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Latest News in Cantua Creek, CA
World’s largest pistachio plant on hold after nut giant, Fresno County settle case
Fresno County and a huge pistachio grower have come to a settlement that’s expected to halt — at least for now — work on what would have been the world’s largest pistachio processing plant.The lawsuit from Wonderful Nut Orchards LLC filed in December alleged the county bypassed the state’s environmental review process and illegal...
Fresno County and a huge pistachio grower have come to a settlement that’s expected to halt — at least for now — work on what would have been the world’s largest pistachio processing plant.
The lawsuit from Wonderful Nut Orchards LLC filed in December alleged the county bypassed the state’s environmental review process and illegally issued construction permits for the massive pistachio processing plant being built by the Assemi family.
In the settlement, the Assemi family’s companies Ventana South LLC and Touchstone Pistachio LLC agreed to halt work at 34411 W. Kamm Ave. in Cantua Creek, where the proposed processing plant was under construction.
Representatives for the Assemi family and Wonderful declined comment for this report.
The permits issued by the county in September allowed for the erection of 49 silos and related work, but construction on the plant went beyond the approved scope, according to the agreement.
The Assemi brothers — Farid, Farshid and Darius Assemi — also agreed to put $250,000 in escrow to cover any costs accrued by the county as officials inspect and review the process, according to the settlement.
Under the agreement, the county was given the leeway to further scrutinize the project, which could include issuing fines, requiring new permits and using other code enforcement powers, the agreement says.
When finished, it’s estimated the plant would have been the single largest pistachio processor in the world, according to the lawsuit. The plant also serves as increased competition to the Wonderful brand, the top selling tree nut in the United States.
The Assemi family and Wonderful have butted heads in court before.
Assemi Brothers Inc. filed a lawsuit against Wonderful Pistachios and its billionaire owner Stewart Resnick in September for an alleged breach of contract.
Wonderful Pistachios garners nuts in the Central San Joaquin Valley from more than 800 growers, including from the Assemi Brothers and their associated farming companies.
When Assemi Brothers announced plans to open its own processing plant in Fresno County, it drew the ire of agriculture magnate Resnick, whose empire includes almonds, mandarins, pomegranates and sweet grapefruit.
The Assemi Brothers’ lawsuit says Wonderful Pistachios is withholding money due to them for the 2018 crop of pistachios.
The money is part of a bonus payment given to growers at the end of the season, and makes up about 30% of the overall price. For growers like the Assemies, that could be millions of dollars, according to an industry analyst.
The Assemi family alleges Wonderful officials decided the brothers are not entitled to the bonus because they would no longer be delivering pistachios to the company.
This story was originally published January 7, 2020 10:18 AM.
Is your drinking water contaminated? Check this Fresno-area map to find out
If you live in the central San Joaquin Valley, there’s a chance your tap water is unsafe to drink.Nearly 180,000 people in the region get their water from systems that do not meet drinking water standards — and it’s hard, as a resident, to learn more and find out what to do to keep yourself and your family safe.That’s why The Fresno Bee created a guide to the region’s drinking water, including:With these tools, you can just type in your address to find out where your water comes from, if you...
If you live in the central San Joaquin Valley, there’s a chance your tap water is unsafe to drink.
Nearly 180,000 people in the region get their water from systems that do not meet drinking water standards — and it’s hard, as a resident, to learn more and find out what to do to keep yourself and your family safe.
That’s why The Fresno Bee created a guide to the region’s drinking water, including:
With these tools, you can just type in your address to find out where your water comes from, if your water is considered safe to drink, how to protect yourself if the water is unsafe, and whom to contact for more information or to express your concerns.
These tools provide information about 283 community water systems in Madera, Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties. Unfortunately, data on private wells is not included because the information is unavailable or does not exist. The state does not regulate private wells.
Community water systems are generally owned and operated by cities, utilities, schools or water agencies and regulated by Regional Water Quality Control boards. If you or your landlord pays a water bill, you likely receive water from a community water system and will be able to learn about your water, using these tools.
How to use The Fresno Bee guide to drinking water
Use the map below to find out if your water system is in compliance with state health standards. To use the tool, enter your address into the search function in the upper left corner. Information about your water system will appear on the left column of the map. Or, use a searchable database if you know the name of the system you want to look up.
Information in the map is the most recent data available from the State Water Boards’ Drinking Water Database, which is updated quarterly.
