drive up costs on a pair of Highway 101 widening projects totalling $87 million, according to the contractor, Ghilotti Bros.
via Sonoma County: Wetlands area damaged by Highway 101 contractor | The Press Democrat.
Jeff Tollefson, NATURE
Many foresters have long assumed that trees gradually lose their vigour as they mature, but a new analysis suggests that the larger a tree gets, the more kilos of carbon it puts on each year.
“The trees that are adding the most mass are the biggest ones, and that holds pretty much everywhere on Earth that we looked,” says Nathan Stephenson, an ecologist at the US Geological Survey in Three Rivers, California, and the first author of the study, which appears today in Nature1. “Trees have the equivalent of an adolescent growth spurt, but it just keeps going.”
The scientific literature is chock-full of studies that focus on forests’ initial growth and their gradual move towards a plateau in the amount of carbon they store as they reach maturity2. Researchers have also documented a reduction in growth at the level of individual leaves in older trees3.
In their study, Stephenson and his colleagues analysed reams of data on 673,046 trees from 403 species in monitored forest plots, in both tropical and temperate areas around the world. They found that the largest trees gained the most mass each year in 97% of the species, capitalizing on their additional leaves and adding ever more girth high in the sky.
via Tree growth never slows : Nature News & Comment.
Geoffrey Mohan, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Infectious diseases linked to the colony collapse of honeybees appear to be spreading among wild bumblebees that pollinate crops worldwide, dealing a potential double blow to agriculture, according to a new study.
Studies at 26 sites in England found that 1 in 5 bees suffered from deformed wing virus, which can ground and eventually kill the insects, according to a report published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.
More than a third of the honeybees were infected, and about 11% of the bumblebees carried the virus – figures that researchers called highly conservative. Evidence of another deadly parasite, the Nocema ceranae microspore, was less prevalent.
Although the path of the infection could not be determined with certainty, researchers said it very likely spreads from the honeybees, 88% of which carried actively replicating virus. Foraging from the same flowers probably accounts for the bulk of infection, while raiding of competitors’ hives could contribute as well, the researchers said.
via Bee colony collapse viruses spreading to bumblebees – latimes.com.
Living on Earth, PUBLIC RADIO INTERNATIONAL
Air Date: Week of February 21, 2014
stream/download this segment as an MP3 file
New research finds exposure to fluoride in drinking water and several other common chemicals in early life diminishes brain function in children. Study lead author, Philippe Grandjean, tells host Steve Curwood fluoride, flame retardants, pesticides and and fuel additives may be affecting children’s intelligence.
via Living on Earth: Flouride and Other Chemical Risks.