Thursday, July 30, 2009

California's farm crisis receives more national attention

Nationally syndicated radio talk show host and blogger Hugh Hewitt, who's devoted some attention here and there in the past few months to what he calls California's "man-made" drought, weighs in today with a plea for readers to check out this story in London's Globe and Mail.

In the story, reporter Sonia Verma reports what she saw during her visit to the Central Valley.

The lineup at the makeshift food bank by the old rodeo grounds is almost a kilometre long.

Tent cities for the homeless have sprung up on H Street in Fresno.

The last bank, Westamerica, in the nearby town of Mendota has a new sign in the window saying it will close for good.

In California, authorities have begun to issue IOUs instead of cash.

Unemployment stands at 11.6 per cent and 180 cities are set to sue the state over a budget that proposes to close a $26.3-billion shortfall by taking $4.7-billion from their coffers.

In all of this, Fresno County, where Mr. Allen was born and raised, has the unenviable distinction of being the hardest-hit county in the state.

Its jobless rate reaches 40 per cent in some towns. America's housing crisis was its most pronounced here, with prices almost triple a home's value. Nearly half of all sales these days involve foreclosure.

On paper, the numbers are staggering. For the rest of California, Fresno County stands as a cautionary tale of consequences to come.

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