CIRS Blog about Rural California

Recovery in the Valley

California began to recover from the 2008-09 recession in 2012. Employment rose from 16.2 million in January 2012 to 16.5 million in November 2012, and the unemployment rate dropped from 11.3 to 9.8 percent.

In Fresno county, a bellwether for the San Joaquin Valley, the labor force was stable at 441,000 in 2012 but employment rose from 367,000 to 380,000. Fresno's unemployment rate dropped from 17 percent in January 2012 to 14 percent in October 2012.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Farm Labor

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.

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