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California's fruitless task


The Golden State finally lifts border inspections of passenger vehicles

We've heard story upon story about valuable programs lost to budget cuts. And now there's this: California can no longer afford to stop us to see if we've got fruit in the car.

Whatever will we do?

It's hard to work up much sentiment for the Golden State program that has, since the 1920s, used an army of workers at several border locations to stop cars and quiz drivers about contraband produce they might have brought along for the ride.

The cause, to be sure, is significant. Agriculture amounts to a &

36;27.6 billion annual industry in California. The inspection program is part of a necessary effort to keep pests away from valuable crops.

But with bug stations that kept business hours and inspectors who stopped vacationers and asked the driver to spill all? We're talking fruitless from the get-go.

— Southern Oregonians, who flit in and out of California on their way to all sorts of activities, were prime targets of this activity.

And who among us hasn't stretched the truth ' or shrunk it, rather ' about the car's true cargo? We developed ice-chest amnesia, hid our apples under the seats and tried to pass off our home-grown produce as something straight from the supermarket.

Who knew cherries could feel so criminal?

The clincher was, we were always successful in crime. If we drove through when the inspectors were around, they had the right to search cars, sure. Instead, they just sent us on our way, sometimes with a map of California for our trouble.

Now the passenger car program is shuttered, victim of &

36;1.37 million in budget cuts within the state's Department of Food and Agriculture.

The department will continue to stop the big rigs ' RVs, moving vans, commercial vehicles ' that traditionally have revealed the most trouble.

And in the end, maybe the inspectors understood more than we realized. The department, a spokesman said, has no plans to revive car inspections when the budget picture is brighter.

Donate supplies

It's food items year-round, more so around Thanksgiving and Christmas; it's donations of clothing and household items from community agencies; it's clothing and meals at a local soup kitchen for other needy folks.

The list goes on of items donated in the Medford-Ashland community to help the indigent.

One type of item has grown in recent years. Believe it or not, it's school supplies. A National Retail Federation survey showed the average American expects to shell out &

36;74.04 on supplies alone.

Social service agency St. Vincent DePaul says it expects to provide supplies for 1,300 low-income children this year, about 300 more than a year ago.

In another school supply drive, the Mail Tribune, ACCESS Inc. and Umpqua Bank will work together to collect needed items.

These efforts are extremely important because they often have a direct bearing on how well kids do in school. to help out, donate items to one of the agencies listed on Page 1A of Tuesday's paper.