Monday, January 20, 2014

Parched California

Frank Imhof, a Sunol cattleman is checking the weather constantly. If he doesn't get rain soon, "lots of people are going to be out of a job," he says.

He's considering culling nearly 40 percent of his breeding herd and selling calves that are four to five months short of their market weight, because he doesn't have enough grass in his pastures to feed them.

On Friday, amid California's driest year on record, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in the state. As days pass without snow or rain, dairymen, farmers and other livestock producers are finding themselves in the same predicament as Imhof. Without water to irrigate, produce growers fear they will have to leave some fields fallow.

Ranchers and farmers say that as long as the drought continues, the nation's largest agricultural state will remain in turmoil, with repercussions stretching to consumer pocketbooks in the form of higher prices for such basic staples as meat, milk, fruit and vegetables.

"If it doesn't rain in another month there will be ranchers and farmers going out of business," Imhof said.

For most, there is little to no financial relief or government aid to bail them out. Only 35 of California's 400 crops are eligible for farm insurance, said Karen Ross, secretary of the state Department of Food and Agriculture. Almonds, corn, cotton, citrus and avocados are a few of those crops. Livestock operations are not.

No farm bill - And without the passage of a farm bill, most federal disaster relief programs are not available. Federal lawmakers, still wrangling over a dairy price program, are more than a year overdue passing the bill. The 2008 bill, which included everything from farm subsidies to food stamps, expired in autumn 2012, but was extended until Sept. 30, 2013. The legislation typically carries provisions, offering cash remedies to livestock producers - especially cattle - devastated by natural disasters.

"We're hoping that a bill is passed and those programs are retroactive," Ross said. "But California doesn't have the money to duplicate those federal funds."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering low-interest loans of up to $500,000 to growers and ranchers. The agency also administers the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Ranchers and farmers participate by paying $250 a year, and in hard times are eligible to receive a small percentage of their losses.

"It's not designed to make people whole," said Val Dolcini, California's executive director of the USDA's Farm Service Agency. "But it's more than a little something."

Luckily for Imhof, the wheat hay he grows to help feed his 200 head of cattle is insured. Without rain, there is little likelihood of a harvest.

"We've never bought crop insurance before," said Imhof. "But for some reason, when we planted, my wife said, 'We're getting insurance.' I guess God was trying to tell her something. I only wish God would tip me off on a horse at Golden Gate Fields."

He needs the winnings for the $5,000 he spent on hay - 24 tons he had trucked in from El Centro (Imperial County).

Some cattle ranchers are going as far as Utah for their hay, but an additional $85 a ton for freight can make that cost prohibitive, said Darrel Sweet, a Livermore cattleman. For now, he's buying feed and holding off on selling stock. "Hope springs eternal," he said. "When you sell off your breeding heifers it takes three to four years to replace that income. I'll have to think long and hard before I sell them off. The long-term ramifications are too big." But he knows that paying those feed bills isn't sustainable for long.

Unfortunately for the San Joaquin Valley, where much of California's food is grown, tomorrow could get much worse if there is no rain. Even before the drought, the Central Valley had water issues and this only exacerbates the situation.

"Annual crops like melons and vegetables may not get planted," Ross said, adding that if that happens, local produce will be at a premium. "Yolo and San Luis Obispo counties (important agricultural producers) are also running very dry."

Wine grape growers in Sonoma County remained circumspect. "We're concerned, but not at panic stage yet," said Karissa Kruse, a grower and president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission."

Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey Farm Bureau, said that his county is in better shape than much of California because of its two major reservoirs - lakes Nacimiento and San Antonio. The Salinas Valley is the most agriculturally productive region of California, known as the Salad Bowl of the world. Lettuce, spinach, strawberries, artichokes and wine grapes are among its top crops.

"For now, we're OK," Groot said. "But if the drought persists, we may not be. In four months we'll reevaluate, and at that time decide wether to leave fields fallow, specifically the annual crops like leafy greens and other vegetables."

