July 19, 2019
U.S. EPA to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos
The Environmental Protection Agency will not revoke tolerances for chlorpyrifos, an insecticide environmental and farmworker groups say is a dangerous neurotoxin and should be banned.
In a decision signed Wednesday by Alexandra Dunn, assistant administrator for the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, EPA said it did not have enough evidence of neurodevelopmental effects “that is sufficiently valid, complete, and reliable at this time” to justify revoking the tolerances.
Read the full report at www.Agri-Pulse.com.
The California EPA issued a statement yesterday calling the decision “disappointing” but adding it “in no way affects California’s decision” to cancel the pesticide, which was made “to prevent the significant harm this pesticide causes children, farm workers and vulnerable communities.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra immediately responded to the decision in a tweet: “EPA is dead set on sacrificing our children's health by failing to ensure that chlorpyrifos residues in food are safe,” he wrote. “We'll continue to hold EPA's feet to the fire and force them to do their job.”
Remember that: In 2017, Becerra also pushed back on EPA actions over the pesticide. He then filed a motion in 2018 alongside five other attorneys general to intervene in a lawsuit against the EPA concerning its approval of chlorpyrifos.
EPA likely hasn’t settled chlorpyrifos issue
EPA, however, is likely to be back in court after its decision to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos.
“We will go back to court and seek an order to ban chlorpyrifos in our food nationwide,” said Patti Goldman, an attorney with EarthJustice in Seattle. “Meanwhile, state bans are filling in the gap in some places.”
A bill to ban the insecticide in New York is sitting on the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In Hawaii, a ban is scheduled to go into effect in 2023.
EPA said it did not have enough information that chlorpyrifos is a neurological hazard to justify banning it. The agency is working on a new registration decision by 2022.
Cal/OSHA enforcing respirators to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke
The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted an emergency regulation at its meeting yesterday in San Diego requiring employers to take measures to protect workers from wildfire smoke.
When the air quality index, or AQI, rises above 150 for airborne particulate matter, employers must either bring workers indoors or supply all employees with respirator masks rated at N95 or higher. Employers must meet the respirator requirements by early August.
The board has amended the text to exempt employers from having to perform medical evaluations following exposure and to provide fit testing for the masks. Western Growers Association opposed that requirement, calling it an “overly burdensome process.”
The regulation does require employers to provide training on the health effects of wildfire smoke and how to use a respirator.
The Office of Administrative Law has 10 days to review the new code before Cal/OSHA will be charged with enforcing the regulation.
Remember: Cal/OSHA’s headquarters in Sacramento experienced an AQI hovering above 150 for more than two weeks during last year’s Camp Fire. Nearby communities along the foothills suffered spikes in AQI readings that were well above 400.
On that note: Assembly Bill 1124 calls for requirements similar to the new Cal/OSHA regulation. It is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate when the legislature returns next month. The bill also needs a final vote in the Assembly and a signature by the governor. Labor groups have backed the measure, while the construction industry stands opposed.
The Chinese Consulate in San Francisco on stage with members of the Assembly and administration.
State lawmakers discuss trade with China Consulate
The Assembly held its second joint hearing on the trade dispute with China this week. This time the public meeting took place in San Francisco and included China’s Deputy Consul General, Ren Faqiang.
Assemblymember Philip Ting of San Francisco began the meeting. He acknowledged that “agricultural goods have been hit the hardest” and there is “concern about the potential loss of jobs, especially in the agriculture industry.”
Lieutenant General Eleni Kounalakis then detailed what she saw as a disproportionate impact on California from the trade dispute. The state supplies more than 400,000 agricultural jobs, 70% of which are in rural areas. More than a quarter of those jobs are in the almond industry, which has been hit with 50% tariffs in the trade war, she noted, citing numbers from the Almond Board.
Kounalakis also mentioned the 25% drop in wine exports to China. She emphasized that the Australian and Chilean wines replacing California brands in China are simply “not as good.”
On that comment, Faqiang agreed, saying California wine “is far better.” But he was careful not to stray from talking points. He said trade negotiations “cannot be carried out under the threat of tariffs, nor at the expense of China's right to development.”
On that note: Kounalakis was on stage as the official governor of California. Gavin Newsom has been on vacation with his family outside of the state, leaving Kounalakis in charge.
