October 28, 2019
Winemakers and ranchers evacuate for Kincade Fire
Gusts from offshore winds were recorded at 93 mph in the area of the Kincade Fire yesterday. This prompted mandatory evacuations for 200,000 people between the fire and the coast 50 miles away. The fire, which began Wednesday, grew to 30,000 acres over the weekend. PG&E also preemptively shut off power to more than 2 million people across more than half the counties in the state.
A number of neighboring fair grounds have established emergency evacuation centers for livestock and other large animals.
The Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg, which opened in 1880, was destroyed in the fire, reports the LA Times. “We’ve seen the news. We are devastated,” the winery shared on Facebook. Tasting rooms across the North Bay region have likely lost a considerable amount of business on what would normally have been a bustling weekend.
Keep in mind: Irrigated vineyards often act as firebreaks protecting facilities and homes on the property, as many winemakers learned in the nearby Wine Country fires of 2017. Yet the strong gusts driving the Kincade Fire can carry embers for several miles, igniting spot fires and rapidly spreading flames.
Most vineyards had completed their harvests ahead of the fire, avoiding fruit losses and smoke taint issues in grapes. With evacuations and no power, however, fermentation tanks have been idling until the evacuees return and PG&E “re-energizes” the power grids, which has already begun but may be delayed as strong winds return tomorrow.
CDFA adding whole orchard recycling to Healthy Soils
CDFA is seeking public comments on including whole orchard recycling into its Healthy Soils Program. The administration sees this as an opportunity to mitigate climate impacts by sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In a statement, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross called orchards “a valuable carbon pool” for growers to put back into their soil.
“This practice is timely with California’s increased acreage dedicated to orchard crops,” said Jocelyn Bridson, who chaired a CDFA advisory panel reviewing the report.
CDFA has been partnering with the Air Resources Board and modeling the program on research from UC Cooperative Extension field trials.
On that note: During that meeting, CDFA’s Michael Wolff said the practice has been performed on at least 20,000 acres in California in recent years, which has been rising due to “a glut of biomass available.”
Some of that glut is from forest die-off following the drought, some from the large expansion of almond and walnut orchards and much of it from the closing of half of the Central Valley’s cogeneration plants, which burn the material for energy. The technology for grinding the trees and distributing the chips has also advanced significantly, coming within a reasonable cost range for farmers, Wolff added.
On that note: CDFA’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program is hosting its annual conference starting today in Fresno. The meeting focuses mainly on nitrogen and irrigation management and features UC researchers, industry and nonprofit representatives and speakers from state and federal offices.
(Photo: UC Davis)
USDA weighs second MFP decision
The Trump administration is weighing whether to make a second tranche of trade assistance payments in November.
Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation programs, tells Agri-Pulse the department will be looking at what China is committing to under the “phase 1” of the pending trade agreement. But he said USDA will also factor in the fact that farmers have been selling their 2019 harvest at prices that may be depressed due to the trade war.
“We’re all hoping we can see much sooner than later a real change and more purchases” by China, Northey said. “We see a little bit of purchasing going on now, and we would sure love to see that grow significantly.”
But keep in mind: Northey made clear that the impact of the tariff war will figure into the decision about the second round of Market Facilitation Program payments.
“We do know that some producers have already made sales at current prices. Certainly, some of the crop is coming out at current prices as well,” he said. “There has been an impact to producers no matter what happens going forward. That will have to be taken into account of what happens in the balance of the MFP payments as well.”
By the way: The decision on the third MFP tranche, due in January, will be made independently of what the administration decides to do about this November round, Northey says.
US says progress made on China deal
U.S. and Chinese negotiators are making progress, but still have not reached a final agreement on the “phase 1” portion of a new trade deal, the Trump administration said Friday after a telephone negotiating session involving U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
“They made headway on specific issues and the two sides are close to finalizing some sections of the agreement,” according to a statement released by the USTR. “Discussions will go on continuously at the deputy level, and the principals will have another call in the near future.”
President Trump continues to promise that the “phase 1” deal will provide a massive boost to U.S. agricultural exports.
“We’re doing very well with China,” Trump told reporters Friday. “We’re very good with the farmers. The farmers are going to do better, maybe, than anybody. But everybody is doing well. China wants to make a deal.”
Lighthizer, Mnuchin at G20 summit in June. (White House photo)
Top Mexican negotiator sees USMCA approval soon
House Democrats are nearing a vote to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Jesús Seade, Mexico’s top North American negotiator, said Friday at a press conference with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico City, according to a report from the online news outlet CNA.
"The progress made in dialogue with (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) and U.S. lawmakers and negotiators makes us think that the end to this complex story is near,” Seade said. “That soon we will see the United States initiate the formal process of approval of the trade deal.”
Obrador promised that Mexico was following through on promises made in USMCA to implement major labor reforms.
For more on what is happening this week in the nation’s capital, read our Washington Week Ahead.
He said it:
“It is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders and have the local and state resources they need as we fight these fires.” – Gov. Newsom, declaring a statewide emergency yesterday.
Spencer Chase and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
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