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Freddy Strano spent much of last week mowing down 100 acres of perfectly good tomatoes.


The problem: He couldn’t sell his tomatoes for anywhere close to what it cost to grow and harvest them.

”They were beautiful tomatoes, some of the better ones we’ve had in years,” said Strano, whose family has been in the tomato business since 1939. “The prices were just horrible. It’s demoralizing. It’s going to cripple everybody.”

Homestead tomato growers faced a double whammy as consumers cut back purchases amid an oversupply. The combination sent prices plummeting to the lowest levels in years. A 25-pound box of tomatoes sold for much of the winter at $4-$6. The cost to grow and harvest that box is as high as $10.

[ . . . ]

(includes slide show of three photos and two pages of written info)



My Note –

How does that make sense? If $10 a box has already been spent to grow the crop, why aren’t they selling them for $6 and taking the loss – how does losing the entire $10 per box of tomatoes by plowing them under, help any?

Then, they get nothing for the costs that have already been put into them. Who is advising these people on doing this, the department of agriculture?

– cricketdiane



A video of a backhoe knocking down homes in Victorville, Calif., was posted on YouTube by the founder of a Web site called Vision Victory.

A Texas bank is about done demolishing 16 new and partially built houses acquired in Southern California through foreclosure, figuring it was better to knock them down than to try selling them in the depressed housing market.

Guaranty Bank of Austin is wrecking the structures

Many lenders, like Guaranty, have been foreclosing on home builders whose projects have gone bust. Regulators told Guaranty to come up with a plan to dispose of its foreclosed properties. But finding buyers is difficult, as home values remain under pressure.

Guaranty spokesman John Wessman said only four of the 16 structures slated for demolition were “substantially complete,” while the others were less than half finished and “exposed to the elements.” Guaranty obtained the property through foreclosure in December 2008. The builder, Matthews Homes, couldn’t be reached.

A demolition job of this size would likely cost more than $100,000, according to a person familiar with the matter. A video of the houses being knocked down was posted on YouTube by the founder of a Web site called Vision Victory Manifesto, which has been warning of economic disaster. He declined to give his full name for this story.

Guaranty Bank has significant exposure to construction loans to home builders. Last month, its parent company, Guaranty Financial Group, was issued a “cease and desist” order by the federal Office of Thrift Supervision, citing the firm’s “unsafe and unsound banking practices.”




Curtis Forrester was hired to keep thieves away from the failed Victorville housing tract and help sell off the fixtures. “All my life I’ve been building things,” the construction worker said. “It’s kind of fun tearing them down.”
A bank cuts its losses on a failed 16-unit project by having the homes demolished.
By Peter Y. Hong
May 5, 2009
Curtis Forrester moved into a brand-new house in Victorville last week, but there was little time to enjoy the Jacuzzi and designer kitchen. He was there only to see it destroyed.

Just a few days after his arrival, the two-story residence and three other luxurious model homes were crushed and hauled off for scrap, the latest fallout from Southern California’s real estate crash.

“It’s a waste of a lot of resources and perfectly good construction,” he said.

Willemsen, whose family has run the business for 50 years, said it was the first time the firm had demolished a new housing project to return a potential neighborhood to soil.

Ron Willemsen, president of Intravaia Rock and Sand, the Montclair company handling the demolition, said he was glad to see people finding uses for the materials. But wrecking a pristine house troubled him.

The four finished homes, however, were richly appointed with granite countertops, whirlpool bathtubs and dual-pane windows.

Building permits were issued in September 2007, Hester said. Home prices were already falling, but in San Bernardino County, the median price that month was still a robust $325,000, according to DataQuick, enough to keep fueling hope — or denial.

Construction halted in the summer of 2008, and the homes became a nuisance, attracting vandals and squatters, Hester said. The city first cited the developer for failing to maintain the property in July, Hester said.

“People were taking sinks, the air conditioners. For someone who wanted to do no good, it provided an opportunity,” she said.