CDFA stocks corner shops with new fridges
The Department of Food and Ag has awarded $2.8 million to 175 corner stores and similar businesses in food deserts. The new grant program aims to stock the refrigerators with “California-grown fresh produce, nuts and minimally processed foods.”
In supporting the program, Assemblymember Ting said in a statement: “Your address should not determine your diet, but in reality, it often does.” Ting, who chairs the Budget Committee, had added the program to the state budget last year.
Most of the grants have gone to the Bay Area, Central Valley and Los Angeles regions. Another $1.7 million in grants will be awarded in the fall.
Senate panel sets hemp hearing
The Senate Ag Committee is teeing up what will be the first comprehensive hearing on industrial hemp policy since Congress passed the 2018 farm bill. The hearing next Thursday will feature key officials at EPA and FDA as well as USDA’s general counsel, Stephen Vaden, and USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, Greg Ibach.
USDA is gearing up to roll out regulations for regulating hemp production, but just as critical is the issue of when and whether FDA will allow the hemp product, CBD, to be used as a food ingredient and dietary supplement.
The witnesses include Amy Abernethy, FDA’s principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, who is leading FDA’s work on CBD and hemp. FDA closed a public comment period on the CBD issue Tuesday.
Keep in mind: It should be no surprise that this hearing’s in the Senate. Hemp continues to be a top priority for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. At one point when there seemed to be little sign of progress on the farm bill last year, Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told Agri-Pulse he was confident the legislation would eventually get enacted because of four letters: “H-E-M-P.”
China to boost cherry imports, but not from US
China’s hunger for cherries just keeps growing. The country is expected to boost product and imports for the 2019-20 marketing year, but Chinese tariffs will prevent U.S. producers and exporters from benefiting, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
Chinese cherry production is expected to increase by 23% this year and the country is now expected to import 190,000 metric tons of cherries in 2019-20, up from 180,165 tons in 2018-19. Countries like Chile, Canada and Turkey are all expected to sell more, but not the U.S. The tariffs are a result of the year-long U.S.-China trade war.
“While the United States remains the leading cherry supplier to China during the summer season, the import volume from the United States fell sharply in [Marketing Year] 2018/2019 because of ongoing trade tensions between the two countries,” FAS says.
She said it:
“The constraints that agriculture is facing are only the leading edge of what our region is facing.” – Santa Barbara Regional Water Board Member Monica Hunter, during the board’s day-long meeting on the governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio yesterday.
Bill Tomson, Steve Davies and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.
July 18, 2019
Blue Diamond optimistic despite lower almond estimate
In a market update yesterday, Blue Diamond said it expected to see almond prices drop, due to the recent lower yield estimate from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The NASS July 3 update predicts 2.2 billion pounds, down 12 percent from a May estimate that put it as high as 2.6 billion.
The discrepancy between the NASS number and the earlier estimate came as a “surprise to the industry” and “is the largest we’ve seen,” said Blue Diamond VP of International Sales Warren Cohen.
Cohen said the Almond Board will provide a more accurate assessment in November or December, adding, “the industry is healthy, with strong continuing global demand.”
California exports this year are down 31% for Turkey and 26% for China. Yet the Australian supply is now depleted and “it is believed China will again buy from California in the fall,” according to Cohen's report.
California boasts of achievements at Soil Health conference
At the annual meeting of the Soil Health Institute in Sacramento yesterday, California Food and Ag Secretary Karen Ross touted the state’s work in climate-smart programs, stretching back to the start of the dairy digester program nine years ago.
That suite of programs has gained more than $500 million in cap-and-trade funding over the years, she told the audience, which featured some of the world’s leading researchers in sustainable agriculture.
Ross' “climate-smart” policy team has also led delegations to the Netherlands, Israel, Australia, Chile and, next month, South Africa. She said healthy soils benefit the “noble cause” of international food security and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Ross compared healthy soils to the first missions to the moon, with how they have created a “unity of purpose” in those who are passionate about it. She added: “This is the time for us to bring it all together.”
On the topic of rangelands, wildlife ecologist Libby Porzig pointed out that 80% of the surface water in California is captured by or flows through these areas. She said these systems are “very threatened” in California, by both urban development and climate change. Her group, Blue Point Conservation Science, began a monitoring network to document soil health and biodiversity.
