Tuesday, February 6, 2007

State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth to Help Growers

He's my man!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Last modified Wednesday, January 31, 2007 5:26 AM PST

State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth listens to Larry Saunders of Saunders Ranch in Fallbrook as Saunders talks about his problems collecting on insurance claims related to crop damage.
DAVID CARLSON Staff Photographer

State senator aims to help growers

By: NICOLE SACK - Staff Writer

TEMECULA -- State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth introduced legislation Tuesday to "soften the blow" of January's cold snap that hit growers statewide and caused more than $1 billion worth of damage to California crops.
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Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, has introduced three bills offering tax breaks for California farmers who suffered crop loss as well as those facing long-term recovery to damaged groves and nurseries.

"The growers in San Diego and Riverside counties that I represent, as well as farmers in more than 20 other counties around the state, have suffered tremendous damage from this freeze," Hollingsworth said in a press conference at the Calavo avocado packing house in Temecula. "Their losses will be in the millions and could last for years."

While the official numbers are yet to be released, representatives from the California Farm Bureau Federation estimate the statewide damage to crops to be $1.1 billion. Steve Pastor, executive director for Riverside County Farm Bureau, said more than $86 million of damage was done to this county's crops alone.

"This disastrous freeze wiped out crops overnight," Pastor said. "These measures are going to be good to help farmers get back on their feet."

The first bill introduced by Hollingsworth, SB 148, would provide a property tax exemption for fruit and nut trees severely damaged by the cold. The exemptions would be available to farmers for the next four years. The trees, although mature, would not be assessed at full value while they recover from the freeze.

Carlos Vasquez, field operations manager for Calavo, said it will take about two years for damaged avocado trees to again produce fruit. But during that time, farmers must maintain the groves.

"These growers will have no income coming in, but will still be incurring costs," Vasquez said. "The effects of this freeze will carry through the year."

The second bill, SB 149, would offer a sales tax exemption for materials farmers used to fight the cold snap, such as natural gas, gasoline and other fuels used to warm groves, orchards and greenhouses.

The successive nights of low temperatures, which dipped into the 20s from Jan. 12 to 16, took a severe toll on citrus fruit. While there have been widespread losses, the California Farm Bureau Federation reported frost-protection measures taken by farmers did succeed to some degree.

To make the tax breaks more timely, Hollingsworth is also pushing a third bill, SB 114, that would allow farmers to deduct losses against their prior year's income, as well as carry operating losses forward for five years.

The trio of bills has been introduced in the state Senate. No further action has been taken as the official language of the bills is being reviewed by the rules committee.

Hollingsworth hopes to fast-track the measures. The property tax relief bill would have to be approved prior to property assessments, which could delay the tax breaks if the Legislature drags its feet. Once approved, the freeze relief would be effective for four years, said Hollingsworth spokeswoman Erica Holloway. The exemptions would be on the 2007 tax rolls, she said.

While Hollingsworth's initiatives were welcomed, area growers asked if more immediate relief could be offered.

Larry Saunders, a Fallbrook avocado grower, said he wants the state to help expedite Federal Crop Insurance reimbursements, which he says generally take one year to be paid out.

"The losses are known; our premiums are paid. I know that the federal government subsidizes our insurance, but my loss is my loss," Saunders said. "It is not in the benefit of the farmer to have to wait a year to get some help."

Avocados have begun to drop from trees as a result of freeze damage to the fruit stems, what growers call "chill drop." Freezing temperatures weaken the stems and cause fruit to drop from the trees prematurely. The freeze could also harm buds for next season's avocado crop, Vasquez said.

The damage is also visible, said Chuck Bandy, avocado division manager for McMillan Farm Management.

"It looks like a flame thrower was taken to these trees," Bandy said. "Soon the trees will look like skeletons. They will regrow, but won't produce for two years. Growers are going to need assistance to make it through the next few years."

-- Contact staff writer Nicole Sack (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2616, or nsack@californian.com.


Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Graying Of Baby Boomers - Retirement Paradise Lost and How To Gain it.

The Graying of the Boomers: Retirement Paradise Lost (And how to regain it.)

