Rural California Report
CIRS Blog about Rural California
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WASHINGTON — Merced County officials lobbying Washington this week know, in theory, the secret of getting things done on Capitol Hill.
“The process takes a long time,” Dos Palos Mayor Johnny Mays said Wednesday. “We have to keep nudging, and nudging, and nudging.”
Exhibit A: The Los Banos Bypass.
By Leah Bartos
California Health Report
In the coming year, millions of currently uninsured Californians will gain coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act — but that does not necessarily mean it will be any easier for them to see a doctor.
As the state prepares for the expected onslaught of newly insured patients, health-care professionals are warning there may not be enough doctors — particularly, those practicing primary care — to meet the increased demand. Some say that the problem will be even more amplified in rural California, which already suffers a physician shortage and dwindling workforce, as the majority of rural physicians nears retirement and recruitment of new doctors lags in replacing them.
This press release was issued by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
SACRAMENTO, CA (February 19, 2013)
On Friday, February 15, 2013, Judge Perantoni of the Riverside County Superior Court, after learning that RBI Packing, LLC of Mecca, California fired approximately 55 farm workers, ordered RBI to stop discriminating against its employees on the basis of their union activity and to offer them priority in hiring for all agricultural jobs at the company’s Blythe-based lemon ranch.
In many people's experience, California consists of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and the highways that connect them. In reality these urban centers make up only a fraction of the whole; according to the 2010 Census, geographically the state of California is more than 94 percent rural. Surprise Valley, Lost Hills, Raisin City, Mecca—these are the communities that make up "the rest" of California.
(Curtis Silk Farms, Gathering Mulberry Leaves, Curtis Silk Farms, Los Angeles, California, ca. 1907 Courtesy of the California Historical Society)
Originally posted on the New America Media website on Jan. 23, 2013.
Editor’s Note: There are an estimated 600,000 crop workers, and an additional 20,000 livestock workers, in California at any given time. Theirs are physically demanding jobs that carry a high risk of occupational injury – yet the vast majority of these workers lack health insurance. That could change in 2014 when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, although significant barriers will need to be overcome between now and then, if most farmworkers are to benefit. Don Villarejo has worked for more than three decades as a researcher and advocate on behalf of California farmworkers, and has authored major studies on farmworker health in the state. He recently spoke to New America Media editor Jacob Simas.
The future outlook for agriculture is bright. Food production will have to roughly double by 2050 in order to meet population projections. And if we look where much of that growth is expected to occur–Asia–we know that California farmers and ranchers will have an excellent opportunity to meet the new demand. But there will be challenges, too, as increased food production will have to occur with diminishing arable land suitable for farming, pressures on water quality and availability, potential shortages of mineral inputs, and climate change.
In November, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply released a report entitled From Storage to Retention: Expanding California’s Options for Meeting Its Water Needs. The report argues for an expansion of approaches to storing water that increase supply reliability for specialty crop agricultural production and other beneficial uses while protecting ecosystem health.
This post is from Rural Migration News, a publication of rural issues at the University of California at Davis. Rural Migration News summarizes and analyzes the most important migration-related issues affecting immigrant farm workers in the California and the United States during the preceding quarter. This post focuses on labor shortages, and is from the October 2012 issue.
California farmers reported labor shortages in summer and fall 2012. FLC Brad Goehring in San Joaquin county said 2012 is "the worst year that I've ever experienced in labor," with 40 percent fewer workers than desired. Some coastal strawberry growers reported that workers who can earn more harvesting tree fruit are leaving for the San Joaquin Valley, forcing them to scramble for pickers who are quick to jump to other growers who offer higher piece rates or better yields.
Farmer comments demonstrated weak links to seasonal workers. Peach farmers around Marysville, California in July 2012 said: "Usually, each year the migrant workers show up. This year we keep thinking maybe they'll show up tonight, maybe they'll be here tomorrow morning. Nobody's really showing up yet." Growers of cling peaches that are often canned typically pay $16 to $20 per 1,000 pound bin to pick peaches, and say that a "good worker" can pick five to seven bins a day.
WASHINGTON — Dissident raisin farmers from California’s San Joaquin Valley and their ideological allies will get a shot at attacking a federal farm program, under a case that the U.S. Supreme Court accepted Tuesday.
Bucking the odds, Fresno-area farmers Marvin and Laura Horne succeeded in convincing the high court to hear their challenge to federal handling of the raisin industry. Though the legal questions are complicated, the real-world stakes add up.
Interviews with female farm workers were conducted by Vallerye Mosquera and Luis Magana in 2011. The stories below were excerpted from three of these interviews and edited by Gail Wadsworth for posting here.
The Great Valley Center released a report on the air, land and water in the San Joaquin Valley in July 2012 that emphasized the need to further improve air quality, preserve and enlarge water resources, and adopt green technologies to support sustainable San Joaquin Valley growth. San Joaquin Valley air quality is improving, but the "easy" or less costly reductions in emissions have already been made.
