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» March 16, 2006 «
Hundreds of family farmers and ranchers from across the country rallied in Washington yesterday (Wednesday), urging Congress to pass immigration reform that includes a flexible guestworker program. Farm Bureau members from California say they were encouraged by responses they received, during visits with members of Congress. Farmers say they support increased border security, in combination with an improved guestworker program. The U.S. Senate is working on an immigration-reform bill this week.
An olive growers organization estimates 10 percent of last year's crop ended up being left on the trees, because farmers couldn't find enough workers to harvest the fruit before it became too ripe. Labor shortages, foreign competition and lack of a set price from canneries have discouraged many olive farmers. The Olive Growers Council says a number of farmers with orchards near urban areas have sold land to developers, to be converted into housing.
Cold weather and snow in the Sierra foothills worries some farmers. Those with farms below the 1,500 foot elevation fear the cold may have damaged the bloom of stone fruit such as pluots and peaches. Above that elevation, orchards and vineyards remain dormant and not vulnerable to the cold. Growers with trees that were in bloom won't know for certain the extent of damage until late April, when the fruit forms.
California farmers whose fields and structures were damaged by floods in late December may apply for repair funds from the U.S. Agriculture Department. The department's Farm Service Agency says eligible producers can receive up to 75 percent of the cost of repairs. Floods damaged fencing, left debris in vineyards and orchards, and destroyed irrigation systems. Farmers in Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Siskiyou and Sonoma counties are eligible.Top