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Around The Valley: Dinuba, Hanford,Visalia & More

Fertilizer C0mpany Opens Dinuba Research Farm

The Crop Vitality division of Tessenderlo Kerley Inc. (TKI) has opened a research, development and innovation farm this summer in Dinuba, California. The facility will further Crop Vitality’s commitment to developing innovative crop nutrients that help growers meet the needs of modern crop production in a reliable and sustainable manner.
The 107 acre farm, formerly BASF, provides the TKI team of agronomists the ability to replicate a multitude of farming conditions and practices around the world. The farm houses research laboratories, greenhouses and a facility for the study of various soil types, as well as administrative offices and meeting rooms.
TKI has opened a fertilizer mixing facility in Hanford recently as well.

Expansion At Hanford Dairy Plant Underway

Marquez Brothers dairy plant expansion in Hanford is underway with several projects moving forward at the Douty Ave plant. Permits in November show around $1.2 million worth of building activity including a new milk silo, and conversion of a cooling facility. Last January the city approved a plan to modernize the existing cheese and cream production plant adding 13,115sf. As part of the master plan submitted to the city, Marquez Bros plans six phases of expansion at the multi-block facility that will almost double the square footage at the plant from 116,115sf to 210,743sf in coming years.The modernization will apparently not mean many more jobs in this era of automation with the master plan showing 140 workers per shift after build out- about what they have today. Representatives form Marquez ‘s Hanford plant did not return calls for comment.

Visalia Could Get New 50,000sf Office

Tulare County is entertaining an offer from a office user to buy land on the north side of the Cigna building, now owned by the county, to construct a 40 to 50,000sf office says county Supervisor Phil Cox. The development would boost the county’s trust fund as well as provide more jobs to Visalia says Cox who will be joining the Visalia City Council December 16 after stepping down from the Board of Supervisors. The county is using a portion of the Cigna building for three county offices although they retain Cigna as a tenant.

Mortgage Interest Rates Climb To Two Year High

The Mortgage Bankers Association this week reported that the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) increased to its highest level since October 2014, 4.27 percent, from 4.23 percent, with points decreasing to 0.37 from  0.41 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.  The effective rate increased from last week. Mortgage applications fell in the latest week.

Tomato Growers Offered Less For 2017 Crop

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-6-20-16-amProcessing tomatoes is big business in Kings County with the crop valued at over $130 million in 2015. We farm about 31,000 acre here, constrained of course, by water availability.

But while Westside farmers like to complain they could better feed the world if they had more water – tomato processors are making their wishes pretty clear – grow less.

That message is coming from processors this month in their initial offer to buy processing tomatoes for the upcoming season – $58 to $71 per ton according to the California Tomato Grower Assn. In 2016 growers got an average of $72.50 down from$80 a ton in 2015. The lower price helped reduce the harvested volume from 14.4 million tons in 2015 down to 12.6 mil tons in 2016 – an 11% drop.

Vice chair of the grower group Aaron Barcellos who farms in Fresno and Merced counties says “we hope we will end up somewhere close to last year on price” but “we are facing a worldwide surplus.”

Still, “ if we can’t get enough – guys just won’t plant.” Growers say the cost of their inputs have gone up from labor to water and margins are thin.
“We have other choices we could plant “he says.

In a way farmers have set up the dynamic because of their own increasing productivity with some Kings County growers reporting they are getting 70 tons per acre compared to other areas that get in the 40s.

Barcellos does not blame the processors since they have their own problems that include not just a worldwide surplus but the high value of the US dollar. California companies have the capacity to process 15 million tons but will have to settle for less.

As for farmer’s planting intentions – they will have to make up their mind in the next 30 days, he figures.

Barcellos says a top challenge for the California industry is the increasing value of the dollar. As the dollar strengthens vs other currencies our US-made goods are more expensive to overseas customers. We export most of our crop and it makes up almost half the world production. Processed tomatoes are made into everything from tomato paste to soup,sauces, salsa and ketchup.

Mexico is the state’s largest export destination for all exports and a major export partner for tomato paste and milk. There has been a 20% drop in the value of the Mexican peso vs the dollar in the past year,most of that in the past month. That makes US goods, including our Valley-grown commodities like nuts, milk powder and tomato paste – 20% more than they were a year ago.

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