“Our theory of change,” she said, “is that this effort in collecting data is a really important part of the adaptive management process.”
Food and Ag Secretary Karen Ross speaks at the Soil Health Institute Annual Meeting: “We have farmers of every size and scale adopting a multitude of (climate-smart) practices.”
DWR approves nine alternatives to groundwater sustainability plans, rejects six
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires local agencies to submit plans for coming into compliance by 2040. It also allows alternatives, which could be an existing plan or a 10-year projection that shows no harmful effects, such as subsidence, saltwater intrusion, or degraded water quality.
Yesterday the Department of Water Resources approved seven existing plans and two with 10-year analyses. The approvals covered basins in the Santa Clara and the Salinas and Coachella valleys.
The six rejections were mostly for flawed analyses. They included basins in the regions of Napa, Clear Lake and the Sacramento Valley.
Remember: The final count recently put California at 517 groundwater basins and subbasins. Of those, 94 are medium- or high-priority and must submit plans within the next six months.
Optimism builds for Japan ag deal
There’s a lot of work yet to be done and a draft deal is still not prepared, but optimism is growing in the Trump administration for a deal to lift Japanese tariffs on U.S. commodities like wheat and dairy and increase quotas for rice.
Negotiations were put on hold until Japan holds elections this Sunday, but the talks are expected to resume shortly afterwards, a U.S. government official tells Agri-Pulse. The election is for Japan’s upper house of its legislature, called the House of Councilors.
U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee in June that he hopes to get an agreement on agricultural trade “in the next few months” before the two countries move on to a full free trade agreement.
Dems demand specifics from USTR
Several House Democrats who are meeting weekly with Lighthizer say they’re making progress toward a deal to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. But these Democrats say they don’t have the detailed fixes yet that they need from Lighthizer.
Lighthizer is showing a willingness to make changes to USMCA, but much of a Wednesday meeting was spent trying to get specific proposals from the USTR on the table, says House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal.
“We’re trying to get to greater specificity for our requests,” Neal said after the meeting. He later issued a statement saying that Democrats have “now laid out comprehensive concerns and constructive proposals in three of the four issue areas in its negotiating mandate: access to medicines, labor, and the environment. We look forward to similarly comprehensive and constructive responses from (Ambassador) Lighthizer.”
The (summer) heat is on in D.C., which means it was time for the North American Meat Institute’s popular hot dog lunch Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Top: House Ag ranking member Mike Conaway, R-Texas. Below: Abigail Blunt, global head of government affairs for Kraft Heinz, with Brendan Adams, the company’s senior manager for global government affairs. More than 50 lawmakers attended.
USDA gears up for MFP payment rate announcement
Farmers could learn as soon as next week what USDA’s payment rates are going to be for the next round of the Market Facilitation Program, the Trump administration’s main trade assistance initiative. USDA announced in May that the payments would be based on county-by-county rates, not by commodity, but has yet to release the rates.
“I would anticipate something after, probably shortly after (the) acreage reporting deadline, that would have more specifics,” Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce tells Agri-Pulse.
Most farmers had to report their certified crop acres to FSA this past Monday, but USDA extended the reporting deadline until next Monday for states most affected by flooding and heavy rain.
USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, Bill Northey, has told Agri-Pulse the payments could go out by mid-August.
Keep in mind: We’re also waiting to hear the payment rates for the prevent-plant provisions in the disaster bill Congress passed last month. The bill authorizes USDA to cover up to 90% of a crop’s value for insured farmers and up to 70% for those without insurance.
But House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., tells Agri-Pulse he expects the payments to be very small, since USDA only has $3 billion available to cover all of the disaster payments the bill authorized.
She said it:
“I’d just like to see disruption, disruption in partnerships, disruption in the way we disseminate information, disruption in how we engage with farmers, disruption in just how we work together.” - LaKisha Odom, a scientific program director for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Odom was speaking on the “next frontiers” of research at the Soil Health Institute Annual Meeting yesterday.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.
July 17, 2019
UC Davis study: Without state action, SGMA will worsen water conflicts
In a new paper, UC Davis researchers show that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, in concert with climate change, will “exacerbate water scarcity” and increase environmental and economic costs. SGMA will also make Delta water exports more valuable, creating more conflict and further bind together groundwater and surface water problems.
