Agriculture

Environment
4:42 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

Central Valley Gets Millions For Drought Relief

The Friant Kern Canal is part of the Central Valley Project (file photo)
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The Federal government is giving California’s Central Valley millions of dollars for drought relief. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on Friday's announcement. 

The US Bureau of Reclamation is allocating about $30 million for the Central Valley Project, a water project which stretches 400 miles and provides enough water for a third of California’s farm land. The money will go toward drought monitoring, pumping projects and water efficiency efforts, among other things.

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Environment
12:07 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Research Project Will Help Scientists Understand Major California Storms

Forecasters with the National Weather Service are predicting that an "atmospheric river" will bring much needed rain to Northern California this weekend.
Credit National Weather Service - Hanford

 “Atmospheric rivers” play a huge role in determining California’s water supply. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a team of scientists is launching state-of-the-art equipment by land and sea to study the storms.

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Environment
6:12 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

California's Drought Worsens Uranium Pollution In Valley Wells

File photo
Credit John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s drought isn't just causing wells to go dry, it's also contributing to a long running water pollution problem.

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at over 100 private domestic drinking water wells in the San Joaquin Valley. It found that around 1 in 4 had uranium levels above those considered safe by the EPA. Most of the wells were on the east side of the valley, which is home to sediment from the Sierra Nevada which naturally contains uranium.

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Environment
11:43 am
Sat January 31, 2015

January Snow Survey In California "Dismally Meager"

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The California Department of Water Resources says the state’s snowpack is “dismally meager.” As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a lack of snow in the Sierra is keeping rivers low and drying up some reservoirs. 

While December storms brought some hope that California’s drought would ease, January’s second snow survey shattered it. 

Dave Rizzardo: “Unfortunately it seems like it’s a trend in the last three or four years, that’s January’s just been a dud.”

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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
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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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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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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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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Valley Edition
12:51 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Valley Edition: Jan 6 - A Look Ahead to 2015 In Politics, Ag, Oil & The Arts

This week on Valley Edition we look ahead to what 2015 will hold for the San Joaquin Valley in a variety of areas from the oil industry to the arts. We start with a look at the political landscape in 2015 by talking with Fresno State political science professor Thomas Holyoke.

For a preview of what the local agriculture industry has in store we talk with Ryan Jacobsen of the Fresno County Farm Bureau and Tricia Stever Blattler of the Tulare County Farm Bureau.

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Agriculture
10:03 am
Mon January 5, 2015

New Laws: California Implements New Egg Standards

Credit nickwheeleroz / Creative Commons License / Flickr.com

Starting January 1st, every egg sold at a grocery store in California must meet new standards that require hens have more space. It’s a requirement of Proposition 2 approved by voters in 2008, which requires farm animals have enough room to turn around, lie down, stand up and stretch their limbs.

Egg farmers sued in 2012 on grounds the law is unconstitutionally vague. The law has also prompted concerns of an egg shortage. But Ronald Fong with the California Grocers’ Association says that’s unlikely.

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Environment
10:06 am
Wed December 31, 2014

Winter Snow Survey Better Than Last Year But Not Good Enough

California’s first winter snow survey paints another fairly bleak picture of the potential for runoff restoring water levels in the state’s reservoirs. (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California has had greater than normal precipitation this year, but not greater than normal snowfall. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the first winter snow survey shows the amount of water in the snow statewide is 50 percent of average.

One third of the state relies on water that comes from melting Sierra snowpack. Frank Gehrke with the Department of Water Resources says manual readings show water in the snow on Echo Summit is four inches, just 33 percent of average. He says it’s not enough to fill the state’s reservoirs.

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New Laws
2:14 pm
Mon December 29, 2014

Sexual Harassment Training Required For Farm Employees

Credit Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

California’s farm fields can be threatening places for agriculture workers. But a new law going into effect next year is designed to make those fields a bit safer. As part of our annual new law series, Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

The law will require farm labor contractors to provide all supervisors, foremen and employees with sexual harassment training. Democratic Senator Bill Monning authored the bill. He says there’s an epidemic of harassment and assault of California farm workers.

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Agriculture
4:44 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

2014 Was A Rough Year for California's Farmers and Ranchers

file photo
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California's farmers and ranchers have endured a challenging 2014. Capital Public Radio's Lesley McClurg reports on how they're weathering the drought.

Paula Getzelman says recent rain brings a deep sigh of relief. She and her husband run Tre Gatti Vineyards in Monterey County. 

Getzelman: "We were extremely nervous in 2014. The harvest was a real nail biter."

Production at Tre Gatti was down twenty percent. Getzelman says she feels luckier than some of her neighbors who were down thirty percent. 

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Drought
5:27 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

California Needs 11 Trillion Gallons Of Water To End Drought

Water scientist Jay Famiglietti
Credit UC Irvine

California needs one and a half times the maximum volume of water in Lake Mead, the largest US reservoir, to end its drought. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, NASA scientists released the finding today.

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