Flooded vineyard Getty Images - Justin Sullivan
Flooded vineyard near Guerneville in Northern California.

Winter 2016-2017 a whopper for record books

Now, if farm income would take a leap forward this would certainly be the icing on the cake so many farmers and ranchers need.

The old adage that suggests “Be careful for what you ask for” speaks volumes given the huge shift from extreme drought to stormy wet weather in much of California this winter.

Those of us old enough remember the old Morton Salt motto which said ‘When it rains it pours.’ This has certainly been the case as California farmers have prayed for liquid and frozen relief after five years of extreme drought.

In mid-February, Oroville area was vacated due to a mandatory evacuation because of the damaged emergency spillway at Lake Oroville, tied to heavy winter rains. The lake water level dropped several days later and about 190,000 residents in the area and downstream returned home.

Southernmost portions of California and Arizona have seen little rain this winter though portions of Northern Arizona received some relief, leading to much needed moisture in watersheds for ranchers and their cattle. 

To witness the moisture firsthand was a “necessary” one-day fishing trip on the Verde River which revealed swollen river banks. The higher water delivered more fish “tales” than “tails” on the fishing stringer – nary a bite.

This winter delivered another storm of sorts as the U.S. presidency changed hands from Democrat to Republican. In the short time since, U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, supported by many farm groups, was canned. Under the microscope next is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). With trade deals, there are always winners and losers, and NAFTA certainly has included both.

At the same time, the new administration has pledged to take part of the regulatory sting out of the Environmental Protection Agency which overall agriculture has sought for many years. If successful, one early estimate suggests that three-quarters of EPA employees could be looking for jobs. It would be a political fight for both major political parties.

As we shift into the spring months, growers will deal with the effects of a wet winter including plant diseases and other maladies. Yet despite the impending challenges, most western farmers and ranchers have been truly blessed by the winter moisture.

Now, if farm income would take a leap forward this would certainly be the icing on the cake so many farmers and ranchers need.

Have a safe spring season…God bless you.

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