- water transfers involving the Delta
- water markets and trades
- coordinating surface water and groundwater use
- recycled wastewater supplies for coastal urban users
The authors also warn in a blog post: “These would come at a cost and often with additional controversy.”
On that note: Scripps scientists at UC San Diego are predicting that climate change and stronger atmospheric rivers will exacerbate the extremes of drought and flooding in California.
DWR issues final Water Plan
The final update to a plan begun under Governor Brown in 2013 comes as state agencies ramp up efforts for the next version, Governor Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio.
The Water Plan offers 19 priority actions to address California’s biggest water challenges.
How much? Implementing the plan is projected to cost $90 billion over 50 years. The proposed avenues for finding that money are the General Fund, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, bonds, private investments and user fees. The plan also offers “novel” approaches like water markets, user fees and a new version of flood insurance.
Remember Flood-MAR: One of the proposed actions is to promote a groundwater recharge program called Flood-MAR. During a recent meeting of the State Board of Food and Ag, Mike Gallo, a San Joaquin Valley farmer, had concerns about the program. He said irrigation districts sweep up the permits for capturing floodwater “and the individual farmer gets left out.”
Donald Bransford, a grower in Colusa County, added that the permitting process is “overly complicated” and “it would be nice if that were simplified, and maybe get rid of the bureaucracy.”
Tune in: The Department of Water Resources will host a webinar on July 29 to discuss the update.
H-2A reforms divide farmers, worker advocates
Farmworker advocates say the Trump administration’s H-2A reforms will drive down wages and make it harder for domestic workers to get jobs. The rules changes, some of which farm groups have been seeking for years, would overhaul wage rates, reduce worker transportation expenses, streamline the application process and eliminate what’s known as the 50% rule.
The 50% rule requires farms to hire domestic workers if they apply within the first half of a season. The Labor Department plan would cut that to 30 days. Farmworker advocates say that would make it easier for farms to avoid hiring domestic labor.
Farm groups have been reacting somewhat cautiously to the proposal, especially to a complex proposal for altering the way wage rates are determined. A key aspect of the plan would set higher wage rates for supervisors than for lower-skilled workers. Under current rules, there’s a single rate for all types of jobs and agriculture in the same state or region.
The bottom line: Only 6% of California Farm Bureau members surveyed earlier this year said they used the H-2A program to address their employee shortages. “Changes proposed by the administration may increase that proportion, but farmers also need wider improvement to immigration laws that can only be addressed through congressional action,” said CFBF President Jamie Johansson.
For more on the H-2A proposal, plus the latest on House prospects for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in Congress, be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter, hitting inboxes today.
Lighthizer meeting with lawmakers, Chinese
It’s another busy week for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Beyond sitting down to negotiate with the Chinese to resurrect the talks many hope will eventually end the U.S.-China
trade war, the USTR is also meeting with Democratic and Republican House members to discuss their concerns about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and others will be over the phone, but the sessions with House lawmakers will be in person on Capitol Hill, a U.S. government official tells Agri-Pulse.
WOTUS repeal advances
EPA has sent the White House the final version of a measure to repeal the 2015 rule that expanded the range of wetlands, ditches and other features regulated by the Clean Water Act. Once the White House review is complete, EPA can formally kill the old rule and move forward with finalizing its replacement by the end of the year.
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said in a Facebook post that he was “excited to see EPA get us closer to ditching the flawed 2015 WOTUS rule!”
EPA had originally proposed to repeal the Obama-era rule two years ago, but the agency had to supplement that proposal with more information last year.
Because of conflicting court rulings, the Obama-era WOTUS rule is the law of the land in 22 states, while pre-2015 regs and guidance are in place in the other 28.
Keep in mind: Litigation over both the repeal and replacement rules is a virtual certainty, which means the regulated community likely will be dealing with a confused regulatory landscape well into 2020.
Correction: The spike in levels of 1,3-D reported in Daybreak yesterday was not due to a spray drift violation, according to DPR. The actual cause was not identified.
He said it:
"There's a reasonable chance a Northern California earthquake could take out levies and impact our water supply." - Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, at a meeting on the Water Resilience Portfolio. He added that millions of Californians could lose water for several months.
