Valley Public Radio News

Hear local reports on the economy, government, education, health and the environment on Valley Public Radio during All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Valley Edition. 

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Health Care
6:08 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

California Lawmakers Introduce 'End-of-Life Option" Act

Credit Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

California lawmakers say public opinion has changed since the last time “right to die” legislation has been proposed in the state. That may explain why a group of Democratic lawmakers has introduced the “End of Life Option Act.” As Capital Public Radio’s Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone explains, the measure is modeled after a similar law in Oregon.

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Environment
5:59 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Wildlife Agencies See Near Collapse Of 2014 Salmon Species

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California and federal wildlife agencies say the entire winter-run of naturally-spawning Chinook salmon may have collapsed in 2014. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the agencies will begin releasing triple the number of hatchery-raised juveniles next week.

High water temperatures in the Sacramento River last summer and fall caused 95-percent of winter-run salmon egg and fry to die.

Maria Rea: “I think this is really unprecedented really that we’ve seen this level of temperature mortality.”

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Education
1:20 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

"Talk, Read, Sing" Campaign Aims To Help Close The "Word Gap"

According to researchers at Rice University, children from high income families will experience hearing 30 million more words by age four than children of low income families. That’s from parents or others just reading or talking to young children, just describing the world around them. Researchers say this so-called “word gap” has big implications for brain development, educational achievement and long-term success.

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Music
12:47 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Where Does The "Bakersfield Sound" Go From Here?

Credit nickchapman / Flickr - Creative Commons

Detroit has Motown, Seattle has grunge, and San Francisco has psychedelic rock. Just three examples of American cities where unique musical styles developed and thrived, gaining international attention and helping to define the very image and sound of those places.

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Environment
4:43 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Study: California Pesticde Assements Thorough, Slow

A strawberry field in California (file photo)
Credit Department of Pesticide Regulation - Facebook

The National Academy of Sciences released a report today on how the California Department of Pesticide Regulation assesses the safety of pesticides. It found that DPR assessments are thorough, but not very timely. It typically takes six to ten years. 

The report also says DPR needs to create a clearer process for ranking the hazard of pesticides and identifying which pesticides should take priority. Paul Tower with the Pesticide Action Network says the report confirms concerns the group has raised over the years.

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Agriculture
4:36 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Robots Could Be Headed To Central Valley Farms

Research at UC Davis includes using fluorescent seedlings that will help a robotic cultivator target weeds.
Credit Steve Fennimore / UC Davis

Robots may soon be pulling weeds on Central Valley farms. At UC Davis researchers have received  $2.7 million dollars from the USDA to study how new technology could replace field labor. 

Automated devices pick cotton. Machines shake nut trees. But, there are a three tasks  for which farmers rely solely on humans. 

David Slaughter: "These include hand weeding, thinning and harvesting."

David Slaughter is the lead researcher working on robotic cultivators. 

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Government & Politics
7:16 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Falling Oil Prices Could Deliver $61 Million Hit To Kern County Budget

Kern County Administrative Building (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Falling oil prices could deliver a big hit to the Kern County general fund. The Board of Supervisors will consider a staff proposal to declare a fiscal emergency at its meeting next week. County property tax dollars are heavily dependent on the price of oil. 

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Government & Politics
6:10 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Central Valley Anti-Union Farm Workers Protest In Sacramento

A group of Central Valley anti-union farm workers visited the state capitol Thursday to protest against the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the United Farm Workers. The group says they're forcing them into a union contract.
Credit Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Central Valley farm workers rallied today in Sacramento against what they say is a violation of their rights.

About 20 anti-union farm workers showed up at the state capitol protesting against the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the United Farm Workers. The group says the union and the ALRB are denying employees of Fresno-based Gerawan Farming their rights by forcing them into a union contract. 

In 2013, company employees held a union decertification election, but the votes have yet to be counted after allegations the company interfered with the process.

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Agriculture
5:17 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

California Farmers Turn Sugar Beets Into Energy

Mendota Bioenergy aims to turn sugar beets into biofuel.
Credit Mendota Bioenergy

Struggling sugar beet farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are turning their crop into energy instead of sweetner. A pilot plant could prove to be good for the environment and the economy. 

They're called "energy beets." They look like a red table beet but, but they're larger, white, and very high in sucrose. Sugar beets in California date back to the late 1800's.

Kaffka: "Beets have been grown here commercially longer than any other place."

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Government & Politics
6:24 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Brown's Budget Gives State Parks System One Year To Turn Around

Third- and fourth-graders from nearby David Lubin Elementary School - and some of their parents - participate in Sutter's Fort State Historic Park's Environmental Living Program.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California’s state parks system has faced a rough few years: Deep cuts during the recession, and a financial scandal that rocked the department. Now, a state commission is just days away from releasing a report that demands the department modernize itself – and Governor Jerry Brown’s new budget proposes only enough money to buy the parks system a year to turn itself around. Capital Public Radio’s Ben Adler reports from Sacramento.

