John Lindt

Sanger-based Pitman Farms plans to expand a Stratford poultry farm if given approval by the county Planning Commission May 2. The applicant is proposing a seven-fold expansion of an existing poultry farm of 249,300 chickens to include an additional 1,451,250 chickens, for a new total of approximately 1,700,550 chickens.

The project includes the construction of 1,182,758 square feet of new poultry barns, totaling 43 new structures, which would be 54-0 wide and 500-0 in length. This new expansion would increase the number of poultry barns from 7 to 50 poultry barns. The new poultry barns would be built in one phase along with three additional single-family rural residences for caretaker purposes. The ranch is located at 16445 Laurel Ave., Stratford.

Bird Flu spreads west

Chicken owners are being warned to take precautions over avian influenza. Highly contagious avian influenza has infected or killed wild and domestic birds in 29 states. Most recently it has been found in western states like Idaho and Utah but not in California.

Maurice Pitesky, a poultry specialist at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, is urging commercial and backyard chicken owners to take precautions. He recommends preventing chickens and other poultry from exposure to waterfowl and wild birds that may carry the infection.

The bird flu, or HPAI virus, doesn’t affect humans. Due to a national outbreak of avian influenza, otherwise known as bird flu, the prices of eggs have almost doubled in the past year.

First appearing in Canada last fall, the flu has ravaged industrial flocks and has now been detected in a wide variety of North American wild birds, raising alarms among ecologists.

Solar panels: Kings County residents have taken a shine to putting solar panels on their homes according to statistics from the website Construction Monitor. Through mid-April Kings County has permitted 579 rooftop solar panel permits valued at $9.5 million. This is nearly nearly double the number for each of the past three years as of the same date. Prior to the pandemic, Kings County home owners permitted 302 panels as of mid-April 2019.

High Speed Rail's next big span will happen south of Hwy. 198 with construction slated for a nearly half-mile viaduct (bridge) 30 feet above Cross Creek before coming back to ground level past the former Baker Commodities building (HSR built them a new one not far away). The viaduct will connect to the elevated HSR station planned across the depressed 198. The Cross Creek project just got all environmental approvals. It is located east of the BNSF railroad and west of SR 43.

Speaking of spans - you don't have to worry about heading to the coast this summer due to the closure of the Highway 41 bridge near Stratford. That CalTrans project has been postponed until next year. The SR 41 and Stratford bridge replacement project has been delayed until September 2023 with road closure until March 2024, and outreach meetings for impacted communities being scheduled.

Fresno-based Producers Dairy will integrate two Volvo VNR electric trucks into its fleet - the first commercial, battery-electric Class 8 trucks to be deployed in the Central Valley. The units will be the first Class 8 battery-electric vehicles in the company’s fleet of more than 300 trucks and will service regional distribution routes from its Fresno-based manufacturing facility to grocery stores in communities along the 40-mile stretch of Highway 99 from Selma to Madera.

The project was supported by funding from the California Air Resources Board. Producers Dairy received $1.25 million to purchase, install, and integrate two electric trucks into its larger fleet.

Tahoe’s Snow Lab says “What an April, as we've seen more snow on the mountains than we saw during November, January, February and March combined!” Still some hope California could see a couple of storms in early May.

California olive oil law: In one of the biggest California food fights since Napa vintners got exclusive rights to their region’s name on wine bottles, a new state law punishes companies that use California’s name to sell olive oil produced in other countries. according to the Los Angeles Times.

Grocery prices will rise by an average of 5.5 percent this year, the highest inflation rate at the supermarket since 2008, said the Agriculture Department on Monday. Blame a farmer for the high cost of your breakfast menu? All sorts of reasons why - bird flu, collapse of the Florida orange industry due to citrus greening disease, huge demand for milk products around the world coupled with lower production, record high corn prices, record high oil, gas and diesel prices, and then there is the drought.

How about that cup of coffee? Coffee prices have been rising for 17 consecutive months. Coffee consumption in the US reached a 20-year high, according to the National Coffee Association. The NCA’s 2022 Spring National Coffee Data Trends report found 60% of the US population drinks coffee every day – a 14% increase since January 2021. Couple this with good demand and falling supply due in part to extreme water events, it seems. One report notes that in 2021, both frost and drought struck coffee crops in Brazil, the world's largest exporter, with losses estimated around 10 million bags, equivalent to more than a third of annual U.S. coffee purchases.

As for bacon - all meat prices are up as the industry has consolidated. Ground beef prices rose nearly 13%; pork — including ribs and roasts, rose 14.22%; chops saw a 14.5% increase in price; bacon and breakfast sausage prices spiked nearly 16%. Meanwhile, "customer demand continues to outpace our ability to supply products," Tyson Foods CEO Donnie King told a quarterly earnings call.

Hurtado bill would help farmworkers

Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) held a press conference early this month on Senate Bill 1066 — the Farmworker’s Drought Resilience Pilot Project — that will provide assistance to eligible farmworkers who have been impacted by drought. It would provide unconditional monthly cash payments of $1,000 for three years to eligible farmworkers, with the goal of lifting them out of poverty.

“The ongoing drought, the lack of water infrastructure investment, the imbalanced regulation at the water board and the ongoing situation in Ukraine are all impacting our food system in ways we have not seen before or even felt yet,” said Senator Hurtado.

“Now is the time to invest and support our food system, and to do that we need to invest in our farmworkers. We have seen significant losses to California’s economy, and in 2021 alone, the drought caused $1.2 billion in direct cost to the agriculture industry and the loss of more than 8,500 jobs. Nowhere else has the impact of the drought been felt greater than here in the Central Valley by our farmworkers.

"Farmworkers have suffered more than ever, as they have lost vital work opportunities and hours, and it’s my intention that SB 1066 provide much needed assistance so that they can meet their basic needs. We must provide this drought relief now — not just when it comes to supplemental pay, but also by ensuring they have the water they need for their homes and health, and to continue the work they do to provide safe, nutritious food for us all.”

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