Agriculture

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Despite the worst drought in recent memory, Central California's table grape growers enjoyed a record crop in 2014.

According to numbers released Friday by the California Table Grape Commission, last year's crop was worth $1.76 billion, an all time value record. In terms of volume, it was the second largest crop in history, at 110 million boxes.

In a press release, Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission said exports topped 44.5 million boxes.

Despite Drought, Some Experts Say It's Too Soon For Drastic Measures

Mar 11, 2015
CA Dept of Water Resources

As the California drought wears on, it might seem like more creative solutions are in order. But as Capital Public Radio’s Katie Orr found out it might not yet be time for drastic measures. 

Here in California it can be frustrating to see the East Coast and Midwest buried in snow while the west remains bone dry. But the news can be hard to avoid. 

Snow piling up so high, cities are struggling to get rid of it, while the west remains stormless. Seems like a waste. Surly there’s a way some of that extra snow can be moved to where it’s needed.

Almond Board of California

California’s almond orchards are turning from white to green this week as millions of blossoms fall, marking the end of this year’s bloom. But for one valley almond grower, work with the bees that make it all possible has just begun. FM89’s Joe Moore reports.

You probably know Paramount Farms from their brands like Wonderful Pistachios and POM Wonderful. Now the world’s largest grower of almonds and pistachios is adding a new product to that portfolio – something they call Wonderful Bees.

Valley Farmers Face Second Year With No Federal Water Allocation

Feb 27, 2015
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The US Bureau of Reclamation says most farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will face a second year with no water from the Central Valley Project.

Ron Milligan is Operations Manager for the CVP. He says low reservoir storage is only part of the reason for the “zero allocation”.

Milligan:  “We’ve accumulated probably less than average snow for the month of February so we anticipate unfortunately the March 1 snow surveys are going to be probably even less fruitful then they were in February.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The labor conflict that has clogged west coast ports in recent weeks has the Valley’s citrus industry on edge. FM 89’s Jason Scott reports.

Agricultural products from the Valley that should be making their way to countries like China, Japan, and Australia are sitting on the docks of west coast ports due to a labor dispute. While the ports reopened Tuesday, their shutdown over the weekend has caused a slowdown that has growers worried.

California Ranchers Are Bouncing Back, But Still Feel Effects of Drought

Feb 17, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California ranchers are bouncing back after the drought forced many of them to sell their livestock last winter. The lack of rain stopped the grass from growing, and buying enough feed became too costly.  

This year, Capital Public Radio's Amy Quinton returned to the ranches she visited in 2014 to see how they’re doing and filed this report.

Jim Gates owns Nevada County Free Range Beef and was hit hard by the drought last year. 

This week on Valley Edition reporter Ezra David Romero visits the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif. We are also joined by Valley farmer Paul Betancourt who talks about the state of agriculture in the region.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Fashion is a high dollar business, with million dollar runway shows across the globe. This year at the largest agricultural expo, the world of farming is borrowing an idea from the fashion industry, with a special show of its own. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

I’m in the front row of a fashion show unlike any other.  Bright lights, models and a catwalk are replaced by blue skies, tractors and a dirt arena.

The World Ag Expo began its three day run in Tulare on Tuesday. FM89's Ezra David Romero says this year's show has a focus on drones, robotic technology and apps for the farm. 

California Legislature Wants Oversight On Water Bond Money

Feb 9, 2015
John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

California voters have approved spending billions of dollars on water management projects. But some lawmakers are worried about where the money will go. They’ll hold two oversight hearings this week. 

In total, California has $7.5 billion in bond revenue to work with. Most will be allocated to state departments through the budget process.

Democrat Mark Levine chairs the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee, which will hold an oversight hearing on the bond. Levine says the state should be cautious.

Central Valley Gets Millions For Drought Relief

Feb 6, 2015
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.

Research Project Will Help Scientists Understand Major California Storms

Feb 4, 2015
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.

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.

January Snow Survey In California "Dismally Meager"

Jan 31, 2015
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.”

Study: California Pesticde Assements Thorough, Slow

Jan 23, 2015
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.

Robots Could Be Headed To Central Valley Farms

Jan 23, 2015
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. 

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.

California Farmers Turn Sugar Beets Into Energy

Jan 22, 2015
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."

New Grant Aims To Help Save Valley's Tricolored Blackbird

Jan 21, 2015
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.

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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