February 2, 2007

SOURCE: InsuranceNewsNet, Inc.

In her book Thinking Out Loud American journalist Anna Quindlen wrote:

Somewhere between a third and a quarter of all people living in America today were born between 1946 and 1965 and if you think you’re tired of hearing about us, you should try being one of us.

Now that the baby-boomer generation is turning into their parents, the future isn’t looking as bright as what analysts earlier predicted. In fact, the general buzz seems to reflect Quindlen’s sentiment: it won’t be easy being gray.

Starting 2008, baby boomers born in 1946 will hit their 62nd year and become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. So what’s the problem? Several years ago analysts estimated between $10 – 40 trillion from the current generation of senior citizens to the baby boomer generation. Financial experts painted a rosy retirement scenario for boomers. Now things do not look as rosy.

The impending retirement of at least 82,826,479 baby boomers is expected to stress the federal budget as they collect Social Security and Medicare benefits. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which cost $1 trillion in 2005, are expected to eat up 75% of the total federal budget by 2030. By 2050, people over 85 will rise to 19 million.

How did this thing go from trillions of dollars to this?

For one, boomers have a longer life expectancy. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan raised concerns over Americans living longer and medical costs outpacing personal incomes. Meanwhile current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would rise rapidly in the next 10 years with devastating effect of entitlement spending on the country.

Another contributing factor to the future fiscal problem is that boomers have been spending their savings away. Dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University James W. Hughes described them as a generation of consumers - not savers. Without sufficient private savings, retiring on schedule may not be realistic.

If the situation is a disease approaching critical stage, the cures proposed by the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees will be bitter to most. Getting Social Security back on track the immediate imposition of an additional 16% payroll tax. An alternative to that would be reducing benefits by 13%. To keep Medicare afloat will take 121% tax increase. An option to that would be a 51% reduction in services.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has the same opinion. He cautioned members of Congress who are batting to cap tax rates must face the fact that low tax rates are sustainable if outlays and entitlements are pruned down.

Currently, payroll taxes from five working Americans is needed to finance the Social Security and Medicare benefits of a single retiree. Twenty-five years from now only three workers will support each retiree. According to Federal Reserve Board the declining worker-to-retiree ratio is not only expected to bring down the standard of living. It will increase tax burden by as much as 33% if retirement benefits remain unchanged.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is banking on the AmeriSave Plan to provide providing middle-class families with retirement security. The proposed AmeriSave Plan will increase and upgrade existing retirement accounts - including the 401(k)s and IRAs. The plan’s “AmeriSave Match” will match first $1,000 contributed to an IRA, 401(k), or similar retirement plan dollar-for-dollar. AmeriSave will add the benefit of compound interest to the guaranteed benefit of the Social Security of some 100 million Americans.

“We will strengthen retirement security without adding to the deficit,” vows the Speaker. “The AmeriSave Plan will increase national savings and grow our economy while helping middle-class families prepare for a brighter future.”

The prospect of being gray and retired may look bleak but if you’re 45-years old you still have about 240 paychecks ahead of you. So it isn’t too late. But if you’re not big on leaving your future in the hands of the President, Senate and Congress, here’s what you can do now on your own: set up direct deposit.
Direct deposit is a good way to get Social Security and other federal benefit payments. Because it is predictable and dependable, it also provides better control over financial resources and time.

To get a paycheck direct deposit up and going requires paperwork with employees must accomplish with their employers. Treasury Fiscal Assistant Secretary Donald Hammond said direct deposit is safer and more convenient than paper checks and encourages baby boomers to sign up for direct deposit for its significant benefits and cost savings for American taxpayers. John Rother, AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons) Group Executive Director of Policy and Strategy strongly agrees describing it as making good sense any way you look at it.

Respected economic journalists and business forecasters Knight Kiplinger also has a number of tips for gaining financial security before hitting the gray wall:

Get insured against disability, serious illness, disability, untimely demise and other risks before acquiring any financial assets.
Keep credit cards in check and limit its use for buying properties with long-term values such as house or education plans. Everything else should be paid with cash.
Make a monthly deposit to a mutual fund, money market or brokerage account before making any other checks.
And finally, Kiplinger says instant gratification is fun but it won’t fund long-term financial goals. The price of a more secure future is living a simple life for now.

