Protesting the Dakota Pipeline: Big Business!

 

The Dakota Pipeline protest became a popular cause for many people.  But was it just a publicity stunt and business venture?  It was Big Business and some people made big money from it.

According to the public record on the website GoFundMe, operators of the Sacred Stone Camp raised 3.1 million dollars just from one donation campaign.  There were over 4,300 other GoFundMe campaigns, and those raised an additional $244,000.  That’s 4,300 people who were soliciting funds in the name of the protest – and there were only 600 physically there.  But in addition, the Freshet Collective raised an additional $2.876 million just for legal defense.

That’s over 6 million dollars, from the donations that are public record.  It looks like there is much more.

North Dakota’s Tax Commissioner says that more than 30 environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, Indigenous Environmental Network, Food and Water Watch, 350.org and Greenpeace, have backed the protest.  The state is watching for 1099’s and W-2’s from these groups, to account for money paid to hired protesters.   The state wants to collect their fair share of income tax to help pay for the cleanup of the damage done by the protesters.

Add to all that, it looks like the protest itself was without merit.

The pipeline doesn’t cross reservation land.  All but 1000 feet of it is on private property.  It closely follows’ the route of 8 other pipelines that are already in service.  The only segment that anyone could hope to stop, was that 1000 feet which would go under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River.  The new pipeline would be 100 feet under the water.  This is much deeper and thus safer than the existing pipelines.

And here’s the kicker.  The Indians were protesting because they were worried about their water being polluted.  According to the DAP records, Their water is coming from a new source in 2017, and that source is 70 miles away.

The moral of the story is, when folks are tugging on your heart to get into your wallet, look behind the curtain to see who is running the show.

 

EPA Won’t pay for damages from the pollution incident they created?

 

As you may recall, in 2015 an EPA contractor was doing excavation work at the Gold King Mine in Colorado, a superfund site, to determine the extent of cleanup needed. The work accidentally allowed some 3 million gallons of contaminated waste water to escape. Rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah were polluted, with the waterways turning an eerie orange-yellow.

Well, guess what. The EPA is taking responsibility for that spill, but in a brilliant piece of bureaucratic doublespeak, they aren’t going to pay for the damage they did. According to lawyers working for the EPA and the Justice Department, they just can’t do it. They say that the law prohibits payment.

This was real damage, not the imagined harm that plowing might do. It is a real and big violation of the Waters of the USA, and the EPA did it.

The rivers were prime irrigation sources for farms downstream. Some farmers lost crops altogether. Others were able to haul water and save their crop and livestock, at substantial expense. This is also a popular boating area, and local rafting companies had to shut down until the spill was stopped and the water was determined to be safe again.

Claims totaling 1.2 billion dollars were filed by 73 farmers, businessmen, and some homeowners who say their wells were ruined by the spill. But the government says it is barred from paying the claims because of sovereign immunity, which prohibits most claims against the government.

According to the EPA’s spokesperson Nancy Grantham, “The agency worked hard to find a way in which it could pay individuals for damages due to the incident,” but their hands are tied. She suggests filing lawsuits in Federal court, or asking Congress to authorize payment.

The state and federal politicians in the affected area said they were dumfounded by the Agency’s decision. They believe the EPA is reneging on a pledge they made to the affected citizens in the area.

New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan are quoted by CBS News as saying they are “outraged at this last-ditch move by the federal government’s lawyers to go back on the EPA’s promise to the people of the state of New Mexico – and especially the Navajo Nation – that it would fully address this environmental disaster that still plagues the people of the Four Corners region.”

Yea, we are outraged too, Senators. It just isn’t right. You’d think they’d be ashamed after all the shoddy treatment they’ve pushed on farmers and ranchers with alleged Waters of the USA violations.

Wake up, you Feds. It’s nonsense like this that leads people to join the Sagebrush Rebellion.

Previously published as The Western View by AgNet West.

Drought Busted?


After all these years of drought, it’s strange to hear the dire forecasts of the last week – the words ‘atmospheric river’ create a powerful mental image of a flood of rain flowing up from the south Pacific. It’s a so much better of a phrase than ‘Pineapple Express’, which sounds to me like a train owned and operated by the Del Monte corporation.