Keep in mind that the safety of your drinking water can change quickly. And, even if your water system is in compliance with drinking water standards, it may still contain unsafe and harmful toxins.
Library of contaminants: Once you’ve learned if your water is contaminated, use this tool to learn how to protect yourself and your family.
Several drinking water systems in the central San Joaquin Valley don’t meet state drinking water standards because they have unsafe levels of toxic chemicals.
The State Water Resources Control Board regulates public drinking water systems for maximum contaminant levels (mcl) for 29 different chemicals to protect public health.
If your drinking water system is out of compliance, that means water quality testing found a level of one or more contaminants above the MCL in your water and may pose a health risk.
Dozens of community water systems that are out of compliance are in the process of being fixed. The various communities have either received funding or are in the application process to receive funding to pay for projects to make the water safer. Some are working to install water filtration systems, and others plan to dig new wells. Those projects often take years.
Even if your water system is in compliance with state standards, the water might still contain harmful contaminants. That’s because whatever contaminants in your water may be at levels below to MCL. There may also be harmful contaminants in your water from the plumbing in your home.
There are two primary sources of drinking water for central San Joaquin Valley residents: groundwater that flows in underground aquifers and surface water, a term that describes water from snow runoff that flows into rivers and streams and is delivered to cities through canals.
The main rivers that provide drinking water to the central San Joaquin Valley are:
Nearly 60% of residents in the central San Joaquin Valley live in a water district that relies fully on groundwater for its drinking water supply. When groundwater levels drop, or if a well is found to be contaminated, they don’t have an alternative water supply — except to drill new wells, which can be expensive.
Communities that rely fully on surface water do not necessarily have more water reliability. Nearly 25% of all water districts in the region that rely on surface water are out of compliance with state water quality standards.
A quarter of all community water systems in the region do not meet state and federal drinking water standards, sometimes because they are polluted from agriculture or development. Sometimes the problem is from contaminants that occur naturally, but become concentrated at high levels when the water table drops from over-pumping.
Most systems with unsafe drinking water are in small towns or rural areas. Often, smaller communities lack the resources to address the problem because they have fewer rate payers, and their systems are more vulnerable to pollution because there are fewer options to find clean water when there is a problem.
The larger cities of Fresno, Visalia, Clovis and Madera all currently provide water that meets state and federal drinking water standards. Each of those cities have found contamination in their water systems in the past, but they were able to treat the water or turn off wells that are contaminated, or mix it with clean water to dilute the pollution.
That hasn’t been the case in several moderate-sized cities.
Water service in Tulare, Lemoore, Parlier, Lindsay and Kingsburg currently fails to meet drinking water standards due to contamination. Each of those systems serve populations larger than 10,000 people.
State Water Board exceedance and compliance status tool provides statewide information about water systems, including the results of recent water quality tests.
State Water Board drinking water systems with violations tool provides detailed information about water systems, including the amount of state money allocated for projects.
CalEPA and OEHHA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment community water systems tool provides information about system compliance, water supply vulnerability and affordability.
Community Water Center drinking water tool provides information about groundwater supply and quality, potential impacts from future drought, how to get involved in groundwater management decisions.
This project was made possible with support from the Central Valley Community Foundation and the Local Government Commission through the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Community Foundation Water Initiative.
This story was originally published October 22, 2020 5:00 AM.
California may have a huge groundwater reserve that nobody knew about
In a surprising new study, Stanford researchers have found that drought-ravaged California is sitting on top of a vast and previously unrecognized water resource, in the form of deep groundwater, residing at depths between 1,000 and nearly 10,000 feet below the surface of the state’s always thirsty Central Valley.The resource amounts to 2,700 billion tons of freshwater, mostly less than about 3,250 feet deep, according to the ...
In a surprising new study, Stanford researchers have found that drought-ravaged California is sitting on top of a vast and previously unrecognized water resource, in the form of deep groundwater, residing at depths between 1,000 and nearly 10,000 feet below the surface of the state’s always thirsty Central Valley.
The resource amounts to 2,700 billion tons of freshwater, mostly less than about 3,250 feet deep, according to the paper published Monday in the influential Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And there is even more fresh or moderately salty water at more extreme depths than this that could potentially be retrieved and desalinized someday for drinking water, or for use in agriculture.
“There’s a lot more fresh groundwater in California than people know,” said Stanford’s Rob Jackson, who conducted the research with the university’s Mary Kang, the study’s lead author. “It’s like a savings account. We can spend it today, or save it for when we really need it….There’s definitely enough extra groundwater to make a difference for the drought and farmers.”
