Ag Report 3/18/11

FRESNO, Calif.

The rail system is designed to ultimately connect southern California with the Bay Area, through the Central Valley. But during a meeting in Madera, some local growers said the route should stick to the I-5 or Highway 99 corridor, and avoid their ag land.

Kings County Rancher, John Tos said, "We just feel that it's wrong. We've got all permanent crops, and it's just going to destroy the countryside, carve it up, deprive the county of resources, and it's just a bad thing at this time."

Representatives from the High Speed Rail Authority say they want to work with farmers and other property owners to minimize the impact on them. They point out; the project is expected to create more than 100-thousand jobs in the valley during the initial stage alone.

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Some central valley growers may get federal aid for crops lost in last year's freeze.

It could open the door to loans for losses to apple and olive crops in eight counties including Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared Tuolumne County a natural disaster area, Thursday, because of last November's storm and freezing temperatures.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says there was more than $8,000 in damage to olives. The heavy snow also caused extensive damage to apple trees, breaking branches that would have bore fruit this year.

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