Agriculture

Back in 2010, the city of Irwindale was so excited to lure the factory that makes Sriracha hot sauce to their area, they helped finance the $40 million project.

But earlier this month that same city council designated this once desired business as a public nuisance, over complaints from residents about spicy odors and burning eyes.

Sriracha sauce creator David Tran is now being peppered with offers to relocate his plant to other states and counties, including the San Joaquin Valley. The move could create hundreds of jobs and bolster the local economy.

America’s farmers are dying. But it’s not just because they’re aging. In 1978 the average age of the American farmer was 50, today it’s around 58. But there’s another even more troubling issue facing those who grow our food -  farmers taking their own lives.

On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Cove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gather on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart.

One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.

If there is no water, there's no work, he says in Spanish.

Cannon Michael runs an 11,000-acre farm in California's Central Valley. His family has been farming in the state for six generations.

Michael's multimillion-dollar operation usually provides a wealth of crops including tomatoes, onions and melons. But recently, he's pretty pessimistic about work.

"It is going to be a year that's probably, at best, maybe break even. Or maybe lose some money," Michael tells NPR's Arun Rath.

Spring Rain And Snow Mean Increased Water Allocations

Apr 18, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Rain and snow may not have pushed California out of its drought, but the late season precipitation will mean a little more water for State Water Project users. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, there

At a recent rally in Fresno County, Calif., farmers in plaid shirts stood side by side with migrant farmworkers in ball caps, holding signs that read "sin agua, no futuro" and "no water, no food." Fresno is the top agriculture-producing county in the U.S., with more than $6 billion in annual sales.

Protesters argued that farms could go out of business without more water, and there would be mass layoffs. That rhetoric may be familiar, but the two groups' alliance is decidedly unusual.

Drought Operation Plan For Two Water Projects Released

Apr 10, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California and federal agencies released a plan Wednesday about how they’ll operate the state and federal water projects during the drought. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the plan does not change water allocations.

The operations plan provides a guideline of how the two water systems will deal with the drought from now until November.  It looks at two different scenarios. One assumes much drier conditions than the other. Maria Rea with the National Marine Fisheries Service says under both scenarios winter-run Chinook salmon are at risk.

California Bill Would Mandate Paid Rest Breaks for Farm Workers

Mar 31, 2014
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Paid rest breaks would become mandatory for farm workers and other outdoor workers under a bill now in the California legislature. The measure is an attempt to prevent heat related illnesses. From Sacramento, Max Pringle reports.

People who work outdoors are susceptible to dizziness, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be fatal. Nicole Marquez with the advocacy group Worksafe says farm workers are commonly paid based on how much they pick.

PPIC Survey: Support For California Water Bond Increases

Mar 27, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

According to a new survey, most Californians now support an $11 billion water bond measure on the November ballot. The support levels increase for water bond proposals at lesser amounts. From Sacramento, Max Pringle reports.

A year ago, only 44 percent of California adults and 42 percent of likely voters supported the water bond measure. Now the percentages are 60 percent for adults and half of likely voters. Mark Baldasarre is with the Public Policy Institute of California, which conducted the poll.

Charismatic,  controversial, courageous and complicated. Those are just a few words that could sum up the life of the late civil rights leader and farm labor activist Cesar Chavez. Now over 20 years after his death, a new biography seeks to provide fresh insight into a man who is an inspiration for millions. The book is called “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez” by Miriam Pawel, who joined us on Valley Edition to talk about Chavez the man and Chavez the myth. 

Twitter / Asm. Susan Talamantes Eggman / https://twitter.com/AsmSusanEggman/

Go to a rural high school in Central California, and one of the most popular extra-curricular programs will be FFA – Future Farmers of America. But now the people who run those programs say their future is threatened in Governor Brown’s new budget.

It’s all part of a big change to the way school districts get their money from Sacramento – the Local Control Funding Formula. In general it’s been good news for schools up and down the valley, as it redirects more money to districts with high populations of low-income families, English learners and foster youth.

Cesar Chavez Foundation

In October 1993, the Fresno City Council voted to rename three city streets - Kings Canyon, Ventura and California - in honor of the late farm labor activist Cesar Chavez. The move was part of a campaign by local Latino groups who sought to honor the UFW founder, who had died earlier that year. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

 California is in the midst of one of the driest years on record and with over a third of the Central Valley’s jobs tied to agriculture and hundreds of thousands of acres going fallow leaders in the region are expecting ag jobs to be few and far between. FM89 reporter Ezra David Romero reports from one west side Valley town that is already feeling the pinch.

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California Students Rally At Capitol For Agricultural Education Funding

Mar 19, 2014
Twitter / Asm. Susan Talamantes Eggman / https://twitter.com/AsmSusanEggman/

As part of the annual “Ag Day” celebration at the state Capitol, Future Farmers of America students from around California rallied Wednesday in support of agricultural education programs. From Sacramento, Max Pringle reports.

With the state suffering through its worst ever drought, Jim Aschwanden with the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, says only well trained Ag workers will be able to meet the industry’s future challenges.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The House Natural Resources Committee took up the issue of water for San Joaquin Valley farmers today before a packed gallery at Fresno City Hall. 

The Republican-led committee heard testimony from local growers and water managers on both short and long-term responses to California's drought and cuts to agricultural water deliveries south of the Delta. 

Drought May Hurt School Attendance in Central Valley

Mar 18, 2014
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Declining school attendance may be the latest side-effect of California’s punishing drought. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction will visit the Central Valley Wednesday to talk about the problem.

School attendance may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the impact of the drought on California. But it is affected. Less water means fewer crops, which means fewer farm jobs. And when the jobs disappear, families of migrant workers move on, taking their school age children with them.

Joe Moore

The area around Los Banos isn't just a stopover for valley travelers along Highway 152 who are headed for the Central Coast. It's also a vital rest stop for millions of birds from across North America on the Pacific Flyway.

Ric Ortega: "If you come out here, you really don't see it all off of any of the major highways. But here we have something that definitely at least from an ecological perspective is equivalent to Yosemite Valley."

Report: California's Water System Needs Better Funding

Mar 12, 2014
CA Dept of Water Resources

A new report says California would need an additional two to three billion dollars every year to fill gaps where funding is needed for managing the state’s water. From Sacramento, Amy Quinton has more on the latest Public Policy Institute of California report.

New Report: California Groundwater Crisis Looming

Mar 11, 2014
California Department of Water Resources

Groundwater supplies are at an all-time low in both the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, management of that dwindling supply was the focus of debate at the state Capitol.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office told lawmakers that without comprehensive statewide regulation of groundwater, management of the state’s water supply will be increasingly difficult. The LAO suggests the state require local water districts to phase in groundwater permitting and keep track of how much water is extracted from all groundwater wells.

California's water wars are nothing new. But Firebaugh-based filmaker Juan Carlos Oseguera says the current struggle over water cutbacks to westside growers is truly a "fight." His new feature-length documentary film, titled "A Fight For Water" seeks to tell the story of the communities in the San Joaquin Valley who were hit hard by water cutbacks in 2009 due to environmental restrictions on delta pumping. 

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