July 26, 2019
The New MFP: Did USDA get it right this time?
USDA officials hope the second time is the charm. The 2018 version of the Trump administration’s Market Facilitation Program was heavily tilted toward soybeans, leaving significant disparities between commodities and regions. The new version is out now, and there are still disparities, this time between counties as well as regions.
The county payment rates vary from $15 an acre all the way up to $150 an acre, and there are significant variations between neighboring counties. And farmers within a county are going to get differing payments if some could get their crops planted and others couldn’t.
Why it matters: The top Republican on the House Ag Committee, Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, said every farm group is likely to have members “that are really, really happy and folks who are generally disappointed because they didn’t get higher payments.”
Iowa farmer Wayne Fredericks, a board member of the American Soybean Association, said he was satisfied with the package after a briefing by Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation. The meeting “gave me confidence that they were trying to be very fair,” Fredericks told Agri-Pulse. “They were trying to really identify groups that were hurt, so I’m not going to argue with that fact.”
By the way: House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says he was assured by USDA officials at a committee briefing Thursday that they would release the data used to develop the county rates.
New MFP spreads the benefits
Specialty crops like hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts didn’t get the attention that row crops did in USDA’s first trade aid package, but that’s changed this time round. A much wider variety of crops is included in the USDA’s second Market Facilitation Program and that represents much needed help, says California Walnut Commission Chairman Bill Carriere.
“We are appreciative to receive some relief for our growers who have been suffering from suppressed pricing since tariff retaliation began,” Carriere said.
Producers of walnuts as well as almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and pistachios will receive $146 per acre under the new MFP. Cranberries, ginseng, sweet cherries, and table grapes will all receive payments based on pounds of production.
China now levies a 65% tariff on in-shell walnuts and a 60% tariff on walnut kernels, and that has cut U.S. exports by more than 50%.
For much more on the trade assistance package, read our coverage at Agri-Pulse.com.
CDFA prepares for produce safety inspections for small farms
The Department of Food and Ag is mailing surveys to 8,000 “small” and “very small” produce farms. The answers will help coordinate the inspections that begin in January 2020 for this category of growers.
“California has many more produce farms than any other state in the nation,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “Approximately 20,000 farms in the Golden State will now be subject to new food safety regulations under the Produce Safety Rule.”
Working on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration, CDFA began inspections of large farms in April. The next wave will cover operations with average annual sales of less than $500,000.
Farms that do not comply with Produce Safety Rule can face economic, regulatory and legal consequences.
On that note: United Fresh recently announced it has launched a new round of revisions for its Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Harmonized Standard. The current version was released in 2016 after changes were made to align it with FDA’s Produce Safety Rule. A technical working group will kick off the process at a meeting in Washington, D.C., in September after the United Fresh conference.
This follows new water requirements announced by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement in April.
Dairy biogas facility in Tulare County expands to be nation’s largest
Calgren and Southern California Gas are holding the official opening ceremony Monday for a new biogas plant and also announced that eight new partnerships with dairies will make this the largest such operation in the U.S. by the end of the year.
Calgren built its anaerobic biodigester in 2014 to fuel its ethanol plant in Tulare County. In February, the facility expanded from collecting cow manure at one dairy to now four. It has also started injecting the processed natural gas into an existing SoCalGas pipeline system.
The plant sits in the San Joaquin Valley town of Pixley, an area where state and local regulators are ramping up efforts to improve air and water quality. A few statistics: Manure will be collected from more than 75,000 cows, about 130,000 tons of greenhouse gases will be captured annually, and up to 2.26 billion cubic feet of renewable natural gas will be produced.
On that note: Governor Gavin Newsom has announced a deal with four automakers to continue emissions reductions despite federal rollbacks. The administration said California must still reduce smog in Los Angeles by 80% and in the San Joaquin Valley by 50%.
Lighthizer meeting lawmakers on USMCA
U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer is going to be in China for trade talks for much of next week, so he’s been using what time is left this week on Capitol Hill to address remaining concerns over the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement before the August recess, a government official tells Agri-Pulse.