The bank repossessed the development in August, Hester said. Demolition permits were granted April 9.

The wrecking crew showed up near the end of the month. Forrester was not officially part of the demolition team. His nephew, who got him the job, operated the backhoe that tore through the houses with the destructive ease of a mechanical Godzilla. Forrester’s job was to chase vandals away and sell what he could to bargain hunters.

The developer of the Victorville project had hoped to sell the houses for more than $300,000 as they were being built last year, Forrester said. But reality quickly diverged from that vision. Home prices have tanked faster in San Bernardino County than any other Southern California county during the downturn. In March, the median home sale price for the county was $160,000, down 43% in a year, according to the San Diego-based research firm MDA DataQuick.

Officials of Guaranty Bank of Austin, Texas, which took over the development last year, were unavailable for comment. But Victorville city spokeswoman Yvonne Hester said the bank decided not to throw good money after bad.

“It just didn’t pencil out for them,” she said. “They’d have to spend a lot of money to turn around and sell the houses. They just made a financial decision to just demolish them.”




Miami’s oldest church, St. Stephen’s, being demolished

Emily Michot

Miami’s oldest standing church building, the original 1912 Mission-style chapel at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove was undergoing demolition Monday morning much to the dismay of historian Arva Moore Parks and many others. Parks tried to get a one week delay of the project to talk about various options, but over the weekend and continuing Monday morning. Crews began to tear down the historic site to make way for new classrooms for the school and retail space.


Miami’s oldest church, St. Stephen’s, being demolished



DENVER – It is not your typical “everything must go” garage sale. A new trend called pre-foreclosure or foreclosure sales offer deals for some, but often costs taxpayers thousands of dollars, according to mortgage experts and real estate agents interviewed by 9Wants to Know.
The sales offer everything from the kitchen sink to countertops, cabinets, toilets, the hot water heater and the furnace from a home.

Homeowners hold the sales ahead of foreclosure in an attempt to make money before they leave the house.

Some loans require the government to cover the loss when a homeowner defaults on a loan. When homeowners sell appliances and other fixtures in the home, its value decreases. The government covers the gap between what the home is worth and what the bank can sell it for, and that money comes directly from taxpayers.

The sales offer everything from the kitchen sink to countertops, cabinets, toilets, the hot water heater and the furnace from a home.

[ . . . ]

Find 9Wants to Know on Facebook by searching blowthewhistle@9news.com.

Contact 9Wants to Know Investigative Reporter Jace Larson at jace.larson@9news.com.



Salyer American halts plantings
Published on 05/01/2009 05:29pm By Dawn Withers

(UPDATED COVERAGE, 5:30 P.M., MAY 1) Salyer American Fresh Foods, Monterey, Calif., instructed its growers this week to stop planting after harvesting on current crops is finished, said industry sources speaking on background.

Glen Dupree, vice president and chief financial officer of Merrill Farms, Salinas, Calif., a grower for Salyer, said the company was told April 25 by phone from Salyer to stop planting because Salyer would only be harvesting the next crop and nothing else.

Salyer American is one of the largest grower-shippers in the Salinas Valley, specializing in leafy greens and colored cauliflower, and is owned by tomato processor SK Foods, Lemoore, Calif.

New Jersey food broker Randall Lee Rahal pleaded guilty in December to racketeering, money laundering and antitrust charges, while working as a broker for SK Foods in Lemoore.

Prosecutors said Rahal routinely bribed purchasing agents and buyers when negotiating contracts between SK Foods and distributors and retail stores throughout the U.S.

SK Foods — which merged with Salyer American in April 2007 — is not charged in the criminal complaint, nor are any of its officials.

In February, SK Foods fired employee Jennifer Dahlman, who worked for the tomato processor in Lemoore, after she pleaded guilty to mislabeling and changing test results.

