CIRS Blog about Rural California


Press Conference:          June 12, 2013, 10:00am, COLLEGE OF THE DESERT (MECCA CAMPUS) 61-120 BUCHANAN STREET, MECCA CA 92254

Community Forum:         June 12, 2013, 5:30pm, College of the Desert (Mecca Campus) 

Contact:             Elizabeth Toledo, Building Healthy Communities:760-578-9605

                              Megan Beaman, Pueblo Unido CDC: 760-406-8900


The report is expected to be a tremendous asset to ongoing work toward the improvement of Eastern Coachella Valley conditions.  “The lack of consolidated and unbiased data documenting the inequities of our region has been one of the greatest challenges we face in our work for better infrastructure, water quality, housing, and environmental health.  It has been incredibly frustrating to us at times to have decision-makers and policy-makers say or imply that we are exaggerating about our community experiences, or that they need to see science before they can help.  This data will assist us greatly in demonstrating that our experiences are based in hard facts and statistics,” said Megan Beaman of Pueblo Unido CDC.

The group will present the report briefly by press conference on June 12, 2013, and the whole report and in-depth analysis will be presented at a community forum that same evening. 

Non-profit organizations contributing to the production and release of this report are:  Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation; California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.; Inland Congregations United for Change; and Comité Cívico del Valle.



Elizabeth R. Toledo

Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Eastern Coachella Valley

P: 760.972.4628 | C: 760.578.9605 | F: 760.674.9923

Connect with BHC:

"Like" us on Facebook: Eastern Coachella Valley Building Healthy Communities

Continue reading
in Rural California 2130 0

By Kate Moser
California Health Report

California has some of the nation’s toughest laws meant to ensure equal health care services for people who aren’t fluent in English.

But many limited English-speaking patients still lack the interpreters necessary to have meaningful communication with medical providers, particularly in emergency scenarios. The problem is acute for the communities of indigenous Mexican immigrants in California, advocates and practitioners say.

“The root of the problem is that until fairly recently, the huge indigenous population in California was under the radar,” said Sandra Young, a family nurse practitioner at a clinic in Oxnard and the president of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project.

Many indigenous Mexican immigrants are farmworkers, the most recent arrivals in the state’s agricultural labor market, according to the Indigenous Farmworker Study, a California Endowment-funded study completed in 2010.

Continue reading
in Indigenous Farmworkers 2614 0

By Daniel Weintraub

It’s fair to say that California is the richest state in the nation. We have more millionaires than any other state, and mansions dot our coastal bluffs and inland canyons.

But California is also, arguably, the poorest state in the nation. We have more people in poverty — 6.1 million — and more children in poverty than any other state.

Even more ominously, a new measure of poverty shows that California has the highest percentage of its population living below the poverty line.

By the traditional measure, California’s poverty rate is 16.6 percent, 20th in the nation. But the new, supplemental measure released last year by the Census Bureau puts California at the top of the list with a poverty rate of 23.5 percent.

Continue reading
in Rural California 1974 0

Earlier this year, it was hard to be optimistic about any progress in Congress on the farm bill. Fiscal cliff legislation on New Year’s Day extended the current farm bill through September, buying time for more delays. And, there was so much on the legislative agenda—from budget sequestration to appropriations and more. But after watching sequestration take hold in March, Congress addressed appropriations for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2013 and moved on separate budget resolutions for FY2014. 

Still, when both the Senate and House agricultural committees announced plans for farm bill markup, no one could have expected the speed of deliberations in committee and the quick movement to floor consideration. On May 14, the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up the farm bill legislation in little more than three hours. The following day, the House Agriculture Committee took about nine hours to get the job done. 

Continue reading
in Farm Bill 1714 0

By Leslie Griffy
California Health Report

When students start school in the Salinas Valley town of Bradley, they bring with them with pens, paper and notebooks. The school district provides their water bottles.

That is because tap water in this south Monterey County school is undrinkable. It’s contaminated with dangerously high levels nitrates.

Bradley’s approximately 49 students, kindergarten through 8th grade, aren’t alone in their lack of tap water.