But two other groundwater researchers contacted by the Post questioned aspects of the findings, or their framing, suggesting that the freshwater portion of the resource may already have been used, or that its existence would do little to change California’s water plight. The response suggests the new research could prove controversial among scientists trying to interpret what it means for a state that has battled over water, and its distribution, going back many decades.
The problem is the type of water involved: groundwater, which accounts for 95 percent of the planet’s freshwater that is not contained polar glaciers and ice sheets. This is the water originating as rain and snow that does not end up in lakes or rivers, or getting drawn up by plants. Instead, it slowly penetrates ever deeper into the ground, so long as there are still cavities that can hold it.
The vast groundwater resource at question in the study is, in many cases, very deep — and the deeper in the ground it lies, the more likely it is to be salty. The resource’s huge size, Jackson said, is related to the mountainous terrain — water cascades off mountains and pools in deep underground pockets over very long periods of time.
But extracting this deep groundwater could be expensive and would run the risk of causing considerable land subsidence, as the empty cavities that once held it collapse. It would also mostly be a one-time fix, according to Jackson: The deep groundwater resource would not replenish for hundreds to thousands of years.
And perhaps most troubling of all — oil and gas companies, whose data provided the basis for the discovery, may already be despoiling some of this water with their activities, the research suggests.
The new study “improves the estimates for the total possible volume of groundwater, and how deep it is, and a little bit about its quality, primarily salinity,” said Peter Gleick, a water resources expert and president of the Pacific Institute, who also edited the study for the journal. “But it doesn’t say anything about whether that stuff’s going to be economic to pump, or sustainably managed in the long run, or an important contributor to solving our water problems. Those are unresolved issues still.”
To uncover the new finding, Jackson and Kang pored over data reported by what Jackson calls “really the only industry that cores deeply into the Earth” — oil and gas. The researchers say that they examined data from nearly 35,000 wells, as well as 938 “oil and gas pools,” spread across eight counties in the Central Valley and beyond.
The study then extrapolated for the entire Central Valley. Most pertinently, it found 2,200 billion tons of fresh and somewhat salty water within about 3,000 feet of the surface, making it the most accessible.
Still, the study suggests that desalinating this water would actually be cheaper than withdrawing larger amounts of salt from seawater, as a new California desalination plant in the San Diego area has begun to do.
At the same time, the research also wades deeply into ongoing social and political controversy by suggesting that there is likely to be at least some overlap between oil and gas extraction activities in the state, and these previously unknown deep groundwater repositories. And here the research is singling out not only hydraulic fracturing or fracking, but also the practice of wastewater disposal in deep geological reservoirs.
“Oil and gas activities happen a lot out West directly into and around freshwater aquifers,” Jackson said. “And there aren’t any restrictions to that practice.”
To be clear, Jackson is merely noting this risk — he is not asserting that any specific damage has been done. While some deep or shallow freshwater in the Central Valley may have been contaminated, he said, “I think most of it is fine. But I don’t really know.”
In a statement, Sabrina Lockhart, communications director for the California Independent Petroleum Association, countered that “It is not accurate to say that underground injection is not regulated.” Lockhart noted that wastewater injection wells require permits and state and EPA permission for siting, saying these regulators “have strict criteria that ensures that there is no harm to potential sources of drinking water.”
“A lot of the water that they’re talking about may actually be gone, when you think about the Central Valley, right now, where the average depth of the water table is already at 2,500 or 3,000 feet,” said Jay Famiglietti, a water expert with both NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine.
Famiglietti did agree about the deeper, saltier water sources, though, and praised the study for “highlighting that brackish groundwaters may eventually be an important water source.”
“Just because they’ve seen that the depth of freshwater in this basin is deeper than people thought, does not mean that you can go pump more freshwater out of this system at all. It unequivocally does not mean that,” added Graham Fogg, a hydrogeologist with the University of California-Davis. Fogg did not dispute the new study’s overall numbers, so much as whether the finding would be useful in the context of trying to supply more water to the state.
The problem, Fogg said, is that there is a difference between the amount of water that may exist below the ground and the amount that can be extracted either safely — without major ecological impact — or sustainably.
Stanford’s Jackson agreed that when it comes to replenishing of the deep groundwater resource, “very little of it, at that depth, is sort of immediate.” But he still thinks the state has an unexpected resource that it can now decide how to use — and manage.
