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Agriculture

Marc Benjamin / Valley Public Radio

Clovis has a reputation for good schools, walking trails, parks and upscale neighborhoods. It’s also one of California’s faster growing cities. People want to live there. So as the city grows, pressure is growing for developers to add new houses, often converting farmland to subdivisions.  So how do rural residents there coexist with new development while keeping their country way of life? Reporter Marc Benjamin explains how one neighborhood is adapting to change.

Flickr user Derek Dirks, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

After it was first reported in March, the recent E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce appears to be drawing to a close. But that’s only after it sickened 172 people in 32 states and resulted in one death in California. Why did it take so long to get under control? One reason is that produce can be difficult to trace from farm to fork, through the sometimes dozens of suppliers, distributors and wholesalers that make up the produce supply chain—but two recent initiatives are attempting to change that.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley has improved dramatically over the last few decades, partly thanks to a set of sweeping clean air laws passed in the early 2000s. Over the last few years, however, one major polluting practice has risen steadily. And although it’s unclear if the increase has had an impact on air quality, advocates are concerned it will if the trend continues. We report from a family farm outside Fresno on what’s being done about open agricultural burning.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The California Water Commission delivered bad news last Friday to the backers of a proposed new dam on the San Joaquin River near Fresno. Supporters had hoped to receive around $1 billion in funding for the $2.7 billion project from the money voters approved in the 2014 Proposition 1 water bond. Instead, the commission awarded Temperance Flat only $171 million. Other proposed storage facilities fared better, such as the Sites Reservoir, which scored nearly $1 billion in funding. So what are the winners and losers saying?

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

The San Joaquin Valley struggles with environmental pollution. Hundreds of thousands of residents are served with water that’s unsafe to drink, and all of us live under seasonal clouds ozone and particle pollution in the air. Water and air problems are regulated separately, but one contaminant bridges both domains. This story examines why nitrogen is such a persistent problem.

California Citrus Mutual

In response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese steel, the Chinese government over the weekend announced tariffs on many American products.

The list of 128 items with new tariffs includes almonds, oranges, grapes and dozens of other crops, which could threaten hundreds of millions of dollars in annual exports out of the San Joaquin Valley. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

We all know what a port looks like. There’s water and ships stacked high with shipping containers. But those are often in busy areas on the coast: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland. Well, one Central Valley county has decided to get in on the shipping and distribution game. That county is partnering with the Port of Los Angeles to give their region a boost for distributing around the world.

 

Foldit screenshot

It wasn’t long after the invention of the internet that scientists discovered the potential for using computing power as a citizen science tool. One of the earliest examples was a computer program developed in the 1990s that allowed users to search for life on other planets. Now a new collaboration takes aim at something a little closer to home: An intersection between citizen science, health, and agriculture, with implications right here in the San Joaquin Valley.

Creative Commons user Pmk58

California has a new water problem, but it's not drought, and it's not endangered fish. Instead it's a roughly 20-pound creature that's described as an "invasive swamp rodent" called the nutria. It's already causing problems in Merced County wetlands and state officials worry the pesky and prolific rodent could further destroy already fragile ecosystems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta and threaten the state's network of canals and levees.

CA WaterFix

The California Department of Water Resources has announced it will scale back Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build two water tunnels beneath the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta. Under the proposal released today the California WaterFix would be broken up into two phases. The first phase would include only one tunnel with a capacity of 6,000 cfs. A second, smaller tunnel with a capacity of 3,000 cfs could be added at a later date.

California Citrus Mutual

The law enforcement agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, may be ramping up its inspections of worksites—and a Valley grower is one of the first to feel the consequences.

Fowler-based Bee Sweet Citrus says it may have lost a fifth of its workforce in anticipation of an inspection by ICE. The federal agency notified Bee Sweet that later this month, it would conduct an I-9 inspection. Meaning the company will need to hand over the forms that verify the identity and employment authorization of each of its employees.

This week on Valley Edition - an exclusive report from Valley Public Radio's Kerry Klein about a secretive ICE facility hidden in plain sight in downtown Fresno, and why civil liberties groups are concerned about what goes on inside. We also talk with journalist Mark Arax about his new magazine article about billionaire valley farmers Stewart and Lynda Resnick.

Ian Faloona, UC Davis

 

When you hear about air pollution, you may think of vehicle emissions, industrial smokestacks and wood burning. But a new study reveals another major source right below your feet in the Central Valley.

The pollutants in question are nitrogen oxides, a family of harmful gases known collectively as NOx. They’re precursors to ozone and particulate matter, which can lead to a litany of short and long-term health problems.

US Fish and Wildlife Service

The 2016-2017 water year was one of the wettest on record in California. While all that water in the system was enough to officially end the state’s drought, its impact on endangered species is another story, especially when it comes to the Delta smelt. A survey conducted in October 2017 by state and federal agencies found only 2 of the fish, the lowest number on record.

Randi Lynn Beach / used with permission

California's mammoth feats of water engineering in the 20th century turned the barren west side of the San Joaquin Valley into the most productive farmland in the world. But in the 21st century, as society's appreciation of the environmental costs of these water diversions, many have questioned whether west side farms will last into the next century. Combined with the threats of drought, climate change, and increasing salinity, the question is fertile ground for photojournalist Randi Lynn Beach.

Today on Valley Edition we hear a report about changes looming in Fresno's historic Chinatown neighborhood. Many roads in the area are already closed with construction on high-speed rail, and that's causing some concern among business owners. Yet others are optimistic about a brighter future ahead, with new community improvements, millions in cap-and-trade funding, new housing, and the future rail station. We also hear a report about the role the U.S. military has played in researching valley fever, much of which has taken place at Lemoore Naval Air Station.

Westlands Water District website

Growers in the Westlands Water District hope congressional approval of a deal with the federal government could resolve a long-standing problem on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley - drainage. However final approval of the deal reached in 2015 remains both elusive and controversial.  

California Department of Pesticide Regulation Facebook page

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has officially adopted new regulations on the use of pesticides near schools and daycare centers. The new rules go into effect in January and prohibit application on crops that are within a quarter mile of schools and daycare centers, Monday through Friday between 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

One of the most widely used insecticides in America is the subject of a regulatory battle. Earlier this year the Trump administration chose not to move ahead with efforts to ban chlorpyrifos, first put in place by the Obama administration.  Now, California is in the process of tightening its own regulations of the insecticide, and that has some farmers searching for answers.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Farmers are relying more and more on technology to help them manage their crops and often that means working with unmanned aerial systems. Using drones to make two dimensional maps of orchards isn’t anything new, but one agricultural researcher – Ali Pourreza – in Central California is taking existing drone technology to the next level.

“I thought, okay, two-dimensional imaging has been around a long time and it's helped a lot, but right now we have the capability to make 3D models,” says Pourreza.

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