Monday, January 16, 2012

Agriculture happens.

Today was apparently an agricultural burn day in the Napa Valley. As I drove away from work this morning I spotted a few vineyards practicing open burning, including this one on the Oakville Crossroad.  Each pyre, of twisted vines and vineyard stakes, was burning so hot that very little smoke was being produced, the centres glowing a vivid red even in the bright, morning sunshine. I could feel the intensity of the heat from the bonfires on my face some 75 yards away, and across the passenger seat of my car, as I sat taking this photograph.
Agricultural burning is the practice of using fire to reduce or dispose of vegetative debris from an agricultural activity, in this instance the disposal of dead grapevines ripped out last November.  Prescribed fire has long been an efficient management tool for the grapegrowers of the Napa Valley to aid in clearing old vineyards to make way for new vines.  However, it is a tool that is infrequently used.  Vineyards only account for about 9% of the entire acreage of the county.  And, these vineyards are only, perhaps, replanted on an average of every 25-30 years, and even then not all at the same time.  The Valley's grapegrowers aren't a marauding horde of pyromaniacs advocating slash-and-burn agricultural practices: they are generally responsible custodians of the land on which their livelihoods depend.
Fortunately, to ensure that the Valley's farmers refrain from becoming environmental hooligans (and also save them from committing agricultural operations that have been deemed criminal), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) was founded in 1955 by the California legislature - just one more bureaucratic agency which then had to be funded and staffed - to aid in the squandering of tax payer's dollars. Now, I understand that steps should be taken to protect air quality in the Napa Valley and, thankfully, there are already in place Federally mandated air emission thresholds set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); which in turn are then implemented by California's Agricultural Commissioner, and finally enforced at a local level by the County of Napa.
Presently, grapegrowers must apply to the County of Napa for a permit, at least five days in advance of a scheduled agricultural burn.  However, the county then must submit the permit for approval  to BAAQMD which ultimately confers burn day-status upon the farmer who has been patiently waiting to replant his land.
Leave it to the San Francisco Bay Area to have it's very own busybody, authoritarian agency to make sure that the citizens of all nine Bay area counties behave as they ordain. This is the same agency that called for Spare The Air (STA) days on Thanksgiving and Christmas 2010 - cozy, family time when loved ones usually gather together to roast chestnuts on an open fire - only to admit later that those two particular days were not in fact STA days: They had manipulatively fabricated the existence of poor air quality conditions, making folks refrain from having log fires, just to get the public's attention.  Up to this same point in the winter season last winter BAAQMD had issued 4 STA notices.  But, this winter, mostly due to the lack of rain since Thanksgiving, the Bay Area has already had 14 STA days.
The EPA, on behalf of the entire United States, seems to be already dealing with the ever increasing challenges we are told our planet is facing.  Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, BAAQMD's mission statement proclaims:  "To protect and improve...the global climate" - lofty aspirations indeed!
Piddling local government at its finest.  Or, worst? 


Thud said...

I'm happy the enviroweenies of the bay area are saving the planet for me while I happy burn every bloody thing I can get my hands on....toasty!

Vinogirl said...

You are not pay taxes here too.

Thud said...

Its an honour and a privilege to contribute to the great bankrupt stae of California I can't think of a more capable bunch to spend my hard earned money....even myself according to the Obama one.

Do Bianchi said...

I love it when you rant. And posts like this are what make your blog so awesome... great stuff...

Vinogirl said...

2B: Thank you very much :)