Lighthizer met with lawmakers Thursday, and those talks will continue today, the official said.
Mexico’s ability to ensure that it follows through with labor reforms remains a primary concern for House Democrats, says Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a member of the trade working group set up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to work on USMCA improvements with the White House.
Mexico’s government is sincere about improving labor standards that would in turn help prevent U.S. companies from sending factories south of the border, but enforcement measures still need to be added to USMCA, she told Agri-Pulse.
Talking hemp: (from left) Senate Ag’s top Democrat, Debbie Stabenow, Chairman Pat Roberts, USDA undersecretary Greg Ibach, USDA’s general counsel, Stephen Vaden, Alexandra Dunn of EPA, and Amy Abernethy of FDA.
Hemp growers face major government hurdles
A Senate hearing Thursday on industrial hemp has underscored the difficulty of the task facing federal agencies trying to implement provisions of the 2018 farm bill so growers will be able to plant hemp next spring.
One of the biggest obstacles facing growers is getting FDA to legalize the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, in food and dietary supplements. And FDA’s principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, Amy Abernethy, told the Senate Ag Committee that her agency must investigate “the potential safety implications of long-term use of CBD by different human and animal populations.”
FDA is trying to expedite regulations on hemp and CBD, but first must sift through more than 4,000 comments it received during a recent public comment period.
Having crop protection tools is crucial for hemp growers as well, Kentucky hemp grower Brian Furnish told the committee. There currently is no herbicide, insecticide or fungicide approved for use on hemp.
EPA’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and prevention, Alexandra Dunn, said her agency has received 10 requests from pesticide registrants to add hemp to already existing labels.
An interim final rule from USDA is now under interagency review at the Office of Management and Budget. Greg Ibach, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said he expected the rule to be out by early to mid-fall.
He said it:
“In California, we don’t see the politics. We see the principle. The facts. The world gets it and these automobile makers get it as well.” – Governor Newsom,tweeting about his emissions deal with automakers.
Bill Tomson, Steve Davies, Ben Nuelle and Chloé Fowler contributed to this report.
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July 25, 2019
Beehive database goes online
Before applying pesticide products, growers and pest control advisors can easily find out if beehives are within a one-mile radius.
The tool: BeeWhere registers beehives as they come into the state. The program soft launched an online version as a pilot project during the almond bloom this year. A similar program, called FieldWatch, exists in 20 other states.
The update: The BeeCheck software launched earlier this month. It allows registered growers to access hive locations, contact beekeepers and send 48-hour notifications before applying products. This saves growers from having to fax or call the ag commissioner’s office during business hours to ask about requests for notification.
Next: County ag commissioners will fine beekeepers up to $1,000 for failing to register or update hive locations. The 2018 bill requiring these penalties, Assembly Bill 2468, set enforcement to begin in 2020. A bill in the current session, AB 450, will extend that to 2021.
Eventually, BeeCheck will integrate into crop management tools like Agrian and CDMS. A future update will also let applicators report unmarked hives through the tool.
The catch: The number of hive registrations so far have been low. Pest control advisors, ag commissioners and staff from CDFA’s Bee Safe program are ramping up outreach efforts to beekeepers still in the state, according to Ruthann Anderson, director of the California Association of Pest Control Advisors.
“If we can get our state beekeepers into the system by the end of summer,” she said, “then it will be that much easier for them to just click and re-register in the same system next year."
Keep in mind: The laws behind BeeWhere have been on the books since the 1980s. The new legislation adds enforcement measures as a way to boost compliance.
Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced
Citrus Mutual fundraiser features Assemblymember Gray
Proceeds from a fundraiser breakfast tomorrow will support the political action committee for California Citrus Mutual. The keynote speaker is Democratic Assemblymember Adam Gray of Merced.
According to the citrus organization, Gray has “ardently fought for transparency” and oversight at the State Water Board. He will talk on water and politics and share his perspective on the new administration.
