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» June 23, 2006 «
The House of Representatives passed a bill reducing the estate tax yesterday (Thursday) by a 269-156 vote. It now goes to the Senate. California farmers and ranchers hope to convince senators that the estate tax should be repealed entirely. California land values are much higher than in other states, and family farming and ranching operations would still face a large tax burden even with the $10 million exemption. Farm groups fear this would cause further urbanization of prime farmland.
Trees already stressed from standing in floodwater along the Sacramento River earlier this year may not survive the present heat wave. Farm advisors say the trees were beginning to revive after the water stress, but predicted temperatures of 110 degrees in the orchards may be too much. Overall the number of trees affected is small. However, for the farmers who tend them there is a significant economic loss. And it will take several years for young trees to begin to produce nuts.
Specialty melon growers in the Central Valley say the recent warm days have been beneficial. Earlier farmers thought they wouldn't have Crenshaw, ambrosia or candew melons until July 20. Now, they estimate it will be July 4 before the crop matures. Wet weather slowed planting, and cooler weather after slowed crop development. Growers say temperatures in the 80's and 90's would be perfect to bring the crop along. However, extreme heat could also cause problems.
Farm sugar prices are the highest they've been in 20 years. But farmers aren't expected to expand sugar beet planting in California. Present acreage provides all the beets the remaining processing facilities can handle. Part of what is driving prices higher is a change in the corn market. Ethanol is taking some corn away from the sweetener market, and buyers are replacing that corn with sugar. Equipment to produce sugar beets is costly and it is not clear if this market change is permanent.Top