Stacy Finz is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

JANUARY GARDENING - Start spring planning. Just about the time you put away the Christmas tree, the seed catalogs will start hitting your mailbox. Enjoy the chance to begin your grand plans for warmer weather. Supplement the lists of new products with ideas from garden books and magazines.

Corral your ideas into a garden notebook that will be handy for toting to the garden center come spring. Dedicate pages for notes and photos of favorite ideas. Include pocket folders for articles and notes, and a zip pocket to hold spring receipts and plant labels.

Make online and mail-order purchases early. Supplies of the most popular items tend to start running out in March or so.


disbosom \dis-BOOZ-uhm\, verb:
To reveal; confess.
In the field of private space to relax, drink vodka and philosophize in the kitchen, to denounce officials, disbosom.”  - Mr. Thirty Hour Work Week

aburrido, adjective
bored; boring
The meaning of aburrido changes completely according to whether you use it with ser or estar. When you want to talk about you or somebody else being bored, you use aburrido with estar: “Ramón es muy aburrido.” Ramón is very boring.

UNIVERSITY CHRONICLES – Crowded Out of Ivory Tower, Adjuncts See a Life Less Lofty: New York Times, January 19, 2014 by Rachel Swarns: “His students call him “Prof,” and in the classroom James D. Hoff looks like any other English professor, circulating among the undergraduates and urging them to recite, savor and interrogate the texts of writers as varied as James Baldwin, Stephen Crane and the Beat poets.

He is sandy-haired and bearded, with a passion for modern American poetry, and in many ways he is living his dream. He has published essays on Ezra Pound and Laura Riding and is able to forget his worries amid the joys of helping young people discover the power of literature.

But his anxieties always come back. At night, he sometimes lies sleepless in the dark, wondering how long he will be able to afford the academic life.

He is not a professor. He is an adjunct lecturer, holding an increasingly common and precarious position that offers him no job security, no health benefits and no assured pathway to full-time university employment.

Nearly 18 months after being awarded a Ph.D. in English, Mr. Hoff has yet to find a full-time job. He cobbles together a living, struggling to line up courses to teach at different colleges around the city. If he is lucky, he lands four classes a semester, a full-time workload that pays about $24,000 a year. This semester, only three classes came through.

“Scared,” Mr. Hoff said, describing his emotions when he learned he would have a $3,000 hole in his budget. He is 42 years old, with a wife, a toddler and mounting credit card debt.

From 1993 to 2011, the percentage of faculty members without tenure surged nationally from 57 percent to 70 percent, according to the American Association of University Professors, a research and advocacy group. Of those faculty members, a vast majority are adjunct professors like Mr. Hoff.

At the City University of New York, where Mr. Hoff worked as an adjunct while earning his Ph.D., part-time adjuncts now account for 62 percent of the 18,600 instructors, according to the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents the faculty and staff at CUNY. Research groups, officials and others point to shrinking endowments and declining state funding as a cause for the reliance on cheaper, part-time staff.

CUNY, which has also experienced soaring enrollment, has provided $10 million to support health benefits for adjuncts, and supports a program to move about 200 adjuncts into full-time jobs. Adjuncts say that much more is needed.

Many assume that adjuncts are working professionals, who teach a course or two on the side. But with the decline in tenure-track positions, a growing number are scholars like Mr. Hoff, who cannot find full-time university work.

They are increasingly restive, prodding universities over late pay and classes that are canceled at the last minute. Adjuncts say they are typically excluded from university governance and decision-making regarding the classes that they teach. And there are smaller indignities that grate, like being denied keys to the supply cabinets or access to offices after hours.

“They feel a lack of dignity, a lack of respect, a lack of visibility,” said Barbara Bowen, the president of the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, who said her union would demand increased job security for adjuncts in coming contract negotiations.

Adjuncts also struggle to make ends meet. Mr. Hoff, who is teaching this semester at Manhattan College and the Fashion Institute of Technology, recently moved with his family from Manhattan to the Bronx to find a cheaper apartment. He and his wife, who works for an academic journal, cannot afford to buy a home or start a college fund for their 22-month-old daughter.