The event, called Issues and Eggs, takes places at the Visalia Country Club. Tickets are $150.
USDA set to release MFP details
USDA will release payment details today for this year’s version of the Market Facilitation Program, several sources tell Agri-Pulse.
Earlier this week, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue disclosed that the payments would amount to at least $15 an acre for each qualifying farmer. But the key issue is the county payment rates. We’ll be watching not only to see how high those high rates are but how much they vary between counties.
China trade talks may lead to new DC round
The next round of U.S.-China trade talks doesn’t start in Shanghai until Tuesday, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he’s already optimistic the two days of meetings will lead to another follow-up round in Washington.
“I would say there are a lot of issues,” Mnuchin told CNBC in a Wednesday interview. “My expectation is this will be followed up with a meeting back in D.C. after this and hopefully we’ll continue to progress.”
The issues to be discussed in the upcoming meeting include agriculture, according to the White House.
Senate Ag probes hemp issues
Key officials from USDA, EPA and FDA will be testifying at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on industrial hemp today, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also is expected to be in attendance.
McConnell, who’s a member of the committee, put provisions in the 2018 farm bill to legalize production of hemp nationwide and to make it eligible for crop insurance.
The hearing comes as USDA is considering regulations for hemp, including possible compliance testing requirements, and FDA is being pressed to legalize CBD as a food ingredient. Another issue likely to come up is the need for adequate production data to authorize insurance products for hemp.
Senate panel acts to boost ag inspectors
A bipartisan bill increasing the number of agricultural inspectors at ports of entry is headed to the Senate floor.
The bill, which the Senate Homeland Security approved unanimously on Wednesday, would authorize hiring 240 U.S. Customs and Border Protection agricultural specialists every year until the workforce shortage is filled. Another 200 agricultural technicians also could be hired annually to support the inspectors.
According to CBP estimates, the agency is 700 inspectors short. The bill’s cosponsors include Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and the Ag committee’s ranking Democrat, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
During a House Ag subcommittee hearing last week, National Pork Producers Council President Dave Herring said 600 additional CPB specialists were needed to help prevent the spread of African swine fever, a deadly hog disease wiping out herds in China and east Asia.
Goodyear Mexico plant shuts out US lawmakers
A delegation of U.S. lawmakers was taken aback when they were barred last weekend from touring a Goodyear tire factory in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., tells Agri-Pulse the lawmakers were looking into whether Mexico is improving labor standards – a requirement under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement – and wanted a firsthand look at a factory plagued by recent labor strife.
“We showed up on their doorstep Saturday to meet with the plant manager … but they shut the gates down and blocked us from admission,” Kind said.
Why it matters: The Goodyear response does not bode well for Mexico’s ability to get the private sector to help usher in the labor reform recently approved by Congress there, said Kind. He is one of the House members demanding improved labor standards enforcement for USMCA.
Goodyear spokeswoman Melissa Monaco said the company had told the U.S. consulate’s office in Mexico that the tour the lawmakers wanted would not be possible. She said Goodyear is “proud of our record of providing a safe and fulfilling work environment for our associates at our (San Luis Potosi) manufacturing facility,” Monaco said.
She said it:
“If there is a problem, we need to fix the problem. But we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. (USDA) can only cite one millionaire in Minnesota who scammed the system. But I would suggest to you that the SNAP program is the program that probably has the least fraud of any program” – Rep. Marcia Fudge, who chairs the House Ag nutrition subcommittee, talking toAgri-Pulse about USDA’s proposal to tighten eligibility standards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
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July 24, 2019
Water Board will update water quality fees for ag lands
A coalition of ag groups is getting closer to resolving one of many issues related to the cost of compliance. The stakeholder group has been reviewing proposed fee increases from the State Water Resources Control Board and has worked with staff to keep costs “reasonable.”
The final decision will guide how California charges farmers and ranchers for a water quality program that is expected to expand statewide. The programrelates to requirements with irrigation and nitrogen management plans and water runoff.