Officials at schools in San Lucas, a little less than a half hour north of Bradley, discovered about two years ago that the water from their taps isn’t safe. Filling the gap, first with county emergency funds and now with water provided by a bottled water company, was a juggling act at first.

“It was a bit of surprise and sudden scramble to think that ‘uh oh, we have to do something,’” said Principal Nicole Hester.

The Washington Union School District, off Highway 68 between Salinas and Monterey, is also without potable water.

Continue reading
in Rural Health 1710 0

Merced County officials lobbying Washington this week know, in theory, the secret of getting things done on Capitol Hill.

“The process takes a long time,” Dos Palos Mayor Johnny Mays said Wednesday. “We have to keep nudging, and nudging, and nudging.”

Exhibit A: The Los Banos Bypass.

Continue reading
in Rural California 1627 0

In California, farmworkers in general, and the indigenous in particular, are undercounted by official census takers.  Ignorance about the indigenous population—one of the poorest groups in California—has led to widespread unawareness of this community’s needs; service providers in some regions may even be unaware of the community’s existence.  The language barriers and the unique cultural traits of the population make it critical that customized programs be implemented to accommodate the significant differences with other Mexican immigrants.  These videos are posted both for the stories conveyed and to introduce viewers to the sound of some indigenous Mexican languages. Here, Alejandro is speaking Triqui and Emila is speaking Chatino. For more information and videos go to the Indigenous Farmworker Study

Alejandro - English from Indigenous Farmworkers on Vimeo.

Emilia - English from Indigenous Farmworkers on Vimeo.

Continue reading
Tagged in: Agricultural Labor
in Indigenous Farmworkers 1931 0

By Leah Bartos
California Health Report

In the coming year, millions of currently uninsured Californians will gain coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act — but that does not necessarily mean it will be any easier for them to see a doctor.

As the state prepares for the expected onslaught of newly insured patients, health-care professionals are warning there may not be enough doctors — particularly, those practicing primary care — to meet the increased demand. Some say that the problem will be even more amplified in rural California, which already suffers a physician shortage and dwindling workforce, as the majority of rural physicians nears retirement and recruitment of new doctors lags in replacing them.

Continue reading
in Rural Health 2804 0


It is difficult for farm workers to find affordable housing in coastal counties such as Monterey and Ventura with expanding labor-intensive agricultural sectors.  Strawberry production is increasing.  Most growers hire 1.5 workers for each acre to pick strawberries several times a week during a season that can last several months.
Rents in these metro countries are often $1,200 a month or more for two-bedroom units.  For example, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom unit in Monterey County is $1,223 in 2013, and for Ventura County $1,500 (  Many farm workers, especially those who are in an area only for seasonal harvests, live with friends and relatives or in converted garages, leading to overcrowding.


A $110,000 report on housing for Napa farm workers prepared by Bay Area Economics was released March 1, 2013.  It estimated that a peak 7,000 workers are employed in Napa county agriculture.

Interviewers found that 95 percent of the 350 farm workers contacted for the study were born in Mexico, but 54 percent consider Napa County their permanent home. Napa County has farm worker centers in Calistoga, St. Helena and Yountville with a total of 180 beds. The report found that 46 percent of center residents consider the farm worker centers to be their permanent homes and urged that the centers, which are subsidized by a $10 an acre assessment on wine-grape growers who do not provide housing to their workers, be maintained.

After Riverside County cracked down on the informal housing often used by farm workers in the Coachella Valley, a mobile home park known as Duroville opened on land owned by the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian tribe, escaping the county's jurisdiction.

Duroville was soon populated by 4,000 mostly Purepecha Indians from Michoacan who pick table grapes in Coachella and in the San Joaquin Valley. A federal judge in 2009 ordered Duroville to be closed after alternative accommodations were found for residents.  With $28 million in federal, state and local funds, 183 homes for Duroville residents were built in Mountain View Estates.  Mountain View residents pay $425 a month in rent; less than the $450 many paid in Duroville.

