Food & Farm News
January 21, 2015
Cooperative Extension starts to rebuild
In the past four years, the University of California says it has hired 68 new farm advisors and specialists, helping to rebuild services that have suffered from budget cuts and retirements. Advisors in the UC Cooperative Extension system help farmers, ranchers and homeowners with questions about caring for crops and animals. For the first time in recent years, the extension service has been able to hire more advisors than have retired.
Farmers test processing of ‘energy beets’
A pilot plant in the San Joaquin Valley has begun processing sugar beets into ethanol. The demonstration biorefinery in Five Points will test processes for converting the beets. Farmers and researchers are testing a special variety of sugar beets, known as “energy beets,” which can deliver high yields of ethanol. Progress made at the pilot plant could lead to construction of a commercial-scale biorefinery later this decade.
New varieties could boost avocado production
The great majority of California-grown avocados come from coastal Southern California, but a University of California researcher says the crop shows promise in the San Joaquin Valley. Summer temperatures in the Central Valley generally prove too warm for traditional avocado varieties, so the researcher has been breeding new varieties better adapted to the region. She says the new varieties feature eating quality comparable to the popular Hass avocado.
USDA forecasts higher beef prices
Retail prices for beef may average slightly more than they did in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retail prices set records last year, because of tight cattle supplies and relatively strong demand. In the coming year, USDA says, an abundance of pork and poultry may limit beef price increases, and recent declines in gasoline prices may give people additional spending power at the grocery store.