This week the group agreed on a fee structure to present to the board for approval in September. But in a state with such a diversity of agriculture, agreeing to one option like this can be a steep hurdle.
“If the objective was to get complete agreement within agriculture,” said Tim Johnson of the California Rice Commission, “we wouldn't have even started, and we'd all spend this money drinking.”
Bob Gore of the Gualco Group agreed. “We've been ping-ponging this back and forth for three or four years and it's time to do something or go home,” he said at the meeting.
After rates are approved, the ag stakeholders will work with staff on reducing other costs of compliance. They might look at decreasing the type and number of water quality tests or reporting requirements.
For more, Western Growers has a detailed blog post explaining the complexity of California’s fees on ag lands.
Newsom in Sanger this morning to sign drinking water bill
The governor is motoring through the Central Valley to visit the tiny community of Tombstone, in the town of Sanger. He will sign Senate Bill 200, a bill by Senator Bill Monning of Carmel that creates a safe drinking water fund. Newsom has already allocated $130 million in the budget for the fund. The people of Tombstone are among the 1 million living without clean drinking water in California.
On that note: Newsom has also signed a bill on safe harbor for accidental take. SB 62 extends the safe harbor exemption for farmers and ranchers for another three years. This covers incidents when a farmer may accidentally kill an endangered or threatened species during routine agricultural activities. The bill originally extended this statute permanently.
Perdue reveals first key MFP detail
Long-awaited details of the Trump administration’s new trade aid package will be out by the end of the week - on Thursday, according to one Capitol Hill source. But Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue has revealed one key aspect: Every qualifying farmer will receive at least $15 an acre.
Perdue also confirmed to reporters Tuesday that signup for the Market Facilitation Program will be in August, with payments to go out shortly after that.
The payments will be based on county rates that USDA hasn’t disclosed yet.
Disaster aid update: Perdue said he expects the White House Office of Management and Budget to finish its review of USDA’s 2019 disaster aid program by August and that signup could start later in the month or in September.
Grassley: GOP should support Dems concerns on USMCA enforcement
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is a strong supporter of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but he is calling on fellow conservatives to support efforts by Democrats to ensure enforcement of labor standards in Mexico.
The Iowa Republican told reporters Tuesday that he would vote for USMCA as it is now, but also stressed that “if there are problems with enforcement, I just want to make clear that Republicans ought to want enforcement the same way Democrats want enforcement.”
Mexico’s legislature has already approved a bill to rewrite about 700,000 labor contracts and give more power over pay and benefits to unions and workers, but many U.S. lawmakers are reluctant to trust the Mexican government without independent enforcement.
What’s next: The House Democrats’ USMCA working group is scheduled to meet once again this week to resume talks about their demands on USMCA with U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer.
Agency officials talk about their work on streamlining biotech regulations. (L-R) Fan-Li Chou of USDA, Laura Epstein of FDA, and Mike Mendelsohn of EPA.
USDA eyes 2020 for final biotech regs
USDA hopes to finalize the overhaul of its regulatory process for biotech crops by the middle of next year. But the department is getting a number of requests to first extend a public comment period that’s set to end Aug. 5.
A proposed rule issued in June would exempt many crop modifications that could be achieved through conventional breeding. Among the groups wanting the comment period extended is the National Grain and Feed Association, which is seeking mandatory notification for those exempt products.
NGFA worries that undisclosed biotech products could result in trade disruptions. “We need the tools (new crop traits), but we absolutely need the markets,” said Bobby Frederick, NGFA’s director of legislative affairs and public policy.
For more on on how FDA, EPA and USDA are revising biotech regulations, be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.
Dairy program enrollment inches upward
Enrollment in the new Dairy Margin Coverage program has topped 13,000, according to the first of what will be weekly reports from USDA on DMC signup. Wisconsin alone accounts for almost one-third of the enrollment.
As of Monday, there are 13,240 farms enrolled out of 37,468 licensed dairy operations nationwide, and 4,121 of those DMC participants are in Wisconsin. Minnesota is second in enrollment with 1,511 farmers, followed by New York with 1,397 and Pennsylvania with 1,137. California has 333 dairy farms signed up, out of 1,335 licensed operations.
