October 25, 2019
Vineyards hit by Kincade Fire in Sonoma
The Kincade Fire sparked to life Wednesday and rapidly consumed more than 10,000 acres. In the dark and without power, residents in the Sonoma County town of Geyserville and neighboring vineyards evacuated.
Pacific Gas and Electric had preemptively shut off power to more than 27,000 homes and businesses in the county ahead of high winds, which later reached 76 mph.
At least two large buildings at Crazy Creek Vineyards in Alexander Valley were damaged or destroyed, as were dozens of homes in the area. Residents also reported spot fires on vineyards.
The winds have since dropped off, but the fire remains 0% contained. Smoke haze is now starting to drift into the Bay Area.
(Photo: Sonoma County Sheriff's Office)
Wine committees to discuss Central Valley air
The State Senate and Assembly wine committees will meet in Lodi on Oct. 31 to discuss air quality rules in the Central Valley.
The main talk will be on wine fermentation emissions. According to Family Winemakers of California, Asm. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, will be taking feedback on how new emissions rules could impact wine processing and quality.
Two panel discussions will also provide an overview of the valley’s grape production, with input from local business, tourism and industry representatives. The valley air district and UC researchers will also take part. The event will be streamed online.
Remember: Aguiar-Curry told Agri-Pulse last month this emissions issue is a “frustrating one.” Many wineries have open-air fermentation and the impacts on air quality vary across the state. She promised to work with UC Davis to study the data.
“I'm afraid the Air Resource Board will mandate this all the way through the state,” she said. “And that's not going to work for me.”
Cannabis growers grapple with county of origin bill
The Cannabis Advisory Board this week recommended the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control expand the county of origin measure to include cities as well.
The measure, Senate Bill 185, had passed the Legislature with unanimous votes this year and was signed into law by Gov. Newsom earlier this month. The bill borrowed from the wine industry to mandate that only cannabis grown in Humboldt County can carry that name, for example.
The advisory committee also recommended the certification require the plants to be grown in the ground and without supplemental lighting. Paul Hansbury, a cultivator from the Mendocino Valley, explained that without this provision, “anyone growing with a large indoor scene might be able to just hitchhike on the reputation” and “the work that all these small farmers have been doing for generations.”
Yet grower Steve Oku said San Mateo County restricts cannabis farms from discharging irrigation water into the groundwater table. He was confused why the county of origin rule would exclude his operation if he put the soil in a pot and ultimately grew a healthier plant with fewer inputs.
Trinity County grower John Brown gave one reason why: “It’s very exclusive in nature,” he said, “like the very successful wine countries in Europe.”
Pence talks tough on China
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to resume negotiations with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He today in an effort to finalize “Phase 1” of a trade pact that is promised to result in massive increases of U.S. ag exports to China.
Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday ripped into China over its treatment of Hong Kong protestors and Uyghur Muslims, accusing the country of continuing to steal U.S. technology and promised continued support for Taiwan – all sore topics for the Chinese.
“President Trump still believes Beijing wants to make a deal and we welcome this support for American agriculture… and hope it can be signed soon… but China knows there’s a whole range of structural and significant issues between our countries that also must be addressed,” Pence said in a speech in Washington.
Trump has said he hopes that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be able to sign the trade pact next month when they attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile.
Lawmakers put focus on CBP ag specialists
Bill to bolster port inspections passes
The Senate has passed a bill to ramp up the number of agricultural inspectors at ports and airports. The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act would authorize Customs and Border Protection to hire 200 more agricultural specialists each year.
The bill passed by the Senate by voice vote Thursday afternoon. A companion measure is pending in the House.
Appropriators pressed to boost broadband funding
A bipartisan group of nearly 50 House members is asking Senate and House appropriators in a letter to put more money into USDA’s ReConnect rural broadband funding program.
“Kids have a tough time finishing homework, businesses can’t recruit the workers they need, and farmers forgo taking advantage of the latest technologies — simply due to their zip code,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., a lead co-author of the letter told Agri-Pulse.
The House’s fiscal 2020 spending bill provided more money to USDA for the loan and grant program, but the Senate does not.
What’s next: The Senate will continue debate next week on a package of bills that includes the USDA funding measure for FY20. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said that the House and Senate will likely need until January or February to finish negotiating differences in those and other 2020 bills.
Farm groups welcome change in pesticide rules
A new proposal on pesticide application exclusion zones has the ag community cheering and farmworker advocates fuming.
The proposal announced Thursday by EPA would limit AEZs — buffers that are 100 feet for aerial spraying and 25 feet for ground applications — to the farmer’s property. EPA said it was too difficult for growers to ascertain who might be affected off their property.
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said the changes will “make it easier for farmers and growers to comply” with the AEZ requirements. But an attorney with Farmworker Justice, Iris Figueroa, said the proposed language would lead to more people being exposed to pesticide drift.
She said it:
“The state has enacted multiple measures in response to the fires, but there’s more to be done.” – Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, announcing a working group to investigate the public safety power shutoffs.
Bill Tomson, Steve Davies and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.