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Environment
5:26 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

New Grant Aims To Help Save Valley's Tricolored Blackbird

A Tricolored Blackbird (file photo)
Credit Linda Pittman / Audubon California

A federal grant announced today could give California dairy farmers incentive to help save the Tricolored Blackbird. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the population of the bird has plummeted in the last four years.

California’s Tricolored Blackbirds are found mainly in the southern San Joaquin Valley and often nest in fields where dairy farmers grow feed. Come harvest time, nestlings are often plowed under. That, combined with wetland loss and drought, has led to a population decline of 44 percent since 2011.

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Environment
7:30 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

California Air Regulators Eye Methane Emissions From Oil, Ag

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California's air regulators are increasingly turning their attention to a greenhouse gas that has largely gone overlooked - methane. 

According to the U.S. EPA, when it comes to climate change, methane emissions have an impact 20 times greater than CO2 emissions, pound for pound.

That's why Governor Jerry Brown singled out the gas during his inaugural address this month as part of his plan to combat climate change. 

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Environment
6:05 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

California Tightens Rules On Popular Pesticide For Strawberries, Almonds

file photo
Credit Department of Pesticide Regulation - Facebook

California has announced stringent new rules on a common pesticide used in the production of strawberries, almonds, tomatoes, and peppers.

Chloropicrin is a fumigant that is used to treat the soil before crops are planted. The new rules are more stringent than those adopted by the U.S. EPA in 2012.

Under the new regulations from the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, farmers will be required to provide larger buffer zones when applying the chemical, and will be required to reduce the size of fields where it is applied.

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Fracking
5:32 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Independent Scientific Study On Fracking In California Released

The oil extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing is much different in California than in other states. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, that’s the finding of the first independent scientific assessment required under the state’s new fracking regulations.

California has shallow, vertical fracking wells that require about 140,000 gallons of water per well to extract oil. That’s millions of gallons less than other states. But the fluids contain more concentrated chemicals.

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Agriculture
6:00 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Drainage Key To Reported Deal Between Farmers And Feds

File Photo - Pistachio field near Bakersfield, Calif
Credit Amy Quinton / CPR

A deal between a valley water district and the federal government could help resolve a decade’s long dispute over land on the Valley’s Westside. 

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Westlands Water District would take on the task of providing irrigation drainage, which had been a federal responsibility. In exchange, the government would forgive debt that the agency owed for construction of the Central Valley Project.

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Environment
4:16 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Supreme Court Gives Environmental Groups A Win By Passing On Smelt Case

Delta smelt (file photo)
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court could have big consequences for both valley farmers and the environment. The court decided today not to hear a case brought by local ag groups and southern California water agencies that sought to overturn protections for the Delta smelt under the Endangered Species Act.

The move lets stand a lower court decision that upheld restrictions on the amount of water that can be pumped out of the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. 

Trent Orr, an attorney with Earthjustice says the decision is an important one. 

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Health
6:09 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Fountains For Schools With Limited Water Access

file photo
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

More than 100 schools in California's Central Valley will receive water purification stations under a new program designed to give kids fresh water instead of sugary drinks with lunch. Capital Public Radio's Bob Moffitt reports.

The California Endowment created the pilot project called "Agua For All" and has joined with three regional groups in the state to identify schools that need water fountains or water filtration systems. 

Sarah Buck with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation says 120 schools will receive new fountains.

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Health Care
6:03 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Valley Children's Announces New Residency Program

Valley Children's Hospital
Credit Children's Hospital Central California

Valley Children's Hospital has announced a plan for a new graduate medical education program for pediatric residents and fellows.

The new program will trains doctors to become pediatric sub-specialists at the hospital, and will establish a fellowship program.

The hospital says it has offered to sponsor the existing pediatric residency program,  which is a partnership with UCSF. Officials with Valley Children's say the hospital will continue to support that program financially until the hospital's own residency program is established. 

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Government & Politics
5:45 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Soria Adds Latina Voice To Fresno City Council

Esmeralda Soria represents District 1 on the Fresno City Council
Credit Valley Public Radio

There's a new member of the Fresno CIty Council. Esmeralda Soria took the oath of office Thursday at City Hall becoming the first Latina to serve on the council since the 1990's.

In a speech delivered in both English and Spanish Soria said her success would only be possible in America. 

Soria replaces Blong Xiong for the district 1 seat. Council members Oliver Baines, Clint Olivier and Sal Quintero were also sworn in for their second terms. 

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Agriculture
5:35 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Six Things To Know About Central Valley Agriculture In 2015

Valley melon farmer Joe Del Bosque (file photo)
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

2014 was a year of ups and downs for the valley's largest industry, agriculture. The year began with virtually no rain and snow and fears of another dust bowl.

And while farmers and ranchers had a tough year, most survived and some even thrived. Rising milk prices boosted the bottom line for California dairymen and women and crops like tomatoes actually set new records.

So what will 2015 bring? We asked two industry experts to join us and offer their perspectives on six issues that will help define the valley's largest industry in the new year:

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