The farms that have enrolled in DMC have qualified for $145 million in payments so far, with $41 million of that going to the Wisconsin operations. Wisconsin has 23 percent of the licensed U.S. dairy farms.
She said it:
“It might be, but we don’t know. It could be something else.” – Dr. Beate Ritz, a public health professor at UCLA. Ritz was commenting on a key scientific detail that led CalEPA to decide to cancel its first pesticide. Read the full investigation in the Agri-Pulse West Newsletter later this morning.
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July 23, 2019
Salinity, contamination and SGMA among top water issues for Central Coast
“Groundwater, groundwater, groundwater. We’re the most groundwater-dependent region in the state,” said Michael Johnston, a member of the Central Coast Water Board.
Johnston was the first to respond to a State Water Board presentation on the governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio during a meeting in Santa Barbara last week. The regional board represents a coastal corridor spanning the Salinas Valley down through San Luis Obispo.
Johnston said more than 80% of the region’s water supply comes from groundwater. He pointed to saltwater intrusion as a top issue, for both groundwater and surface water, which is driving agriculture to “pull water further upriver.”
Solving the issue of nitrate contamination in drinking water without driving agriculture away is also one of the biggest challenges, he added.
Board member Monica Hunter agreed, adding that municipal supplies and farming are “clearly linked.” She also said “established practices, especially where agriculture is concerned, don’t have much margin (for error).”
Board member Jeffrey Young said it isn’t just nitrates. “God knows how many legacy issues we've got in the groundwater,” he said.
Chair Jean-Pierre Wolff emphasized the relationship of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to the decisions of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Along with minimum flow requirements for water projects, he said, the “new paradigm” needs to include “maximum flow requirements.” As Wolff explained, the department should set a policy to divert any excess stormwater flow to groundwater recharge projects.
Stephanie Harlan, another board member, expressed frustration over the state’s many other policy priorities at play.
“It bothers me that Sacramento is pushing, pushing, pushing for more housing, housing, housing when we don't have the water,” she said.
California Farm Bureau brings farmers to DC to lobby for USMCA
The California Farm Bureau Federation has representatives in Washington this week to push for ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“California food and ag is coming to Washington to make a strong appeal to our elected representatives,” said California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson in a written statement. The bureau is urging swift passage, citing an International Trade Commission report that USMCA will add an additional $2.2 billion to ag exports annually.
The “day of advocacy” on July 24 will include a reception, in which the Trump administration and members of congress can meet farmers and ranchers representing a diversity of agricultural interests in California. CFBF is partnering with dairy groups and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.
For questions, contact Jennifer Martin at the International Dairy Foods Association.
USDA seeks to slash food stamp rolls
The Trump administration is proposing today to significantly tighten eligibility rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, knocking as many as 3 million people off the rolls.
USDA is moving to rewrite automatic eligibility provisions that allow people in some states, including California, to qualify for SNAP with incomes at up to 200% of the federal poverty level. The federal limit is 130%. Conservatives have tried without success to use the last two farm bills to make changes similar to what USDA is proposing.
SNAP enrollment has been falling steadily and dipped below 36 million in April, the latest month for which data is available.
Keep in mind: USDA’s move comes as the White House has angered some conservatives by cutting a deal with Democrats to raise spending limits for the next two years and suspend the federal debt ceiling. In a victory for Democrats, the deal also would end the threat of the automatic spending cuts required by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The House is expected to vote on the agreement later this week before lawmakers leave for their August recess.
House Democrats get full USMCA tour in Mexico
A delegation of House Democrats is back in the U.S. after visiting Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, and Tijuana to gauge just how serious Mexico is about implementing and enforcing new labor and environmental standards that the country promised as part of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the Oregon Democrat who led the delegation, didn’t give an overall assessment, but stressed the lawmakers met with government leaders (including President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador), laborers, environmentalists and even toured a water treatment plant.
