Agriculture and Food

April 16, 2007

Asian supermarket in Chino Hills spurs minor protest

The opening of a “Ranch 99″ supermarket in Chino Hills has sparked a minor protest, but seems to have fizzled out and the protesters have found little support among community leaders:

the demographic shift has proved unsettling for some in this upscale San Bernardino County town, and that tension surfaced when a major Asian grocery chain, 99 Ranch Market, announced plans for a Chino Hills store. The Chino Hills City Council heard an outcry from a small group of residents, including one who wrote that he didn’t want to see “little Chinatowns all over the Hills” filled with Asian signs he can’t read.

The skirmish mirrors clashes in the San Gabriel Valley in the 1980s when Asian immigrants moved into the traditionally white and Latino suburbs. When a wave of Asian businesses followed, city officials in Monterey Park tried unsuccessfully to pass English-only ordinances, arguing that Chinese-language business signs would confuse firefighters and emergency workers.

Larry Blugrind of Chino Hills told the City Council in a letter that the store would ‘result in a run-down center that is the equivalent of a Chinese Pic ‘N’ Save less than a mile from the kind of high-quality shops our city has been trying to attract to this area.’ Reached by telephone, Blugrind explained that he enjoyed having a diverse community — his daughter-in-law is Japanese.

“My worry is that 99 Ranch could be a steppingstone for it to become all Asian,” he said. “I don’t want another Hacienda Heights.”

In Chino Hills, the City Council has no say in whether Tawa Supermarkets Inc. can open a 99 Ranch Market. The store is moving into a space formerly occupied by a Ralphs supermarket. It’s a simple case of one grocery store taking over for another, said Mayor Gwenn Norton-Perry. ‘It’s an approved use, and we as a city have no purview over this. That’s the bottom line’” Norton-Perry said….

From 2000 to 2005, the city of 81,000 saw its Asian population jump from 22% to 39%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent survey. Of those, 10,316 were Filipino and 7,752 were Chinese. Asian Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese and Japanese constitute most of the remaining Asian Americans. The Asian influx has already had an effect on some public services: The Chino Hills library stocks books written in Chinese, Korean and Japanese…

As for the sign, ‘We can tell them we prefer signs to be in English only, but we can’t require it,’ Norton-Perry said. Still, some say the spat is much ado about nothing. ‘Last I remember, the words ’99 Ranch’ were in English,’ said Don Nakanishi, director of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center. ‘You have El Pollo Loco,’ he said, referring to the popular Mexican restaurant chain. ‘Nobody’s telling them to translate that.’

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April 11, 2007

UC Davis gets $2M for produce safety

“A produce trade association announced it has pledged $2 million to fund a research center at the University of California, Davis dedicated to reducing food-borne illnesses in fresh vegetables and fruits. The Center for Produce Safety will be housed within UC Davis’ existing Western Institute for Food Safety and Security and distribute research grants to scientists from around the country, said Jerry Gillespie, the institute’s founding director. ‘This is a major step forward as far as industry stepping up and providing funds for scientific research,’ Gillespie said Monday. The move by the Produce Marketing Association, which has offices in Delaware and California, follows the nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to California-grown spinach that resulted in the deaths of three people last summer. Bryan Silbermann, the association’s president, said another trade group has promised to provide funds for the center, and that federal and state government officials would be among those deciding how to divide the research money. ‘We want to see this as an ongoing, world-class center of research and a clearinghouse of research,’ said Silbermann, who declined to name the second group before the official announcement planned for Wednesday.”

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April 4, 2007

U.S. Wine Exports Surge 30 Percent in 2006, Led by California

“U.S. wine exports, mostly from California, soared 30 percent in value and 4 percent in volume last year, after slipping in 2005, according to a new study of Commerce Department data by the Wine Institute trade group. Exports rose to $876 million and 404.5 million liters last year, with California generating 95 percent of the total. In Europe, where the U.S. makes more than half of its foreign sales, exports surged 48 percent by value. In Canada, they increased 29 percent. ‘This dramatic sales growth in 2006 must be placed in perspective, as it does follow a decrease in 2005,’ says Joseph Rollo, director of the international department at the Wine Institute, which represents more than 1,000 California wineries and related businesses. `Nonetheless, the long-term trend of California wine exports shows steady expansion in all major markets and growth in new, undeveloped markets. The 2006 number represents a 106 percent increase in exports by value in the last decade.’ The growth is particularly encouraging because Europe has long had a protected wine industry, with tariffs that can run 2 1/2 times the U.S. rate. `The export growth is impressive considering the trade barriers that California wineries face in markets worldwide,’ Rollo said in a phone interview, `where they have distribution restrictions and the wineries receive production subsidies from their governments’. “

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USDA Files Complaints Against Two California Almond Handlers

“Two California almond handlers, International Almond Exchange, Inc., and Global Nuts, LLC, have been charged with willfully violating the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 and various provisions of the federal marketing order regulating almonds grown in California. USDA filed complaints alleging that International Almond Exchange and Global Nuts failed to pay assessments for crop years 2002 to 2006. The complaints also include counts of failure to dispose of inedible almonds and failure to file reports. USDA is seeking full payment of all assessments due.”