As the rains have fallen, I see some familiar benchmarks. Things like, at a half-inch of rain, the low spot in the back pasture fills; at 3/4 of an inch, a rivulet of water follows the low ground down the driveway. There are things I’d forgotten about, during the drought. For instance, at an inch of rain, the front gate stays open, as you can’t get to it without getting muddy or wet. And that bad low spot in the driveway? Best not try to cross it with a town car, better drive the truck or an SUV. These are things we’d forgotten about during the drought. We’re happy to fix them, but we got to wait till things dry out a little.

Then there are those familiar places around the valley – like the mobile home park by Woodward, off of highway 41 in Fresno. It’s on the flood plain of the San Joaquin river, and when they have to release a lot of water from Millerton, well gee whiz, it floods. The roads and driveways there get a little wet and the TV news come to film the event. It’s stressful, but if we’d build Temperance Flat dam it won’t happen so much.

And, lots of road closures are going on. Many of these things are Deja Vu all over again. We’ve had wet years in the past, and something like 20 years ago we had another atmospheric river bring us lots and lots of water. Some closures were the same – but this year, we are having a bigger problem. The news reporters keep telling us that recent fire areas are particularly vulnerable. We’re seeing more mudslides and rivers full of mud from running off recently burned land – a problem we’ve made worse by stopping the grazing of cattle in the high country.

As the rains fall and promises to bring our drought to an end, I’m feeling hopeful that we will learn from the lessons of the past. But right now, I’m just glad for the rain.

Previously published on The Western View by AgNet West.

The King’s Forest, revisited

 

As we begin a new year with a new presidency, I would like to remind Mr. Trump of a few things. First, we’re still thirsty around here. The Feds are making a good start with new regulations that improve the priorities in the favor of farming. But the fight’s not over. We gained some ground, but we still will need to fight for every drop.

Federal control of public lands is another hot-button issue, one that’s getting hotter as the West continues to grow. It’s been building a long time and won’t go away soon.

Politically, the Democrats have always supported maintaining federal control of public land, while the Republicans have long spoken for local control. The positions are hardening; the Republicans are pushing for transferring federal lands to the states while the Democrats call for continuing federal control of public lands.

The Democrats also strongly support the environmental movement. They believe federal control will protect natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands, and protect species and wildlife. This, to me, amounts to keeping our forests under the thumb of the King – the king decides who can hunt, who can dig a mine, and where we can travel in these millions of acres of federal land.

So the confrontation is building. The environmentalists have pretty much had their way the last 40 years. They’ve stopped dams from being built, kicked the cattle out of the forests, and prevented new mining. There hasn’t been a balance; the king has allowed one group – the environmentalists – to determine public policy. The rest of us need to have a say.

We must find a balance between the two positions. Some lands need protection and preservation. Some resources need to be managed on the federal level. However, when the King owns the forest and uses a heavy hand to control his peasants… well, we know the outcome of that story.

Previously published on The Western View by AgNet West.

The Swing of the Pendulum

 

There’s an ebb and flow to politics, and it’s very apparent that we’re going through a time of change.   The political pendulum had swung far to the left, with all kinds of new social programs and new rules under Obama. but the pendulum hit the wall and is swinging to the right.  Donald Trump’s victory was a clear signal of this change.  Now we’re seeing that pendulum swing continue with efforts to reverse some of the changes of the last 8 years.

For example, a new bill on the President’s desk could change the water picture for California Agriculture.  The mere fact that it got on Obama’s desk is a sign of the times, a tick of the pendulum as it heads to the right.

Then there’s Governor Brown’s new effort to reduce gas emissions from cattle.  These new rules have stirred up discussion around the country, as the world wonders how he plans to keep cows from passing gas.

Well, a Colorado rancher I happen to know called me up the other day, with a little different angle on the problem.  I know this rancher well, as he happens to be my older brother, so I was prepared for just about anything to come out of his mouth.  But what he said made a lot of sense to me.

