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Beekeeper Newsletter – May 29, 2001

2002 Pollination Prices
There will be no change in pollination prices for the 2002 season (see accompanying schedule) in spite of increased pressure on our bee supply.

Supply-demand is the engine that drives the price of any commodity and almond pollination prices are a classic example. Almond acreage has increased 17% in the past 10 years, while US bee colony numbers have decreased by 17%. If this trend continues (and indications are it will) expect higher pollination fees in coming years.

This year we lost our Texas bee suppliers (2000 colonies) due to fire-ant rules. 2 of our beekeepers sold out to beekeepers that are not interested in bringing bees to us (1200 colonies). One beekeeper is leaving us for a grower that pays by the frame (600 colonies) and three don’t want to come back with us (900 cols.). We will be going all-out in coming months to make up these losses but we are asking for your help on the demand side of the equation.

The past 2 years of marginal pollination weather have shown that growers can get by with less colonies if they use strong colonies. Our recommendations:

1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cols./acre for most orchards.
1 to 1-1/2 cols./acre for adjacent early-late blooming blocks.

Well continue to do our part in supplying the strongest colonies possible. Help us (and help keep pollination prices down) by using less than 2 colonies per acre.

Providing strong bee colonies requires much pre-planning; we urge you to make pollination arrangements well before bloom.

Giving Back
We recently donated $10,000 to the Research foundation of the CA Beekeepers Assn. to fund research that will help beekeepers solve some difficult problems, mainly parasitic mites. Almond growers have been more than generous in supporting bee research over the years with several hundred thousand dollars supplied by the Almond Board for help on bee problems. A healthy bee industry is vital to the almond industry; research funding improves the health of the bee industry.

Also, a Foundation established by my parents in 1998 and administered by my brother (Mike) and myself has made grants to the Cal State Bakersfield Hispanic Excellence Scholarship Fund in recent years. A major purpose of the Foundation is to further the education of promising students, particularly students of immigrant parents. Both my parents were children of immigrants and could not have attended college without scholarships. Most of the CSUB scholarship recipients are the children of immigrants and many are the children of farm workers. A number of independent thinkers, from both sides of the political spectrum, have concluded that money invested in education gives a far greater return than money invested in prisons.

History Notes
I first came to Kern county in 1959 and worked for Valley Pollination Service who supplied bees for 40,000 acres of alfalfa seed in the San Joaquin Valley (at this time there were 40 acres of almonds in Kern county). The biggest change I’ve seen in 40+ years, one that has affected all of agriculture, is the changing attitudes towards Mexicans. In 1959, when one heard the word “Mexican”, it was, more often than not, preceded by the adjective “dumb”. With sporadic exceptions, you didn’t see Mexicans driving tractors or operating equipment because they were deemed incapable of such complex tasks. Along parallel lines at this time, the same type of ignorance pervaded the sports world: blacks were felt to lack the “necessities” to become baseball managers (or quarterbacks) a myth that was demolished by 3-time Manager-of-the-year, Dusty Baker (and others).*

A notable exception (there were others) to the prevailing 1960s attitudes towards Mexicans was Sam Hamburg, a Los Banos area farmer. Hamburg had two Mexican superintendents and when Hamburg had a good year (and he had a number of them) his superintendents would get a “bonus” that would sometimes exceed their annual salary; other year-round employees got similar bonuses. Perhaps being Jewish allowed Hamburg a different perspective.

How different things are today! Mexicans not only handle most of the equipment chores, but are dispersed through all layers of agriculture, holding a variety of responsible positions. Their bi-lingual skills make them invaluable employees. Most gratifying is the genuine mutual respect between growers and Mexicans.

To help close the circle, in 1998, Shafter native Dean Florez beat out an incumbent conservative Republican for the 30th Assembly District seat (representing the Southern San Joaquin Valley). Bright, personable and hardworking, Florez currently chairs the assembly ag committee and is running for state senator in 2002. Florez is a consumate politician (meant as a compliment) with the ability to see all sides of an issue. In an improbable coup, Florez has the support of both the AFW and also a number of ag leaders who look at Florez as the anti-Cesar.

It was in the climate of the sixties that Cesar Chavez came to power and, like most conflicts, the farm worker movement was as much about Respect as anything else. Chavez was a master of “spin” long before the word was invented and was able to portray grape growers as heartless taskmasters, a role that does not fit any grower I know. Growers were generally clueless in the matter of spin and more than once shot themselves in the foot. Growers played to an audience of their peers rather than to a wider audience The end result may have been pre-ordained. With the benefit of hindsight, growers would have been better served by keeping a low profile and hiring a professional spin-meister.

Chavez secured a Ghandi-like, even Christ-like image for himself in the eyes of the U.S. public, in spite of numerous acts of arson, vandalism, violence and intimidation by the movement. Cesar, of course, disassociated himself from these criminal acts and was able to maintain his saintly image in spite of strong evidence that if he did not directly instigate such acts he at least condoned them.

In the eyes of many growers, Cesar was a gangster, playing the role of a saint, and it was the hypocrisy inherent in such a role than infuriated growers (and rankles many to this day). Looking back on the “struggle” today, most growers will concede, albeit reluctantly, that they were out-manuevered by one smart Mexican.

It is unlikely that another Cesar could emerge today. By maintaining better relations with their Mexican workers (now called “Latinos”, a term that superseded “Hispanics” and “Chicanos”) growers have laid a foundation, based on mutual respect, that makes another farm worker uprising far less likely.

One company, Paramount Farming, has made what could be viewed as a pre-emptive strike against farm worker discontent: Paramount has established an in-house scholarship program for the children of their employees. Other ag companies have recently undertaken similar programs. Ponder this question: if Delano grape growers had pooled 1% of their annual profits toward funding scholarships for the children of farm workers, would Cesar have targeted these growers and would he have garnered the following he did?

Thanks!
Our company would not exist without your support. Your patronage over the years is appreciated.

Joe Traynor, Mgr.

SCIENTIFIC AG Co.
P.O. Box 2144
Bakersfield, CA 93303


*such attitudes were the conventional wisdom (CW) of the time, as was the opinion that if we didn’t prevail in Viet Nam, the communists would be at our shores. 100+ years earlier, the CW held that it was O.K. to own slaves, and 100 years before that, that the colonies should remain loyal to England, and earlier yet, that the best way to prevent damage from volocanos was to make sacrifices to the Volcano Gods.