May 10, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - It's a deal that most businesses would relish: Buy an insurance policy to cover losses or falling prices, and the government will foot most of the bill. Such an arrangement has been enjoyed for more than a decade by the farmers who grow crops such as corn and soybeans, and the companies that insure them. And it's about to get even better. The farm bill now before Congress includes a provision - estimated to cost about $3 billion a year - that would help cover the losses farmers suffer before their crop insurance policies kick in. Those losses, termed deductibles, can run in the tens of thousands of dollars for a typical mid-size farm.
April 26, 2012 |
Organic agriculture generally comes at a cost of smaller harvests compared with conventional agriculture, but that gap can be narrowed with careful selection of crop type, growing conditions and management techniques, according a new study. Organic farming has been touted by supporters as a more environmentally sustainable method of farming that's better for consumers because crops contain fewer man-made chemicals. But without the high-nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides often employed in conventional agriculture, it's also less efficient.
April 21, 2012 |
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Angels' World Series championship, a club distinguished in part by a bullpen built more on hope than on money. The closer was a converted catcher. The key setup guys were a September call-up not old enough to drink and two refugees from the independent leagues. The Angels had no choice. That was the last year B.A. (Before Arte). The Angels did not spend even $1 million on their shortstop, let alone a middle reliever. So, if progress means they can spend $5 million on a guy to pitch the seventh inning, why does their bullpen seem so much more unstable now?
March 29, 2012 |
NEYYATTINKARA, India - Retired government worker and small-time coconut farmer Prakasan Thattari is very proud of his invention: a machine with the look of a giant metallic praying mantis that clangs fearlessly up vertigo-inducing coconut trees. It climbs well, but has a little trouble cutting off the coconuts once up there, said Thattari, who estimates that he's gone through thousands of dollars tinkering with various gizmos. "I spent all my retirement money," he said. "The machine is close to my heart.
March 21, 2012 |
A years-long environmental battle ended abruptly when the company producing a fumigant for strawberries and other crops yanked it from U.S. distribution, bringing relief to activists and raising concern among growers. Methyl iodide, meant to replace an ozone-depleting fumigant being phased out by an international treaty, was believed to have little effect on air quality. But some scientists say it can cause cancer, brain damage and miscarriages among workers who handle it and can be a threat to ground water.
March 3, 2012 |
Almond trees are exploding with pink and white blossoms across the vast Central Valley, marking the start of the growing season for California's most valuable farm export. Toiling among the blooms are the migrant workers that will make or break this year's crop: honeybees. The insects carry the pollen and genetic material needed to turn flowers into nuts as they flit from tree to tree. It's a natural process that no machine can replicate. But it can't be left to chance. Bees are too integral to the fortunes of California's nearly $3-billion-a-year almond industry.
January 20, 2012 |
Although most of the larger farmers markets in Southern California have at least one vendor of cultivated mushrooms, the great majority of these buy from large commercial producers and so must sell in the non-certified section or under a second certificate arrangement. There's not necessarily anything wrong with that, but it takes just a glance at the pristine and tender shiitake and oyster mushrooms that Fred Ellrott grows and picks himself, to see that there is a real advantage to the consumer in buying mushrooms direct from the producer.
December 9, 2011 |
A few California farmers have long pushed the envelope by trying to grow crops like pineapples or lychees that are really a bit too tropical for local conditions but still tantalizing in their possibilities. A case in point is the mango, which just barely gets enough heat in the scorching Coachella desert to merit being grown commercially; all the more amazing that Markov Farms of Valley Center, located in a coastal climate zone even less well adapted to the fruit, is finally starting to market its crop at farmers markets, albeit with a catch.
December 1, 2011 |
Connoisseur Osier Jean steps into the sterile room, pauses and clears his mind. With notebook and flavor wheel in hand, he quickly turns to the task at hand: checking the quality. He sniffs, slurps and swirls, allowing his senses to take in the richness. The liquid is not wine, but caffeine-rich Kafe Kreyol, Haitian coffee. It is the country's latest effort to revive a once-flourishing industry that has been crippled by decades of deforestation, political chaos and crises.
November 23, 2011 |
As Californians savor their Thanksgiving feasts, the states' farmers are especially thankful. California's agriculture sector is on track for a record year, a rare bright spot in the state's economy. Prices for cotton, grapes and other crops are near all-time highs. Foreign buyers are gobbling California almonds, grapes, citrus and dairy products. Agricultural exports through September are up 16% over the same period last year. Net farm income is projected to post strong gains in 2011 after nearly doubling over the previous decade.