Bill Tomson, Steve Davies, Ben Nuelle and Sara Wyant contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.
July 16, 2019
Federal and state regulators share wish lists for Water Resilience Portfolio
A broad cast of regulatory leaders assembled yesterday for the latest public meeting on the governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio. The Delta Stewardship Council hosted the meeting to discuss how the Delta Plan implementation can work together with the Portfolio.
With more than 15 speakers in 90 minutes, however, the dialogue was mostly limited to optimistic bromides about the importance of collaboration across agencies and stakeholders.
The message: Water conservation is the future and agriculture is encouraged to collaborate now, to head off more cycles of regulation and litigation.
Food and Ag Secretary Karen Ross: “Agriculture is changing significantly. For some, they don't like the changes that they see. But every drop of water is precious and is being dedicated to the highest economic value."
Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot: (praising the collaborative effort behind the Voluntary Agreements for the Bay-Delta Plan) “It's a paradigm shift. We need regulations. There will be litigation. But we don't want to manage fundamentally by litigation and regulation.”
State Water Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel: “It isn't just agriculture that feels the pressure. It isn't just the urban side. It is we as a state.”
Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham: “I believe that time is fleeting on these issues and progress is necessary.”
Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth: “On July 1, we…created a new Division of Multi-Benefit Initiatives…charged with making connections across what has been at times a very siloed approach of the department.”
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Russell Callejo: “We have some issues with conveyance that we have to fix in order to deliver water. Storage projects are a part of that as well.”
Army Corps of Engineers Watershed and Floodplain Manager Cindy Tejeda: “We'll have emerging guidance coming out in 2020” for a new "Engineering with Nature" initiative.
U.S. Geological Survey’s Michael Stevens: “It may be import to consider how all of the science that we're doing – and there's a lot of it – works together.”
Delta Conservancy’s Campbell Ingram: “The final (Portfolio draft) by Thanksgiving has to have check points to ensure that at the localest level there is at least some awareness and knowledge about what happens when you flush the toilet and what happens downstream.”
Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot
DPR releases reports on spike in pesticide 1,3-D
The Department of Pesticide Regulations published the draft of an air monitoring report yesterday. It details the detection of a large spike in 1,3-D at a monitoring site near the town of Shafter in January 2018.
“DPR is in the process of developing regulations to reduce exposures to 1,3-D in ambient air,” the department said in a statement. It is accepting comments on the draft until Aug. 31.
Monitoring in Merced and Fresno Counties also revealed “relatively high levels” of the pesticide.
DPR will present the findings at a meeting Friday for the Pesticide Registration and Evaluation Committee.
Administration moves on H-2A reforms
The Trump administration is looking to overhaul the H-2A farmworker visa to make it easier to use.
The 489-page proposal, known as a notice of proposed rulemaking, stops short of making the program year-round. But it does propose a number of changes in the application process and would revise the methodology for determining the adverse wage rates that set a floor under H-2A wages. Those rates have soared this year in some states.
Michael Marsh, president and CEO of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, welcomed the proposal, which represented an effort “to evolve the program to one more responsive to the needs of stakeholders.”
Keep in mind: The clock is ticking if the administration is going to get these proposals finalized before 2021 when there could be a new president.
White House wraps up MFP review
American farmers that are still being hurt by Chinese tariffs in an ongoing trade war are a step closer to getting more federal assistance now. The White House Office of Management and Budget recently finished its review of the Market Facilitation Program, the direct payment aspect of $16 billion in new trade assistance.
“So, I’m going to give the farmers – we’re going to help them out because they are great patriots,” President Trump said Monday. “We’re going to give them $16 billion. And we just did. Been approved ... And I approved it.”
Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation programs, says qualified farmers could start getting those payments next month. But for now, what producers really want to know are the payment rates and other details, says David Salmonsen of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“Everybody is looking to see what kind of guidelines they’re going to be putting out and … there’ll be plenty more commentary on that once we see it,” he toldAgri-Pulse.
Trump: USMCA is now all politics, but there is a ‘Plan B’
The White House has done just about all it can do to push the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement across the finish line. Now, it’s just a matter of politics and convincing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on the renegotiated North American trade pact, President Donald Trump said Monday.
