Monster snow storms aside, much of farm country is currently moisture deficient. The dry conditions are raising concerns of a potential drought despite the fact that spring planting is at least a month away for most of the country.
But this week, a U-S district court judge ruled the interior department failed to follow proper procedures when flow was taken away from the Imperial water district. According to the judge, Imperial's water loss amounted to a breach of contract and the full allotment of water was awarded back to the water district. While farmers in the region are pleased, other water districts within the state must now accept a reduced water flow and tap into reserves.
While government regulations are being loosened in California, the U-S-D-A is tightening rules in farm country. Biotech crops with pharmaceutical and industrial traits are now subject to more stringent oversight as a result of incidents last fall involving trial plots of biopharm corn. Texas-based ProdiGene was fined millions of dollars for permit violations in Nebraska and Iowa and some harvested and delivered commercial grain was quarantined in storage at the elevator due to suspected contamination.
The new regulations will increase the number of visits made by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to monitor both the trial and volunteer crops during the following year. The distance between biopharm trial plots and open pollinated corn will double in all instances. And all equipment used in the trials will be dedicated solely to the biopharm crops and cleaned to APHIS standards.