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April 3, 2007

Brunton Vineyards signs Letter of Intent for wine distribution in China

Brunton Vineyards, Inc., a division of Brunton Vineyards Holdings, Inc. announced that it has received a Letter of Intent from Zhejiang Ouhai International Trade Corporation for the distribution and delivery of a minimum of 1,200 containers per year of the company’s wine brand, Addison Cole. The proposed transaction translates to approximately 1,000,000 cases of wine for the year, with an approximate annual contract value of $80,000,000. The first purchase order is scheduled to be received by mid to late April 2007, once details are finalized pertaining to label design and compliance specific to the Chinese market.

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March 23, 2007

Irvine Foundation gives $250,000 to help farmworkers

“The James Irvine Foundation said Thursday it gave $250,000 to four community groups to help the state’s farmworkers. The San Francisco foundation gave the money to help workers who have lost jobs because of a crop freeze in January. The Irvine Foundation gave $75,000 each to the Ventura County Community Foundation; the Desert Community Foundation, which is based in Palm Desert; and the United Way of Tulare County. It also gave $25,000 to the Community Foundation for Monterey County.”

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March 15, 2007

California wine exports up

The Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal reports that wine sales are up: “U.S. wine exports, 95 percent from California, totaled $876 million and 404.5 million liters in 2006, an increase of 30 percent in value and 4 percent in volume compared to 2005, according to the Wine Institute International Department… ‘The dramatic sales growth in 2006 must be placed in perspective as it follows a decrease in 2005 compared to the 2004 shipments,’ said Joseph Rollo, Director of the Wine Institute International Department, in a news release. ‘Nonetheless, the long-term trend of California wine exports shows steady expansion in all major markets and growth in new, undeveloped markets. The 2006 number represents a 59 percent increase in exports by value in the last decade’.”

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March 14, 2007

White House issuing disaster declaration for California citrus freeze

“President George W. Bush is issuing a disaster declaration for California counties hurt by the January deep freeze that caused some $1.2 billion (€910 million) in crop losses, Sen. Barbara Boxer said. The declaration will allow farmers affected by the freeze that wiped out citrus and other crops to apply for disaster unemployment insurance, commodities and other help. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and congressional representatives had written to the White House repeatedly to ask for the declaration. Administration officials confirmed to Boxer on Tuesday that it was being issued. The five-night freeze was the most extensive the state had experienced since 1947, according to Boxer and Feinstein, and affected crops for 500 miles (804 kilometers) through the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, the Central Coast and Southern California.”

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Bay Area entrepreneurs buy Australian wine importer

“Mitch Clark and Jim Buckley, two Bay Area wine industry veterans with links to both Robert and Michael Mondavi, have purchased Scott Street Portfolio Inc., a wine importing company previously owned by Australia’s Evans & Tate Wine Group… The new owners are renaming the company Avanti Fine Wine Selections LLC. They also plan to expand its scope to include fine wines from California, Oregon, Washington and imports from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria and South Africa, in addition to Australia.”

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March 13, 2007

Wine Institute asks for trade talks with India

“The Wine Institute, which represents more than 1,000 California wineries and related businesses, said Friday it strongly supports a request by U.S. trade representatives for World Trade Organization-sponsored talks to reduce what it called India’s ‘prohibitive duties’ on U.S. wines and distilled spirits. The San Francisco-based wine industry trade association wants the WTO to set up dispute-settlement talks to resolve the disagreement. India, with a population of more than 1 billion people and a rapidly growing economy, is becoming an increasingly important market for international wines and spirits producers, including those from California and the United States. But producers complain that it imposes several layers of additional duties on imports of wine and distilled spirits beyond basic customs duties.”