Desert Hot Springs and Coachella were defined by USDA as rural in 1990, when each had less than 20,000 residents and were not in a metro area.  Today, their populations have grown to 26,000 and 41,000, respectively, and they are no longer eligible for USDA rural housing loans.



Continue reading
in Agriculture 2037 0

Hispanic farmers in Texas and California’s Central Valley planted the seeds for a billion-dollar payout when they charged the Agriculture Department with discrimination.

Their lawsuit has struggled in court, but it scored politically.

Now Agriculture Department officials are scrambling to distribute some $1.33 billion to Hispanic and female farmers with discrimination claims. Hoping not to miss anyone, officials have extended the deadline for applications to May 1.

“We’re trying to make sure we leave no stone unturned,” Lillian Salerno, the acting administrator of the department’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service, said in an interview Tuesday. “We feel like we’ve done a good job of outreach, but you’re never completely sure.”

Continue reading
in Farm Labor 1628 0

In 2012, we created a community risk assessment tool to help workers to determine how to reduce their individual risk for heat related illness at home and in their communities. It’s called “Are you at risk for heat Illness at home? Keeping you and your family safe in the heat.”

Our problem is this: we don’t have enough funding to translate and print this tool and get it out to rural community organizations that would use it. Since we uploaded this document and its partner document (Site and Community Assessment Tool) three months ago, 300 copies of both have been downloaded.

We think “Are you at risk…” will be more accessible to small community organizations if it’s provided as a ready-to-use tool, printed and in the hands of community outreach workers. So, today, I’m asking you to make a donation specifically for this purpose.

The total cost for translation, printing and shipping 2,000 of these assessment tools is only $2,000:

  • $300 for translation
  • $1,500 for printing 2,000 copies
  • $200 for shipping to community organizations throughout the state

It’s not a lot of money but it will do a lot of good.

CIRS is a public interest research organization.  Sounds dull-- but the research we conduct often centers on stories.

  • Stories of farmers.
  • Stories of farm workers.
  • Stories of rural California communities.

We talk to people—a lot.  We listen to what they’re saying and create tools to help them get their stories out into the world in a way that is effective.  We aim to change policy and foster advocacy in rural California where many residents simply are not being heard. One of our main projects over the past two years has focused on reducing the risk of heat stress for residents in rural communities where it’s a life and death issue.

Please support this effort by contributing online at our Crowdtilt page.

Continue reading
in Heat Risk 1761 0

By Rosa Ramirez
California Health Report

OXNARD— The stories that Dario Gutierrez, a native of Mexico City, would hear before arriving in Oxnard two years ago prompted him to make the dangerous trek to the United States illegally. People here, he recalls hearing, earn enough to live comfortably. “Dicen que aquí se barre el dinero en la calle.”—They say here, people can sweep money off the streets.

The saying has prompted flows of people from Mexico and other parts of Latin America to migrate north for work in California’s bountiful agriculture industry. They hope for upward mobility. But the reality for many toiling in the $44.3 billion industry is different. Poor pay, which characterizes the farmworker labor force, has left many struggling to find adequate and safe housing.

Continue reading
in Farm Labor 1798 0

On Feb. 4th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report titled “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation,” concluding that a changing climate would pose unprecedented challenges to U.S. agriculture that require immediate adaptive actions and further scientific research. The report opens with this strong statement: “The vulnerability of agriculture to climate change is strongly dependent on the responses taken by humans to moderate the effects of climate change.”

Combining professional input and scientific research from the government, universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, and private sectors, this peer-reviewed study provides an extensive overview of the climate change effects on U.S. agricultural production, suggesting that while farmers and ranchers have a long history of successful adaptation to climate variability, the accelerating pace and intensity of projected climate change effects over the next century requires major adjustments—simply put, we need to take action to moderate those effects in the United States, and worldwide.

Continue reading
in Climate Change 1918 0

Nearly a dozen burly California raisin growers watched intently Wednesday as Supreme Court justices struggled to figure out how their industry works.

During an hour-long oral argument, the justices peppered lawyers with questions that increasingly suggested some sympathy for the growers, who are protesting a big Agriculture Department penalty.

