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UC experts try to help settle poultry dust-up

The University of California was called in to help settle a dispute between neighbors in Rail Road Flat over hen and roosters' cackles and crows. According to an article in today's Stockton Record, three rural families have met in court twice to argue the case of the vociferous farm animals, only to come back with split decisions.

"I want to be a good neighbor. But at the same time, this place is zoned ag," the story quotes chicken owner Dave Redmond.

"I have to cover my ears or wear earplugs," Terry Baker was quoted.

The UC Cooperative Extension director for Calaveras County, Ken Churches, asked UC Davis poultry extension specialist Francine Bradley to try to smooth the ruffled feathers.

According to the story, Bradley wrote a number of recommendations early this year, from better-insulated coops to shielding the birds from light.

The article said the Redmonds haven't yet made the changes, but are now gradually moving the chicken coops to a place on their property further from their neighbors' homes.

Posted on Friday, July 25, 2008 at 10:52 AM
Tags: public policy (29)

Insurance study confirms UCCE fire-protection advice

An insurance industry study of the 2007 Witch Creek wildfire, which destroyed 1,700 structures in San Diego County, reached the same conclusion as UCCE's wood durability specialist Steve Quarles: wind-blown embers cause most home fires.

The report, released by the Institute for Business & Home Safety, was covered in a 1,000-word Stockton Record article written by Bruce Spence.

In addition to danger posed by flying embers, the study found that combustible fences and decks connected to houses were so effective in drawing a wildfire into structures that they "might as well be called wicks," according to the article.

The story included information about new state codes that regulate new structures being built in wildfire zones.

Quarles, quoted in the Stockton Record article, said the new state code will also benefit owners of existing homes, because it details what they need to do and what materials they need to retrofit a house to be more resistant to a wildfire.

"It was harder to do two years ago," Quarles was quoted in the story.

Because new home builders will need them, the code will also make fire-resistant construction materials readily available.

Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 11:00 AM
Tags: wildfire (124)

Egg puns pepper coverage of Prop 2 study

A sprinkling of newspapers ran stories today based on the ANR press release distributed yesterday on the potential economic effects of passing Proposition 2. Voters will decide in November whether to approve the initiative, which would require egg producers to employ cage-free production practices.

In addition to spreading news about the likely downfall of the California egg industry, the coverage revealed that there's something about eggs that begets puns.

The Sacramento Bee said the "November ballot measure meant to improve the lives of the state's laying hens likely would crack the state's egg industry."

The Woodland Daily Democrat's headline quips, "Initiative lays an egg for state producers."

The Stockton Record's jest was more subtle; its headline reads "Measure could send egg industry packing, study says." The Record's story, written by Reed Fujii, balances comments from the study's two authors with a proponent of the measure.

A radio clip on Inland News Today declares "egg-laying hens would be freed from their cages."

It looks like Proposition 2 will prompt a significant amount of debate in the coming months, but as they say, you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.

Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 11:13 AM
Tags: eggs (22), public policy (29)

UCCE forestry advisors comments on fire aftermath

UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor Greg Giusti was an important source of information for a story in today's Santa Rosa Press Democrat about repercussions of recent forest fires. Reporter Glenda Anderson also spoke to officials from CalFire and the Mendocino Redwood Company, but the majority of the story relayed information from Giusti.

Giusti was credited in the story for the following information:

  • Douglas fir trees are more susceptible to fire
  • Redwood trees are more resistant and may benefit from the burning of underbrush
  • Demand for Douglas fir lumber is weak and the price is depressed
  • The loss of younger, more fire-prone Douglas fir stands could cause a gap in future timber harvests, income and employment
  • The fires could prompt more environmental regulation by displacing protected spotted owls and their favorite food -- wood rats
  • The fires will give local biologists a good opportunity to study how animals react and adapt to fire
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 10:43 AM
Tags: wildfire (124)

Proposition could kill the goose that lays the golden egg

The debate over Proposition 2 is beginning to heat up. The proposition, which will appear on the November ballot, was designed to regulate treatment of farm animals. So far, voters seem to be in favor of the idea. According to a story in today's San Jose Mercury-News, a field poll found that two-thirds of California voters will mark their ballots in favor of the initiative.

Among other things, Prop 2 would end the common practice of housing egg-laying hens in cages in California starting in 2015. A new study released today by the UC Agricultural Issues Center found that nearly all of the $330 million California egg industry will likely be wiped out if the initiative passes.

The UC research study concludes that non-cage production costs are so much higher than the costs of the cage systems, it would prevent California producers from competing with eggs produced in other states, which will not be required to follow the new regulations. A news release by ANR's Pam Kan-Rice about the AIC study was distributed to the media today. The release says the study was funded by the University of California, but it seems there may be some misinformation in the media about that point.

An article in the Fresno Bee last May said scientists at UC Davis and other institutions received $400,000 from the American Egg Board to study the use of cages for egg-laying chickens.

Freelance writer Don Curlee expressed outrage in his column about the proposition, which ran in various newspapers including the Visalia Times-Delta today. He wrote that the initiative was placed on the ballot by a "compact of kook-fringe animal rights advocates."

At least one reader took exception. "I'll be glad to pay extra at the supermarket, I already do for cage-free eggs and dairy-free products. But tsk, tsk, poor ag-lobbyist/publicist Mr. Curlee -- the only member of the 'kook-fringe' I see here," the reader wrote in the newspaper's online comments section.

It will be interesting to see following the November election who winds up with egg on their faces.

Posted on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 11:31 AM
Tags: eggs (22), public policy (29)

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