© Entire contents copyright 2006 by InsuranceNewsNet.com, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reprinted without the expressed written consent from InsuranceNewsNet.com.


Thursday, February 1, 2007

1 out of 5 San Diego County Jobs Linked to Military Spending.

Study: 1 out of 5 county jobs linked to military spending

By: JOE BECK - Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO ---- Military spending remains a cornerstone of San Diego County's economy and is the second-largest employer in the county, according to a study released Wednesday by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Defense supports nearly one in five jobs in the area, according to the study.

"This does give us a great opportunity to see the contributions the military makes to the local community," said Brig. Gen. Angela Salinas, commander of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Salinas was one of several military and chamber officials who spoke by telephone to reporters at a news conference following release of the 53-page report.

The study found that defense spending created 148,616 jobs directly and an additional 142,530 jobs through indirect spending, a total of about 290,000 jobs, or more than 20 percent of all regional jobs. The biggest part of military spending went into the manufacturing sector, which claimed $4.5 billion, nearly 25 percent of total defense expenditures in the area.

The study showed spending by the Defense Department pumped $18.3 billion into the San Diego area in 2004, the last year for which statistics were available. The $18.3 billion constitutes 14.7 percent of the total regional economy, according to the study. Of the $18.3 billion benefit, $11.7 came from direct expenditures and the remainder through spin-off effects.

The study was compiled using statistics on defense procurement contracts, expenditures by military bases and expenditures on salaries, retirement and disability benefits among active-duty service members and civilian employees of the military.

The regional chamber has been a stalwart supporter of military bases in the county. Though the chamber lobbied against base closures, it voted by a slim margin to oppose the military's position on a ballot measure to put a civilian airport on Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

Military and chamber officials said they conducted the study to obtain a comprehensive set of statistics on the effect of military spending on the San Diego area that could be used for several purposes, including lobbying politicians at the local, state and national levels on military spending.

The study cited Science Applications International Corp. and National Steel & Shipbuilding Corp., both in San Diego, as the leading military contractors in the area.

The study showed that research and development, often cited by economic development experts as the most desirable form of economic activity, lagged well behind procurement contracts among categories of defense spending. Salaries and wages, retirement and disabilities and base expenditures were also much more significant sources of spending, the study said.

The study concluded that military spending is a crucial part of the local economy, despite a trend toward greater diversification in the last two decades.

"Even with a substantial portion of the military forces deployed outside the region, the military is still the second-largest employer in the county," the report said.

The report broke down the effect of military spending by branches of the military and installations. The Navy accounts for 65 percent of the economic activity generated by military spending and the Marine Corps accounts for 23 percent, according to the study. Of the naval bases, Point Loma registered the biggest impact, accounting for $5 out of every $100 in the regional economy and three out of every 100 jobs. The Marines' Camp Pendleton contributed $3.1 billion in economic output and supported almost 2 percent of all jobs in the region.

Rear Adm. Len Hering, commander of Navy Region Southwest in San Diego, said the fresh statistics will also help in community planning.

The study identified several future projects that are expected to make major contributions to the area economy. The biggest effect is likely to come from the Navy's Broadway complex in downtown San Diego, a collection of seven buildings offering office, hotel, retail and public space that the study projects as creating 22,000 jobs for the local economy.

Increases in the size of the Navy and Marine Corps were also cited as sources of future growth.

For example, the federal government wants to expand the Marine Corps from 175,000 active members to 202,000 in the next five years, an initiative that could bring up to 13,000 more recruits to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and 4,988 more Marines to Camp Pendleton, according to the study.

The study said each Marine at Camp Pendleton generates $83,500 in economic activity.

"Assuming there is no change in this figure, future force level increases may generate between $62 (million) and $417 million per year in economic output for the San Diego regional economy," the study said.

-- Contact staff writer Joe Beck at (760) 740-3516 or jbeck@nctimes.com.

Study: 1 out of 5 county jobs linked to military spending