High-speed train set to derail dairy farm

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An effort is under way in California to build a high-speed train to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco, cutting a six-hour-plus car ride down to two hours and 40 minutes.

The problem is the proposed track cuts through the prime agriculture land, taking land out of production and displacing many homes and farms.

Dennis Areias, a dairy farmer from Los Banos, Calif., is very concerned. If it goes ahead as planned, Areias faces a devastating blow to his family’s operation. The planned route would take out one dairy that he rents for $3,000 per month, plus a house that he would no longer be able to rent. The route divides his dry lot operation in half where the farm raises its heifers and bull calves. It also eliminates his hay storage and takes out half of his current feed storage area for the home dairy. The main dairy will also be cut off from the main road, making it landlocked unless a frontage road is built.

Cutting the dairy off from all main roads is a problem for milk truck delivery and emergency personnel, but it also means that instead of traveling one-half mile to his crop ground, Areias will now have to travel seven miles round-trip. Currently, at harvest time, Areias has no cost to haul his feed in from the fields because the distance is less than one mile. The added distance will increase Areias’ feed cost by 40 cents per mile on 5,000 tons of feed, a cost of $14,000 each year.

The increased travel distance to the fields will also require the use of a trail vehicle when equipment is moved, another added expense.

Stray voltage is also a concern to Areias. The high-speed rail train is electric and Areias worries that his herd will suffer.

“I wonder how much vibration and noise will a train going by at 220 miles per hour make and how will my cows react,” he wonders.

Areias says he has attended several informational meetings to ask questions. “The only response I get to my questions is ‘put it in the suggestion box.’ It gets my attention when I attend an informational meeting and there are no answers for landowners’ questions,” he says.

There is confusion as to how much compensation affected farmers will receive. “I was told at one meeting that the dairy I rent out would be rebuilt for me. Then, later in the same meeting, I was told they would relocate me,” he says.

Areias isn’t alone in his concerns. Lakeside Dairy in Hanford, Calif., is looking at three of its locations being cut in half. A key animal-rendering facility in the valley would also be lost in Kings County.

A report from the Los Banos Enterprise, Areias’ local newspaper, recently quoted a representative for the high-speed rail project that said while they understand land owners’ concerns, it does not mean the rail authority will change the route.

California voters approved the project in 2008 when they passed a $9.95 billion bond to begin construction. But, news reports have indicated that analysts believe the budget to build the high-speed train to be off by tens of billions of dollars. The construction budget is projected to be $45 billion, but the actual price could rise above $200 billion.

Rail authorities are supposed to release a draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement on its proposed route in July.

The high-speed train is set to break ground in 2012. The first leg of the train will be built between Fresno and Bakersfield. Eventually, the 800-mile track will connect San Francisco and Los Angeles. Proponents of the train believe that it will create thousands of jobs and will stimulate the economy.

Click here to watch Dennis Areias discuss the damage the proprosed California high-speed train will do to his dairy farm.

Read a letter from the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

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Dave Lane    
Goddard,KS  |  July, 05, 2011 at 09:59 AM

Oh yes it will create thousands of jobs, all government paying jobs, that will end after it is over. Like all else in the "stimulus" it creates work paid for by taxpayers while hammering the same taxpayers. Good luck trying to get anyone to listen to your concerns, I have been there with a highway project. They are required to take comments and suggestions, but they are not required to pay attention to them.

OH  |  July, 05, 2011 at 10:29 AM

Dave, when the gov spends money in a stimulus, it gets the results of the stimulus for decades. Yes the jobs are temporary but the things being built are needed and useful. How is it that paying for roads and bridges is "hammering" the taxpayer? The infrastructure of this country is in bad need of repair.

OH  |  July, 05, 2011 at 10:24 AM

And what if everybody resisted interstate highways when they were built? Can you imagine still driving on state routes to get across the country? The benefits out weigh the few that suffer.

G. Wright    
PA  |  July, 05, 2011 at 01:38 PM

Unfortunately Mr. Areias needs to resign himself to the fact no one involved in this project is going to give two hoots about his farm or any other farm standing in the way. Might better be on the phone to a good ag real estate agent and find a new home for his dairy. One more sad case of people not being able to put two and two together and realize where their food comes from. Joke is the "thousands of jobs" will probably end up shaking out to a couple of hundred when it's all said and done.

Jason L. Tulock    
Vacaville, CA  |  July, 05, 2011 at 04:37 PM

Dennis, maybe have the mayor of Los Banos try again to get that high speed rail stop built on the family dairy. Or maybe Rusty can you a cush job attending meetings for the High Speed Authority for a few grand with no work product. Maybe you can displace your cows for a giant development centered around the Areias Family Dairy Station. Whatever happens, I am sure you will be OK Dennis. But quit with the crocodile tears. Jay L. Tulock, Vacaville, CA

MN  |  July, 06, 2011 at 08:43 AM

People not involved in ag don't see how ag is getting squeezed out in this country from all angles. Domestic food production is not going to meet domestic demand, we are already net importers of much, dairy, beef, most fruit and vegetables. China is buying farmland in SA and Africa to meet the needs of the Chinese. With world demand continually increasing and US production decreasing this country will finally go on a much needed diet.

Aaron Schiferl    
Hewitt, WI  |  July, 06, 2011 at 11:15 AM

its a shame to hear bought the people haveing to travel farther but its happening ever where else of the highways splitting land in rest of the country so quit your bitchin

David Avila    
Oakdale, California  |  November, 19, 2012 at 08:52 PM

Yes, infrastructure is important and the highway system was a good idea. That was a different time. In the day public employees were not raping the tax payor as they are today. In the day we had no public deficits and debt!! Yes, the roads need repair. How does spending a brazilian dollars on a train help that out? We have paid to repair roads in our gas taxes, use it for repairing the roads and not for study after study, EIR after EIR and government employee increases in wages, benefits and extortion type retirements!! The train design is not the best it could be. It has to be build at twice the cost using Union fees. All the money for this train has to be extorted from us the tax payor and transfered to the unions and their retirements. Our governemnts are broken. We need Constitutional Governance; not Feel Good Governance!!

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