Salyer represents about 20% of Merrill’s growing business, Dupree said. Merrill has been growing broccoli, iceberg and leaf lettuces, cauliflower and celery for Salyer for about six years, he said.



City to snap up shoddy

Updated: Wednesday, 29 Apr 2009, 6:27 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 29 Apr 2009, 5:59 PM EDT
Steve Nichols

ST. PETERSBURG – When the housing market was booming, it was called “flipping”: buy a house, fix it up, sell it, buy another house.

That also describes how the city of St. Petersburg plans to spend up to $7 million from the Neighborhood Stabilization Act passed by Congress last year.

Within the next couple of weeks the first five properties will be bought, most of them for under $20,000.

“Everything in the neighborhood stabilization program has to be foreclosed properties that are owned by the lenders that foreclosed them,” says St. Petersburg housing director Tom deYampert. “They all have to be vacant, and vacant for a period of time.” That’s so nobody will be forced out of their home, according to deYampert.

Depending on the condition of the property, each house will be demolished and replaced or renovated.

[ . . . ]



(With video – )

That also describes how the city of St. Petersburg plans to spend up to $7 million from the Neighborhood Stabilization Act passed by Congress last year.

Within the next couple of weeks the first five properties will be bought, most of them for under $20,000.

Depending on the condition of the property, each house will be demolished and replaced or renovated.



Wine Industry: Tax Increase Could Crush Us
Posted By: Karen Massie     6 days ago

But Bogle fears new legislation may crush the wine business. Senate Bill 558 calls for putting a nickel fee on alcoholic drinks. Bogle said, “At the moment we’re paying an excise tax of almost 20 cents a gallon. This new increase would raise that to $1.48.”

That’s a 640 percent increase in what wineries and vineyards pay now.

But Bogle believes the wine industry, which pours almost $52 billion into the state’s economy annually can’t afford it. He said small grape growers would be hit the hardest. “They may just have to plow under some of their grapes,” Bogle said.

He pointed out the wine industry provides some 300,000 jobs and pays $10 billion dollars in wages every year.



My note –

and at the same time  –

Verdegaal Brothers & Conergy Work on Solar Energy Solution

Published 16 April 2009

Verdegaal Brothers, Inc. has joined the growing list of San Joaquin Valley companies working with the global experts at Conergy to optimize their solar energy options with the use of thin film photovoltaics (PV).

Construction begins this month on a 188kW fixed-mount solar energy system that will offset Verdegaal’s utility bills by 99% and meet 82% of the company’s energy needs. It is expected to save the company an annual $60,000 in utility costs. Interconnection is expected in July.

According to Conergy’s West Coast Director of Projects David Vincent, First Solar’s thin film solutions are proving increasingly popular in California’s sun-drenched Central Valley because of how well they perform in hot, dusty and low or diffused-light conditions.

“The San Joaquin Valley’s notorious valley fog, its high levels of airborne particulate matter and the region’s disking, plowing, harvesting and trucking operations can create sustained low-visibility conditions in this part of the state,” noted Vincent. “First Solar’s thin film solutions are specifically designed to optimize energy output for companies operating in these conditions,” he said. Because the efficiency of their semiconductor material is less susceptible to cell temperature increases, it generates more electricity under high ambient temperatures.It also converts low and diffused light to electricity more efficiently. Both lab and field results are showing notably higher energy output for First Solar’s thin film in these conditions. This is a benefit for Verdegaal not only in meeting its energy needs, but because surplus, peak-time energy produced by the Conergy system is credited back to Verdegaal’s utility bill.

Cutting costs for agricultural suppliers can indirectly touch businesses and families across the U.S. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California is the #1 state in cash farm receipts1 and produces about 50% of the nation’s fruit, nuts and vegetables. California’s agricultural output features more than 400 commodities. Many crops are produced solely in California, and the majority of the state’s agricultural production comes from its sun-drenched Central Valley. Verdegaal Brothers, Inc. has been part of the state’s agricultural community and supporting the farmers who produce the nation’s food and fiber for more than three generations.