The federal government fined Fresno County grower Marvin Horne and others hundreds of thousands of dollars for refusing to turn over raisins as part of a New Deal-era supply control program.

“Part of that penalty was, you know, ‘Your raisins or your life,’” Justice Antonin Scalia said, producing courtroom chuckles.

Continue reading
in Agriculture 1691 0

A new CalCAN report says that California’s farmland is at risk from traditional pressures like urban sprawl and new ones including large-scale solar energy projects and oil and gas exploration. Despite mounting evidence showing the climate change benefits of protecting farmland and curbing greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation and energy use, California farmland is under threat of being paved over.

Triple Harvest: Farmland Conservation for Climate Protection, Smart Growth and Food Security describes the many essential services provided by California farmland and current development threats. It outlines policy recommendations for protecting agricultural lands to ensure their climate, food security and other benefits.

“California’s existing farmland protection policy tools are outdated and underfunded,” reported CalCAN’s Policy Director Jeanne Merrill at the summit. “They must be strengthened, especially at the boundaries of our cities where farms can provide the greatest benefit to avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.”

As California aims to reach its mandate of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, both smart growth planning and urban edge farmland protection will be crucial. For example, a 2012 study by UC Davis researchers found that in Yolo County, urban development generates 70 times more greenhouse gas emissions than irrigated cropland.

Continue reading
in Climate Change 1736 0

(All names used are pseudonyms, in order to preserve interviewees' confidentiality)


Nadia: "You really can't run against a white guy. You can't. You're going to lose, regardless whether the population, whether we outnumber them. I think they'll still win."


Interviewer: "Why do you think that?"


Nadia: "I think they can brainwash us, because we work for them. In farm labor. We work for them in the rice fields. We work for them in the orchards. We work for them."




In Colusa County (located in the northern Sacramento Valley), Latinos comprise 55 percent of the total population, but there are no Latino representatives on the two city councils or among the five county supervisors (US Census, 2010).[i] In fact, there are only two Latino elected officials in the entire county: one on a local school board and the other on the county’s school board. As of March 2012, there were 14 majority-minority[ii] cities in California with all non-Latino white city councils, and there were 20 majority-minority California cities with only one minority member on the city council.[iii] With similar situations arising in political districts across the United States, the study of the potential causes for this phenomenon is timely.

Continue reading
in Political Representation 2251 0

By David Runsten, Richard Mines and Sandra Nichols

The great failure of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was that it did not provide for a continuing legal flow of new immigrants to manually–skilled labor markets. People will keep coming if there is a demand for their labor and what is required is a policy that legalizes and manages this flow in the most efficient and least-cost manner. The research strongly suggests that the net economic impact of immigrant labor is positive, and that employment of U.S. workers is highly complementary to immigrant labor in manually-skilled labor markets.

Continue reading
in Immigration 2273 0
FEB 25, 2013

The House Committee on Agriculture

Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184

WASHINGTON – Today, Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson issued the following statement in response to the recent release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) report on the various definitions of rural used in programs administered by the agency. The 2008 Farm Bill required USDA to complete this report by June 18, 2010 to assess how the various definitions have impacted rural development programs and to make recommendations on ways to better target funds.


Continue reading
in Rural California 2257 0

Since 1997, the United States has deported 4 million people - twice as many as the sum total of all people deported between 1892 and 1996.

The rise in deportations (removals) after 1996 was due to a change in laws. However, the more recent increase is not because of any legislative changes. Instead, it is a direct consequence of Congress appropriating increasing amounts of money for immigration law enforcement. Congress appropriates these funds because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requests them.


Continue reading
in Immigration 3340 0

This press release was issued by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.


SACRAMENTO, CA (February 19, 2013)

On Friday, February 15, 2013, Judge Perantoni of the Riverside County Superior Court, after learning that RBI Packing, LLC of Mecca, California fired approximately 55 farm workers, ordered RBI to stop discriminating against its employees on the basis of their union activity and to offer them priority in hiring for all agricultural jobs at the company’s Blythe-based lemon ranch. 


Continue reading
in Farm Labor 2583 0

Sign Up for our E-newsletter