“We have to get the Democrats to pass it,” Trump said. “They may or may not, depending on how they feel politically. It’s all politics, unfortunately … We have a lot of bipartisan support, but they may not be allowed to show that support because the leaders may not allow that to happen.”
Pelosi has said she wants to have a vote and ratify USMCA, but only if significant changes are made to the pact. It’s still unclear if Trump will agree to any changes, but he did stress that he has a contingency plan without giving any details.
If there is no vote, Trump said, he has “a better plan” to fall back on: You always have to have a plan B, a plan C, especially in politics.”
So, what is Plan B, or C? He didn’t say.
Glyphosate judgment reduced
The judge who oversaw the first federal trial on Roundup and cancer has, as expected, reduced the punitive damages award for Edwin Hardeman and against Monsanto to $20 million, a $55 million cut. Hardeman’s total award is now about $25.3 million.
In an order issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Vincent Chhabria in San Francisco said “Monsanto deserves to be punished” because the evidence in the case “easily supported a conclusion that Monsanto was more concerned with tamping down safety inquiries and manipulating public opinion than it was with ensuring its product is safe.”
Chhabria said the punitive damages award exceeded constitutional limits. Bayer, which owns Monsanto, called his decision “a step in the right direction,” but added that “the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the reliable evidence presented at trial.” Bayer said it will appeal the Hardeman verdict to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Hardeman lawyer Michael Baum said “there is no valid basis” for disturbing the punitive damages award. “Why bother having jurors sacrifice weeks of their lives if a judge can just substitute his judgment for theirs despite so much evidence supporting their conclusions?” he asked.
He said it. “California’s pretty important to American agriculture.” - Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in southern California on Monday.
Bill Tomson, Ben Nuelle and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.
July 15, 2019
Governor signs two ag bills into law
Following a swarm of activity in the legislature, Governor Newsom signed a number of new bills on Friday. Included in that was Senate Bill 224 on categorizing ag equipment theft as grand theft. This will allow law enforcement to better coordinate and track criminal activity across counties.
Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove of Bakersfield has said her measure will also allow for better tracking of this data. She suggests the recent rise in equipment theft is related in part to state requirements for farmers to upgrade to more expensive equipment.
The governor also signed Assembly Bill 293, which incentivizes farmers to participate in the California carbon market. The projects covered relate to natural and working lands, climate-smart agriculture and wetlands restoration.
Jeanne Merrill of the California Climate and Agriculture Network said in her testimony for the bill that the costs to participate in the carbon capture program have been too high for farmers. This has led to no protocols being developed for including agriculture in the carbon trade. Merrill added that she hopes the bill will also “spur greater attention at the Air Resources Board on these issues.”
Feds release environmental impact statement for water projects
The U.S. Bureau of reclamation has opened up comment for a new draft of the statement. The report is related to long-term operations for the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.
In its announcement, the Bureau said the proposed alternatives use “new science” to optimize water delivery and species protections. The proposed actions affect temperatures at Shasta Dam, salinity in the Delta and water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Public meetings are scheduled for:
- July 30 in Los Banos
- July 31 in Sacramento
- August 1 in Chico
Keep in mind: The Bureau has been rushing through the final draft of the biological assessment that sets the basis for the environmental impact statement. The assessment was reportedly set to be released early this month, but was delayed two more months.
Also, on the new Twin Tunnels: The California Department of Water Resources will hold its first public meeting for the new single tunnel project next week. Perhaps anticipating a large gathering of stakeholders, the agency booked a ballroom at the Hilton Hotel for the meeting.
On reactivating floodplains: See the calendar item below about Natural Resources Secretary Crowfoot speaking today on reactivating floodplains in rice fields. The recently passed budget allocates $100 million to the cause, with the Northern California Water Association resoundingly supportive of the move.
Trade-aid checks possible by ‘mid-August’
Producers affected by retaliatory tariffs could be able to apply for Market Facilitation Payments as soon as the end of the month, Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, tells Agri-Pulse.
“We’re committed to getting those payments out, maybe by mid-August,” he said.
The department is currently waiting on the Office of Management and Budget to sign off on the payment plan, Northey said.