“The Democratic members of the delegation specifically assessed how to ensure (USMCA) raises standards for workers and the environment, provides access to medicines, and can be enforced,” according to a statement from the House Ways and Means Committee.
Trump wants ‘fantastic’ trade with Pakistan
Trump doesn’t want to just improve trade with Pakistan. He said he wants to increase trade 20-fold. Trump, during a press conference with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, gushed over the potential to increase commercial trade.
“I see great trade with Pakistan,” Trump said. “And I'm not – I'm not talking about a little bit more. I'm talking about – we could go 10 and even 20 times what we’re doing right now … I think we're going to have a fantastic trade relationship.”
If that trade applies to food and ag, U.S. processors and farmers would be selling a lot more to the country that shares a border with Afghanistan. U.S. ag exports to Pakistan have been growing strong for years and analysts expect that trend to continue. The U.S. exported $1.4 billion worth of ag products to Pakistan last year, according to USDA data, up from just $249 million in 2014.
USDA biotech office gets new chief
Career USDA lawyer Bernadette Juarez is taking over a key agency at USDA that regulates genetically engineered crops. Juarez replaces Mike Firko, who is retiring at the month as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s deputy administrator for Biotechnology Regulatory Services.
The change in leadership comes as the Trump administration is working to finalize a major overhaul of the regulations that BRS enforces. A proposed ruleissued by the department in June would significantly streamline the regulatory process and likely exempt many gene-edited products from review.
Juarez has been serving as APHIS’ deputy administrator for Animal Care since 2016. She also has served as director of APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services and as an attorney with USDA’s Office of the General Counsel.
They said it:
“Even without any identified projects, the (2018 Water) Plan speculates the state will need to come up with $90 billion over the next 50 years to complete… whatever it is we need to complete." – the Editorial Board for the Chico Enterprise-Record, criticizing a recent policy update from the state that it says “doesn’t mean a darn thing.”
Steve Davies and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
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July 22, 2019
DPR says spike in 1,3-D surpassed all levels for potential cancers
In a meeting Friday, the Department of Pesticide Regulations shared more details on a spike last year in the pesticide 1,3-D. An air monitoring station in the Central Valley town of Parlier recorded spikes that were as high as 351% of safe screening levels. This bumped the average yearly concentration up to 147%. DPR monitors for levels for acute, subchronic and chronic exposure, assuming it expands over 70 years.
This adds to an investigation into a spike in 1,3-D detection in the town of Shafter, as reported in Daybreak last week. DPR and the Kern County ag commissioner found the detection was due to a single application, which did not indicate an immediate health threat.
DPR is consulting with other state agencies on next steps to reduce the exposures of 1,3-D. The department had already revised its permit conditionsfor the pesticide in January 2017.
1,3-D is used to fight pests that attack a wide range of crops including almonds, grapes, strawberries and sweet potatoes.
State takes comments on labeling bumblebees as endangered species
The Department of Fish and Wildlife is reviewing a petition brought by environmental groups to list four native species of bumblebees under the California Endangered Species Act. The department has one year to perform the scientific review.
It is asking for comments on the threats to the bumblebees, the existing management strategies and recommendations for management. Responses must be submitted by August 16.
On that note: DPR is in the process of updating its citrus bee regulations on reporting hives moving into the state. The update coincides with the new BeeWhere platform launched this year and removes dated language requiring access to landlines, faxes and printed newspapers.
Campaign finance reports for congressional races
The second-quarter filings for campaign donations were reported last week.
In Tulare, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes has $5.7 million in cash on hand, while Democrat Phil Arballo has just $116,000.
In Stanislaus, Democratic Rep. Josh Harder is leading with $1.4 million in campaign cash, while Republican Ted Howze has $660,000.
In Fresno, Democratic Rep. Jim Costa has $400,000. Democrat Esmeralda Soria recently announced her run for the seat, but not in time for the filing deadline.
For District 21, covering Fresno, Kern and Kings Counties, Democratic Rep. TJ Cox is currently running unopposed and has $484,000.
