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Stung by an immigration enforcement battle that pits the state versus the Trump administration, Central Valley mayors hope to press the issue with U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue when he visits here. Perdue will be in Tulare next week for the World Ag Expo. 

Ag leaders say farmers are caught in the middle by state demands for a “sanctuary state” and ICE enforcement action at area packing houses that is scaring away workers. The Fresno Bee reported this week that Bee Sweet citrus lost 40 workers as immigration officials demanded a new employee audit at the farm.

”Farmers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” complains Citrus Mutual president Joel Nelsen.

What most leaders agree on is that they need the workforce who is here already – to stay here. ”Conservative legislation the requires everyone be sent home to Mexico will not work for us,” says Nelsen.

”Citrus harvest work is almost all by-hand and we have 10,000 to 12,000 mostly immigrant residents picking our fruit right now.”

He adds that “these workers are residents and key to our economy.”

This week California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson agreed arguing demands to use, "E-Verify to check eligibility would disqualify more than half the agricultural workforce.”

”Now is not the time to ask agriculture to shrink its workforce.”

Fresno farm advocate Manuel Cunha of Nisei Farmers League says he is spearheading a drive to present a letter to Perdue from about 68 California mayors including many from the Valley to offer their vision of what immigration reform might look like. ”We will ask for a meeting with President Trump.”

Cunha laments, “We have no water and we already have a labor shortage and now we won’t have any workers left.”

Bulging reservoirs but no snowpack

Sierra snowpack is just about nonexistent. Sierra snow water content by watershed on Jan. 31 was: San Joaquin River average 0 percent, Kings River 16 percent, Kaweah River 6 percent and Tule River 13 percent.

Lack of snow has again shut down the China Peak resort while it is not much better up north where the Shasta Snowpark recently closed as well. Day time temp at China Peak was 55 degrees this week melting what little snow it had.

A report says if we do not get more snow in February this will be the lowest total ever measured by the Central Sierra Snow Lab in the Tahoe area.

Meanwhile the state’s big reservoirs are mostly above average for this time of year including Shasta at 117 percent of average. San Luis Reservoir is 100 percent full and cannot accept any more water without dumping some they have but there is no place to put it.

There is a chance that we could finally see some changes in the high pressure pattern that blocked storms the last week of the month.

Avenal: More cities turn to solar for their treatment plants

Avenal is applying for a $4.8 million grant from the state to put in a 0.76 megawatt solar farm to cover their power needs at the city waste water treatment plant. AM Consulting engineer Alfonso Manrique says Avenal would be the latest of many Valley communities who have installed solar including Parlier many years ago.

After all "everyone flushes” observes Manrique, so the demand will always be there.

Manrique says he should know if Avenal will receive the funds by summer and work to build the system should move forward after that. His company helps many Valley towns cut costs at their waste water treatment plant projects.

Corcoran deal could revisit cannabis

Real estate broker Mike Porte says he assisted with the sale of an 18-acre industrial property in Corcoran that includes an 80,000-square-foot building on Orange Avenue. The building is the former Seward luggage plant and vacant for years.

The buyer is an unnamed LA firm who Porte says still hopes to use the rail-served building to grow and harvest cannabis although the city recently turned down requests to allow it

If not, they will use the building for other projects, he says. For now the building has been leased to Wal-Mart that already has a pharmaceutical distribution warehouse in Hanford.

Despite pleas, CDFA turns down request for higher milk prices

On Feb. 2, the California Department of Food and Agriculture denied a request for a hearing to consider a temporary increase on all classes of milk. The CDFA reasoned that the state’s dairy farmers are determining if they will join a federal order or not – but the decision could be many months away.

Meanwhile Kings County milk production keeps shrinking, down 2.7 percent for 2017, and prices are poor. Meanwhile another local dairy is selling out. This month the Matt Evangelho dairy in Hanford will disperse its cows at auction and put the land up for sale.

Fish and rice farming?

A UC Davis study is evaluating the introduction of fish in rice fields with a goal of reducing methane emissions from rice production. The study is being carried out near Marysville. Samples that were taken from flooded rice fields over the past two months verify an abundance of zooplankton, a significant source of protein for fish. The practice could potentially reduce methane emissions from rice by 90 percent.

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