“Verdegaal Brothers has been supporting farmers with soil and water amendments that improve crop yields for nearly 35 years, said Russ Verdegaal, President of Verdegaal Brothers, Inc. “We’re installing this system to improve our energy source in a way that improves our bottom line – and the quality of the air, water and land around us,” he said. “We’ve always been about efficiency,” Verdegaal added.

This Conergy solar energy solution will reduce carbon emissions by 6145 tons of CO2 over the estimated 25-year life of the system — the environmental equivalent of eliminating nearly 20 million road miles from California’s freeways.

According to Conergy consulting partner Damon Silva, Verdegaal Brothers is an innovative, award-winning, community-based company that has evolved over time to keep up with the changing needs of the farmers it serves. “Verdegaal Brothers’ past innovation includes the operation of a fleet of trucks to assure prompt delivery of their fertilizer and soil and water amendments. Their recent leadership in energy diversification will bring them nearly $350,000 in incentives, a clean, renewable energy source, a hedge against rising energy costs and a cleaner environment for generations to come,” said Silva.

Source: Conergy



Riding out the storm

Willy and Judy said the cost of running a dairy farm and up-and-down prices contributed to the demise of dairying.
“The price of milk caused some to get out, but feed costs” also contributed, Mrs. Sieler said.
Her husband said he never thought he’d see $6 for a bale of good alfalfa hay to feed his cattle, but that’s what they’re seeing today. Years ago, the price was about $2 a bale. The family still grows much of its own hay.

Fertilizer is one of the biggest expenses on the farm. Prices for fertilizer have skyrocketed in the past two years, Todd said.

Nitrogen and anhydrous ammonia sell for about $750 a ton after soaring to $1,000 a ton last year. Just six years ago, the family paid about $230 a ton, Kurt said. Potash is a fertilizer used in the fall when fields are plowed. Potash costs about $1,000 a ton today compared with about $125 a ton eight years ago.
Diesel fuel, once purchased at $1 a gallon, costs twice as much today and at times soars to $4 a gallon. Herbicides and chemicals used to control weeds also have climbed in price.
Milk prices fall
All of these crop input prices have risen while the final price of milk sold from the farm continues to fall from a high of $21 for 100 pounds of milk. The amount depends on butterfat and protein content in the milk.

In January, the Sielers sold their milk for about $14 for 100 pounds.

Demand for milk often dips when schools are on summer recess. Dairy farmers once were paid a premium for producing more milk in the fall, but that no longer happens.
Todd says the volatility of prices is puzzling to most farmers, since the population hasn’t decreased. There is usually a cyclical effect to the changes, and growers make decisions based on common sense.
“Wall Street makes a living out of (raising and lowering) the price,” he said. “There’s so much out of your control. … You plant in the spring and wait until October or November to see the fruit of your labors. You just got to adjust and ride it out.”
[ . . . ]
But one by one, the herds began to disappear. Many of the dairy families retired or turned to other farm operations like growing grain. They sold their herds or stopped raising calves.
Today, only about a half-dozen farms in the region still raise dairy cattle to sell milk. They include the VanBuskirk, Calder and Reaume farms, all in Carleton; the Schafer farm in Ida, and the Sieler farm in Dundee. Most of these farms raise holsteins, or spotted cows. The VanBuskirks raise what they like to call the “red hot” Jersey cattle. Some of the other farms also raise Ayrshire and Brown Swiss cows.



My note –

There are a lot of really bad people making decisions in this country and for some reason, the bankers and Wall Street firms keep showing up in the middle of the mix of pressures that are forcing perfectly good products, crops, and even new homes to be plowed under rather than sold for the prices today. It is in the interest of absolute profits at the complete expense of the taxpayer with nothing of productive value to show for it. Unveiled and aggregate greedus maximus.

– cricketdiane, 05-05-09