The San Joaquin Valley is the agricultural powerhouse of the United States and California. California accounts for an eighth of U.S. farm sales, largely because it produces high value fruit and nut, vegetable and melon, and horticultural specialty (FVH) crops such as nursery products and flowers. Over three-fourths of the state's $37 billion in farm sales in 2010 were crop commodities, and almost 90 percent of the $28 billion in California crop sales represented labor-intensive FVH commodities.

About half of California's farm sales and farm employment are produced in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley with four million residents that stretches from Stockton in the north to Bakersfield in the south. The leading U.S. farm county is Fresno, which had farm sales of almost $6 billion in 2010.

News and Notes: Is California Rising?

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Recovery in the Valley

California began to recover from the 2008-09 recession in 2012. Employment rose from 16.2 million in January 2012 to 16.5 million in November 2012, and the unemployment rate dropped from 11.3 to 9.8 percent.

In Fresno county, a bellwether for the San Joaquin Valley, the labor force was stable at 441,000 in 2012 but employment rose from 367,000 to 380,000. Fresno's unemployment rate dropped from 17 percent in January 2012 to 14 percent in October 2012.


Around the State
The city of Huron (6,800 people) in Fresno county is the state's poorest city. Huron's median household income was $23,000 between 2007 and 2011, about half of Fresno county's $47,000 and a third of California's $61,600 median household income ( About 70 percent of Huron's residents are farm workers, half were born abroad, and 98 percent speak primarily Spanish; half of Huron's residents had incomes below the poverty line between 2007 and 2011.

San Joaquin and Mendota are other Fresno county cities that are among the state's five poorest. Parlier, often considered a typical farm worker city, had 15,000 residents in 2011, including 98 percent who were Hispanic. Parlier's median household income was $36,000 between 2007 and 2011, and 29 percent of residents had incomes below the poverty line. About 45 percent of Parlier's residents were born abroad, usually in Mexico.

Ex-Orange Cove mayor Victor Lopez is back on the city council, after being defeated in 2010 elections. Orange Cove is a city of 9,200 mostly farm workers and their families who pick oranges in area orchards, and has one of the state's highest poverty rates, 40 percent of residents have incomes below the poverty line. Lopez, who traveled frequently seeking grants for Orange Cove while he was mayor for two decades, was investigated 12 times for corruption but never indicted.

The Central Valley, which has 14 percent of California residents, receives 60 percent of the state's non-agricultural compost; many urban coastal counties ship their waste to San Joaquin Valley agricultural counties. In 2000, the city of Los Angeles bought 4,600 acres in Kern county near Taft, and by 2012 Los Angeles was sending 20 truckloads of treated sludge a day to spread on city-owned farm land that was used to produce corn, alfalfa and oats.

Some Kern residents fear contamination of their groundwater. In 2006, Kern county voters approved Measure E to ban the importation of sludge from outside the county. Los Angeles sued, arguing that Measure E violated California's waste management laws, and the case is pending. Los Angeles county purchased 14,500 acres in neighboring Kings county to dump waste.

The New York Times on November 14, 2012 reported on water problems in unincorporated areas of the San Joaquin Valley. Seville is a place of 300 in Tulare county where schools and private homes buy water for drinking and cooking. Almost 10 percent of San Joaquin Valley residents receive piped water in their homes contaminated with nitrates, which can cause thyroid disease.

Some of the places with contaminated water began as seasonal farm labor camps and evolved into places with limited infrastructure and settled families. The Los Angeles Times on November 23, 2012 reported that Tulare county identified 15 "non-viable" communities in the 1970s based on a prediction that mechanical harvesters would soon replace the farm workers who lived in places without public water and sewer services. There was less mechanization than expected, and today many residents of places such as Seville are from rural Mexico, where buying bottled water to drink is common.

The Newhall Land and Farming Company has been trying to develop a city of 60,000 along a six-mile stretch of the Santa Clara River 35 miles north of Los Angeles. Newhall says it has invested $10 million in the proposed project, which has languished due to the 2008-09 recession and opposition from environmentalists.

Duroville, a mobile home camp on the Torres-Martinez Cahuilla Indian Reservation in Thermal that once housed up to 4,000 farm workers and their families in mobile homes, is being closed in 2013 as residents move to the Mountain View Estates in Oasis, which has 181 spaces for mobile homes. Duroville was opened by a native American in the late 1990s after Riverside county cracked down on the informal housing settlements for the farm workers who move into the area to harvest table grapes in the Coachella Valley in April and May.

The federal government began trying to close Duroville in 2009. A federal judge, citing the lack of low-cost alternative housing for farm workers, ordered a federal receiver to make improvements and to keep Duroville open until the county developed alternative housing for Duroville residents. During hearings, testimony suggested that most residents were Purepechas, indigenous people from Michoacan, Mexico.

San Bernardino filed for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in summer 2012 and stopped making pension payments to the state's public employees' retirement system, CalPERS. Stopping payments prompted CalPERS, which noted that Vallejo and Stockton continued to make pension payments while in bankruptcy, to sue San Bernardino for the payments. A bankruptcy judge rejected the CalPERS suit.

Salinas, a city of 150,441, has a gang problem, especially in its eastern half that is home to many immigrant farm workers. The Community Alliance for Safety and Peace aims to reduce gang membership.

Immigration and Education
About 27 percent of California's 38 million residents in 2010 were immigrants, according to American Community Survey (ACS) data for 2007-11. Across the US, the ACS reported that 13 percent of residents were immigrants.

California's population reached 37.8 million in July 2012, up 256,000 or less than one percent from the previous year. The ACS reported that 100,000 more Americans left California than moved to the state, and that the most common destinations for out-migrants were Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. There were 503,000 births in California in the year to July 2012 and 234,000 deaths.

An average 76 percent of California teens graduate from high school. Immigrants and children of immigrants are at the extremes of the education ladder. Almost 90 percent of Asians graduate from high school, followed by 85 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 70 percent of Hispanics, and 63 percent of Blacks. Only half of those labeled limited English proficient graduate from high school in California.

California spends about $10,000 per K-12 student each year, about the same as North Dakota, whose high-school graduation rate is 86 percent.

2012 Election
There were over 18 million Californians registered for the November 2012 elections. California voters in 2012 were 60 percent white, 23 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Asian, and six percent Black. In 1994, California voters were 73 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic, five percent Asian, and six percent Black.

Democrats won two-thirds supermajorities in both the Assembly and Senate, the first time since 1933 that a single party controlled the governorship and the Legislature (Democrats have had a majority of seats in the Legislature for the past 42 years).

California voters approved Proposition 30 by a 54 to 46 percent margin, agreeing to raise an additional $6 billion a year by increasing the state sales tax from 7.5 to 7.75 percent and imposing an income tax surcharge on Californians earning $250,000 or more. A rival initiative to raise taxes only on millionaires lost 28 to 72 percent.

Some $372 million was spent on the 11 propositions that appeared on the November 2012 ballot, with two-thirds provided by the 20 largest donors. Almost a fourth of the spending on all 11 propositions was provided by Charles and Molly Munger, who campaigned against Prop 30, in favor of Prop 32 to end dues check off for political contributions, and in favor of Prop 38 to raise taxes on millionaires to increase funding for K-12 schools.

Luna, Gaudalupe. 2011. United States v. Duro: Farmworker Housing and Agricultural Law Constructions. Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal. Vol 9.
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Philip Martin is Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California- Davis, chair of the University of California's Comparative Immigration and Integration Program, and editor of the monthly Migration News and the quarterly Rural Migration News.


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