As we reported last week, USDA’s Farm Service Agency still needs to have acreage reports filed by individual farmers. Last week, the agency extended the deadline for filing those documents until next Monday in a dozen states that were hit the hardest by storms and flooding this year. For the rest of the states, the reports are due today.
Ag issues hanging as labor secretary exits
Alexander Acosta’s resignation as labor secretary comes as some key labor issues have yet to be finalized at the department. Acosta announced Friday that he was stepping down amid continued criticism of his previous role in the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein.
The department has yet to finalize two rules aimed at streamlining the H-2A visa program for foreign farmworkers. One rule, which has been proposed but not made final, would ease requirements for advertising for domestic workers. The second rule, which has not been proposed yet, would address the H-2A certification process. Both rules are under review by the Office of Management and Budget.
Also pending at Labor: The National Council of Agricultural Employers has submitted a petition to the Labor Department asking that it change the way it calculates H-2A wages, while Public Citizen and 130 other organizations have petitioned OSHA to set a heat stress standard for farmworkers.
What Acosta’s departure means: NCAE CEO Michael Marsh says it’s concerning that of the three agencies that deal with the H2-A program, only one — the Department of State — has a Senate-confirmed leader.
Labor and the Department of Homeland Security both have acting secretaries now. “You need to have policy people in place to make decisions,” Marsh said.
Another lobbyist said he didn’t think Acosta was interested in ag labor issues, but that the two H-2A rules were far enough along in development that his departure shouldn’t affect them.
China pushes back on Trump claims
President Trump has been saying for months that China wants to reach a deal to end the trade war because the country is hurting and hemorrhaging foreign investment. Now, the Chinese are pushing back and telling a different story.
"We've noticed the concerns of some foreign enterprises, but based on our knowledge the country has not seen large-scale withdrawal of investment by foreign companies," Gao Feng, a spokesman for the Chinese Commerce Ministry, told reporters Friday.
Gao, who was quoted by the government-run China Daily, also stressed that the country isn’t punishing foreign companies doing business there.
Talks between the two countries resumed last week, but President Donald Trump is complaining China has not been following through on promised extra purchases of ag commodities.
China, Trump tweeted recently, “is letting us down in that they have not been buying the agricultural products from our great Farmers that they said they would. Hopefully they will start soon!”
Sides file arguments in Clean Water Act case
Representatives of farm groups as well as a Hawaii environmental organization have filed briefs in a closely watched Supreme Court that could potentially expand the reach of the Clean Water Act.
The Hawaii Wildlife Fund argues that wastewater discharged from a treatment plant into groundwater — and which winds up in the Pacific Ocean — requires a discharge permit.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, Agricultural Retailers Association and commodity groups argue in their brief that the environmental group’s position, were it to prevail, could subject farmers “responsibly applying fertilizer to their land … to the CWA’s no-discharge provisions and the risk of potential civil and criminal penalties.”
The environmental group says in its brief that Maui County designed its injection wells to dispose of millions of gallons of treated sewage daily into groundwater, knowing the pollutants would reach the ocean.
EPA and the county say that discharges from a point source that travel through groundwater are not covered under the law.
This week in Sacramento:
Monday, July 15
11:00 – The Delta Stewardship Council will discuss the governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio in relation to the Delta Plan
12:30 – Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot will speak on reactivating floodplains in rice fields
Tuesday, July 16
3:00 – The Soil Health Institute will hold its annual meeting in Sacramento (through Thursday)
Wednesday, July 17
6:30pm – UC Davis will host the International Pollinator Conference (though Saturday)
Thursday, July 18
10:00 – (San Diego) Cal/OSHA will present emergency regulations on adding further protections to workers from wildfire smoke
1:00 – CDFA will present updates on its Healthy Soils and water use efficiency programs
1:30 – CalRecycle will hold a workshop on its Farm and Ranch Cleanup Grants
Friday, July 19
10:00 – DPR’s Pesticide Registration and Evaluation Committee will discuss air monitoring, cannabis and citrus bee regulations
Read also the Washington Week Ahead.
He said it:
“Biggest part of deal with Mexico has not yet been revealed!” - President Donald Trump, in a tweet this weekend, referring to trade with Mexico. It's not clear what Trump was referring to, but he claimed in June that Mexico had agreed to larger agricultural purchases as part of an agreement on border security and immigration.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.