Conservation law restored

MODESTO, Calif. (AP) -- A California appeals court has restored a Stanislaus County law that will require home builders to conserve as much agricultural land as they develop into subdivisions.

Three judges from the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno overturned on Nov. 29 a ruling by a lower court judge who had declared the farmland preservation policy unconstitutional.

Presiding Judge Herbert Levy said in the panel's written opinion that removing acres from agriculture, the county's leading industry, has "a deleterious impact."

He says it is not unreasonable to expect developers who profit from the process to protect "this valuable resource."

The Building Industry Association of Central California sued to block the law after county supervisors approved it three years ago.

Executive vice president Steve Madison told The Modesto Bee he does not expect the group to appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Arizona citrus weathers cold

MESA, Ariz. (AP) -- A freeze warning across the Phoenix area on Nov. 30 was enough to send shivers through Mesa citrus growers.

The low-pressure cold front from the West Coast stopped short of damaging crops.

The cold front caused temperatures to drop to the low 30s and high 20s in some outlying areas.

A forecaster with the National Weather Service told the East Valley Tribune that Chandler and Gilbert each experienced low temperatures of 27 degrees with Mesa dropping to a low of 30 degrees overnight Tuesday.

The low in east Mesa was 33 degrees. Citrus farmer Denise Burden said temperatures have to drop lower than 32 degrees for three to five hours before crop damage could happen.

Freeze aids pecan harvest

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- Cold temperatures are helping Dona Ana County pecan growers with their harvest.

Such cold snaps prep nuts for the harvest by killing leaves and drying up husks around the pecan shell.

Pecan buyer and grower Phil Arnold told the Las Cruces Sun-News it usually takes orchards several days to dry out enough for harvesting to begin in earnest after cold weather.

But even before the cold snap that saw temperatures drop into the 20s on Thanksgiving night, some growers were harvesting the fringes of their orchards because lighter freezes had already killed leaves there.

Experts say New Mexico's production is expected to be larger than usual for a light year.

A federal forecast in October estimated 56 million pounds of in-shell pecans will be harvested. By comparison, New Mexico's crop totaled about 43 million pounds in 2008, the last off year.

Some growers have said they expect record prices because it's an off year in production but demand for pecans continues to climb in China.

Jim Brueggen, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Center, said that while pecan prices are expected to be strong, people in the industry are reluctant to speculate how high they might go.

"Until the crop is harvested and until the pecans are shelled, no one is going to commit much," he said.

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