Ag Report 3/24/11

FRESNO, Calif.

Farmers say it's not uncommon to delay planting tomatoes and rice until April. Cotton farmers say cool temperatures have slowed their planting.

The ground must be over 58-degrees for cottonseed to germinate. However, the rain has helped grass production, which is encouraging for ranchers with grazing livestock.

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Soil researchers say urban farmers and community gardeners should test their dirt for lead and chemicals to make sure their fruits and vegetables are safe to eat.

Scientists say a growing number of urban gardens in big cities have lead in the soil. It's what's left of lead paint and leaded gasoline used in cities decades ago.

A study in the Boston area suggests even clean, trucked-in dirt can end up contaminated in a few years.

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The Environmental Protection Agency made a visit to some Valley farms.

E.P.A. Administrator Lisa Jackson is on a nationwide tour of ag business. She took a look at environmentally friendly farming methods, such as drip irrigation, that are used in the valley.

Conservatives have attacked the E.P.A. for regulations that increase the cost of doing business, especially for ag businesses.

"There is absolutely no difference between the mission of our agency -- which is to protect human health and the environment -- and the desire of people who live and work this land to have clean water and clean air," said Jackson.

Environmentalists protested outside of one of Jackson's stops in Fresno. They criticized the agency for not doing enough in Kettleman City, where they blame toxic waste for a number of birth defects.

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A small Fresno County town changed its name for the day to help the hungry.

Raisin City was transformed to Raisinets City in honor of National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day. Nestle' officials unveiled a sign with the city's adopted name Wednesday. "Raisinets" characters treated people to bags of the snack.

A parade and relay race were also held. Nestle also donated food and juice to the Community Food Bank.

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