“I hope it prompts a conversation about monitoring and safeguarding our groundwater,” Jackson said. “We’re lucky that we have more than we expected. Now we need to use it wisely and take care of it.”
Read more at Energy & Environment:
La sequía pone a los trabajadores agrícolas a soñar con escapar del ‘granero de California’
San Diego Union-Tribune en Españolhttps://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/en-espanol/noticias/california/articulo/2021-09-11/la-sequia-pone-a-los-trabajadores-agricolas-a-sonar-con-escapar-del-granero-de-california
THREE ROCKS, California —Rosario Rodríguez nunca quiso dejar su ciudad natal de Trigomil, Nayarit. Estaba rodeada de familia y podía llegar rápidamente a la tienda de comestibles o a la clínica más próxima.Pero el amor la llamó y ella siguió a su entonces novio a Three Rocks, un lugar en el condado de Fresno donde él trabajaba en el campo.Al principio, la vida allí le recordó a su hogar en el centro de México: la tentadora sensaci&o...
THREE ROCKS, California —
Rosario Rodríguez nunca quiso dejar su ciudad natal de Trigomil, Nayarit. Estaba rodeada de familia y podía llegar rápidamente a la tienda de comestibles o a la clínica más próxima.
Pero el amor la llamó y ella siguió a su entonces novio a Three Rocks, un lugar en el condado de Fresno donde él trabajaba en el campo.
Al principio, la vida allí le recordó a su hogar en el centro de México: la tentadora sensación de un pueblo pequeño, la exuberancia que la rodeaba. El encanto se desvaneció cuando se instaló la realidad de vivir en un pueblo rural en el centro de California. Luego, la sequía rompió el hechizo.
“Nunca fue mi intención venir a este país”, comentó Rodríguez. “Yo era feliz en Nayarit, pero nos casamos y me trajo aquí. Y aquí estoy”.
Durante décadas, la mano de obra agrícola ha mantenido vivas a las comunidades no incorporadas en todo el Valle Central. Pero la sequía hace que sea difícil quedarse.
La escasez de recursos esenciales (agua potable, vivienda adecuada y salarios justos) ha paralizado ciudades que fácilmente se pasan por alto y ha desencadenado un lento éxodo hacia lugares más grandes.
Ocasionalmente, puede recibir contenido promocional del San Diego Union-Tribune en Español.
Se puede ver en el número cada vez menor de personas que asisten a talleres y reuniones sobre los derechos de los trabajadores agrícolas realizados por organizaciones sin fines de lucro, señaló Chucho Mendoza, un defensor del medio ambiente y la salud pública que ha trabajado con migrantes, así como familias de pequeños agricultores en el Valle Central, durante 25 años.
La pandemia vació aún más la vida rural.
En el área de Cantua Creek, donde reinan los cultivos de pistachos y almendros, algunas familias están lidiando con lo que sigue.
Ante una confluencia de desafíos, algunos se van; otros discuten sobre si deberían hacerlo. Varios están decididos a hacer que las cosas funcionen en este lugar.
“No saben qué señalar, pero dirán: ‘Sabemos que algo está mal, pero no sabemos qué es’”, explicó Mendoza. “Aquellos que se van se mudan a la siguiente ciudad, pero no se dan cuenta de que el infierno es mucho más grande”.
A medida que la sequía empeoraba, el esposo de Rodríguez viajaba cada vez más lejos por trabajo. Ella consideró unirse a él en el campo, pero dejar a sus dos hijas adolescentes solas a las 3:00 a.m. resultaba peligroso. Así que empezó a cuidar niños por 25 dólares al día.
Deseando un mejor futuro para sus hijas, Rodríguez propuso mudarse a un pueblo “más grande” como Kerman, con una población de 15.000 habitantes, donde había escuelas, iglesias, una estación de bomberos y consultorios médicos. Pero su esposo no quería irse.
¿Por qué empujar su suerte si estaban llegando a fin de mes con su dinero?
“Es una decisión que tenemos que tomar juntos”, enfatizó Rodríguez de mala gana.
Para la mayoría de las familias de las pequeñas comunidades del Valle Central, donde los residentes son mayoritariamente latinos, el costo emocional de quedarse o huir a un nuevo lugar se ve agravado por la escasez de finanzas, el estatus migratorio y la falta de una red de seguridad familiar a la que acudir.
Momentos antes de que Víctor Ávila viera a su hija mayor celebrar su quinceañera, le contó una idea a su esposa, María.