He said he’d heard there were 2 million dairy cows in California, averaging about 1000 pounds each.  And their were 40 million people in California, averaging about 100 pounds each.  Considering our diets are actually very similar – pound for pound, cows and humans eat about the same amount of gas-producing vegetation.  Put it another way, 20 people would eat as much fibrous matter as 1 dairy cow.  So 40 million people would produce as much methane gas as 2 million cows.  Why aren’t we controlling the gas from all those folks in the cities?

Hmmm…  Wait a minute.  Maybe that’s what the Electoral College did.  It provided a little gas control on the liberals in the cities.

Previously published on The Western View by AgNet West.

Hi-Tech Pulsed Irrigation Saves the Farm

 

Tom and Dan Rogers of Madera county, CA

Tom and Dan Rogers of Madera county, CA

Last month I got to meet a couple of Madera county almond growers who overcame adversity in a big way. To Tom and Dan Rogers the drought was more than a business problem – it was a catastrophe when one of their two wells went dry and there were no well drillers available. they faced severe losses. Necessity being the mother of invention, it forced them to develop a new technique of irrigating in short pulses to thriftily maintain the ideal amount of water in the root zone.

They laid out 7 separate irrigation lines to cover their 175 acres of almonds. They calculated they had enough water to irrigate each line for 30 minutes at a time – a pulse of water delivered by micro sprinklers. Each line got a 30 minute pulse 6 times a day.

It worked. The trees not only survived, they thrived with the frequent short bursts. They had found a better way to water.

Their pulse irrigation method utilizes new technology to monitor their trees’ water, and now reduces their water demand by at least 20 per cent.

They had devised this system out of necessity, but it was incredibly labor intensive. They were changing 7 separate sets, 6 times a day, every day.

So Tom did his research and found that automated valves would save him tremendous amounts of time and labor. The brothers enlisted the aid of Guillermo Valenzuela and his company, WiseConn. They built a computerized control system that opens and closes the irrigation valves on a schedule of 30 minute bursts. Their key criteria was keeping the water in the root zone. They installed three monitoring stations with sensors at various depths, down to four feet. The usual root ball of an almond tree is about 3 feet, so they don’t want to see water at the four foot level.

The system is working. Tom says that developing his network of sensors and actuators was not a simple project, but it was worth the effort. He says they have cut at least 20 per cent of their current water usage. The savings has paid for the system many times over.

If you’d like more information, see my article on page 29 in the December 2016 issue of West Coast Nut.

Harvest Hosts bring visitors to the farm

 

If you are a grower or vintner with a retail outlet on your property, or if you are thinking about selling directly to the public, here’s something that may help you reach a new market. A company called Harvest Hosts is a membership program that connects RV owners with farmers, wineries, and museums around the country.

Here’s how it works. The host – who has a vineyard, orchard, or truck farm – invites self-contained RV owners to come visit for 24 hours, free of charge. The visitor agrees to follow a code of behavior on the farm and be a good guest.

While the RV’ers have no obligation or requirement to buy anything from the Host, you can bet they will want to. They are staying out on your farm because they are looking for the things you produce and sell. The company says that its members enjoy meeting new people and supporting local communities, and they are encouraged to support their Hosts with purchases. They also say that the average member has a household income of $93,600 and the goodwill motivates them to make purchases.

Most of the Hosts are small, mom-and-pop agricultural operations. They are not formal campgrounds. The RVs must be fully self contained. And this is better than a visit from your in-laws; the guests call you in advance, and you can always say no. When accepting visitors they simply arrive and park where you tell them, then go spend money in your fruit stand or store. They don’t need hookups or restroom facilities, and any pets are leashed or in the RV at all times (if you choose to allow them at all).

The Harvest Host company started operations in 2009 and has been widely received across the country. They have about 550 hosts and 4200 members in the continental United States, Canada, and Baja California.

If you’re thinking about becoming a host, there’s no fee to the company but there are some responsibilities you need to meet. You should check with your insurance agent to confirm that your liability policy covers you. You also need to make sure that your property is accessible for RVs (no tight turns, no tree branches, etc.) and provide a fairly level parking area with space for RV side-slides to be extended.

For more information, visit their website at http://www.harvesthosts.com.

Previously published on The Western View by AgNet West.