CDFA touts emission reductions from climate-smart ag programs
The Department of Food and Ag's environmental farming office reported progress to its advisory board last week.
The State Water Efficiency Enhancement Program (SWEEP) received $20 million through Prop 68 last year. SWEEP is now awarding $10.4 million to 120 projects. Senior environmental scientist Carolyn Cook said this will lead to 37,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions reduced over the 10-year life of a project. This will also save 100,000 acre-feet of water. The largest number of recipients are in Fresno and Tulare Counties.
The Healthy Soils Program is awarding $8.7 million to 194 projects and $3.8 million to 23 demonstration projects. CDFA estimates this will reduce 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Remember: The governor has zeroed out SWEEP funding in the recently passed budget, while approving $28 million for Healthy Soils.
USDA advising EPA on pesticide regulation
An EPA proposal addressing protection of farmworkers subject to pesticide spraying is now under review by USDA, which under FIFRA has 30 days to comment.
The contents of the proposal have not been made public, but EPA may be offering growers flexibility in meeting a requirement in the 2015 worker protection rule to keep people, particularly workers and their children, from being directly exposed to pesticide applications. As it stands, people are not allowed within 100 feet of outside spraying or within 25 feet of spraying in “enclosed space production.”
A possible change could be allowing workers to remain in well-insulated housing instead of leaving the application area, as is permitted in Oregon.
Deadline looms for budget deal
Talks between the White House and congressional Democrats over the budget and debt ceiling are going down to the wire as negotiators try to get a deal House members can consider before they leave D.C. at the end of this week on their long summer break. The Senate will be in session next week as well.
This deal, if there is one, would finally allow work to proceed on funding the government for fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1.
For more on what’s happening this week in the ag policy, read our Washington Week Ahead.
Mexico’s president pitches USMCA to House Dems
It’s not just President Donald Trump leaning on House Dems to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, greeted a visiting delegation of several House Democrats on Friday and made his own argument as to why the U.S. should follow Mexico’s lead and approve the trade pact.
Obrador, in a tweet after the meeting, said he explained that “our government is in (favor) of the treaty because we consider it beneficial to the three nations.”
While most House Democrats would readily agree with that, many also want further assurance that the labor and environment provisions Mexico agreed to are enforceable.
“Dems are committed to ensuring any new trade deal is enforceable and has strong worker and environmental protections,” a spokesperson for Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee said in a tweet after the AMLO meeting.
Late justice’s son nominated for Labor post
Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Trump’s nominee to be Labor Secretary, can be expected to focus on easing the regulatory burden on business if he receives Senate confirmation.
Scalia has represented large corporations in a series of high-profile cases as a partner at blue-chip law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
In 2006, he helped Walmart prevent Maryland from requiring companies “with more than 10,000 workers to either spend at least 8 percent of their payroll costs on health care, or pay into a state Medicaid fund,” the New York Timesreported.
He also represented SeaWorld in a worker safety case after a trainer was killed by a killer whale. In a 2014 decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Labor Department fines and citations against the company for not doing enough to prevent the death.
Ag labor experts say Scalia doesn’t have a record on farm employment matters, but he had been strongly recommended for the job by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a strong advocate for curbing immigration. “I'm confident he'll be a champion for working Americans against red tape and burdensome regulation as labor secretary,” Cotton said.
Keep in mind: When he last faced Senate confirmation to be a DOL solicitor, Democrats refused to give him a vote, leaving President George W. Bush to give him a recess appointment. Democrats criticized him during his year-long stretch as a solicitor for articles he wrote questioning Clinton Administration ergonomic protections that were repealed by Congress.
She said it:
“This is a loss not just for them, but for their families, for California’s economy.” - Francesca Costa, testifying to the state legislature on her outreach for CalFresh.
CALmatters reports on the “ambitious” legislation to increase participation in California’s food stamp program. Just 72 percent of eligible Californians were enrolled in CalFresh—the fourth lowest rate in the nation—in 2016, the last year for which national data is available.
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