Thursday, February 08, 2007

California Agriculutre Hard Hit Lately

California is a rich diverse agriculture state that has been hit particularly hard as of late with the problem with e-coli in the spinach crop and the hard January freeze that affected much of the citrus crop.

Lettuce and spincah growers are moving foward after last falls problems with the creation of a volunteery inspection program aimed at strengthening food safety.

California lettuce and spinach processors can move forward with a voluntary inspection program they hope will prevent a repeat of the E. coli outbreaks that killed three people and sickened nearly 200 others across the country last year.

The state Department of Food and Agriculture approved the plan after 24 handlers that wash, package and ship about 70 percent of the leafy greens processed in the state agreed to take part. The program allows participants to put a food safety seal of approval on their products.

“We have enough participation where the agreement will accomplish what it set out to accomplish,’’ said Dave Kranz, an agriculture department spokesman.

Meanwhile, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenger has sent a letter asking President Bush asking for additional federal assistance. The estimated losses are put at $1.24 billion with estimates still coming in.

Last week U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns declared 18 California counties disasters after documents sent to Washington, D.C., verified at least 30 percent crop loss in some commodities. This designation makes farmers in both primary and contiguous counties eligible for low-interest loans through the Farm Service Agency.

Also last week Gov. Schwarzenegger sent a letter to President Bush requesting the hardest hit California counties be declared major disasters due to the extent of the freeze damage, which rivals or exceeds the worst freeze events in the past two decades.

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