With the sounds of families splitting up in our ears, late-model cars disappearing to the repo man, empty houses standing all over town, and an unemployment rate correlated to one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, people in Merced are not inclined to weep for the plutocrat growers of Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. We have all the water we need for agriculture on both sides of our county (they are provided by different sources) and our unemployment rate is worse than all the counties just listed.Read More »
Badlands has been consistent in writing that Merced is the largest almond-producing county in the state, nation, world and universe. Badlands is in error. According to the state Almond Board's statistics, Kern, Fresno and Stanislaus exceed Merced in almond production. Kern remains the largest producer, steady at 20 percent after 20 years. Merced and Stanislaus have diminished their slice of the pie by a few points in the last decade, while Butte has ceded place to Madera in the high single-digit category and San Joaquin County has dropped into the "all others" category since the late 1980s. The greatest increase has been in Fresno, lumped in with "all others" in 1988-1989 statistics, but last year accounting for 18 percent of the state's production.
Farm prices (per pound) in the last five years surged to a high of $2.81 in 2004-2005, but fell back to the $1.55 range, where they were in 2003-2004.
At the end of last year, total bearing almond acreage in the state stood at 615,000, non-bearing at 125,000. New plantings surged to 49,281 acres in 2005-2006, the highest number of acres recorded, and dropped back to 14,381 in 2007-2008, the lowest new-planting figure since 1992-1993. The two low figures might be related to drought.
"Impatient money"Read More »
Review of Dairy Industrialization in the First Place: Urbanization, Immigration and Political Economy in Los Angeles, by Jess Gilbert and Kevin Wehr, Rural Sociology, 2003
Thanks to the century-long special relationship between the University of California and California agribusiness, Californians are basically as innocent of knowledge of American rural sociology as they are of Uighar oral poetry. Although Wehr was born in Oakland, he had to travel to the University of Wisconsin, where Gilbert teaches, to study rural sociology and only got his PhD the year this article was published. So, from the beginning, there is a political aspect to this study: it could be and was done out of University of Wisconsin, in the second largest dairy state in the nation; Californiaovertook Wisconsin for the crown in 1994.
"Diary Industrialization in the First Place" is an historical account of the first time and place this form of agribusiness occurred, among Dutch dairymen in Los Angeles County. The authors assert their independence from previous academic works on the subject dairy industrialization by their emphasis on time and place, no doubt unconsciously emulating the "espacio-temporal" theory employed successfully by El colegio de la frontera norte in its research into the history and development of Tijuana and other Mexican border towns beginning in the late 1970s.Read More »
Politics in this part of
In April he proposed permitting federally recognized tribes to automatically cancel a Williamson Act contract on land that they acquire.
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*Sauve qui peut -- French: "Save who can," a disorderly retreat.
A very fancy corporate consulting firm announced recently that Merced would lead the way out of recession in the north San Joaquin Valley because of UC Merced. As intrepid Modesto Bee business reporter J.N. Sbranti noted, the fancy new economic model unveiled by the consultants from outer space failed to include the foreclosure rate. This blip failed to live up to the big shot firm’s slogan: “Bringing you the power of perspective.”
There is another problem hovering beyond the dreams of developers, for whom UC Merced is the anchor tenant. Merced is the second largest milk-producing county in the nation. Stanislaus is ranked third. Milk prices have been in drastic decline for six months. The anecdotal figures one hears range from losses of $30,000 to $100,000 per dairy per month, depending on size. There is a report that feed suppliers cut off feed for 60 dairies in recent weeks.
Unlike most of the nation, California -- ranked #1 in milk production, producing about a third of the total national supply -- has its own milk marketing order and sets its own prices. Three components of the California milk-price formula are related to the same indices used by the feds: the prices of block cheddar, bulk butter and non-fat dry milk on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The fourth and highest-value component to the price is the fluid milk pool.Read More »
As the inveterate, hairy-chested managing editor of the Sun-Star heads off to embeddedment in Iraq again (because a female reporter went twice!), Tom Frazier asks real questions about a local issue: Who is paying for the Michelle Obama event? While the Imperial Tharp is Inshalla-ing to a fair-the-well about his upcoming war junket, Frazier is calling out the imaginary “feral dogs” of the press to find out what happened. Yo, Frazier, there are no feral dogs of the local press. They all been bought by UC Merced so long ago few still remember the UC inserts that once a month paid the bills back in the late 1990s. And the tame dogs of the local press are all bouncing their heads off the pavement and crying “Inshalla.” We would believe in Tharp’s conversion to Islam if he were going to what Genl. Petraeus even calls “the graveyard of empires,” Afghanistan.
But who cares where Tharp goes at all? Presumably McClatchy and the University of California – just as long as the Sun-Star doesn’t provide the answers to the embarrassing questions Frazier is asking.
Dean Baker has always been good at explaining in terms of common sense why the speculative housing boom was extremely dangerous and completely unsustainable. By "common sense," we mean that Baker has covered this story for years using his training as a professional economist, using facts instead of advertising or blind academic free-market dogma, and bringing to his stories a humane perspective grounded in what all this means to ordinary working people.
Badlands Journal editorial board
June 3, 2009
Cheerleading the Recovery
Reporters With Pom-Poms
By DEAN BAKER
Last week we got a whole series of bad reports on the state of the economy. New and existing home sales both remain near their lowest level for the downturn, as house prices continue to drop at the rate of 2.0 percent a month. New orders for capital goods, a key measure of investment demand, fell by 2.0 percent in April. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, new orders were still down by 1.5 percent.
On Friday, the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index fell by more than 5 percentage points from its April level, approaching its low for the downturn. The employment component of the index did hit a new low.Read More »
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As Badlands pointed out recently, there is a new young couple among the Valley's witless Democratic congressmen, the Costoza, replacing the Pomboza, which met a timely demise with the dis-election of former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, in 2006. The swing man in both duos is Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Annapolis MD, who still claims to represent the 18th Congressional District of California, which includes three cities with some of the worst foreclosure rates in America, Merced, Modesto and Stockton and one county, Merced, with the second highest unemployment rate in the nation this month.Read More »
The Badlands Journal editorial board was concerned about how UC Merced would pay for Michelle Obama's visit this Saturday. We are great fans of Mrs. Obama and would not like to see the glory of her visit tarnished by any more unpaid debts owed by UC Merced.
Asking around, we were told that the Oldest Living Valley Advanceman would know how such glorious events actually worked. We found him in a 6-bedroom McMansion recently repurchased on the courthouse steps and reopened as a Home for Old Hacks. We asked Mr. Oldest how it was done Back in the Day When California was This Great Big Number One State of Ours and before it became the Basket State.
"First," he said, "realize that your national advance teams do not give a (bleep) about how you pay for anything. Second, on a deal like this from the White House, you exist to obey. Third, the people who will hound you to your grave are the patriotic bunting dealers. You can probably make a deal with most of the other vendors or providers, but do not cross the bunting people."
He shook a fist full of angry-looking letters in our face.
"And I been out of the game since early '75," he said.Read More »