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Ezra David Romero

Despite the ramifications of this four year drought Fresno County announced today/Monday that its farming value for 2014 increased over nine percent. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

The lack of rain and snow has made it a tough few years on farmers, but according to the Fresno County Department of Agriculture 2014 Crop and Livestock Report the county’s gross value has increased from around $6.5 billion to just over $7 billion. Although, the increase doesn’t necessarily mean farmers are making more money.

Ryan Jacobsen is the Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO.

Drought Causing $2.7 Billion Economic Hit To California

Aug 18, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A new UC Davis study projects the fourth year of drought in California will cost the overall economy two-point-seven billion dollars. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the study’s authors say agriculture remains remarkably resilient despite the drought.

The report finds the agricultural sector will be hit hardest by the drought, losing nearly two billion dollars and more than 10,000 jobs. Farmers will also take 500,000 acres out of production this year. But the report finds agriculture is still fairly robust. 

Susie Wyshack / Creative Commons

The effects of drought have altered the quantity and quality of vegetables grown in Central California, but that may change for table olives. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

The majority of olive trees are self-pollinating. If there’s a storm during bloom time the rain washes off pollen from the flowers resulting in fewer olives come harvest. That’s what happened in 2013 and 2014. But this year weather conditions were so ideal that California’s crop is predicted to double from 36,000 tons to 67,000 tons.

Funding Targets Farmworkers Hurt By The Drought

Jul 27, 2015
CA Dept of Water Resources

New state and federal funding will provide relief for farmworkers hurt by California's drought. The US Department of Labor is providing 18 million dollars, and the state is providing 7.5 million dollars. Lesley McClurg in Sacramento has more.

An estimated 18,000 people have lost their jobs because of the drought -- most of them in the Central Valley.

Marco Lizarrga: "What we call the ground zero of the drought. Mendotta and Firebaugh and those little farm towns that are the sources of the cantaloupes and the sources of other products have been heavily impacted."

Valley Citrus Growers Feeling More Pain As Drought Drags On

Jul 23, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Citrus growers in the Central Valley say fewer trees are producing fruit, so the price of citrus could increase at the grocery store.  But, farmers' costs have skyrocketed because of the drought.

Zack Stuller is a grower in Exeter. He says he hasn't received water from the Central Valley Water Project in two years.

He has spent $2,000 an acre foot for water from distant agencies and  $70,000 to dig a well for six-acres of lemons.

Apps Help Farmers With Efficiency During The Drought

Jul 16, 2015

More and more California growers are using smartphone apps to streamline their farming operations. Capital Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg has more.  

Anne Burkholder is a soil scientist. She's standing in an alfalfa field in Davis that has an unusual large dead patch in the middle of it.

Burkholder: “Basically the alfalfa is maybe five inches tall, and it's really yellow right here where we’re walking, it’s crunchy and yellow, you can kind of even hear it.”

Fresno Food Expo

The fifth annual Fresno Food Expo is just weeks away and companies Valley wide are excited to showcase new products. Exhibitors from across the region revealed new items Wednesday evening for a taste, tally and tweet event at the Saroyan Theater in Downtown Fresno.

Valley Public Radio's Ezra David Romero went to the event and found three products that he says would be a shame to miss at the Fresno Food Expo July 22 and 23 in Downtown Fresno. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Electricity rates will be going up for some Californians. The California Public Utilities Commission approved a new rate structure Friday.

The commission unanimously voted to move from a from a four tier system to two tier system for electricity rates by 2019. That means low-use customers may start paying more, while customers in higher tiers may see a reduction in their bills. An additional surcharge for high-use customers will be introduced in 2017. 

http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/

In recent months, the valley's agriculture industry has been thrust into the national headlines, largely over the debate over how much water farmers use to grow crops. Critics say farmers use 80 percent of the water used by people in California. However farmers say that number is misleading, pointing out they actually use only 40 percent of the state's total water supply, where about 50 percent is set aside for environmental uses.

Most conventional and organic farmers rely on insecticides to kill pests. But, new research shows that a compound in fruit may be a good natural alternative to repel bugs. Lesley McClurg in Sacramento has the story.

Anandasankar Ray is an entomology professor at UC Riverside.

