Overland Stockyard will hold an auction of all cows and rolling stock at Medeiros & Son Dairy Saturday, at 10 a.m., at the family farm at 14200 Kent Ave., south of Hanford. The complete dispersal totals some 5,000 milking cows and replacement heifers at the county’s “number one producing herd” says the auction flyer. Run by Rui and Brian Medeiros - the operation milks 2,450 cows and farms 1,400 acres. Medeiros & Son was honored as Dairy Family of the Year for Kings County in 2013. Medeiros made news in 2015 when they installed a $2.2 million solar system on 5.5 acres next to the barns. The land and solar farm has already been sold to a neighbor. Brian says although "the farm is not being sold off because we are going broke, in California the atmosphere is not conducive to running a dairy." He says he will retain 800 acres to farm and looks forward to "not having to make a 24-hour commitment" that dairy operations require.

Jobless rate falls

Kings County’s jobless rate fell in March from February and was lower than a year ago as well. The unemployment rate this March was 11.5 percent compared to 11.9 percent in March 2016. EDD says the county lost 700 farm jobs in the past year, a drop of 10 percent, although nonfarm jobs were up.

Dollar Express stores may close

A state WARN notice says Dollar Express will close several locations in the Central Valley including sites in Lemoore, Farmersville and Fresno. The Lemoore store employs 13. Nationwide, rival Dollar General announced they are buying the Charlotte-based Dollar Express and as a result up to 2,700 part-time and full-time store employees around the country may be losing their jobs. Dollar General confirmed plans earlier this month to buy all 323 discount stores in 36 states from Dollar Express. Those are former Family Dollar stores.

Airgas project in Hanford Industrial Park

Airgas Speciality Products will build a 4,000-square-foot building in the Hanford Industrial Park and construct an ammonia distribution facility. The project will be west of Crown and north of Industry Avenue. The company seeks a conditional use permit from the city planning commission this month.

Airgas, owed by AirLiquide, will store anhydrous ammonia, shipping by tank trucks. Their application says they'll employ eight to 12 people, mostly drivers. The project is being processed as a negative declaration with no significant impacts.

Last year the proposed Hanford Airgas Specialty Products was awarded a $70,000 tax credit. The industrial gas manufacturer said they planned to add 19 new employees over the next several years through an expansion that could cost up to $3.15 million.

Raisin grape plantings fall 14,000 acres

Raisin acres in the Central Valley continued a steady decline in 2016 - down about 14,000 acres from 2015. Plantings in 2016 added up 172,000 acres, down from 186,000 in 2015 and 192,000 acres in 2104, according to USDA.

Statewide, acreage of all types of grapes was down 2.3 percent. New plantings declined nearly 10 percent as farmers continue to switch to other less labor-intensive crops.

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John Lindt is an independent business reporter. He can be reached at sierra2thesea@gmail.com

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