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In The Studio: Farming In The Age Of Climate Change

Nov 22, 2019
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The unseasonably warm and dry fall we are experiencing in the San Joaquin Valley is a reminder of the changing climate, here and around the world. In the studio, moderator Kathleen Schock explores how climate change is affecting the region’s top industry: agriculture. Her guests are Renata Brillinger who is Executive Director of the California Climate and Agriculture Network, Dr. Tapan Pathak from UC Merced, Ruth Dahlquist-Willard who is an Advisor with the UC Small Farm Program, and grape and raisin farmer Steven Cardoza.

On this week’s Valley Edition: We talk with the Fresno Police Department about the mass shooting last Sunday that left four dead and six wounded at a party in Southeast Fresno. We also visit a Hmong mini-mall and bring you a postcard of remembrances from people who knew the victims.

And we talk to kids about a father who was apprehended by Immigrant and Customs Enforcement while driving his two teenagers to school. He was then sent to a detention facility.

Ryan Jacobsen / Fresno County Farm Bureau

Monday’s heavy rain and gusty winds in the valley hurt two of the region’s largest money-making crops.

 

Fresno County is the top grower of raisins in the country, but Monday’s storm came at the worst moment for farmers growing the crop. At this time of year grapes are laid on paper trays to sun dry. Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says the full damage to the crop won’t be known for months.

 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Grapes, including raisins, are the third largest crop in California grossing almost $6 billion in 2014. To harvest the labor intensive crop it takes thousands of workers. But as Ezra David Romero reports a new raisin grape variety bred in Central California could severely decrease that need for workers.

It takes a lot of hand labor to harvest raisins, three or more rounds of pruning, quality control and picking. And to pay those workers costs a lot of money. That’s why the raisin industry is desperately searching for a way to spend less on labor creating a larger profit margin.

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.

Flickr user Mariam - http://www.flickr.com/photos/70123617@N00/ / Creative Commons license

A new crop forecast from the USDA and the California Department of Food and Agriculture indicates this year's raisin crop could be as much as 25 percent larger than last year's.

It's expected to be the largest raisin crop since 2008, at 2.4 million tons. Last year's crop was just over 1.9 million tons. Over 200,000 acres of raisin grapes are in production this year. 

Officials say that warm weather has been good for crop development, which is a few days ahead of normal.

Forget the stock market, it would appear the best investment around might be in the back of your kitchen cupboard. An ebay merchant is offering a vintage Sun-Maid raisin box for the bargain price of $700,000. As the seller says, the diminutive piece of valley agricultural memorabilia is "a small treasury for your [sic] to keep." So far there have been 57 offers, but no sale.