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Agriculture briefs

Retail food prices have risen 3 percent in six months, led by increases for poultry products, according to an informal survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The prices of 16 common food items totaled $53.20 in September, the federation reported in its Semi-Annual Marketbasket Survey. The total increased $1.66 from March.

Eleven of the 16 items increased in price. Among them, chicken breasts increased 61 cents to $3.93 per pound; Russet potatoes were up 49 cents to $3.18 for a 5-pound bag; bacon, up 43 cents to $4.71 per pound; and whole milk, up 25 cents to $3.71 per gallon.

“As anticipated, food prices have increased by about 3 percent so far during the year, which is slightly higher than the average rate of inflation over the past 10 years,” said federation deputy chief economist John Anderson.

Seventy-nine shoppers in 25 states participated in the latest survey.

Brown signs bill to promote community gardens

California cities hoping to promote community gardens and small-scale farms in urban areas are getting a boost from a new state law recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The measure lets municipalities lower the assessed value — and property taxes — on plots of three acres or less if owners dedicate them to growing food for at least five years.

The voluntary program makes it easier for cities to create “urban agriculture incentive zones” that don’t rely on public land or heavy philanthropic support.

The legislation by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, helps owners transform eyesore parcels such as empty lots into farmable land. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and garnered just six “no” votes in the Assembly.

California citrus industry fights Asian citrus psyllid

The federal shutdown isn’t stopping California’s citrus industry from keeping up its fight against a potentially devastating citrus pest.

The industry’s California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee is contributing up to $100,000 to help replace federal funding used to battle the Asian citrus psyllid in the central San Joaquin Valley.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture now has a quarantine measuring 86 square miles in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley citrus belt. Additional smaller quarantines are in place in neighboring Fresno and Kern counties.

The psyllid is a major threat to the state’s $2 billion citrus industry because of its ability to carry a deadly plant disease known as citrus greening, or huanglongbing.

— Staff and wire reports. Submit items to robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com

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