He recently studied how butyl anthranilate keeps fruit flies away from blueberries.

The natural compound smells like grapes. It's found in low concentrations in several types of fruit. It’s commonly used as a flavor and fragrance additive.

The top attorney at California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board has a new job. On Wednesday Governor Jerry Brown appointed  Sylvia Torres-Guillen to a new job as special counsel in his office.

Torres-Guillen had served as general counsel for the ALRB since 2011. In recent years the board has been at the center of controversy over a case involving Fresno’s Gerawan Farming and the United Farm Workers union, including a disputed 2013 decertification election.

Flickr user Matt Grant - https://www.flickr.com/photos/gr8matt/4041717588/ / Creative Commons

One of the most popular tourist attractions on California’s Central Coast has been closed due to structural safety concerns. FM89’s Jason Scott reports on what is being done to repair the attraction and how the closure will impact tourism along the central coast.

The Avila Beach pier was closed to the public on Friday because of structural concerns regarding the maximum weight capacity. The closure was prompted in part due to an increasing number of people who have flocked to the pier in recent days to see some humpback whales feed.

Is California's Animal Welfare Law Creating Better Conditions?

Jun 22, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

In 2008, Californians passed a law by a two-thirds majority to give egg-laying hens more space to move around. Farmers have had the last seven years to comply. Proposition 2 (the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act) went into effect this January. 

Farmer Frank Hilliker was against Proposition 2 from the beginning. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to stay in business when the law passed.

But, the long time egg producer has come around.

Why The Price Of Eggs Is Skyrocketing

Jun 22, 2015
Creative Commons - Flickr user geishabot

Egg prices have soared this spring for a lot of reasons. Lesley McClurg breaks down why you’re paying more. 

The cheapest price for a dozen conventional eggs is $3.50 at Raley’s in Sacramento. 

That’s about 75 cents more than the national average – which is at a record high $2.62. 

So, what’s driving the premium on California eggs?

First, there’s the drought. John Segale is with the Association for California Egg Farmers. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court is ruling in favor of a Fresno raisin farmer that it is unconstitutional for a government-backed agricultural board to claim control of a third of his crop.

The ruling is a blow against a program that authorizes growers to join together to prop up market prices.

The justices say the scheme violates the Fifth Amendment by allowing the government to take the raisins without providing just compensation. The court ruled that, just like land, raisin growers must be compensated for any product taken by the government.

From Oranges to Grapes, California Drought Changes What's Grown

Jun 18, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Water scarcity is driving farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable -- less thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Nowhere is this more true than San Diego County where the water prices are some of the highest in the state.

Billowing orange and grapefruit trees shade Triple B Ranches winery and vineyard near Escondido. The rural setting is quaint and bucolic. The tasting room is a converted kitchen festooned with country knickknacks.

17th Place Townhomes

Downtown Bakersfield is about to get another new housing development. Officials including Mayor Harvey Hall are celebrating the groundbreaking of the 17th Place Townhomes. 

Project manager Austin Smith says the 3 story,  44-unit complex is the first market rate luxury housing development in downtown Bakersfield in years. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The National Park Service announced Wednesday that Yosemite Hospitality, LLC, a subsidiary of Aramark, will receive a 15-year contract for visitor services in the park. Park officials say the deal is valued at $2 billion in gross revenues over the life of the contract. 

Park spokesperson Scott Gediman says while changes in concessions are common in other national parks, this deal is unique.

Gediman: "This is the largest single concession operation in the National Park System."

Mercy for Animals

An animal welfare group has released what it claims is disturbing video of mistreatment of animals at a central valley slaughter house and chicken farm.

The group, Mercy for Animals, used undercover investigators to film the treatment of chickens at two Foster Farms chicken farms and a slaughterhouse in Fresno County.

What they found, says Matt Rice with Mercy for Animals, is horrific abuse of the chickens at both the farm and the slaughter house.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

It’s been nearly six months since officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking for California’s high speed rail project in Fresno. But as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports construction crews Tuesday started building the project’s first bridge in Madera.

After months of underground work, it’s the obvious sign of construction on California’s $68-billion bullet train project.  Over the next eight to 10 months crews will assemble the viaduct over the Fresno River and Highway 145.

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