University of California


UC helps prepare public for new building laws

UC Cooperative Extension is helping the public prepare for a law going into effect Jan. 1 with new fire-safe regulations for building new homes, businesses or other buildings. The news media is turning to UC advisors to help spread the information. A workshop held in the Klamath National Forest in Yreka prompted a detailed story in the Mt. Shasta News.

“These new codes will not make your home fire proof,” the newspaper quoted Steve Quarles, UCCE wood durability advisor. “They are designed to improve the chances of your home surviving a wildfire.”

Among other things, the new building codes will require fire resistant roofs, siding and dual-paned windows. During the workshop, Quarles set redwood and a wood and plastic composite decking material on fire to allow the audience to compare their performance. "Within 20 minutes, the redwood decking had put itself out while the plastic in the Trex continued to burn," the article said.

On Nov. 3, another workshop on wildfire will be held at the Lake Tahoe Community College cafeteria, One College Drive, South Lake Tahoe. Presenters from UC Berkeley, U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire and others will give an overview of forest ecology in the Tahoe Basin, describe the effects of the Angora Fire on the forest, present examples of what the Angora fire area will look like in 10, 20 and 50 years, and discuss the effects and effectiveness of different management strategies for restoring the Angora forests.

Quarles in the Mt. Shasta News.
Quarles in the Mt. Shasta News.

Posted on Monday, September 17, 2007 at 9:45 AM

Dairy groundwater story gets coverage

The news media made the trek to Hanford yesterday to take the opportunity we offered to meet researcher Thomas Harter, who is initiating an extensive groundwater study at dairies in Kings and Tulare counties. Harter studied the groundwater at dairies in Stanislaus and Merced counties in the late 90s and found groundwater with six-times and more than the limit set for nitrates in drinking water. The South Valley's groundwater is much deeper and the soil contains more clay, which Harter says may reduce groundwater contamination, though he doesn't expect to find groundwater there to be pristine.

The KMPH 10 o'clock news covered the event with a story during the first 15 minutes of the broadcast. The story can be found on its Web site. The Fresno Bee sent reporter Eric Lacayo of the South Valley bureau, who likened the dairies' participation in the study to motorists inviting the Highway Patrol into their vehicles.

"We're kind of putting the speedometer on them and the Highway Patrol is waiting," Lacayo quoted Harter. "We're going to see whether you're speeding or not." 

There might have been more coverage of the dairy event had it not conflicted (coincidentally) with another ag groundwater story that played out closer to most TV stations' offices and came complete with demonstrators carrying placards with slogans such as "Where food grows, contaminants flow" and "No More Favors, End Ag Waivers." The Fresno Bee also covered this story.

Harter speaks to KMPH reporter Dani Carlson,
Harter speaks to KMPH reporter Dani Carlson,

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2007 at 11:14 AM

A new home on the horizon for Fresno County UCCE?

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors has taken preliminary steps to buy about 92 acres of farmland off Highway 99 near Selma to build a Center for Agriculture and Food Safety, according to an article published in the Fresno Bee today. The proposed new center would house the county Department of Agriculture, UC Cooperative Extension and other ag-related agencies. Officials also are reviewing other property and exploring the prospect of placing the center on the Fresno State campus.

Also in the plans is a demonstration/research farm geared toward the study of new and specialty crops, water conservation and sanitary handling practices. According to the article, UCCE director Jeanette Sutherlin said the farm would complement existing research operations in Fresno County -- such as UC Kearney Research and Extension Center near Parlier -- and offer farmers a chance to learn about new ag opportunities.

Over the years, several other Valley counties have consolidated UCCE, departments of agriculture and other ag agencies at modern facilities, including Kern, Tulare and Stanislaus counties.

"I think Fresno County ag ought to be on the map with a facility that's worthy of the importance of that industry," Supervisor Judy Case was quoted in the article.

Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 10:00 AM

Society for Environmental Journalists

Due to unforeseen computer problems, I was not able to post to the blog during the Society for Environmental Journalists conference last week. But I did save a few random tidbits to share here today.

"I think of farmers in the Midwest as government-employed tractor drivers." -Organic strawberry farmer

"I don't go to meetings anymore where they try to define 'sustainable.'" - Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation

"The food system is the No. 1 point of human impact on the planet. If you change the food system, you leverage all other systems." - Mike Demmock, Roots of Change, which is aiming to create a sustainable food system by 2030.

"(The term) 'Peer-reviewed study' is not used in broadcast." - Jeff Burnside, WTVJ NBC News 6 in Miami

"Global warming of the last 150 years is unequivocal." - Stephen Schneider, Stanford University climatologist

"We (humans) don't make the weather. We intensify it." - Schneider

"Scientists tend toward obsessive-compulsive. Journalists tend toward ADD." - audience comment

"You have to move the (global warming) story forward. Scientists must stick their necks out a little more," Rick Rodriguez, Sacramento Bee editor

"For California's big water projects, decisions were made 70 years ago. It was a different world." - Frank Michny, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of Interior

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2007 at 2:05 PM

Milk to be making news.

Milk is truly an American staple food. Producing, marketing and pricing are just some of the aspects of milk that make news. The California milk industry as given us such cultural icons as "Got milk" and "Great milk comes from happy cows." Today, the California Milk Advisory Board announced that it is introducing the "Real California Milk" seal, which certifies that dairy products bearing the seal are made exclusively with California milk, according to a press release published on Business Wire and picked up widely in the media.

Coincidentally, also today, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about the milk pricing formula, which it proclaimed in its headline "grates on state's cheese makers," pun intended, of course.

"Cheese makers claim that the current formula, changed four years ago when dairies were struggling with low milk prices, could drive smaller plants out of business because it raises the cost of making cheese in a competitive market where it is hard to recoup the added expense," according to the article.

For comment, writer Jerry Hirsch went to UC Davis ag economist Leslie Butler.

"This is your basic fight over who gets the change that's left on the table," the Times quoted Butler.

Butler predicted the next phase of the pricing issue: "We will have a hearing and everyone will argue and the CDFA will decide. There is no guessing which way it will go."

On the production side, a major research project is being undertaken in Tulare and Kings county aimed at gaining an better understanding about what is happening to groundwater beneath dairies. A media advisory is being distributed this week. UCCE is inviting the media to a dairy in Hanford on Sept. 13 to get details about the research project.

The rest of this week I will be at the Society for Environmental Journalists conference in Palo Alto. Look for ANR-related developments from the SEJ conference here in the coming days.

Posted on Wednesday, September 5, 2007 at 12:01 PM

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