The report analyzed grant programs that subsidized the replacement of older cars and tractors with newer ones, but did not analyze whether subsidized replacement programs were the best way to use limited tax monies to improve San Joaquin Valley air quality.
On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments that could affect farmers near the San Joaquin River. Michael Doyle has the story, and what the broader implications are for farmers in the Central Valley. The article was originally published Wednesday on the McClatchy Newspapers website.
This article was originally published on Aug. 9 on the McClatchy Newspapers website.
WASHINGTON — A major fertilizer producer from California’s San Joaquin Valley who pleaded guilty to fraud charges this week ran into what appears to be a newly aggressive federal effort to crack down on organic-farming cheaters.
Once one of the largest organic-fertilizer operators in the Western United States, Bakersfield resident Kenneth Noel Nelson Jr. faces prison time and a big fine after his guilty plea to four counts of mail fraud. The 59-year-old businessman will be sentenced in early November.
Despite the most stringent regulations in the U.S., agricultural workers in California continue to die from heat related illness, a preventable outcome, and are at higher risk than other workers exposed to hot environments. The search for effective and feasible solutions must involve diverse approaches appropriate for hired farm workers.
A current research project titled, “Reducing the risk of heat-related illness in western agricultural workers” brings together investigators from medicine, epidemiology, public health, physiology, rural sociology and community outreach and education. The group’s goal is to obtain novel data on internal body temperature as it relates to crop type and geography, external heat, and internal metabolic loading.
This long-term collaborative research project between the University of California Western Center for Agricultural Worker Health and Safety and the California Institute for Rural Studies will gather behavioral, physiological and environmental data from California agricultural workers and environments that will allow us to assess vulnerability to heat related illness, provide the methodology to test potential strategies in the fields, and disseminate results to stakeholders. The project employs innovative techniques for both understanding and evaluating potential solutions to reduce the risk of heat related illness in varied agricultural settings.
California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) http://www.crla.org/ created Rural Justice Forums in response to a need for further evidence and literature to support many of the issues CRLA staff witness in the field every day. CRLA attorney, Ilene Jacobs, Director of Litigation, Advocacy and Training, saw a lack of research and analysis of an underlying problem demonstrated by her cases: that living in some of the worst housing conditions in the United States has a severe impact on the physical and mental health of California farmworkers.
“Farmworkers and their families in rural California and throughout this country often are forced to live in the most despicable and challenging conditions. They sleep in onion fields, live in caves dug into canyons bathe in irrigation ditches, huddle under tarps or find refuge in cars, tool sheds, barns and in river banks, face rent gouging for substandard and dangerous housing units, rent rooms, in dilapidated old motels, face housing discrimination because of who they are, what they look like or they language they speak, and suffer retaliatory eviction and firing should they have the temerity to complain about such third world conditions in the richest nation in the world.”
The state will begin sending out bills for fire protection this month to nearly a million rural California households, including nearly 30,000 in the central San Joaquin Valley.
The fee, up to $150 per home, comes a year after the Legislature approved the charge as a way to offset the growing expense of firefighting.
The state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has seen its budget slashed in recent years despite California wildfires becoming increasingly menacing and more homes put in jeopardy.
But even as the first-time bills make their way to rural mailboxes, concerns about the new fire fee persist.
Many residents aren't expecting the invoice and either won't be prepared to make the payment or will dismiss it as junk mail, critics say. Meanwhile, anti-tax groups continue to denounce the fee as illegal and threaten court action.
The shortage of farm labor is an issue that California farmers have complained about this summer. Leaders from the California Farm Bureau said, “farmers are telling us that the workers they usually see in the spring just didn't show up this year. We're just not seeing the number of people we (usually) see this time of year."
Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League predicted that labor shortages could reach 80,000 of the peak of 250,000 workers that are employed in California's San Joaquin Valley, which Cunha says is similar to the "worker shortage" of 1998. Cunha said that many farmworker crews were 10 to 15 percent smaller than the usual 20 to 30 workers.
There are many issues related to California’s Central Valley that have been in the news recently. Topics such as social justice, farmworker health and labor conditions, immigration and its role in labor fluctuations/shortages, how pesticides are affecting drainwater and the health of people and animals living in the Valley and the ability of lawmakers to shift the future of agriculture in the country. This post is a collection of these issues. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to learn more about a topic you were unaware of, or a chance to learn more about issues currently influencing the region.
"Valley of Shadows and Dreams" documents the conflicting reality for people living in California's Central Valley. Photographer Ken Light and author Melanie Light began the project in 2006, during the housing boom that swept through the region, and their reporting continued throughout the recent economic crisis that is still affecting millions of people in the state. The Lights uncover the experiences of the often forgotten people who work and live in the valley and their pursuit of the California Dream. The Rural California Report interviewed Ken and Melanie Light about their project.
(Image by Ken Light)
Valley of Shadows & Dreams, Heyday, 2012
Photographs By Ken Light & Text by Melanie Light
Forward by Thomas Steinbeck