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» August 3, 2006 «
Governor Schwarzenegger has asked the federal government to declare an agricultural disaster in California, and to speed relief to farmers and ranchers who lost livestock and crops during last month's heat wave. The governor visited a dairy farm and met with farmers in Fresno yesterday (Wednesday), to hear first-hand reports about the heat's impact. He urged federal officials to make low-interest loans and other disaster aid available, without waiting for final damage estimates.
Lingering effects from the heat wave could hamper California milk production for months to come. Reduced production could lead to higher prices for milk at the dairy, though not immediately. In fact, the prices dairy farmers earn for milk actually dropped about 3 cents a gallon at the first of the month, under a formula set by the state. The fluctuations in on-farm prices should have little impact on retail milk prices, though a dairy farmers' group says it's hard to predict how retailers will react.
Sheep and hog farmers around California report that they lost some animals to the heat, but describe the losses as minor, so far. On hog farms, though, there's a longer-term concern. Farmers say breeding sows that were pregnant suffered stress during the hot weather. As a result, sows may give birth to fewer piglets this fall, and those piglets may require more care than usual after they're born.
Add rice to the list of crops that will be further affected by the July heat wave. Farm advisors say the hot weather could lead to a problem called "heat blanking," in which rice plants fail to form kernels. Rice farmers had to delay planting this spring because of cold, rainy weather at that time. The summer heat has accelerated development of the crop, but farmers remain unsure about their eventual harvest yields.Top