Agriculture

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Jovita Torres Romo lives in a grayish bungalow surrounded by cactus and succulents and strung with Christmas lights. It’s located on one of the handful of streets that make up Tombstone Territory, an unincorporated Fresno County community that’s been her home for 30 years. It’s quiet, except for the few days a week when her young grandchildren come over to watch cartoons and play in the backyard. “I like it here,” she says through a Spanish interpreter. “I raised five children here, they grew up in this house, and I like living outside the city in the county.”

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Dennis Hutson’s rows of alfalfa, melons, okra and black-eyed peas are an oasis of green in the dry terrain of Allensworth, an unincorporated community in rural Tulare County. Hutson, currently cultivating on 60 acres, has a vision for many more fields bustling with jobs. “This community will forever be impoverished and viewed by the county as a hamlet,” he says, “unless something happens that can create an economic base. That's what I'm trying to do.”

John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

We in California are depleting our groundwater aquifers faster than we can replenish them. Over the last few decades in the San Joaquin Valley, that deficit has averaged close to two million acre-feet per year, a total that was exacerbated by drought conditions that may become more common as the climate continues to change.

To help reduce this deficit, state lawmakers and Governor Brown in 2014 passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, which aims to overhaul the way growers, cities and other water users manage the resource.

On this week’s Valley Edition: When it comes to California’s overhaul of groundwater management, many small farmers are wondering: When will they get a seat at the decision making table?

Also, Bakersfield may take a different approach to the homelessness crisis by using empty jail beds to enforce drug laws. 

Plus: We dig deep into the Bakersfield Sound with a new 10-CD collection. 

Listen to those stories and more in the podcast above.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

When we talk about climate change and greenhouse gases in California, it’s tough to ignore the dairy industry: State data estimate dairies to be responsible for about 3 percent of the state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions – mostly due to burping cows and fermenting manure. Although the industry has already made some reductions to its emissions, a recent state law requires the industry to reduce its methane footprint even further over the next decade.

Valley PBS

You’ve likely seen the green California sticker with the words “My Job Depends on Ag” on cars, trucks and tractors around the Valley. Behind that slogan is a Facebook community of farmers and agricultural-enthusiasts. The movement has since inspired a television show.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A prominent Fresno family has filed a lawsuit against the Wonderful Company for breaching a contract of payment. The complaint, filed last week in the Fresno County Superior Court, alleges that the Wonderful Company, which also markets other Central Valley agricultural products, retroactively reduced the price it promised the Assemi family for pistachios delivered in 2018. 

Ezra David Romero / KVPR

Last week, the State of California took its first steps to fully ban the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos that can cause neurological problems and developmental delays in children. The ban means, however, that growers have to find alternatives for managing insects. Finding those alternatives is the goal of a new statewide group that includes members of the San Joaquin Valley agriculture community.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

This week, California lawmakers began honing in on a plan that would divert money away from high-speed rail, and instead fund transportation projects in major hubs like the Bay Area and Southern California. Los Angeles Times National Correspondent Ralph Vartabedian has been covering the bullet train’s development. He says this plan is a response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement that high-speed rail will only cover the San Joaquin Valley. 

 

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

When California adopted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, it became the last Western state to regulate its groundwater. If local groundwater agencies fail to submit plans to the state by 2020, the law says state water agencies could take over management of groundwater, a resource that’s critically important to Valley agriculture.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Vice President Mike Pence came to the Central Valley Wednesday to discuss the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. The event was part campaign rally, part policy talk. 

The speech was held at the Doug and Julie Freitas & Sons Farms in Lemoore, 40 minutes south of Fresno. It was presented by America First Policies, a right-wing non-profit group. Pence was the keynote speaker to a crowd of at least 400. 

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

As the U.S. trade war with China continues, farmers in California’s Central Valley are feeling the pinch.

Jay Mahil is one such farmer: he grows almonds in Madera, and is the fourth generation in his family to do so. He says he normally exports a lot of his crop overseas to China, but with the trade war, he and other nut growers are starting to get edged out.

“You know, some of the other countries have been capitalizing on this, especially Australia,” says Mahil.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

“Fish vs farms”: It’s the perennial tug-of-war for water between environmentalists, who want to see stable ecosystems in the Sacramento-San-Joaquin River Delta, and farmers, who feel slighted that they need to fight with endangered fish in order to irrigate their fields.

On this week’s Valley Edition: More than half of California’s olive groves are right here in the San Joaquin Valley. But Tulare County growers say that with a major olive cannery set to buy more Spanish olives, the future for olive production looks grim.   

Plus, it’s Women’s History Month. We sat down with three young, dynamic leaders to ask about the women who inspire them.

And later, we learn more about President Trump’s plans to rewrite rules that govern water allocations and infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley.  

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Farmers donning boots and stetsons, marketing-types in polos: The 2019 World Ag Expo in Tulare has a good mix of both. You’ll also find trailers that self-load hay bales, and a so-called, “rugged phablet” - that’s short for phone-tablet - that can withstand being dropped in water. And there's ag groups galore: Future Farmers of America, American Dairymen, and one called FarmHer.

Flickr user WordIslandInfo.com, license CC BY 2.0

The partial government shutdown caused all sorts of headaches for Congress, and it may have tipped the scales when it comes to support for one law that deals with water diversions to the San Joaquin Valley from the San Francisco Bay Delta.

The law is known as Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation, or the WIIN Act. It remains in place until 2021, but many lawmakers had been trying to renew it before the new Congress was sworn in earlier this month.

San Joaquin River Restoration Program

California is often at odds with the Trump administration, and the latest battleground could be in the issue of managing the state's precious water supply. At the same time the state's water board is considering major cuts to water sent to farms and cities, the Trump administration is taking its own actions. Last week the Trump administration served notice that it wants to renegotiate a 32-year-old agreement that governs how the state and federal projects operate and cooperate.

Roundup
Mike Mozart / Creative Commons / Flickr

A jury last week awarded a California man with terminal cancer $289 million dollars in a lawsuit against agri-chemical giant Monsanto. The jury agreed with plaintiff Dewayne Johnson’s claim that his exposure to the popular herbicide Roundup on the job (and its main component known as glyphosate) resulted in his non-Hodgkins lymphoma. With over $250 million in punitive damages in this one case alone, the stakes are high for Monsanto’s owner Bayer. So where does the legal fight go from here, and how does the courtroom differ from the scientific lab when determining the truth?

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

Working 11 hours shifts in corn fields in Mendota is some of the hardest work to do. Add school and immigration court to the mix and you might start losing track of the days, like one teenager who recently moved to the Valley.  

“I would wake up at 11 at night to make food and leave at about 12:15,” he says in Spanish. “We go into work at 1 a.m. and get off at noon that day.”

State Department of Water Resources

For years, farmers in the southern San Joaquin Valley have been struggling with reduced water deliveries. The problem – as they see it – has been reduced pumping out of the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta, restrictions in place to help the fragile ecosystem there recover. But species in the Delta and the rivers that feed it are still declining.

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