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March 8, 2007

Agricultural equipment sales employ 7,000 Californians

From selling irrigation pumps to tractors, agricultural equipment sales provide jobs to nearly 7,000 Californians, according to a report commissioned by farm-equipment manufacturers…. For California, employment in the wholesale distribution of agricultural machinery and equipment accounted for 0.05 percent of total statewide employment, 0.99 percent of statewide wholesale distribution employment, and 1.94 percent of statewide durable goods wholesale distribution employment, says Global Insight Inc., the firm that compiled the report”. The full report can be found at this link:

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March 7, 2007

Ernest Gallo, California Wine Magnate, Is Dead at 97

“Ernest Gallo, whose pioneering use of advertising helped develop the U.S. mass market for wine and built the family-owned E&J Gallo Winery into the largest U.S. maker, died this afternoon of natural causes at his home in Modesto, California. ‘The American wine industry, particularly the California wine industry, owes an enormous amount of gratitude to the Gallo brothers,’ Robert Koch, president of trade group Wine Institute, said in a statement. As chairman of the company, Ernest Gallo worked until his mid-90s, although he passed his duties as chief executive office to his son, Joseph E. Gallo, in 2001. The company ranks as the second-largest wine company in the world after Constellation Brands Inc., selling 65 million to 70 million cases each year in more than 90 countries. Although Joseph E. Gallo spearheaded the global expansion, he spoke deferentially of his father’s business skills… Ernest Gallo was born March 18, 1909, in Jackson, California, 125 miles east of San Francisco. His parents, Giuseppe and Assunta Gallo, were Italian immigrants who operated a boardinghouse in the Sierra foothills in the waning days of the Gold Rush.”

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Pacific Ethanol to start building fourth plant

“Pacific Ethanol Inc. will start construction within the next month on a 50-million-gallon per year ethanol plant in Calipatria, a small community about 150 miles east of San Diego. Once completed, the Sacramento-based company will have four plants with the goal of making 220 million gallons of fuel ethanol a year by 2008 — or almost a fourth of the 900-million gallons expected to be used this year in the state”

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February 26, 2007

California top destination for culinary travel

“California is the top destination for travelers whose vacation plans include food festivals, wine tours and other culinary pursuits, according to a new study from the Travel Industry Association. California was cited as a destination for food-related travel by 14 percent of those surveyed, followed by Florida (10 percent), New York (7 percent)…California was also the No. 1 choice for wine-related travel, cited by 31 percent of those surveyed.”

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February 23, 2007

Grower group calls for moratorium on genetically modified rice

“A California rice grower group today called for a moratorium on any outdoor production of genetically modified rice based on the results of a new study. The Rice Producers of California, a group of 200 Sacramento Valley rice growers, advises a ban to protect key export markets worth more than $200 million in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Turkey. Those markets account for 40 percent of California’s annual rice crop, the report states.”

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February 21, 2007

Smart & Final sold to Apollo Management affiliate for $813.9 million

“Smart & Final Inc. has agreed to sell to an affiliate of Apollo Management LP for $22 a share in cash, the company said Tuesday… The Apollo affiliate has also entered a stock purchase agreement with Paris-based Casino Guichard-Perrachon, S.A. that owns about 55 percent of Smart & Final’s common stock… City of Commerce-based Smart & Final Inc. operates 254 non-membership warehouse stores for food and food-service supplies in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and northern Mexico.”

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February 20, 2007

California gaining reputation for premium chocolates

First wine, then cheese, now, according to the International Herold Tribune, California is gaining a reputation as a producer of premium chocolates: “by 2000 California had edged out Pennsylvania, home of Hershey’s, to become the nation’s chocolate capital. In 2004, the last year for which figures were available, California had 136 companies churning out chocolate and cocoa products compared to Pennsylvania’s 122″

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February 15, 2007

Italian growers cooperative forms partnership with Sun World International

“Growers cooperation Apofruit Italia has come to an agreement with Sun World International (California). Apofruit has obtained production and distribution rights on Sun World patented plums, such as Angeleno and Black Diamond, and seedless grapes, such for example Sugraone. Renzo Piraccini, Apofruit general director comments: ‘As well as in other fruit varieties, the grape sector does also need innovation to grow. We see a great potential for seedless grapes and we want to step into this market. Our aim is to reach a production of 5K MT seedless grapes to be sold on the international markets’. “

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Alliance formed to fight Genetic Engineering of crops in California

“The Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance, a group representing California businesses and organizations concerned about genetic engineering, was launched today to push for laws protecting the state’s agriculture from genetic engineering (GE). More than 50 members have signed the platform, including the Breast Cancer Fund, California Council of Churches, Consumer Action, the California Farmers Union, Whole Foods Markets, United Natural Foods Inc. and Bon Appétit Management Company. The Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance platform, released today, calls for public notice of all plantings of GE crops in California, labeling of all food that contains GE ingredients, liability protection for farmers whose crops are unintentionally contaminated, and a ban on the planting of industrial and pharmaceutical crops.”

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California freeze raises U.S. citrus prices

“A record-breaking California freeze, which began in January and may have ruined or damaged as much as three-quarters of the state’s citrus crop, has sent U.S. prices up and quality down, especially for navel oranges and lemons. California agriculture officials say farmers have lost $1.2 billion in crops so far, and predict that the figure could go higher. Navel oranges account for the biggest financial loss, about $465 million.”

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