Agriculture and Food

February 14, 2007

California Farm Bureau Federation in talks with new Congress

More than two dozen Farm Bureau leaders were in Washington D.C. last week, lobbying the new Congress on a variety of issues. The trip to Washington, D.C. is part of a continuing effort by CFBF leaders to build awareness of the issues vital to California and U.S. agriculture. “To bring a group of this size and caliber to Washington says a lot about our commitment to resolving the issues we face,” said said CFBF Vice President Paul Wenger, “We went back with a very ambitious agenda and we got through it. Most of our board members have worked the halls of Congress before. They know their way around.”

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Revionics to supply software for Oregon grocery chain

“Revionics Inc., a company that provides software to help small- and medium-size grocery stores price products, has added C&K Markets to its list of grocery retail customers. Brookings, Ore.-based C&K Markets is implementing Granite Bay-based Revionics’ Advanced Pricing System at all 59 of its stores… Founded in 1957, C&K Markets is the largest privately held retail grocery chain in Oregon. The company is supplied by Unified Western Grocers, based in Commerce.”

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Dairy waste-to-energy project planned for San Joaquin Valley

“Human BioSystems announced today that HBS BioEnergy, has formed a joint venture with Visalia based Dairy Development Group and Agrimass Enviro-Energy to build an Energy Park in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The Energy Park will utilize waste from surrounding dairies to provide the power needed to fuel a proposed ethanol plant to be located on site. ‘The joint venture involves developing and operating an innovative agricultural waste-to-energy park,’ explained Len Chapman, Founder and CEO of Agrimass Enviro-Energy and Dairy Development Group. ‘This is the perfect model for agricultural production because it takes a problem – manure – and turns it into power and other energy products, which then fuels the ethanol plant that produces cleaner-burning fuels. This is the kind of green industry we need in the Valley.’ “

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February 13, 2007

Tesco distribution center in Riverside delayed but progressing

“Permit and planning problems have held up construction of a sprawling Riverside distribution center for supermarket giant Tesco PLC and two suppliers. But the British retailer says the delays won’t significantly affect its billion-dollar U.S. plans. One of the world’s largest grocery companies, Tesco doesn’t operate any U.S. stores right now. But it intends to open 100 to 150 in 2007 and 2008, and compete with Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons, Stater Bros., Traders Joe’s and others.”

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Hansen makes deal with Pepsi for distribution in Canada

“Shares in (Corona-based) Hansen Natural Corp. got a boost Monday on news the company partnered with PepsiCo Canada to bottle and distribute its popular line of energy drinks. Monster Energy, Lost Energy, Joker Mad Energy and other Hansen energy products which will be distributed through Pepsi’s network in Canada. PepsiCo will employ its bottling systems, distribution facilities and sale force for the product line. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.”

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February 9, 2007

Bills would provide $1.2 billion to freeze victims in California

“Lawmakers announced bills to provide more than $1.2 billion in grants, low-interest loans and assistance to growers and workers affected by a recent crop freeze, last year’s heat wave and flooding. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced a bill Wednesday that would speed help to communities that lost an estimated $1.2 billion last month in oranges, tangerines, avocados and other crops nipped by the cold. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, planned to introduce a similar bill by Friday. ‘We have communities that are now experiencing, as a result of the freeze, in excess of 50, 60, 70 percent unemployment’, Costa said.”

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February 7, 2007

Strawberry industry holds food safety summit

“California’s strawberry industry will examine its food safety efforts today in Monterey at a meeting of industry leaders, food safety experts and regulators. Hosted by the California Strawberry Commission, the California Strawberry Food Safety Summit will include speakers discussing the challenges and solutions of providing safe, high quality fruit to consumers. More than 200 growers and others are expected to attend.

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Federal aid available to help citrus growers affected by freeze

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 18 California counties disaster areas in the aftermath of prolonged freezing temperatures last month that damaged more than $800 million in citrus crops… The USDA Farm Service Agency, which administers the emergency loan program, will consider applications from growers who have suffered at least a 30 percent crop production loss.”

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February 6, 2007

Chinese accused of dumping garlic

A San Francisco Chronicle editorial entitled, “The Chinese Garlic Wars” describes how the Chinese have come to dominate the U.S. garlic market in spite of a severe anti-dumping tariff of 376 percent. Many Chinese shippers are able to get around the tariff, they explained, by shipping their garlic through third countries such as Vietnam and Japan, then coming up with shipping papers that falsify the true country of origin. As a result, the California garlic market is shrinking. Through November of last year, Chinese garlic imports into the United States totaled 128 million pounds — up from 8 million in 2001, while California produced 88 million pounds in 2005 — down from 122 million pounds in 2001. “The importation of Chinese garlic has been so destructive that the number of garlic growers in California has dropped from 12 in 1999 to a mere four today” the Chronicle reported.

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February 4, 2007

Mexican avocados finally head to California

Too late for the Superbowl, but Mexican trucks loaded with avocados headed north to the border on Friday, marking the final elimination of a decades-old U.S. ban on its import. Hundreds of locals in the western town of Uruapan, Mexico, waved at two trucks carrying Hass avocados bound for California and Florida, which along with Hawaii were the last states to lift a ban put in place in the early 1900′s as a measure to prevent plant disease.

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February 1, 2007

California’s cheese industry may pass Wisconsin

California is expected to surpass Wisconsin as the nation’s largest cheese maker within a few years, according to a report in the Fresno Bee. Last year, California’s cheese production reached a record 2.14 billion pounds, double what it produced more than a decade ago. Cheese companies with large-scale Valley factories, including Land O’Lakes in Tulare, Leprino Foods Co. in Lemoore and Marquez Brothers International in Hanford, produce more than 1 billion pounds of cheese a year. They employ more than 2,000 workers in Kings, Tulare and Merced counties. The Blue Ribbon Cheese Co. in Bakersfield recently announced plans to build a $220 million cheese plant in Fresno County, where it expects to use 6.8 million pounds of milk a day to make 680,000 pounds of cheese.

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January 31, 2007

Legislature, growers prepare conflicting plans to prevent E. coli Outbreaks

State Sen. Dean Florez has proposed regulations designed to prevent the devastating E. coli outbreaks that that killed three people and sickened hundreds throughout the country in recent months. The California agriculture industry, which produces about three-quarters of the nation’s lettuce and spinach, suffered huge financial losses from the contamination which investigators believe may have been caused by wild pigs that spread the bacteria in a Salinas Valley spinach field. Florez, who represents the agriculture-rich southern San Joaquin Valley plans to introduce a bill that calls for a system to track produce from fields to store shelves and forces growers to further protect crops from contaminated water and stray animals that can spread bacteria. State farmers are not happy about the legislation because they could have their crops condemned if they’re caught violating its rules. The Western Growers Association, which represents the fresh produce industry in California and Arizona, is now working on a self-regulating scheme to head off Florez. “We’re the guys who understand our business and what needs to be done,” said Imperial Valley spinach and lettuce farmer Jack Vessey, who supports the industry-led approach.

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January 16, 2007

Most of California citrus crop lost to freeze

Three nights of freezing temperatures have cost California up to three-quarters of its billion-dollar citrus crop, according to an industry estimate given Monday as forecasters warned the cold weather could batter groves through midweek.”

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