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» September 15, 2006 «
Fuel prices have edged downward as many California farmers approach the height of harvest. The California Energy Commission says production of both gasoline and diesel fuel continues to increase. It reports that gasoline dropped an average of 25 cents per gallon during the past week. For diesel fuel, which powers most farm equipment, prices declined about 5 cents per gallon. The commission says production of the new ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel remains strong.
As farmers and ranchers ended a "fly-in" to Washington, D.C., on behalf of immigration reform, growers who remained at home are writing and phoning their representatives urging action. Many farmers say it has been difficult to hire enough people to harvest crops. Lighter-than-average harvests have partially eased problems this summer. But farmers say chronic shortages of help will worsen unless Congress includes a temporary-worker program in an immigration-reform package.
Officials say it will still be weeks before they know the full extent of agricultural damage caused by California's severe, mid-July heat wave. At a disaster-recovery meeting in Modesto yesterday (Thursday), county agricultural commissioners said more damage is becoming apparent as farmers harvest nuts, tomatoes and other crops. The federal government has declared agricultural disasters in many counties because of losses to dairy cows and crops.
Responding to increased consumer demand, farmers along the Central Coast are producing more raspberries each year. Studies showing the fruit possesses high amounts of disease-fighting antioxidants may explain part of the rising demand. Raspberries are now the number-two crop in Santa Cruz County, with most other production in Ventura and Monterey counties. The climate and soils along the Central Coast provide ideal growing conditions for raspberries.Top