Una visita a su cuñado en Bakersfield lo inspiró a imaginar una vida fuera del valle, lejos del trabajo de campo que había conocido toda su vida.
A partir de que llegó aquí desde Durango, México, en la década de 1990, Víctor hizo todo lo que pudo en una granja. Durante 12 horas, seis días a la semana, agotó su cuerpo cosechando tomates y algodón. Probó suerte soldando metales con un soplete. Incluso probó nuevas máquinas agrícolas.
Su dedicación valió la pena. Ya no pasa turnos bajo el sol abrasador. En su lugar, se sienta dentro de una máquina recolectora gigante, parecida a un cangrejo, que conduce por hileras de almendros. Le ayuda a mantener bajo control sus problemas respiratorios después de inhalar polvo por años.
Pero sabe que a los compañeros de trabajo les va peor. Algunos luchan por encontrar un empleo estable, con el auge de las máquinas agrícolas que ya no requieren tantos cuerpos para cosechar.
Un proyecto de ley que requiere que los empleadores aumenten gradualmente el salario mínimo, así como que paguen al personal lo proporcional al tiempo y medio por cada hora extra para 2022, ha llevado a algunos a reducir el tiempo adicional de trabajo.
María sabía que su esposo estaba preocupado. Para ayudar con las finanzas, pensó en presentar una solicitud en el Carl’s Jr. local, ubicado a unos 30 minutos de distancia, pero serían principalmente turnos de noche y fin de semana. Ambos estuvieron de acuerdo en que ella no podía dejar a sus cuatro hijos solos tanto tiempo.
En medio de una sequía que empeoraba, Víctor sabía que necesitaba un plan de respaldo. Pero cuando le comentó a María sobre la mudanza, ella lo rechazó.
Su hija mayor, una estudiante de último año en la preparatoria Tranquility, no quería pasar su último año adaptándose a una nueva escuela. Alejarse de los campos también la excluiría de una beca universitaria, señaló.
María reveló que su esposo ha planteado la idea unas tres veces más. “No me voy”, le respondió.
Pero a pesar de su desgano, en el fondo María siente que la sequía está haciendo que la partida sea inevitable. Las polvorientas y descoloridas barras para niños en un parque destartalado frente a su casa son un recordatorio diario.
“Al final, iré a donde sea”, señaló.
A unas dos millas del vecindario de Rodríguez y Ávila, Lucía Salmerón Torres desea que su esposo acceda a regresar algún día a su amado Jalisco, México.
“Este es el peor lugar para vivir”, subrayó Torres, de 57 años.
Su casa está situada en el límite de la propiedad de un ranchero donde trabaja su esposo. Mantiene la casa ordenada, aunque no hay mucho adentro. Retratos de Jesús junto a rosas artificiales decoran las paredes de la sala y el pasillo. Hace jardinería para divertirse, pero solo cuando no hay trabajadores cerca porque no le gusta sentirse vigilada.
Su nieta de 5 años y el pitbull de su hijo son sus únicos compañeros cuando su esposo y sus cinco hijos están en el trabajo. En años pasados, podía contar con verlos más durante la temporada de lluvias. La sequía cambió eso.
“Ahora rara vez vuelven a casa” durante el día, explicó. “Y batallan con el empleo porque no hay suficientes horas”.
Torres primero intentó persuadir a su esposo para que se mudara a la ciudad cuando uno de sus hijos comenzó a asistir a la universidad. Luego quiso unirse a su hijo, Sergio, cuando comenzó a laborar como camionero para una empresa agrícola y planteó la idea de mudarse. Había trabajado en el campo desde los 14 años, pero vio cómo la sequía asfixiaba el valle.
Sin embargo, sabía que no era tan simple como hacer las maletas y marcharse. Necesitaba mejores ingresos para ayudar a mantener a su hija y ayudar a sus padres.
“Siempre pensé en un futuro mejor”, comentó Sergio. Antes le pagaban $11 la hora, pero ahora gana el doble, agregó.
Con pocas actividades en la comunidad, Torres espera con ansias los días en que los administradores escolares convoquen reuniones de padres y maestros. O cuando las organizaciones sin fines de lucro organizan talleres comunitarios sobre alimentación saludable y cómo ser mejores padres.
En esos días, ella, Ávila y Rodríguez organizan una comida compartida. Permanecen el mayor tiempo posible hasta que tienen que volver a sus rutinas. Torres y Rodríguez pagan alrededor de $5 por un traslado desde la agencia de tránsito rural del condado; Ávila conduce a casa en su auto.