Every day, Mr. Hoff reviews the recent email updates about new job openings in his inbox. He no longer focuses solely on tenure-track jobs, searching for anything full time, anything permanent, positions at community colleges, or university presses, anything that would allow him to teach and pursue an intellectual life.

Mr. Hoff was the first in his family to go to college. As a young man, he dreamed of becoming a poet and a scholar. He still clings to those aspirations, at least for now.”

“Come talk to me in five years,” he said. “I may feel differently then.”

Editors Note: My opinion on adjunct pay and representation, next week.

20 YEARS AGO TODAY - Coverage of the Northridge quake of Jan. 17, 1994, eventually pegged at 6.7: L.A. Times banner, "33 Die, Many Hurt in 6.6 Quake: L.A. Area Freeways Buckle, Buildings Topple" ... Inside stories were labeled "Disaster Before Dawn" and "Coping With The Quake" ... An Orange County angle: "Scoreboard Crashes Onto Seats in Anaheim Stadium ... The 17.5-ton Sony 'Jumbotron' also destroyed a section of roof as it broke loose and fell to the left-field upper deck."

All four articles on the N.Y. Times front page were about the quake, under the banner, "SEVERE EARTHQUAKE HITS LOS ANGELES; AT LEAST 30 KILLED; FREEWAYS COLLAPSE: Hundreds Injured - Predawn Temblor Levels Buildings and Ignites Dozens of Fires," by Seth Mydans ... "Airborne in Bed: A Building Collapses, Leaving 15 Hurt," by Elizabeth Kolbert ... "Collapsed Freeways Cripple City Where People Live Behind the Wheel," by Bernard Weinraub ... "Lives and Nerves Shattered, but Not Civility," by Jane Gross.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Scott Glenn (75), Wayne Gretzky (53), Mariska Hargitay (50), Ed Helms (40), Jack Nicklaus (74), Tiffani Thiessen (40), Robin Zander (61).

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/25, 9:07 PM ET, Root: #18 North Dakota (12-7-3) visit Magness Arena and # 16 Denver University Pioneers (12-7-5). A big NCHC league game, we like Denver to take a close one 4 – 3. Season to date (0-2).

BRONCOS SLIGHT FAVORITE IN SUPER BOWL -- Oddsmakers had trouble picking the favorite in what figures to be one of the most evenly matched - and heavily bet - Super Bowls ever. ... Denver was favored by 1 point at several books in the early betting, while others had the Broncos as high as a 3-point pick. The move to the Broncos came after some books had initially made the Seahawks as much as a 2-point pick in the game.

Lookahead - Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl pits top 'O,' top 'D, Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos and [mouthy cornerback] Richard Sherman's Seattle Seahawks [yesterday, Sherman made a choke sign toward the S.F. bench] were the NFL's best all season, so it's fitting that they'll meet in the Super Bowl. Nobody scored as many points or gained as many yards as the Broncos. Nobody allowed as few points or gave up as few yards as the Seahawks. And nobody won as many games ...

When the AFC champion Broncos (15-3) play the NFC champion Seahawks (15-3) on Feb. 2 at what could be a chilly MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., it will be the first Super Bowl since 1991 pitting the league's highest-scoring team in the regular season against the team that was scored on the least ... It's also only the second time in the last 20 Super Bowls that the No. 1 seed in each conference reached the NFL championship game. ... Manning, ... 37, ... is the only four-time NFL MVP ... Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson ... is 6 inches shorter, 12 years younger, a skilled scrambler in only his second pro season.


(NCAA Hockey, Jan. 25) #13 Clarkson Golden Knights (15-7-2) @ #12 Cornell University Big Red (9-4-4). Clarkson stays hot, wins 5 – 4.

(NHL, Jan. 25) Anaheim Ducks (37-9-5) @ Los Angeles Kings (29-15-6), the outdoor fad comes to Dodger Stadium. LA Kings win in the Scully Bowl 3 – 2.

(D-III Game of the Week, Jan. 25) men hoops; La Verne Leopards  (5-10) at Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (11-5). Sagehens too much for the Leos, 70 – 55.

2014 Season to date (6-7)

Next week: Jack Ass of the month and time to vote.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
January 20, 2014

#IV-40, 197

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