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» July 7, 2008 «
The rising cost of energy has chipped away at everyone's bottom line, and that's no less true for vegetable farmers. Government analysts say the costs farmers pay to grow vegetables and melons have jumped 14 percent, compared to the same time a year ago. Most of the change has come in rising costs for fuel and for fertilizer, which is tied to energy prices. At the same time, prices farmers earn for vegetables have not kept up and are running lower than they were a year ago.
Drought conditions have led to agricultural disaster declarations in three more California counties. The U.S. Agriculture Department issued disaster declarations for Alameda, Sonoma and Yuba counties because of losses from dry weather. In many cases, the damage affects livestock ranchers whose pastures no longer provide enough grass for their animals. The declaration allows affected farmers and ranchers to apply for low-interest emergency loans and other aid.
There's a lot of dried brush around California these days, and many landowners who want to reduce brush and weeds turn to natural control, in the form of goats. Some goat ranchers specialize in renting out their animals for brush control. Park districts and other public agencies use goats to clear away brush and create firebreaks. Livestock ranchers hire the goats to eat yellow starthistle and other weeds that crowd out native grasses.
As California farmers produce record almond crops, food manufacturers around the world create new products using the nuts. The Almond Board of California cites a report showing that introductions of new foods using almonds rose 26 percent last year. The dozens of products listed in the report include a coconut and almond yogurt introduced in Hungary, fish gratin with almonds in Sweden and an almond-and-anchovy snack in Hong Kong.Top