Ella cree que se mudarán cuando sus hijas sean mayores y estén listas para la universidad. Fresno City College y Fresno State están a aproximadamente una hora de distancia y el viaje diario puede ser peligroso en el invierno cuando la niebla cubre el lugar.
Sus hijas también miran hacia el futuro. La mayor, Bianca, está ansiosa por explorar lugares donde no le indiquen que tenga cuidado con el agua ni que tome en cuenta la sequía.
“Lo único bueno de este lugar es que es bastante tranquilo”, argumentó. “Pero se vuelve solitario y no hay mucho que hacer aquí, así que se pone realmente aburrido”.
Por ahora, Rodríguez está pensando en formas de mantenerse ocupada. Si no está cuidando niños, tomará pedidos para realizar piñatas caseras y gelatina de mosaico para las fiestas. Hasta hoy solo ha recibido un puñado de pedidos.
“No es que no podamos tener éxito aquí”, señaló. “Pero tenemos que luchar para mejorar nuestra situación”.
Fresno County, Assemi Family Settle Over Unpermitted Pistachio Plant Development
Fresno County has settled with a family of pistachio growers over unpermitted building on what the family contends will be the largest pistachio plant in the world.The County issued permits back in September to Ventana South, LLC and Touchstone PIstachio, LLC for the construction of 49 siloes in Cantua Creek. Both companies are owned by the Assemi family of Fresno.However, in early December, a nut division of the Wonderful Company filed a complaint against the county, alleging that it ignored the state’s environmental rev...
Fresno County has settled with a family of pistachio growers over unpermitted building on what the family contends will be the largest pistachio plant in the world.
The County issued permits back in September to Ventana South, LLC and Touchstone PIstachio, LLC for the construction of 49 siloes in Cantua Creek. Both companies are owned by the Assemi family of Fresno.
However, in early December, a nut division of the Wonderful Company filed a complaint against the county, alleging that it ignored the state’s environmental review process for the Assemi family’s developing plant.
According to the settlement, the county issued a stop work order after finding unpermitted construction on the property in Cantua Creek. The Wonderful company’s lawsuit says the county should also remove the unapproved construction.
In the settlement, the Assemi brothers also agreed to set aside $250,000 to cover any costs the county might accrue in reviewing the project.
This comes months after the Assemi brothers filed a lawsuit against Wonderful Pistachios for allegedly breaching its contract and withholding money due for 2018 pistachio crops.
The complaint, filed in September with the Fresno County Superior Court, alleges that the Wonderful Company retroactively reduced the price it promised the Assemi family for pistachios delivered in 2018.
The Assemi family operates a number of pistachio farming operations in the Central Valley, 15 of which are named in the complaint. For 15 years, those farms have provided pistachios to the Wonderful Company. According to the complaint, the contract between the parties noted that the Assemi family would receive the same price-per-pound for its pistachios as other growers, although that payment could come in the form of crop installments or bonuses. The complaint alleges that in late 2018, CEO of Maricopa Orchards Kevin Assemi was sent an email from Andrew Azaldo of Wonderful, saying that the family would not be receiving a "Grower Partner Bonus." The bonus, which would have been the final payment for crops delivered in 2017, accounted for roughly 30 percent of the crop's price. The email to Assemi said this bonus was discretionary, and only for growers who were extending their contract for the following crop year, which the Assemi family wasn't planning to do. The complaint alleges that this had not been a part of the parties' contract in the past.
In 2018, the Assemi Family had begun carrying out plans to establish its own pistachio processing plant to open in August 2020 under the name "Touchstone Pistachio Co." The complaint says that Stewart Resnick, the owner of the Wonderful Company, told Kevin Assemi in January of 2019 that he would be "going to war" with the Assemi family "to make sure you are not successful with your plant."
In a statement from September, the Wonderful Company called the lawsuit “completely frivolous and was filed for the sole purpose of defending their decision to breach the contract with Wonderful Pistachios, which requires them to fulfill the delivery of their 2019 crop to us." Scott Whelan, the attorney representing the Assemi family, did not respond to a request for comment. Both parties will meet this month for a case management conference.
The Wonderful Company declined to comment on the settlement between Fresno County, Ventana South, LLC and Touchstone PIstachio, LLC.
Disclosure: This story involves members of the Assemi family who are involved in both Granville Homes and Maricopa Orchards, which are corporate sponsors of Valley Public Radio.